Harper Watch – March 26 to April 4, 2015


COMMENTARY

National Post (John Ivison) –  Tories’ behaviour during anti-terror bill hearings borderline anti-democratic
(If Tory lover John Ivison is worried, we should be apoplectic!)

Even in the darkest days of the Second World War, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons with the latest news, good or bad, and never shrank from a vote of censure.

“I am,” he used to say, “a servant of the House of Commons.”

The great Tory leader would probably be appalled by Canada’s Conservatives, who appear to believe the acronym MP stands for Masters of Parliament, given the way they treat its institutions like whipped dogs.

The recent hearings into the anti-terror legislation were, in the words of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, “a sham.” Forty nine witnesses appeared over 16 hours but the most enduring statement was made by Conservative MP Rick Norlock, who asked Carmen Cheung of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, “Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” 

National Post (Michael Den Tandt)  – Bumbles make the once all-star Jason Kenney seem more like a reflection of Tories’ worst traits

For it has been reinforced lately, most recently Wednesday, that this minister has a potentially crippling Achilles heel; his very confidence and combativeness, coupled with instant access to social media, lead him to one snafu after another. Making matters worse, having erred, Mr. Kenney is incapable of apology. The words “I’m sorry” apparently cannot pass his lips without causing him to spontaneously combust. In this, the Defence Minister neatly personifies what ails his party as it heads into a make-or-break election; a clench-jawed refusal to admit error or consider fair criticism until the last grainery has been burned, the last well salted and the last bridge bombed.

ipolitics – Paul Adams: Keeping it simple: Canada solves the Middle East morass
The key insight of Harper Conservatism is that everything is simple. Taxes are bad. Carbon taxes are really, really bad. Iran is bad. Russia is bad. Exports are good. Oil is good. Pipelines are good, too. The military is good. Israel is good. Terrorists are bad. Islamic State are terrorists and are crazy bad. International law is bad when it gets in the way of doing what we want militarily; international law is good when it helps us sell our exports.

Liberal.ca – The Canada Pension Plan at 50!

This past February, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Red Maple Leaf Flag — one of Mr. Pearson’s proudest accomplishments.  Next year, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of national medicare, another Pearson legacy.  And this week, the legislation that originally created the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) will turn 50 years old. ….

However, the CPP/QPP are labouring under one major limitation. The maximum regular benefit a contributor can receive is just over $12,000 per year. The average is just more than half that. Those amounts are far from sufficient to ensure retirees can maintain their quality of life, without other significant savings.

Three-quarters of those working in the private sector don’t have access to an employer-sponsored pension plan. And of those who are within 10 years of retirement, fewer than one-third have $100,000 or more set aside to sustain themselves. Another third have no retirement savings at all.

While they have tinkered with various private sector pension ideas, the Harper government has not been helpful in dealing with basic retirement income insecurity.

BILL C-51

ipolitics – Harper is losing the argument on C-51 … with Conservatives

That same day, at committee hearings on the bill, Connie Fournier, founder of the former conservative online forum FreeDominion, criticized the bill’s infringements on privacy and freedom of speech. Fournier is going a step further, reviving her website to fight Bill C-51 — and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“I feel like we’re in some kind of alternate universe,” she recently told the Tyee. “You spend your life working for the Conservative party, and the Conservative party finally gets in, and (now) you’re saying, ‘I hope the NDP really steps up and protects us from our Conservative government.’”

iPolitics – Why we can’t just trust CSIS to do the right thing

If laughter really is the best medicine, then I have to thank Christian Leuprecht. His appearance before a Commons committee this week on Bill C-51 had me laughing so hard I won’t need to see a doctor again for years.

Leuprecht, an associate professor at the Royal Military College, appeared before the Public Safety and National Security Committee to offer an impersonation of someone who knows what he’s talking about.

Prof. Leuprecht may have the academic credentials, but his gut-busting remarks demonstrate he doesn’t have a clue about what really goes on inside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service — nor the contempt the spy agency has for anyone in or outside government who tries to keep serious tabs on what it’s up to. 

FIRST NATIONS 

CBC News – Aboriginal Affairs won’t fund life-saving airstrip in Saskatchewan

A Cree community in northern Saskatchewan without access to air ambulance service says people’s lives have been lost or endangered while the federal and provincial governments squabble over jurisdiction.

Six hundred kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, on the southern shore of Reindeer Lake, the community of Southend is home to 1,000 people.

It doesn’t have an airstrip that can accommodate an air ambulance, and the nearest hospital and doctor are located in La Ronge, a two- to three-hour drive on a winding gravel road.

Hill Times – Canada needs to work with Inuit to bolster its sovereignty claims in the Arctic, say experts
If Canada is going to achieve its territorial aims in the Arctic it needs to treat the Inuit population as partners, rather than using only their existence to bolster Canadian sovereignty claims. This was the message from a panel of experts who appeared before the Senate Liberal Open Caucus on Wednesday March 25 to discuss the issues facing the Arctic….

Peter Hutchins, also of Hutchins Legal, noted that the ironic part in all this is that the presence of the Inuit in the Arctic is the best chance Canada has at achieving its objectives. However, this can only be achieved by respecting the spirit of the treaties which Canada and the Inuit have signed in the past, and this is not happening. “Canada says we now have full sovereignty and that’s it,” Hutchins stated, “but the transaction was quid pro quo. It was in return for something, and frankly if Canada does not honour its obligations, the Inuit are entitled to say the deal’s off.”

