Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Man Of His Word?

After meeting with First Nations chiefs three weeks ago, Stephen Harper vowed that his office would give native issues "enhanced oversight."  Shawn Atleo got the impression that the government was finally taking notice of the First Nations.

But when Stephen Harper met with his caucus yesterday -- and listed his priorities -- he did not say a word about native issues:

He said that the government will be focused this spring on four areas that are “priorities” for Canadians:
• families;
• the safety of streets and communities;
• pride in being a Canadian citizen;
• personal financial security.

Those are the priorites he brought with him to office. One can argue that his policies have made each priority worse, not better. But what is more important is that he had nothing to say about the issues he told native Canadians were at the top of his agenda.

The majority of Canadians know that Stephen Harper's word is as durable as Kleenex. He has a habit of blowing his nose into the paper on which agreements are written. Shawn Atleo should take note.

His own people have. That is why they have taken to the streets -- and why they will continue to do so.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Going To War -- Secretly

The Harper government doesn't like to release information -- on Afghan prisoners, on the cost of fighter jets, on budget cuts. It has now applied the same strategy to Canada's involvement in Mali. Tom Walkom reports:

But then everything about Canada’s role in Mali is treated by Ottawa as a state secret. Canadians learned of the initial C-17 deployment only after Mali’s president tweeted the information on the internet.

When that initial, one-week deployment was extended, we were first told not by our own government but by Mali’s ambassador to Canada.

The pattern continues. On Tuesday, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino announced that Canada will give Mali $13 million. He said it was for humanitarian aid.

But he made the announcement from Ethiopia where, at a summit hosted by the African Union, other nations had just pledged $455 million to fund a military expedition against Malian rebels.

What are our special forces doing in Mali? Some reports say they are there to protect the C-17 crews. Others say they are guarding Canada’s virtually empty embassy.
 If the government follows past practice, it will never say. It claims that commando operations must be secret.

A democracy can only function when citizens know how their money is being spent. For the last six years the Harper government has insisted that the public doesn't have the right to that information. An election was fought on the issue.

But you know you are in a dictatorship when the government sends citizens off to war but won't tell you why.

A line has been crossed. The future is ominous.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Discretion, No Valor

There was a time when all parties welcomed a new party leader with a standing ovation. There was a time when all parties allowed that leader time to adjust to his or her new position. That time has passed. These days there are no honeymoons.

On the day after Kathleen Wynne was elected leader of the Liberal Party, Tim Hudak -- following the pattern set a decade ago by his Uncle Stephen -- launched attack ads against Wynne. Andrea Horwath  demanded a public inquiry into the cancelled gas plants.

Martin Regg Cohen points out that:

The auditor general will report on the government’s waste of public funds in March. And MPPs now have more than 50,000 documents to wade through in a legislative committee, which is part of their job description.

And Tim Hudak can't wait to make another strategic blunder:

Hudak faces a different challenge. As a perceived progressive, Wynne opens up space on the centre-right that his Progressive Conservatives would dearly love to reclaim. Trouble is, he has been tacking hard right for a year, issuing provocative “white papers” proposing to privatize electricity generation and unravel union rights. Many centrist voters who might have been up for grabs may be scared off.

Shakespeare's Falstaff proclaimed that discretion is the better part of valor. One wonders if the leaders of the opposition have read Shakespeare.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Market Society

Michael Den Tandt writes in this morning's National Post that Stephen Harper's Conservatives:

view every file, including those traditionally related to social justice, through an economic prism – the thinking being that the surest remedy to poverty and related social problems is a job.

Harper believes that the way to cool aboriginal discontent is to give native people a piece of his economic action plan. Economics is at the heart of everything. Harper is, in Michael Sandel's words, committed transforming Canada's market economy into a market society.

Sandel --  a moral philiosopher from Harvard -- claims that the entire world has been moving in that direction:

We live in a time when almost everything can be bought and sold. Over the past three decades, markets—and market values—have come to govern our lives as never before. We did not arrive at this condition through any deliberate choice. It is almost as if it came upon us.

As the Cold War ended, markets and market thinking enjoyed unrivaled prestige, and understandably so. No other mechanism for organizing the production and distribution of goods had proved as successful at generating affluence and prosperity. And yet even as growing numbers of countries around the world embraced market mechanisms in the operation of their economies, something else was happening. Market values were coming to play a greater and greater role in social life. Economics was becoming an imperial domain. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone. It increasingly governs the whole of life. 

People have come to believe that everything can be priced -- which means that everything can be bought and sold. The problem is that, when everything is up for sale, products are devalued. And when you try to sell things like justice, respect, happiness or -- let's face it -- democracy, the results are horrendous:

Why worry that we are moving toward a society in which everything is up for sale?

For two reasons. One is about inequality, the other about corruption. First, consider inequality. In a society where everything is for sale, life is harder for those of modest means. The more money can buy, the more affluence—or the lack of it—matters. If the only advantage of affluence were the ability to afford yachts, sports cars, and fancy vacations, inequalities of income and wealth would matter less than they do today. But as money comes to buy more and more, the distribution of income and wealth looms larger.

The second reason we should hesitate to put everything up for sale is more difficult to describe. It is not about inequality and fairness but about the corrosive tendency of markets. Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them. That’s because markets don’t only allocate goods; they express and promote certain attitudes toward the goods being exchanged. Paying kids to read books might get them to read more, but might also teach them to regard reading as a chore rather than a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Hiring foreign mercenaries to fight our wars might spare the lives of our citizens, but might also corrupt the meaning of citizenship. 

That last point is crucial. A market society corrupts the meaning of citizenship. And that is precisely what Mr. Harper is doing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Whither Wynne?

Ontario's Liberals have a new leader. They cannot call her "Premier Dad." But, even though she can leave the epithet behind, she will not have an easy time. As Thomas Walkom writes in The Toronto Star:

Regardless of who leads it, this is a party — and a government — in deep, deep trouble.

The Liberals are at war with the province’s teachers. If Wynne sticks to the position she supported as a minister in Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet — a position that demands serious spending cuts in order to balance the province’s books — that war will be difficult to end.

More important, this is a government that, in crucial areas, has demonstrated terminal incompetence.

