Harper Watch – December 17 to 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015 Harper Watchers!  Let’s hope and pray and work hard to make 2015 the last year of Harper government rule!


(Some shocking tidbits here, not included in Michael Harris’ book “Party of One”)Michael Harris at Unifor Ontario Regional Council, November 2014

CBC News – Stephen Harper’s comments on missing, murdered aboriginal women show ‘lack of respect’

In a span of a week, the Conservative government confirmed their feelings of indifference, disregard and utter lack of respect for indigenous people.  It seems that their contempt is solely aimed at First Nation men, First Nation women, and First Nation girls.

This is the very attitude that underlies the government legislation and (non) actions that have resulted in tragic consequences suffered by First Nation people for generations.

National Post – Greenspan & Doob: Stephen Harper’s scary crime bluster

“All convicted criminals belong behind bars.”

We know of no person knowledgeable about criminal justice in any democratic society who has ever proposed imprisonment for all convicted offenders. But earlier this month, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, who oversees our penitentiaries, bluntly told Parliament that “Our Conservative government believes that convicted criminals belong behind bars.” No qualifications, no exceptions.

An opposition MP understandably replied, “Mr. Speaker, that is scary to hear.” Scary? It’s more than scary. It is hard to imagine such a statement being made by someone who supposedly has knowledge about crime and the criminal justice system.

The Chronicle Herald – EDITORIAL: EI backlog leaves Canadians in lurch

People buy insurance to have a safety net in an emergency.

With federal Employment Insurance, of course, it’s usually not optional — most working Canadians must pay EI premiums — but the basic concept is the same. If someone loses his job, EI is supposed to kick in after a couple of weeks to help pay the bills until that person can find alternative employment.

That means the federal government has a tremendous duty of care to ensure the EI system is functioning as expected. Legitimate claimants who’ve paid into the system expect — indeed, count on — the program to work when needed. Discovering it doesn’t can inflict real damage in people’s lives.

Ottawa has clearly failed to fulfil that duty. The number of Canadians having to wait more than four weeks for a decision on their EI claims last year climbed above 90,000, our Ottawa Bureau Chief Paul McLeod reported Friday.

Toronto Star – Canadian criminal justice meets ghost of Christmas past

Equal justice for all is the most basic principle of a fair legal system. But for the poor who can’t afford to hire good lawyers, raise bail or pay for fines imposed as punishment, the criminal justice system is anything but equal. That inequality has now been made even worse by the imposition of mandatory victim surcharges as an additional fine on people convicted of crimes.

Globe and Mail – What’s the holdup on Syrian refugees?

The numbers speak for themselves. About 190,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians. More than 10 million Syrians have been displaced, and nearly 11 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Syria.

What about Canada? A recently released government document says that as of Nov. 13, 457 Syrian refugees have landed in Canada, out of 1,300 pledged by Jason Kenney as immigration minister in 2013. And despite sincere overtures of concern and promises to act on larger numbers by Mr. Kenney’s successor, Chris Alexander, an official announcement has yet to materialize. At a Geneva conference on Syrian refugees held by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last week, Canada declined to make any new commitments.

Vancouver Observer – Stephen Harper position on global Arms Trade Treaty reads like a page out of NRA handbook

The global Arms Trade Treaty, brokered through the United Nations in a lengthy process, came into effect this Christmas Eve, 2014, 90 days after the 50th nation had ratified it. Canada has refused to sign or ratify this landmark agreement, which will begin to stem the vast tide of armaments, from pistols to rocket launchers to tanks, which sweeps over the world every day. Most arms come from rich industrial nations like Canada and the US and go to poor countries with undemocratic governments.

On the same day the treaty came into force, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird issued a written statement ….First, Baird contends that ‘Canada already has some of the strongest export controls in the world”, implying we’re very careful who we sell arms to.  Then Baird adds a line that could have come straight out of the National Rifle Association’s PR handbook: “It is important that such a treaty should not affect lawful and responsible firearms owners nor discourage the transfer of firearms for recreational uses such as sport shooting and hunting.”


Toronto Star – Ottawa hiking citizenship fees for second time in a year

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander announced Wednesday the fee to apply for citizenship will increase to $530 per person on Jan. 1 A year ago it was $100.

