Friday, July 31, 2015

Something To Think About

For the next seventy-seven days, we're going to hear the message that Stephen Harper is the best person to guide the Canadian economy. Jim Stanford has been crunching the numbers; and it turns out that -- like so much of what Mr. Harper says -- there is a cavernous gap between his rhetoric and reality. Stanford writes:

However, this gap between triumphalist rhetoric and grim reality did not suddenly appear. In fact, the evidence has been piling up for years -- long before the current slowdown -- that Canada's economic performance under the Harper Conservatives has been uniquely poor.

I have worked with my Unifor colleague Jordan Brennan to compile an exhaustive empirical comparison of Canada's economic record under the Harper government, and compared that record to previous post-war prime ministers. The full 64-page study was released today, and is available here.

Here's what we did: The performance of the economy under each prime minister was described on the basis of 16 conventional and commonly used indicators of economic progress and well-being. These 16 indicators fall into three broad categories, summarized as follows:

  • Work: Job creation, employment rate, unemployment rate, labour force participation, youth employment, and job quality.
  • Production: Real GDP growth (absolute and per capita), business investment, exports and productivity growth.
  • Distribution and Debt: Real personal incomes, inequality, federal public services, personal debt, and government debt.

Taken all together, the picture that emerges is grim:

Considering the overall average ranking of each prime minister (across all 16 indicators), the Harper government receives an average ranking of 8.05 out of a worst-possible 9.0. That is dead last among the nine post-war governments, and by a wide margin -- falling well behind the second-worst government, which was the Mulroney Conservative regime of 1984-93.

The very poor economic record of the Harper government cannot be blamed on the fact that Canada experienced a recession in 2008-09. In fact, Canada experienced a total of 10 recessions during the 1946-2014 period. Most governments had to grapple with recession at some point during their tenures -- and some prime ministers had to deal with more than one. Instead, statistical evidence shows that the recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been the weakest (by far) of any Canadian recovery since the Depression. A uniquely weak recovery, not the fact that Canada experienced a recession at all, helps explains the Harper government's poor economic rating.

This statistical review confirms that it is far-fetched to suggest that Canada's economy has been well-managed during the Harper government's time in office. To the contrary, there is no other time in Canada's post-war economic history in which Canada's economy has performed worse than it did under the Harper government.

The man who claims to be an economist -- but who has never earned his living as an economist -- is a dismal failure when it comes to the dismal science.

Something to think about each time you're told that Stephen Harper knows what he's doing.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Really Nasty Piece Of Work


Glen McGregor reports that Stephen Harper will skip Flora MacDonald's funeral:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not attend the funeral of former external affairs minister Flora MacDonald, a pioneering political figure credited with leading the advance of women in modern Canadian conservative politics.

Instead, Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch will represent the government at the service on Sunday — the day, according to a CBC report circulating Wednesday, that Harper will ask the governor general to dissolve parliament and kick off the federal election campaign.

A lot of other people will be attending:

Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark, who made MacDonald his external affairs minister in 1979, is returning from summer holidays in the United States to speak at the service.
Former PC senator Lowell Murray, also a cabinet minister under Clark, will speak, and former PC MP David MacDonald will officiate. There is speculation that former prime minister Brian Mulroney will also attend.

You'll notice that these folks are all Progressive Conservatives. MacDonald, like Clark, warned against the Reform takeover of the party. Perhaps that's why Harper acknowledged her passing with a curt tweet which mis-spelled her name.

Harper's reaction merely confirms that there never was a place in his party for Progressive Conservatives. And it shows yet again that he really is a nasty piece of work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Government By Obsession

When it comes to looking into the economic future, the Harper government's  record is nothing to brag about. And, in election years, the Harperite crystal ball is thoroughly unreliable. Consider, Scott Clark and Peter Devries write, what happened in 2008:

The November 2008 Economic and Fiscal Update forecast annual surpluses as far as the eye could see. Two months later this forecast was thrown into the trash. In response to the crisis Harper and Flaherty quickly discarded their Conservative orthodoxy and became temporary Keynesians. They introduced the largest stimulus budget ever, in an effort to increase economic activity. After that, deficits were recorded for seven consecutive years until, in this year’s April budget, Finance Minister Joe Oliver declared the government would finally register a surplus in 2015-16.

It's worth remembering that Harper and Flaherty became temporary Keynesians because they were a political minority. Who knows what they would have done if they had won a majority? Now fast forward to 2015:

The elimination of the deficit never had anything to do with good economic policy. The Conservative government’s sole economic policy objective has always been the elimination of the deficit. This is the only criterion it uses to judge its economic record; nothing else has mattered — not stronger economic growth, not increased job creation, not improved productivity, not saving the environment, not greater tax efficiency and tax fairness, and not strengthening federal-provincial and Aboriginal relations. The primary objective of the Harper government has always been to diminish the role of the federal government in economic policy. Eliminating the deficit no matter how small was critical to achieving that objective. 

Stephen Harper is obsessed with diminishing the role of the federal government. Period. Circumstances have nothing to do with what role the government should play. Therefore, economic data are meaningless to him:

Statistics Canada has reported that economic growth has declined for four months in a row (January to April). Private sector economists have now revised down their forecasts of real GDP growth for 2015 by about 0.6 per cent. Earlier this month, the IMF also cut its forecast for economic growth in Canada for 2015 from 2.2 per cent to just 1.5 per cent. Shortly thereafter the Bank of Canada cut its forecast for economic growth for this year to 1 per cent, while declaring the economy had contracted in the second quarter. That means Canada was in a “technical” recession in the first six months of the year.

Never mind that the latest data differ significantly from the data the April budget was built on. Besides, that budget was built on false premises to begin with:

The April budget was built on smoke and mirrors: overly optimistic economic growth and oil price assumptions; cutting the contingency reserve by two-thirds; selling shares in GM at fire sale prices; raiding EI revenues; and even booking “savings” from unilateral changes to federal employees’ sick leave benefits. Without these tricks the government could not have paid for the income tax cuts it announced last October and still have balanced the budget.

The facts don't matter. They have never mattered. It's called Government By Obsession.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You've Got To Be Kidding


Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau are criss-crossing the country, trying to articulate the central question behind the upcoming election. For Gerry Caplan, the question is simple and straightforward: Can Stephen Harper be trusted with another term in office?

