Monday, August 31, 2015

Singing From The Same Songbook

Last week, Tony Turner -- who wrote the protest song Harperman -- was suspended from his job. Turner is a federalist scientist, whose job is to track migratory bird species. He knows what's been happening at Environment Canada. Michael Harris writes:

I have it on good authority that Turner, an expert in the highly controversial field of bird migrations, was also recently caught smiling at his desk. There are even nasty rumours circulating that he laughed at the Great Navigator during a clandestine lunch with other seditious critics of the government.

And they call this a breach of the code of values and ethics for a civil servant. Say what? How about Harper’s inner circle and members of his PMO senior staff? In Harperland, criticism set to music is worse than lying, cheating, bribery, breach of trust and peaking into other people’s forensic briefs?

Never mind that the Supreme Court has found that civil servants are within their rights to express opinions during an election campaign. Mr. Harper has no use for a court which consistently finds his legislation unconstitutional.

But perhaps it goes deeper than that. Mr. Harper is known for attempting reedy-voiced covers of old Beatles tunes. Turner is obviously a better musician -- and, I daresay, scientist -- than Mr. Harper. Perhaps it's a case of professional envy. And Mr. Turner writes his own material.

As the Duffy trial has made clear, everybody in the Harper government has to read the lines the PMO has written for them. Everybody sings from the same songbook -- except Mr. Turner.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Are 30% Of Us Fools?


Jeffrey Simpson writes that Stephen Harper's core of support is six percent:

After all, Conservative bedrock support is reckoned to be about 30 per cent, or maybe a trifle higher. So if only 6 per cent of respondents said the trial improved their opinion of the government, we’re talking about only a fifth of the core. Yikes.

Consider the picture of this government which has emerged in the wake of the evidence:

The Duffy trial turned reality on its head. The trial was supposed to be about him and his behaviour, and from the point of view of justice it so remains. But the media focus was on the Prime Minister’s Office, whose staffers were cross-examined. What that focus revealed was profoundly disquieting and completely unflattering. No wonder by an almost 9-1 margin their evidence at the trial left negative rather than positive impressions of the government.

Let’s remember that Mr. Duffy was placed in the Senate by the Conservatives because he would help them raise money and good cheer. Period. He would do their political bidding, happily and helpfully. He would shill. He was not there for policy expertise or sober second thought. He was like many senators: appointed to render faithful service to the party that made him a senator.

You would think that the trial would do Harper in:

The majority of Canadians do not find credible the testimony that the Prime Minister remained completely ignorant of what has happening, when everyone around him knew. His chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff, his issues-management guy were all either involved in the scheme or knew about it.

According to sworn testimony, his current chief of staff, Ray Novak, did know about payments to Mr. Duffy, despite various assertions of his ignorance. Indeed, so many contradictions emerged from the evidence that it became almost impossible to know who was telling the truth.

But, if the polls are correct, there are a lot more than 6% of the population that will vote for Mr. Harper. You have to wonder. Are at least 30% of us fools? 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Fundamental Realignment


Justin Trudeau, Tom Walkom writes, has done the country a favour. For the last two decades, the word "deficit" has been synonymous with "doom." But the two words are not synonyms. And now is the time to run a deficit:

But economists of all political stripes agree that if government is ever going to spend money on things like bridges and sewers, now is the time to do it.
First the spending is needed. Torontonians found that out last winter when the bitter cold caused ancient water pipes around the city to fracture.

Second, interest rates are at rock-bottom lows. As the U.S. economist Paul Krugman notes in his New York Times column, the world is awash in capital. Investing in public works is a much better use for this capital than, say, stock market speculation.
Third, the Canadian economy is stagnant. It may or may not be in recession (my guess is that we did suffer a recession in the first six months of the year but are now out of it).

Neo-liberals have convinced voters that governments are like households. Households have to balance budgets. But, in hard economic times, government debt can stimulate an economy and help households  balance their books.

Prime Minister Harper was absolutely gleeful when Trudeau  said he was willing to run a deficit -- something Harper has done, better than any prime minister in Canadian history. But that deficit was caused as much by tax cuts as it was by the global recession.

He won't tell you that, of course. Honesty is not his strong suite. The Duffy Trial has underscored that point. And the NDP has bought into the neo-liberal characterization of deficits. Now the Liberals are to the left of the NDP. 

Our politics is undergoing a fundamental realignment.

Friday, August 28, 2015

They've Read Leo Strauss


Stephen Harper has become a law unto himself. The evidence, Michael Harris writes, is incontrovertible:

The evidence from the near past is damning enough: Found in contempt of Parliament; breaking his own elections law; sending unconstitutional legislation to the Supreme Court; passing retroactive laws to make the illegal legal; publicly attacking the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; forcing out Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commissioner for following the statute governing her agency; dumping the Parliamentary Budget Officer for correcting the government’s false program costings; usurping some of the constitutional functions of the Governor-General; and passing legislation to punish political enemies such as unions and environmentalists.

But on the day that Chris Woodcock testified, Harper's disregard for the rules was on full display:

Only a leader with a sense of narcissistic exceptionalism could send a senior PMO staffer (and now campaign worker), to engage in a conversation with a sworn witness during a recess at a criminal trial. After all, Harper and his own office are smack in the middle of this evidentiary mud bath. What’s next, a visit to the judge’s chambers?

No appearance of witness tampering here. It's not a problem for a man and an office which lacks a conscience. Consider Woodcock's performance on the stand:

Woodcock inadvertently gave Canadians an insight into the blank-screen amorality at the heart of Harper’s political operation. He admitted to being ethically uncomfortable about “locking in” the Deloitte audit as part of the plan to contain the Duffy expense scandal. But when Bayne asked him if he’d said anything about those ethical misgivings, he replied no. Why would he?

Woodcock said he didn’t have the slightest problem with crafting those political lies known in Harperland as “communications lines” to make it appear that Duffy was repaying the money. This is a say-anything-do-anything crowd. Don’t forget, Nigel Wright himself divided lies into good and bad “misrepresentations”.

To them, there are clearly important and unimportant deceptions. How are Canadians to trust people like that?