Starting Jan. 1, Ottawa will raise the citizenship application fee — the second time in less than a year — to $530 per adult, making Canadian citizenship further out of reach for many of marginalized communities.


National Post – Tories have spent millions in taxpayer funds on Facebook ads targeting Canadians

New government documents show Ottawa has spent $5.8-million on Facebook ads since 2006 targeting Canadians of various age groups and demographics.

Many of the ads from government departments and agencies were to promote programs and services, but the federal Liberals argue there’s also abuse of taxpayer dollars for partisan advertising.

“No government has done more quasi-partisan advertising on the taxpayers’ dime than these Conservatives,” said Scott Brison, finance critic for the federal Liberals, which requested the information through Parliament. “The sole objective of government advertising under the Conservatives has been to promote the Conservatives, not government programs.”


Canada.com – Activist group ask prosecutors to find ringleaders behind Pierre Poutine call

The Council of Canadians has filed a complaint with the Public Prosecution Service over the Crown’s move to seek a longer sentence for robocall culprit Michael Sona while the “ringleaders of the election fraud campaign” remain at large.

“If the gravity of the offence is sufficient to warrant a more serious sentence it warrants a more serious investigation to find the perpetrators who are still at large,” says the letter, which is signed by chairperson Maude Barlow and executive director Garry Neil.

CBC News – ProxiVote complaint triggers preliminary review by ethics watchdog

The federal ethics watchdog has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Conservative MPs Rob Clarke and Rod Bruinooge may have breached House conflict of interest rules by voting to drop a longstanding ban on the use of smartphones, tablets and other communications devices at polling stations.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has determined that there are sufficient grounds to begin an initial review of the file after receiving an official request for an inquiry from Liberal MP Scott Simms earlier this week.

Ottawa Citizen – Majority of Canadians worried about potential voter fraud, study finds
(The title of this article is inaccurate – people are worried about ELECTION fraud, not VOTER fraud)
Many Canadians are heading to the polls in 2015 worried about the potential for the “illegal manipulation” of their votes, and showing as little trust in elections as people in some Latin American countries.

A survey of 26 countries in the Americas found that Canadians’ trust in elections is relatively weak, with only one in five (21 per cent) expressing “strong trust” in elections. An equal proportion (22 per cent) have little or no trust, with 57 per cent in the middle, showing “some” trust.


Globe and Mail – Tories appoint two conservative law professors as judges

Justice Minister Peter MacKay has appointed two of the country’s most conservative law professors as judges in Ontario, one of whom has publicly criticized the court he is about to join.

The appointments come in a year when Ottawa has faced controversy over judicial appointments, and for suspending parliamentary hearings into new Supreme Court judges.

Edmonton Journal – Ottawa wrong to ram through omnibus budget bills: judge
Ottawa should have consulted with First Nations before introducing the two omnibus bills that helped spark the widespread 2012 Idle No More protests, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Alberta’s Mikisew Cree First Nation took the Government of Canada to court over the bills. Their win will not affect the legislation that is already in effect, but it requires governments to seek input from affected First Nations in the future before the bills pass.


Huffington Post – Fantino: Not tough enough for Veterans Affairs

In 2004, media noted his “chilling legacy” as Toronto’s police chief during which “Julian Fantino’s arrogance and aggression unravelled [the] city’s social weave.”  His “thin-skinned” and “vindictive” nature back then erupted ten years later to national attention.While cameras rolled, Fantino contemptuously brushed off frail, aging and desperate veterans who waited almost two hours for the minister on a cold January day. By means of an insincere apology, Fantino accused the veterans of being “union dupes.”  Fleeing on camera from the wife of a disabled veteran four months later only confirmed his disdain for dialogue with those in need.

Calgary Sun (!) – Canadian Forces veterans decry Calgary MP claims that they’re content with their treatment by Ottawa

“Any veteran will tell you the same thing,” she said.  “I talk to veterans individually and they say they’re treated wonderfully. I invite you to ask them.”

Soon after, the Sun received a deluge of calls from veterans — like Mike Blais of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy — most expressing disbelief over Crockatt’s comments and anger about Ottawa’s handling of their cases.

