Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Welcome to "Why Stop Harper!". This website will focus on the more than 100 reasons that Canadian voters should not support Stephen Harper's Conservative Party in the next election.

COMING SOON: Updated version with Parliament's finding of the Harper Cons in contempt. 
Note: This is a work in progress. We are still doing some fact checking and revisions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Damaging Our Democracy:

“… if this sort of conduct is allowed to stand … then it is not only this government that becomes a moral farce, but also Parliament, since it is Parliament’s job to police such things. And if the Parliament we elect can be so effortlessly mocked and defiled, then it is really us who have been as well.” Andrew Coyne, Maclean’s Magazine, on the Bev Oda scandal.

"Stephen Harper is getting his comeuppance for five years of flagrantly violating the core principles on which he was originally elected … Legitimate policy questions are stalled, ignored or derided by blatant manipulation of committees, senators or parliamentary procedures … Far from championing integrity, the Conservatives have used every trick they can uncover to beat or bypass the rule book, while reacting to complaints by sticking their thumbs in their ears and wiggling their fingers." From the National Post

And the coup de grace, the topper that ties everything together. Contempt of Parliament and, by extension, the Canadian people.  On March 25, the Harper Conservatives were found to be in contempt of the Canadian Parliament for withholding budget information from the opposition. The opposition rightly defeated the government, leading to an election. 

1a) The Harper Conservatives campaigned on Transparency – to “lift the cloak of secrecy” on government.  However, the Information Commissioner says this is the least transparent government when it comes to Access to Information requests – holding up the release of or charging money for material. The government even eliminated a key access data base. Canada’s international reputation in this area has dropped. Another way the Harper Conservatives avoid making information public is the excuse of “cabinet confidentiality.”  Democracy dies in the dark.

1b) Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons, has ruled three times that the Harper government has appeared to breach parliamentary privilege (contempt).  This is based on the concept of Responsible Government – the ruling party must keep Opposition MPs (the public) informed of what is going on.  Often the Conservatives blame pubic servants for their problems. Several have been muzzled or fired. (See below.) On March 21, a parliamentary committee found, for the first time in Canadian history, that the Conservative government was in contempt of Parliament for refusing to reveal the costs of its fighter jet purchase, its Tough on Crime agenda, and its cuts to corporate taxes. (See below.)

1c) As in a court of law, contempt is a serious charge. The Government has contended that parliamentary procedure issues are a “distraction.” Harper has shrugged his shoulders saying: “You win some, you lose some.” 

1d) In July 2009, Sebastien Togneri, then director of parliamentary affairs for Public Works Minister Christian Paradis, emailed the manager of the department’s access to information office about a media request for a report on the department’s real estate transactions. Togneri told the manager to release only one section of the report, Section 11. When she responded that the report had already been released, he told her to “unrelease it.” When this went public, Togneri, who lost his job, claimed it was an error in judgment and he didn’t understand the law. According to one media report, “…. he had no business interfering in the work of officials who are supposed to make decisions on what to release based on legislation, not the whims of brash political staffers … He couldn’t say who ultimately censored the report, which seems very curious. Other evidence suggests the interference by staffers was routine, and possibly directed by the PMO.” The RCMP is investigating.

2) Another closely-related promise: Accountability.  Rather than face Parliament’s questions, Harper shut it down twice. An atmosphere of “trench warfare” has developed because the government often refuses to co-operate with parliamentary committees, withholding or falsifying documents.  Conservative MPs even have a secret handbook on how to obstruct them, and staff members are no longer allowed to testify.

3a)  Harper promised to open up our democracy.  Instead, he has cynically done the opposite.  Reformer-turned-Liberal MP Keith Martin says Harper has changed our system “dramatically” and made it hyper-partisan.  The appointment of Conservative “pit bull” John Baird as House Leader illustrates this.  The Speaker has had to rule three times against the Conservatives for breach of parliamentary privilege. Mere “parliamentary procedures,” responded Harper. “You win some, you lose some.”

3b) Generally, those who don’t agree with the Harper way become victims of what journalist Lawrence Martin calls “demagogic sloganeering.”  Much of this nastiness is behind the scenes, but the pre-election HarperCon attack ads blatantly misrepresenting Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s words gave Canadians a glimpse.

3c) The non-elected staff in the Prime Minister’s Office oversee strategies, tactics, and what some call “propaganda and information control.”  For this, the PMO has increased its taxpayer-paid budget to nearly $10 million annually.