Wynne will have to carry a lot of baggage; and she has a lot of fences to mend. History proves that she faces a Hurculean task:

In Ontario, managerial competence matters. Once a government is deemed incapable of running the store, it is doomed — no matter how charming the leader. Former New Democratic Premier Bob Rae could testify to that

Indeed, governments anywhere can reach a point of no return.

Kim Campbell found that out when she took over the federal Conservatives from Brian Mulroney in 1993.

Rita Johnston suffered the same fate in 1991 after being elected to succeed disgraced British Columbia premier Bill Vander Zalm as head of the governing Social Credit Party.

John Turner took over the federal Liberals from Pierre Trudeau in 1984 — only to go down to defeat in the general election a few months later.

After 15 years of Trudeau, the voters were simply sick of Liberals.

In 2002, Ernie Eves inherited the leadership of the Ontario Conservatives from Mike Harris. Then he went on to lose the next election, a casualty, in part, of his predecessor’s take-no-prisoners approach to government.

Bookmakers would give Wynne long odds. Only time will tell if she can win -- starting, as she does, from the back of the pack.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Toronto Has Been Forded

Christie Blatchford is ecstatic that Rob Ford won his appeal and will remain in the mayor's chair. She has nothing but contempt for Clayton Ruby, who took on the case against Ford pro bono. She has been inspired by:

The sight of lawyer Clay Ruby turning his back on a television camera, a feat that previously would have been considered a physical impossibility for the un-shy and, let me be frank, unctuous defender of correct thinking and all proper causes.

For Blatchford, the case against Ford was always an improper cause. It was always a tempest in a teapot, which boiled down to a little more than $3000. Ford's judgment was never an issue. His recognition that, in the end, all he had was one vote -- and getting anything done required the kind of people skills that Ford clearly does not possess -- was never a problem.

And, when Ford trumpeted yesterday that he intended to be around for another six years, Blatchford was close to nirvana:

Humility, however, is not the strong suit of this scrappy mayor, as was evident in his modest proclamation that his administration was doing “a great job."

Despite describing the entire legal/court experience as “very, very humbling,” he wasn’t the slightest bit.

Ford is a successful politician. But he is not a gifted one. And, for Christie Blatchford, success is all that matters. Toronto has been forded.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Leading The Lemmings

It's disappointing to listen to the federal Liberals these days. With the exception of Joyce Murray and Martin Cauchon, they're all saying the same thing. Their chorus confirms that they have learned nothing over the last decade. They insist on being Harper-lite.

Michael Ignatieff tried that and it didn't work out well. Stephane Dion had a radical program. But he was a poor salesman -- particularly in English Canada. Their candidates this time around are more fluent in both languages. But their policies are thread bare. Paul Adams wrote earlier this week:

Forget the market crisis of 2008 that plunged the world into economic turmoil. Forget the inequality and insecurity that is gutting the middle classes. Forget the fact that climate change, building slowly but inexorably, is on a completely different time scale from that of the executive pay and bonuses which are the embodiment of short-term economic thinking.

Essentially, the Liberals have ignored the lessons of the Great Recession -- and they have turned a blind eye to climate change. Worse still, they refuse to acknowledge that the two crises are joined at the hip. Solutions to both crises will require an active and committed federal government, which goes beyond what Adams calls "rights liberalism" -- abortion rights, perhaps the right to smoke marijuana. Unfortunately,

What this economically-conservative/socially-liberal formula jettisons is the legacy of the Liberal party from William Lyon Mackenzie King through Paul Martin of providing security to ordinary Canadians using the power of the state: pensions, medicare and unemployment insurance.

That  vision was last expressed in the Kelowna Accord, which the Harperites trashed. Those who wonder why Theresa Spence was camped out on Victoria Island should read their history -- their recent history. Unfortunately, most of the party's candidates haven't done that.

They are in a race to lead the lemmings.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Blue Eyed Sheiks

For Stephen Harper, Canada's future is about oil. Everything he has done in his last two omnibus budget bills has been about transforming Canada into an energy superpower. If you want a  glimpse into what that future looks like, read a report titled The Petro Path Not Taken, which Bruce Campbell wrote for The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Never mind the future,  Frances Russell writes. The present is pretty grim:

Seventy-six per cent of the total North American GDP benefit from the tar sands occurs in Alberta, 20 per cent in the U.S. — and only four per cent in the rest of Canada.

Projected future tar sands GDP benefits to the U.S. are five times greater than to the rest of Canada outside Alberta. The U.S. enjoys employment benefits from our tar sands development — wages and salaries — that amount to four times the benefits going to the rest of Canada.

Three states — California, Texas and Wisconsin — see a greater employment benefit from Alberta’s tar sands than the combined benefit to all provinces excluding Alberta.

The oil and gas sector’s effective tax rate is just seven per cent.

It's true that Harper gave Toyota's Cambridge plant $34 million yesterday to build hybrid cars. However,

Subsidies to the oil industry by both levels of government totalled $2.8 billion in 2008. Alberta received $2.1 billion, or 73 per cent, of those subsidies. Half of that subsidy money came from Ottawa.

And note that this corporate welfare comes as the government makes it harder for Canadians to receive employment insurance. It's not that the government doesn't distribute benefits. It's about who receives those benefits. The end result, writes Russell, is that Harper's Canada is about two new solitudes -- the few who are rich -- the blue eyed sheiks  -- and the multitudes who are poor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Anything To Win

Under Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister's Office was given a new prime directive: character assassination. So, the office produced animations of puffins pooping on Stephane Dion's shoulder; it trumpeted the message that Michael Ignatieff entered politics for personal gain, not public service; it accused Theresa Spence of defrauding the Canadian public. The attacks were always pre-emptive. They were launched long before election campaigns. For the Conservatives, the best defense is a strong offense.

But the targets have always been political opponents. Now, Michael Harris writes, they've chosen to target the press. Their most recent target is Stephen Mahar, who has been on top of Election Canada's investigation into robocalls and other electoral shenanigans. Recently, Mahar has been investigating the charge that Dean Del Maestro broke spending limits in his election campaign:

Maher reported that officials at Elections Canada have asked the RCMP to assist in their investigation of Del Mastro. Del Mastro, formerly the PM’s attack-trained defender on matters touching the robocalls scandal, couldn’t even explain if it was the PMO or his own office that wrote the statement sent to the Peterborough Examiner. In the end, he adopted both positions.

