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



Sunday, July 20, 2014

We Need Duffy's Emails



There has been a lot of public befuddlement -- including from  Mike Duffy's lawyer -- as to why the senator has been charged with accepting a bribe, while Nigel Wright has been given a free ride. The official explanation seems to be that everything hangs on one word --"corruptly." To be convicted, Wright would have to have acted in a corrupt manner. It's a difficult standard of proof, because it assumes corrupt intention -- something which runs against the grain of Wright's public persona. He is seen as a man who sees, hears and does no evil.

Michael Spratt writes that the decision to not charge Wright may be tactical, not legal:

Duffy’s case is headed to trial; Wright will surely be a star witness. By choosing to not charge Wright, the case against Duffy is made stronger. If Wright and Duffy were jointly charged, Wright would not be a compellable witness for the Crown and essential evidence could be lost.

Further, if Wright and Duffy had been jointly charged, any statements made by Wright and adduced into evidence could not be used against Duffy.

Most important, by declining to lay charges against Wright the RCMP limits damage to his credibility — which can only increase his value as a witness.

Clearly, the powers that be are out to get Duffy. Given his past behaviour, it's hard to feel sympathy for the man. But one cannot escape the suspicion that the RCMP -- like the civil service and the military --  has been politicized by the Harper government.

Everything will hinge on Duffy's stash of emails -- which the Harper cabal will seek to declare inadmissible. I would be helpful, at this point, if the press could get their hands on some of those emails.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Depraved Policy



                                                                                  http://www.ctpost.com/

Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza this week -- a move that is loudly supported by the Harper government. And it illustrates, Linda McQuaig writes, the moral disconnect at the heart of Harper's policy towards Israel:

Certain minimal standards are expected of a national leader in what is known as the ‘civilized world’.

One of those standards would seem to be that, when massive numbers of defenceless civilians are being killed, a national leader should call for the killing to stop.

Questions about responsibility, blame, punishment, repercussions, etc., can always follow. But surely the first order of business — the one with moral urgency — is to halt the killing of innocent people.

Harper's simple answer -- there's always a simple answer for him -- is that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. So don't blame the Israelis:

But Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador, noted on CBC TV’s Power and Politics on Tuesday that international law prohibits Israel from, for instance, attacking a military target if it is located in a densely populated building.

Anyone who knows anything thing about the Israeli-Palestinian relationship knows that it's fraught with complications:

What is striking about Harper’s intensely one-sided approach is the way he resolutely avoids dealing with the central fact of this decades-old conflict: that millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been living under Israeli military occupation for more than forty-five years, and that Israel has effectively annexed what used to be their land, building settlements on it that now accommodate more than 600,000 Israelis.

Harper’s refusal to take any of this into consideration flies in the face of Canada’s long-standing position on the Mideast conflict — a position that still appears on the Canadian government’s website.

Harper has always been comfortable in his ignorance. Moreover, he has the arrogance to think he's the smartest guy in the room. The result is depraved policy.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Harper's Perfect Storm

                                                                           http://www.huffingtonpost.ca

Now that the RCMP has thrown the book at Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper finds himself at the centre of a perfect storm. It's a storm entirely of his own making. And, at last, Andrew Coyne writes, we will get some answers:

The biggest question to be answered remains: why? Not only why did Mr. Wright make the payment — which, remember, was not to “the taxpayer” but to Mr. Duffy, in secret and on condition that he remain silent about it — but why were so many other senior people in and around the government, as we learned from the trove of emails unearthed by the RCMP, so utterly transfixed with the task of paying Mr. Duffy’s falsely claimed expenses? Why not just leave him to face the consequences of his own actions?

The answer to that question may turn out to be sheer stupidity. But, given who Duffy claims to be -- someone who knows where the bodies are buried -- there are other questions which need to be answered -- questions that involve Stephen Harper:

What involvement or knowledge did the prime minister have, particularly with regard to the $90,000? In a sense, it does not matter: that so many people close to him were so ready to act in such an unethical fashion is damning enough in itself. But in a sense it is all that matters: partly because the prime minister has been so vehement in his denials of any foreknowledge, and partly because the set of circumstances required for this to be true seem so implausible.

Among other things, it requires us to believe not only that Mr. Wright and everyone else around the prime minister lied to him for months on end about how Mr. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, but that Mr. Wright lied to the others: that having told him at a meeting in February of 2013 that Mr. Duffy would repay his own expenses, he then told his fellow conspirators the prime minister was “good to go” with an earlier plan for the party to pay them; and that when Mr. Wright later told the prime minister’s former communications director, Andrew MacDougall, that “the PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy” he was lying then, too.

Unlike others who Mr. Harper has thrown under the bus, Duffy will not go quietly.  If he goes down, he may just take the prime minister with him. If that were to happen, justice would truly be done.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

They're Really Not Very Smart


                                                                         http://www.parl.gc.ca/

After several rebukes from the Supreme Court, the Harperites are feeling mean. Earlier this week, Conservative MP Larry Miller complained that the "courts are making laws." Andrew Coyne writes:

People who supposedly stand for limited government get surprisingly antsy, once in office, about having their own discretion circumscribed. That they profess to do so in the name of Parliament only compounds the incoherence. Who do they think passed the Charter?

And, of course, as always for these folks, Pierre Trudeau is the villain:

Mr. Miller does not disappoint. “Pierre Trudeau,” he said, “did this willfully and deliberately, taking rights away from the majority to protect the minority.” Can you believe it? Protecting the minority. I mean, who the hell elected him?

That's what winning a majority government was all about for the Conservatives -- banishing minority opinion. And, if they are concerned about the Court stomping on Parliament's perogatives, Coyne suggests that they look in the mirror:

As defenders of Parliament, they’d be a lot more convincing had they not spent the past many years meekly surrendering one ancient Parliamentary prerogative after another, not to the courts, but to a far more voracious usurper: the executive.

 There is a solution to their problem:

There’s a simple way to remove them from the equation: stop passing laws that are so clearly and flagrantly in violation of the Constitution (see, for example, the prostitution bill). Insist, as the political scientist Emmett Macfarlane has suggested, that ministers screen bills for Charter compatibility before introducing them in the House. Better yet, have committees of Parliament do the same.


But don't count on the Harperites hitting on that solution. The truth is, they're really not very smart.