Harper Watch – December 3 to 15, 2014


COMMENTARY

iPolitics – Christopher Waddell: The Harper government is killing Access to Information — slowly

So that’s how you do it.

Since its introduction in 1983, both Liberal and Conservative governments — usually supported by federal bureaucrats — have slowly but surely frustrated the workings of Canada’s Access to Information system. But it’s the current Conservative government that finally got the whole access system in what could turn out to be a fatal chokehold.

It has taken time and planning to accomplish, but — as it has demonstrated with other files — the Harper government is prepared to play a long game if it’s confident the end result meets its objectives.

Toronto Star – Finance Department now a fact-free zone

The measure, announced in September, offers reductions in employment insurance premiums to the smallest of small businesses and is aimed at getting them to create jobs although they’re not required to create a single job to get the money. It’s a gift to the government’s most loyal special interest group, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, whose president attended the announcement and waxed lyrical about the benefits of the cut.

According to Oliver, the measure will create 25,000 person-years of employment. How does he know that? Why, the CFIB told him so.

When asked by an opposition MP if the government had done its own analysis of the plan, particularly in light of estimates from the parliamentary budget office that the measure will create a mere 1,000 jobs, Oliver said the department hadn’t bothered to do its own analysis because the CFIB had already done the work.

ipolitics – Linda McQuaig: Why the robocalls conspiracy will happen again — quietly
If you’re a low-level political operative, the conviction of Conservative party staffer Michael Sona for his role in the robocall scandal may well have deterred you from committing voter fraud in the future.

But if you’re a high-level political operative, the outcome of Sona’s trial probably left you emboldened.

With a federal election looming, the stage is set for more voter fraud. But this time there’s very little chance we’ll ever find out about it, due to changes the Conservatives have made in Canada’s election laws.

Huffington Post – Harper’s Secret Budget Cuts Undermine Canada’s Democracy: Colin Kenney, Senator
The Harper government has made no secret of its intention to tighten Canada’s fiscal belt over the last several years.

It involves federal organizations grossly underspending their close-to-the-bone budgets without providing any explanation to taxpayers.

In 2013-14, $7.1 billion in approved funding went unspent across government. The figure was $10.1 billion the previous year.

These “lapsed funds,” as the government calls them, result in diminished programs and services for the Canadian people.

The Chronicle Herald – Editorial: Disgraceful treatment of would-be disability pensioners
The Harper government’s failure to deal in a timely, compassionate way with the disability benefit claims of thousands of Canadians is a disgrace.

The Canadian Press reported Monday that some 11,000 people are waiting, some of them for years, to find out whether Ottawa will reverse decisions to deny them Canadian Pension Plan disability benefits.

The Conservatives replaced the Pension Appeals Board and the appeal process for Employment Insurance with the Social Security Tribunal in 2013.

Toronto Star – Commentary: Stephen Harper government confuses science for mere opinion
The current government has repeatedly proclaimed its belief in the importance of scientific evidence.

What then are we to make of the recent comments from Department of Environment Parliamentary Secretary Colin Carrie? In an interview on Global’s West Block, he was asked to comment on the recent analysis by Environment Canada scientists predicting that Canada would miss its 2020 Copenhagen CO2 emission target by about 20 per cent (122 megatonnes). Carrie’s response? That “everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.”

Maclean’s – Paul Wells: Harper and the oil patch: Honesty is the only policy

Back then, it was possible to believe the federal government would impose regulations on the oil and gas industries. The government certainly said it would, often enough. (Peter Kent in February, 2013: “We are now well into, and very close to finalizing, regulations for the oil and gas sector.”) But, as Chris Turner reminds us in his book The War on Science, Prentice quit as environment minister in November 2010, and the Harper government’s periodic attempts to demonstrate environmental virtue, even at some hypothetical cost to the resource sector, pretty much came to an end.

FISCAL FOOLS

iPolitics – How to cook up a fiscal crisis for political gain

The most important fiscal action the Conservative government took after being elected in 2006 was to cut the GST by two points. At the time — and ever since — every credible economist in Canada said it was a bad, bad idea. With a general election less than a year away, now seems like a good time to run a ‘what-if’ scenario.

The Conservatives for years vowed that they would eliminate the deficit of $55.6 billion recorded in 2009-10 by 2015-16. And the government has been aggressively cutting government spending on programs and services since 2010. Despite recent declines in oil prices, the federal deficit will be eliminated in 2015-16 — possibly even a year earlier.

