Voices/Voix – Dismantling Democracy
Stifiling Debate and Dissent in Canada
The legacy of Stephen Harper’s government is a disregard for the environment, McKibben said in conversation with the National Observer in late June.
“From a distance, watching the trashing of environmental regulations; watching the efforts to intimidate environmental groups, First Nations – watching all that’s been pretty sad,” McKibben said.
“People in the world are used to thinking of Canada as a force for good in the world. It takes a strange new calibration of peoples’ mental geography to understand for the moment Canada is an obstructive and dangerous force upon the planet.”
In the run up to the 2015 federal election, the Harper government will try to convince Canadians that the prime minister and his crew have been excellent managers of the Canadian economy and that only they are capable of delivering the same stellar results in the future. Heading into this election, they had intended to present a balanced federal budget as proof of their sound stewardship. But as I write this in spring 2015, the latest projections are that the Harper government will have difficulty delivering the long-promised surplus this year. Thanks to the precipitous fall in oil prices and revenues, the government’s budgetary watchdog, Mostafa Askari, estimated a deficit as high as $1.2 billion for this year, and as much as $400 million the year following.
Good grief. What on earth has federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose been nibbling? Steroid-laced Alberta cheeseburgers? She certainly hasn’t been chowing down on soothing cannabis cookies.
Her dyspeptic reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling this past week legalizing reefer brownies and Mary Jane tisanes raised more eyebrows than a whiff of skunk at a church picnic. It came across like a spasm of ‘roid rage. Or a bit of self-serving Conservative political posturing in the run-up to a federal election.
ipolitics – Michael Harris: C-51 will remake Canada in Harper’s paranoid image
“What this legislation creates is a modern-day Gestapo,” Galati said. “No exaggeration, that’s what it creates. It chills, censors and criminalizes free speech, free association and constitutional rights of assembly. It takes all your private information and shares it with all government agencies, including foreign governments …”
In this excerpt from his book Spinning History, veteran Star journalist Les Whittington describes how the PMO has limited journalists’ access and turned the government into a tightly controlled message machine.
If the Conservatives have anything to say about it, the coming election will be about trust. They’ll tell us Justin Trudeau is too callow to be trusted with power, that Tom Mulcair can’t be trusted not to sink the treasury by spending his way to a socialist utopia. And so on.
As campaign themes go, it’s a good one — or would be, were it not for the fact that inspiring ‘trust’ isn’t exactly Stephen Harper’s thing. A decade in power left a lot of bodies under the party bus. And now, one of Canada’s highest courts has signalled that it doesn’t really trust the prime minister either.
On June 15, 1215, King John sealed the document known as the Magna Carta at Runnymede. He didn’t really have much of a choice; the alternative would have been a rebellion by the barons against his lawless, arbitrary and corrupt use of the Crown’s power — particularly in the area of taxation. In doing so he set a legal precedent that changed the world overnight: even kings have to obey the law. That concept — the rule of law, not kings — has formed the bedrock of free societies for the past 800 years. Which is why it seems so strange to have to debate the principle again in the democratic West, in Canada, in 2015.
And yet, in the actions of the Harper government we see all too many instances of powerful people trying to set themselves above the law. How else can one read an attempt by the government to hide inside a massive omnibus budget bill a law that would retroactively invalidate an investigation into unlawful conduct by the RCMP — an attempt to re-write the application of the law in the past?…..
That’s how it starts. When a government’s abuse of power is laughed off as a “loophole”, a mere detail, we’re watching the foundations being laid for arbitrary government — for government operating outside the rule of law. The kind of government the Magna Carta was supposed to free us from.
Well, this was special. Stephen Harper took a short break from slinging muck at Justin Trudeau’s perfect hair this week to do a little pre-writ campaigning alongside (drumroll, please) Muslim-Canadians.
There he was, front-centre, flanked by two big Canadian flags and surrounded by a rather underwhelmed-looking group of Muslim-Canadians at 24 Sussex Drive to break the Ramadan fast on Monday.
