Saturday, May 31, 2014

Occupiers Not Reformers

Andrew Coyne is no fan of the CBC -- even though he appears regularly on the public broadcaster's At Issues panel:

As I’ve noted on other occasions, whatever once may have been true, the case for public broadcasting has collapsed, along with the rest of the broadcast regulatory apparatus. The spectrum scarcity and other technical limitations that in the past made broadcasting a textbook example of market failure have disappeared, as in time will much of what we now know as broadcasting. It serves no one’s interests — viewers, taxpayers, or the CBC itself — to carry on as before.

Nothing like the BBC for Mr. Coyne. But, this week, when Fred De Lorey accused the Mother Corp of "strong arming" his party, Coyne had had enough:

How did the CBC try to “strong-arm” the governing party? How did it seek to “dictate” what “Conservatives can say or do”? It wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. That is, its chairman, Tim Casgrain, did. Mr. DeLorey does not mention that Mr. Casgrain was a Conservative appointee (and Conservative donor).

Neither does he mention, when he says the letter “attacks all Conservatives” — it does no such thing — that it was written four years ago.

And the nature of this “attack”? Mr. Casgrain went so far as to complain that the campaign the Conservatives were then waging against the CBC, in “fund-raising letters” and “talking points distributed to Conservative MPs,” was “unfounded in fact” and “wilfully destructive of an asset of the Crown.”

Mr. DeLorey does not mention the subject of that campaign, which was not a generalized complaint of bias but a specific demand that the CBC fire a pollster, Ekos Research president Frank Graves, because of a single ill-advised remark in an interview — not on the CBC but in an interview with a newspaper columnist — in which he had suggested the Liberal party ought to launch a “culture war” on the Conservatives.

Mr. Graves, one of four pollsters in the CBC’s employ, had apologized for his remark. No evidence was produced of bias in his polling work — indeed, he was a sometime supplier of polls to the Conservative government. And yet the campaign had continued. So far as it seeks “to influence the content of programming or determine whose views will or will not be represented on its airwaves.” Mr. Casgrain wrote, the government “comes dangerously close to intruding on the independence of the broadcaster.”

The Paranoid Party is now in full bloom. They are certainly not conservatives:

They are not interested in changing government, but in occupying it. The Conservatives are the “Ottawa elites” they decry, only they hope to dupe their supporters, for whose intelligence they evidently have abiding contempt, by keeping an army of convenient whipping boys on hand. And why not? It’s worked so far.

Occupiers not Reformers. That is the lie at the heart of the "Harper government."

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Madness Of King Stephen

Tim Harper writes that the the parliamentary press gallery has always known that the prime minister has a hair trigger temper:

When Stephen Harper returned from political exile to lead the Canadian Alliance 12 years ago, a few of the more cynical members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery played a little game on the side.

We plotted how we could get a notoriously volatile Harper to “blow’’ at the mike on the opposition side of the House of Commons foyer.
Such was his reputation for a short fuse, a man who would not abide provocative or ill-informed questions from journalists, we thought we just had to wait.

Harper learned to control his temper in public. But in private it has always been a different matter. Tom Flanagan and Bruce Carson have recently revealed that behind closed doors Harper is known for his fits of rage:

Flanagan described Harper this way: “He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia, at other times falling into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions.’’

Now comes Bruce Carson, a former senior aide, who is making the media rounds while simultaneously promoting his new book, 14 Days, and awaiting a preliminary hearing into charges of influence-peddling. Carson is a convicted fraudster, but he did work alongside Harper as a senior adviser during their first minority government.

He also is talking about a man who was prone to temper tantrums, dressing down aides heatedly, swearing at them, but also getting as good as he gives.

Now, says Carson, the people who had the courage to stand up to Harper are all gone. There is no one to take him on; and he lives under the mistaken impression that he is a monarch. Like King George III, he doesn't understand why the colonials have revolted. And he is determined to teach them respect for the Crown.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

No Sunshine

You would expect that Ontario's Liberals would be defeated in this election. After all, Tom Walkom writes:

The Liberals have been in power for 11 long years. They’ve presided over a host of scandals, ranging from the ORNGE air ambulance fiasco to the gas plant affair. The economy is just limping along.
Usually, a government burdened with this kind of baggage would be guaranteed defeat.

But Kathleen Wynne's party seems to be tied with or ahead of the Hudak Tories. Perhaps voters have looked at Mr. Hudak's plan and come to the conclusion that he is math challenged. Perhaps New Democrats have looked at Andrea Horwath's platform and decided they don't want to go there. For whatever reasons, the Liberals are not in the dog house. And that is why Hudak and Horwath have trained their sights on Wynne and made it personal:

Both Hudak and Horwath know that if they are to succeed, they must do more than attack the Liberal platform. They must brutally and deliberately bring Wynne down.

Expect more negative attacks. There will be no sunshine for the next two weeks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Word From Carson

Bruce Carson has written a book about his years as a Harper operative. Now he is doing the interview circuit. Jason Fekete writes in The National Post that:

A former senior aide to Stephen Harper says the prime minister is prone to fits of anger, that his public dispute with the Supreme Court’s chief justice is ill-advised and that Harper is the kind of leader who would want to have known details of the $90,000 payment to Sen. Mike Duffy.

Bruce Carson, a former senior aide to Harper from 2004 to 2009, also said Tuesday in an interview with CBC News that the prime minister “has always been isolated” and is becoming increasingly so partly because he does not have a regular group of advisers across the country to whom he reaches out for advice.

Carson was particularly critical of the fight Harper has picked with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. He claims it was the result of bad advice:

“I think that’s particularly unfortunate. If I’d been here, if (former Harper chief of staff Ian) Brodie had been here, if others, even (another former chief of staff Guy) Giorno, others, no one would have advised him to take on the chief justice of Canada on anything, especially in a public way,” Carson said in an interview on CBC’s Power & Politics.

 “I just think it was just, I don’t know if bad judgment is the right word, but my goodness, it’s certainly not a fight a prime minister should be picking.”

Perhaps. But Harper is known for not accepting advice from any and all quarters. It's truly comforting to know that the country is in such good hands.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Politicizing The Court

Stephen Harper has worked very hard to politicize this country's institutions. The story of how he tried to politicize the Supreme Court is beginning to emerge. Geoff Stevens writes:

I am indebted to Sean Fine, the very good justice reporter at the Globe and Mail, for pulling aside the curtain that normally shields the judicial-selection process from public scrutiny. Working with sources independent of the Supreme Court -- no leaks there! -- Fine uncovered two crucial lists.