The ‘talking points’ which formed the basis for the official letter included the statement that Stephen Maher was a “controversial reporter.” The basis for that comment was a clarification Maher’s newspaper had run on a previous story he had written about donors in the Conservative riding association of Laurier-Sainte-Marie.

The lack of clarity in Maher’s original story was based on the fact that the Conservative party originally had refused to provide the cheques to prove that certain donations had in fact been made. When they changed their minds about furnishing the cheques, Postmedia issued the clarification.

The aim of the execise is to discredit Maher, whose revelations have been damaging.  Harris writes:

The measure for the kind of work that Maher, [Glen]McGregor, Tim Naumetz and Greg Weston do is not the metric of public relations. The question is not whether their stories are good or bad for the government.

The question is whether the stories are true. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean that the reporters hate the government — just that they’re wrong. If they’re right, they form part of the composite of facts that makes up public reality. The RCMP are now involved in the investigation and the public is entitled to know that. Thanks to Stephen Maher, it does.

It's another example of the Harper policy of shooting the messenger. We've seen it before:

Former nuclear safety watchdog Linda Keen took the advice of her professional staff not to re-start the Chalk River nuclear reactor, and the PM traduced her publicly as a Liberal appointee, suggesting a political motivation for her position rather than a professional one.

When diplomat Richard Colvin raised serious questions about who in official Ottawa knew what about the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan by Canadian Forces, the minister of defence savagely attacked him personally. To this day, the government has never dealt with the substance of his testimony and

And, as I wrote in yesterday's post, Kevin Page has also been a prime target. Like Lance Armstrong, these folks will do anything to win.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Last Honourable Man

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page will soon be out of a job. His term will end in March -- and he will not be reappointed. The job he holds was a Conservative idea. But Stephen Harper and Company will be glad to see him go. The reason is simple. Every time he does his job, he highlights the fact that Harper and Company are engaged in system-wide fraud:

The impact of the new PBO was evident after Page's first major report estimating the cost to Canada's purse of the decision to commit troops to Afghanistan — an operation Ottawa refused to price.

He went on to disagree with his former colleagues in Finance about deficit projections, costs for the Conservatives law-and-order agenda and challenged the Defence Department's low-ball estimates for the F-35 fighter jet purchase. The government's characterization of Old Age Security as "unsustainable" was dismissed by Page.

The Harperites, of course, were furious:

"I'd have to say with great respect, I believe that from time to time and on occasion the parliamentary budget officer has overstepped [his] mandate," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said last summer. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been more direct, scoffing at his reports, accusing him of being partisan, and on one occasion, dismissing him as "unbelievable, unreliable and incredible."

It's embarrassing when someone repeatedly points out the the emperor has no clothes. But no one should be surprised. The prime minister -- a comfortable kid from Etobicoke -- keeps proclaiming that he is a cowboy from Calgary.

And so, when one of the last honourable men on Parliament Hill hands in the keys to the office in a little more than two months, all the right honourable ladies and gentlemen on the Conservative benches will cheer -- and give him a raspberry as he leaves.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Arab Dominoes?

When the French were defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, they asked President Dwight Eisenhower to help them re-establish their hold in Vietnam. Eisenhower -- who was  a dark realist when it came to sizing up battles  -- refused their invitation.

But his successor, John Kennedy -- humiliated by Nikita Khrushchev early in his administration -- decided to draw a line in Southeast Asia. Some historians claim that he quickly saw the folly of his decision and that he planned to remove American troops from the rice paddies by the end of his first term. Unfortunately,  Kennedy was assassinated; and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, bought the line that Vietnam was a domino. Once it fell, the other countries in the region would fall.

Thomas Walkom writes that Western governments seem to be buying the same theory today. This time the battlefields are the sands of the Middle East. The invasion of Afghanistan spawned rebellion in Pakistan. The invasion of Iraq emboldened Iran to seek protection in its nuclear program. The international intervention in Libya led to an insurrection in Mali -- which, last week, led to the hostage taking and consequent carnage in Algeria.

All of the military muscle flexing, however, has left the United States and Canada weary:

For practical politicians, all of this is a nightmare. After Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public is loath to involve itself in another war. As a result, Washington speaks softly and carefully.

Canadians too have been made weary by the Afghan experience. Prime Minister Stephen Harper knows that. That’s why his office has been so reluctant to admit that Canada’s very, very limited commitment to the war in Mali is gradually expanding.

Both the U.S. and Canada have sent logistical support in the form of air cargo planes to ferry French troops and equipment into what used to be French West Africa. President Eisenhower knew how easy it was to get into a war. It would appear that we're getting into another one.

Unfortunately, our leaders -- particularly Mr. Harper -- do not possess Eisenhower's experience or wisdom.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Giving Credit

Over the last four years, Paul Krugman has been a harsh critic of the Obama administration -- not because it has failed to cut the deficit -- but because it has not made job creation its prime objective. However, as Obama starts his second term, Krugman praises the president for his accomplishments:

He hasn’t delivered everything his supporters wanted, and at times the survival of his achievements seemed very much in doubt. But if progressives look at where we are as the second term begins, they’ll find grounds for a lot of (qualified) satisfaction.

Krugman writes that Obama has succeeded in three key areas:

Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman; they’ve finally succeeded.

True, this wasn’t the health reform many were looking for. Rather than simply providing health insurance to everyone by extending Medicare to cover the whole population, we’ve constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through.

On the issue of inequality,  the results have been disappointing. But Obama has made some progress:

That said, health reform will provide substantial aid to the bottom half of the income distribution, paid for largely through new taxes targeted on the top 1 percent, and the “fiscal cliff” deal further raises taxes on the affluent. Over all, 1-percenters will see their after-tax income fall around 6 percent; for the top tenth of a percent, the hit rises to around 9 percent. This will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution that has taken place since 1980, but it’s not trivial. 

And, finally, there is the question of financial reform:

The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it’s certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.

Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn’t as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favored Mr. Obama in 2008 — but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost). 

The jury is still out on Mr. Obama. But he has another four years to leave a legacy. In the end, as Martin Luther King suggested, he will not be judged by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pulverizing Spence

Like, Pavlov's dogs, the corporate media have bought the government's line that native Canadians are lazy parasites. Michael Harris writes:

Reading the media this week has been like having a picnic on the killing floor of an abattoir. By my count, Chief Spence has been fat-shamed, bitch-slapped, traduced and ridiculed. She has been demonized in a way that other minorities never would be and no one ever should be. Not in this country, nor anyplace else.

