Toronto Star – Stephen Lewis roars once more in takedown of Stephen Harper government: Tim Harper
(If you have never heard this man speak, your life is not complete)
When he surveys the political scene today, he says he runs the emotional gamut from “rage to rage.”
But he is not alone. He joins a line of political elders who are taking increasingly harsh stock of this government’s performance.
Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark has spoken out about foreign policy, former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin has been an outspoken critic of aboriginal policy and former ministers in the Brian Mulroney government emerged to condemn the watering down of environmental regulations.
Stephen Harper’s silence is beginning to damn his government and his party. Even that unshakeable base of his must be wondering what he takes them for.
This week, it was left to Green Party leader Elizabeth May to demand that Elections Canada reopen the Robocalls investigation. The astonishing thing is that someone had to ask.
Why wouldn’t PM Harper himself be asking Elections Canada to make an effort to close this case with some semblance of justice rather than a sigh of resignation and a token conviction that may be overturned?
There was always less than met the eye in Stephen Harper’s use of a parliamentary committee to vet his Supreme Court nominees. The MPs could not overturn the nomination, they were given precious little time to prepare for the hearing and they often veered into partisan show instead of substance.
Likely few Canadians paid much attention. But they did provide some accountability and transparency to the process, a key commitment by the prime minister and something his party had pushed while in opposition.
The hearings have proved disposable. They are now gone. Montreal lawyer Suzanne Côté was appointed last week without a hearing, the second time in six months Harper bypassed the system he created.
After Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run down and killed by Martin Couture-Rouleau in a small Quebec town, Stephen Harper told the House of Commons it was an act of terrorism…..
Notwithstanding what Harper and the RCMP have said, we still don’t know if these men were terrorists with mental illnesses — or men with mental illnesses who thought they were terrorists. We do know the risk of a Canadian being killed by a terrorist on home soil remains lower than the chance of winning the lottery. The threat is real, but confronting it calls for perspective — not this constant drumbeat of anxiety and paranoia that passes for policy.
So where, then, is the expression of remorse, on the part of the party or its senior leaderships, for the growing list of wrongs done in their name and on their watch? Where is the frank acknowledgment that Sona, Del Mastro, Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin, Bruce Carson and others were not operating in a vacuum?
The bet he’s making is that opprobrium over Sona and other scandals will be outweighed by individual self-interest, driven by tax cuts. And the risk the PM runs, very simply, is that the goodies on offer are not compelling enough to reverse the momentum for change. Or, another party could put up plums of equal sweetness, while also offering a change of bums in seats.
TRANSPARENT AS MUD
Four days after taking office in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Marshall Rothstein to the nine-member Supreme Court of Canada.
The federal court jurist was one of three candidates on a shortlist drawn up by a new advisory committee of MPs, legal experts and prominent Canadians that had been created by the previous Liberal government……
Today, the exercise of selecting nine of the most important people in the country has regressed to a not-so-distant past when “more was known about the process for electing a new Pope than about the process for selecting a new Supreme Court Justice,” writes Adam Dodek, a Supreme Court scholar and law professor at the University of Ottawa.
Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien warned senators today that the increased police powers proposed in the government’s cyberbullying and internet surveillance bill need to be matched with ways of tracking their use.
Therrien also warned against the lower standard of proof provided for in the bill, C-13, and said he disagrees with the government’s assertion that the information intended to be sought isn’t sensitive.
Government MPs have voted down a raft of proposed amendments to a federal bill intended to solidify the terrorist-tracking powers of Canada’s spy agency. Conservatives rejected several changes put forward by NDP and Liberal members of the House of Commons justice committee.
Opposition MPs expressed frustration with the process — only a handful of witnesses were called to testify about the legislation — and the outcome.
THE (LATEST) AGLUKKAK TRAVESTY
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq tried to force an apology from a Nunavut hamlet over statements made by its deputy mayor who said high grocery prices in the community forces dozens of residents to scavenge the local dump for food.
Sam Tutanuak, deputy mayor of Rankin Inlet, said Aglukkaq’s office called the hamlet’s senior administrative officer Wednesday asking for a letter of apology addressed to the minister and the Conservative party.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Friday she is considering legal against the deputy mayor of Rankin Inlet who said her office tried to extract an apology from the hamlet over revelations people in the community were scavenging for food in the local dump.
Aglukkaq said in a statement that she never tried to get an apology.
Opposition MPs are accusing Conservatives of deceiving Canadians by not disclosing that a $200-million investment to help veterans deal with mental health issues will reportedly be paid out over 50 years, not six.
On Friday, New Democrats and Liberals hammered Tories in question period after a story from The Globe and Mail’s Gloria Galloway took a closer look at the funding plan announced in Halifax last Sunday by Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
Ottawa Citizen – Some vets forced to wait months for case manager, records show
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino was warned in May that nearly 300 veterans had been waiting months for a case manager to help them gain access to support services. The warning, contained in internal documents obtained by the Citizen, was delivered as Fantino prepared to defend millions of dollars in Veterans Affairs Canada budget cuts.
Veterans have long complained about being forced to wait for services, and the documents provide the first real window into the scope of the problem as the federal auditor general prepares to release a report Tuesday into mental health services for veterans.
