Thursday, March 26, 2015

He Wants It Both Ways

                                                 https://www.pinterest.com/

When Stephen Harper rode into town almost ten years ago, he claimed that he was the new sheriff and he vowed to make Canadians feel safe. To that end, Steve Sullivan writes, he made all kinds of changes:

He amended the Dangerous Offender law, brought in mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes, raised the age of consent, toughened penalties for white collar criminals and abolished accelerated parole review.

He repealed the faint hope clause for killers and brought in consecutive sentences for multiple killers. He cracked down on sex offenders, drug dealers and young offenders. He toughened prison rules and made pardons much harder to get. He went after cyber-bullies and those found by the courts ‘not criminally responsible’.

Now Harper wants to limit statutory release, abolish parole for some killers, crack down on sex offenders (again) and, of course, get those terrorists.

If you listen to Harper's election pitch, you'd have to conclude that, as a sheriff, he's been an abject failure:

Harper’s election year message is clear: Canada is a perilous place. In 2015, things are apparently so bad here that we need judges to give police and spies permission to break the law to deal with “terrorists” who don’t seem to know any actual terrorists. And rural Canadians, of course, need to arm themselves right away. Because terrorism. Or murderers out on parole. Or both.

 Harper’s campaign slogan this fall might as well be, “Don’t Keep Calm and Vote Conservative.” Or, “A Vote for Justin Trudeau is a Vote for Terrorism.” Even former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader has noted the deep strain of paranoia in Harper’s campaign strategy.

But after almost 10 years of the Harper government, it turns out we’re still in mortal danger from … everything. Listen to the PM and you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s more danger around today that there was when he took power. And the message is getting through — a recent poll suggests Canadians feel less safe than they did a few years ago.

Never mind the facts:

I could, I suppose, point out the facts. That Canada is not a more dangerous place. That the homicide rate is lower than it has been in decades. That there’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that more children are being sexually abused by predators today than a decade ago.

And can we please stop pretending that Canada was until recently some kind of sleepy and innocent cul-de-sac when it comes to terrorism? Air India ring a bell? The FLQ? How about Denis Lortie, who walked into the Quebec legislature with a gun 30 years ago and killed three people?

Clearly, Mr. Harper wants it both ways. He wants Canadians to believe that his efforts have made them safer -- and that they are more unsafe than they've ever been. That patently insane pitch might help him get re-elected.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

He's A Doodle!

                                                   http://en.wikipedia.org/

Stephen Harper displays two of humanity's ugliest traits -- slander and stupidity. In the past, he made an effort to disguise those traits. But now, with an election on the horizon, he's taken them out of the closet and allowed them to parade around nakedly. Most recently, he has slandered women who choose to wear niqabs -- most significantly, Zunera Ishag. Gerald Caplan writes:

What he has done – this great authority on the Muslim religion – is to slander an entire “culture” as “anti-woman.” What he’s done is to unleash his caucus to join the piling-on of this one woman – “stay the hell where you came from” – even if they then pretend to apologize. She is defenseless; he bullies her from his privileged place in the House of Commons while his mindless minions stand and cheer. The court ruling that there’s no law prohibiting her from wearing her niqab at a the citizenship ceremony is unambiguous; Mr. Harper is challenging it. Jason Kenney has been exposed for peddling misleading photos of women in niqabs; he has not apologized. And all of this scapegoating, this character assassination of one woman, is being done for the crassest of political purposes.

And, yesterday, the man who claims to be a brilliant strategist announced that he will extend and expand the war against ISIL. Unquestionably, they are barbaric folks. But, militarily, it is the height of folly to insert yourself into the middle of a civil war. And that is precisely what Mr. Harper proposes to do.

 He will do this not for the Iraqis. After all, they support a culture which he says is "anti-women." As he has slandered Ms Ishag, he wants to slander the opposition parties because they won't support his stupidity. Remember, this is the same man whose "Economic Action Plan" was going to make the Canadian economy better.

You don't hear anything about that anymore. You can't defend stupidity. But you can slander those who call it what is is.