Harper and his faithful sidekick, Jason Kenney (one of the dwindling number of cabinet ministers who haven’t quit on him yet), insisted that the unusual gathering had everything to do with family, nothing to with politics. Which, I guess, explains why the guest list included three Muslim candidates who will be running for the Conservatives in Ontario and Quebec in the coming election.
I’ve driven a half hour to go to an event with Harper in the hopes that I might be bestowed the grand honour of asking the Exalted One a question (I wanted to know why we weren’t providing weapons to our Kurdish allies). But after hearing a 20-minute speech, I had a friendly PMO staffer instruct me that I was to leave. I tried to resist—I slipped off my bright-red “MEDIA” badge—only to be confronted by security a hot second later. I was escorted from the school gymnasium.
CTV News – Shoal Lake residents weep as feds balk at funding road construction
Although two provincial governments and the City of Winnipeg have committed to build an estimated $30-million road linking a Manitoba first nation to the outside world, the federal government will only commit to studying the project.
A disgraceful attempt to attack Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau yet again shows the questionable judgement of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. Controversial Bill C-51 has now become law and gives CSIS new powers to spy on individual Canadians and revoke terrorist propaganda. However, the Conservatives have decided in a pre-electoral ad to use ISIS propaganda as a backdrop to smear Trudeau.
LIARS AND CHEATERS
Newly released court documents allege the Conservative government pressured RCMP bureaucrats to purge long-gun registry data, even while assuring the Information Commissioner they would follow a law requiring the preservation of records.
An affidavit filed by Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault includes emails she wrote to then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on April 13, 2012, after the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act passed in the Senate.
But the allegation leveled against the government this week regarding the destruction of the long gun registry data ought to be a game-changer. The Information Commissioner’s office accuses the Public Safety minister’s office, senior RCMP officers and the PMO of pressuring RCMP officers to break the law.
The government has doled out some $7 million to small cities and towns to help pay for Canada Day celebrations, but the department in charge has only disclosed details about a fraction of that spending.
And although the money is meant to help Canadians celebrate the red and white, it appears — based on what little information the government has released — that a lot of it goes to ridings that are Tory blue.
Financial Post – Canada’s economy shrinks for fourth month, raising spectre of recession
(Joe Oliver says it ain’t so….shades of 2006?)
Canada’s economy began the second quarter of 2015 the same way it finished the previous three-month period, continuing to contract as the collapse of oil prices squeezed output in the energy sector and the hoped-for turnaround in manufacturing again failed to materialize.
DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
A new report called Dismantling Democracy should be compulsory reading for all Canadian voters before the next election.
It gives chapter and verse on the Harper government’s multi-pronged efforts to stifle not only legitimate dissent and free speech, but even freedom of thought.
CBC News – Canada’s foreign aid commitment to contraception low despite great need
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada’s commitment to maternal, newborn and child health five years ago, one of the first questions to him and then-international development minister Bev Oda was whether that would include family planning and abortion. It took Oda months to confirm that Canada would indeed allow its $2.85 billion in funding to be used for contraceptives. Abortion, however, was out of the question.
But in practice, only 1.4 per cent of Canada’s funding under the Muskoka Initiative — the name attached to the five-year plan to provide more money to save the lives of women and children — has gone to birth control. That works out to about four per cent of overall international aid provided by Canada.
Canada’s human rights record will be under the microscope at the United Nations this week in the first substantive review since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power in 2006.
Several of the country’s most high-profile advocacy groups are in Geneva to participate in UN Human Rights Committee hearings over a three-day period. Among them is Canada Without Poverty, an Ottawa-based charity that leans on using human rights and international law to advocate for impoverished and homeless Canadians.
The committee asked Canada to provide answers to 24 separate questions about how it implements the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — including how it monitors the human rights conduct of Canadian resource companies operating abroad, some of which face lawsuits alleging abuses.