THE WAR MONGERS

Globe and Mail – Government votes to extend, expand military mission against IS

Canada is now at war in Syria.   Prime Minister Stephen Harper used his party’s Commons majority to authorize extending Canada’s military fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq for 12 months and expanding that fight into Syria.

The Commons vote took place in a divided House where Canada’s two major opposition parties, with about 40 per cent of the seats, refused to support it. The Commons motion endorsing the revised mission passed 142-129. Thirty-three MPs were absent for the vote and one abstained.

iPolitics – Mr. Alexander’s fantasy Cold War 

That was some speech Immigration Minister Chris Alexander gave the Ukrainian Canadian Congress last week. It combined a scathing attack on Vladimir Putin with a rousing call to arms…..

Mr. Alexander warned that “we are at the beginning of a long struggle” against Russians “who want to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” In the meantime — in his view — there is no hope for world peace and security “without a full international effort to give Ukraine the tools it needs to drive Russian forces from its borders and secure (them) for good.”

But no, Russia is not trying to put the USSR back together again. And no, world peace and security would not be at all well served by major war with Russia on its border. Nor would Ukrainians — who would be, as they have been before, the first victims of any such conflict. Mr. Alexander is right: “The buck stops in Ukraine.”

Embassy – Syrian aid money approved without due diligence, docs show

Foreign Affairs bureaucrats partially filled out an application form for an aid group seeking government money for Syrian medical aid in 2012 and, under pressure from the minister, pushed it through the approval process without performing due diligence, newly released documents show.

While visiting a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan on Aug. 11, 2012, then-foreign minister John Baird announced aid to Syrians caught up in what appeared to be a growing civil war between anti-government forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  That included $2 million for Canadian Relief for Syria, a Canadian non-governmental organization established only a few months earlier.

But within a couple days of the weekend announcement, reporters started asking Mr. Baird’s office and the foreign ministry questions about the group’s track record. The Canadian Relief for Syria website said the group was still in the process of getting charitable status, didn’t list any previous projects and redirected prospective donors to the site of another aid group, Human Concern International.    That group faced controversy for its past ties to Ahmed Said Khadr, the dad of ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.

TRANSPARENCY?

Vancouver Observer – Feds stifle media questions around oil sands’ toxic effects, FOIs reveal

Documents obtained by DeSmog Canada reveal that Canada’s Ministry of Environment vetoed an interview request on toxins in fur-bearing animals in the oilsands, even though the federal scientist was “media trained and interested in doing the interview.”

TAXING TIMES

CBC News – Tax bill hiked for civil servants sent to war zones

Civil servants representing Canada in the world’s most dangerous places are being hit by a personal income tax hike, a possibly unintended consequence of the 2012 budget that senior government officials are struggling to reverse.

Changes that took hold in 2013 began treating group sickness or accident insurance plans — including accidental death and dismemberment policies for travel in war zones — as a taxable benefit.

Globe and Mail – Family tax breaks to benefit parents with no childcare expenses: PBO

This year’s expansion of the Universal Child Care Benefit will deliver billions of dollars to parents with no child-care expenses at all, according to an analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that has reignited debate over Ottawa’s approach to child care.

Jean-Denis Fréchette, the PBO, released a report Tuesday that found the Conservative government’s latest child-care measures will bring total federal spending on child care to nearly $8-billion a year. The report notes this is a major increase over the $600-million spent by Ottawa prior to 2006, when the Conservatives came to power promising the Universal Child Care Benefit.

ENVIRONMENTAL FOLLY

Maclean’s – US, Mexico sign climate co operation deal as Canada stalls

The Harper government is temporarily standing on the sidelines as international negotiations ramp up for a United Nations climate conference at the end of this year.

The conference scheduled for Paris in December is supposed to result in a post-2020 global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions – a successor to the Copenhagen accord signed in 2009.

To help the negotiations, countries that are ready have been asked to submit their emissions targets and climate plans by March 31, a Tuesday deadline Environment Canada says it won’t meet.

JUST NASTY

Huffington Post – Pierre Poilievre Won’t Help Cancer Victim In Fight For CPP Disability
Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre will not intervene to ensure a terminally ill Alberta man denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits finally gets his payments.

Peter McClure, 62, is suffering from lung and rectal cancer and has outlived his doctor’s prognosis.

McClure says he was told by Service Canada 18 months ago that his condition wasn’t severe or prolonged enough to qualify for CPP disability, and was advised to apply for CPP retirement benefits instead, which pay significantly less.

ipolitics – CFIA cutting back on meat inspections in Northern Alberta: document
Health Minister Rona Ambrose’s office is continuing to insist that reports of Canadian Food Inspection Agency cuts to the number of meat inspections in Northern Alberta are “irresponsible and inaccurate” despite the fact internal documents obtained by iPolitics show the agency is doing just that.

iPolitics – Liberal defence critic says she was blocked from visiting bases

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray is accusing the government of blocking her efforts to visit Canadian Forces bases across the country.   Murray said the problem started in late 2013 and early this year when she asked for permission to visit CFB Trenton, CFB Esquimalt and CFB Comox. She said she tried initially to contact the bases directly and was told to go through then-defence minister Rob Nicholson’s office —  but she never received a reply to her requests.

Despite repeated messages to both the base and Nicholson’s office, she said she only received a reply in July — when Nicholson’s staff told her verbally the visit was “not going to happen, (there’s) policy against it.”

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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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