Farmers and Canadian taxpayers will soon be completely free of the wheat board’s assets — but not with a conventional sale.
Under a sort of reverse-nationalization plan now taking shape behind closed doors, a private-sector investor will assume control without reimbursing the federal treasury for assets Canadians paid for, or at least indirectly financed.
Little is known about the board’s current financial health, because Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz exercises power given to him in 2011 to withhold information “detrimental to commercial interests.”
National Farmers Union – Harper Government Destroys Farmer Control Over Seed
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is sounding the alarm with the passing of Bill C-18, the Agriculture Growth Act omnibus bill yesterday in the House of Commons. “Farmers must now contend with UPOV ’91. UPOV ’91 is one of the most farmer-unfriendly mechanisms we have ever seen,” exclaimed Jan Slomp, NFU President.
“Bill C-18 gives seed breeders– increasingly large multinational companies — massive new rights over seed along with the power to extract vast amounts of money from farmers,” added Ann Slater, NFU Vice President (Policy).
The strange case of Canada’s Ebola vaccine became even stranger Monday. That’s when the pharmaceutical multinational Merck announced it will pay $50 million for commercial rights to manufacture and develop the vaccine, invented at the federal government’s National Microbiological Laboratory in Winnipeg.
Iowa-based NewLink Genetics has had the exclusive commercial licensing rights over the Canadian vaccine since it bought them from the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2010.
In return for those rights, according to the filings the company made with U.S. regulators, NewLink provided the Canadian government with a “milestone payment” of just $205,000.
FISCAL LIES AND INEPTITUDES
Globe and Mail – No projects yet approved for Ottawa manufacturing fund after 18 months
It was one of a clutch of spending programs rolled out in the Conservative government’s austerity budget of 2013 – $200-million to spark innovation in Ontario’s hard-hit manufacturing sector.
But 18 months later Ottawa has yet to approve a single project from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund, even as the government continues to credit its investments in manufacturing for creating jobs and growth in Ontario.
The “rush to balance the budget” is “undermining” a return to normal economic conditions, the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) said in a report released Wednesday.
The report said the federal government’s cuts have taken place faster than expected, and will continue for another two years past 2014, after the budget has been balanced. The CCPA estimated nearly 37,000 federal employees have already lost their jobs.
That sort of decline in government spending won’t be offset by tax cuts, argues economist Toby Sanger of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
CTV News – Cabinet minister’s riding may have received $25K from SNC-Lavalin execs
Lavalin executives involved in an illegal political slush fund for Quebec provincial parties may have conducted the same practice at the federal level, CTV News has learned.
Elections Canada records reveal that 10 top SNC-Lavalin managers and their wives wrote personal cheques in 2009 to two federal Conservative riding associations that showed little chance of winning.
NOT MUCH FUN(DING)
Toronto Star – Library and Archives Canada struggling with backlog of material
Library and Archives Canada say they scrapped a $15.4 million digital archive system because it would have been “too costly” to run.
The archival department spent five years and over $15 million to develop its own “trusted digital repository” — a system for storing and preserving digital records — before shuttering the system in 2012. That was one year after it was tested, approved and operational, but never used by the agency.
A report from auditor general Michael Ferguson’s office, released Tuesday, found that the record-keeping department had no records on the decision to scrap the system.
Environment Canada lacks the resources to keep critical weather monitoring stations up and running throughout the year off the B.C. central coast, putting commercial and recreational mariners at risk as they enter one of the B.C. coast’s most dangerous stretches of open water.
At least two weather tracking buoys were out of service as of Friday, and had been for months, according to Environment Canada…..
After a month of receiving dead air from West Sea Otter, Burroughs contacted Environment Canada. “This is an important weather buoy for us working in the Queen Charlotte Strait area,” he wrote in a June email. “Do you have any idea when it will be fixed?”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for you,” responded Environment Canada spokesman Sylvain Boutot the following day. He confirmed the buoy had stopped working for “unknown reasons,” necessitating a visit by ship to investigate “… in order to do this, we have to use a Canadian Coast Guard vessel equipped to retrieve the buoy and it appears that such a vessel won’t be available for a while,” wrote Boutot. “We don’t have an estimate as to when we’ll be able to repair the buoy, but it could be out for an extended period.”
A $200-million fund to improve mental health care for veterans will actually be spread out over 50 years, and not the six years originally promised by the Conservatives, opposition MPs said Friday.
The NDP and Liberals zeroed in on a report Friday morning that the money announced to help veterans deal with operational stress injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder won’t be as targeted as the government first said.
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson last Sunday said the government would provide approximately $200 million, plus an additional $16.7 million every year after that to set up new operational stress injury clinics and support established mental health programs.
CBC – Foreign scientists call on Stephen Harper to restore science funding, freedom
(Ten years ago, would you have believed this could ever happen in Canada?)
Hundreds of scientists around the world are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end “burdensome restrictions on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists.”
The call was made in an open letter drafted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that represents U.S. scientists and uses science to advocate for environmental sustainability.
The letter was signed by more than 800 scientists outside Canada from 32 countries, at institutions ranging from Harvard Medical School in the U.S. to the Max Planck Institute in Germany.