The National Post twisted the facts to fit the prime minister's narrative:

The lead of the piece says that Canadians don’t want more money sent to reserves without proper audits and financial accountability. It goes on to state that only 33 per cent of Canadians think the money is being well-managed by native leaders.

Buried toward the end of the Postmedia story is a fact that arguably should have been the lead: Only 27 per cent of Canadians think the Harper government is being fair and reasonable on First Nations issues. Which means 73 per cent think otherwise.

And here is another number toward the bottom of the story — 63 per cent of Canadians think Ottawa should act to raise the quality of life for aboriginals. Quite a different impression than the one created by the lead — that Canadians are sick of forking over their hard-earned moolah to casino-struck SUV owners posing as Indian chiefs.

Nowhere in the major papers will your read the following numbers:

In the case of Attawapiskat, DeBeers is developing a diamond mine with an expected GDP impact of just under $7 billion. For that, the company gives the band $2 million a year.

As for the Harper government, since it has come to power, it has transferred $90 million to Attawpiskat while Ontario gets the diamond revenue. Here’s what else the natives get: hard hats for some temporary jobs and a giant crater in their traditional lands after the company has taken the stuff that sparkles and blown town.

The rich and the powerful are lining up to pulverize Spence.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Near The Bottom

The Conference Board of Canada -- not a left leaning think tank -- has released a report on Canada's environmental health. The news is not good:

The study ranks Canada 15th out of 17 developed nations on environmental performance, ahead of only The United States and last place Australia.

The bottom three are also the largest nations surveyed in terms of land mass and all depend on natural resources for a large part of their economic output.

And the Harper government's push to make Canada an "energy superpower" is doing nothing to improve our environmental well being:

On per capita greenhouse gas emissions, Canada ranks 15th. The study notes that despite pledges to reduce emissions, Canada has not seen much improvement on a per capita basis. The report lays the blame at the door of Canada's exports of oil and natural gas.

On energy intensity, a measure of the ratio between the amount of energy used and gross domestic produce, Canada ranks dead last. That said, Canada's large size and cold climate make it difficult to keep the intensity of energy use down. Even so, Canada has reduced the energy intensity 39 per cent since 1971. Over the same period, the U.S. managed a reduction of 54 per cent. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that:

Canada produces more garbage per person than any other nation in the study and the vast majority of it ends up in landfills or incinerators. Canada produces more than twice as much garbage per capita than Japan, the best country in the category.

Stephen Harper's ambition is to make Canada a world leader. He has achieved his goal. When it comes to garbage, we lead the world. Otherwise, in almost every other category, we're near the bottom.

This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Angry Spring

The Idle No More protests across the country yesterday were the opening salvo in what is shaping up to be an angry spring. Rest assured that there will be calls to re-establish law and order. But -- before you join the crowd of righteous law-abiding citizens -- ask yourself, "Are there times when the law is an ass?"

In 1960, a student at one of North Carolina's all black universities, led a sit-in at the lunch counter of a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina. The lunch counter was for white customers only. The student's name was Jesse Jackson.  Jackson clearly broke the law. But today Barack Obama and his family reside in the White House. The ten years between 1965 and 1975 were tumultuous. They saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. But without them, Barack Obama might be just another ghetto kid.

Zack Paikin, writing about the defiance of Bill 115 by Ontario teachers writes:

We strive for a society in which law represents the codification of a common morality. However, we must admit that “legitimate” and “legal” still don’t mean the same thing. Moreover, the law in theory is quite different from the law applied.

It's an important point. And it needs to be remembered as Canada's native peoples voice their frustration with the Harper government. Remember. There was no one at the table to speak for their interests during the debate over the government's latest Omnibus Budget Bill. The Harperites simply declared that there was going to be no debate. Paikin writes:

Laws are important, but so are values. It isn’t just the law that protects the individual from the wrath of the state. Values passed down from generation to generation place limits on what people feel permitted to do — and on what their governments can do to them.

Stephen Harper likes to claim that Conservative values are Canadian values. According to the last election results, only 39% of Canadians agree with him. If you include those who didn't vote, that number drops to 25%.

Perhaps Conservative law is an ass. What does that say about the prime minister?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Fifteen Year Reign?

Yesterday, Lawrence Martin floated a depressing thought: We may have to live with Stephen Harper for a long, long time:

With still plenty of time in his current term, Mr. Harper will join the group of long-time tenants and it’s even possible he will one day make the 15-year club. Opposition party members will quietly tell you that without amalgamation or a co-operation deal of some kind among progressive parties, the chances of unseating the Conservatives are small. Reducing them to a minority is well possible, they feel, but not throwing them out.

Harper, most certainly, has been blessed with good luck. But his long term prospects have thus far been guaranteed by a bitterly divided opposition. And, at the six year mark, that opposition is still bitterly divided -- even if their combined number of seats is better than the Conservatives:

Currently, the country’s political dynamic sets up splendidly for him. He can, strange as it seems, do poorly and still win. In the past year or more, he has dropped five or six points in the polls. The opposition parties, by contrast, have all had good years. The New Democrats elected a strong leader in Thomas Mulcair and maintained the new-found strength they gained in the 2011 election. Bob Rae kept the Liberals afloat and Justin Trudeau has set their hopes ablaze. The Bloc Québécois got back on its feet in 2011. The Greens showed they aren’t going away.

As long as Stephen Harper can keep the opposition parties quarreling among themselves, he wins. He used that tactic last week in dealing with the First Nations. He used it during the last three elections. The lesson should be pretty clear. Unless -- and until -- the opposition can put country ahead of party, Stephen Harper will remain in the catbird's seat.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Shawn Atleo stepped down as head of the Assembly of First Nations yesterday, a victim of the norovirus which has been ravaging North America's population. His absence, we were told, will be "brief." But, if he read Michael Harris' column yesterday, Atleo might consider extending his leave. Harris wrote that he co-operated in a classic Harper strategy -- divide and conquer:

First, he destroyed the official unity of his organization. That is a big gift to the PM, a master of the Rovian game of divide-and-conquer politics. Thanks to Atleo, it will be much easier for Harper to pull the wings off the troublesome new pest that took over Ottawa last week: authentic native pride.

