Category Archives: Steven Harper

Conservative Transparancy Now Scientifically Proven to be a Joke

51st place isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. The 51st wealthiest person in the world, or the 51st smartest are blessed to be so lucky. It’s a placement they can be proud of.

When your country is ranked 51st on any list, it is unlikely to be a source of such national pride, especially when the ranking deals with freedom of information. Yet, that is where Canada stands, behind traditional openness powerhouses like Colombia and Niger.

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Bev Oda Waves to Responsible Government | iPOLITICS/Kyle Hamilton

 

The Canadian government, its departments and agencies are given requests for information, which cost $5, and are supposed to respond within 30 days. Unfortunately if the information is ever released by said departments, it is typically done after several months.

While other countries have updated their access to information procedures, Canadian Government acts, predictably, in a shroud of opaqueness. Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have made no effort to adopt transparency in their Government. From countless muzzled scientists and environmentalists, the stifled debate in the House of Commons, the secrecy behind the F-35 transfers, the 400-page omnibus bills, cutting Elections Canada’s budget during the robocall scandal, there is a litany of abuses to Canadian trust by the current Government.

Canadians not simply in virtue of the fact that they pay high salaries and expenses to their elected officials, but intrinsically because they are citizens of the best country in the world ought to expect, and receive, better from their Government then $16 glasses of orange juice and helicopter rides. For every one policy the Conservatives have put out that I found myself in agreement with (Employment Insurance Reform, elimination of “Second Chance” Deportation for convicted criminals) there are endless abuses on the trust of the country that turn any commendation I was willing to heap on our Prime Minister into condemnation.

I am proud to be a Canadian, but this ranking fills my being with shame. Mostly it is shame for the apathetic Canadians that couldn’t be bothered to care about such a monstrous atrocity in our politics. These are the Canadians we are friends with, the ones we work with, study with and perhaps even live with.

Michael Ignatieff (quoting Bruce Springsteen) told Canadians that after suffering through Mr. Harper’s constant attacks on democracy, and his brutal insincere brand of politics it was high time for the country to “Rise up”. I care exactly enough to do so.

I desire transparency in government, and 51st is not good enough for me. I think Canadians deserve more out of our government, one that is accountable and open at the very least. If we ask for change then we ought to put forward new ideas, rather than simple condemnation of the other side. For starters, a much needed update to the access-to-information process currently in place would be a welcome start to an era of Canadian Governmental transparency. Letting your citizens know where their tax dollars seems like a good place to start.

So, as it turns out placing in 51st  for national transparency isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a call to action.

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Free Riders and Dire Needers

Breaking news: bad jobs exist.

In a classic case of Conservatives boiling down an issue to a wide-sweeping preposterous claim, Jim Flaherty claimed that “there is no bad job”. Yikes

Flaherty is proposing reforms to the Employment Insurance program, making it harder for Canadians to remain on the program for long periods. The Canadian Government has committed to redefining what should be considered “appropriate work” when unemployed citizens claiming EI are mulling a new career, which, in all likelihood, means finding skilled workers lower paying work.

I believe the reform motivation stems from an attempt to curb the amount of Canadians who would rather collect government payouts than work an honest forty hour work week. The NDP finance critic Peggy Nash, has countered that workers will be squandering their skills in entry-level work, envisioning journalists and teachers working at Tim Hortons if they found themselves in need of employment insurance.

As sympathetic as Nash’s arguments make me feel, Michael Den Tandt does a great job of dispelling them and as a bonus, explains why EI reform is so direly needed, specifically for seasonal workers who make a tidy salary for half the year, then collect employment insurance when such jobs reach their annual conclusion, providing a supplementary income for effectively waiting for their work to begin again. I feel that this is taking advantage of a well-meaning system. It is, I argue, an abuse of the system

I believe that employment insurance ought to be treated like healthcare: there for Canadians, but only when they actually need it. It is unfair to ask hardworking honest Canadians to pay into a system that is being abused by those who could be working, but would rather wait for their seasonal work to return, or for a job they consider to be “suitable”.

Life, as it happens, is not perfect. People get laid off, recessions occur, debt can force someone who cannot find work to ask Canadians for temporary help.. Not everyone has been gifted with parental or personal connections, or happenstance that gets them a good job. This is where EI comes in. I have met hard workers, and even they acknowledge that everyone needs a hand when unavoidable realities of life occur. The difference, is when you get knocked down, will you ask someone to help pick you up, or will you stay down and demand a piggy back ride for the next few months. It’s the difference between the unfortunate and the free riders, and while they are not mutually exclusive, at some point, after riding EI coattails for months or years, an unfortunate person is simply abusing a system created for those that need it.

I also think its important to note that one will ever be forced to work. The idea that engineers will somehow be forced to work at a fast-food drive-thru is an exaggeration. Legally, no one can be forced to work anywhere. The idea is that if someone is going to claim employment insurance, they ought to be actively trying to contribute to society. Those that feel as though they are “above” a certain job, perhaps should think about being “above” a government stipend as well.

