A man and his economic dogma is quietly – and steadily – transforming Canada profoundly, perhaps beyond repair as well as recognition.
From glorifying past wars to ongoing assaults on parliament, the federal public service, science and the environment and from a thinly veiled war on the poor to endless gifting to the rich and the ultra-rich, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure in office has largely been a route map to a nation where only the rich and the Right have any genuine claim to full human rights and citizenship.
It’s enough to have Stephen Harper’s boys out padlocking bookstores.
Two of the Prime Minister’s biggest tormentors have released books on the very same day. There is Justin Trudeau’s autobiography, Common Ground. On top of it comes a mammoth 534-page critique of his abuse of power called Party of One, from Michael Harris, one of Mr. Harper’s harshest journalistic critics.
Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a speech in Halifax on Thursday, comparing him to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.
Page, asked to speak about accountability in Ottawa, said he thinks Canada has changed so much in recent years, it needs a long, drawn-out American-style election to air all the important questions.
“I think what we’ve got in Ottawa right now is Putinesque. It’s control from the top down,” Page said at an annual fundraiser for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
I’ve always been confused by the assertion that we won’t be “intimidated” by terrorism. Has anyone ever suggested that we should be — that because a man ran into the Parliament buildings brandishing a rifle, we should abandon parliamentary democracy? Obviously not.
But Harper wants us to be sufficiently intimidated so that we will allow the fight against ‘terrorism’ to take centre stage and suck up all our energy — unlike, say, threats that are just as likely or far more likely to kill us, like Ebola or climate change. Those threats don’t much interest Harper. He’s made only made a small contribution to fighting the Ebola epidemic and he’s actively obstructed attempts to organize global action against climate change.
Not so with terrorism, which dominated the political agenda all this week with lots of hype about Canada and our institutions being under attack — even as it got harder to explain the difference between the ‘terrorist’ murders of two soldiers and the ‘non-terrorist’ murders of three RCMP officers in Moncton. The main difference appeared to be that the shooter in Moncton was not a follower of Islam.
HERE COMES THE OMNIBUS
OTTAWA – Buried in the Harper government’s latest massive, omnibus budget bill is legislation that could restrict the ability of refugee claimants to access social assistance.
The move follows the government’s decision to limit refugee claimants’ access to universal, public health care.
That measure was struck down by Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish, who said it constitutes “cruel and unusual” treatment, puts lives at risk and “outrages Canadian standards of decency.”
The government is currently appealing that ruling.
OTTAWA — Conservative MP Erin O’Toole wants Canadians to how just how excited he is about the Harper government’s new tax breaks.
The Ontario MP, who as a parliamentary secretary earns $180,000 a year, wrote a letter Thursday to Tory supporters praising the party’s new tax cuts.
He and his wife Rebecca, and their two children, eight-year-old Mollie and three-year-old Jack, stand to gain tax breaks worth approximately $3,440 a year.
ECONOMY AND JOBS
(This is the Conservative modus operandi: make grandiose announcements of dollars ‘allocated’ to projects, such as veterans’ care, then just don’t spend the money and declare a budget surplus. They get the kudos for programs and for fiscal prudence without actually accomplishing anything.)
The federal government held on to more than $7 billion in approved spending last fiscal year at the same time as some departments and agencies struggled with a lack of funds – bringing total “lapsed” spending to more than $18 billion over the last two years.
The Conservative government continues to sit on billions of dollars in planned spending as it looks to balance the budget in 2015 and contemplates a series of tax breaks for Canadians, including expected income-splitting for families and a possible enhancement of the universal child-care benefit.
So what does the inaugural edition of the TD LMI show? Nothing good.
“The Canadian labour market is currently experiencing more weakness than is implied by … the headline unemployment rate alone, and has been for nearly two years,” TD senior economist Randall Bartlett writes.