For Caplan,  trust is the bedrock issue:

In a real sense, the entire history of Mr. Harper’s almost 10 years in office has revolved explicitly around trust. Time after time, his government pushed initiatives that were harshly criticized by experts in the field. Each time, we had to ask ourselves: Do I believe what the government is telling me or do I go with the scientists, academics, health experts, constitutional maven and all the other specialists who have attacked so many of the government’s initiatives?

From the perspective of trust, Harper's record shouts back at voters:

The Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette reported that the government will run a billion-dollar budget deficit this year, despite explicit assurances from the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Joe Oliver that the budget will be balanced.

What should us poor citizens do in the face of such a disagreement? How can we know what’s true? Since most of us can hardly be experts in all areas of governance, we really have no choice but to accept one side or the other. The answer, as so often in the past nine years, boils down to this: We can only believe the government’s blanket assurances if we disregard the evidence of the experts.

And Harper has nothing but contempt for the evidence of experts:

When the Harper government tells us that certain forms of asbestos are not necessarily toxic, yet virtually all scientists agree that all asbestos kills, there is no middle ground. We need to decide which side has the most credibility. This is not a hard one.

When the overwhelming number of scientists believe climate change is a clear and present danger but our government refuses to take the issue seriously, implicitly denying the scientific findings, whom do we believe? Another no-brainer, I’d say.

When the government actively pursues its law ‘n’ order agenda while Statistics Canada reports that violent crimes in Canada have generally fallen for the eighth straight year, what should we believe about how dangerous our streets are? And why does this issue remain a Harper government priority when the facts tell a different story? Are we talking about ideology and political opportunism, or evidence-based public policy?

Or when a large variety of experts warned against the excesses and dangers of the anti-terrorist bill C-51, while the government turned a completely deaf ear? There was no middle ground: You had to trust either the government or its authoritative critics. Again, not a particularly hard choice.

And the examples multiply still. When the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada publicly disagree, who do we believe? When armed forces veterans and the government bitterly disagree, what do we think? When the Prime Minister insists he had nothing to do with Mike Duffy being paid $90,000 by the PM’s own chief of staff, can we believe Mr. Harper? Wouldn’t that depend on how credible he’s been on other matters?

Can we trust Mr. Harper? You've got to be kidding.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stiglitz On Greece


Joe Stiglitz has been spending the last little while in Greece, checking out the state of affairs. Those affairs, he predicts, will get worse and follow a course of events which keep repeating themselves:

As I read the details, I had a sense of déjà vu. As chief economist of the World Bank in the late 1990s, I saw firsthand in East Asia the devastating effects of the programs imposed on the countries that had turned to the I.M.F. for help. This resulted not just from austerity but also from so-called structural reforms, where too often the I.M.F. was duped into imposing demands that favored one special interest relative to others. There were hundreds of conditions, some little, some big, many irrelevant, some good, some outright wrong, and most missing the big changes that were really required.

Greece, he writes, is a sacrificical lamb on the altar of neo-liberalism:

Austerity is largely to blame for Greece’s current depression — a decline of gross domestic product of 25 percent since 2008, an unemployment rate of 25 percent and a youth unemployment rate twice that. But this new program ratchets the pressure up still further: a target of 3.5 percent primary budget surplus by 2018 (up from around 1 percent this year). Now, if the targets are not met, as they almost surely won’t be because of the design of the program itself, additional doses of austerity become automatic. It’s a built-in destabilizer. The high unemployment rate will drive down wages, but the troika does not seem satisfied by the pace of the lowering of Greeks’ standard of living. The third memorandum also demands the “modernization” of collective bargaining, which means weakening unions by replacing industry-level bargaining.

That's not to say that structural reforms aren't needed. But, as in the past, those in charge have got their economics wrong:

Structural reforms are needed, just as they were in Indonesia, but too many that are being demanded have little to do with attacking the real problems Greece faces. The rationale behind many of the key structural reforms has not been explained well, either to the Greek public or to economists trying to understand them. In the absence of such an explanation, there is a widespread belief here in Greece that special interests, in and out of the country, are using the troika to get what they could not have obtained by more democratic processes.

Special interests. Does that sound familiar?  The results could well be catastrophic -- not just for Greece but for all of Europe. Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

He Really Does Think We're Stupid


For the last two years, Stephen Harper has claimed that he is "delaying," not refusing to appoint Senators. On Friday, he said -- unequivocally -- that he was refusing to appoint Senators. Campbell Clark writes:

The government is already fighting a court case brought by a Vancouver lawyer, Aniz Alani, who argues that Mr. Harper’s refusal to appoint senators over the past two years, and the PM’s statements that he doesn’t see any need to fill the vacancies, amounts to a breach of his constitutional duty. The Constitution states that the Governor-General “shall” appoint senators, and by convention, the viceroy only does that on the advice of the PM.

In that case at the Federal Court, the government has been filing materials to back up an argument that Mr. Harper is delaying appointments, not refusing them. They include an affidavit from McGill political science professor Christopher Manfredi, who declared that there’s no constitutional convention that dictates how much time PMs have to appoint senators, and they can take their time. But refusing to appoint senators?
“Certainly, at some stage, senators have to be appointed,” Federal Court Justice Sean Harrington wrote in May, when he rejected the government’s motion to dismiss Mr. Alani’s case. He noted that if there were less than 15 senators, the required number for quorum in the chamber, Parliament could not function. (Mr. Alani argues the Constitution requires Mr. Harper to appoint senators, and refusing to do so defeats constitutional provisions guaranteeing levels of representation to provinces.)

But he's gone one step further. The provinces, he says, are responsible for the whole mess. Until they can get their act together, there will be no appointments. This from the man who has never met with the provinces to discuss Senate reform  and who -- for the last six years -- has refused to meet with the provinces at all. 

It's typical Harper balderdash -- shift responsibility. There is, you know, no made in Canada recession. It's the fault of international markets. He really does think we're stupid.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

They Don't See Much


The Harperites want to build a monument to the "victims of Communism." China is one of the last officially communist countries. Yet Mr. Harper and  Rob Nicholson, his Foreign Affairs Minister, have taken a curious approach to China.