3d) Harper’s central authority intimidates public servants and writes MPs’ media releases, statements, and questions – often laced with personal attacks – for the House of Commons. There is no spontaneous, unscripted debate. Conservative MPs, who should be speaking for their constituents, are provided with “talking points” on issues, so they won’t deviate from the party line. They have been labelled “pawns” of the leader.

4) On the constituency level, potential candidates have complained of undemocratic treatment and “smear” campaigns against non-Harper-endorsed contenders. Former Conservative MP Inky Mark recently sent the following letter to Manitoba newspapers, alleging there was no democracy in the riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette: “The Conservative Party nomination process again is a sham.  There was no real open nomination to elect a real representative for the membership in the riding. For the second time Bob Sopuck has avoided an open and fair nomination process … to represent the party in the next general election. Brian Chita, current president of the riding is only a rubber stamp for the party. When will the 700 members of the Conservative Party  in the riding get to choose their own representative? One must ask the question: What value is there having a membership in a party that doesn’t respects it’s membership?  This lack of democracy at the local level is wrong.  It has taken western society 700 years to take the power away from the crown and put it in the hands of the commoner.  Today we have a system where the MP is appointed by the leader of the party, not the members of the party …”

5) In January, Harper expanded his cabinet – his executive – to 38 again, adding to taxpayers’ costs. MPs receive a salary of about $157,700 per year. Ministers receive roughly $75,500 above that, plus a car allowance worth more than $2,000. This runs contrary to Harper’s restraint theme and Finance Minister Flaherty’s impending bare-bones budget, as well as calls for public servants and citizens to make sacrifices to fight the deficit. It was Harper who made the size of cabinet an issue when he first took office. In 2006, he boasted that his first cabinet was only 26 ministers. This was a deliberate attempt to contrast himself with Liberal PM Paul Martin, whose cabinet had had 38 MPs. “My smaller cabinet and more streamlined cabinet structure are designed for work – not for show,” Mr. Harper said then. Now it’s big government for him; small for us.

6a) Contrary to his position as an opponent of the unelected Senate, Harper has appointed enough Senators to give the Tories a majority.  During the 2008 Financial Crisis, he appointed 18 at once, costing already-strapped taxpayers $50 million. 

6b) Harper has since used his majority to defeat a climate change bill with no committee hearing or debate.  Not since the 1930s has a House of Commons bill been defeated by the Senate at second reading.   The Senate’s historic role has never been to “veto” bills in this partisan way.

7a) In late 2010, a directive went out to public servants from the PMO and the Privy Council Office, which serves the prime minister, that “Government of Canada” in federal communications should be replaced by the words “Harper Government.” Most government press releases have made the switch, even Treasury Board Secretariat, which is supposed to ensure that “the criteria for creating an applied title include that it must: incorporate the word Canada or appear with the words Government of Canada.” Mel Cappe, a former PCO clerk warned that: “It is not the Harper Government. It is the Government of Canada. It's my government and it's your government … it's this subtle erosion of our understanding of the institutions of government that leads to a lack of credibility and respect on the part of the public.”

7b) According the The Globe and Mail public servants would not speak on the record about the above name change “for fear of retribution.” After all, Andrew Okulitch, a senior government scientist, was fired in 2006 when he rebelled against an earlier directive that the phrase “Canada's New Government” be used in government communications. When the firing was made public, Okulitch was reinstated. 

8a) Harper summed up the Conservative attitude after being told that riding an ATV on a restricted airport runway was illegal, responding, “I make the rules.” Worse, Tom Flanagan, Harper’s mentor and former Chief of Staff, announced on CBC TV that Julian Assange of WikiLeaks should be “assassinated.” When a woman complained about this comment, Flanagan threatened her saying “Better be careful, we know where you live.”

8b) One of the worst examples of such an attitude on Parliament Hill occurred when international aid workers, whose funding was cut by Harper, gathered to protest Harper’s refusal to make available abortion and contraception in developing countries.  “Shut the f—- up on this issue,” Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told them. “If you push it, there will be more backlash.”

9) In September, 2008, Harper ignored his own promise of a fixed election date and took Canadians to the polls for the third time in four years – just as major recession was unfolding. Ironically, he had advocated a fixed date so that prime ministers couldn’t call snap elections whenever the political tide seemed favorable. The Conservative 2006 campaign pledge had been to hold elections every fours years “except when a government loses the confidence of the House.”