On the surface it looks like good fiscal stewardship, but the surface hides a few unsettling facts: Those program cuts weren’t necessary and the deficit could have been eliminated earlier. And it all comes back to that bad, bad idea. 

Hill Times – Feds leave $321-million unspent for green programs, overspend on oil and gas research, ads
(The Con pattern:  Make announcements of allocations of funds, then don’t spend the money.)

The federal government failed to spend a total of $321-million Parliament approved for “environmentally responsible” programs last year—nearly one-third of the money that was available for that purpose—while spending more than the $438-million that had been set aside to fund programs that primarily supported the oil and gas sector through scientific research, market development and government advertising.

Details of a spending report Natural Resources Canada submitted to Parliament through Treasury Board show the department did not spend, or “lapsed” in government accounting terms, a total of $298.6-million on programs for renewable energy development, alternative transportation fuels, energy efficiency and technology innovation. 

CALLOUS CONS

CANADA 1867 Blog – Callous Conservatives

(We don’t often include personal blogs, but this gives an excellent summary of many of the callous acts performed by the Harper Government.)

“Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.”   This remark was courtesy of Conservative Minister James Moore last December, as part of his response to a reporter’s questions about child poverty in British Columbia being at an all-time high.

Of course, Mr. Moore did later apologize.  Well actually, he first denied everything, saying the comment was not a quote and taken completely out of context. Then the B.C. radio station News 1130 released raw audio of the exchange between their reporter and the Tory MP; and after that, amid resounding criticism, James Moore finally issued an apology the next day.

The forced apology aside, the instinct behind Moore’s comment is emblematic of the indifference and insensitivity that has been repeatedly demonstrated by individual Conservatives and the Harper government as a whole.

G&M – Low-income social housing residents anxious as Ottawa ends subsidies

Christine Crawford is a poet and seamstress who suffers from chronic, debilitating asthma. For more than a decade, her sunny apartment in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill Co-op has been her treasured oasis.

Yet Crawford faces an uncertain future that’s weighing on her this Christmas. In less than two years, Crawford could face the terrifying prospect of homelessness if the federal government fails to heed calls to work with provinces and territories to maintain social housing funding.

Nearly 200,000 low-income Canadian households in co-op and non-profit housing projects depend on federal rent-geared-to-income housing assistance to pay their rent.

Social housing advocates fear much of Canada’s existing co-op housing could vanish if the current federal funding level of $1.7 billion a year dries up once the long-term operating agreements expire between Ottawa and affordable housing operators.

Toronto Star – For Syrian refugees, it’s shame Canada: Burman

How welcoming has the Canadian government been to these Syrian refugees?

The answer: 200 people.   That is the number of Syrian refugees the Canadian government itself has sponsored for all of this year. (There have been private sponsorships, but they have been minimal.)

Canada pledged to accept 1,300 Syrians for the year 2014, but only 200 were to be government-assisted. The rest were to be sponsored and financed by private community and religious organizations, but this promise was made without genuine consultation. The unrealistic process, both costly and time-consuming, has virtually been brought to a standstill by government bureaucracy. By the end of this month, it is certain that Canada will not come close to delivering on its 2014 pledge.

CBC News – Stephen Harper rebuffs call to rescind federal torture directives

In the House of Commons, New Democrat MP Peter Julian said Tuesday the conclusion to be drawn from the American report is simple — torture doesn’t work.

However, Julian pointed out, the Canadian government has issued directives to several police and security agencies allowing them to use and share information derived using brutal methods.

The instructions give five federal agencies — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, the military, Canada Border Services and the Communications Security Establishment — the go-ahead to exchange information with a foreign partner even when doing so may give rise to a substantial risk of torture. 

iPolitics – This prostitution law is about protecting votes, not women

On Dec. 6, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act received royal assent. This event was noteworthy for two reasons: It meant that the prostitution laws overturned by the Supreme Court in the Bedford case had been replaced, and they’d been replaced on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

To Conservatives, this probably seemed like a pretty slick move. After all, they’ve been selling the new legislation as the best way to protect women who are abused and made vulnerable by prostitution. What could be a better symbol than making this bill into law on the very day Canadians have set aside to support an end to violence against women?

The only problem is that sex workers – you know, the people actually affected by this new law – say that this legislation will just go back to making sex work dangerous for the people who do it. For the government to grant royal assent to this bill on December 6 was an imperious dismissal of those genuine concerns for the safety of everyone who does sex work.