Some lies are perfectly acceptable. Obviously, they've read Leo Strauss and taken his advice. And that's why they have to be turfed.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Would Any . . .?


In his latest column, Tim Harper recounts his frustrated and frustrating attempts to talk to Conservative candidates across the country:

I never met Mike Little, the Conservative candidate in the key riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. I met every other candidate but Little had personal considerations so he couldn’t meet me. His campaign ignored my entreaties anyway until I was about to leave Vancouver, when I got a noncommittal statement on an environmental issue.

In Edmonton-Mill Woods, the campaign of Tim Uppal told me the minister of state for multiculturalism couldn’t meet me because he was too busy meeting voters. That wouldn’t be so odd, except I had first requested time with him dating back to June, before the election was even called.

After I called candidate Naval Bajaj on his cellphone, he agreed readily to an interview, but when I arrived at the strip mall that housed his campaign office a week later, it had been mysteriously cancelled. Like Uppal, a campaign aide told me he was too busy meeting voters. So, I offered to come back later that evening. Meeting voters, I was told. The next day? Meeting voters. The next evening? Meeting voters. 

Other journalists have had the same response to their requests for interviews:

Globe and Mail writer-at-large John Ibbitson reported on the weekend that he could not get an interview with the Conservative candidate in Mississauga Centre, and Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen was told by the office of Don Valley North Conservative candidate Joe Daniel that he would not be doing any interviews until after the election.

If there is one thing the Duffy trial has made clear, its that Harper candidates are kept on a short leash. And if -- like Mike Duffy, Brent Rathgeber or Bill Casey -- they break ranks, the PMO will spare no effort to destroy them.

Which leaves one to ask two questions: Why would any semi-intelligent person want to be a Conservative candidate? And why would any semi-intelligent person vote for a Conservative candidate?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Ordinary Election


This is no ordinary election. Ralph Surette has been around quite awhile and he's seen a lot of governments. And, he writes, the Harper government is no ordinary government because of

its bewitching power, now installed in the Canadian psyche, capable of leaving even the opposition parties afraid of its power over public opinion, and functioning beyond the grasp of the mass media that have, to date, been incapable of telling the real story about Harper. For those who go on, sometimes in awed tones, about how Harper has "changed Canada," this is mainly how he's changed it -- by snuffing open debate. 

Mr. Harper's propaganda machine is "a thing of manipulative genius:"

It functions over the heads of both the opposition and the media, which have failed to bring him to book on the big issues and have, to date, served his purposes -- especially the big TV networks -- despite the snarling of the Tory base about the "liberal media."

Harper's right-wing radicalism -- especially the rich store of extreme statements from when he was head of the right-wing National Citizens' Coalition -- gets a pass. Another instance of this emerged recently in the dispute with Ontario, in which Harper refuses to dovetail the Canada Pension Plan with Ontario's proposed plan. It turns out that Harper once declared both the CPP and Old Age Security to be "tax grabs" that should be done away with.

That machine is now firmly ensconced in Ottawa. The only way to get rid of it and the rot that has infected Ottawa -- rot which has been publicly on display at the Duffy trial -- is to thoroughly fumigate the place:

What's needed is not just the defeat of a government, but a cleansing of the broader scourge of a corrosive ideology.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Not A Smart Man


We learned last week that the Prime Minister ignored the advice of his in-house lawyer. Alan Freeman writes:

When Perrin was asked by Harper’s then-chief of staff Nigel Wright to look into the whole issue of residency requirements for senators — just as the Mike Duffy expense scandal was catching fire in early 2013 — he soon found himself blindsided by the PMO’s other constitutional expert … Harper himself.

Perrin tried to object to his boss’s wobbly legal theory, but his carefully considered arguments soon ended up where all advice goes when it counters Harper’s will: the shredder. In the Harper PMO, the prime minister’s version of reality is the only one that matters. “The office obviously acts of the direction of the prime minister so his written word stands,” Perrin testified. End of discussion. Perrin was soon back at UBC.

Really smart leaders surround themselves with smart people who help them make decisions. But not Mr. Harper:

What’s truly remarkable about Stephen Harper’s one-man rule of Canada is that he really does seem to believe he is the ultimate autodidact — a master of all aspects of government policy, no matter how complex or obscure. He has experts on staff but, you see, he doesn’t really need them. And he can dispense with their advice when it becomes inconvenient.

But while Harper can claim some knowledge of economics by virtue of his master’s degree, since when is he an expert on constitutional law? Or climate science? Or statistics? Has he been going to night school without anyone noticing? Again and again, we’ve seen Harper personally determine government policy on his own, largely ignoring the views of experts — and certainly passing over any mumbled objections from his petrified cabinet ministers and shell-shocked caucus members.

The man who stubbornly refuses to take the advice of smart people -- people who know about things he knows nothing about -- is not a smart man.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Under His Thumb?


Given evidence which emerged last week at the Duffy trial, the NDP's Charlie Angus has written to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, asking why Nigel Wright was not charged with offering a bribe. Could it be that the Commissioner is under Mr. Harper's thumb? Given the record, Michael Harris writes, it's beginning to look like the entire force may be acting as Mr. Harper's private security detail:

The hallmark of the Harper era has been an attempt by the government to take ownership of all federal human assets in a degrading and political way. Civil servants have been used as props in fake TV news items. The justice department has drafted a string of unconstitutional legislation reflecting the CPC’s ideological agenda. Federal scientists have been muzzled like unruly dogs.

But one of the most disturbing elements of this tyrannical capture of every aspect of the machinery of government is the increasingly partisan behaviour of the RCMP. The Force has been used against

Harper’s political enemies, often without a shred of real misconduct on the table.
Helena Guergis was harassed for three months by a seven-member team of Mounties who found absolutely no truth to the criminal (and defamatory) allegations laid out in a letter written for the PM by Novak to the Commissioner of the RCMP.

The Force has never explained why that investigation got off the ground when all of the allegations were not only spurious but originated with highly dubious sources. In fact, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson directly called the source of the allegations against Guergis and decided on the spot there was no grounds for an investigation.

Bill Casey, the former Conservative MP and now Liberal candidate was thrown out of caucus because he would not agree to changes in the Atlantic Accord made unilaterally by the Harper government. Casey wasn’t just being grumpy. He had consulted with officials in the department of justice and they provided him with written opinions that the agreement had in fact been altered.