10) The Conservatives are advocating elimination of the publicly-funded, per vote subsidy to political parties – in order to financially cripple the opposition. This form of funding was introduced to maintain fairness among the parties, and prevent them from being indebted to powerful individuals, corporations, or interest groups.

11a) Taxpayers paid $26-million from January to March this year for those ever-present Economic Action Plan radio and TV ads. Stretched over a year that would be $100 million, which is more than big corporations like Procter and Gamble, McDonald’s, or Tim Hortons spend. The dollar amount is partly because the Conservatives concentrated on expensive venues: the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and Hockey Night in Canada. Total Conservative government advertising cost taxpayers $136.3-million in 2009-10, including $53.2-million on the Economic Action Plan. “This is an absolutely obscene amount of money to be spending, particularly promoting an ‘action plan' with no action left in it,” said Liberal MP Mike Savage. (See below.) The four year total is $430 million. When apparently partisan, such government ads allow the Conservatives to sidestep Elections Canada ad limits – something other parties can’t do.

11b) Also, The Globe reported:  “A flashy taxpayer-funded website was conceived as the ‘key component’ in marketing the Conservative government's Economic Action Plan, a secret memo prepared for Stephen Harper reveals. And right from the get-go, images and video of the prime minister were integral building blocks that pre-occupied programmers building the site, according to internal government documents obtained by The Canadian Press. Two years later, Canadians are still being blanketed with Economic Action Plan marketing, an all-of-government program designed to enforce ‘a single, consistent brand ... across all departments and agencies.’ Documents reveal it is part of a massive, centrally co-ordinated campaign – critics call it partisan propaganda – orchestrated out of the Prime Minister's Office at taxpayer expense.”

11c) Speaking of spending our money, the Harper government has handed out more than $6 million to
Quebec snowmobile clubs since the last federal election for trail grooming machines and other goodies. Meanwhile, the Newfoundland and Labrador club has warned that it might have to cease grooming its trails because of a lack of cash. In other provinces, snowmobile users have to pay for the upkeep and grooming of their trail systems through permit fees.

12) The Conservatives have used attack ads more than any party in Canadian history, Globe columnist Jeffrey Stephens observed. “Imagining that the Harper party wouldn’t descend to low blows by whatever means is, well, unimaginable … Of course, attack ads demean politics. Of course, they scare away potential entrants into politics. Of course, they prevent even a minimal understanding of issues. Of course, they induce greater public cynicism about politicians, thereby making everyone more skeptical about the role government plays in society. Of course, they reflect badly on those who use them. So why do we see them? Well, if they didn’t work, parties wouldn’t use them.”

13a) Not long after being elected, Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused members of the national media on Wednesday of being biased, and vowed to avoid them in favour of less hostile local reporters. Harper claimed that the Ottawa press gallery had decided to become the Official Opposition to his government. The day before, about two dozen journalists had walked out of a press conference because reporters were told they had to sign up US-style if they wanted to ask a question – and then Harper would choose whom to answer. Harper’s press secretary Sandra Buckler soon indicated that the PMO had other plans to control the flow of information to reporters and limit their access to government. The Toronto Sun's Alan Findlay pointed out that when government tightly controls access to information it escapes accountability by deliberately making it impossible to ask the tough questions. "Not returning calls, not holding press conferences, cherry-picking reporters for interviews -- all make it difficult to collect and scrutinize government information."

13b) Things got even worse.  Harper has done his best to avoid the media, and, unlike past prime ministers, stopped entering the House of Commons through the front door.  Instead, wrote Hill Time reporter Tim Naumetz in late 2009, he took a less direct route "...ducking down through a narrow hallway, behind the public gallery, atop the west side of the Chamber, down a small staircase, and then scuttling into the government lobby through a back door across from the House Speaker's Chamber.”

13c) Again in 2006, the Conservative government announced that journalists could no longer cover the repatriation ceremonies at CFB Trenton, Ontario, for soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Harper claimed it was out of respect for the families of the fallen, but some disagreed with him. Richard Leger, whose son had been killed in Afghanistan, said the decision should be left to the families. "I know, in 2002, it was a great thing for us to have the media there...," he told CBC Newsworld. Documents obtained later by the media showed that even some senior military officers had opposed the ban. The government reversed its policy and allowed families to decide for themselves.

