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General

Defence of Canada under Harper

Posted July 16, 2014 by Boris

Canada’s political, social and physical geography define its defence priorities. Unless there is a massive shift in US politics, it has no land connection to any existing or potential military adversary. Our small population density and massive geograp…

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Conservatives

End of Harpergov?

Posted July 8, 2014 by Boris

The always good to read Kirbycairo makes the case that endless anger politics and court-corrected legislation has doomed the Harpercons in the next election.

I’d say yes, likely true if all other things were equal. However, this is also why why the F…

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General

Disaster Putin Posin’

Posted July 6, 2014 by Boris

"Honey, that Harper boy is at again with his Putin Posin’."

"Let me be clear, I’m really a pilot. Why do you ask?"

Vlad, smiling for the camera in his Bear near Canada
as Stephen snaps his photo from his
prime ministerial CF-18. (I wonder if they trade pics?)

Word: It’s not even a disaster in Manitoba, and may not be. There’ve been no evacuations yet in Manitoba’s annual flood (seriously,

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General

Harper vs. Putin, air edition

Posted July 1, 2014 by Boris

RAF Typhoon with Russian Su-27 – June 2014

Brian Stewart at CBC suggests that Harper’s over-the-top tough-guy rhetoric about Putin has led to increased Russian strategic bomber flights and thus a busier time for Canadian fighters and pilots conduc…

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Canada

Well, that’s a little awkward

Posted June 15, 2014 by Boris

Harpergov does a poll (snicker) on Canadian political icons in the lead-up the 150th birthday (geez, didn’t we just have Canada 125?), and well, the results really don’t do the Cons any favours. Folks like Layton, Suzuki, topped by Trudeau the Elder. I…

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Abortion

Radically pro-abortion Canadian press too extreme even for an American liberal

Posted June 14, 2014 by JR

Melinda Gates’ reaction to obsessively pro-abortion Canadian journalists …”the Gates Foundation has decided not to fund abortion.”  Ezra Levant discusses:Interesting! Canadian pro-abortion media jackals are so extreme that they drove an Ame…

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General

Global bureaucrats with climate agenda like “a pack of hunting animals … no conspiracy is necessary.”

Posted June 11, 2014 by JR

Peter Foster praises Aussie PM Tony Abbott and PM Harper for their “resistance to the economically destructive global climate agenda“:

… Mr. Harper pointed out that economically-damaging solutions were not supported by any government; it was just that Canada dared to be a little more “frank” about the issue. So, now, is Australia under Prime Minister Abbott.

more good news in the proposal from Mr. Abbott, who has scrapped his country’s planned carbon tax, to try to put together a coalition of “centre right” governments that might turn the tide against climate hysteria.  

… At every turn, nimble activists have outmanoeuvred the allegedly all-powerful oil companies, who have appeared both sluggish and defensive. Part of the ENGO success comes from framing themselves as David vs. the industrial Goliath (despite that big money lurking in the background). In fact, little David is a front for a power-seeking agenda which is supported by those global bureaucracies, such as the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund.

… For anybody who suggests that this represents some paranoid view of a global conspiracy, no conspiracy is necessaryBureaucrats do not need literally to conspire, that is, plot, any more than a pack of hunting animals needs to sit down and discuss tactics before descending on its prey.

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Canada

Worst Days in canadian Conservative History?

Posted May 21, 2014 by Boris

Um.

1 July 1867, aka Canada Day. 1 August 1834, the formal end of slavery in the British Empire.

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General

Henchmen

Posted April 28, 2014 by Boris

The man really does have henchmen in the most Hollywood sense. You know, the talentless sycophants that the diabolical characters in every plot seem to attract, who end up causing more problems than they solve? Yeah, that’s our boy Harper’s pals. Can y…

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General

He’s Back! Bruce Carson Under Investigation for Influence Peddling.

Posted March 5, 2014 by The Mound of Sound
Bruce Carson (R) and Unknown Tory Supporter

Former top aide to Stephano Harper, Bruce Carson, is back in the news and, predictably, it’s bad news.

CBC reports  that the disgraced senior advisor to Mr. Harper is the subject of an RCMP investigation into illegal lobbying.  This scandal may also have snared another Harper senate appointment, Doug Black.

CBC News has learned the RCMP have seized banking records for Bruce Carson, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, amid their investigation into allegations he illegally lobbied his former government colleagues.

In court records CBC News retrieved Wednesday, the RCMP allege Carson used his connections to lobby on behalf of an organization called the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, or EPIC, for a national energy strategy.

Const. Marie-Josée Robert says Carson’s “continuous association” with public office holders allowed him to accept money for “consideration for his co-operation, assistance or exercise of influence in connection with business matters with the government on behalf of EPIC.”

“I believe without this inferred influence, Mr. Carson would have not performed his services so effectively,” she wrote in an affidavit known as an “information to obtain a production order.”

…Doug Black, whom Harper appointed a senator in January 2013, became president of EPIC, at a salary of $10,000 a month, the affidavit says.

[While at EPIC] Black responded to one of Carson’s requests for money with praise.

“No issue…. We are making progress and you are the secret sauce,” Black wrote, according to the affidavit.