In a personal meeting with Casey, Harper dismissed the legal opinions with the view that the words meant what he, the PM, said they meant. Either Casey voted for the budget or he was out. When Casey chose to run as an Independent, he was faced with an RCMP investigation alleging that he had stolen funds from his former Electoral District Association.

As with Guergis, it was an entirely baseless accusation. But neither the government nor the RCMP showed the slightest remorse, even though Casey the victorious Independent MP raised the matter in the House of Commons and demanded an apology. He is still waiting for it.

And, recently, we discovered that the Mounties had shredded documents from the gun registry, even though the Information Commissioner was conducting an active investigation which required access to those documents. The government's most recent omnibus budget bill contained a clause absolving the Mounties from any illegal activity.

If the national police force is the servant of the prime minister and not the servant of the people, we are in deep, deep trouble.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Colossal Stupidity


The CBC has obtained a review of Canada's retirement system which was done for the Privy Council Office. The document has been heavily redacted. But its conclusions are clear:

"In 2010, Canada spent 5.0 per cent of GDP on public pensions (OAS/GIS and C/QPP), which is low compared with the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) of average of 9.4 per cent," it noted.

"The OECD projects that public expenditure on pensions in Canada will only increase to 6.3 per cent of GDP by 2050 – much lower than the 11.6 per cent of GDP projected for OECD countries on average."

The document also says Canada's public pensions "replace a relatively modest share of earnings for individuals with average earnings" compared with the OECD average of 34 countries; that is, about 45 per cent of earnings compared with the OECD's 54 per cent.

"Canada stands out as one of the countries with the smallest social security contributions and payroll taxes."

The Harperites claim that they are making up the gap with Tax Free Savings Accounts. But the review raises serious concerns about the overall efficacy of TFSA's:

The document notes that participation rates for TFSAs rise with income, with only 24 per cent of those making $20,000 annually or less contributing, compared with 60 per cent in the $150,000-plus bracket.

The review also acknowledges "it is still too early to assess their effectiveness in raising savings adequacy."

The report is another example of the Harper government ignoring its own expertise. If the information falls outside Stephen Harper's ever shrinking frame of reference, it is ignored. Benjamin Perrin reminded us this week that Mr. Harper does this to his own detriment.

John Ibbitson writes admiringly about Mr. Harper's force of will. Others might call it colossal stupidity.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Vets Are Going To War


The Harper Party used to be be able to count on the support of veterans. That was because they made the right noises. But, as Preston Manning said, "Words don't mean much to Stephen."

That's a lesson that  Canada's veterans have learned to their own chagrin. Tom Beaver and Ron Clarke have taken that lesson to the campaign trail and joined the Anyone But Harper Brigade. They quote former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier:

“I do not think we had any idea the scale and scope of what the impact would be. I truly do not. This is beyond a medical issue. I think many of our young men and women have lost confidence in our country to support them.”

Beaver and Clarke then go onto enumerate the reasons why veterans have lost faith in the Harper government:

1.  Conservatives kill lifetime pensions for veterans
2.  Harper minister insults veterans, closes nine veterans offices
3. Auditor General finds Harper government failing veterans
4. Conservatives slash 900 jobs despite pleas from managers
5. More than $1 billion not spent by ministry to help veterans
6. Judge orders government to pay $887 million to vets
7. Silencing and smearing veterans who criticize

The prime minister likes to claim that he stands four score for the security of Canadians. But the people who provided that security don't believe him. Why should you?

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Tangled Web


That's what you get, Shakespeare wrote, when first you practice to deceive. One lie follows another. That's certainly what happened in the Prime Minister's Office. Michael Harris writes:

It is becoming increasingly obvious that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair had it right: the CPC code of conduct is not taken from the Bible or some list of sacrosanct conservative principles. It’s taken from the Criminal Code. Canada has returned to the Mulroney era, when everything was okay unless it was illegal — notwithstanding Judge William Parker’s ruling in the Sinclair Stevens case. Even the appearance of conflict, the judge wrote, had to be avoided to maintain public trust in the system. Canadians now trust discount sushi more than they do Parliament under Harper.

And despite Wright’s vaunted reputation as an upright man, his defence of his actions in the Duffy affair displays the same ethical bankruptcy and dizzying sense of entitlement that emanated from the very heart of Stephen Harper’s office. This is David Dingwall’s chewing gum to the power of ten. When asked by Donald Bayne why he lied to the PM about his payout to Duffy, Wright said it wasn’t a “bad misrepresentation.” That euphemism could stop a charging rhino.

What it comes down to -- and Jack Layton warned us of this long ago -- is that you can't take Stephen Harper at his word:

Bottom line? Canadians can’t trust a single statement from a party that thinks perception is reality and actively promotes falsehoods when they are deemed to be in the government’s interest. And if you doubt that, consider the absurdity of the conflict between the testimony of Nigel Wright and the RCMP statement of former Harper PMO legal counsel Benjamin Perrin.

Mr. Harper keeps insisting that this election is about leadership. But a leader you can't trust is no leader. And a leader who insists that, when he does something it's legal, is merely the ghost of Richard Nixon. In the end, Nixon became entangled in his own web.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Will He Escape?


If you wonder how conservatives -- real conservatives -- are reacting to Stephen Harper's cross country tour, read David Krayden over at ipolitics. Krayden writes that he will vote Conservative -- not because of Stephen Harper, but in spite of him and a campaign that is all about him:

At any rate, it’s misleading to talk about a Conservative party campaign in 2015. This is a Stephen Harper campaign. If you understand that, you understand the thrust behind the ‘Just Not Ready’ ad: the veiled suggestion that Trudeau can have the office once Harper is done with it. This campaign just doesn’t put the leader front and centre — it focuses entirely on Stephen Harper, apparently excluding all other candidates. When Harper was in Vancouver last week, he stood — alone — against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. No incumbent MPs or earnest candidates by his side. The slogan attached to his podium was about him; it didn’t even mention the party.