13d) In early March this year, Harper and Ignatieff were invited to the Indian High Commission to deliver speeches about “The Year of India in Canada.” After Harper spoke, PMO staff asked reporters, photographers, and TV camera crews to leave, which they did – not knowing that Ignatieff would be speaking next! Although the PMO denied any wrongdoing at first, it finally offered a half-hearted apology.

14) According to Wikipedia, Kory Teneycke, Harper’s former spokesperson, is reported to be trying to start a witch hunt against liberal academics … At a conference, he was heard telling a student, “If you have a teacher or examples of teachers who are trying to jam lefty philosophy down your throat, please send me an email … I’d love to make them famous.” 

15a) Not only teachers, but judges must be wary. Said one observer: “He unleashes ministers to attack judges who make unwelcome decisions. He personalizes attacks on his ‘enemies’.” In the past five years, the Harper government has replaced hundreds of the 1,100 judges who sit on superior and appeal courts in each province, as well as the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Tax Court of Canada. A survey revealed that, in spite of his anti-patronage rhetoric, he has focussed on Tory candidates and supporters.

15b) Harper has accused the Supreme Court of being “too left-leaning.” By the end of this year, 8 of its 9 judges will be eligible for retirement, leaving Harper free to replace them. Said another observer: “The Supreme Court is a vital part of our Canada's system of government. There are few institutions that are free from the will of the Prime Minister, and the Supreme Court is one of them. If Harper does select judges based on ideological and political leanings, it may compromise the integrity of this institution.”

16) Since the last election in 2008, the Conservative government has appointed hundreds of "Conservative insiders" to the Senate, government boards, and agencies. The appointees include former cabinet Ministers, 17 former MPs, 45 past candidates, campaign workers, and top donors. Harper has also put people on advisory committees, designed to offer Parliament “unbiased” advice. This is impossible with partisan appointees.

 17) Several of Harper’s cabinet ministers were in the Ontario Mike Harris “Common Sense Revolution” government – John Baird, Tony Clement, Jim Flaherty.  (Do Ontarians realize this?)  Mike Harris is now a “senior fellow” at the Fraser Institute, which is directed and funded by Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, and a web of right-wing foundations which are also supported by large corporations – the Donner Canadian Foundation, the Koch Family of Koch Oil (which backs the Tea Party in the U.S). 

18) Writer Murray Dobbin: “The fact is that fundamentalist Christians actually believe that government violates the will of God. When Stockwell Day (the Christians' man in cabinet) ran a Christian school in Alberta years ago, its curriculum included this assessment of democratic governments: "[they] represent the ultimate deification of man, which is the very essence of humanism and totally alien to God's word." Those believing that government is essentially the devil's work don't lose sleep or a little lying or fraud. It's the will of God.” Day has resigned, but his influence will remain.

19) Mulroney failed to bring in the decentralizing Meech and Charlottetown Accords because patriotic Canadians didn’t want them. Now, Harper is doing the job less democratically under the guise of establishing a “new relationship with the provinces” – calling it “open federalism.” This push to chop up the country raises concerns for critical areas, such as social programs, the environment, transportation and other infrastructure, and, of course, democracy and national unity.

(More) Scandalous Behaviour:

“This government lies as routinely as it maligns, and it never apologizes.” Gerald Caplan, The Globe and Mail.  Somehow the Harper government has been allowed to present itself as relatively scandal free – while still invoking the Liberals’ sponsorship scandal. But a closer look reveals a shady – or worse – side.

“During the Chrétien government years, I reported extensively on malfeasance by the Liberals. To do the math on the Harper government is to conclude that, while it has no sponsorship scandal on its books, it’s already surpassed its predecessor on a range of other abuse-of-power indices. The government’s arc of duplicity is remarkable to behold.” Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail.

“In 2008, Mr. Harper did not start the campaign under a cloud of ethical controversy as he does this one. The prime minister has done well to trigger the election now before evidence of more scandal can accumulate.” Lawrence Martin, The Globe, March 23, 2011.
1a) Two Conservative Senators – Doug Finley, the 2006 and 2008 campaign manager, and Irving Gerstein, a major party fundraiser – and two former senior party officials, all very close to Harper, have been charged by Elections Canada for allegedly wilfully violating the $18.3 million spending limit by claiming national advertising expenses as local expenses in 67 ridings. With this “in-and-out” financing, including forged invoices. candidates claimed rebates on expenses they didn’t actually incur. Ironically, this financing charge, now before the courts, came after the case was reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions – established by Harper to deal with issues like the Liberal sponsorship scandal. Elections financing rules are designed to ensure fairness during campaigns.