One was the long list, prepared by the Prime Minister's Office and the Justice Department, of six potential candidates for a Supreme Court vacancy from Quebec. Early last summer, that list went to a five-member selection panel of parliamentarians -- three Conservative MPs, one New Democrat and one Liberal. The panel did its due diligence, consulting with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, studying judgments written by the six jurists, and traveling to Montreal to seek the advice of leaders of the Quebec bench and bar.

This time, PMO/Justice, looking for someone who could be counted on to support their anti-crime agenda, were unable to find a reliable prospect among the judges of the Quebec bench or in the ranks of the province's senior lawyers. The most impressive candidate from the Court of Appeal was Justice Marie-France Bich, a former law professor, who was valued for her strong judgments and her streak of independent thinking. But was she sufficiently conservative?

The strategists at PMO/Justice could not ignore Judge Bich. They put her on their long list, but made possible for Harper not to appoint her by loading their long list with the names of no fewer than four members of the Ottawa-based, government-friendly Federal Court of Canada. This meant that when the selection panel cut the long list of six to their short list of three, there would have to be at least one candidate from the ranks of Federal Court.

It was this list that Chief Justice Janet McLachlin warned Peter MacKay about. She did not specifically lobby against Justice Marc Nadon. It was the four justices from the federal bench that concerned her:

What MacKay should have done was to halt the process, tell the PM that their devious court-packing scheme hadn't worked, and advise him either to appoint Marie-France Bich (the only eligible name left on the short list) or start the selection over again (thereby leaving the Supreme Court short-handed for another year or so).

MacKay could have done that -- not that his boss, Stephen Harper, would have been amused at being told it was beyond his power to make the Supremes sing right.

But that's not the story Mr. Harper is telling. Should anyone be surprised?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Don't Expect An Explanation

Michael Harris writes that Stephen Harper should answer an important question:

How did a lawyer twice convicted of fraud, who went to jail for 18 months for stealing from his own clients, who was charged with influence peddling in 2012, and is now facing three new counts of illegal lobbying and another of influence peddling – how did such a talented guy get to sit at the right hand of power in the Prime Minister’s Office?

After all, it's passing strange that the prime minister -- who vowed that he would be tough on crime -- hired Carson. Harris suggests that there are several possible explanations:

  • Did officials in the PCO who did the vetting simply blow it when it came to Carson’s multiple convictions – 1982 and 1990, plus his bankruptcy?
  • Did the RCMP just drop the ball on his security check?
  • Did Carson lie about his past crimes?
  • Or did Carson’s manager in the PMO override the security check, as is possible? And who was that manager, the chief of staff of the day, or the Stephen Harper himself?

Carson is only one of Harper's questionable hires. The prime minister has simply multiplied the corruption he said he would stamp out:

  • Nigel Wright — fired by the PM for doing a deal the PM says he would never have approved, the $90,000 cheque to Senator Mike Duffy;
  • Arthur Porter — his choice to be watch dog for CSIS, in jail in Pan-ama fighting extradition to Canada where he faces multiple fraud charges;
  • Dean del Mastro — his former parliamentary secretary, up on charges of election cheating, and pleading not guilty;
  • Saulie Zajdel — Harper’s “shadow MP” in Irwin Cotler’s Montreal seat, facing five counts of breach of trust, fraud and corruption;
  • Suspended Senator Mike Duffy — under investigation by the RCMP;
  • Suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau — facing multiple charges and currently in rehab;
  • Suspended Senator Pamela Wallin — under RCMP investigation;

An explanation would merely muddy the waters. Don't expect one.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

When Friends Become Enemies

The number of chairs around the table in Stephen Harper's Inner Sanctum hasn't changed. Same number of chairs, same number of people. But, according to Tom Flanagan, the quality of those people has changed:

In an interview, Flanagan, who admits the prime minister doesn't talk to him anymore, said, "He's lost so many people, it's kind of sad. We were good friends. When I would come to Ottawa I would stay at Stornoway."

In earlier years, Harper's staff often included lawyers, professors and business executives. Others had worked for previous prime ministers, and possessed an institutional memory of Parliament and a well-honed sense of what to learn from past political mistakes.

Flanagan listed a series of "very able people" who have passed through Harper's team. "Ken Boessenkool, Ian Brodie, Geoff Norquay, Bruce Carson — whatever his personal problems, are he's a very capable adviser —  Keith Beardsley, Guy Giorno,  Nigel Wright, David Emerson, Michael Fortier."

The people who now serve Harper are loyal but narrow:

Beardsley thinks Harper isn't attracting what Flanagan calls "top drawer" people because of rules in place since 2008 that prohibit lobbying for five years following a job as a designated public office holder.

"People aren't going to come up for one or two years. It's not worth it to them financially and career-wise."

Currently, Beardsley said, many of the PMO staff come out of the parliamentary intern program. "They're all young and basically of one mindset," he said.
That mindset, said Beardsley, is something former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff references about his time in politics.

“We’ve blurred opponent with enemy,” Ignatieff said, in a speech last year to a law school audience. “Belonging matters more than confidence, expertise or trustworthiness.”

In the Harperian universe anyone who holds a contrary opinion is the enemy. And, Stephen Harper believes that many people who used to work for him are now enemies.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Therein Lies The Tragedy

Traditional Dippers are bewildered and disillusioned by Andrea Horwath. Yesterday, in the Globe and Mail, Gerry Caplan published an open letter to the leader of Ontario's New Democrats:

Since your decision to defeat the Liberal budget, many of the party’s most loyal supporters have been bewildered, frustrated, and exasperated. Your decision to oppose what just about everyone agrees was the most progressive budget in two decades shocked many. Here was a win-win for the party: Many of those in need – the NDP’s people – would have directly benefited, and the NDP could have taken the credit. It would’ve been an entirely plausible claim, since it was true. The Liberals crafted it expecting your support. I expected it too, as did many others. Our disappointment was compounded when you could offer no sensible rationale for doing the opposite.

Caplan suspects that Horwath has gone corporate:

You offer mere tokens to those whose need is greatest while your real target seems to be business people large and small. Yes, they have their needs too, some of them legitimate. But they also have their parties who cater to those needs. If business want a sympathetic party to support – and they do – you can be sure they don’t need and won’t buy the NDP.