Krayden long ago reached the conclusion that Harper is not who he claims to be:

At any rate, he’s leading a party that is conservative in name only. In a July pre-campaign announcement, Harper proudly claimed that the introduction of his government’s Universal Child Care Benefit was a “historic day” for Canada. And so it was — it was the day that a serving Conservative PM decided to define his legacy and political prospects in terms of how much money he’s willing to dump on the taxpayers who gave it to him in the first place.

Harper has already cleared the caucus of social conservatives: the list of Conservative MPs not running again is a Who’s Who of evangelical, assertively pro-life legislators in Canadian politics. Harper and the keen kids in the PMO have intimidated this crew for years.

Harper was never a social conservative. Once, he was a libertarian. Now he’s a libertarian who thinks big government — big Harper government — is the answer to all of Canada’s problems. He has become a living, breathing oxymoron.

Some might be tempted to remove the first two syllables of that last word. But the truth is that Stephen Harper is too smart by half.  The Duffy trial has revealed how morally bankrupt the Harper government really is. Nigel Wright's blood is in the water. Ray Novak will be the next to bleed publicly.

The question is, "Will Harper be part of the carnage?" If there are enough people like Krayden willing to vote for him, Stephen may escape Nigel's and Ray's collective fate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

That May Count For Nothing


Nigel Wright, we are told, is a very intelligent and righteous man. He has put a lot of effort into establishing his reputation as such. But Donald Bayne, Mike Duffy's lawyer, has been shredding that reputation. Alan Freeman writes:

Nigel Wright cuts a curious figure. Ramrod-straight, athletically slim, he’s a quiet presence in the witness box — calm, never raising his voice, even when clearly irritated by Bayne’s persistent questioning. He seems thoughtful, even cerebral, as he recalls his actions in the winter of 2013 as the Duffy scandal exploded in the PMO.

Yet Wright’s actions at the time clearly demonstrate that he was single-minded — even ruthless — in doing the boss’s bidding and shutting the scandal down, using any means at his disposal.

Government resources, Conservative party funds, his own bank account — they were all interchangeable to Wright, all tools to to be used in carrying out Stephen Harper’s wish to see the Duffy problem disappear.
“I didn’t think that this was a distinction that was that significant,” Wright responded, when asked whether he saw any difference between Duffy paying back the money himself — the story the public initially was told — and being secretly reimbursed through the Conservative Party Fund.

It is Wright's inability to make distinctions which is so deeply troubling. One gets the impression that his ambition overtook his conscience. It's an old story. From Christopher Marlowe through Goethe down to Stephen Vincent Benet, it's about a man selling his soul and knowing what he was doing.

Most of the time the story ends tragically -- though in Benet's story, Jabez Stone had a good lawyer to get him off the hook. The irony is that Nigel Wright is supposed to be a very good lawyer. In the end, that may count for nothing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Nation Of Laws, Not Men


Thomas Mulcair wants to abolish the Senate outright. Stephen Harper wants to kill it through neglect. Both men propose to ignore the Supreme Court's direction on how change -- or abolition -- should be accomplished. But, if either man pays any attention to polls, he may want to re-think his position. BJ Siekierski writes:

Across the political spectrum, Canadians trust their top court more than they do possibly any other Canadian institution, and certainly more than Parliament. And though they may not always agree with every decision, a majority think the Court has generally had a positive effect on the country as a whole as it protected their rights and freedoms.

The poll, which was done by Angus Reid, reveals that:

[m]ore than twice as many Canadians express ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the Supreme Court as express such levels of confidence in Parliament (61 per cent versus 28 per cent,

“Confidence in politicians (12%) and political parties (13%) is even lower, but the institution in which Canadians have the least faith is the Senate. Just one-in-ten respondents (10%) have ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the scandal-plagued Red Chamber.”

Notwithstanding a level of confidence in the Senate that barely registers, however, 50 per cent of Canadians agreed with the change-inhibiting Supreme Court senate reference from April 2014, compared to only 20 per cent who disagreed. The remainder were unsure (10 per cent) or unaware of the ruling (20 per cent).

In the Court, it would seem, they have considerable trust.

Mr. Harper's contempt for the Court -- and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, in particular  -- is well documented. As a lawyer, Mulcair should know that he tangles with the court at his own peril. Mr. Harper has been reminded everyday of late that his contempt for courts has serious consequences. What matters is how they interpret facts, not how he interprets them.

As much as Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair may be galled by the men and women in robes, we are still a nation of laws, not men.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Their World Is Changing

Harper Conservatives used to suffer from galloping certitude. They believed that they were paragons of virtue. Michael Harris writes:

Conservatives like to think they occupy the moral high-ground. There is the greenhorn Trudeau, the ideologically obsessed Mulcair, and somewhere on Mount Olympus, taking it all in with august superiority, are the transcendent Harper Conservatives.

But now, thanks in large part to the Duffy trial, the Conservatives now reside in the basement apartment of Canadian politics, exposed for their lying, cheating, and stunning abuses of power. And in any legitimate political system, that will have consequences.

It's getting really difficult to believe that the Harperites are the Party of Virtue. Nigel Wright may quote St. Mathew. But somehow it doesn't ring true:

My personal favourite was his claim to retroactive altruism, including a biblical reference to how one goes about playing the Good Samaritan. He gave the money to Duffy because he walked straight out of the Book of Matthew as a man living his faith. Yes, Nigel, the expurgated edition of Matthew 6 that goes something like this: “Let not the Left know what the Wright is doing, so that your giving will be in secret.”

A key part of the Cons’ narrative has always been that Wright forked over $90,000 to Duffy to spare Canadian taxpayers the expense. Where was that public-spirited concern when Wright was ready to use taxpayer-subsidized funds, $32,000 plus legal expenses, from the Conservative Party Fund, to make his Duffy problem go away?

Gifts -- real ones -- don't come with strings attached:

Wright’s depiction of that $90,000 cheque as a “gift” is patently absurd. Gifts don’t come with the advice to take it or face the consequences. The ‘or else’ in this case was frying Duffy in a Senate report, as opposed to going easy on him if he played ball with the PMO. The trouble is, Duffy didn’t think that he owed the money and still doesn’t. What’s more, neither Stephen Harper or Nigel Wright apparently did either. But judge for yourself: does this sound like a man grateful for the “gift” Wright kept insisting he accept?