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General

You Know the Tories are Running Scared When They Go to Pot

Posted March 5, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

Hey, hey – whatever happened to Harper’s Reefer Madness?  Word from Elmer’s unfortunate boy, Peter MacKay, is that the Harper regime is looking to backpeddle on its get tough on drugs policy.  Perhaps running scared from Justin Trudeau, the T…

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General

A Cold War of Washington’s Own Making

Posted March 4, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

It’s refreshing to see that, this time, we’re not all falling for the official line, the Washington line that lays the blame for the Ukrainian fiasco at Moscow’s feet.  Washington (and Ottawa) would have us believe the fanciful lie that this is all Putin’s doing but it’s not.  The late U.S. diplomat and historian, George Kennan, heralded as the architect of America’s “containment over confrontation” policy during the first Cold War, foresaw the very situation facing us today in America’s unipolar superpower fantasy.  Stephen Kinzer, visiting fellow at the Watson Institute at Brown University writes that Kennan’s prophesy is being fulfilled.

FROM THE moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. It has brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders.

“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,” warned George Kennan, the renowned diplomat and Russia-watcher, as NATO began expanding eastward. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely, and it will affect their policies.”

Russia’s dispatch of troops in recent days to Crimea — a verdant peninsula on the Black Sea that is part of Ukraine but, partly as a result of Stalin-era ethnic cleansing, has a mainly Russian population — was the latest fulfillment of Kennan’s prediction.

Some policy makers in Washington have been congratulating each other for a successful American-aided regime change operation in Ukraine. Three factors converged to produce the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych. First was his own autocratic instinct and utter lack of political skill, which led him to think he could ignore protesters. Second was the brave determination of the protesters themselves. Third was intervention by the United States and other Western countries — often spearheaded by diplomats and quasi-covert operatives who have been working for years on “democracy promotion” projects in Ukraine.

 As protests mounted in Kiev last month, many in Washington found it difficult to break the old habit of shaping US policy to punish Russia. Several European leaders suggested resolving the Ukraine crisis through negotiation with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. This enraged the United States, which wants to isolate Putin, not accommodate him.

Although Russia is not powerful enough to emerge from the Ukraine/Crimea crisis with a full victory, neither is the United States. Diplomatic pressure and covert action supporting pro-Western factions in Ukraine will continue, but President Obama will not risk military confrontation with Russia. This crisis will not produce the grand westward realignment of which many in Washington dream.

Any solution short of partition will have to take Russia’s interests into account. Thus far the United States has shown no interest in doing that. The likely geopolitical outcome, therefore, is a stalemate.

Inside Ukraine, the story is different. Protesters there, encouraged by the United States, have used the power of the street to depose a deeply corrupt — though legally elected — president. But soon they may find they have little to celebrate.

Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians and others have learned to their immense pain that upheavals like these rarely end well. Ukraine is not only deeply divided geographically and politically. It is dominated by a clutch of gangster “oligarchs” powerfully motivated to prevent the emergence of a pro-Western regime. Splits within the opposition are deep. The possibility that a stable Ukraine will emerge anytime soon are dim.

This crisis is in part the result of a zero-sum calculation that has shaped US policy toward Moscow since the Cold War: Any loss for Russia is an American victory, and anything positive that happens to, for, or in Russia is bad for the United States. This is an approach that intensifies confrontation, rather than soothing it.

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General

Is This How the Senate Whitewash Begins?

Posted March 4, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau turfed out in disgrace by a gaggle of Tory senators who had expense skeletons in their own closets to conceal.  Word from Ottawa is that there are plenty of other senators in the same boat on housing expenses, perhaps two to three dozen, who all voted as they were directed by the prime minister to rid him of his three senatorial embarrassments. 

As if in contemplation of the damaging – and damning – audit reports looming before the Red Chamber and the prime minister’s office, today we saw the conveniently-timed release of a second audit firm letter attesting to a woeful lack of clarity in Senate spending rules. 

The outside auditors whom the Senate routinely uses to review its spending have concluded that expense rules aren’t clear, meaning the Senate is at risk of approving inappropriate housing expenses for some members.

That conclusion is contained in a letter from KPMG seen by The Ottawa Citizen. The letter cites the issue as a “significant deficiency.”

KPMG’s caution also landed just weeks before the Senate moved to suspend Duffy, Brazeau and Pamela Wallin over their expense claims.

That has been my contention all along and I’m not surprised,” Brazeau said of the details of the KPMG letter. “The Senate (committee) of internal economy has much to hide.”

KPMG recommended the Senate have senators sign an annual declaration that they are adhering to spending rules. As well, it recommended senators go through mandatory annual training to ensure they’re up to date on their own spending rules, and create a guide to give more details about spending rules.

The chairwoman of the audit subcommittee, Sen. Beth Marshall, said the Senate agreed with all the recommendations.

It does make you wonder why Mr. Harper was so obsessed with getting Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau turfed without so much as a hearing?  Could it be he just wanted the lid slammed and nailed down before he might face any more awkward questions atop the many he was already ducking?  Harper needed these three crucified before the Conservative convention. 

Some in Ottawa are wondering what Harper plans to do with a few dozen more senatorial malefactors?  Is he going to demand they too be tossed?  No, of course not.  They’ll all fall back on this whitewash about confusion in the Senate rules, get out their chequebooks, and slither on. 


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General

First Nations Man the Front Trench in Our Fight For Canada

Posted March 4, 2014 by The Mound of Sound

We should all be immensely proud and grateful for the intervention of Canada’s First Nations in the fight to defend our country from environmental degradation, even catastrophe.  They’re leading our fight, make no mistake about that.  The rest of us are the supporting actors in this one but that doesn’t diminish the role we still have to play.

Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs seems to have been transformed into something of an intelligence agency supporting government efforts opposed by First Nations.  This sort of perversion of government agencies is Harper’s stock in trade.  From The Guardian:

Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.

Yearly government reports obtained by the Guardian predict that the failure to manage the risks could result in more “adversarial relations” with aboriginal peoples, “public outcry and negative international attention,” and “economic development projects [being] delayed.”

“There is a risk that the legal landscape can undermine the ability of the department to move forward in its policy agenda,” one Aboriginal Affairs’ report says. “There is a tension between the rights-based agenda of Aboriginal groups and the non-rights based policy approaches” of the federal government.

The Conservative government is planning in the next ten years to attract $650 billion of investment to mining, forestry, gas and oil projects, much of it on or near traditional aboriginal lands.

Critics say the government is determined to evade Supreme Court rulings that recognize aboriginal peoples’ rights to a decision-making role in, even in some cases jurisdiction over, resource development in large areas of the country.

Remember, Harper is waging this subterfuge on them in our name, your name, in the name of our country.

Troy Thomas sent me this link yesterday.  It’s a way that you or I can ease into this fight, take that first step to push back against Harper and his thuggish friends and you can start by just sending a donation.  Harper doesn’t believe he and his cronies need social licence to commit outrages like the Northern Gateway and we need to make it clear that he does.

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Commentary

Harper is for the Birds!

Posted January 18, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Dear Readers: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is so well like in Israel that they are going to name some stuff after him! GET THIS!!!!!! There is now a “Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary!” (Apparently it’s a “Bird Interpretive Centre!”) ———————————– I just read this in a celebrity rag: “Avicii, 25 things you don’t […]

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General

Même craqué, le Bloc est utile

Posted January 15, 2014 by Claude Dupras

Depuis sa fondation, le Bloc Québécois, parti politique canadien, a toujours représenté exclusivement à la Chambre des Communes canadienne les opinions politiques des séparatistes québécois. Même si je n’ai jamais été un partisan de ce parti, je reconnais d’emblée que maintes fois ses prises de positions reflétaient l’intérêt de tous les Québécois.

Le Bloc fut créé en 1991 par le ministre progressiste-conservateur démissionnaire Lucien Bouchard, suite à une mésentente de ce dernier avec le premier ministre (PM) canadien Brian Mulroney en rapport avec l’accord du Lac Meech sur le rapatriement de la constitution canadienne de Londres.

Ce n’était pas la première fois qu’était proposée l’idée d’un parti national composé exclusivement de Québécois à Ottawa, pour défendre les intérêts du Québec. Dès 1926, l’Action française avait propagé une telle proposition sans succès. Plus tard, en 1942, en pleine guerre mondiale, lors du débat sur la conscription obligatoire de jeunes Canadiens dans l’armée canadienne pour aller au front en Europe, le Bloc Populaire fut créé au Québec pour s’opposer à cette mesure. Son chef était Maxime Raymond. Il ne gagna aucun siège à l’élection fédérale.

Par contre, son aile provinciale dirigée par André Laurendeau présenta, en 1944, des candidats dans tous les comtés contre le gouvernement libéral d’Adélard Godbout. Elle accusa ce dernier de marcher, main dans la main, avec le gouvernement fédéral libéral de Mackenzie King qui, disait-elle, favorisait la conscription. La popularité de Laurendeau et de son parti connut un bond de popularité dans les milieux nationalistes, au point que quelques curés n’hésitèrent pas à dire en chaire à leurs paroissiens : « Je ne peux vous dire pour qui voter, mais votez en bloc ». C’est l’Union Nationale de Maurice Duplessis, défait en 1939, qui gagna finalement l’élection. Le Bloc Populaire ne remporta que 4 sièges et le parti disparut, quelques années plus tard, suite à la démission de Laurendeau.

Dans les années ’60, le « Ralliement des Créditistes », parti du Québec résolument fédéraliste et de droite, de Réal Caouette, gagna plusieurs sièges au Québec dans les régions rurales et devint jusqu’au début des années ’80 le porte-parole, à la Chambre des Communes, du mécontentement et du nationalisme des Québécois.

Après plusieurs décennies de déceptions et d’échecs, le Bloc Québécois fit élire 54 députés à l’élection fédérale de 1993. De plus, à la surprise générale, le parti se classa deuxième avec le plus grand nombre de sièges à la Chambre des Communes et devint, par la force des choses, l’Opposition officielle du gouvernement du Canada. Ce fut grâce à l’intelligence, les convictions profondes, l’éloquence et le charisme de Lucien Bouchard qui charmèrent les Québécois.

En fin de janvier 1996, Bouchard démissionna pour remplacer Jacques Parizeau au poste de PM du Québec et le Bloc a choisi Michel Gauthier comme son deuxième chef. Après un an, il fut remplacé par Gilles Duceppe. Habile, intelligent et bon politicien, Duceppe maintint le Bloc fort et majoritaire au Québec jusqu’à l’élection fédérale de 2011 où il connut une débandade spectaculaire et perdit tous ses députés, sauf quatre. Duceppe démissionna. Son successeur, Daniel Paillé, vient de démissionner à son tour, après un an à la barre du parti et le Bloc est redevenu orphelin.