There is a deeper philosophical question underlying EI reform that ought to be considered: what do we as a collective body politic owe members of our society who have not had the personal connections or luck to find work that meets their specifications? Some kind of help, certainly, it helps the economy to have skilled workers work in skilled occupations,so long as their absence from work is not prolonged; however governments should not baby their citizens, providing an allowance for an indefinite period until they find a job they like. It is a difficult question to give a succinct answer to, but it is a question well worth pondering as the debates over employment insurance begin to pick up steam.


Bob Rae’s Steep Climb

A Leger Marketing poll was conducted between April 2nd and 4th,  and showed the NDP on top of the pack, with 33%, leading the Conservatives by 1%. The Liberals were far behind at 19%, the same level of support given in May 2011. Leger’s information confirms another poll done earlier in the week by Harris-Decema with nearly identical numbers.

Polling Info Puts Conservatives and NDP in Statistical Tie | This Graph Copied From http://www.harrisdecima.com

With the next general election coming three years away, these results certainly should not fill Conservatives or Liberals with immanent fear. That said I think this poll provides two implicit pieces of information:

  1. Ordinary Canadians can see the NDP as a possible Federal Government option for the first time, well, ever
  2. Bob Rae is running out of time to instill confidence in Liberal members and supporters that he is capable of transcending these poor poll numbers

I believe Mr. Rae has the Liberal leadership locked up. Even though Dominic Leblanc is assumed by many to be the strongest (not to mention the most likely) challenger to a Bob Rae acclimation, the decision to move to a one-member-one-vote, has crowned the lone gentleman with an overwhelming amount of daily media attention (and thus unparalleled name recognition) the inevitable winner.

Only two people could pose a reasonable threat to Mr. Rae’s permanent leadership aspirations. First, Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty, who would risk Ontario’s provincial political stability if he were to run, and second, MP Justin Trudeau who has not only publicly rejected notions of running for leadership, but is likely going to wait to run for leadership until his chances of becoming Prime Minister are assured.

If the odds play out and Bob Rae becomes the next Liberal Leader he will be competing against two men void of charisma and character in Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. Bob Rae a personality in his own right is not from Quebec, like the NDP leader, nor is he Prime Minister, like the Liberal Leader: two distinct disadvantages. Additionally, I’m not sure he shares the political shrewdness the other leaders share, nor the willingness to push the envelope when it comes to campaigning.

He faces a steep uphill climb from the 19% he currently stands at, and fights on both flanks. The Liberal Party cannot afford to wait until the “honeymoon period” for Mr. Mulcair is over, since some leaders – Justin Trudeau’s father for example – never see their honeymoon period expire. In my opinion, if you will not cooperate with progressive forces, you must force the NDP to the left, by outflanking them on progressive issues like recreational drugs, while forcing the Conservatives right by appealing to Canadians’ anger on the mismanagement of taxpayer funds.

Bob Rae needs to be more fiscally responsible than the Conservatives, while demonstrating that the Liberals have better progressive policies than the New Democrats. With both parties sprinting to the center, Bob Rae must stretch around them, making Canadians consider embracing a government that includes the best parts of both the political left and right. It will take smart policies and strong leadership, but Mr. Rae, might just be able to pull it off.

Rae and Mulcair Won't Work Together, So They'll Eat Eachother | Image Stolen From news.nationalpost.com


Fergueson Names, Doesn’t Blame

I asserted in my post yesterday that Auditor General Michael Fergueson had stopped short of publicly shaming those responsible for the stupidity behind the F-35 controversy. While this is technically true, what I did not know is that Mr. Fergueson had named senior bureaucrats and ministers involved with the ill-fated pursuit of the fighter jets.

Bureaucrats involved include:

  • Dan Ross, assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defense
  • Michael Slack, F-35 project manager and director of continental materiel co-operation at the Department of National Defense
  • Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Col. Dave Burt, director of the Next Generation Fighter Capability Office, Department of National Defense
  • Tom Ring, assistant deputy minister of acquisitions, Public Works and Government Services Canada

Responsible ministers include:

  • Defense Minister Peter MacKay
  • Associate Defense Minister Julian Fantino
  • Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose

For in depth information on these officials and their relation to the F-35s, you can read the Vancouver Sun article on the subject by Lee Berthiaume.


$30 Billion Worth of Inept Bureaucrats

The Conservatives are supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. They were supposed to be scrutinizing every dollar spent by the government, and reducing its size wherever possible. They are cutting jobs, volunteer programs and funding to the CBC all in the name of balanced budgets. If that is their policy, then perhaps some things need to be sacrificed in the name of a stable economy.

Minister of Defense, Peter Mackay, With His Jet | This image was stolen from thestar.com.

However, if Mr. Harper’s latest budget cuts the entire $15 million of Katimavik volunteer program, then I patiently await his arguments as to why paying between $15 billion and $30 billion dollars for 65 fighter jets (almost $500 million per jet) is a worthwhile investment.

