Stephen Harper’s obsession with Omar Khadr borders on the pathological. He has spent over half a million taxpayer dollars on battling Khadr in court and is about to spend even more fighting his release on bail. In the version of events conjured up by the Harper government’s fevered rhetoric, Khadr is an evil terrorist — and the fight to deny him release is just another front in the war on terror.
Never mind that he was a 15-year-old child soldier when he was accused of throwing a grenade in Afghanistan that killed an American soldier. Never mind that he may have confessed under duress, that he may have been tortured in Guantanamo. The prime minister has no use for nuance, or context. Politically, he needs an unrepentant terrorist — and Khadr only fits the bill as long as he remains locked up and out of reach.
The allocation in the federal budget of $200 million to improve aboriginal education has enraged Canada’s 21st prime minister.
“I don’t understand why this government makes it such a partisan issue as they did in this budget. I believe discrimination in education funding will be an (election) issue for Canadians,” Paul Martin said in an interview.
Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called the money in the budget an “outright snub and a missed opportunity.” The two men were speaking prior to a Canada 2020 symposium on aboriginal people and economic development in Ottawa on Wednesday.
BUDGET LIES AND DECEPTIONS
The Conservative government’s long-promised return to surplus relies on a series of accounting moves that includes slashing the contingency reserve, assuming oil prices will climb and collecting billions more in Employment Insurance premiums than necessary.
While economists say it is of little significance whether federal finances are in a small deficit or small surplus, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Joe Oliver have made the return to surplus a central political pledge for the Conservatives. “A promise made, a promise kept,” Mr. Oliver said in his budget speech Tuesday. “This budget is written in black ink.”
The government’s critics called it something else: economic sleight of hand.
PUBLIC SAFETY COMPROMISED
iPolitics – CFIA inspector: Cutbacks in Alberta are real, and ‘morale is in the toilet’
(This is typical of the federal public service today. People want to do a good job but budgets and staff have been cut to the bone. The Harper government was determined to balance that budget – even if it kills YOU.)
Despite repeated denials from federal officials, including Health Minister Rona Ambrose, that no cutbacks have been made to Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspections in northern Alberta, an Alberta CFIA inspector has told iPolitics that the cutbacks are real, and that they are seriously impacting food safety.
“Most inspectors just want to do the right thing, but you just can’t,” the inspector, who asked not to be identified because they fear retribution from their employer, told iPolitics.
Morale within the department and among those working the frontline is particularly low, the inspector said, especially given what they called the “blatant lying” coming from CFIA’s national office.
Shifting hundreds of RCMP officers to counterterrorism duty has hurt the national police force’s efforts to fight organized crime and espionage, a senior Mountie says.
The resource challenge is “negatively impacting” the force’s ability to do everything it’s expected to do, says Mike Cabana, deputy RCMP commissioner for federal policing.
“As a result, the RCMP recognizes that it needs to find a longer-term solution to be able to respond to the breadth of its federal policing mandate,” Cabana told the Senate national security committee Monday.
The Conservative government is slashing funding for all safety and security programs at Transport Canada, with a significant chunk coming out of safety oversight initiatives, planning documents show.
The amount of funding set to be clawed away varies between programs — the budget for transportation of dangerous goods is going down 32 per cent while the budget for aviation safety is dropping 9.2 per cent, for example — but all are seeing decreases, just as the wreckage of Air Canada Flight 624 was pulled off a runway in Halifax and the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic continues to rebuild.
Vancouver’s marine communications and traffic centre is also slated to close on May 6, and the Comox station will close sometime next winter or spring, said Scott Hodge, a spokesperson for Unifor Local 2182. Vancouver traffic will be monitored via radar from Victoria, while Ucluelet will be monitored from a communications centre in Prince Rupert.
Coast guard communications officers are particularly concerned about the Vancouver closure, which will leave B.C.’s busiest location in terms of ship traffic without visual checks.
JOBS AND ECONOMY
Here’s a question for you: Why is Canada spending half a billion dollars helping German car makers create jobs in Mexico and the United States at the same time as thousands of manufacturing jobs are being eliminated right here at home?
On Thursday, 1,000 auto workers at General Motors learned they were the latest ones to lose their jobs when the automobile giant announced massive layoffs at its Oshawa assembly line. This represents a reduction of one-third of GM’s Oshawa workforce.
With the 2015 federal election fast approaching, Canadians can expect a lot of loud government messaging about its ‘sound economic management’, including some trumped-up claims about how joining more — and ever more elaborate — trade and investment liberalization agreements will boost Canada’s national prosperity.
Far from spawning higher levels of investment and GDP growth, Canada’s great era of trade and investment liberalization — which began with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1988 — has been marked by underinvestment and sluggish growth in both employment and GDP.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi on Thursday at the Pinnacle Harbourfront hotel to tout a $350 million deal in which Canada’s largest uranium company, Cameco, will supply uranium to India….
