iPolitics (Michael Harris) – Canada on fast track to a not-so-benign dictatorship
True to his word, Stephen Harper has transformed the country, largely by stealth. Canada is now a nation that spies on its friends, guests and citizens. It accepts foreign intelligence even when there is a likelihood that it was obtained by torture.
The government lies to the electorate on policy matters. It accuses veterans of exaggerating their injuries in order to take the taxpayer for a ride. It washes its hands of any stake in the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. It does not practise unite-and-lead politics, but divide-and-conquer stratagems. A government, by any democratic measure, in disgrace.
Yet have you noticed that almost all of the mainstream media look-aheads do not include the baggage of the Harper record as any kind of liability going into an election? Running for re-election used to be like going to school. You put in your year, did your work, and at the end of a testing process, others decided if you had earned promotion to the next grade.
Good for the Harper government for facilitating the secret talks between a pigheaded Washington and Cuba’s geriatric “communist” dictatorship. Despite the widespread demoralization within the Department of Foreign Affairs, its officials, backed by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister John Baird, demonstrated to the world exactly what kind of role Canada is capable of playing on the world stage.
Does this mean the government has finally come to its senses and decided to reflect the values most Canadians have long cherished? After all, in his Christmas message, Stephen Harper emphasized that Canada was “a compassionate country” known around the world for “protecting the vulnerable,” and asked his fellow Canadians “to show kindness to the less fortunate.” This is not exactly how the government has normally rallied its base. Is there hope for a Harperland change of heart at this late date?
Alas no. Not, at least, if it means enabling 100 severely-injured children from Gaza to come to Canada for medical care.
G&M (Jeffrey Simpson) – Iran bashers display a dangerous lack of worldliness
(Finally a commentator who does not parrot the line that Harper is a statesmen. Harper practices polarizing politics both domestically and on the international stage.)
The potentially most consequential negotiations in the world this year will centre on Iran’s nuclear program…..
Critics of the negotiations – led by Israel, of course, and the Harper government that follows Israel’s lead on all Middle East issues – insist Iran should be stripped of centrifuges and essentially of its entire capability ever to make a weapon. For the critics, it’s all or nothing, which is not how any successful negotiation ever ends.
The critics’ bottom line would mean, of course, no possible deal, which is presumably what Israel, the Israel lobby in Washington, the U.S. Republican Party and irrelevancies such as the Harper government want. Their short-term alternative is to apply even more economic sanctions on Iran, hoping that the country would bend under their weight, which is what would not at all happen.
Huffington Post – Keystone News Unsurprising After Harper Wrecked Canada’s Relationship With The U.S.
If revenge is indeed a dish that’s best served cold, the President of Cool just served up a four-star pièce de résistance for Stephen Harper. Tuesday’s announcement of Obama’s planned veto of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should not have been surprising, yet when the blow came it carried a shocking intensity.
And how did things go so badly that Canada doesn’t have the heft or goodwill in Washington to add a single pipeline to a nation benoodled with them? The answer lies in the delusional hubris of Stephen Harper.
Huffington Post – Brent Rathgeber: The 2015 Election: A Morbidly Obese Cabinet With A Singular Focus
With the addition of the Honourable Erin O’Toole as the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, the current federal cabinet has ballooned to 40 members, tying the largest cabinet in Canadian history–that of also “conservative” Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney.
Removing Julian Fantino from the troubled portfolio was both necessary and long overdue; what is unclear (yet very clear) to me was the necessity of making up a new position for him–Associate Minister of National Defence, purportedly just to keep him in cabinet.
Talk about an expensive birthday party invitation. Recently released federal spending figures show advertising promoting Canada’s 150th birthday — two years from now — has cost nearly $12 million, so far….
Liberal heritage critic Stéphane Dion said the ad buy seems like a case of the government seeking to burnish its image. While they’re running ads, they’ve yet to unveil any actual events to mark the milestone, he said. “It’s a manipulative government and they blur the line between governmental information and partisan ads,” he said.
Ottawa Citizen – Veterans Affairs alleges some ex-soldiers exaggerating their injuries
The Veterans Affairs department says some veterans are exaggerating their injuries to continue receiving financial benefits from the government and to avoid joining the work force.
The explosive allegation is contained in a recent internal report on a Veterans Affairs rehabilitation program designed to help injured ex-soldiers transition to civilian life, which found thousands of veterans are staying in the program much longer than anticipated — or not finishing it at all.
National Post – Two weeks in and the Canadian military is having difficulty finding targets in Iraq
(This article gives estimates of the cost of operating the CF18s at 19,605 PER HOUR. Wouldn’t our money and efforts be more effectively spent providing aid to refugees as Justin Trudeau has said.)
Two weeks into Canada’s six-month mission in Iraq, the Canadian Forces is having a hard time finding Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) targets to destroy.
Col. Daniel Constable, the mission’s commander in Kuwait, acknowledged the problem Thursday as he provided more details about a Canadian airstrike Tuesday that destroyed an ISIS artillery piece and killed an unknown number of militants.
The attack was the second since six CF-18s, two Canadian military Aurora surveillance aircraft and a Polaris refuelling plane began participating in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS on Oct. 30.