No doubt about it. He's a doodle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One Of Harper's Prime Directives

                                                       http://www.cpcml.ca/

Errol Mendes, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, wonders what will happen when judges start acting in secret.The old adage that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done still holds true. Bill C-51 shreds that basic principle. Mendes writes that the bill is a vicious attempt to compromise the judiciary:


Problems with the bill are many, although the one [Ron] Atkey was talking about — one that has received very little attention from politicians and the media — is in the section that would authorize CSIS agents to apply for judicial warrants that could contravene charter rights.
This section would amount to one of the most serious attempts by any Canadian government to compromise the independence of the judiciary by forcing them to be silent partners to unlawful acts. Under C-51, CSIS could apply for permission to break the law — short of causing bodily harm or undermining sexual integrity — in order to disrupt threats to the nation’s security. Court hearings for such “disrupt warrants” would be conducted in secret, with no judicial oversight or review to prevent abuses.

Harper has no regard for the courts. He has disbanded the research department at the Ministry of Justice -- the folks who used to check whether or not proposed legislation would run afoul of the Charter of Rights. And, because no one in the Harper government bothers to ask any more if a law is constitutional, the whole of the warrant process will be struck down:

The tragic irony here is that, by introducing a warrant process that is clearly unconstitutional, the Stephen Harper government is putting the entire framework of disrupt warrants at risk of being struck down. It would have been better for the safety of Canadians, and for national security in general, if C-51 had never been tabled in the first place. C-51’s drafters have not learned critical lessons from the tragedy of the Air India bombings, from the O’Connor Commission report and from our closest allies in the fight against global terror.

But Bill C-51 has never been about protecting Canadians. It's about sabotaging the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- which has always been one of Stephen Harper's prime directives.


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Moment Of Truth

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Justin Trudeau's moment of truth is about to arrive. The Harperities have decided to extend and expand the mission in Iraq. Trudeau opposed the original mission. But, since then, he has supported Stephen Harper's Bill C-51. Michael Harris writes:

Justin Trudeau lent his party’s support to Bill C-51, a bill that former prime ministers, Supreme Court justices, the Canadian Bar Association and hundreds of experts have denounced as dangerous, unnecessary, and unconstitutional unless it gets key amendments with respect to more oversight.

His father would have been up in arms:

Trudeau has jumped on the fear bandwagon, despite the fact that C-51 will allow Canada’s largely unaccountable spy agency, CSIS, to carry out its operations ignoring the Charter of Rights. The Charter was his father’s crowning political achievement. Pierre Trudeau would never have supported the criminalization of dissent.

Despite his claim that he does not want to hand Stephen Harper a weapon to use against him,Trudeau the Younger -- unlike Tom Mulcair -- is on the wrong side of history. Will Trudeau also choose to be on the wrong side of the Iraq mission?

His moment of truth is quickly approaching.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

You Can Trust Him -- Until You Become Inconvenient

 
                                                   http://www.zazzle.ca/gifts                                                     

If you wonder why Canada's international reputation is in tatters, consider a recent incident. Jeffrey Simpson writes:

A Conservative senator of Vietnamese heritage has pushed through a private member’s bill recognizing the flight of Vietnamese people to Canada after the fall of Saigon and the arrival of Vietnam’s Communist government.

The government is rushing the bill through the Commons, to the delight of those who favour it. The good senator has also lobbied, thankfully without success, for Canadians to fly the old red-and-yellow-striped South Vietnamese flag, instead of the yellow-starred banner flown by today’s Vietnamese government – the same government with which Canada is negotiating within the Trans-Pacific partnership and with which Canada generally has sound bilateral relations.

No matter. At a recent Vietnamese cultural event attended by Mr. Harper and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, the hall was decked out in the old flag. Worse, Mr. Kenney paraded around with a version of it draped across his shoulders, like a middle finger held up to the Vietnamese government.

It’s a wonder Hanoi didn’t withdraw its ambassador from Ottawa. Instead, the Vietnamese embassy sent a protest note to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which, of course, is helpless in the face of political dog-whistling.

Last time around, Harper and Kenney were buying the votes of women who wore niqabs. No longer. They have become inconvenient. And all votes are interchangeable.

Strange, isn't it? Harper's election message is that you can trust him better than any of the other leaders on offer. But that's only half of his pledge. What he doesn't add is "until you become inconvenient." Those who doubt that part of the pledge should ask Garth Turner, Rahim Jaffer, Helena Geurgis, Bill Casey, Nigel Wright  and -- oh yes, Mike Duffy -- if it's true.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Future Is In Our Hands



                                                            http://www.cbc.ca/

There was a time, Murray Dobbins writes, when Canadians were highly engaged with their governments. We possessed a high degree of civic literacy:

That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn't just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a much broader and well-informed citizen engagement -- both through social movements and as individual citizens. The level of trust in government was much higher than it is today. And absent from the picture were the factors that today dominate the political conversation: fear and economic insecurity.

