National Post (Andrew Coyne) – A telling 24 hours in Stephen Harper’s world
(A damning piece by a columnist who is not known to be anti-Harper.)
If one were to draw up an indictment of this government’s approach to politics and the public purpose, one might mention its wholesale contempt for Parliament, its disdain for the Charter of Rights and the courts’ role in upholding it, its penchant for secrecy, its chronic deceitfulness, its deepening ethical problems, its insistence on taking, at all times, the lowest, crudest path to its ends, its relentless politicization of everything.
But you’d think you would need to look back over its record over several years to find examples. You wouldn’t think to see them all spread before you in the course of a single day.
Rachel Notley touched a raw nerve when she made her rousing victory speech after burning down Alberta’s Conservative house in Tuesday’s stunning election.
Party activists erupted in cheers as the New Democrat premier-designate declared that “change has finally come to Alberta” after four decades of monolithic Tory rule, along with “new people, new ideas and a fresh start.” But those cheers abruptly turned to jeers when she went on to say she is “looking forward” to working with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.
Many of her diehard supporters clearly are not, and their booing momentarily drowned her out. That spoke volumes about the combative mood in her party’s ranks as it celebrated a win for the history books.
iPolitics (Andrew Mitrovica) – What the hell was Harper doing in Iraq anyway?
…..Why did Stephen Harper go to Iraq? I’m not talking about the real reason — I’m talking about the rationale. Was it to gather first-hand impressions of the suffering of Iraqis at the hands of Islamic State? Unlikely: Harper has no military training and wouldn’t know what he was looking at. Was it to bolster morale? Please.
Harper went there to get pictures and video of himself standing near the ‘front’ (to the degree it exists) and looking resolute. He went there to dispel the lingering odour from the Hill attack. He went there to use serving troops and military hardware as a convenient backdrop for his John Wayne act. He did what every chickenhawk politician does to boost his political fortunes – he made a beeline for men and women in uniform with guns and made sure the folks back home saw him in khaki giving the troops a pep talk in front of a big Canadian flag……
Harper’s costly vanity visit was an irresponsible thing for any government leader to do. Harper never should have gone to Iraq. There’s a war going on and Canada is part of it. The prime minister is a high-value target. His presence in Iraq ramped up the threat to everyone around him — including the military, security and civilian staff he brought along with him so he could deliver a cliché-riddled speech while posing in front of a couple of CF-18s.
The Harper government tabled yet another monster omnibus budget bill last week. Not do be outdone, here is yet another editorial decrying these overstuffed bills and their contemptuous disregard for Parliament.
Omnibus budget bills should not be one of those bad habits that, through force of repetition, become tolerated, like looking at your cellphone while driving. They are an outrage. They usurp Parliament’s most important role, that of oversight, by lumping a variety of legislative matters into a single bill.
Forthright government watchdogs have a way of disappearing in Ottawa.
They are quietly replaced. Their mandates are terminated or not renewed. They are suddenly found to be unqualified. Seven government watchdogs and three senior bureaucrats have been stifled or impugned since the Conservatives took office.
By simply seeming reasonable, Omar Khadr has confounded Stephen Harper.The former Guantanamo Bay inmate could have reacted bitterly Thursday when, after almost 13 years in detention, he was finally allowed out on bail. He could have echoed his lawyer, Dennis Edney, and called the prime minister an anti-Muslim bigot.
Huffington Post – Suzanne Legault, Information Watchdog, Wants Mounties Charged
An unprecedented Conservative bid to rewrite the law in order to retroactively erase the RCMP’s mishandling of gun registry records sets the table for legislated, after-the-fact cover-ups of far more serious crimes, Canada’s information commissioner declared Thursday.
In a damning new report tabled in Parliament, Suzanne Legault concluded that the practice establishes a “perilous precedent” of rewriting laws — one that could jeopardize the ability of authorities to prosecute electoral fraud or other government scandals.
ipolitics – “Effectively they are censoring that part of the past:” Michel Drapeau
“I think it’s wrong, it’s very, very wrong,” Drapeau said. “There is a concept in law that laws, normally, that’s 99.999 per cent, never have any retroactive action. The past is the past.”
The precedent the government is setting by making the exemption to the access to information act retroactive could be used to eliminate all trace of other files, Drapeau said.
“There’s no limit – anything they want. I guess they could pass a law on whatever activities that this particular government might have done or may have been involved in. It could be the Libyan mission or the ISIL mission.”
If the issue weren’t so serious, it would almost be funny. Once again, the government has been caught re-writing the rules to suit its purposes, a practice that goes to the heart of the Harper Conservatives’ chronic misuse of its power.
Federal information commissioner Suzanne Legault had recommended two months ago that charges be laid against the RCMP for destroying records from the federal long-gun registry, in defiance of the access to information laws. Instead, the government introduced legislation to make the practice legal, backdated it to absolve the RCMP of any culpability, and slipped it into a mammoth budget implementation bill, in hopes that it might pass unnoticed. Legault accused the government of setting a “perilous precedent,” and rightly so — what other illegal acts could be retroactively excused in this way?
FALSE PROMISES AND WASTED MONEY
CBC News – Harper government left $97M unspent on social services, report shows
The Harper government’s promises to help jobless youth, the disabled, immigrants and illiterate adults fell short last year by almost $100 million.