1b) Globe Update: “The Federal Court of Appeal has struck down a ruling that Conservatives say cleared them of any wrongdoing in the so-called in-and-out election financing scheme. The ruling confirms Elections Canada's interpretation of electoral spending laws. The court says it was reasonable for the elections watchdog to be dissatisfied with the way the Conservative Party reported national advertising expenses for the 2006 election.” If found guilty the four senior Conservatives could face a year in jail and be fined $25,000.

2) With what has been reported as a “wealth of evidence,” Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has accused the Conservatives of improperly reporting the cost of running two regional campaign offices in Quebec. More than $100.000 in campaign expenses was divided up and claimed by 15 candidates in Montreal and Quebec City. This was done in spite of the fact that many candidates never used these offices. Instead, they were staffed by party workers involved in the national campaign. Again, this provided a means to get around national expense limits.

3a) Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been accused of breaking parliamentary rules when a (taxpayer-funded) staff member used his letterhead to raise funds for a Conservative party campaign. The letter explained that the party needs “an additional $200,000 of financial commitment” from various riding associations to make the two-week campaign in the ethnic media a pre-election success. NDP MP Pat Martin demanded Kenney’s resignation because the minister had “flagrantly, in the most cavalier way, abuse(d) all the rules surrounding offices and letterhead and parliamentary tools and equipment to shake down money for an advertising campaign.” The staff member was let go; Kenney apologized, calling it an “administrative mistake.”

3b) Liberal Immigration critic Justin Trudeau has asked Elections Canada to investigate Immigration Minister Jason Kenney concerning the above. The fundraising appeal was accompanied by a presentation “using data and statistics which may have been generated by Mr. Kenney’s department,” Mr. Trudeau stated in a letter. 
“If that was in fact the case, the use of Government of Canada data in order to target the votes of certain segments of the population is another abuse of government resources for partisan purposes, and would represent a substantial in-kind donation from the government to the Conservative Party.” He also told The Globe that there has never been such a “concerted, directed and engaged and strategic attempt to go and pick up votes using a minister’s powers.”

3c) According to Jack Layton, the “misuse of public funds” is not unusual in this government.  Harper has Senators using their offices, staff, phone budgets, and so on to raise funds for Conservatives.

4a) International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says she reversed – falsified – a document, which favoured funding for KAIROS, a well-respected development group, after it had been signed by two public servants. Earlier she lied about doing so, saying she didn’t know who did it.  Harper saw nothing wrong with this. “Everything that happens at CIDA is an order from the PMO,” said a former Conservative staff member. Speaker Milliken ruled that Oda misled the House of Commons.

4b) “The ingredients of the Oda affair — secrecy, deception, stonewalling, contempt for Parliament, bureaucrats as fall guys and ministers as pawns — are evident throughout this government. And all stem from the same source: a refusal to deal openly with the public, to explain the reasons for its actions and take responsibility for them …” Andrew Coyne, Macleans’ Magazine

4c) From The Globe:  “The CIDA minister's refusal to answer basic questions about her contempt for this place goes beyond just the cuts to Kairos,” Liberal MP Anthony Rota said ... “It strikes at the heart of what the Prime Minister once claimed to promote. In an edict to ministers, he said that they must ‘answer honestly and accurately about their areas of responsibility.’ ”

5a) Of the three Harper-appointed watchdogs – Integrity, Ethics, and Lobbying – none has rocked the boat.  Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet investigated only seven of 228 complaints from public-service whistleblowers – “possibly saving the Harper government multiple embarrassments,” according to Globe columnist Lawrence Martin.

5b) According to a commission registry obtained by The Globe and Mail: “… 42 of the cases involved alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars or government assets. Another 50 or so cases involved charges of what is listed as ‘gross mismanagement.’ About 60 other allegations involved contraventions of Acts of Parliament.” Also, “… 58 claims of reprisals against public servants who sought to speak out.” There was also communication between Harper’s Privy Council Office and Ouimet, even though she was supposed to be independent.

5c) To add insult to injury for taxpayers, Ouimet who resigned last fall walked away with half a million dollars, and “all benefits accruing to retiring appointees.” In return, she agreed to be gagged, promising to keep confidential all information relating to her former office and not disclosing any details of her departure agreement. After a long delay, Ouimet finally appeared before a parliamentary committee, only to attack respected Auditor-General Sheila Fraser’s findings.