Depuis, un débat sur la pertinence du Bloc Québécois sur la scène politique canadienne fait rage au Québec : « Un parti de séparatistes québécois est-il utile et nécessaire à Ottawa ? ». Ces derniers jours, l’ex-PM québécois Bernard Landry et l’ex-député péquiste Yves Michaud ont dit publiquement NON et ont demandé la mort officielle du Bloc Québécois. D’autres s’y opposent et prétendent que la place qu’occupe le parti doit être comblée parce qu’elle est une tribune pour ceux et celles qui veulent vanter les mérites de la séparation du Québec du Canada.

Je ne suis pas séparatiste. Je ne peux me résoudre à laisser le Canada aux autres. Mon pays est si vaste, si riche, si beau et si plein d’opportunités pour mes descendants que je me dois de tout faire pour leur conserver.

Par contre, l’idée que le Bloc demeure à Ottawa ne me déplait pas. Pas fort, mais avec un représentation minimum. Je ne crois pas, dorénavant possible, qu’il obtienne des victoires aussi éclatantes que celles obtenues par Bouchard et Duceppe et c’est une bonne chose. De plus, je crois important que plusieurs députés québécois issus de partis fédéraux traditionnels soient élus et qu’un bon nombre deviennent ministres du gouvernement. Ce que le Bloc ne peut faire. Mais qu’une dizaine de députés bloquistes soient élus à la prochaine élection me semble positif. Un tel résultat aura l’avantage de maintenir sur la scène nationale le débat sur les idées d’une bonne partie de la population québécoise. De plus, il servira à renseigner les députés des autres provinces des demandes du Québec. La démocratie ne peut qu’en gagner.

Avec le temps, j’ai remarqué que le débat de politique fédérale fait partie de nos discussions lorsqu’il y a au pouvoir à Ottawa un gouvernement avec un PM québécois (comme ceux de Trudeau, Chrétien et Mulroney) ou un gouvernement composé de plusieurs ministres québécois compétents (comme celui de Joe Clark) ou encore une opposition comme celle du Bloc qui défend ardemment des positions qui sont au cœur de plusieurs de nos débats locaux. Depuis l’élection du gouvernement du Parti Conservateur de Stephen Harper, dans lequel le Québec est peu représenté, je regrette que les Québécoises et Québécois n’entendent moins parlé de la politique fédérale et n’y apportent, par conséquent, moins d’attention que par le passé.

Le Nouveau Parti Démocratique a connu une grande victoire en 2011 et a balayé le Québec. Il est devenu l’opposition officielle. Malheureusement, l’inexpérience de ses nombreux députés québécois ne l’a pas vraiment aidé avec le résultat que les échos des débats de la colline parlementaire à Ottawa nous parviennent à peine. Et cela, même si son chef, Thomas Mulcair, fait un job du tonnerre comme chef de l’opposition, selon tous les observateurs avertis.

Face au nouveau, jeune et charismatique chef libéral, Justin Trudeau, qui a redynamisé son parti; face à la force politique que conserve le NPD; face au potentiel des 850 000 votes qu’a remportés le Bloc à la dernière élection et face au 12% de votes qu’obtiendront les Conservateurs, j’en conclus qu’il est probable que le vote au Québec, à la prochaine élection fédérale, sera réparti entre tous les partis si aucun ne prend un élan hors de l’ordinaire. Une telle situation pourra aider les candidats du Bloc à se faufiler, à plusieurs endroits, entre les autres candidats et à regagner ainsi une dizaine de comtés dans les régions où le parti a toujours été très populaire.

Le Bloc a besoin d’un nouveau chef avec une expérience politique et de bons candidats. Il y a quelques jours, Richard LeHir, ex-ministre de Parizeau, a annoncé être prêt à devenir candidat du Bloc à la prochaine élection. Il a affirmé son désir de se présenter contre Justin Trudeau dans le comté de Papineau, à Montréal. Le Hir est un bon candidat mais il perdra sa chemise contre Trudeau dans ce comté cosmopolite où un séparatiste n’a aucune chance de l’emporter surtout contre le chef du parti libéral. S’il ne vise qu’à faire du bruit et attirer l’attention, il y a des possibilités qu’il atteigne son but, mais ce n’est pas certain. Mais s’il est vraiment sérieux et veut être élu pour aider le Bloc, qu’il choisisse un comté aux caractéristiques favorables pour un candidat de sa trempe et de sa couleur politique. Ce ne sera pas facile mais, comme je l’ai expliqué précédemment, un bon candidat avec une bonne organisation peut gagner de justesse un comté pour son parti à la prochaine campagne électorale, même s’il s’agit du Bloc Québécois.

Claude Dupras

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Climate Change

Leadership noted

Posted September 20, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

What a great display of striking, positive leadership for the good in the last 24 hours. First, this news of the Obama administration’s announcement today on limiting emissions from new power plants:

A year after a plan by President Obama to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants set off angry opposition, the administration will announce on Friday that it is not backing down from a confrontation with the coal industry and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies.

This is executive action that does not require approval by Congress. Obama will, however, have to take on the coal industry. Yet somehow, doesn’t that now seem like much less of a task in the wake of Obama’s handling of the Syria crisis? The timing of this announcement seems to be one from a leader feeling emboldened, with that major international event just under his belt. Moving on now to one of the other major challenges the world faces.

And what will be the reaction of PM Harper? He of the letter to Obama asking for joint things to be done emissions-wise. Obama is acting. Unilaterally. What then is Canada prepared to do?

The second instance of leadership very much worth noting, the interview released of Pope Francis speaking on the Catholic church and his view of how the church needs to evolve.