“Please inform the committee of any measures taken or envisaged to monitor the human rights conduct of Canadian oil, mining and gas companies operating abroad,” said the list of issues given by the committee to Canada last fall in preparation for Tuesday’s testimony.
“Please also inform what the available legal venues are in the state party for victims of human rights abuses arising from overseas operations of Canadian extractive firms.”
Laurie Wright, the senior Justice Department official who led Canada’s delegation, did not address the issue in her six-page opening statement.
Huffington Post – Shane Koyczan Refuses To Perform ‘We Are More’ This Canada Day
“I’m not sure what country I’m looking at anymore. A country that labels Canadians as second class citizens. A country that kills its research and gags its scientists. A country that refuses to take a serious look into missing aboriginals despite being the same country that killed First Nations children in residential schools…”
Koyczan says his Canada Day will be on election day, which falls on Oct. 19.
Ottawa – June 20, 2015 – Dr. Cindy Blackstock, an Aboriginal child welfare advocate and President of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, has been vindicated by a recent ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which found that a federal government official “retaliated” against her for advocating views that are contrary to those of the Harper Government.
JUST PLAIN STUPID AND IGNORANT
A new Conservative attack ad takes aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s position on the mission against the Islamic State, but it uses the terrorist group’s own horrifying propaganda images.
In the online ad, posted on the Conservative Party’s Facebook page, Trudeau is shown in a CBC interview saying he would end the CF-18 bombing campaign against the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The ad uses Islamic State propaganda, including gruesome images of prisoners facing death by drowning and beheading — and those images may actually violate the government’s own anti-terror law.
The Harper Conservatives have spent no less than $6.5 million defending high profile and contentious pieces of legislation ultimately deemed unconstitutional, recently disclosed documents show.
But that sum only tells the beginning of the story, said one criminal defence lawyer.
The $6.5 million price tag was arrived at after Liberal MP Scott Simms asked six ministers to release how much they’d spent fighting 16 specific constitutional court challenges.
A $2-billion federal infrastructure fund at the centre of the Conservative government’s 2009 Economic Action Plan was allotted to municipalities in select areas of the country with little apparent oversight, regulation, auditing or attempt to disperse the monies evenly across Canada…..
Now it appears some investments went to Ontario municipalities that didn’t appear to qualify under the terms of the program. The small community of Blind River received a $49.5 million loan, even after Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing warned the municipality that it could not handle the payments.
Blind River is a town of 3,500 with annual revenues of $8 million. According to the municipality’s own filings with the provincial government, Blind River had tangible assets of just $52 million in 2010. The town’s modest financial situation has led some to wonder how it could have qualified for a CMHC loan of almost $50 million that required repayments of almost $4 million a year.
CBC News – Dean Del Mastro, jailed for ‘cheating and lying’ in 2008 vote, out on bail
(Don’t forget to watch the videos!)
Del Mastro, who is barred from running for Parliament for five years, used to speak for Harper against electoral-fraud allegations levelled at the Conservatives. He resigned his Peterborough seat, which he had won three times, after his conviction.
The disgraced politician has steadfastly maintained his innocence, but in sentencing him Thursday, Cameron pulled no punches. “He was prepared not only to break the rules but to be deceitful about it,” Cameron said.
The suggestion is that Stephen Harper is not good at taking the measure of would-be senators or spymasters, missing their character flaws, and they end up disappointing him by cheating on expenses or taking kickbacks.
Certainly, Harper couldn’t be expected to know that Don Meredtih would eventually be accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenager. But the Dean Del Mastro story is different. It’s hard to believe that Harper didn’t know his parliamentary secretary was guilty.
With criticism of the monument going national, the most articulate opponent remains Cape Breton resident Valerie Bird, 93, who served as an auxilliary with the royal air force in the Middle East during the second world war. “It is vulgar and ostentatious,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t belong in a national park, and I don’t think its going to do a darn thing for veterans.”
“I think the idea of this horrible thing offends veterans,” she added. “I find it difficult to find words. This is a monstrosity.”