Second, it is just a matter of time before Atleo is ostracized by his own community for abandoning the wishes of his chiefs, and the Idle No More movement that has inspired them. Never again will Atleo be trusted with a mandate to negotiate anything, the possible exception being his severance package as national chief.

Finally, Atleo legitimized the federal government’s treatment of Chief Theresa Spence. He did that by breaking with the chiefs who supported her and agreeing to a meeting without Spence, key chiefs, and the Governor-General. And he made this accommodation after the government smeared Chief Spence with a strategic audit leak on Attawapiskat the day before the “big” meeting. The Harper government, with Atleo in tow, had its Marie-Antoinette moment on Friday: “Let them eat fish broth.”

It was not a ringing endorsement of Atleo's leadership. After all, Atleo came away from the meeting with nothing -- except a promise to hold more meetings. But there is a rising native generation who are very unhappy:

They’ve had it with the runaround on their constitutional rights. They know that Bill C-45 is an existential issue for their community, a power grab by the Harper government, and they will not easily be led by a man who wouldn’t go to the wall to fight that.

So Theresa Spence continues her hunger strike. And Stephen Harper has dodged a bullet -- for now:

There is only one short-term winner in this mess: the prime minister. If throwing the apple of discord were an Olympic event, Stephen Harper would be a lock for gold. He has divided the opposition — again.

We're headed for an Aboriginal Spring, which could get very uncomfortable. And Mr. Atleo has been snookered.

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Crunch Time

The Idle No More movement is about to declare war on Stephen Harper's vision of Canada, The Petro Power. According to this morning's Globe and Mail:

Allan Adam The chief of Alberta’s Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said in an interview that local resentment will fuel a movement to block the main artery linking Fort McMurray to the south. “The protest will last through the summer and the blockade of Highway 63 is going to happen if things don’t change,” Mr. Adam said. “If he’s going to stonewall the first nations people, we can stonewall the highways too.”

Mr. Adam, 46, said many in the oil-sands region are tired of what he calls the Harper government’s unending push to weaken the country’s environmental laws. The prominent first nations leader has long raised concerns about how bitumen projects affect health in the Athabasca River region – his band has claimed higher cancer rates among its members, and more catches of deformed fish. “We’ve been Idling No More since 2007,” he said on Sunday.

The movement was fuelled by Bill C-45 -- the government's recently passed Omnibus Budget Bill -- which negated most of Canada's environmental legislation, particularly the Navigable Waters Act. It was a clear violation of the Indian Act and was the spark which lit the fuse.

The coming battle is between two visions of Canada -- the" petro power" and what John Ralston Saul has called  the "Metis Nation." Back in 2006, Harper told an American think tank, "you won't recognize Canada when I get through with it."

Canada's native peoples are dedicated to the Metis vision of Canada. The courts are with them. Now the question is, "Are Canadians with them?"

It's crunch time.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Same Story With A New Twist

In his book, Hegemony Or Survival, Noam Chomsky argued that George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq was merely the next step in an imperial grand strategy which was drawn up in Washington at the end of World War II:

The imperial grand strategy asserts the right of the United States to undertake "preventative war" at will: Preventative not preemptive. Preemptive war might fall within the framework of international law.

Ross Douhat, in this morning's New York Times, argues that President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and John Brennan as Director of the C.I.A. is in keeping with the original plan -- with a new twist:

Like the once-hawkish Hagel, Obama has largely rejected Bush’s strategic vision of America as the agent of a sweeping transformation of the Middle East, and retreated from the military commitments that this revolutionary vision required. And with this retreat has come a willingness to make substantial cuts in the Pentagon’s budget — cuts that Hagel will be expected to oversee.

But the Brennan nomination crystallizes the ways in which Obama has also cemented and expanded the Bush approach to counterterrorism. Yes, waterboarding is no longer with us, but in its place we have a far-flung drone campaign — overseen and defended by Brennan — that deals death, even to American citizens, on the say-so of the president and a secret administration “nominations” process. 

Obama is not one for leaving big footprints in foreign countries. But his emphasis on drone warfare signals his acceptance of the idea of preventative war, to be waged on America's terms. It's the same story with a new twist.

Obama is many things. But he certainly is no dove.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Harper's Word

A new day is dawning, the media conglomerates tell us this morning. We are told how, during yesterday's meeting with some -- but not all -- of the chiefs, the prime minister vowed to focus on aboriginal issues. Andrew Coyne tells us that Shawn Atleo has been "courageous to meet with Harper as his constituency revolts." And yet -- after attending last night's meeting with the Governor-General -- Theresa Spence has decided to continue her hunger strike. Somebody's missing something.

As Michael Harris wrote last week:

Surely the press, steeped in the tradition of standing up against injustice and tyranny, wouldn’t allow the state to turn its big guns on a single, middle-aged aboriginal woman from a Third World reserve right here in Canada, said to have a Grade Seven or Grade Eight education?

Sadly, crusading has never been the rage in newsrooms. It is less so now, thanks to a corporate death grip on vast swaths of this profession. As Lewis Lapham put it, “The big media identify themselves with wealth and privilege and the wisdom in office. They preserve the myths that society deems precious … By telling their audience what they assume they already know, the news media reflect what the society wants to believe about itself.”

When the PMO leaked the Attawapiskat audit, our big papers were all over the story -- even though, as Harris points out, most of the "malfeasance" occurred before Spence was elected chief. Moreover, the auditor reported, things had improved over Spence's tenure.

No, aboriginals are simply incompetent, lazy goldbricks: "When Indians weren’t sniffing glue, getting stoned or sobering up in the drunk tank, they were taking the public for a ride."  Just who is taking the public for a ride?

But if a lack of paperwork is a crime, then what can be said of the government’s fifty-million dollar downpayment on Tony Clement’s re-election in Muskoka?

Didn’t the government itself say that it didn’t have time to pass legislation to authorize significant parts of the G8/20 spending? And where was the due diligence in selecting a new fighter jet that will cost $30 billion more to acquire and operate than the Harper government admitted? And was it really worth $45,000 of public money to send the PM to a Yankees game? Just missing paperwork, nothing more.