Mr. Harper keeps repeating he knew nothing about what was going on -- although lots of other people did. His "media line" that Wright and Duffy kept everyone else out of the loop has been sunk. He and his followers may continue to insist they they are the Party of Virtue. But their world is changing.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Canada's Economic Federation


Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write that the economy is not in good shape. It hasn't been healthy for the last seven years:

The economy has been seriously underperforming for the past seven years and there’s little to suggest this will change over the next five.
Business fixed investment, as a share of GDP, is virtually unchanged since 2008. The unemployment rate remains stuck around 7 per cent, and both the labour force participation rate and the employment rate are below 2008 levels. These trends are dragging down the growth potential of the Canadian economy, which is estimated at around 2 per cent a year, down from 3 per cent.

Unfortunately, when it comes to economic policy, all three of the major parties are entangled in the web of neo-liberalism:

The Conservatives’ growth strategy has always been clear — cut taxes, cut spending, balance the budget, cut the size of government, hope the U.S economy recovers, and pray for higher oil prices. The entire April budget is based on this failed strategy and on projections that are pure fantasy.

What is strange is that the Liberals and NDP are twisting themselves into knots to put together growth strategies that are supposed to be different from that of the Conservatives, while at the same time adopting the Tory orthodoxy that all deficits are bad, all debt is bad, and small government is good.

Wise economic strategy requires federal-provincial cooperation -- something which has been totally absent during the Harper years:

A credible long-term growth strategy should focus on strengthening the economic efficiency of the economy. This would require renewed federal-provincial trust and co-operation, with strong federal leadership — something that has been painfully lacking for years.

It would require, too, an acknowledgement that the tax system has become a serious impediment to economic growth and must be simplified. But it will take real political courage to remove inefficient and unjustifiable tax entitlements.

If we can negotiate international free trade agreements, then why is it so difficult to create a real economic union in Canada, with free movement of goods and services among provinces? Our infrastructure at all levels of government (especially municipal) is collapsing and a national financing strategy is needed to begin rebuilding it. We need a national environmental and energy strategy that includes developing new energy-saving technologies.

Canada is -- or used to be  -- a federation. Until we return to that notion, our economic future is bleak.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Closing The Canadian Mind


Stephen Marche is a Canadian journalist who writes for American publications. In this morning's New York Times, he provides Americans with some background information on Canada's ongoing federal election and current prime minister:

THE prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.

He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television, confronting his opponents in quieter, less public venues, like the scholarly Munk Debates and CPAC, Canada’s equivalent of CSPAN. His own campaign events were subject to gag orders until a public outcry forced him to rescind the forced silence of his supporters.

Mr. Harper’s campaign for re-election has so far been utterly consistent with the personality trait that has defined his tenure as prime minister: his peculiar hatred for sharing information.

Marche then goes on to document Harper's attempts over almost a decade to ensure Canadian ignorance: 

But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.
Mr. Harper’s war against science has been even more damaging to the capacity of Canadians to know what their government is doing. The prime minister’s base of support is Alberta, a western province financially dependent on the oil industry, and he has been dedicated to protecting petrochemical companies from having their feelings hurt by any inconvenient research.

In 2012, he tried to defund government research centers in the High Arctic, and placed Canadian environmental scientists under gag orders. That year, National Research Council members were barred from discussing their work on snowfall with the media. Scientists for the governmental agency 

Environment Canada, under threat of losing their jobs, have been banned from discussing their research without political approval. Mentions of federal climate change research in the Canadian press have dropped 80 percent. The union that represents federal scientists and other professionals has, for the first time in its history, abandoned neutrality to campaign against Mr. Harper.

His active promotion of ignorance extends into the functions of government itself. Most shockingly, he ended the mandatory long-form census, a decision protested by nearly 500 organizations in Canada, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Catholic Council of Bishops. In the age of information, he has stripped Canada of its capacity to gather information about itself. The Harper years have seen a subtle darkening of Canadian life.

Harper's single minded focus, Marche writes, has been twofold: to close the Canadian mind and to change the essential nature of the country. This election, therefore, is seminal:

Whether or not he loses, he will leave Canada more ignorant than he found it. The real question for the coming election is a simple but grand one: Do Canadians like their country like that?

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Friday, August 14, 2015

What Those Emails Tell Us


When the Duffy trial re-opened this week, a 426 page binder of emails was introduced into evidence. Doanld Savoie writes that what they tell us is that:

Staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office roamed the corridors of the Senate as if it were an extension of their office. Audit reports were regarded as little more than briefing notes to be carefully managed by the centre. What truly matters in government now is the ability to manage the “blame game,” and it seems that only those operating at the centre have the required political clout to dictate how it should be managed. If PMO staffers think that they are free to tell the Senate how it should go about its work, one can only imagine what it must be like for ministers, their staffs and senior public servants whose careers are tied directly to the wishes of the prime minister.

The concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office isn't new. It began with Pierre Trudeau. However, under Stephen Harper:

We have created a two-tier system of government in Ottawa, or an upstairs-downstairs to governing. More to the point, governing from the centre has created a fault line in the government where things that matter to the prime minister and his immediate advisers are brought above the line and dealt with quickly and effectively. Only the prime minister and his advisers will decide what belongs above the fault line. It can be anything from a decision to go to war while not consulting the relevant ministers – let alone the cabinet – down to a $90,000 problem considered sufficiently important to generate 450+ pages of e-mails. Under these circumstances, why would anyone other than a career politician want to run for Parliament?

The e-mails are revealing in many ways. There is no evidence that the bureaucracy from the Privy Council Office, the Canada Revenue Agency or other departments was involved or even consulted. One would think, for example, that the CRA could have provided some advice on residence status under the Income Tax Act.

What does not matter to the prime minister and his advisers is pushed down below the fault line. Here, ministers and departments are expected to run on their tracks and not create fodder for the blame game. Here, public servants are also expected to attend countless meetings and deal with a growing array of oversight bodies that would not be tolerated in any other sector.