The NDP used to be about policy, not power. They never won a majority government, but they won medicare, pensions and the forty hour work week. Now they are helping Tim Hudak do away with all those things:

While wooing business, you’re busy slamming the Liberal government. In today’s circumstances, that’s just irresponsible. When all progressives are legitimately terrified by what a Hudak government would mean, your campaign attacks the Liberals. I hope your advisers – whoever they might be – haven’t persuaded you that this strategy will tempt progressive voters to support the NDP. Fire those advisers, Andrea.

That won't happen, of course. And, therein lies the tragedy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

They Eat Their Own

It couldn't happen to a nicer group of people. Tim Harper reports that the battle for the Conservative nomination in Oakville North-Burlington has become toxic:

Amidst a flurry of charges and countercharges involving membership fraud, intimidation and character assassination, the party took the extraordinary step of delaying a planned nomination showdown set for Saturday in the newly created but now suddenly infamous riding of Oakville North-Burlington.
The struggle for the party nod pits sitting MP Eve Adams, who wants to move over from her existing riding to this comfortable enclave, against Natalia Lishchyna, a chiropractor who thought the nomination would be hers until the Adams bulldozer headed west.

The irony is rich:

On the eve of a planned Saturday vote, the gang that brought you the oxymoronically named Fair Elections Act was accusing each other of vote suppression, overspending and harassing and illegal phone calls and had launched formal complaints with the party, Elections Canada and the CRTC.

Party spokesperson Cory Hann said Thursday the vote was on hold until complaints were reviewed because the party “believes in the integrity of our nomination process."

Integrity. Was that not the byword behind Stephen Harper's ascension? Of course, there's the whole back story of the Adams-Dimitri Soudas romance. No, this has nothing to do with integrity. It merely offers proof once again that, when the going gets tough, the Harper Party eats its own.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shilling For Oil

Big Oil has always been behind Stephen Harper's agenda. That was made clear once again this week when the RCMP revealed details into accusations against Bruce Carson, the disbarred lawyer who used to work in Harper's PMO. Linda McQuaig writes:

In these new RCMP allegations, however, Carson was working for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC), described in the media as a “non-profit group formed by business organizations in the energy sector.”

This rather benign description fails to convey what EPIC really is: a lobbying vehicle for dozens of extremely wealthy, powerful fossil fuel companies, including Enbridge, Imperial Oil, Shell, Suncor and Irving Oil, as well as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — all hell-bent on developing Alberta’s tar sands.

The important story here isn’t the alleged illegal lobbying behaviour of Carson (who is banned from lobbying for five years after serving in government). The real story is the reception he receives when, now representing Big Oil, he approaches the top man in the PMO, Nigel Wright, someone he doesn’t know personally, with a document laying out what Big Oil wants.
According to emails disclosed by the RCMP, Wright promises to read the document over the weekend, and urges Carson to “feel free to give me a call at any time."

And, when Carson reported back to Doug Black, the founding president of EPIC, Carson got this response:

“Excellent. Need Nigel on side,” responded Black (who is now a Conservative senator, of all things).

And you thought Stephen Harper was working for you?  McQuaig writes:

Even as climate disasters occur with growing frequency — including the worst flooding in Serbia in a century, killing 43 people this week — the Harper government relentlessly promotes Big Oil’s development plans, guts our environmental review processes and aggressively audits environmental groups, muzzles government scientists and undermines international UN-sponsored efforts to rein in climate change.

Mr. Harper is shilling for oil.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

They Don't Know What They're Talking About

Yesterday, Tasha Kheiriddin announced that she would not be voting for Tim Hudak:

I have been a life-long small-c conservative. I supported the Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris. I believe in balanced budgets, low taxes and value for money. I like the PCs’ plans for ending corporate welfare and encouraging job creation.

I am also the parent of a four-year-old child with special needs in Ontario. And that’s why I cannot vote for you, Tim Hudak.

For kindergarten, we were looking at private, and much more expensive, school options, in large part because the public classes in her district school have 30 kids. She can’t handle a class that size. She won’t be able to concentrate or get the assistance she needs to stay focused. And it’s not just her; a lot of neurotypical children her age do better in smaller groups, with less distraction and more attention.

Ms. Kheiriddin wasn't a parent during the Harris years. Perhaps that's why she doesn't remember what Mr. Harris did to education during his time in office. Perhaps she remembers Harris as a former teacher -- who put three years into the profession and then left.  Perhaps she forgets that Harris' first minister of education was John Snoblen -- who dropped out of school in grade 11 and never returned.

Snoblen, however, was a fortunate son. He inherited his father's waste management company. And, when he was appointed Minister of Education, he applied his talent for managing waste to managing education. Snoblen cut programs -- beginning with grade 13 -- and jobs. He proclaimed the way to change education in Ontario was to "create a crisis." And he did just that.

On Hudak's proposed changes to education, Kheiriddin writes:

Thirty children. That is the normal JK and SK class size in the entire region where we live. Have you been in a class with 30 four or five year olds, Mr. Hudak?  How about 32 of them? Some classes already have that.

You propose to increase class sizes by “two or three students.” So you want there to be 33, 34, 35? With your proposed one-to-20 teacher ratio, that means what, 1 ½ teachers per class? How does that work? Do you really think little kids will learn anything in that environment? Do you think they are learning enough now?

The fact is, we've been there before. We got there because, when it came to education, neither Mr. Harris nor Mr. Snoblen knew what they were talking about. After Mr. Hudak received his Master's degree in economics, he worked for Walmart for two years, then was elected to the legislature. That's the extent of his real job experience.

You get the picture. When it comes to policy, the Conservatives don't know what they're talking about.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oligarchs Must Hang Together

When Vladimir Putin  annexed Crimea, Stephen Harper and John Baird belched indignation. Michael Harris writes:

Harper and his foreign minister immediately hopped on Kyiv-bound planes for the 2015 photo-ops: Canada standing up for Ukraine. Baird donned a scarf in the national colours of that troubled country. Then the government sent jets, with or without armaments, to show we’re ready to rumble for Ukrainian democracy. (At home, the government was busy ramming the abusive Fair Elections Act through Parliament.)