Huffington Post – Government Under Fire Over Trade In Endangered Whale Meat
The Conservative government is facing tough questions about why it is allowing meat from endangered whales to be shipped across Canada.

In February, it emerged that the federal government allowed an Icelandic company to transport meat from endangered fin whales across Canada on its way to market in Japan. Twelve shipping containers of the meat arrived in Halifax and, according to Greenpeace, were transported by train to ports in British Columbia.

Vancouver Observer – Lost Canadians file petition challenging federal government’s interpretation of citizenship history

Lost Canadians are a group of legitimate Canadians who have been denied citizenship due to obscure provisions of previous laws, which discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity and marital status.

Last month, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada suggested the legal concept of Canadian citizenship has existed only since January 1, 1947 — the date that Canada’s Citizenship Act came into effect.

“History does not support that assertion,” Citizenship advocate Don Chapman said in a news release. “The government’s position seems to be that Canadian citizenship was created ex nihilo on Jan. 1, 1947. In fact, the term ‘Canadian citizen’ has been part of the statute law since 1910, not 1947.”

FIRST NATIONS

Vancouver Observer – First Nations: NEB Kinder Morgan process unconstitutional

Constitutional challenges seem likely if the federal government approves Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

On Friday, Squamish Chief Ian Campbell presented a letter to the Harper government outlining the process’ defects. That letter, signed by twelve First Nation leaders, stated they are “wholly dissatisfied” with the Crown’s approach to consultation and called on the Crown to develop a meaningful consultation process.

The allegations of unconstitutionality include: failure to consult about the NEB process; use of written information requests rather than live cross examination of witnesses; insufficient capacity funding; and no guidance regarding how consultation will occur following the NEB’s recommendation.

Huffington Post – Bernard Valcourt Insulted Us Over Environmental Concerns: Yukon Chiefs

First Nations in Yukon say federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt insulted and dismissed them at a meeting to discuss their concerns that planned changes to environmental assessments in the territory give too much power to Ottawa.

“We came down here on the invitation of the minister to discuss this and he totally insulted our First Nations, he totally insulted our agreements and it’s like ‘business as usual. Too bad what you think,'” said Ruth Massie, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

VETERANS UNDER ATTACK 

Globe and Mail – Veterans Affairs overspends on administration, falls short on benefits
Veterans Affairs allowed tens of millions of dollars in approved funding on veterans programs – such as death and disability benefits – to go unspent last year while exceeding its budget for internal services like communications.

A closer look by The Globe and Mail at the department’s line-by-line public accounts shows the biggest source of the gap – or lapse – comes from the department’s two biggest categories: the health-care program and disability and death compensation.

CBC News – Major who lost legs in IED bashes veteran benefits

A major who lost both his legs in Afghanistan says the Harper government’s financial treatment of injured war veterans is an “abject betrayal” of a new generation of soldiers.

Maj. Mark Campbell, who stepped on a bomb in June 2008 near a Canadian base west of Kandahar city, says the New Veteran’s Charter established in 2006 robs wounded soldiers of about 40 per cent of their income.

“They made the announcements last fall … for the most seriously wounded,” he said Tuesday. “When you think seriously wounded, picture Mark Campbell in your mind,” said the major, pointing to where his legs used to be.

“This is about as bad as it gets without being dead.”

Chronicle Herald – Veterans Affairs: Managers reaped rewards after cuts

Veterans Affairs Canada managers made hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for cutting costs as the department shed hundreds of jobs.   In 2011-12, the department paid $343,000 to 60 managers under what appears to be a new program for “Savings/Spending Targets.” No such bonuses were given out in previous years.

Bonuses ranged from $2,376 up to $14,728, and averaged about $5,700 per person, said a departmental response to a question tabled by Sen. Percy Downe of Prince Edward Island.  The following year, $243,000 was paid out to 55 managers, an average of $4,400 each.

At the same time, the department cut hundreds of jobs. In 2010-11, Veterans Affairs had 3,708 employees. By 2013-14, the department dropped 658 jobs to 3,050 positions.h

Globe and Mail – The worst part of Conservatives’ mistreatment of veterans

I know it feels that the Harper government is the most dishonest in our history. But there’s really no way of measuring such things – and it behooves the government’s critics to be evidence-based, after all – and really, it doesn’t matter whether it is actually the very worst or not. (It has some pretty tough competitors, don’t forget.) Just check out any of the websites and blogs dedicated to tracking the lies of Harperland – this beyond actual public policies – and be confident that it stands among the Olympians of Canadian political mendacity.