Why is Spence still starving herself? Well, there was a passing reference to the fact that the government made no commitment to re-examine its gutting of environmental legislation, which sparked the Idle No More movement in the first place. The media movers and shakers still have not learned the lesson which Jack Layton said he learned early in his dealings with Mr. Harper: You can't take him at his word.

Theresa Spence knows what Jack Layton was talking about.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Tide's Going Out

Carol Goar writes that Stephen Harper's reputation as a brilliant economic manager has more to do with luck than expertise. That luck showed up in the person of Mark Carney:

As Harper and Flaherty implemented their hit-and-miss fiscal plan, Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, moved sure-footedly, slashing interest rates more aggressively than any other central banker in the world. After watching with a mixture of awe and doubt, his counterparts in Washington, London and the European Union eventually followed his lead.

It was Carney’s swift action more than anything else that blunted the impact of the recession. Low borrowing costs kept consumers spending and triggered a surprisingly robust and long-lasting real estate boom. That, combined with China’s growing appetite for oil, the prudence of Canada’s chartered banks and the surplus Harper inherited all allowed the prime minister to claim credit for developments over which he had little control.

Carney will soon be gone; and the economic winds are not blowing in Stephen Harper's direction:

But heading into 2013, Canada’s two pillars of economic strength — residential construction housing and oil and gas exports — look wobbly. Condo prices are falling, the U.S. is becoming self-sufficient in natural gas and the Chinese economy is slowing, reducing its demand for oil.

In addition, the structural problems that existed before the recession — low productivity, high personal debt, overdependence on the U.S. market — still hamper the nation’s prospects now. Forecasters expect the U.S. to outperform Canada in the coming year.

Don't expect any humility from Mr. Harper. Don't expect him to give Carney credit for Canada's (relatively) good fortune. But, as Shakespeare wrote, "There is a tide in the affairs of men."  And, in Mr. Harper's case, it's going out.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stepping In It

Julian Fantino has never had a reputation for winning friends and influencing people. He not only has shocked and offended Haitians. He's also made enemies in the United States. The Globe and Mail reports that the State Department is not impressed:

One of the U.S. State Department’s top Haiti officials said it sees Canada as a valued partner in the country and doesn’t want it to change any of its programs.

“Haiti is not going to become a middle-income country overnight,” Eileen Wickstrom Smith, a senior official in the U.S. State Department’s Haiti office, said Wednesday.

“We continue our strong partnership with the government of Haiti and the people of Haiti, and we would like to see the Canadian government continue its programs. We think they’ve been an important contributor, and we would like them to stay that way.”

And, while the Harper government has been displaying its inept diplomacy at the UN for some time, Fantino has blackened Canada's reputation further:

A senior Haiti official from the United Nations Development Program said there’s more going on in Haiti than Mr. Fantino may have seen on his recent first trip to the country.

“We are saddened actually that Canada, they are reviewing their support,” said Jessica Faieta, a deputy director for the UNDP’s Latin American bureau.

“I think for anyone who comes to Haiti for the first time, you normally are actually shocked by the level of challenges that the country has. But we also need to look deep into the context of where the country is coming from.”

Any competent government minister would know that, when you visit a place for the first time, you listen and keep your mouth shut.

But who said that Fantino was a competent minister?  He knows nothing about diplomacy. One suspects that, were he crossing a cow pasture, he couldn't help but step in its leftovers.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Angry Canadians

Gloria Galloway reports in the Globe and Mail that hope is fading  for those who believed Friday's meeting between native leaders and Stephen Harper would put an end to the Idle No More protests:

Idle No More organizers will hold their own Friday meeting for chiefs that were not invited to the talks on that day with Mr. Harper.

And Governor-General David Johnston announced on Tuesday that he would not be at Mr. Harper’s working meeting with key Assembly of First Nations leaders. As a result, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who called for the meeting in first place, said she might not go either.

Although some chiefs say the leaders of the country’s more than 630 first nations are united in their determination to exert their treaty rights, it is clear that there are divides about how that should be achieved.

There is division among native communities. But that is not surprisisng. People on the ground feel that their official representatives are no longer trustworthy  They are taking matters into their own hands -- and they have good reason to do so. As Jeff Denis wrote just before Christmas:

Since 2008, the Harper government has cut aboriginal health funding, gutted environmental review processes, ignored the more than 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada, withheld residential school documents from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, abandoned land claim negotiations, and tried to defend its underfunding of First Nations schools and child welfare agencies.

When some dared call attention to poverty, “corrupt” chiefs were blamed. Although the minister of Aboriginal Affairs, John Duncan, claims to have visited 50 First Nations communities and conducted 5,000 consultations, he and his staff clearly have not gained the First Nations’ consent on the seven currently tabled bills that Idle No More activists oppose.

Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples are the fastest growing population in Canada. They are young, ambitious and well aware of historical and contemporary injustices. Like others abroad, they are revitalizing their languages and cultures, rebuilding their nations, and supported in these initiatives by international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada reluctantly endorsed in 2010. 

Things are not over. They've only just begun. Stephen Harper's take no prisoners style of government has come back to bite him. He is about to become a hostage to events he cannot control.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Shifting The Focus

Deloitte-Touche did as requested, and the reaction was predictable. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:

The audit is out, the verdict is damning. As reported by CBC News, an independent assessment of six years of transactions on the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation reserve reveal “no evidence of due diligence.”
Auditors Deloitte and Touche concluded that out of 505 transactions, “an average of 81 per cent of files did not have adequate supporting documents and over 60 per cent had no documentation of the reason for payment.”

The argument is, "those who can't control their finances deserve no sympathy."  Let's recall that, when the crisis erupted at Attawapiskat last year, Stephen Harper's solution was to send in an accountant. Let's also recall that, eighteen months ago, the Harper government was found in contempt of Parliament for not revealing the cost of jet fighters and prisons. Now they refuse to let Kevin Page see the budget cuts they are making.

Worse still, the Harperites claim that  natives peoples' inability to account for their spending makes them the source of their misery. Rather than seeing the audit as a symptom, the government claims it is a cause. Ultimately, the Conservatives say, Canada's native peoples seek to hide and avoid the truth.

But, writes Michael Harris, we are approaching a moment of truth:

Does anyone really believe the PM has had a conversion on the road to Attawapiskat? How long will he contribute to the working session? Does anyone think Chief Spence’s call for action will be answered by anything other than the bureaucratic sludge in which these events are normally embalmed?