Even if you are not a particularly religious person, this seems to have big implications. The way that this Pope, in such a position of influence and stature, is shifting the church from a close-minded, dogmatic institution to a non-judgmental, loving stance is remarkable. At least, that’s the way it is striking me. I see news of others similarly moved.

And I certainly don’t see how this is good news for those politicians who would seek to use gay issues and reproductive rights as exclusionary and divisive wedge political issues. This is a powerful counter.

And if you only read one thing on yesterday’s Pope news, I recommend this.

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General

Prorogation, obviously

Posted August 19, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

The big news on an August Monday:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed he will ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until October, when his Conservative government will introduce the next speech from the throne.

“There will be a new throne speech in the fall, obviously the House will be prorogued in anticipation of that. We will come back — in October is our tentative timing,” Harper told reporters in Whitehorse Monday. Harper is in the Yukon on the second day of his annual summer tour of the North.

A few thoughts to add to the online maelstrom.

I am quite meh over this one. It’s mid-August and the House of Commons will be back in just over a month and a half? That’s not tooo bad in terms of an extension beyond a return that was expected on September 16th.

The news coverage on the Senate scandals, for example, is likely to continue through this period. They won’t be escaping damage from it.

Also, whenever Harper interferes with his own government’s ability to legislate, that’s not so bad. Less is definitely more for some of us when it comes to their legislative output record.

Harper, though, just can’t prorogue and avoid critical comment. He has baggage, to say the least.

He is the lone Prime Minister, of any Westminster democracy, to have faced a confidence vote and deployed prorogation to avoid his minority government’s fate. Totally unprecedented in Canadian history and so he just can’t shake that shadow. He would have been defeated in late 2008-early 2009 by the opposition parties but for his proroguing of Parliament. The Harper majority era might totally have been avoided had he not done so. All of today’s present Conservative party edifice is built on that shaky foundation. Which is partly why the power to prorogue is still in need of reform. There is less malevolent political calculation at play in today’s prorogation. But nevertheless, it doesn’t take away the need to fix, at some point, the unrestrained ability of a PM to prorogue without limitation.

A law that would restrain the power of the Prime Minister to prorogue could be passed and a PM would ignore it at their political peril. Whatever that judgment by voters might be. Could be nil, could be more, depending on how prorogation occurred. (Similar laws could be passed provincially as well.)

Today’s prorogation is also another reminder that it is just plain old anachronistic that a Prime Minister retains such power to unilaterally dictate the government’s sitting. In this modern era of a 24 hour news cycle, ever enhanced technologies and where Canadians’ work is increasingly stretched beyond 9-5, it is a strange holdover that a Prime Minister can still set their own government’s clock and work agenda, largely for political convenience. It just doesn’t fit in this era. It’s a reminder that there is a larger democratic deficit that needs to be cured in Canada. It’s not all about the Senate sideshow. Harper has educated us well about a PM having too much power and our way of governing being in need of an update.

Beyond all that, politically, today’s prorogation seems to continue the end of summer roll-out of the newish Harper majority looking toward 2015. New websites here and there with partisan purpose (Consumers First, the new Harper blog), election style speech and talk, etc. Now prorogation. The reboot is on and he’s looking to win again in 2015. Obviously.

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General

Chickens roosting day, etc.

Posted August 13, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

Harper’s chickens, that is: “Senator Wallin audit details set for public release.” One upside for Wallin, she has one of the best litigators in Toronto representing her (pictured in the CBC link).

One thing of interest in this Postmedia report that could hint at more possible trouble for, I’m assuming, Conservatives:

In their report, the auditors write that part of Wallin’s inappropriate costs were for “partisan related activity, such as fundraising.” Her lawyers cite as an example a May 27, 2011, event for former cabinet minister Bev Oda, who resigned in July 2012 over her own spending scandal, which was made famous by a $16 glass of orange juice charged to taxpayers.

At the Oda event, Wallin talked about Oda’s ministerial role overseeing intenrational [sic] development, as well as the Afghanistan file, which Wallin knew from her work chairing the Senate’s defence committee. Her lawyer’s letter notes that fundraising events took place outside of election campaigns, involved talking about Senate-related matters, and that “this was generally accepted practice,” suggesting that others in the Senate have done the same.

Generally accepted practice, says Wallin’s lawyer.

Also of note, a possible strategy suggested by Ivison that could come out of the Senate Supreme Court reference:

The Conservatives argue that the Senate can be abolished under the constitution’s amending formula — section 38 — which states that any changes to the Senate would merely required resolutions in the House of Commons, Senate and seven provinces, representing 50% of the population (rather than unanimous approval).

If the Supreme Court agrees, it seems to me that we will see the Conservatives launch a full-on campaign for Senate abolition, in an effort to insulate Mr. Harper from accusations of being the Red Chamber’s patron. There appear few lengths to which this prime minister will not now go to distance himself from Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin — three of his 59 Red Chamber appointments.

A full-on campaign for abolition by Harper et al. as a matter of political expediency would have absolutely zero integrity or credibility, as Ivison himself hints. It’s not clear the Court will rule that abolition could happen under the 7/50 formula in any event. Peter Russell is of the view that unanimity would be required:

Prof. Russell said there’s “no way” the government can unilaterally abolish the Senate and without seeking unanimous consent. “You’re taking 100 per cent of the power away. The Senate has full power to approve every law, and it was put there mainly so the provinces, the sections of the country, would feel some protection against the central government,” said Prof. Russell.