But last week the government finally won the gold medal for perhaps the most despicable act ever of deceit and outright lying. And wouldn’t you just know, given the Harper record, that it was Canada’s veterans they lied to.

CBC News – Vets disability branch budget slashed between 2009 and 2013, records show

Some of the biggest job cuts at Veterans Affairs in recent years have been in the disability awards branch — the division targeted in a recent auditor general’s report for taking too long to decide on the benefit claims of ex-soldiers.

Departmental performance reports stretching back to 2009 show that roughly 897 positions have been eliminated across Veterans Affairs, with 33 per cent coming out of the section that administers pensions and awards.

Those same records show the health and rehabilitation branches also took a sizable hit — roughly 372 positions during the same time frame.

SCIENCE UNDER SIEGE

Ottawa Citizen – Scientists push for ‘scientific integrity’ at bargaining table

Canada’s federal scientists are going to the bargaining table this week with an unprecedented package of contract changes to promote “scientific integrity” in government, including the right of scientists to speak freely and forbidding political interference in their work.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents more than 15,000 scientists, researchers and engineers, is tabling a negotiating position for managing science in the “public interest” with a list of demands for Treasury Board negotiators that dramatically push the boundaries of traditional collective bargaining in the public service.

CBC News – Scientists will be forced to knock on doors under health research grant changes
There’s a new controversy raging in Canada’s scientific community as word spreads about impending changes to the country’s major health science research organization.

In what has been called a “rebellion,” emails are flying as scientists share news about a recent decision by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Governing Council. They say it will force scientists to shop around for matching external funds before they can access public money that used to be granted with no strings attached.

“Part of the reason for the rebellion is that the process that the senior leadership of CIHR has used to make these decisions can only be described as top-down, secretive and disrespectful,” Fred Wien, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University wrote in a letter to colleagues.

BAD RELATIONS

Toronto Star – Stephen Harper has given cold shoulder to Kathleen Wynne for the past year
‎The cold war between Ottawa and Ontario is so bad that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spent more time with Russian President Vladimir Putin this year than Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Friday is the first anniversary of the last time the two most powerful politicians in Canada sat down together face to face.

Harper will mark the occasion by meeting in Ottawa with the leader of another sub-national jurisdiction: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Huffington Post – Paul Davis ‘Cannot Trust’ Stephen Harper, Says Rules For Fisheries Fund Changed

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis emerged from a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday evening saying the province will not be able to access a fisheries fund link to the EU trade deal.

However, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the agreement was “never intended to be a blank cheque” something the federal government said earlier in the week.

The two have been meeting to discuss a disagreement between the provincial and federal governments on funds associated with the free trade deal with the European Union.

“I leave here very disappointed. I can tell you that it’s very clear to me that we cannot trust Stephen Harper, cannot trust this government,” Davis said, following Friday’s meeting.

Toronto Star – Provinces increasingly ignoring Stephen Harper to go their own way: Hébert

From climate change to pension reform, gun control, medically-assisted death and pipelines: the list of issues on which various provinces are striking a course independent from that of Stephen Harper’s government keeps getting longer.

The latest addition is the Conservative government’s controversial prostitution law.

Global News – EXCLUSIVE: Harper government quietly signed customs agreement with China

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government quietly signed a customs-sharing agreement with China without announcing it to the public, Global News has learned.   And the move has experts worried about the consequences to Canada’s security.

At the end of Harper’s trip to China in November, the government sent out a news release proudly detailing the progress made and agreements signed, including initiatives to strengthen commercial ties and increase exports.

But Harper made no mention of the agreement to share customs information with China, whereas similar agreements involving Israel and the European Union were widely disseminated.   The deal has many experts scratching their heads.

TAXPAYERS FUND THE CAMPAIGN

CBC News – Ottawa’s ads called a pre-election campaign funded by taxpayers

Critics say these multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded ad campaigns that launched online and on air over the past few months appear timed for one main goal: to get Canadians to vote Conservative in the next federal election in October.

“Frankly, it’s partisan election preparation. It’s in the nature of propaganda in order to strengthen the Conservative brand in the final year before the general election,” says Mathieu Ravignat, federal NDP treasury board critic.

 

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About TheAlektera

I am a Canadian who, like many is upset at the state of our country under the Harper Regime. I do not wish to see Canada change into Harperland under the Harper Government. This blog will help document the actions of the Harper government which are eroding Canada's democratic process.
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