What Idle No More is asking for is changes in Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill which has gutted Canada's environmental legislation:

The Harper government has unilaterally changed the Indian Act. It has unilaterally changed environmental legislation that weakens protection of fresh water and endangered fish species. It has made it easier for major developments to take place with less study of the environmental impact and no equal say for aboriginals. And in 2012, the very year Stephen Harper pledged to renew the search for justice for all native peoples, his “little minister” — as Chief Spence described John Duncan — announced sweeping cuts for core aboriginal organizations across Canada.

No one in Canada knows better than its aboriginals that a moment of truth has arrived for both them and the land. For good or ill, an explosion of development quivers over the West and the Arctic. Huge fortunes will be made by a few, great change will be ushered in, and the environment will be altered forever. Either the aboriginals make their stand now, or they will be eternally bypassed. As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip put it, “We’re the last line of defence between the country’s resources and a federal government that wants to open it up and devastate it.”

This is, indeed, a last stand. We used to believe that the land will endure. But, if Stephen Harper gets his way, the land will be despoiled for profits -- and those profits will not be shared with the people of the land. To do that, Harper must shift the focus. That is what he and his acolytes are now trying to do.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Politicians As CEO's

When Brian Mulroney first ran for prime minister, his sales pitch was that he would run government like a business. Mike Harris liked to refer to himself as Ontario's CEO. George W. Bush's calling card was that he possessed a Harvard MBA. All three were successful politicians but lousy mangers.

Donald Savoie writes that the notion  that government should be run like a business is wrongheaded:

The notion that public administration could be made to look like private-sector management has been ill-conceived, misguided and costly to taxpayers. Management in the private sector has everything to do with the bottom line and market share. Administration in the public sector is a matter of opinion, debate and blame avoidance in a politically charged environment. It doesn’t much matter in the private sector if you get it wrong 40 per cent of the time so long as you turn a handsome profit and increase market share. It doesn’t much matter in the public sector if you get it right 99 per cent of the time if the 1 per cent you get wrong becomes a heated issue in Question Period and the media.

Most strikingly, the business model has not relied on evidence to produce policy. The second president Bush touted the fact that he relied on his gut to make decisions.  Even though public servants now produce "all manner of reports  . . . they remain unread unless one of them has information to embarrass the government."

The old notion of public service -- despite its shortcomings -- worked. Our politician CEO's have gone to war against government bureaucracy and produced more bureaucracy:

Traditional public administration values have been tossed out the window, including the commitment to a parsimonious culture. Public servants have lost their way, uncertain how they should assess management performance, how they should generate policy advice, and how they should speak truth to political power and even to their own institution. If anything, recent management reforms in government have made public servants feel worse about their institution than they need to.

The result is that the public service has been knocked off its traditional moorings. Simply saying that government managers should operate like their private-sector counterparts without changing how political and administrative institutions function remains a sure recipe for failure. It entails a steep rise in the overhead cost of government that can’t be attributed to programs and services to the public.

The idea that government can be run according to the principles of McKinsey and Company is a lie. Those who peddle that idea are selling snake oil.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Investor Is King

If you wondered why the Harper government has gutted Canada's environmental legislation, Frances Russell  provides the answer:

The North American Free Trade Agreement was the first of a New World Order of trade agreements designed, to borrow the words of the Trilateral Commission in 1975, to repeal “an excess of democracy in the western world.” It set a precedent never before dreamed of, let alone achieved, in international trade: the right of private investors to sue nations. And not just for millions, but billions, robbing national treasuries of the means to address the social and economic needs of their citizens and, in many cases, pushing them back into extreme poverty.

The Harperites mission is to make the world safe for investors. What that means in practice is that they seek out and sign "trade agreements" which entrench investor rights through a system of investor dispute mechanisms. And a remarkably small number of people have been laughing all the way to the bank:

NAFTA and its growing ranks of copycats like the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about nothing less than entrenching de facto government by transnational corporations. So far, the corporations are winning. In the process, they’re not just enriching themselves but also a global network of fabulously wealthy lawyers and accountants busy impoverishing governments and their citizens to achieve maximum profits for the multinationals they represent.

The rapacious success — and excess — of these latter-day robber barons can be traced through statistics. The number of investor-state lawsuits has soared from 38 cases in 1996 to 450 in 2011. The amount of money involved has soared, too.

A report titled Profiting From Injustice has documented the extent of the corporate coup:

"(I)t has become clear that the arbitration industry has a vested interest in perpetuating a regime that prioritizes the rights of investors at the expense of democratically elected national governments and sovereign states,” the report’s authors state. “They have built a multimillion-dollar self-serving industry, dominated by a narrow exclusive elite of law firms and lawyers whose interconnectedness and multiple financial interests raise serious doubts about their commitment to deliver fair and independent judgments.”

Investment arbitrators have an inbred bias favouring corporations over states, encourage lawsuits against governments in crisis, promote investment arbitration as a necessary condition for attracting foreign investment and encourage governments to sign investment treaties that use language maximizing possibilities for litigation.

The Harperites are the courtiers of this investor-lawyer elite. And, when they leave government, they will be rewarded -- many times over. Unfortunately, we the plebeians will be left with the bill.

This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Haiti In Fantino's Crosshairs

Julian Fantino -- who proclaimed before Christmas that Canada's foreign aid would be linked to Canadian corporate opportunities  -- announced this week that Canada was suspending aid to Haiti, that God-forsaken half of the island of Hispaniola:

“If I can put it to you bluntly, we will not be signing any more blank cheques,” Fantino said. “There will be expectations and accountability associated with future aid.”

The former head of the Ontario Provincial Police likes to be blunt. The problem is that, as he showed on the national defense file, he's clueless. If you want to know what's going on in Haiti, ask former Governor General -- and Haitian native -- Michaelle Jean, now the United Nations special envoy to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere:

Jean defended the slow pace of recovery in Haiti, noting that problems like corruption can be found everywhere, including in Canada. She also said that international donors could do a better job supporting the Haitian government’s own plans to build an economy fuelled by more than global charity.

Still trying to recover from the earthquake, Haiti was ravaged by a hurricane. The nation has endured the modern equivalent of the trials of Job. And before the earthquake and the hurricane, the island was despoiled as a French colony and by American companies paying starvation wages for the manufacture of plush animals which sold for premium prices elsewhere.

