Sunday, July 27, 2014

He Must Be Laughing



An op-ed  appeared in yesterday's Globe and Mail under Stephen Harper's name. Whoever wrote the piece claims that,"Our duty is to stand firm in the face of Russian aggression." On the same day, in The Tyee, Tom Henheffer also wrote an op-ed, on the subject of the CRA's audits of Canadian non-profits, like PEN:

In effect, our government is censoring an anti-censorship organization. It makes me wonder, is this really Canada? If so, it’s a country I'm having a hard time recognizing.

So what is the justification for creating this clear chill on free speech?

Well, no one really knows. These audits overwhelmingly target environmental groups opposed to oilsands development. Many of these are the same organizations former Natural Resources and current Finance Minister Joe Oliver called out as being "radical groups" trying to undermine Canadian development. Yet the government maintains it has no control over who the CRA investigates.

Lawrence Martin was stationed in Moscow during the Cold War. He has noted that Harper's information control is reminiscent of what went on in Russia before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Certainly there was no such thing as free speech.

Yet Mr Harper presents himself as a Crusader for Individual Liberty. Vladimir Putin must be laughing.

We will be in  Montreal for the next couple of days. But I plan to be back at this keyboard on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Have They No Decency?



When Justice Anne Mactavish struck down the Harper government's ban on medical care to refugees, she wrote that the ban amounted to "cruel and unjust treatment." The phrase did not emerge new and full blown from the lips of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Gerry Caplan writes:

These exact words – “cruel and unusual punishment” – resonate in history. They were written into the English Bill of Rights in 1689 and were then repeated in the 8th amendment to the United States Constitution: “Cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted.” These are not words used loosely.

He points out that they were at the heart of Joseph Welsh's response to Senator Joseph McCarthy:

“Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

We have insisted -- at least until recently -- that our elected officials display a modicum of decency. But any sense of decency disappeared with Stephen Harper. Caplan writes that "cruel and unusual treatment" is at the heart of two other Harper policies:

The prostitution bill has a similar cast of characters – the justices of the Supreme Court, who ruled that government must take all steps possible to assure the safety of prostitutes; much of the rest of the country who disagree on much but agree the bill actually would put prostitutes in even greater danger than they are now; and a minister of justice, Peter McKay, who has proved himself completely indifferent to the safety of such women. Is this not simple callousness?

And last, of course, there is the case of Omar Khadr:

Finally there is the case of Omar Khadr, a young man who to whom fate has been cruel since his birth to a twisted family. There are at least seven separate possible reasons for showing compassion for Mr. Khadr, and the Harper government has consistently dismissed every single one of them with scorn and derision. He was a child under international law when his father forced him to become a soldier. He may well not have killed anyone. He himself was badly wounded. He was involved in a war, when killing another soldier is not a crime. He confessed under torture. He pled guilty to end his Kafkaesque nightmare. He was convicted in a U.S. military court that flouted basic principles of justice. Canadian prison officials have found no evidence that he “espouses attitudes that support terror activities or any type of radicalized behaviour.”
Yet he drives Harperland crazy with fear and loathing. They feel no mercy.

In fact, there is much that drives Harperland crazy. And their lack of decency underscores their irrational loathing.


Friday, July 25, 2014

He Would If He Could


                                                                       http://theinternetpost.net/

Stephen Harper and his minions have been complaining loudly about the power of "special interests." But, Steve Sullivan writes:

When Stephen Harper headed up the National Citizens Coalition, he filed a constitutional challenge against the Elections Act. He claimed the law’s spending limits on third-party advertising during elections was an infringement on his freedom of expression rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the logic offered up by many Conservatives lately, what the boss did back in 2000 amounted to an attempt to undermine Parliament. Dan Albas, the Conservative MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, recently told CBC that interest groups are trying to “… do an end-run around our democratic process and turn to the courts where it seems some judges are quite happy to engage. This can result in decisions contrary to what have been decided in our democratic process.”

The Harperites are nothing, if not hypocritical. They would prefer that there was no Supreme Court to second guess their decisions. However:

The courts play an essential role in our democracy by interpreting and applying the laws passed by government — acting as both check and balance on the other two branches of government, the executive and legislative. No true democracy anywhere in the world gives governments unlimited powers. In Canada, the job of the courts is to make sure that what the government does is consistent with the charter and the Constitution. Our legal rights mean precisely nothing if governments can override them simply by passing a law.

While they loudly celebrated the anniversary of the War of 1812, they let the 25th and the 30th anniversaries of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms pass without notice, even though,

time and again, Canadians have told parties and pollsters that they treasure the Charter of Rights — that it’s part of the bedrock of our society, something that unites us.

But Stephen Harper has never been about uniting us. He has found success by dividing us. And, if he could abolish the Charter, he would.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

There's Only One Word For It -- Tyranny

                                                       http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/

In the wake of the news that the Harper government has directed the CRA to audit PEN Canada, Linda McQuaig asks,"Why is Harper punishing charities while letting tax cheats off the hook?"