Harper insisted it was time for tough sanctions against Putin and his allies. But, last week, Reuters reported that two of Putin's buddies -- who the United States has targeted for sanctions -- have specifically been excluded from the Canadian sanctions regime. It seems that Sergey Chemozov and Igor Sechin have significant business interests in Canada:

Chemezov runs Rostec, Russia’s state-industrial and defence giant, and Sechin is Putin’s pal at the state oil behemoth Rosneft.

Rostec has a $3.4 billion deal brewing with Bombardier and Rosneft has a huge investment in the Canadian oilpatch.

We're talking big money:

In the spring of 2012, Rosneft and ExxonMobil signed a fifteen-year “strategic cooperation agreement” to jointly explore for oil and gas. As part of that agreement, the Russian oil giant took an equity position in major oil developments in both the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. investment was done through an “independent, indirect subsidiary of Rosneft” called Neftegaz Holding America, which is registered in Delaware. The company took a 30 per cent equity in ExxonMobil’s share in the La Escalera Ranch project in West Texas.

Rosneft used another “independent subsidiary”, RN Cardium Oil Inc., to acquire 30 per cent of ExxonMobil’s stake in the Harmattan acreage in the Cardium formation of the Western Canada Basin, in Alberta. Like the Chinese, and with the blessing of the Harper government, the Russians now hold a serious stake in Canada’s unconventional oilpatch. What may be more important than the oil venture is Russia acquiring the technology to develop unconventional oil reserves at home.

The Obama administration has had no qualms about making life more difficult for these two men. But  not so Stephen Harper. When Harper does international relations, he starts from the principle that oligarchs must hang together  -- or they will hang separately.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Perils Of An Inflated Ego

Next month, the Harper government will announce its decision on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Murray Dobbin writes:

The momentum of opposition to the pipeline -- and perhaps more importantly, to the hundreds of supertankers that would move tar sands bitumen to Asia -- is clearly growing in both B.C. and the rest of Canada. This makes Harper's absolute dedication to the oil industry and his dogged commitment to the pipeline in particular, tantamount to a suicide pact. This is a pipeline that will never be built. It is already dead. But don't assume Harper sees that. His decision, as many of them are, will be a war between his highly touted strategic genius and his narcissistic impulses -- revealed by a pattern of rejecting defeat until reality can no longer be denied.

Harper only sees reality when it's too late. The result has been a legacy of disastrous decisions:

The government's one rational economic effort, its $14-billion infrastructure program, is in such disarray that a whole construction season may well be lost due to confusion amongst municipalities regarding how to access it.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a disaster for many reasons. One is that the promised (and politically critical) reforms to the program are being cited as a major stumbling block to trade deals with Europe and India. Both include generous provisions for European and Indian companies to import their own nationals to work in businesses they establish here. Cuts to the TFWP are generating complaints.

To add to the government's woes, the latest StatsCan jobs report for April showed a net loss of 29,000 jobs. And it was the composition of those losses that should have the Harperium sweating. All of the job losses were concentrated in full-time employment. An increase in low-paying jobs actually made the situation look better than it was. Losses in the highest paid sectors were serious: "…finance, insurance and real estate (down 19,000), professional, scientific and technical services (down 10,000), natural resources (down 7,000) and utilities (down 5,000)...

Approval of Northern Gateway will only add to that disastrous legacy. A wiser politician would know when to fold his cards and walk away. But Harper is not that kind of politician:

He is a huge risk taker. But risk taking is not in itself a virtue. Indeed, some of the biggest risk takers are psychopaths, and you certainly wouldn't want one of those running your country. A recent study out of Vanderbilt University "… shows that people with psychopathic tendencies (like aggression, lack of empathy, lack of fear) are more prone to take excessive risk without considering the consequences," reports Business Insider, "It's not just that they don't appreciate the potential threat, but that the anticipation or motivation for reward overwhelms those concerns."

In the end, approving Northern Gateway may result in Harper's political suicide. Those with inflated egos are more likely to walk off cliffs, assuming that someone or something will cushion the fall.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Listening To Suzuki

Jeffrey Simpson wrote last week that the present Government of Canada defines itself by the enemies it makes:

By identifying enemies or hostile institutions, or by picking fights with individuals or institutions, Mr. Harper can better galvanize his supporters. The idea of appealing to as many people as possible in the search for maximizing votes is not how he governs. Instead, he looks to his party’s core vote, tries to energize it as often as possible, then finds slices of the electorate to add to the core.

And certainly one man near the top of the prime minister's Enemies List is David Suzuki, who appeared this week on Moyers and Company. This clip is nearly twenty-five minutes long. But, as usual, time spent with Suzuki is time well spent.

If Barack Obama has not approved the Keystone XL Pipeline, perhaps it is because -- among other things -- he has been listening to David Suzuki.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Who Smells Best

It's not just Andrea Horwath's Dippers who are acting out of character. Tom Walkom writes that, in this election, all of Ontario's political parties are not to be found at their usual addresses. The economy has changed everything:

Ontario has been hit hard by the slump. Weak U.S. demand and, until recently, an unusually high Canadian dollar have crushed manufacturing.

Multinationals are realigning their North American operations at the expense of Ontario branch plants.
The damage isn’t always visible in Toronto. But a trip to London, Windsor, Leamington, Wingham or Smiths Falls can be an eye-opener.

The official jobless rate in the province is 7.4 per cent. When discouraged workers are counted, it rises to about 10 per cent.

That reality has changed the pitch of all of the parties:

Initially, the Liberals hoped that putting a new face on the same content would solve their problems.
While charming, Wynne held fast to the key elements of McGuinty’s economic plan, including fiscal restraint.

The hope was that she could woo voters just by appearing to be nicer.
That didn’t work. So the Liberals veered left, raising the minimum wage, promising pension reform and crafting a stimulus budget that they thought could win them a majority government.

It was a budget that put them to the left of the NDP.

If the budget put the Liberals to the left of the NDP, the Dippers are now trying to occupy the real estate once claimed by the Liberals:

Yet, under Andrea Horwath, the New Democrats were already shifting rightward. In part, they were following the trend of social democratic parties worldwide, from Britain’s Labour under Tony Blair to France’s Socialists under Fran├žois Hollande.

In part, they were mimicking the realpolitik of the federal New Democrats led by Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair.
But they were also responding to their own history. The Ontario NDP had formed government under centrist leader Bob Rae but done poorly when his successor, Howard Hampton, took them back to the left. Maybe they’d fare better by again deking right.