I would tend to agree with Mr. Russell. But, that’s all Senate reference stuff, down the road a bit. Today it’s all about Wallin’s audit and it is at the doorstep of the one who appointed her.

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General

Obama on Keystone

Posted July 28, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

In an extended interview published in the New York Times today, Keystone was raised with Obama:

NYT: A couple other quick subjects that are economic-related. Keystone pipeline — Republicans especially talk about that as a big job creator. You’ve said that you would approve it only if you could be assured it would not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon in the atmosphere. Is there anything that Canada could do or the oil companies could do to offset that as a way of helping you to reach that decision?

MR. OBAMA: Well, first of all, Michael, Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline — which might take a year or two — and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people.

NYT: Yet there are a number of unions who want you to approve this.

MR. OBAMA: Well, look, they might like to see 2,000 jobs initially. But that is a blip relative to the need.

So what we also know is, is that that oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States. In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can’t ship some of that oil to world markets.

Now, having said that, there is a potential benefit for us integrating further with a reliable ally to the north our energy supplies. But I meant what I said; I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere. And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.

NYT: And if they did, could that offset the concerns about the pipeline itself?

MR. OBAMA: We haven’t seen specific ideas or plans. But all of that will go into the mix in terms of John Kerry’s decision or recommendation on this issue.

Fascinating response from Obama there. First, he’s not buying the inflated jobs numbers related to Keystone. Recall Harper’s 2012 sit down session with an American think tank where he claimed that Keystone would be responsible for about 30,000 jobs. Obama is where the U.S. State Department has been, that the job benefits are on a much lower scale.

Also note those remarks that show he’s sticking to the principle that carbon release is a key decision making component for him. That sets approval at a very high bar. He’s putting the environmental consideration at the fore.

Then the bit about Canada doing more to mitigate carbon release. The Harper government will likely see this as an opening but it’s also not very welcoming language to a government that has tried to delay and skate on carbon emissions. It sounds like a stick that Obama is going to deploy.

It is promising though for those who care about the environment and think that a stick is just what the Harper government needs.

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General

Random thoughts on the cabinet shuffle

Posted July 15, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

If we must. Alternative blog post title could very well be: Everything old is new again. I agree with the Canadian Press header: “New faces in Harper’s cabinet overhaul, but old guard stands economic watch.” I also agree, unsurprisingly (!), with Bob Rae’s fun take on all the hullabaloo: “With shuffle, the Harper Revolution continues its slow, steady crawl.

First, an under-noted development perhaps. Chris Alexander goes to Citizenship & Immigration. Jason Kenney’s old stomping ground. Literally. Just ask the Doctors for Refugee Health Care who have taken the lead on protesting the cuts by this government to health care coverage for refugees. Whether Alexander will remedy this situation is a key question. Will he continue on with the “gold plated benefits” propaganda nonsense or as a GTA denizen amend this government’s ways on what is an uncompassionate policy?

Another aspect of this move is the political angle. This ministry is clearly viewed by Conservatives as a key part of their political equation. Putting Alexander, an ambitious pol from the GTA into this ministry as a successor to Kenney is an intriguing political dynamic. Kenney nevertheless tweeted:

Congratulations to Chris Alexander on his appointment as Minister of Citizenship & Immigration. He’s brilliant, hard-working, & very capable

— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) July 15, 2013

Speaking of himself, Kenney goes to HRSDC. It was termed Employment & Social Development today but it is HRSDC, as Kenney’s tweets also indicate. Succeeding Diane Finley. No one is calling this a demotion but it does have that tinge to it. I suppose something transformational could be in the works, given Kenney’s being Kenney and we shall see.

Working with Kenney, kind of, will be Kellie Leitch who is put in Labour & Status of Women. I find putting a surgeon in the Labour portfolio to be odd and not necessarily congruent with her experience. Raitt is a lawyer so at least she was steeped more in the framework, Leitch not so much. Although when your government’s labour relations policy is just to legislate industries back to work under the guise of “the economy,” it may not be an issue for Leitch at the end of the day. And also with Leitch, Status of Women continues to be an add on hobby for a Harper minister.

Pierre Poilievre to Democratic Reform? What more could one possibly say here? This is the MP who has been sicced on Elections Canada for years. If this day was meant to be about Harper turning a new page, this move surely undermined that thinking. But really, who would have expected a day free from some patented Harper partisanship.

The big news elsewhere in democratic reform today, by the way, is that Bob Rae has joined Fair Vote Canada’s advisory board.

“Canadians need to know that their votes will really count. This means moving beyond our first past the post system”, says Rae, a long-time supporter of adding proportionality to Canada’s electoral system.

The key democratic reform challenge for Canada’s future is not the Senate, the priority should be reforming the House of Commons. Liberals also joined that message on democratic reform today.

Lisa Raitt to Transport is interesting given the debate going on in the GTA – or should I say GTHA – over transit funding and dealing with Toronto’s overdue needs and the Metrolinx proposals. Subway fever is everywhere and the funds to underwrite Toronto’s transit needs are pressing. Raitt has her sexy portfolio now and it could provide opportunity for the Harper gang in Toronto. Emphasis on could. Whether they will be willing to work with Premier Wynne or keep showing up and wearing t-shirts for Team Hudak is a question.

Aglukkaq to Environment on its surface might seem like a less dug in approach in the offing. Here is one take that seems fair:

Aglukaaq’s appt at environment signals importance of First Nations’ support for resource development.

— Shawn McCarthy (@smccarthy55) July 15, 2013

But it’s the oil and gas regulations that will be the big test for this government, as everyone knows.