China has been cracking down on human rights activists for some time, writes Jonathan  Manthorpe:

The crackdown on human rights activists has huge implications. The emergence of this group over the last 10 years represents the most serious threat to the survival of China’s one-party rule since the nationwide student uprising of 1989. The severity of Xi’s response to the rising influence and popularity of these lawyers, and to their role in countering the corruption and arbitrary power of party officials, is a clear indication of the threat he believes the movement poses. The purge undoubtedly will taint Xi’s planned visit to Washington in September — another indication of how seriously he takes the threat of the human rights movement.

Yet the near-silence on the persistent and widespread human rights abuses committed by China’s Communist Party stands in sharp contrast to Nicholson’s regular blustering about the iniquities of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This week, we learned from the CBC that Nicholson is demanding that his staff produce a steady diet of fear-stoking statements about terrorism in the run-up to October’s election — the apparent aim being to blunt criticism of the C-51 ‘anti-terror law’.

One wag recently quipped that Mr. Harper's foreign policy was "all mouth and no brain." In fact, what is true of Harperite foreign policy is true of all Harperite policy. Harperites claim their policies are cast in stone, while they continue to spout hot air.

Stone, yes. They are immune to deep and careful thought. They have no time for root causes. But they have committed all kinds of time and resources to communicating drivel and untruths. They only see what they want to see. And they don't see much.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Facts Are His Enemy


Stephen Harper claims that the upcoming election will be about security vs. risk. For once, Murray Dobbin agrees with him. What Dobbin is opposed to is Harper's claim that his Conservative government is the unquestionable home of security -- be it economic or national.

Consider Harper's  -- and other past governments' -- economic accomplishments:

When it comes to economic and social security, the vast majority of Canadians haven't been this insecure since the Great Depression. It's not as if we don't know the numbers -- 60 per cent of Canadians just two weeks away from financial crisis if they lose their job; record high personal indebtedness; real wages virtually flat for the past 25 years; a terrible work-life balance situation for most working people (and getting worse); labour standard protections that now exist only on paper; the second highest percentage of low-paying jobs in the OECD; young people forced into working for nothing on phony apprenticeships; levels of economic (both income and wealth) inequality not seen since 1928. Throw in the diminishing "social wage" (Medicare, education, home care, child care, etc.) and the situation is truly grim.
Most of these insecurity statistics are rooted either directly or indirectly in 25 years of deliberate government policy designed by and for corporations. Governments have gradually jettisoned their responsibility for economic security, slowly but surely handing this critical feature of every Canadian's life over to the "market" for determination. Economic policy has been surgically excised from government responsibility to citizens and is now in the singular category of "facilitating investment" -- a euphemism for clearing the way for corporations to engage in whatever activity enhances their bottom line.

And on the national security file, Harper has made Canada a bulls eye for terrorists:

As for the kind of security Harper likes to talk about, we are in fact less secure now under the Conservatives' policies than we have ever been. Harper's foreign policy could easily make us targets for the very "jihadists" that he rails on about. His involvement in the destruction of Libya, his aggressive stance in Afghanistan, the carte blanche he provides Israel in its brutal oppression of Palestinians in Gaza and the illegal occupation of the West Bank, and his comically ineffective "engagement" in the war on ISIL all contribute to terrorists identifying Canada as a reasonable target for retribution.

If we actually had some smattering of national interests in the Middle East, it could be argued that the risk is worth it. But we don't. The net result is not only increased national insecurity but the trampling of our rights to privacy and our civil liberties with Bill C-51 -- legislation that does nothing to enhance our defence against terror but dramatically undermines our personal security as citizens.

Mr. Harper's record speaks for itself. But he will do everything he can to obscure it. Facts are his enemy.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

There's An Old Fashioned Word For That


What passes for Conservatism these days is really Harperism. Those who know what Conservatism means are appalled by Pierre Poilievre's Travelling Payola Show. Certainly former Harper Party MP Brent Rathgeber is. He writes:

There was a time when Conservatives would scoff at — or at least be embarrassed by — such huge expenditures, especially ones linked to the welfare state. But I truthfully can’t remember when that might have been. After seven consecutive deficit budgets, adding over $200 billion to the national debt — including the single largest deficit in Canadian history — it’s clear that this Conservative government is not too embarrassed to spend taxpayers’ dollars in large quantities.

You might think, however, that there would be some principled people remaining in the Conservative party who would see through all of this blatant, shameless self-promotion, on the eve of a national election when the Conservatives are trailing in the polls. Apparently, there aren’t.

And that's just the point. Stephen Harper has expelled those people from the party -- among them Rathgeber, who knows that the roadshow is all a ruse. The old Child Tax Credit was not taxable. Not so the UCCB:

The cheques might appear large — $520 for children under six, $420 for children under 18. But this is not “Christmas in July” for parents. In the last omnibus budget bill, the government eliminated the Child Tax Credit. The new Universal Child Care Benefit is taxable income. So although you get to cash the cheque before the election, you’ll be taxed on it come April. With the elimination of the Child Tax Credit, a family earning $90,000 per year will only be able to keep an extra $7.50 per month after the tax clawback.

From a political and electoral perspective, of course, it matters not. The cheques get cashed before the election. The tax liability is not incurred until six and a half months after the government hopes to be re-elected.

So the whole exercise is fundamentally dishonest and fundamentally contrary to what used to the bedrock principles of conservatism:

Conservatives in this country used to stand for something — for small, limited government, for low taxes, for individual choice and individual responsibility for choices made. This week’s spectacle showed that the Conservatives are no better as guardians of public money than any other party; worse, they have taken electioneering and electoral bribery to new and dangerous levels. 

The fundamental principle of Harperism is that you use public money to buy votes. There's an old fashioned word for that: fraud.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Keeping It Under Wraps


Last week, the Advisory Panel On Healthcare Innovation was supposed to release its report at a scheduled news conference. Jeffrey Simpson writes:

The day before the news conference, however, the PMO cancelled it and decided to release the report without notice on the Health Canada website on July 17. Just as the PMO hoped, the report received little attention.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose, who was to have spoken about the report, was gagged. The posting on her department’s website was timed so that it appeared only after the provincial premiers had finished their final news conference in St. John’s, in case the report gave any or all of them ammunition to embarrass the federal government. Such is the way this government works.