Demagogues like Stephen Harper know how to play on fear and economic insecurity. That is why they do their best to promote both. And, using these tools, they can destroy a democracy. Consider Harper's record on that score:

It's a familiar list, including Harper's bullying of Governor General Michaƫlle Jean to force the proroguing of the House, his guide book on how to make parliamentary committees ineffective, the use of robo-calls and other election dirty tricks, his attempt to break the rules in appointing a Supreme Court judge and his neutering the House of Commons question period through a deliberate strategy of refusing to answer questions -- a practice that institutionalizes a contempt for Parliament that spreads outward to the general public. At a certain point it doesn't matter who is responsible -- the institution itself becomes risible and irrelevant to ordinary citizens. Which is, of course, exactly what Harper intends.

Now, with Bill C-51 -- which Dobbins dubs The Secret Police Act -- Harper stands on the threshold of bringing the whole democratic edifice down. And he's doing it with the cooperation of the media establishment. But things seem to be changing:

Given our shamefully biased media, Canadians still manage to resist Harper's continued assault on our political sensibility. The first polls on the Secret Police Act (don't call it by any other name) were alarming, with upwards of 80 per cent agreeing with the need for tougher anti-terror laws. But things are changing very quickly as the result of a determined fight-back by civil society groups, a phalanx of heavy-hitting experts and the NDP. A Forum Research poll this week showed support for the Act was down to 38 per cent with those disapproving at 51 per cent -- an amazing turnaround. The highest levels of disapproval were amongst "the youngest (64%), New Democrats (77%), the best educated (65%) and the non-religious (70%)."

Now is the time, Dobbins writes, for Canadians to take their democracy back. Unless we renew our civic literacy, we will lose what we used to hold most dear:

Yet a huge effort will be needed to completely immunize Canadians against the next wave of Harper fear-mongering. That's the only lasting solution to voter manipulation and a healthy democracy. Until we realize that, progressive politics will remain crisis management and we will continue to pin our desperate hopes on coalitions and proportional representation. But without a high degree of civic literacy these institutional fixes will be ultimately dissatisfying.

The future of Canadian democracy is in our hands.


Friday, March 20, 2015

A Tale Told By An Idiotic Orwellian


                                         http://the-mound-of-sound.blogspot.ca/

Remember when Stockwell Day used to lead the cabal which today passes for the Conservative Party of Canada? Those were the days when Day insisted that the St. Lawrence River flowed into Lake Ontario, not the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Well, the party has returned to the days of yore. The prime minister and his acolytes have returned to their bedrock base and are spouting all kinds of idiocy. Michael Harris writes:

Conservative MP John Willamson offered his insights on the competition between “whities” and “brown people” for jobs. Not to be outdone, his caucus colleague Larry Miller invited people who insist on wearing the niqab to “stay the hell where you came from” (presumably he wasn’t talking about Scarborough).

And Stephen Harper is promoting the idea that those who believe they are too far away from a police station should buy their own guns for their own protection -- except, he says, that's not what he meant:

So, yeah, a campaigning prime minister gave the green light to vigilantes — much the way he did to Islamophobes, anti-First Nations bigots and anyone who hates environmentalists. Former Ontario attorney general Mike Bryant said Harper’s words were a direct invitation to commit illegal acts.

“It’s vigilantism,” said Bryant. “People are going to find themselves facing the criminal justice system and being charged with serious crimes if they decide to follow what the prime minister is suggesting.”

Ah, but this is Harperland, where the words mean what the man says they mean. The PM insisted it was “patently ridiculous” to interpret his words as an incitement to vigilante acts. Why? Because all he was trying to do was show that the Conservative Party of Canada was pro-gun owner, while the other parties are clearly anti-. The words themselves meant nothing; the sentiment was everything. As usual, most of the press corps assumed the supine position.

You have to ask yourself, who would buy this kind of idiocy? If the polls are to be believed, there are lots of idiots to be had for the taking. The strategy is transparent:

Harper has simply made the calculation that if the way to give a chameleon a nervous breakdown is to put him down on plaid, the way to win an election in our disappearing democracy is to offer Canadians only two flavours — vanilla or chocolate.

That means hitting the hot buttons, over and over. Before oil prices tanked, greed was the button of choice. Now it’s fear. It makes things starkly simple — black and white, good and evil.
As simple as War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery … and Ignorance is Strength.