68: Sorties, or missions, flown by Canadian aircraft as part of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS since Oct. 30
46: Sorties flown by the six CF-18s fighter jets
$19,605: Cost per hour of operating a CF-18
4 to 6: Estimated hours per sortie
$3.6-million to $5.4-million: Estimated cost of the CF-18 sorties
A potent symbol of that tension was the legislation introduced at year’s end, requiring companies to “justify” price differentials between Canada and the U.S. The Competition Bureau is authorized to collect confidential corporate financial data to facilitate this comparison. Few believe the Bureau has either the desire or the resources to investigate prices in any meaningful way, and it will have no power to do anything about “unjustified” price gaps in any event. Moreover, the only reason such gaps exist – a substantially overvalued Canadian currency – is disappearing before our eyes. So the legislation is pure theatre.
But the very idea of a big central government seizing confidential business information, and demanding that prices meet some moral criteria (rather than supply and demand), sparked anger across the business community (not to mention ridicule from economists). If a Liberal or NDP government ever tried this, business would be crying that the barbarians were at the gate.
Instead of convincing critics Canada could be trusted to develop a carbon-intensive resource in a sustainable fashion, Ottawa instead boasted about Canada’s “emerging energy superpower” status, lashed out at environmentalists and thumbed its nose at international climate change efforts, painting a target on the industry’s back in the process.
Just a few weeks ago, Harper stood in the House of Commons and called the idea of federal emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector “crazy” when crude prices are falling (not that he was a fan when they were soaring). This while Canada and other countries were supposed to be laying groundwork for a global emissions deal during a climate change conference in Lima, Peru.
“I can’t understand how he could be so careless with the oil industry, particularly the oil sands,” says David Anderson, a former Liberal environment minister. He argues that, in the case of Keystone XL, the federal government has allowed the project to become a poster child for climate change just as Obama is “trying to create an environmental legacy for himself in his last two years.”
In his new book, Kill The Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know, Ottawa author and longtime Press Gallery member Mark Bourrie takes a hard look at the Conservative government’s control over information and, among many other examples, gagging of the bureaucracy. Bourrie spoke to CHRIS COBB about what he sees as a major threat to Canada’s democracy.
Toronto Star – Tory government using publicity agency to create, distribute news
The Conservative government has been using a publicity agency to create and distribute government-approved news items to community newspapers, television and radio stations.
The federal government has a standing offer — worth up to $1.25 million annually — with News Canada Ltd., which provides content free and without copyright to editors through its website.
The articles must be credited to News Canada, but there is usually nothing in the so-called news articles or television and radio scripts that would explicitly let readers or viewers know it is sponsored content.
Blacklock’s Reporter – Feds Run News Blacklist, Ban Employee Access To Website
A federal agency banned public employees from accessing news stories at Blacklock’s Reporter via government internet servers, documents confirm. Confidential records show Shared Services Canada imposed the government-wide blackout on website access by hundreds of thousands of staff. Files on the blacklisting were obtained through Access To Information.
Shared Services Canada offered no explanation. A 218-page file detailing the ban is heavily censored and conceals email messages in which Shared Services staff discuss the action in messages headed, “Block Domain: Blacklocks.ca”.
Once again, showing contempt for international standards and principles, Stephen Harper has turned his back on a shared global norm.
In a stunning display of contrarian behaviour, the Canadian government refused, at the September, 2013 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to enhance protection for 76 plants and animal species under threat. Documents revealing this action have only just come to light.
MISMANAGEMENT AD NAUSEUM…
A third of the Conservative government’s appointees to its critically backlogged social security tribunal have close ties to the party, despite Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s insistence that he’s avoided patronage appointments.
An analysis obtained by The Canadian Press has found that 32 of 96 tribunal members, including four recent appointees, have either donated to the party, run as Conservative candidates or worked for a Tory candidate.
Testifying before a parliamentary committee late last year, Kenney suggested the 11,000-case backlog, mostly involving those seeking Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, was partly the result of a “rigorous pre-screening process” for tribunal members that required a 12-month vetting period.
“We have taken the patronage dimension of this out of the system,” Kenney also told the committee.
Over a quarter of the employees at immigration’s centralized processing centre are casual workers or students, officials say following a Star story.
More than a quarter of the employees at immigration’s centralized processing centre are casual workers or students, says Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
“The vast majority of these employees perform administrative support functions of application processing across all citizenship and immigration business lines and are not direct decision-makers, department spokesperson Nancy Chan wrote in an email Tuesday.
The department was responding to an exclusive story in the Star this week about the “high error rate” in immigration application processing identified in the government’s own internal reviews.
What the Prime Minister announced was not really a science strategy, but a business strategy – and a short-sighted, self-serving one at that. The implicit premise is that all you need to do is drop a few bucks in this magic machine called “science” and out the other end comes profit and jobs.
Innovation cannot be generated (and measured) with a simple, linear equation in which research begets technology, technology begets innovation and innovation begets jobs. But universities and funding bodies have taken to promoting this simplistic formula in the belief that it’s the only way to extract funding from simple-minded politicians, and government has made it one of the cornerstones of its economic policy.
Only days before the murderous assault on Charlie Hébdo staff in Paris by heavily armed men claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda, Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to support the global Arms Trade Treaty, which came into force on Christmas Eve, 90 days after the 50th nation ratified it.
While doing so, Harper also facilitated more Canadian arms sales this past year than previous governments have ever sanctioned – a $14.8 billion contract over 10 years to sell Light Armored Vehicles (LAV III) made in Ontario. They are being assembled at a branch plant of US-based General Dynamics, the sixth largest arms manufacturer in the world, with sales of over $31 billion in 2012.