As with everything else, when the news is not what the government wants, it buries it. In this case:

The panel’s mandate read that recommendations “must not imply either an increase or a decrease in the overall level of federal funding for current initiatives supporting innovation in health care.”

The Naylor panel ignored the mandate, explaining in its report that “although it was not an easy decision, we did not follow this guidance.” Later, it warned that “absent federal action and investment, and absent political resolve on the part of provinces and territories, Canada’s health-care systems are headed for continued slow decline in performance relative to peers.”

To that end, the panel recommends creating a Health Innovation Fund with a $1-billion yearly budget to invest in changes to the health-care system in conjunction with willing provinces and health-care institutions.

An extra one billion dollars a year for a government obsessed with balancing the budget? That news couldn't hit the fan:

For 2017-18, the federal government has announced it will reduce the increase in Ottawa’s annual health-care transfer to the provinces from 6 per cent to something in the range of 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent, depending on economic growth. The provinces would likely not appreciate losing money from Ottawa with one hand, and then getting some, but only some, of it back through the Innovation Fund.

The Harper government was hoping for change-on-the-cheap from the panel: innovation that would cost nothing but improve the system. It certainly has no interest in an expanded, direct federal role in health care, having made it abundantly clear that health care is for the provinces, except for Ottawa’s responsibility for aboriginal and veterans’ health, public health and drug approvals.

The man who used to run the National Citizens Coalition -- which was founded specifically to oppose public medical care -- did not approve.

So, what else is new?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Strong And Stupid


Joe Oliver has informed Kathleen Wynne that the Harperites will do absolutely nothing to help set up the Ontario Pension Plan -- which is essentially an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. At the same time, he says that he is "consulting" Canadians about  "voluntary" contributions to the CPP -- an idea which his predecessor, Jim Flaherty, said wouldn't work.

Alan Freeman writes that the CPP works very well:

The CPP has been fabulously successful. When it ran into funding difficulties in the 1990s, the federal government at the time (Liberals, again), in cooperation with the provinces and backed by a strong public service, fixed the plan and created the CPP Investment Board, now one of the world’s most respected pension fund managers.

Faced with longer life spans, the erosion of traditional employer-based pension plans and the uncertainty of investment returns from the contributory plans that have replaced them, Canadians like the idea of a modest expansion of the CPP. The provinces are generally on side as well. But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the country’s most influential lobby group, is firmly opposed.

And, in  Harperland, the CFIB calls the shots:

The CFIB (which seems at times to have more influence on government policy than the Department of Finance) feels no responsibility to the millions of low-salary, non-unionized workers whom its members employ — the very people who would benefit most from an expanded CPP. For the CFIB, an expanded CPP is “a job-killing payroll tax” — a phrase Mr. Oliver tends to parrot whenever asked.
Calling the CPP premiums a payroll tax is disingenuous to say the least. Unlike income tax, CPP contributions don’t disappear from paycheques into government coffers. The money goes into the pension plan and every cent that an employee contributes results in credit for a future pension. Better still, every employee dollar is matched by an employer contribution. It may be forced savings but it’s not a payroll tax — and Canadians know it.

Beyond the CFIB, the reason the Harperites are opposed to an expansion of the CPP is that the pension plan was a Liberal idea:

 It was created by a Liberal government in the 1960s — which makes it, to Harper’s way of thinking, intrinsically bad, like peacekeeping, support for the United Nations or the Maple Leaf flag. Making it worse is the fact that the CPP is a social program that is based on the idea that government, employees and their employers have a joint responsibility to help Canadians of all incomes save for their retirement. For Tories of the Harper ilk who believe that government exists to cut taxes and support the armed forces — and little else — this is anathema.

Obviously, Mr. Harper is a man of strong -- and let's be frank -- stupid opinions.

Monday, July 20, 2015

He Says He's Doing It For The Kids


Nothing the Harper government does is surprising anymore. The National Post reports:

Number-crunching based on the last census shows that many of the ridings in line to get the biggest cheques from the newly increased Universal Child Care Benefit are in suburban Alberta and the all-important ridings that surround Toronto — and they usually have a history of tilting Tory.

Only two of the top 20 destinations for the enriched UCCB payments landing on July 20 are locations where the opposition NDP would be considered the favourite; and one more in the top 20 would be considered a Liberal seat.

The increased payments are retroactive to the start of the year, meaning the payments this month will be higher than any before: up to $520 for children under six, and up to $420 for every child six to 17.
The government doesn’t decide where in the country the money will go; it does get to decide who should receive the money.

To get a more detailed picture of where those families live, The Canadian Press used census data from Statistics Canada to plot the location of children under age 18 in each of Canada’s 338 ridings, and then calculated how much each riding would receive in new monthly child care benefit spending.

The analysis then used an Elections Canada study that transposed the outcome in each of those 338 ridings based on the poll-by-poll breakdown of votes from the 2011 campaign. (In 2011, there were just 308 ridings, so Elections Canada has done number-crunching to figure out who would have won if the 338 ridings had exited in 2011.)

The analysis showed that the highest grossing ridings are most likely to be in the 905-belt around Toronto, as well as the suburban areas of Calgary that supported the Conservatives in 2011.

And who is beating the bushes for the Universal Child Care Benefit? That Master of Democratic Reform and Fair Elections -- Pierre Poilievre:

"Families have supported the Conservative party because the Conservative government has supported families,” Poilievre said.

Brazen self interest. And Poilievre says he's doing it for the kids.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Obsessed With His Enemies


Like Richard Nixon, Stephen Harper is obsessed with his enemies. That's why, Bob Hepburn writes, he continues to attack Justin Trudeau more than Tom Mulcair. Mulcair may be first in the polls. But Harper hates Trudeau because:

First, Prime Minister Stephen Harper hates Trudeau and the Liberals. It’s a personal hatred, dating back to the 1980s and to Justin’s father, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Harper’s right-wing ideology was forged forever during Trudeau’s reign when the young Harper felt Justin’s father had a personal dislike for western Canada, and Alberta in particular. He felt the introduction of the National Energy Program and Trudeau’s focus on Quebec were the clearest proof of this anti-West attitude.