“By what conceivable rationale should a foreign corporation be able to sue an elected government for implementing its campaign promises? How does one reconcile this with any possible definition of democracy?…it baffles me why these fantastically profitable behemoths should get any protection of any kind from any form of competition. Isn’t that the very spirit of capitalism – to build the better mousetrap? To succeed by providing the most sought-after products? But those who claim to worship the free market and free competition are remarkably flexible in their religion when it comes to self-interest. I guess it’s free enterprise if necessary but not necessarily free enterprise.”
‘SECURITY’ GONE TOO FAR
With the Conservative government set as early as today to table expanded powers for Canada’s spies, the watchdog overseeing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has identified flaws in how the agency operates with tools already at its disposal.
A report tabled Friday by the Security Intelligence Review Committee suggests CSIS is operating without sufficient controls or scrutiny by its overseers.
The federal government is “shamelessly” exploiting last week’s extremist attacks to dismantle liberties and core principles of justice, says journalist Glenn Greenwald.
The Pulitzer-Prize winning U.S. reporter warned that the Conservative government, aided by docile news media, is purposely fuelling alarmist speculation about the domestic threat of Islamic terrorism to ram through legislation giving the state extraordinary new powers over citizens.
Today we learned that the Conservatives are considering new legislation that would make it an offence to condone terrorist acts online. Let’s repeat that: Your words, your thoughts and your beliefs could be made criminal.
Lawyers like to say that bad facts make bad laws — and this is what Harper appears to be counting on. It seems the Conservatives mean to, once again, seize upon a tragic event to fast-track a potentially unconstitutional law. Canadians are asked to blindly stand by and be stripped of their civil liberties in the interests of security. And they couldn’t even wait a day.
The Conservative government gave a clear indication Friday it has no plans to support the creation of a parliamentary national security oversight committee although it plans to introduce new sweeping anti-terrorism measures.
Canada does well at many things. Earlier this year, Canadian cities were listed among the world’s top places to live. The country ranks high with the best when it comes to wealth and it’s been praised for emerging from the financial crisis in decent shape.
But there’s one category in which Canada ranks dead last among industrialized nations: its efforts to combat climate change. “The Climate Change Performance Index,” published annually by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe, lists Canada among the world’s worst at no. 58.
OTTAWA – Muslim groups are disappointed that Stephen Harper hasn’t spoken out against a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since two separate attacks by jihadist sympathizers left two Canadian soldiers dead last week.
The prime minister has not publicly uttered one word of support for Canadian Muslims following the incidents, which Harper and the RCMP have labelled acts of terrorism.
Thank God Stephen Harper has got those agitating birdwatchers under control! Next to librarians working on Parliament Hill, they could be most subversive group in the land, battle-ready what with their knowledge of the outdoors and all that binocular experience. This week, Dean Beeby of the CBC reported that the Harper government’s revenue collectors have put a small group of nature lovers on notice that the CRA is watching them. The revenuers have apparently found evidence of partisan “political activity” on the bird-watchers’ website. If it continues, the CRA warns, these nature agitators could be facing further action, including a “future audit.”
TORONTO – Canada is following in Australia’s footsteps and has closed its doors, effectively immediately, to people from the West African countries battling Ebola.
In a move that puts Canada at odds with the World Health Organization, the federal government said Friday it is suspending the issuance of visas for residents and nationals of countries with “widespread and persistent-intense transmission” of Ebola virus disease. As well, work on permanent residence applications for people from the affected countries is also being suspended.
The Conservative Party’s latest attack on Justin Trudeau is missing some pretty important information.
The new commercial released Monday targets the Liberal vote against the mission to bomb ISIS in Iraq and the Liberal leader’s now infamous dick joke about “trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are.” However, several of the quotes used in the attack are taken out of context….
The final quote in the ad, lifted from a Lawrence Martin column in The Globe and Mail, reads that “There is concern in many quarters that the young leader is not ready for the big stage.” However, the ad quickly transitions to just the words “not ready for the big stage” with “Globe and Mail written beneath it. As the Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor has pointed out, this makes it seem as if the quote represents the official position of the newspaper rather than of one columnist.