Elsewhere, countries have ministers designated for climate change. It’s time for this in Canada too.

Probably much more that could be said but that’s it from this corner of the internet peanut gallery.

P.S. Oh, almost forgot the obligatory note for long time readers…Gerry Ritz should have been fired.

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General

Harper to the UK Parliament

Posted June 14, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

What to make of the PM’s speech to the UK Parliament yesterday? When a leader is accorded that type of honour, surely they’ve got to come up with something worthwhile. And this did seem to be an effort to make a type of legacy statement on Harper’s part.

What was his touchstone in the speech? The economy, of course, what else could it possibly be from Harper. And he seemed to be doing two things in his speech with that focus in mind.

First, he explained Canada’s domestic economic success in a distinctly conservative way. There were at least four references to low taxes. The trade agenda, government efficiencies. Which all seemed to be wrapped in an effort to portray this as some type of value statement, about what economic values Canada possesses. Here is some of it: 

“So, friends, knowing these things, in Canada, when times were good, we ran surpluses, and we used them.
“Not to expand the state, but to pay down debt and to lower taxes.
“As a result, since our Government came to office, the average Canadian family now pays about $3,300 (about 2,200 pounds) less in federal taxes every year.
“Canada now also has the lowest rate of tax on new business investment in the G-7.
“Consequently, we are widely regarded as the best place in the world to do business, and we have the best post-recession job creation record among the major developed economies.
“Our values also tell us, as you have put it, Prime Minister, that you cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis.’
“In Canada, we have no debt crisis, so during the recession we were able, to deliberately borrow to sustain economic activity and confidence, but in a way that was timely, targeted and temporary.
“And we are now returning, gradually but surely, to a balanced budget, without raising taxes.

I hesitate to reiterate all that but it’s about showing Mr. Harper’s limitations. This seems like the kind of rote thing you’d say to the local Board of Trade. Except for the accompanying effort to spin it all into some kind of economic values system.

Then we heard a sort of Harper doctrine. The short version: There are world perils and threats that nations will have to meet but…our national bank account must be liquid, people! Otherwise, it’s a no go. 

“Countries that do not bring their finances under control or that close their economies to the world, will face consequences.
“And those consequences are not only economic.
“In the absence of solvency, relevancy will also disappear.
“Nothing can lead more quickly and more completely to diminished influence
in the world than the decline of economic performance and financial credibility.
“Should we fail to faithfully adhere to our values in economic matters the wider values that we wish to protect for all humanity, values of freedom, democracy and justice, of dignity, compassion and security, those valueswill almost certainly be eroded.
“And they will be eroded friends at a time, when they are most needed.
“Because for good to happen in this world, someone must speak up for these values, and have the will and the capacity to act, so that these values are not mere sentiments.
“I speak of the courage to denounce oppressors and aggressors, to counter extremist ideologies,and to confront the abominations that must not be tolerated.

Nothing leads to diminished influence more quickly than the decline of economic performance? Solvency? Shades of JFK but please add the economic fine print to this: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” See how much better that is?

It’s also ironic, these conservative leaders talking up the need to have stable domestic economies in order to meet world threats. The right wing policies that leave nations in debt and deplete treasuries are the economic results that have been seen. See also such economy destroying policies as invading Iraq.

More from the same crux of the speech where he defines the central challenge:

“But, make no mistake, if we wish to spread prosperity to others, we must be
prosperous ourselves.
“Without prosperity, there can be no aid.
“Indeed, without prosperity, we will have little ability to project any of our values anywhere.
“And, of course, we cannot hope to effectively spread these values unless we live by them ourselves and demonstrate our own success by virtue of doing so.
“Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, distinguished guests, I believe this is the challenge we face in the West today.
“There are massive shifts, shifts of epic dimensions, taking place in the world economy.
“To the extent this means that traditionally less fortunate people are beginning to enjoy prosperity, and the other fruits of our values, much of this is a good thing.
“But there are also, as there have always been, rising powers that do not share our values, and dangerous forces that seek to destroy them.
“We cannot, in the face of this, be at all complacent or, as I have said elsewhere,
We cannot entertain the notion, as I think some in the West do, that our wealth and influence can be assumed, that they are some kind of birthright.
“I know, Prime Minister, that neither of our governments think that, which is why we take the difficult decisions we do, to ensure our people will remain among the most fortunate and prosperous for the generations to come.
“But, just as we cannot be complacent about our wealth, neither can we allow our peoples, in these times of tough decisions and shifting fortunes, to become fatalistic.

Without prosperity there can be no aid, said the Prime Minister who will tout our world leading economic strength yet slashes foreign aid and dismantles CIDA but nevertheless praises Britain for keeping their levels up. The emphasis on western prosperity as what must be guarded rings hollow. There’s an us versus them tone to Harper’s remarks. We cannot give to you unless we remain well off. We cannot project our values unless we retain our wealth and influence.

Honestly, in reading such speeches that are occasions, and caring citizens should take a few moments to consider, you really want to hear and feel a sense of your country in them. But it just doesn’t seem to come with Mr. Harper. He doesn’t complete the job. Economics is cool territory, there’s no heart in it. It doesn’t grasp the essence of what Canada is and that could be portrayed to the world if this is a ground shifting moment, as he sees it.