And Tim Hudak really deked right. His strategy is to present a stark alternative to the Liberals who, he believes, are stale and tired.  So he offers the Common Sense Revolution 2. But he seems to have forgotten that old saw about common sense: It's like deodorant. Those who need it most don't use it.

In the end, it will be up to Ontarians to decide which party smells best.

Friday, May 16, 2014

In League With The Elite

Carol Goar believes that the NDP has forsaken its traditional role as the champion of the poor. That is the case with Tom Mulcair's federal party. And it certainly is the case with Andrea Horwath's provincial party. Goar writes:

Horwath is following a well-worn path as Star columnist Rick Salutin pointed out last week. Like Tony Blair’s “new” Labour Party, Fran├žois Hollande’s Socialist Party and Thomas Mulcair’s centrist federal NDP, she is seeking to transform her party into a mainstream alternative. She is not interested in being the conscience of the legislature or the standard-bearer for the principles of J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas and Stephen Lewis. 

Those who hoped that Horwath would push Kathleen Wynne to move further left have been bitterly disappointed:

So far, the NDP leader has promised to reduce government spending by $600 million a year; cut Ontario’s small business tax to 3 per cent (it is now 4.5 per cent); downsize the provincial cabinet by a third; remove the provincial portion of the HST from hydro bills and hand out $100 per household rebates; stabilize the child care system with a one-time infusion of $100 million; offer companies wage subsidies of up to $5,000 to hire a new worker; raise the minimum wage by 50 cents a year until 2016; increase Ontario’s corporate tax rate by an unspecified amount and balance the budget by 2017-18.

And Horwath rejected a budget that moved Ontario as far to the left as it has been in decades:

She triggered the election by rejecting the most progressive provincial budget in decades, one that would have raised the minimum wage, increased the Ontario Child Benefit, improved welfare rates, and provided more support to people with disabilities. She parted ways with the Ontario Federation of Labour and Unifor, the province’s largest private-sector union.

In its quest for power, any political party has to get close to the big money. The NDP is now firmly aligned with the financial elite.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hudak's Hallucinations

Tim Hudak has been traveling around Ontario, pledging to create a million jobs by cutting taxes. Linda McQuaig writes that the problem is that Hudak's plan is an hallucination:

But what makes Hudak’s plan veer beyond nutty to insidious is the fact that it’s coupled with a plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs. (That’s how he plans to pay for the tax cuts that, allegedly, would create the jobs.)

Unlike the imaginary ones, these public sector jobs — mostly in education, health care and social services — are real jobs held by real workers providing real services to real people. This will all go, Hudak pledges boldly.

So Hudak’s job creation plan begins by eliminating 100,000 jobs, leaving him obliged to create even more new jobs — 1.1 million. Since they’re imaginary, this turns out to be easy.

Hudak claims that the Conference Board of Canada has approved his plan. That, too, is an hallucination:

Yes, the PCs did pay the Conference Board to do an analysis. But Pedro Antunes, deputy chief economist at the Conference Board, told me in an interview that the Conference Board is not endorsing the Million Jobs plan — nor did it even see the plan.

Antunes also acknowledged that data produced by the federal Finance department shows that far more jobs are created by government spending than by corporate tax reductions.
For instance, a 2009 Finance department chart estimates that if Ottawa spent $1 billion on support for unemployed and low-income individuals, it would generate 18,755 jobs. The same chart shows that if

Ottawa gave up $1 billion in revenue in corporate income tax reductions, this would create only 3,310 jobs.

In other words, the federal Finance department — not known for progressive economics, particularly in the Harper era — concluded that government spending on the poor and unemployed creates substantially more jobs than cutting corporate taxes.

When I asked Antunes if the same pattern would be true in Ontario, he replied: “You’re absolutely right. There are economic levers that could be bigger than corporate tax cuts.”

It's being kind to call Hudak's plan an hallucination. Some might call it a lie.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Napoleon In The Asylum

In the wake of the Supreme Court's rejection of Marc Nadon and Stephen Harper's plan to reform the Senate, now comes word that the Ministry of Justice is slashing its research budget by 20%. Devon Black writes:

The purpose of research in government is pretty obvious. It’s to test assumptions, so legislators can make policy that works and change policy that doesn’t. Without decent monitoring and evaluation, there’s no way for legislators to know if any of their policies are doing what they’re supposed to do.

Unfortunately, it looks as though the government has decided to punish Department of Justice researchers for being a little too good at figuring out which policies aren’t working. The government is cutting 20 per cent from the department’s research budget, and firing eight experienced legal researchers in the process — apparently because some of their work has “at times left the impression that research is undermining government decisions.”

Recent reports suggest that the prime minister knew from the get go that the Nadon appointment would cause trouble. But he's not a man who listens to contrary opinions:

The Conservatives demand nothing less than complete, unquestioning support for their legislative agenda — even from the people employed to make sure the government has its facts straight.
Just ask the scientists at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), which was saved from closure only after a UN-funded non-profit stepped in to help keep it open. Or ask the 20 per cent of Library and Archives Canada staff who lost their jobs after funding cuts in 2012, jeopardizing our country’s most important documentary asset. Or talk to staff at any of the numerous businesses, non-profits and university departments which can’t get basic demographic data anymore because the long-form census was somehow inconsistent with Conservative ideology.

After eight years in government, two things are abundantly clear: Stephen Harper is like the resident in the asylum who -- despite all evidence to the contrary -- insists that he is Napoleon. And his party continues to believe that he is who he says he is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

They Were -- And Are -- Expendable

Last week's Day Of Honour, we were told, was about Canada's veterans.The vets know better. The day was about Stephen Harper. Michael Harris writes:

If you want the quintessential Stephen Harper, look no further than last week’s National Day of Honour. Everyone knew it was the Governor General’s job to accept the last Canadian flag that flew in Afghanistan, but hey, why give up the money shot to a mere functionary? So the PM snagged the flag — and then handed it off to the hapless David Johnston, former Commander-in-Chief of Canada.

Mr. Harper suffers from what Harris calls PRD -- Public Relations Disorder:

The main symptom of PRD is the unshakeable belief that elephantine public displays of military might — tanks rolling, jets screaming overhead, guns popping off — will make people forget this government’s betrayal of Canada’s wounded veterans from the Afghanistan War.

In its terminal stages, the PRD sufferer actually believes perception is reality. In Harper’s Canada, nothing has to be true. You just need lots of commercials flogging the desired perception — paid for by the people you’re trying to indoctrinate. Nice gig.