Second, Harper actually fears Trudeau more than he does Mulcair, despite what the polls are saying now.
While the NDP has risen in popularity after the stunning victory by the New Democrats in the Alberta provincial election in May, Harper suspects the NDP surge isn’t the real thing, and that it will ease as the Oct. 19 election nears. 

Third, Harper is obsessed with totally destroying the Liberals as a national party.
Ever the political strategist himself, Harper is playing the long game, looking beyond the October election which likely will end with a minority government of some sort. His aim is to set up the next election as a battle mainly between the NDP and the Conservatives. In basically a two-party race, Harper is convinced the Tories could trounce the NDP, with “blue Liberals” switching to the Conservatives, not the “leftist” NDP.

After the last federal election, Harper almost wiped the Liberals off the map. He won't be satisfied until he leaves the Liberal Party in the same state the Romans left Carthage.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Until It 's Too Late


This week, Joe Oliver -- acting on orders from the boss -- wrote a letter to Kathleen Wynne, informing her that the Harper government would offer absolutely no help in setting up the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. Martin Regg Cohen writes:

The toxic letter to Ontario penned this week by Harper’s henchman, Joe Oliver — Flaherty’s successor as finance minister, and the MP so cavalierly misrepresenting Toronto’s Eglinton-Lawrence riding — sets a new low for shabby politics and shoddy public policy ahead of an October federal election.
“The Ontario Government’s proposed ORPP would take money from workers and their families, kill jobs, and damage the economy,” Oliver writes with fatuous hyperbole in the undated letter leaked to the media before it was even transmitted to Queen’s Park.

Rather than presenting substantive arguments or serious research, his letter quotes shamelessly from the small business lobby that speaks only for vested interests, not public interests, and makes wild claims about economic impacts — scenarios contradicted by the federal government’s own internal research, which the Tories have distorted in the past.

“For these reasons, we will not assist the Ontario Government in the implementation of the ORPP,” the letter concludes acidly. “This includes any legislative changes to allow the ORPP to be treated like the Canada Pension Plan for tax purposes,” notably RRSP contribution limits.
Astonishingly, the Harper government will refuse to collect pension deductions on Ontario’s behalf or provide any information to assist the plan — services for which it would have been fairly compensated by the province. In short, it’s not merely a hands-off attitude but a hands-to-the throat approach.

Wynne received a strong mandate to set up the plan in the last provincial election. Harper clearly has chosen to ignore that mandate, just as he chose to ignore the premiers at this week's Council of the Confederation.  Harper simply ignores those he disagrees with -- premiers, environmentalists, nations that try to reach a deal to contain Iran's nuclear program.

Ontario will now turn to Quebec -- which has had a stand alone pension plan since the mid sixties -- for advice on how to proceed. In the upcoming election, the voters of Ontario will not ignore what Mr. Harper has done.

The problem with ignoring people is that they simply pass you by and let you stew in your own irrelevance. If Mr. Harper had lived in the days of Noah, he would have refused to see any signs of rain -- until it was too late.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Imitation Of Who?


Two weeks ago, Conservative MP Wai Young told the congregation at the Harvest City Church that, when he pushed through Bill C-51, Stephen Harper was walking in Christ's footsteps. All analogies eventually break down. But this one never even got out of the gate. That's why Michael Harris has so much fun with it:

Sorry, Wai — the case for Steve being Christ-like is not compelling. It’s like comparing Donald Trump to Mother Theresa, or John Baird to Gandhi.
For one thing, Steve was born in a hospital, not a manger. For another, I think you would agree that Jesus Saves, while Steve spends and spends and spends. Seven years to record a balanced budget of his own — and even then he only managed it through the tawdry tactic of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Jesus could feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes. Steve needs the federal treasury and $8 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy a measly election.

And, given some of Harper's disciples, the comparison verges on the obscene:

Jesus had disciples who later went on to great things. Steve had accomplices who found their way to court with astonishing regularity. Instead of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, Steve had Arthur, Peter, Bruce and Dean — confidantes and advisors who were persons of interest to the police. Some even made it to the handcuff-and-shackle set. No wonder Steve wants to build more prisons.

 In the end, there are more differences than similarities between Christ and Harper:

Jesus believed in forgiving people and turning the other cheek. Steve believes in turning the other screw and being cheeky.

As for forgiveness, Steve believes that vengeance is his, no matter what the Lord sayeth. Just ask Helena Guergis, Mike Duffy or Tom Flanagan. Never mind the New Horizons probe and all those NASA snaps of that frozen meatball on the edge of our solar system; Flanagan was the first to orbit Pluto after raising the ire of Steve. Jesus forgives. Steve consigns trespassers to the outer darkness.

Christ proclaimed that the meek shall inherit the earth. Perhaps Young thinks meek means stupid.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Deserve An Explanation


Justin Trudeau's support for Bill C-51 is one of the reasons his credibility is slipping. That support was not unqualified. He and his party, he said, would:

“narrow and clarify the overly broad scope of the new powers” for CSIS, create a parliamentary committee to oversee the security agencies, and put the bill up for parliamentary review the bill within three years."

That was pretty thin gruel. And he has paid a price for his vague suggestions of reform. Steve Sullivan writes that it's time for Trudeau to lay his cards on the table:

He has to tell us what he’d do — to lay out his own vision, one based on facts. Fighting terrorism requires a combination of security, the Charter of Rights and, yes, sociology. Trudeau has to offer a robust defence of the rights and freedoms undermined by C-51. He has to argue forcefully that these freedoms make us stronger as a society, not weaker — and that no terrorist is going to take them away from us.

But if he really wants to take the initiative here, he has to be honest with people about the real nature of terrorism. There will always be terrorist threats — we live in that kind of world — but Canada is still the kind of place where we face far graver health risks from sugary soft drinks than from any lone-wolf jihadis. Trudeau has to be up-front with us and state what ought to be obvious: no law can ever protect us completely, and the quest for absolute safety risks destroying the things that make us a free people.