With Parliament losing relevance, with regional ministers no longer enjoying standing either inside government or in their region, with nothing of substance belonging to line ministers and their departments any more and with the concentration of political power at the centre, governing has become a process of political and economic elites talking to other political elites. This is where the public interest now takes shape, not through evidence-based policy advice.

Stephen Harper boasted that we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was through with it. Donald Savoie believes that it is barely recognizable now. If Mr. Harper is re-elected, it will be beyond repair.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

One Man Is Responsible


It's clear from yesterday's testimony that Nigel Wright is a good soldier. He will do his best to ensure that, during the course of Mike Duffy's trial, Stephen Harper will remain -- literally and legally -- hidden away at the North Pole. Michael Harris writes:

Wright will defend both his class and his party. His class is Bay Street, his party is the boys in blue. He will do nothing heroic on behalf of the Canadian people, and he will do nothing to damage the prime minister for whom he once worked as a “wheel dog” — a coinage Stephen King fans will recognize.

That’s why on Day One of what could turn into a marathon stint on the stand, Wright revealed little more than his reflexive generosity as a public servant. The rich and well-connected have a way of turning everything they do into a virtue. Even their philanthropy is strategic. It remains to be seen how Wright’s philanthropy can be Duffy’s criminal act.

And that's the rub. Duffy has been charged with accepting a bribe. Wright calls his $90,000 cheque an act of charity. What is clear is that cheque was meant to buy Duffy's silence. However, when Stephen Harper appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate, he bought his mouth. It was a travelling mouth that journeyed from coast to coast to coast, whipping up support for individual Conservative MP's and the party in general.

But, when Duffy leaked emails to colleagues, it became clear that his silence couldn't be bought. It will be up to Donald Bayne to prove that Duffy is not guilty of criminal wrong doing. Or that someone else is. And, if that someone else is Wright, the trail leads directly back to the prime minister.

Regardless of the outcome, it's clear that the PMO was thoroughly infected by a culture of deceit. And one man is responsible for that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rigged Against The Young

Newly released research has revealed that the Harper government's job creation record -- put in historical perspective -- is nothing to brag about. But its record of  job creation for young people is undeniably dismal. Armine Yalnizyan writes:

If you look at the proportion of people working by age group, this job recovery has been skewed toward Canadians aged 55 and over. Young people have seen almost no increase in their employment rate and, as you're about to read, the quality of those jobs has deteriorated. This is all the more striking because the young population (aged 15-24) did not grow, while the population of those aged 55 and over has grown by 22 per cent since 2009.

While there was a bigger, more prolonged drop in the employment rate of young workers in the wake of the 1990–1992 recession, today's young workers started off from a lower level and have, as yet, not seen any "recovery." Between 2008 and 2012, almost 30,000 people aged 15-24 wanted work but were not in the labour force and had returned to school; but this number has been falling off and has now returned to 2005 levels. We cannot compare these trends to what happened in the 1990s due to data limitations. We can only hope these investments in human capital will ultimately pay off, for the students and for society.

But, thus far, this recovery has been notable in its absence of job growth and steady job opportunities for young people. Between October 2008 and July 2009, young workers lost 185,000 full-time and 32,000 part-time jobs. Since then, they have recovered only 15,000 full-time jobs, though the number of part-time jobs is almost back to pre-recession levels. However, over the course of the past year, they lost 31,000 part-time jobs and added almost no new full-time jobs.

Yesterday, Kathleen Wynne and Stephen Harper did battle over the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. Wynne said the plan was needed by young workers -- part of the newly dubbed precariat -- whose new normal is precarious contract or self employment. They will not get workplace pensions. Thirty years in and out with a gold watch is gone. They will know many employers in a work life that will span more than thirty years. Stephen Harper's response was:

I am delighted to see, quite frankly, that our refusal to co-operate with the imposition of this tax is making it more difficult for the Ontario government to proceed.

The day is coming when the young will take out their anger on the fat, old men who stand in their way and the system that is rigged against them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Doing It For Their Country

Stephen Harper may be defeated in the upcoming election because the economy has tanked. But, Ralph Surette writes, there are other reasons -- better reasons -- to send him packing:

This is not an election like any other. What's at stake is nothing less than the integrity of Canada's most fundamental features -- the justice system, the electoral system, the public service, the tax system and Parliament itself -- all of which Harper has relentlessly assaulted and would complete the job of reducing to his personal playthings if only enough people could be kept deep enough in the dark to give him one more majority.

It has been a mark of Harper's manipulative genius to keep all this under the radar. It has also been the signal failure of the opposition parties to raise their sights and crystallize these crucial arguments against him. (Thursday's leaders' debate brushed past all this -- a segment on "democracy" dealt mainly with electoral reform, the Senate, the role of MPs and so on).

Along with the dismantled watchdog bodies, the fired and muzzled scientists, the harassment of charitable organizations with tax audits, the totalitarian instruction to federal librarians to "demonstrate loyalty" to the regime even when off duty, the dismissal of evidence in favour of ideology in policy and legislation, and on and on, you might note this: cuts in staff at the Department of Justice are such that legislation riddled with errors has been passed, usually hidden in democracy-mocking omnibus bills. Some have been, and others probably will be, knocked down by the Supreme Court.

The Harperist mentality is not to fix this, but rather to try harder to rig the courts (so far even Harper's appointed judges have gagged at his legal predations), as concerns rise in legal circles about some of his appointments, including his latest to the Supreme Court, an Alberta judge who was only a few years ago, as a law professor, blogging the Harperist line.

Geoff Stevens writes that many Conservatives are appalled by Harper's behaviour. But they like his tax cuts. The fundamental question they face is: Can their votes be bought? Mr. Harper is betting that they can be.

Fifty-five years ago, John F. Kennedy famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." If Canadians answer that question honestly, they will conclude that the best thing they can do for their country is to turf Mr. Harper.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What Have They Got That He Ain't Got?

Michael Harris writes that the Harper campaign has begun with some strange twists:

I’m not sure what democracy is anymore in Canada, but I’m pretty certain it's got nothing to do with agreeing to get frisked and letting people and dogs mess with your junk before you attend a political event. Do they even do that in Myanmar?