5d) “Prime Minister Stephen Harper said once that when a government starts to cancel dissent, it loses its moral authority to govern. Given the Conservatives’ reputation for secrecy and fierce partisanship and indeed the stifling of dissent, they will not be the recipients of much benefit of the doubt on her (Ouimet’s) file,” Lawrence Martin.

6a) Former long-time, top Harper adviser Bruce Carson is being investigated by the RCMP, as well as the ethics and lobbying commissioners. after allegations of unregistered lobbying in relation to meetings with officials at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and two senior staff members from Minister John Duncan’s office.  He also met with Environment Minister Peter Kent. According to a report on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network, Carson, linked with H20 Global Group, was trying to sell $400 million worth of the company’s water filtration systems to First Nations. Under legislation brought in by the Harper government in 2006, senior federal officials can’t lobby on behalf of private companies for five years after leaving government. A secret contract reveals that Carson’s decades-younger fiancée, a former escort, stood to make $80 million from the deal.

6b) Former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer was accused of improperly using the resources of his wife Conservative MP Helena Guergis’ office for business purposes, and possibly lobbying government officials for green-energy contracts. Both have since been cleared by the RCMP. Guergis is now sitting as an Independent.

7) Harper was criticized for supporting Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal.  Grewal had produced tapes of conversations with Tim Murphy, Paul Martin's chief of staff, in which Grewal claimed he had been offered a cabinet position – in exchange for his defection. Experts analyzed the tapes and concluded that a digital copy of the tapes had been edited.

8) In 2008, it was alleged that two Conservative Party officials had offered terminally ill Independent MP Chuck Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in the May 2005 budget vote.  This could be grounds for criminal charges since, under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to bribe an MP. When asked by journalist Tom Zytaruk about the offer, then-opposition leader Stephen Harper said on tape: "I don't know the details. I know there were discussions … The offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election … I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind.” No charges were laid.

9) During the 2008 federal election campaign. Saanich-Gulf Islands, Julian West, NDP candidate, got 3667 votes, even though he was no longer in the race. It turned out that there was an automated telephone canvas several days before the election, urging people to vote NDP, with no mention that the candidate had dropped out. The calls were traced to someone associated with Conservative Gary Lunn’s campaign. Elections Canada investigated, but no charges were laid.

10)  Harper’s refusal to open up about Helena Geurgis.  Why really happened?  On the other hand, Harper is still protecting Calgary North MP Devinder Shory, who has been under investigation by the RCMP and Alberta police for his involvement in a mortgage fraud case at the Bank of Montreal.

11a) Paul Sauve of LM Sauve construction, with alleged former Hell’s Angels connections, told a parliamentary committee that the $140,000 he paid a Conservative lobbyist was probably distributed to party officials.  The company then got the $9-million contract to renovate Parliament Hill’s West Block.  “Because we paid, we received,” Sauve said. The RCMP is investigating. 

11b) Similar to the Bev Oda case, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported that:  “The official approval document for the renovation of the West Block of Parliament was altered with a typewriter at the last minute so that the acting assistant deputy minister could sign it instead of Michael Fortier, the minister of public works at the time. Fortier has testified he wasn’t even aware that the contract was awarded.”

12) In 2009, audio recordings, photographs, and documents leaked from a Conservative Party student workshop in Waterloo exposed a partisan attempt to take over student unions and undermine Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) on campuses across Ontario. At a session held by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo, Peter Braid, discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for—and win—positions within those unions. They also identified campus radio stations and the Canadian Federation of Students as potential targets of a campaign to eliminate funding. In 2002, a secret Millennium Leadership Fund of the Progressive Conservative Party youth wing was exposed by the Western Gazette in an article called “Tories plot to infiltrate student government.”

13) The RCMP has also been asked to investigate whether the Harper government illegally leaked cabinet confidential information concerning Taseko Mines – which may have led to insider trading of the company’s shares.

14) In November, 2010, Conservative MP Kelly Block rose in the House of Commons to deliver a short statement: “Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Over the weekend, I spoke privately with most of the members of the finance committee about the leak of a report of that committee by a former member of my staff. Let me assure the House that at the earliest opportunity, I proactively took action and dismissed the staff member in question.” Block’s executive-assistant had sent confidential information to five lobbyists.