The Harper attack machine will be merciless. But that's a given. Without details, Trudeau looks and sounds like he listens to his advisors because he's not his own man. And, without an explanation, we can only assume that he isn't his own man.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



The Harper government is increasingly calcified. Old and tired, it clings to its dogma, even as the world changes. Lawrence Martin writes:

It’s the biggest threat to the Harper government today. It’s become predictable in most everything it does, set in its ways, unwilling to change.

It’s strange. The Conservatives know they are vulnerable to the change argument – they’ve fallen below 30 per cent support in many polls – but do little to counter it. Rather than bold new promises to make things better, we get the daily drumbeat of dogma. Rather than change their much-criticized way of operating, they double down on control. Voters looking for evidence of their being wiser than yesterday don’t find much.

Consider the prime minister's argument that he is best qualified to manage the economy:

Global conditions are to blame, says the Prime Minister. That is true to a degree. But global conditions were worse throughout the stagflation of the 1970s when Pierre Trudeau was in power. Our average economic growth rate in the Trudeau years was about double of that under Mr. Harper. Maybe there’s something systemic now that needs be addressed. But to hear Finance Minister Joe Oliver, no change is in order. The old approach will do.

The old approach will do is the order of the day:

Where their resistance to change could really sting them is in their method of operating. They are condemned far and wide for being authoritarian. But other than Michael Chong’s watered-down reform bill, they offer no respite from the modus operandi of manipulation.

Barring Ches Crosbie, the son of former Tory cabinet minister John Crosbie, from running for a seat in Newfoundland is one of the latest examples. There is no promise to change, to start showing respect for democratic institutions, to stop the use of abusive omnibus bills, to stop the muzzling, to be accountable.

There are no new ideas and no new people joining the team. In fact, the first string members of the team have -- for the most part -- headed for the showers and left the adolescents to run the show:

In keeping with the lack of change on policy and on management style, add the management team. The country is being run more and more by a tight cabal of adolescent-minded enforcers such as Jenni Byrne and Ray Novak in the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet member Pierre Poilievre.

Mr. Harper says his policies are cast in stone. He forgets that, when living breathing organisms become locked in stone, they become fossils.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's All Hogwash


These days, Michael Harris writes, the Conservative majority in the Senate is sounding more and more like Donald Trump:

If there is anyone left in the country who still believes that the place of sober second thought is an independent body, last week’s report from the Senate’s Security and Defence committee should open their eyes.

It’s not the Red Chamber. It’s the Echo Chamber, amplifying the central message of the Conservative election campaign: be afraid, be very afraid. It is trash politics in all its cynical glory. It is also unadulterated hogwash.

Taking their lead from the PMO, Conservative senators are doing their bit to scare the hell out of Canadians -- and they've resorted to good old fashioned Canadian racism to do it:

The Conservative majority in the Senate disgracefully singled out the entire Muslim community for a trip to the woodshed. They asked that the Harper government look at the training and certification of imams in Canada. Does that mean rabbis, priests, and ministers must be trained and certified too, or just imams? And why were community leaders also singled out for re-education camp?

And, once again, they have run run headlong into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Since freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is highly unlikely that this idiotic idea will have any better chance of surviving a court challenge than the rest of the Harper government’s myriad attempts to subvert the constitution, should the government be dumb enough to adopt it.

And what about the recommendation that Canada create a “no-visit list” to bar “ideological radicals” from Canada. Can’t have Jane Fonda slipping over the border, right? I must admit there is a certain philosophical symmetry here with Bill C-51, the anti-terror law. After all, it turns homegrown ideological radicals, mainly First Nations people, into terrorists — or at least it can, if CSIS or the government so decrees. So balanced, is it not, to be able to do the same thing to undesirables from away that you can do to your own citizens?

That said, a no-visit list in Harper’s world would probably mean that people like Noam Chomsky would be turned back at the border, while Dick Cheney would be met at the airport with a military band.

Harris is right. It's all hogwash.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Failing Economics 101


Stephen Harper and Joe Oliver like to pose as economic gurus. They claim that, when it comes to running the nation's economy, they know what they're doing. But, Jim Stanford writes, they should review they're notes from Economics 101 -- assuming they took notes:

The Conservatives need to dust off their first-year college macroeconomics textbooks. Overall economic activity is determined by the spending power available to buy what we collectively produce. There are four major categories of spending, and hence four main engines that can potentially lead growth: business investment, exports, consumer spending and government.

Unfortunately, the first three are all currently headed in the wrong direction. Business capital spending was sluggish even before oil prices fell (despite large corporate tax cuts) and now it’s shrinking fast. Exports have fallen steadily through the year, producing record trade deficits. And consumers, finally tapped out after years of record debt, are sitting on their wallets: Retail sales fell in April. At any rate, consumers can’t usually lead the growth parade, anyway, since they need jobs before they can go out shopping.
In the face of such multi-dimensional weakness, what good does it do to eliminate a deficit in the remaining sector of the economy? In a best-case scenario, absolutely nothing. And more likely, the austerity imposed to attain balance (for the federal government, this includes $15-billion annually in cumulative spending cuts and nearly 50,000 lost jobs since 2011) only further undermines demand, both directly and indirectly, by further chilling consumers.

Still, Harper and Oliver keep insisting that a balanced budget is what Canada needs to jump start its economy. They are obsessed with a balanced budget because that's what they promised in the last election. But the budget really isn't balanced:

Mr. Oliver’s budget isn’t really balanced, anyway. His apparent triumph was achieved through accounting gimmicks: reallocating contingency funds, selling off public assets, raiding the EI surplus, even prebooking the value of expected cost savings from labour contracts that haven’t even been negotiated yet. Now, with growth falling well below his 2-per-cent budget assumption, another multibillion-dollar hole has opened up in his budget.

Harper and Oliver would make great case studies in a psychology course. Each provides ample evidence of what happens to someone whose life is driven by obsession. But, when it comes to economics, they both illustrate why people fail Economics 101.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Running Gag

Yesterday, at a campaign  stop in Pickering, Stephen Harper claimed the Canadian economy was in bad shape because the global economy isn't doing well:

"Let me just state clearly what the situation is, there has been a downturn and the reason for that has been the downturn in the global economy," Harper said in Pickering, Ont.