Here is a clip – yes, one exists! – of the MacKenzie King speech to the UK Parliament in 1944 and his speaking of Canada entering the war. Harper included one of King’s lines in his remarks, saying we entered “not from obligation, but ‘was the outcome of our deepest political instinct, a love of freedom and a sense of justice.’” Out of our deepest political instinct. Times and instincts have changed…

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General

The impressionist

Posted June 12, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

I think I’ll go with the take of a little birdie who sent me a note on this…just proves that Harper has been making a mockery of the Conservative party:)Hyuk, yuk. 

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General

Your $60 million media monitoring programme

Posted May 9, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

Note: This blog post below was written on March 9th but not published. Given this news of the past day, “Harper Government Spends Millions Monitoring Press Of Own MPs,” thought it would be useful additional context. Also, note to self: Listen more inte…

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CBC

The Conservatives eye the CBC – updated

Posted May 1, 2013 by Nancy Leblanc

Updated (Thursday 6 pm) below.

Every once in a while, Harper exposes his fangs. This is one of those moments: “Budget bill gives Harper Cabinet new powers over CBC.”

It’s a Harper special, naturally. Mix the CBC in with a pile of other Crowns who can be portrayed as bloated public entities whose employees are getting more than in the private sector. So we hear Clement say this “is part of a broader issue, which is aligning the public-service compensation and benefits to private-sector norms and expectations…”. Sell it to the public as a sensible economic measure then. Try to massage it into one more incremental logical step that won’t raise hackles.

Nothing sensible or reasonable about this one though. The public broadcaster should not have its salaries explicitly overseen by the federal Conservative cabinet. Or any other stripe of cabinet. The implications for the independence of the institution are clear. Politicians weighing in on journalistic salaries? That has no business in a modern western democratic nation. And what breed of conservatism is this?

At least Scott Brison is serving notice that Harper is playing with fire and will be carefully watched: “We will thoroughly scrutinize actions by this government towards these agencies.” The politicians will have lots of help in that task.

Bravo to the CBC, by the way, for blowing the lid off the temporary foreign workers programme. Nothing like a few whistle blowers leading the national news describing how their jobs are being farmed out to bring it right into every living room and made meaningful to the average Canadian.

Happy two year Harper government anniversary, everyone…

Update (Thursday 6 pm): A must read follow-up to the above in the Hill Times today. Tim Naumetz has reviewed the Crown corporation annual reports and discovers, lo and behold, that the CBC is essentially the major Crown whose collective bargaining agreements could possibly be affected in the near future by the Conservatives’ insertion of the cabinet over those negotiations. There is a CBC agreement that comes up for renewal in March of 2014:

But of the three Crown corporations, only the CBC will have its major collective agreements expire between now and 2014 as the 2015 federal general election nears, including one covering 5,000 English-language news personnel and journalists that expires March 31, 2014.

Also notable, this excerpt referencing a statement by the CBC in response to the government’s move:

The statement also noted the Broadcasting Act gives the CBC board of directors the “explicit authority” to determine the salaries of its employees and that CBC and Radio Canada employees are not public servants.

The budget bill would give Cabinet the power to order Crown corporations to have their mandates for collective bargaining approved by Cabinet’s Treasury Board committee of ministers and allow for a Treasury Board employee to monitor negotiations.

Yes, if you look at the Broadcasting Act, there are clear distinctions drawn which separate the CBC’s power to hire and set salaries versus the cabinet’s power. For example, the federal cabinet has a say in the Chair of the Board and the President’s salary but it does not with respect to any employee:

Remuneration

Chairperson’s and President’s remuneration

43. (1) The Chairperson and the President shall be paid by the Corporation remuneration at the rate fixed by the Governor in Council.

Fees of other directors

(2) Each director, other than the Chairperson and the President, shall be paid by the Corporation such fees for attendance at meetings of the Board or any committee of directors as are fixed by the by-laws of the Corporation.

Expenses

(3) Each director is entitled to be paid by the Corporation such travel and living expenses incurred by the director in the performance of the duties of that director as are fixed by the by-laws of the Corporation.

Staff

Employment of staff

44. (1) The Corporation may, on its own behalf, employ such officers and employees as it considers necessary for the conduct of its business.

Terms, etc., of employment

(2) The officers and employees employed by the Corporation under subsection (1) shall, subject to any by-laws made under section 51, be employed on such terms and conditions and at such rates of remuneration as the Board deems fit.

Not servants of Her Majesty

(3) The officers and employees employed by the Corporation under subsection (1) are not officers or servants of Her Majesty.

It’s very much a clear policy distinction being made here in the Broadcasting Act. The intent is to leave staffing and remuneration decisions within the CBC as an internal matter, free from government intrusion. This is entirely understandable. The CBC is a Crown like no other at the federal level. The CBC is part of the free press in Canada.

Granted, the government appoints the Board members who provide oversight of the CBC employee salaries and employment whom the CBC chooses to employ. But the Board’s primary duty is owed to the corporation within the context of the particular Crown’s public service mandate.

What Harper is now doing is reaching in and making CBC employee salaries – journalists – subject to the federal cabinet’s influence, contrary to section 44(3) above. Typically, he’s doing it without explicitly amending the Broadcasting Act but through the budget bill. It’s quite an intrusion. The Treasury Board representative doesn’t even have to do anything by way of taking action in the negotiations. The presence of this representative is influence enough.

As a majority government, these Conservatives can do what they choose, essentially. But no Prime Minister to date has gone this far with the CBC.

Stephen Harper has no business inserting himself in the salary negotiations of journalists within the CBC. Period.

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