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.

Meanwhile, as worldwide pressure has grown for a clampdown on tax havens, Ottawa announced last year that it was ramping up its efforts to investigate offshore tax evasion. But it only allocated $15 million — over five years — a piddling amount, given the existing departmental cuts and the sheer scope of the offshore problem.

A CRA auditor provides value for money:

In Canada, an experienced international tax auditor typically costs Ottawa about $100,000 a year, but brings in ten times that amount in revenue, according to sources.

Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

Presumably, that is why the auditors have been sent in to monitor an organization with an annual budget of  $240,000 -- while "the illegal caching of money offshore by Canadian companies and individuals results in an annual revenue loss to Canadian governments (provincial and federal) of about $7.8 billion, according to Dennis Howlett, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadians for Tax Fairness."

The problem is that PEN had the audacity "to criticize the government for muzzling scientists in the civil service, and for spying on Canadian citizens alongside U.S. intelligence agencies."

There is only one word for it -- tyranny. 


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Real Battle Has Begun

                                                      http://www.fordefables.co.uk/

The Prime Minister's Office announced yesterday that Stephen Harper on the witness stand is an unlikely prospect. The Canadian Press reports:

Stephen Harper's office says it's "difficult to imagine" the prime minister would have any relevant information to share in the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

Spokesman Jason MacDonald says in an email that the PMO has responded "fully and freely" to requests for assistance from RCMP investigators.

He adds the Mounties have made it clear they don't believe Harper has any knowledge of Duffy's alleged wrongdoing and that there would be no reason for the prime minister to be involved should Duffy's defence team attempt to have him testify.

So we can expect that Stephen Harper will do everything he can to avoid being questioned in court by Donald Bayne, Duffy's attorney. Bayne would destroy the prime minister's shifting narrative and -- worse still -- the myth  that Stephen Harper is the smartest guy in the room.

 That outcome must be avoided at all costs. And, so, the real battle has begun.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More And Worse Conflict

                                                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/

Michael den Tandt writes that Stephen Harper's foreign policy will outlive Harper:

It is axiomatic for Harper’s critics, certainly for those who churn out talking points for the Dippers, Grits and Greens, that this prime minister is a ham-fisted and embarrassingly unsubtle foreign-policy actor. The prima facie evidence is his notorious letter to the Wall Street Journal in 2003, penned with Stockwell Day, lamenting Canada’s refusal to participate in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Never mind that mistake, writes den Tandt:

But here’s the thing: Harper and Baird’s basic positions have been borne out by events — both in the conflict with Hamas, and in Ukraine, since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a rocket attack, killing all 298 people aboard.

Really? Could it be that his minor error on Iraq has helped destabilise the entire Middle East? And could Harper's support of Israel -- while completely ignoring its occupation of Gaza  -- not have something to do with the increased rocket technology which Hamas has now aimed at Israel?

Jonathan Kay wrote a short time ago that the Harper regime is populated by punitive moral absolutists. They have tried to legislate their values into Canadian law. And they are convinced that, by exporting their philosophy to the rest of the world, they will make it a safer place.

We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of the Guns of August. If Harper knew anything about history -- and the treaty which ended World War I -- he'd know that punitive moral absolutism simply guarantees more -- and worse -- conflict.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Sabotaging Responsible Government

                                                                                 www.nationalpost.com/

Over at ipolitics, Andrew Mitrovica asks,"Is Mulcair just another Harper with a beard?"  It's an important question, given the evolution -- some would say devolution -- of the New Democratic  Party. There is a nomination battle unfolding in British Columbia. Officials at party headquarters have banned Paul Manly from seeking the party nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith:

This fracas is instructive for a number of reasons. The prickly issue, however, at the core of the dispute – that is fraying so-called party unity and triggering hard questions about Mulcair’s leadership – are the vague, carefully coded reasons NDP brass have proffered to Manly, his parents and supporters for why the accomplished environmentalist, filmmaker and musician has been barred from the party’s nomination in traditionally NDP-friendly British Columbia.

NDP headquarters, Mitrovica writes, is beginning to look and sound like Harper's PMO. Not only that, Mulcair's stand on Gaza is alienating traditional NDP constituencies:

Just read this pointed letter of protest written and signed by nine long-standing Jewish NDP supporters in Toronto to Mulcair in which they demand that he not only finally speak out against “the repression of Palestinians,” but also “rescind” Manly’s ban.

They’re not alone. Among the many other disenchanted party members is a “deeply dismayed” Vancouver rabbi and a “long-time and dedicated NDP member” who has also recently written Muclair, urging him to “reverse [The federal NDP leadership’s] action preventing Mr. Manly from standing to be the candidate from Nanaimo-Ladysmith and its attempt to distance the party from meaningful and forthright action regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

All three party leaders have recently assumed a presidential style of leadership, which asserts that MP's serve at the leader's pleasure.Their constituents have no say in the matter.

That may be Stephen Harper's real legacy -- sabotaging the parliamentary form of responsible government