"It's really that simple. Look around the world, we have another crisis downturn in Europe, we have a very significant slowdown and some other related economic problems now in China, we had very negative first quarter growth in the United States.

"So those things have obviously affected this country and in particular through oil prices and some commodity prices."

The fact that Harper put all his eggs in the oil basket has nothing to do with the shrinking economy. The fact that he has delivered an unrelenting dose of austerity to that economy has nothing to do with it. In fact, his prescription is for more of the same:

Harper added that the federal government will not "spiral ourselves into deficit" and face credit downgrades, create an "investment freeze" by hiking taxes on businesses or take away tax breaks to Canadian families.

"Those are things we don't do," he said. "What we are doing, is providing strong fiscal discipline with lower taxes and we will have very large scale investment going into the Canadian economy this month alone through the increased universal childcare benefits."

In Young Frankenstein, the hump on Igor's back keeps shifting. Finally, he denies its existence. It's a fitting metaphor for Stephen Harper's concept of responsibility. He takes responsibility for what others  have done -- like the banking system Paul Martin bequeathed to him, or the discovery of John Franklin's ships.

But he'll deny responsibility for the deficits he has run, for his atrocious record of job creation and for the hollowing out of Canada's manufacturing sector. Like Igor, he's become a running joke.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Living In A Pup Tent


The latest Greek drama is still playing itself out. But Murray Dobbins writes that we have reached a turning point:

The temple of neoliberalism and its ideology of social suicide in the interests of the banks has been breached. The hysteria in European capitals (particularly Germany) after the resounding 'No' vote by the people of Greece is entirely appropriate. For decades now developed country governments and their enforcers, the IMF and the World Bank have managed to bamboozle people in country after country, convincing them that up is down and black is white -- that austerity and recession are nirvana --pie in the sky by-and-by. Until now.  

The Neoliberals will not yield willingly. They will fight for every inch of ground they have occupied. But it's quite clear that a war has been going on. And it's also quite clear who is fighting whom:

The war between democracy and international finance, effectively suppressed for decades by complicit Western politicians and co-conspirators in the corporate media, is now out in the open for all to see. And what we see should have us declare that we are all Greeks now. Because we are all (except the 1 percent) suffering, to one degree or another, from this ideological lunacy of austerity in the midst of recession. The source of the madness is a radical cult of free market economists and trade lawyers who have occupied the temples of state power and captured the loyalty of elected representatives. They hold sway in Ottawa as well.

Indeed. Everywhere that Stephen Harper goes, he makes it clear that he will make no concessions and take no prisoners:

Canada is not suffering as much but the prescription applied by Harper and Paul Martin before him have the same roots: shrinking the social state through tax cuts for the rich and corporations, hobbling government powers through "trade" agreements, and systematically transferring wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. As in the EU Harper declares that any other set of policies is reckless. Last week in Calgary Harper declared that the October election was about security versus risk: "Friends," he said, "We've come too far to take risks with reckless policies. That's why I'm confident that this October Canadians will choose security over risk."

Security. That's his watchword. It's all hokum, of course. He claims that he's making Canada secure from the terrorists that lurk everywhere outside our moat. But the moat -- in economic and security terms -- only protects a few.

From now until election day, he'll try to convince Canadians that his is a very big tent. But it's clear that he lives in a pup tent. And it's beginning to look like there's just enough room for him.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Will He Prorogue The Election?

Things are not going as planned. The two big timbers in Stephen Harper's election platform -- the economy and national security -- are rotten.

The economy is nothing to crow about. Michael Harris writes:

Joe Oliver appears to have stayed out in the sun too long. It is not a recession, Oliver said, but an opportunity for the government’s Economic Action Plan, the undead of Harper policy, to come to the rescue. The Flat Earth Society are rationalists from the Enlightenment compared to the voodoo coming out of Ottawa these days on the economy. The masters of the economic universe sound more like ex-Pravda editors trying to bury the truth in low-grade propaganda — just like they did when they taxed income trusts into oblivion and denied the 2008 recession. As the chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada observed as he lowered the expected growth rate of the economy from 2.2 to 1.5 percent, it will be “another weak growth year for Canada.”

And Harper's claim that there are jihadists at the gate has proved to be as bogus as his claim that he is the best steward of the economy:

Neither Canada, the United States, nor the world for that matter are awash in terrorists. Forget the chorus of terror stories on the tube, ranging from raging beheaders to sewing needles in PEI potatoes. And disregard Harper’s claim that there have already been ISIL attacks in Canada.

Global terrorism isn’t ‘particularly global’ as Philip Giraldi put it in the American Conservative. According to the State Department’s annual “Country Reports on Terrorism 2014″, 80 percent of all fatal terrorist attacks were restricted to five countries: Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Syria. War zones all, or places where large parts of the country are not under government control.
As for North America, the threat is “miniscule.” The 389-page document reports that although twenty-four Americans died in terrorist incidents in 2014, seventeen of those deaths occurred in war zones abroad, none in the United States. As for the terrorist threat to North America, since 9/11, there have only been seven incidents laid at the feet of jihadi-style terrorists, resulting in 26 deaths.

Meanwhile, Harper's performance on the international stage hasn't gone unnoticed:

How much lower can the prime minister drag our international reputation? Lectures from the governor of California about Canada’s doltish policy on climate change; lectures from the UN on permitting potential human rights violations by Canadian mining companies operating abroad; and serious scrutiny by the UN over the allegation that Harper has used the Canada Revenue Agency to attack charitable organizations that aren’t into partisan butt-kissing.

And, of course, there is the soon to resume Duffy trial. With so many things not going his way, will he prorogue the election?

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Something Has Gone Off The Rails


The Harperites want to build a memorial to "the victims of Communism." They're getting a lot of push back -- about where they plan to build it and what it looks like. But, Jeff Sallot writes, people are victims of other people, not "isms":

The people the Harper government wants to honour are victims of human rights abuses perpetrated by identifiable individuals. The abusers have names, like Lenin, Stalin, and Tito and Mao, Ceaușescu and Pol Pot, Castro and Kim Il-sung. All came to power in their homelands as leaders of nominal “communist” parties. All clung to power by violently curtailing rights to free speech, free elections, the rights to religious belief, rights to embrace ethnic or national identities, rights to property ownership and other basic human rights.