But Cameco, the Saskatchewan-based company hired to supply India with 3,220 metric tonnes of uranium over five years, is wrapped up in legal a fight with Canada Revenue Agency over millions in owed taxes. In 2013, the Globe and Mail reported the company owes $800 million in back taxes.
The Tyee – (Michael Harris) Joe Oliver’s Budget Numbers Are Thoroughly Cooked
No wonder they’re spending $7.5 million in public money to advertise Joe Oliver’s budget. Bernie Madoff couldn’t have come up with a sneakier sell than this.
Still, no one should be surprised. This misbegotten government’s modus operandi is about much more than information control. It’s about soaring, jet-propelled skullduggery in a never-ending political campaign. It’s a power fantasy. It’s Steve’s way.
Armed with his narrative of convenience, Harper programs the electorate with fictions of prosperity, compassion and prudence. In the real world, he acts quite differently. There, he underfunds Coast Guard stations, veterans’ offices, First Nations tribal councils, railway inspections, scientific research and Employment Insurance processing.
The Conservative government doesn’t know whether its first-time homebuyers tax credit is working as intended, and kept the evaluation of the child fitness tax credit hidden, Canada’s auditor general said today in his spring report.
The tax credit for first-time homebuyers hasn’t been evaluated since it was introduced, despite an earlier analysis suggesting there could be some problems with it.
It’s been obvious for years that climate change is not a priority for this government, but to produce a 518 page document that is the basis for the Conservatives’ next election platform and not mention the existential threat of the century is truly appalling.
If ever the Canadian public needed a more graphic demonstration of Conservative misplaced priorities and contempt for the concerns of the majority of Canadians, it is in the failure to mention climate change in this key governance document.
Huffington Post – Harper: Canada Won’t Match U.S. On Greenhouse Gas Targets
Canada appears set to break a two-decades-long tradition of setting matching greenhouse gas reduction targets with the United States.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that new targets will be released next month, and will likely deviate from those recently set by the U.S.
Globe and Mail – U.S. worried about Canada’s ability to respond to oil spills, records reveal
Newly released U.S. documents show American authorities are nervously eyeing Canadian proposals to triple the number of oil tanker voyages through the shared waters off B.C.’s coast, saying among themselves that Canadian standards to clean up a major spill are decades behind those of the U.S. and leave states vulnerable to environmental damage and costs.
CBC News – Sierra Club latest environmental charity hit by Revenue Canada audits
Another environmental charity is about to undergo a political-activity audit by the Canada Revenue Agency, in what the charity’s director says is part of an “intimidation campaign.”
Auditors are set to appear at the Ottawa offices of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation on May 11 to examine the books for evidence of excessive political activity.
“It’s a huge undertaking for us to do this,” said John Bennett, the foundation’s national program director, who has been asked to produce a list of all the politicians he met in 2012 and 2013, among other documentation.
DUFFY AND OTHER STUPIDITIES
Redacted entries in Mike Duffy’s diary suggest he was in regular undisclosed contact with pipeline giant Enbridge during the height of the federal government’s scorching attacks on environmental activists and charities in 2012.
The suspended senator’s journal shows a flurry of conversations and emails with or about top-level Enbridge executives, then PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright and the Prime Minister between January and June of 2012, just as the National Energy Board started its hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
When announcing the saleof the former Canadian Wheat Board to a U.S.-Saudi joint venture, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz couldn’t resist getting one parting shot in at supporters of orderly marketing. No longer would Canadian farmers go to jail for selling their own grain, Ritz said. The only problem is, like many of the other statements Ritz made on Wednesday in Winnipeg, it’s not entirely true….
Does selling the CWB (albeit stripped of its ‘single desk’ marketing power and most of its staff) to Bunge Canada, a subsidiary of the U.S. conglomerate Bunge Ltd., and SALIC Canada, a unit of Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co., increase competition in the grain sector?
Since the number of competitors in the grain trade remains the same, there’s no increase in competition. Moreover, the new CWB will have far less market clout than the old CWB, which was the world’s largest marketer of wheat and barley until it was dismantled by the Harper government.
The Conservatives have spent more than $4.7 million fighting 15 losing court cases, including more than $1 million on tough-on-crime measures, according to figures released this week.
The cases range from the Conservatives’ $426,529 battle to shut down Insite, Vancouver’s safe-injection site, to $347,271 on the Supreme Court of Canada reference regarding Marc Nadon, whom Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to name to the top court, but who was ultimately found to be unqualified.
The most expensive fight for the Conservatives is the continuing dispute over health care for refugee claimants, which totalled $1,062,187 according to the costs released this week. The government lost a Federal Court case last July, which it plans to appeal, and refugee advocates have returned to Federal Court to argue the government is ignoring the original decision.
CBC News – ‘Canada’s Economic Action Plan’ signs painted in U.S.
(Also, why are Provincial governments paying for Conservative Party propaganda in the first place??)
A member of the B.C. legislature wants to know why the provincial government is paying a Washington state company to make road signs extolling Canadian stimulus spending.