That’s the amount of so-called “lapsed” funding — money promised but never spent — at Canada’s biggest social services department, Employment and Social Development Canada.
A NDP-sponsored bill proposing Canada align its laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was defeated Wednesday.
The Conservative government used its majority to reject Romeo Saganash’s private member’s bill, five months after it was first introduced to the House of Commons.
In a statement after the vote, Saganash said he was disappointed with the outcome.
Despite claims that raising corporate taxes will lead to “capital flight,” Corporate Canada has managed to smash its old record, sending close to $200 billion to tax havens – even as Canadian corporations enjoy their lowest tax rates in recent history (and among the lowest in the world) thanks to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
New data from Statistics Canada show the amount of money flowing from Corporate Canada into the world’s top 10 tax havenshit a record $199 billion last year. And if that doesn’t surprise you, get this: the second biggest destination for money flowing out of Canada is now Barbados.
Wow — this is how Conservative MP Laurie Hawn responded to the now 140+ businesses who have raised concerns in a letter published by the National Post about reckless spying Bill C-51:”[They] should seriously reconsider their business model and their lack of commitment to the values that bind us as Canadians”.
Keep in mind that the list of signatories includes the founder of the largest software company in Canada.
In fact the list of signatories runs the gamut from local bakeries, to property developers, to venture capitalists. It’s amazingly unbecoming of a public office holder like Laurie Hawn to question the loyalty to Canada of these business people from across the country.
iPolitics – Senator Cowan says ‘most Liberal senators’ to vote against Bill C-51 despite Trudeau’s stand
(This is how the Senate should work. Independent Senators. At least the “Liberal” Senators are now free to vote independently – thanks to Justin Trudeau.)
Senate opposition leader James Cowan says he’ll break with the policy of the Liberal party and vote against the Harper government’s controversial anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51. Cowan says the bill, which passed in the House of Commons last week with Liberal support, lacks oversight and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“My sense would be that most Liberal senators will oppose the bill. We’ll propose amendments — not the same amendments they did in the House but similar. For my part, if the amendments aren’t carried, and I don’t expect they will be, then I’ll vote against the bill,” said Cowan.
OUTRAGEOUS BLUNDERS AND POLICIES
CTV NEWS – PMO apologizes for showing elite soldiers’ faces in promotional videos
The videos were filmed during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent trip to Iraq and Kuwait. Members of the media travelling with Harper were asked to sign agreements not to publish any images of the elite JTF-2 troops who were providing security.
Security expert David Hyde said the PMO’s mistake was baffling. “This is an egregious security breach, one of the worst I can recall in recent times,” he told CTV’s Power Play.
Hyde said the PMO staffers who worked on the video could have easily blurred the soldiers’ faces before posting the images.
NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie said there’s “no excuse” for compromising the soldiers for the sake of another “promotional video.” “Not only has the security of these soldiers been breached, it was for a promo video,” she told Power Play. “It’s starting to look more and more like the prime minister’s entire trip is more about his election brochure and his election videos than it is about the soldiers.”
Huffington Post – Munir Sheikh: Bad Info From NHS Will Lead To Bad Planning
Important statistical information has become so unreliable that the government would be better off making policy decisions based on no information at all, says the former head of Statistics Canada.
“When you have bad information, the chances are you will develop policies that are inappropriate,” he told a conference on Canadian access to information laws held by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
Huffington Post – Canadian Senators Ignored Staffers Concerned About Expenses: Documents
Conservative senators overrode the concerns of senior public servants about lax expense rules in the upper chamber, newly released documents reveal.
Some of those same senators later worked in tandem with the Prime Minister’s Office to make sure Mike Duffy was not publicly admonished for failing to grasp the rules around his own expenses….
He recounted how once Deloitte’s report was filed, Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen unilaterally changed the Senate’s report on Duffy’s expenses. They did not consult Furey, who sat on the same subcommittee dealing with the issue.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue’s official agent in the 2011 federal election campaign has been charged with violating Canada’s Elections Act in connection with ineligible contributions made to Penashue’s campaign.
Reginald Bowers faces three charges – failing to return ineligible contributions, providing the Chief Electoral Officer with false or misleading information by failing to accurately identify ineligible campaign contributions and providing Elections Canada with false or misleading information by inaccurately reporting Penashue’s travel expenses.
The Guardian – Canada reneges on emissions targets as tar sands production takes its toll
Canada has retreated on past promises to fight climate change, setting out lower targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions than any other industralised country so far ahead of a critical conference in Paris.
The announcement was a setback to efforts to reach a deal in the French capital that would limit warming to 2C (3.6F), the threshold for dangerous climate change.
Under the announcement, Canada committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
That is a far weaker target than the European Union or the US. The European Union pledged to reduce emissions by at least 40% from 1990 levels, and the US committed to cut emissions to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
Another Coast Guard facility in Vancouver has shuttered its doors. This time, it is the communications centre that manages all ship traffic in the waters of Burrard Inlet.
At 10 a.m. this morning, the Marine Communication and Traffic Services Centre on the 23rd floor of Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver closed its operations and transferred the region’s maritime communications responsibilities to the Victoria base.
The now-closed downtown Vancouver base overlooked the region, including English Bay and Burrard Inlet where there is a high level of container and cruise ship traffic. For years, the facility monitored the busiest port in Canada, but the decision is being made to save $700,000 in annual operational expenses for the federal government.