Never mind the that veterans who suffer from PTSD or who are missing limbs will have a harder time getting help because of the closure of veterans offices across Canada:

The trouble is that returning veterans with mental or physical wounds live in a commercial-free world. They inhabit a harsh reality: how to push your kid on a swing when you’re missing an arm or a leg; how to fill a war-hardened heart with human emotions again; how to navigate the unbearably normal world of civilian life when you have seen into the abyss and know what has been done.

Their disabilities are permanent, no matter how many jets fly over the Peace Tower. The final insult? Lectures from Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino about how their treatment will be improved by slashing $226 million from the VA budget and closing treatment centres. Stories about the reduced number of Second World War and Korean War veterans justifying cuts, but not a word about the thousands of new vets from Afghanistan.

No, they were -- and are -- expendable. It's  all about getting the flag in your hands. That's what counts.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Things To Come

The Ontario election is a preview of coming attractions. Tim Harper writes:

It may appear Stephen Harper is being dragged into the Ontario election campaign by responding to goading by Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne.

But Harper was on full combat footing when it came to Wynne’s made-in-Ontario pension plan even before NDP Leader Andrea Horwath forced this campaign on provincial voters.
It is an issue on which Harper had to engage. And one on which he is all too eager to engage.

The cornerstone of Harper's philosophy is you're on your own. He believes that it should be Canadians individual responsibility to save for retirement. Thus, the only commitments you make are to yourself. Wynne's pension plan rests on the basic assumption that we are all in this together. Thus, we not only make commitments to ourselves, we make them to each other.  Unions no longer have the membership or the clout to demand pensions. That responsibility has now become a government responsibility. 

The fight between Wynne and Harper is all about what government should and should not do. That debate will be carried forward to the next election. Harper wants to stage a preemptive strike in Ontario. If he has that province in his pocket, he figures that the next election will go his way.

We shall see.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

National Interest and Self Interest

Stephen Harper's enemies list grows ever longer.  But, Gerry Caplan writes, the list includes not only persons but nations as well. When asked last week if Canada would support a UN peacekeeping mission to the Central African  Republic, Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to John Baird told the House:

“Of course, we are very much concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic, and are working with our allies in the United Nations to address the issue…. What is more important is that the Liberal Party, as well as the NDP, would like to put Canadian soldiers’ lives in danger out in the region. My question to them is this: who is going to pay to have all these soldiers out there? Is it Canadian taxpayers? Have they checked with the Canadian taxpayers to see if they would like to send soldiers out in this zone?”

For Harper, foreign policy has been all about money and votes at home. Consider the nations which ride on Mr. Harper's bus:

Under Mr. Harper’s foreign policy, who gets to ride inside the bus? Israel first and foremost, of course, and its great military pals in Cairo. Saudi Arabia, great mid-East rival to odious Iran; indeed the Saudi tyrants get large shipments of Canadian arms. And those with lots of voters in Canada – Ukrainians and Tamils from Sri Lanka, for example. So significant military support goes to the unelected government of Ukraine with its anti-Semitic cabinet ministers, and none at all to the critical UN peacekeeping initiative for the Central African Republic, since few CAR citizens vote in Canada. And in order to punish the Sri Lankan government for human rights abuses against Tamils, Mr. Harper childishly cuts funding to the valuable Commonwealth Secretariat which has no responsibility whatever for the policies of the Sri Lankan government.

It's not unusual for countries to develop foreign policies which support their national interests. The difference with Mr. Harper is that -- narcissist that he is -- he believes that his self interest coincides with the national interest.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Free Trade Is Not Fair Trade

Stephen Harper has been travelling around the world, signing "free" trade deals like a hockey player signing autographs. But those deals have been particularly detrimental to Ontario's economy -- and The Great Recession has put the province's manufacturers on the ropes. Tom Walkom writes:

The North American economy is being put through a wringer, in a wrenching process that began with free trade.

Before free trade, multinationals that wanted to sell in Canada had to produce here. Trade barriers may have been inefficient. But they kept people employed.

Indeed, it is only thanks to a trade barrier — the still-extant requirement that Canadian tomato juice be made from fresh tomatoes — that 250 of the 740 jobs slated for destruction at Leamington’s H.J. Heinz Co. plant are being saved

Immediately after the first free trade pact was inked, multinationals began to rationalize their North American operations. Many decided to keep their Ontario branch plants open. But instead of manufacturing a full range of products, these plants would concentrate on specific product lines that could be sold continent-wide.

For Ontario this meant that many jobs stayed.

But now, under competitive pressures aggravated by the slump, North America is undergoing stage two of globalization. In order to radically reduce costs, multinationals are centralizing all North American production in a handful of large plants.

Not surprisingly, they are choosing to situate these large plants in the U.S. rather than Canada.

Stephen Harper claims that he walks in the footsteps of John A. Macdonald. That, of course, is hokem. It was Macdonald who instituted The National Policy -- which was based on a simple quid pro quo: if you want to sell here, you have to locate here. That was the principle behind the Auto Pact.

But NAFTA put an end to the auto pact and what was left of The National Policy. It began the quest to make the world safe for capital. And it entrenched the principle that free trade is not fair trade.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Sleeping Through The Drama

Thomas Picketty's new book, Capital In The 21st Century, is generating a flurry of interest south of the border. Paul Krugman has praised the book's scholarship and its conclusion that we are living in a second Gilded Age. And the central theme of the book -- economic inequality -- has the president's attention. Linda McQuaig writes:

From inside the White House, President Barack Obama has made the dramatic surge in inequality his signature issue, describing it as “the defining challenge of our time.”

The book's central thesis makes eminent sense:

Modern capitalism, left to its own devices, leads to ever-rising inequality. Piketty’s argument, backed up by a vast amount of international and historical data, goes like this: Since income from ordinary labour grows slower than the return on capital (and capital is mostly held by rich people), inequality grows over time.

The United States  leads the world in economic inequality. What Canadians don't seem to understand is that we're number two -- a distinction  which the Harper government has worked mightily to entrench:

An OECD study released this month showed that, over the past three decades, the share of income growth going to the top one per cent was largest in the United States. But Canada grabbed the silver medal with a strong second, beating out ten other advanced countries in terms of the share of income growth being snagged by its richest citizens.