Given the government's record on these issues, it's more than a little ironic that they want to publicly shame these leaders. Using Harperian logic, perhaps we should build a monument to the victims of capitalism:

Let’s begin with the millions of Africans who were kidnapped, chained and sold into slavery to enrich the mercantile capitalists who owned cotton, rice and fruit plantations in North America and the Caribbean islands?

Let’s remember the 26 miners who were killed in the Westray Mine explosion in 1992 in Nova Scotia, along with the tens of thousands of other miners of gold, coal, diamonds, copper and asbestos around the world who have lost lives in preventable accidents in unsafe mines, or died of black lung disease or were simply shot by strike breakers.

Our list would include the more 1,200 people who where killed two years ago when the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed. Most of the victims were women garment workers who were told.

The proposed monument displays the Harperite ignorance of history and its enslavement to ideology. Mr. Harper has a firm grasp of ideology but not of facts. He claims to be an economist. One would think that he understands the significance of facts.

Obviously, something has gone off the rails.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Front And Centre

David Suzuki writes that we live in a warmer world -- a world in which extreme weather is a fact of life. The evidence just keeps piling up:

Several recent studies indicate a clear connection between increasing extreme weather and climate change. One, by climatologists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, looked at rising global atmospheric and sea-surface temperatures, which have increased water vapour in the atmosphere by about five per cent since the 1950s. According to the paper, published in Nature Climate Change, "This has fuelled larger storms, and in the case of hurricanes and typhoons, ones that ride atop oceans that are 19 centimetres higher than they were in the early 1900s. That sea-level rise increases the height of waves and tidal surges as storms make landfall."

A Stanford University study found, "accumulation of heat in the atmosphere can account for much of the increase in extreme high temperatures, as well as an average decrease in cold extremes, across parts of North America, Europe and Asia," but also concluded the influence of human activity on atmospheric circulation, another factor in climate change, is not well understood. 

Pope Francis' recent encyclical is a call to action, as was Sunday's march for Jobs, Justice and Climate in Toronto. Suzuki writes:

Even though many world leaders recognize the problem, the recent G7 agreement to decarbonize our energy by the end of the century is a horrifying joke. None of today's politicians making the commitment will be alive to bear the responsibility for achieving the target, and the time frame doesn't address the urgent need to begin huge reductions in fossil fuel use immediately.

Governments at the provincial, state and municipal levels have led the way in finding solutions. Now it's time for national leaders to finally demonstrate real courage and foresight as they gear up for the Paris summit later this year.

Climate Change must be front and centre in the next federal election campaign.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Green Coalition


In Canada, we think of a coalition as an arrangement between two political parties. But, Tasha Kheiriddin writes, there is a more fundamental coalition -- a coalition of voters. Such a coalition is forming -- a green coalition -- and it is looking for the party with the best chance of defeating Stephen Harper:

In an interesting piece in the Hill Times, polling analyst Eric Grenier discusses the rise of a coalition not of parties, but of voters, similar to the east-west alliances which propelled both Conservative and Liberal governments into power in previous elections. According to Grenier, the NDP is building a coalition of voter bases in British Columbia, Quebec, and urban centres in Ontario and the West – and that coalition could be enough to secure the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.

Green voters share common concerns:

Apart from dissatisfaction with the current government, and a general leftward tilt, two of the concerns that stand out are the environment and opposition to energy projects that could imperil it. From protests against Northern Gateway in B.C. to fears over the reversal of Line 9 in Ontario to anti-fracking movements in Quebec, all these constituencies share an antipathy to big oil and an affection for “green policies” such as carbon markets.

Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Phillipe Couillard  have tuned into their concerns:

Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard says he see “very little value” in the Energy East project. And federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is defending his decision to run for NDP leader rather than advise Prime Minister Harper, based on his environmental convictions, and the Tories’ lack of them.
While the economy is still voters’ top of mind issue, Grenier’s poll suggests that a coalition built between eastern and western green voters might be the ticket to ride for the NDP. 

And Kathleen Wynne has formed an environmental alliance with Couillard.

You would think that such voters would flock to the party which brands itself -- quite correctly -- as Green. But those who want to send the prime minister back to Calgary know that  Elizabeth May's party has the policies but not the infrastructure to form a government.

The question is, what party will these voters choose to speak for them? They know that, if they allow themselves to be divided, Stephen Harper will once again be Prime Minister of Canada.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The Centre Cannot Hold


Stephen Harper told us that we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was through with it. These days, there are lots of Conservatives who don't recognize their party. In the wake of the party's rejection of Chess Crosbie's candidacy, Michael Harris writes, John Crosbie has been receiving phone calls:

When former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney calls from Rome to express sympathy and outrage that Ches Crosbie was blocked from running as a Conservative candidate in the 2015 federal election, you know the Conservative Party of Canada has a big problem.

Nor does that problem get any smaller, when former Conservative cabinet minister Jim McGrath calls to add his voice to the political maelstrom triggered by this blunder of epic proportions.

“The party has gone to hell,” he told his former cabinet colleague and fellow Newfoundlander.

And the elder Crosbie doesn't buy the line that the decision was entirely out of the prime minister's hands:

When asked about the prime minister’s hand in this, Crosbie replied, “There is no way that he didn’t know. It’s like the Duffy matter.”

The word is that Harper didn't enjoy the younger Crosbie's skewering of the Cowboy from Etobicoke. But Conservative candidate Kevin O'Brien once claimed that Harper had "no integrity." There is more behind the Crosbie saga:

A far more plausible reason is that Ches Crosbie looks like he would be headed to trial this September on a ground-breaking class action suit representing 1,000 clients in a case involving allegations of physical and sexual abuse at five Indian Residential Schools in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For historical reasons, indigenous people from Newfoundland and Labrador were left out of the compensation package for First Nations, and also from Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology for the Residential Schools. The Harper government denied responsibility for schools that opened before the province joined Confederation in 1949. 

It's one thing to apologize to Canada's First Nations. It's something else again to seek justice for them. Ches Crosbie will do just that. Justice is not in Stephen Harper's DNA. Long time Conservatives understand that.

That's why the Conservative Party is falling apart. The centre cannot hold.