15) Harper’s former spokesman, Kory Teneycke, had to resign temporarily as political editor for Quebecor/Sun Media – which is setting up “Fox News North” – after fraudulent names were added to a petition.

16) Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant put her foot in her mouth, suggesting that Atlantic Canadians are too reliant on the Coast Guard to rescue them at sea when they find themselves in trouble. Gallant was forced to apologize. Rick Mercer had another idea: “ … stupid and talking, there's a cure for that. It's called you're fired.”

17) Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart launched an internal audit of Veterans Affairs, fearing “systemic privacy issues” when it was revealed that the medical and psychiatric records of retired captain, Sean Bruyea, were in the briefing notes of former VA minister Greg Thompson.

18) The Harper government seems to have a revolving door with Bay St. Nigel Wright, a major-shareholder in Onex Corp. – which has subsidiaries and interests in firms covering key government areas, including defence, health, aerospace, finance, and energy – has become Harper’s Chief of Staff.  Conflict of interest, anyone?

Weakening Our Economy:

The Conservatives campaigned on their ability to manage the economy in a frugal, business-like manner, protecting the interests of Canadians, but the opposite has happened.

1a) “The Harper government's 2011 fiscal plan reaches out to the NDP in a bid to avoid an election, but it could equally serve as a campaign platform should the opposition unite this week to defeat the Conservatives. It is a budget crafted for the politics of the moment, meeting some of NDP Leader Jack Layton's pre-budget demands and sprinkled with targeted tax credits for families. However, action to confront Ottawa’s long-term challenges, such as planning for higher costs and slower revenue growth due to an aging population, appear to be taking a backseat for now, as does a thorough accounting of where future cuts will come.” Globe and Mail on 2011 federal budget.

1b) In 1993, Mulroney’s Conservatives chalked up a $38 Billion deficit.  By 2006, Chretien’s Liberals turned this into a $16 Billion surplus.  Four years later, Harper created a record $56 Billion deficit.

1c) Somehow, it has been overlooked that Harper’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was also Finance Minister for the Ontario Conservative government. The provincial Conservatives had campaigned on their ability to manage the economy, but, after their defeat in 2002, the provincial auditor discovered that Ontario’s “balanced budget” was a $5 Billion deficit.

2a) When Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition, founded in 1967 to oppose Medicare, he supported US-style bank de-regulation. In his first budget, Finance Minister Flaherty invited “new players” into the Canadian mortgage market, offering greater choice and “innovation,” thus lowering mortgage insurance standards – the US recipe for disaster. Nevertheless, since the 2008 Financial Crisis, Harper has been taking credit for the relative strength of our financial sector, based on a system he inherited, but didn’t support.

2b) At the World Trade Organization, Canada has been pressing developing countries to open up their economies to foreign financial institutions – arguing that their risk management capabilities help stabilize economies! The Harper government has even been pushing derivatives, which played a major role in the financial meltdown.

3a) Harper is now taking credit for stimulus spending and pulling Canada out of the greed-induced Financial Crisis. However, Harper did not support stimulus spending until a coalition of opposition parties threatened to oust his government. As a post in the Western Standard, based in Harper’s Calgary riding, noted: “So Stephen Harper did something that is bad for Canada for the sake of political gain. He reversed a life time commitment to free markets and opposition to Keynesian economics for the sake of political power. Isn’t this exactly what conservatives have complained about the Liberals for generations; a willingness to bend principle for power? Is this really what the Conservative Party expected of its leadership?”   

3b) Canada’s Economic Action Plan infrastructure stimulus program had a single focus: jobs. A majority of those surveyed by the Parliamentary Budget Office run by Kevin Page reported the program had either a neutral or negative impact on jobs. Even Harper’s business allies and the conservative Fraser Institute have criticized it.  Overall, the stimulus program has been plagued by “flawed accountability,” according to another assessment. For a long time, the government refused to release detailed financial records of the Economic Action Plan, preferring to swamp Kevin Page with paper, rather than handing over a database

3c) Action Plan cheques went out – some with the Conservative logo – to a disproportionate number of Conservative ridings, and don’t forget all those signs and TV ads!  Harper wasn’t sure he would extend the program past March, 2011 – then realized that half-built schools and sewers wouldn’t be popular.

3d) Last November, months after the Action Plan was introduced, the good news from Statistics Canada was that Canada's unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a point to 7.6 per cent per cent, and the economy had created 15, 200 new jobs.  The bad news was that the work was part-time with no security or benefits. Also the official unemployment rate dropped because 43,600 Canadians, mostly young people, had left the labour market.