In Canada, our prime minister hopes that we continue to sleep through the drama.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Europeans Get It

Stephen Harper refuses to speak to the UN. Perhaps that's because he fears that, on his way to the podium, he would be booed. Karl Nerenberg reports that the Bertelsmann Foundation -- based in Germany -- has given the Harper government its seal of disapproval. In a recent report:

It says that "a strong case can be made that the quality of governance provided by the government of Canada deteriorated" since Harper got his majority in 2011.   

Bertelsmann is especially critical of Canada's environmental performance in the Harper majority era.

Bertelsmann points to the Conservatives' omnibus budget bill of 2012, which gutted federal environmental oversight of major projects while, at the same time, announcing Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Accord.

These and other retrograde environmental measures "tarnished the government's reputation for sustainable governance, both domestically and internationally," Bertelsmann says.

All the indicators are going south:

In policy performance, Canada fell from 13th out of 31 countries in 2011 to 18th in 2014. In the category they call quality of democracy, Canada fell from 10th to 13th; while in governance, the fall was only of one place, from 9th to 10th.

In 2014, based on its analysis of those 140 indicators, Bertelsmann says of Canada:
While the government has... implemented effective policies in many areas

over many decades, the actions of the Conservative government since winning a majority of the seats in the House of Commons in May 2011 have jeopardized this situation.

Which raises a simple question: If the Europeans understand what is going on, why haven't Canadians clued into their country's deteriorating democracy?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Rob's Ghost

Rob Ford, we're told, is somewhere in rehab. But his ghost haunts the Ontario Election. John Barber writes that his absence may, for the time being, be a blessing:

Would NDP Leader Andrea Horwath have had the nerve to bring down Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals had Rob Ford not been whisked into guaranteed oblivion mere hours before the budget came down? Attention to any provincial theatrical would have been divided at best as long as Rob Ford remained lurching in the wings, threatening at any moment to swing across the stage scattering cluster bombs of scandal. They are lucky to have it to themselves for the brief period it will take Ford to forgive himself. 

But Ford won't be gone for long. The betting is that he'll be back after thirty days to cause headaches for all the contenders:

Exhibit A would be the nasty grilling poor Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak underwent on budget day, a few hours after he cringed through the infamous audio recording of a blotto Ford damning him for daring to tolerate “the ga-ays.” Unfortunately it all happened behind closed doors, during the budget lock-up, so Ontarians will be spared a full airing of the bizarre half-hour scrum in which Hudak persistently refused to condemn Ford for his hating — and reporters persistently refused to pay the slightest attention to the opposition leader’s views on the biggest story out of Queen’s Park in some time.

Likewise, Andrea Horwath wants to steer clear of Ford:

Andrea Horwath has not only declined to condemn the mayor’s many “missteps,” she alone among provincial leaders stood up for Ford when Premier Wynne refused to meet with him after council stripped his powers. When Ford exploded like a beached whale last Wednesday, Horwath tweeted her best wishes. “Taking a break to deal with his health issues takes courage,” she said.
It was only after a mini-storm of protest by progressive voters, who noted that racism, sexism and homophobia are not “health issues,” that Horwath found the nerve to criticize Ford’s “offensive and hurtful” comments.

And the Fords have made no secret of their contempt for Kathleen Wynne. Ford is the bad smell in the back of every meeting room and every press scrum. Ford is the rot hidden in the cellar. The stench he leaves behind refuses to go away.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Out Of Control

Yesterday, Peter MacKay renewed his attack on Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. Andrew Coyne writes:

Watching the Harper government stumble from one needless controversy to another — picking fights, settling scores, demeaning institutions and individuals alike in the pursuit of no discernible principle or even political gain — one has had the distinct impression of a government, and a Prime Minister, spinning out of control.

But with the Prime Minister’s astonishing personal attack last week on the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, the meltdown has reached Lindsay Lohanesque proportions. Nothing in the long catalogue of Stephen Harper’s bad-tempered outbursts has seemed quite so extravagantly reckless, if only because it was so calculated.

And that's the point. It's not accidental. It's calculated -- as everything Mr. Harper does is calculated. He is incapable of acknowledging opposition to his agenda. Those who oppose him, he destroys -- or tries to destroy

As Caesar said of Cassius, such men are dangerous. And Coyne agrees:

As I say, we’ve never seen anything quite like this, not even from this Prime Minister. Which raises the question: at what point do Conservatives of goodwill become concerned about the long-term damage being done to their party’s reputation under its present leadership? Differences over policy come and go, but this kind of behaviour, left unchallenged, will lead many people to conclude that the institutions of government cannot be safely entrusted to them.

Indeed, this prime minister is out of control.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Making Of A Banana Republic

Michael Harris doesn't mince words. Canada, he writes, is at a watershed moment:

What’s it going to be: a modern democracy or a Steve’s banana republic of the north?

The train wreck of the Harper government continues to roll down the mountainside, crushing body after body, yet no one utters the right word. Allow me. Canada is a dictatorship in the making.

Harper's spat with the Chief Justice is only his latest attempt to quell all opposition:

Steve likes people docile. He appears to have tamed a lot of the realm. He kicks, the subjects cringe. He kicks some more, they slip into the woods of indifference. They are so disconnected that they no longer hear the screams of the other kickees: Linda Keen, Bill Casey, Kevin Page, Marc Mayrand, even Sheila Fraser — and now, and now, Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

And, even though there are several ministers who are supposed to be in charge of government departments, the prime minister runs a one man show:

Look at all the portfolios and offices now held by Steve.
  • The proclamation for the upcoming National Day of Honour, commemorating the end of a war in Afghanistan that should never have begun, was announced by Governor-General Harper. Governor-General Harper will also receive the last military flag from Kandahar, while David Johnson watches.
  • Commander-in-Chief Harper will have the spotlight at the National Day of Honour ceremonies; the real generals who commanded troops in Afghanistan were not invited because they do not like blue Kool-Aid.
  • Speaker of the House of Commons Harper ruled that it was perfectly okay to keep information from the opposition because they were not real MPs anyway.
  • Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Harper has declared that the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court was completely in order — despite his 6-1 rejection by that other interventionist-court.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Harper declared that Quebec was a “nation”, though the matter was never discussed in cabinet, nor for that matter, passed on to the pretend intergovernmental affairs minister back then, Michael Chong … and on and on.