“I think she’s delusional, after all the press and the abandonment by Minister Fantino,” said army vet Blais, referring to Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.


National Newswatch – Harper, PCO approved long hiring process for social security tribunal

Critics question why PCO would have designed such a lengthy screening process to begin with, and why Harper agreed to it. Former adjudicators under the old system say they were brought on board in a much shorter period of time.

“Approving a 15-month hiring process for an organization that would open in six months shows the government had little concern about the fact that it would leave thousands of vulnerable Canadians in an appalling and completely unnecessary situation,” Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner said Wednesday.

CBC News – Nutrition North food subsidy program: What went wrong

For years, northerners have complained about Nutrition North to anyone who would listen, grumbling that the $60-million annual federal food subsidy was doing little to ease their staggering grocery costs.

No one, it seemed, took much notice.

That all changed last month, when auditor general Michael Ferguson revealed that the program’s overseers are largely in the dark about whether the subsidy is doing anything for the people who need it the most.


CBC News – Canada Science and Technology Museum asked for roof funding in 2010

The closed Canada Science and Technology Museum had been asking the federal government for years to help fix a leaky roof whose “lifecycle had come to an end,” according to documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request.

The museum, which closed in September after leaks in the roof led to unsafe levels of mould in the air, had communicated its desire for a new roof at its 50-year-old Ottawa location as early as 2010.

National Post – Its funding may have been eliminated, but that didn’t stop a Canadian satellite from co-discovering new planet

A suitcase-sized Canadian satellite whose funding has been eliminated by the Canadian Space Agency has co-discovered a new planet in another solar system.

The MOST space telescope, just 65 centimetres wide and 25 deep, also confirmed the planet is 2.5 times bigger than Earth, and is probably mostly water or ice.

The discovery comes just as the Canadian Space Agency is winding up all funding for MOST, which must now operate as a rent-a-telescope.

CBC News – Alternatives, foreign-aid charity, faces closure after Revenue Canada audit
Alternatives and 52 other charities have been caught in a net created by the 2012 federal budget, when the Harper government gave the revenue agency millions of dollars to audit the political activities of key charities. The initiative coincided with provocative comments by cabinet ministers painting environmental groups as “radicals” and “money launderers.”

Toronto Star – Ottawa’s manufacturing fund a mirage

(The Harper government is very good at making funding announcements but as for actually following up with funds, not so much. Ontario manufacturers join the Veterans and a host of international aid organizations in the queue for funds announced but not delivered.) 

There is a $200-million pot of money in Ottawa earmarked for Ontario’s hard-hit manufacturing sector. The Advanced Manufacturing Fund (AMF) was announced in February 2013 by then-finance minister Jim Flaherty. It was officially launched last December by Minister of State Gary Goodyear, who speaks for Ontario in cabinet. It was cited by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April at a forum hosted by the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge chambers of commerce as proof of his government’s efforts to promote the province’s economic growth. It has been re-announced by various cabinet ministers.

To date, not a single project has been approved. Not one dollar has been released. Not one job has been created.


National Post – Information czar investigating whether government refusing to release data in easy-to-read, digital formats

The federal information commissioner is investigating multiple cases where it appears that government departments aren’t releasing data in easy-to-read formats, even though the law requires it.

The ongoing investigations, which are prompted by complaints from requesters, comes as the federal minister who oversees the access-to-information regime suggested some data couldn’t be released in easy-to-read formats, such as spreadsheets, over fears people may post “corrupt” information.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Treasury Board President Tony Clement couldn’t identify any incident where government information had been falsified. Neither could information commissioner Suzanne Legault’s office.

“We are not aware of any incidents where datasets were manipulated in order to falsify data,” said Legault spokeswoman Natalie Hall. 

iPolitics – Trudeau promises he’d be accessible PM, unmuzzle bureaucrats, ministers
Harper’s approach to communications makes for bad decisions and an unhealthy democracy, Trudeau said in a year-end interview that included his most thorough comments to date on what kind of standards he would set for communications. “First of all, it breaks down the kind of trust that should exist between citizens and their government, whether it’s through blocking access to information, an unwillingness to actually share data or evidence justifying various decisions, reliance on talking points,” he told The Canadian Press.


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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