I understand that national security is important, and defending our country costs money, but the national scandal is not about security being too rich for the taxpayer, but the circus surrounding the potential purchase of the fighter jets. Auditor General Michael Fergueson’s report revealed that the Department of Defense completely ignored established policies, avoiding a bidding process, omitting relevant information, selecting a favorable cost-estimate to accelerate the contract among numerous other serious faults committed by the Department.

Not only did the Department of Defense deny an open, transparent process, it did what was in the best interests of the Department of Defense, as opposed to considering the interests of the Canadian people: the ones paying for the aircraft, and of course, their salaries. I join the Auditor General, and millions of Canadians in condemning the department.

Sadly, Fergueson refused to name anyone in his report, and I’d like to know why. After being brave enough to attack the entire department, calling them out for their stupidity on this issue, why did he stop at shaming the responsible parties? The F-35s had never been tested in combat, had never been compared to other planes, and had never been subject to a rigorous cost analysis. Someone needs to be held accountable for this unacceptable mess, that is, if the Department of Defense is expected to retain any public credibility.

Additionally, I’d like to know where was the Prime Minister during this process. I hardly doubt someone as prudent as Mr. Harper was oblivious to the rush to procure a contract. Now that the truth has come out, it would be nice to know on what level Prime Minister Harper lied to Canadians about the costs and the process behind acquiring the jets.

In the mean time one can only hope the Conservatives stay true to their word and conduct a complete, public review of the program. Simultaneously it might be a good idea to complete a public review of those responsible for this mess they are struggling with, starting with a sober look inside their own ranks.

Harper Lectures | This image was stolen from http://www.ctv.ca


Harper Eats Cake, Has Cake

After Stephen Harper’s majority victory on May 2nd fear-mongering over his presumed extreme right-wing agenda which was only restrained by a minority government ran high. With a majority government and a full mandate, the true ambitions of the Prime Minister would presumably become unleashed on the Canadian public.

So far, we’ve seen glimpses of the right-wing extremism Michael Ignatieff had spent weeks warning against. The long-gun registry issue, the omnibus crime bill with its overwhelming super-prison promotion, Bill C-30, the Enbridge pipeline, the list goes on. While I certainly think the country is headed in the wrong direction, I hardly think Mr. Harper has been a “dystopian” ruler as he has been made out to be. Same-sex marriage, abortion and wearing hijabs are all still legal (not without pressure mind you, but I digress), while the death penalty and nuclear weapons are not on the table.

I think Andrew Coyne is correct in asserting this first Conservative majority budget was a great opportunity for the true (small-c) conservatives to make their presence on Parliament Hill known. The budget was, with some select exceptions, universally classified as a moderate one, something Liberals might even consider backing had someone named John Turner proposed it. I think Michael den Tandt goes too far when he suggests that the budget is something a social Liberal like Jean Chretien might have passed, but he too observes the non-conservative nature of the Conservative budget. With a majority mandate and no real opposition to his desires, why is it that the Conservatives persist with record-high levels of spending, the prolonged isolation of social conservative issues, and the play-nice policies of someone who is acting less like a Reform party member, and more like a 1980’s  “business-Liberal”?

I believe it is because the Prime Minister wants to stay in power, and he wisely holds his position more dearly than his values. He has managed to make centrist Canadians (also known as your average Canadian voter) think he can handle the economy better than anyone else, and that he is trustworthy to keep our social programs in good conditions. Meanwhile, he has convinced his base that he is the best person to move Canada right, that taxpayer waste will not be acceptable under his watch. If you look purely at his record, six years as Prime Minister, three electoral wins and the destruction of three consecutive Liberal leaderships (each by a larger margin than the last), it is hard to debate Mr. Harper’s incredible cunning and skill. If you want any real indication of how politically prudent Stephen Harper is, consider his successes have been in spite of any charisma, humor, or personality. Yes, he is that good.

I have told anyone willing to listen that the Conservatives are in line for another majority in three years time. There are four possibilities I see as potentially disrupting his success. First, Stephen Harper could take off the camouflaged mask to reveal his right-wing extremism and scare average, centrist voters away. Second,  if social and fiscal conservatives, the base of Harper’s support, discover that Mr. Harper has no mask on at all, a portion of the party may either force him further right or (more a more damaging alternative) launch a Wildrose-esque rebellion against him. Third, the progressive parties could form a cooperative pact. These three are incredibly unlikely. The fourth possibility is that there is a scandal so large (one involving electoral fraud, for example), that the Conservatives lose the trust of the Canadian voters. Mr. Harper is already on this, however, and I believe will do whatever it takes to prevent this burden from falling on him in three years time.

I suppose there is a fifth option. Justin Trudeau could settle political differences in the boxing ring. Judging by Saturday night’s result, at least this way the Liberals would have a fighting chance. I don’t know if Trudeau’s back is broad enough to carry progressives back to 24 Sussex, but that smile he wore after he beat down Brazeau just might be.