Thirty-five years ago, my wife and I visited a clinic, situated on the hills of Porte-au-Prince. It was surrounded by hovels, all of which lacked indoor plumbing. A toilet was a bucket. The contents were dumped on the path leading down to the street. While we were visiting, there was a sudden cloudburst. The refuse slopped down to the gutter, where a woman was bathing in a slough, formed in the aftermath of the storm.

And Mr. Fantino talks about accountability? He needs to take a Haitian bath.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Meaning Of Silence

As Theresa Spence's hunger strike continues, Stephen Harper remains silent. But his acolytes have had plenty to say. Christie Blatchford and John Ivison have brushed aside Spence's demand for a meeting with the prime minister.

Still, Stephen Harper has remained tight lipped -- except for one throw away line in his New Year's Message about how his government "continued to strengthen First Nation relationships in 2012."  Michael Harris writes:

In Robert Bolt’s great play A Man for all Seasons, the prosecutor asks the jury a question about Thomas More’s unspoken opinion of the king’s marriage: “What does it betoken, this silence?” Well, what does Stephen Harper’s silence betoken? At one level it is obviously a contest of wills, precisely the kind of brick-wall standoff the PM so enjoys. He likes his political opposition in powder form. But there is another, much darker aspect to a leader’s silence when powerful emotions are running through the land.

Harper is playing to all the negative stereotypes about native people:

Elsewhere, all of the ugly stereotypes have been on display: Indians as lazy, Indians “freeloading” (that quote belongs to former Manitoba Tory youth leader Braydon Mazurkiewich), drinking all day, fighting all night and living lives that are just one long flight from responsible living. As for their leaders, we’re told they steal from their own people, are profligate with public money and try to hide from public accountability.

It's classic Harper strategy -- create a straw man and burn it down. The problem this time is that Theresa Spence is no straw woman -- and Stephen Harper is no Thomas More.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Canadian Class Warfare


Michael Valpy -- whose new address seems to be the Toronto Star -- writes that Canadians are becoming markedly intolerant of one another -- and Stephen Harper is reaping the political benefits:

What we have are profound, systemic demographic divisions of age and education that aren’t going to go away for years, if ever — divisions which Harper, like Shakespeare’s Brutus, has recognized as a tide in the affairs of men that, taken at the flood, can lead to victory.

He’s deftly caught the baby-boom on the boomerang — the young and rebellious of the 1960s and ’70s who grew into the old and cantankerously conservative of today.

He’s made hay out of the discontent of the non-university-educated who have been persuaded that the country’s so-called elites have made a hash of things. 

As in the United States, Canadians have stopped listening to those with whom they disagree. The consequence of that deafness has led a large number of Canadians to conclude that the ballot box offers no solutions:

What has happened, first, is that the overwhelming majority of Canadians under age 45 have stopped voting — not out of apathy as far as anyone can tell, but because they simply don’t see their political agendas mirrored in the agendas of Parliament and the provincial and territorial legislatures. How democratic is a country where most citizens below the median age don’t vote? Canada has become a country governed by a gerontocratic minority.

And, like their Republican brethren, the Harperites have fueled the resentment of Canadians who did not attend university:

Second, in a society where the well-educated are seen as possessing an unequal hold on power and an unequal share of the country’s socio-economic fruits, Harper and his Conservatives have been successful at presenting themselves as the voice of Canadians who incongruously have the short end of the inequality stick that government policies have allowed to grow.

 It all adds up to a formula for class warfare -- a war which Stephen Harper plans to win.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Doing The Corporate Dance

The Liberal Party's traditional strategy of campaigning from the left and governing from the right led the late Rene Levesque to conclude that the party was "the biggest whorehouse in the world." Now, Paul Adams writes, the party seems to be campaigning from the right:

Martha Hall Findlay calls for an end to supply management.
Marc Garneau wants to open up telecommunications to foreign investment.

And most important — because he appears to be an almost prohibitive front-runner — Justin Trudeau has tried to outflank the Harper Conservatives in welcoming offshore money to the oilpatch. His website has many repetitions of his “pro-growth” mantra, but almost no mention of climate change. He has even gone to Calgary to trash his father’s National Energy Program.

The Liberals have always had close ties to Bay Street. But Adams correctly notes that, until recently, they effectively bridged the gulf between right and left:

The Liberals built their 20th century dynasty by bridging the divide between left and right. The party’s left-leaning social policies took the party where the votes were, but its right wing was also key. No other party in the world was as successful at the straddle — and there were many others that tried.

Now their strategy seems to be to sell themselves as "new and improved" versions of Stephen Harper. In fact, that was Michael Ignatieff's sales pitch -- and it landed the  party in third place. You'd think that performance would have caused some real soul searching among Liberals.That exercise has yet to take place.

And there is already one party that does the corporate dance better than they do.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Bad Year For The Environment

Canada's native peoples understand how toxic the Harper government is for the environment. So does the Toronto Star:

Bill C-38 included more than $160 million in cuts to environmental spending, significantly impairing our ability to measure or mitigate our impact on Canada’s wilderness and wildlife. Yet it was never put before the Commons environment committee, nor does the bill ever mention climate change. 

The Harperites know exactly what they are doing. That is why they do it secretly.

Apparently the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can’t find the $2 million per year required to run the facility, though it will have to scare up the $50 million needed to remediate the lakes in the area upon the centre’s closing. It’s a bewildering decision that calls into question whether the government’s motivations are, as it claims, fiscal, or whether the Conservatives are instead trying to silence a source of inconvenient data.

Meanwhile, we needn’t wonder about the motivations behind the government’s scrapping of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a federally funded environmental watchdog created by the Mulroney government in 1988. When asked in Parliament how the government justified its decision to cut funding for the organization, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird implied it was because the Conservatives objected to the Round Table’s repeated endorsements of a carbon tax.

The environment gets in the way of profits -- and profits are the be all and end all in Harperland -- even if they result in long term disaster. As the Star says, we need to debate the wisdom of government policy. But this government is not for turning. And it's certainly not for debating.

2012 was a bad year for the environment. One hopes that 2013 will be the year that Canadians turn against the Harper government.

This entry is cross posted at Eradicating Ecocide.