Harper The Great and Powerful, he writes, is beginning to look like the Cowardly Lion. Even once firm supporters of Mr. Harper are turning on him. John Robson announced in Friday's National Post that he wouldn't be voting Conservative this time around:

Power has corrupted [Harper] and his party. I wrote nearly two years ago that Harper is unfit for office because he lied to Parliament over the Wright-Duffy affair, insolently telling incompatible tales five days apart in October 2013, and lying about having contradicted himself.

Instead of recoiling from this cynical deceit, his party enthusiastically embraced it. If they think him worthy of public trust, they aren’t either.

It doesn’t matter where you look. The Tories talk tough in foreign affairs and praise the military. But they gut defence to fund cynical handouts. They rope in the rubes by feigning concern about traditional marriage, abortion and God. But they do nothing. Indeed, when Health Canada approved the abortion drug RU-486, this administration, which takes credit for every sparrow that takes wing in Canada, suddenly hid under the bed.

These people are not honourable. Indeed, they laugh at honour. They cherish the low blow, the devious tactic, the unprincipled bribe, in a relentless, sneering, partisan tone. People I know and like retweet Pierre Poilievre with vicious glee. I weep for them and my country.

Behind all the bluster, they're running scared. As Bert Lahr famously asked in The Wizard of Oz:

 What makes the Hottentot so hot?  What have they got that I ain't got?


Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Central Question

Elizabeth Thompson reported yesterday that those who are invited to attend one of Stephen Harper's "public" events are now required to keep their mouths shut:

Members of the public who attend Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign events are being required to agree to a gag order before they can walk through the door, iPolitics has learned.

While attendance is by invitation only, and attendees are vetted by the Conservative Party before receiving a ticket, those who want to attend a campaign event in person are also being asked to agree to a number of conditions including not to transmit any description of the event or any images from it.

And his candidates are also being told to keep their mouths shut:

When Harper visited Belleville, Ontario on Friday, the local newspaper was given an advance heads up by a local Conservative organizer that he was coming but directed to only send a photographer and advised the prime minister would not take any questions from the media. Nor did the local Conservative candidate Jodie Jenkins agree to repeated requests from the Belleville Intelligencer for an interview.

Now, reporters are being barred from Harper's displays of "public" support:

On Tuesday, veteran Queens Park reporter Susanna Kelley was refused entry to a Harper campaign event. While she arrived 20 minutes before the start of the event, she was told she could not enter because RCMP sniffer dogs were not available to check her out.

All of which suggests that the prime minister's mental health has been seriously compromised. Which begs the question, "Do we really want a man who displays symptoms of full blown paranoia occupying the highest office in the land?"


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Little Lies And Big Lies


This week, we were treated to a surreal commercial of Stephen Harper standing in front of a monitor with the Netflix logo on its screen.“Something you may not know about me is that I love movies and TV shows,” he said. "I’m 100 per cent against a Netflix tax.”

What was that again? And where did it come from? Tom Walkom writes:

What’s puzzling is that he was speaking to a non-issue. Neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats have said they would tax digital services such as Netflix, a U.S. company that delivers movies online to Internet users.

So who is Harper vowing to protect Netflix users from?

The short answer is no one. The longer answer is that this doesn’t matter. In choosing to highlight Netflix, the electioneering Conservatives are trying to create reality, not reflect it.

In this Conservative reality, what Harper’s political opponents actually say isn’t important. All that matters is what voters think they said. 

Conservatives have adopted Dr. Goebbels' playbook chapter and verse. Saying makes it so. And repetition turns falsehood into reality. That strategy was on display in this week's debate, when Mr. Harper claimed that the opposition parties would put an end to income splitting for seniors. It's true the Liberals and the Dippers are not happy with income splitting for families with children -- because the policy only benefits 15% of Canadians.

But Mr. Harper happily conflates the two policies. Details don't matter. Just as, in the last election, the details about the cost of those F-35's didn't matter. It was people like Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who paid attention to them.

Little lies and big lies. Mr. Harper believes they pave the wave to victory. And, in the past, they have.

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Political Landscape Didn't Change


There were no knockout punches last night. Stephen Harper droned on with his usual talking points. But nobody put him on the mat. Elizabeth May reminded us -- or should have reminded us -- of just how intelligent she is. She's also quick on her feet. Michael Harris writes:

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May looked a little better than anyone else last night — perhaps because people have forgotten just how intelligent she is. She was first to arrive with her daughter and grandson and was the only leader to speak to the press. She reminded people that they need to think about their vote, that Canadians are electing a Parliament, not a U.S.-style president.

May did particularly well on the economy section of the debate, stressing that Canada is now in a recession, making it the exact wrong time to practice the austerity preached by Stephen Harper. One of the unexpected dividends from May’s overall strong performance is that it makes the decision to exclude her from other debates looked patently foolish. The Munk dudes need to seriously think it over.

And Justin Trudeau held his own. He, too, was quick on his feet:

He was articulate, substantive and just feisty enough to get in Stephen Harper’s face on the economy. In one of his better jibes, he implored Harper to stop sending government cheques to millionaires. (An old line, but effective.) Trudeau scored points by reminding the often smug leader of the Conservatives that Canada is the only country in the G-7 in recession.

And Thomas Mulcair, the front runner, made no mistakes. As a lawyer, he knows that Supreme Court decisions on the Senate and Quebec separation do not go his way. But he soldiers on, stuck with policies he did not make.

Stephen Harper looked tired and dull. But that's what his base thrives on. Like Dr. Goebbels, he keeps repeating the same lies -- the economy is in trouble because of international decisions; the opposition will nix income splitting for seniors.

And, sadly, his base keeps buying the falsehoods. Last night's debate didn't change the political landscape.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Corrupt Or Destroy


Amidst all of the hullabaloo associated with dropping the election writ, the public has not noticed that Stephen Harper has appointed another man to the Supreme Court. It can't be accidental that Russell Brown, a law professor at the University of Alberta, has escaped public scrutiny.

As a law professor, Brown does not have a paper trail of decisions by which to judge his competence for the job. But he is a blogger. And, while it's no crime to blog, the opinions on his blog raise serious questions about his ability to administer justice impartially. Jeff Sallot writes:

In various blog posts Brown has described Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as “unspeakably awful,” characterized the Anglican Church as a collective of “eco-pagans” and dissed the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet’s Buddhists, as “not a nice man”.