Canada is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy. But Mr. Harper is doing his best to change that model. And, so far, he is succeeding. From democracy to banana republic -- that's Harper's real objective.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Things Could Get Very Nasty

Kathleen Wynne has three opponents in Ontario's election -- Tim Hudak, Andrea Horwath and Stephen Harper. Her budget represents everything that Harper abhors -- government spending to stimulate the economy, an expanded pension plan and higher taxes on the wealthy.

Mr. Harper immediately dismissed the Ontario Pension Plan. And, yesterday, Joe Oliver told Evan Solomon that Wynne's budget  was "the route to economic decline, not the route to economic growth or job creation."

Wynne is a threat to Harper because Ontario's provincial and federal ridings are congruent. Mike Harris engineered that bit of business to, he said, save money. If Wynne  returns as premier, she threatens the very beachhead that Harper worked so hard to establish. That beachhead gave him his majority.

Wynne, for her part, has said that Harper appears to be "taking over the Conservative voice in the Ontario election." If that happens -- and Tim Hudak is seen as Harper's stalking horse -- there could be a wave of revulsion among Ontario voters. Ottawa traditionally has stayed out of provincial elections. The prime minister had nothing to do with the recent Quebec election.

But Stephen Harper has little regard for tradition. And he has a history of smearing those he sees as his enemies. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court it only the latest target of Harper's paranoia. Moreover, Dalton McGuinty left the Prime Minister's Office lots of material to spin.

Before voters go to the polls on June 12th, things could get very nasty.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Mr. Harper And The Judge

You can add Beverley McLachlin's name to Stephen Harper's Enemies List. In case your memory needs refreshing, Errol Mendes reviews some of the prominent names on that list:

The growing range of individuals that have had to endure such smears have included: academics (myself included); environmental groups labelled as extremists and radicals funded by foreign entities; public servants just doing their job, such as Linda Keen, the former head of the nuclear safety watchdog, Peter Tinsley, the head of the Military Police Complaints Commission and Richard Colvin, the foreign service officer who testified on the treatment of Afghan detainees; Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand for alleged bias; and, astonishingly, former auditor general Sheila Fraser, who has faced innuendos of conflicts of interest.

If there is a common thread which ties all of these names together, it is contempt for expert opinion -- something that has been front and centre of late in the debate over the Fair Elections Act.

Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt notes that it is not unusual to seek the chief Justice's advice on legal matters. She did not get into specifics. She was simply suggesting that Harper read the law:

Adam Dodek, vice-dean of the University of Ottawa law school and a constitutional scholar, says that there is nothing unusual about contact between the chief justice and the government: “Every minister of justice in this Conservative government and in its predecessor Liberal governments going back at least 15 years has stated publicly that they have consulted with the chief justice of Canada about appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Mr. Harper’s contention that contact with the chief justice would be inappropriate is simply not supportable and grossly misleading. At best, the prime minister is engaging in revisionist history of the worse kind.

But, then, Mr. Harper exists in a fact free universe. And, As Thomas Mulcair noted last week, "He always sees a conspiracy when someone tells him no."

Friday, May 02, 2014

Tolerating Rot

As Rob Ford heads off to rehab in Chicago, Carol Goar writes that Canadians are besotted with shameless politicians:

A casual lawlessness has crept into the high offices of the land.
It is not outright criminality, punishable by fines and jail time (at least not yet). It is an attitude among those entrusted with power that they don’t have to play by the rules; that wrongdoing carries no consequences; and that a half-hearted apology will set everything right.

Besides Ford, she enumerates several other recent examples of political bad behaviour:

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tossed aside long-standing parliamentary tenets and ethical standards. He stuffed the Senate with free-spending loyalists, then turned on his appointees viciously when their expenses leaked out. He maligned his former chief of staff who spent $90,000 of his own money trying to fix the Senate mess. After his party broke Canada’s election rules, he unilaterally tried to rewrite them. He has been rebuked by the Supreme Court of Canada five times for overstepping his mandate.

  • Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell helped herself to ratepayers’ money for at least five years to pay for luxury hotels, high-priced dinners, first-class airfare and entertainment. She insists she has done nothing wrong.

  • Former Alberta premier Alison Redford likewise used taxpayers’ money to pay for indulgences she considered her due. Six weeks ago, after spending an eye-popping $45,000 to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, she stepped down blaming “party and caucus infighting” for obstructing progress in the province. Since her resignation she has not set foot in the legislature although she continues to collect her salary as an MLA.

  • Goar believes that there are three reasons for this state of affairs:

    The first is an unprecedented level of secrecy or obfuscation by public officials.

    The second is a sizable bloc of voters that can be counted on to support a besmirched leader no matter what he or she does.

    The third is an electorate so unconcerned — or jaded — that it does nothing.

    In the end, only citizens can change the situation. As long as we are prepared to tolerate rot, it will keep piling up.

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    Labour Racketeering

    There has been a lot of sound and fury of late about the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Terry Glavin writes that the program was set up in 1974 to ease bottlenecks in the labour markets.

    But, in 2002,  the Chretien government instituted the "Pilot Project for Hiring Foreign Workers in Occupations that Require Lower Levels of Formal Training." That is when the train went off the rails. And, under Stephen Harper, the Pilot Project became official government policy:

    Just how many guest workers are we talking about anyway? The numbers appear to be far, far larger than is generally understood.

    There were 338,000 people in Canada at the sufferance of the Temporary Foreign Workers program at the beginning of last year. When you add in other non-citizens working or at least entitled to work, including farm labourers, nannies, foreign students, “Experience Canada” exchange students and so on, you’ll find that you’re looking at more than 600,000 people whose subservience and obsequiousness is disciplined on pain of deportation.

    This is a number of people that exceeds the size of the entire labour force of Saskatchewan, and its existence inside Canada’s already underemployed working class will have implications that should not require an economics degree to comprehend. The C.D. Howe Institute study that caused such a hubbub last week found that in Alberta and British Columbia, an influx of temporary workers between 2007 and 2010 was the cause of an acceleration in unemployment rates of about 3.9 percentage points.

    We now have "a federally administered, quasi-privatized national program that artificially suppresses their wages by providing employers with strategic and routine access to a massive pool of cheap, captive labour"

    And "captive" is the right word. These workers constantly labour under the threat of deportation. The program is tailor made to serve the needs of the emerging Canadian oligarchy. The government is now engaged in labour racketeering.

    Something to think about on  Mayday -- International Workers Day.