In another post, Brown wrote that those who depict Harper as scary political figure with a hidden right-wing agenda were misreading him. “Admittedly,” he added, “I harbour some hope for a hidden agenda, but I doubt it’s going to happen.

Brown’s other targets included the Ontario Liberal government’s “hot air” environmental policies and the “puritanical functionaries” who run human rights commissions.

Clearly, Professor Brown is Stephen Harper's kind of judge -- as, most assuredly, Beverley McLachlin is not. Consider, for a moment, Chief Justice Brown. And consider that Stephen Harper has corrupted every institution he has touched. The institutions he hasn't been able to corrupt he has killed.

Corrupt or Destroy. That is his prime directive.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A Perfect -- And Predictable -- Storm

For years, Andrew Nikiforuk has warned that building an economy based on bitumen is monstrous folly. Now the folly has come home to roost. Nikiforuk reminded his readers about what the Canadian historian Harold Innis had written about resource traps:

Innis, our greatest historian, said that Canada had a resource addiction problem: it got hooked on the raw export of trees and rocks to global empires and then went on a mining binge, only to awake with no memory of the destruction and no markets.

Whether the resource was furs or lumber or asbestos, the story always ended the same way.

More recently, the American scholar Terry Lynn Karl turned her attention to what happens in petro-states:

[She] wrote that "Oil revenues are the catalyst for a chronic tendency of the state to become overextended, over-centralized and captured by special interests."

Karl herself warned Tyee readers in 2014 that if low oil prices persisted, then Canadians could expect to see "a rapidly declining Canadian dollar, greater problems over pipelines, the reduction of future investments, and a very bumpy oil ride, especially for Alberta."

And now the petro-state of Alberta, an impoverished kingdom with no savings and unrelenting deficits, has arrived at the doorstep of bitumen's future. 

Stephen Harper has worked hard to make the Alberta model the Canadian model. We are now witnessing the predictable results of entrenching that model.

And Mr. Harper insists that he is a smart fellow.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

He Keeps Throwing Stones


You have to wonder what planet Stephen Harper lives on. Yesterday, in Laval, he accused the entire NDP caucus of being a bunch of duds:

"That group of NDP MPs in the last four years is the most inefficient, ineffective group we’ve ever seen," he said in French. "There is not one star among those members of the Quebec NDP caucus," he told his audience. 

Never mind that the majority of Quebec seats belong to the NDP. Scott Piatkowski, at writes:

By "inefficient and ineffective," he presumably meant that they consistently voted against his government on behalf of their constituents. But, the reality is that almost every one of these incumbents, including the much maligned Ruth Ellen Brosseau, has done great work in Ottawa and in their constituency and therefore stand to be re-elected. They could be joined by at least five new NDP MPs. Clearly, someone thinks that they are efficient and effective, and that someone is the people who elected them (the people for whom Harper has such apparent contempt).

What's more to the point, Harper's eye for duds is pretty obvious:

Harper thinks he knows what a star looks like, but his record suggests otherwise. He's hand-picked Dean Del Mastro, Paul Calandra and Pierre Polievre to be his Parliamentary Secretaries (or professional standins). He appointed Patrick Brazeau, Don Meredith, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy to the Senate. He made Vic Toews a judge and Peter Penashue a cabinet minister. He chose the late Arthur Porter to oversee Canada's spy agencies. With a record of such impeccable judgment, he's obviously well qualified to tell Quebec voters how they should vote.

And, yesterday, he accused Rachel Notley of not being able to present a budget:

“The new NDP government … they can’t present a budget, but what was the first thing they did? They raised taxes and that’s a disaster,” Harper said.

Notley, whose province is dealing with the impact of a steep drop in oil prices, has delayed the release of a provincial budget until this fall. She has also moved to increase income taxes on anyone making more than $125,000 a year effective Oct. 1.

He did not mention that his government delayed its budget. If he had raised taxes, it might have been a balanced budget, instead of the lie he is currently peddling. But Harper got to where he is by throwing stones at his opponents, not by telling the truth.

He obviously believes that, if he keeps throwing stones, he'll win.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Having It His Way


Yesterday, Stephen Harper said that he was forced to begin his seventy-seven day election campaign because the other parties had started campaigning early. And, he said, parties should pay for campaigns themselves. It's truly remarkable that he can say this kind of stuff with a straight face. Michael Harris writes:

Reality check? His own re-election campaign, using public money, began in 2011. The early election call will add millions of dollars to the $375 million that a 37-day campaign would have cost — and the taxpayer will be paying for all of it. Harper just wants to suck a ton more public money into the whole exercise, not less.

This PM is incapable of getting it out straight. Has he forgotten about that cuddly picture of Pierre Poilievre staring down at all those government cheques as though he were gazing at his first born?

Clearly, Harper believes that, if he keeps piling it higher and deeper people won't be able to see his record. He knows that, if Canadians look at his record, he'll be hiring a moving van on October 20th. Harris repeats a message he has been delivering for a long time:

Let me say it again. The moment any of the MSM, including the CBC, begin to seriously deal with the true Harper legacy, that is the beginning of the end of his decade-long debacle of corruption, deceit, and institutional destruction.

Institutional destruction, yes. The Law Reform Commission, the Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, the Long Form Census, the Canadian Wheat Board, First Ministers’ meetings, rural mail delivery, and the Office of the Inspector General at the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. All gone.

There is the phoney reputation for fiscal stewardship, when the reality is a $200-billion increase in Canada’s national debt since 2006. Everything is a shell game with these political carnies, from fake balanced budgets to obscene public expenditures for the empty Economic Action Plan. It was neither action nor a plan – just partisan propaganda on the public dime.

There is the dubious distinction of owning the worst climate change record in the industrialized world, including failing grades from former Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan.

The prime minister has always claimed that he's a steady hand at the tiller. The truth is that he has systematically set out to destroy parliamentary democracy in this country.  He obfuscates the real story by telling whoppers -- like the ones he told yesterday.

Burger King tells us we can have things our way. Stephen Harper wants to have things his way.