3e) To distract voters from the Oda scandal, the Conservatives conducted an Economic Action Plan, public-relations blitz in February, sending more than 80 ministers, MPs, and senators across the country promoting their economic recovery plans – that cost taxpayers almost $300 million as they “announced or re-announced” projects. According to The Globe: “Ipsos Reid CEO Darrell Bricker, meanwhile, suggested the strategy is also aimed at reminding voters – in target ridings and big media markets – that a vote for the Conservatives ‘brings certain benefits.’ ”

4a) Days before the 2008 federal election, Harper carefully downplayed his bailout of the chartered banks, and so did the media. Although the government had consistently committed itself to a "balanced budget," it then began claiming that deficit spending was required to boost the economy at the height of the recession. However, Canada’s deficit, according to economist Michel Chossudovsky, is “directly related to a 75 billion dollar bank bailout program for Canada's chartered banks … Harper stated emphatically that: ‘this is not a bailout ... it will cost the government nothing’ … According to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty: ‘This program is an efficient, cost-effective and safe way to support lending in Canada that comes at no fiscal cost to taxpayers.’ Yet Finance Minister Flaherty contradicts his own statement when he acknowledges that the project will drive up the public debt.”

4b) According to Chossudovsky, while the Canadian bailout procedures differed from those of the US Treasury under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), they “essentially serve the same purpose … The $700 billion US bank bailout … was the object of debate and legislation in the US Congress. In contrast, in Canada, the granting of $75 billion dollars to Canada's chartered banks was implemented at the height of an election campaign, without duly informing the Canadian public.” There was no Parliamentary debate.

4c) Chossudovsky: “While the bank bailout is a component of government expenditure, it does not constitute a positive spending injection into the real economy. Quite the opposite. The bailout is a handout to the banks. It contributes to financing the restructuring of the banking system leading to a massive concentration of wealth and centralization of banking power. The bailout money will be used by Canada's chartered banks to consolidate their position as well as finance the acquisition of several ‘troubled’ financial institutions in the US.”

4d) Chossudovsky: “This is the most serious public debt crisis in Canadian history.
The bank bailout potentially destabilizes the federal fiscal structure. It leads to a spiraling budget deficit, which must be financed at taxpayers’ expense. The entire structure of public spending is affected including federal-provincial transfers. The (federal) public debt is slated to increase by 14 % over a two year period. The provincial debts are also likely to increase dramatically.”

4e) Chossudovsky: “The Minister of Finance has intimated that further measures are envisaged ‘to bolster the availability of credit’ with the government "injecting capital into banks if necessary … It is worth noting that in addition to the $75 billion, the government has pledged ‘to backstop more than $200 billion in interbank lending so banks can boost their lending capacity.’ (Toronto Star, December 13, 2009).”

"Nobody goes to jail,” writes Matt Taibbi Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth." Taibbi explains how the American people were defrauded by Wall Street investors. There has been little investigation of Canada’s financial institutions.

4g) Statistics Canada reported that Canada’s banks collected over $20 billion in profits last year.

5) The current federal debt is estimated at $560 billion. This means taxpayers will have to pay over $30 billion next year on the interest alone without paying down a penny in what is owed. Debt charges are the single biggest expenditure in the federal budget. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a spending watchdog group that has taken on governments of all stripes over wasteful spending, was told it couldn’t bring its debt clock onto Parliament Hill in early March. The CTF conducted a cross-Canada debt clock tour, highlighting government overspending.

6a) Harper is introducing more corporate tax cuts – even though they have proven to be the least effective job creation tactic, have little to do with levels of business investment and competitiveness, and are opposed by a margin of 3:1 Canadians.  These cuts will diminish Canada’s revenue base by $14 Billion in 2013/14.

6b) Our corporate tax rates are already among the lowest in the developed world – 16.5 percent here; 35 percent in the US – despite growing corporate (mainly transnational) profits. Unlike past governments, the Conservatives won’t make projected profits public. 

6c) To make up for the shortfall, the Conservatives’ HST is moving the tax burden to consumers, increasing the price of essentials like food and heat. In Ontario, that means at least $500 a year.

7) Over the past year, gasoline prices are up by 30%, electricity by at least 15% with the extra surcharges, public transit by about 7%, food at least 10%, housing prices keep soaring. Yet the Bank of Canada says there’s no inflation. 

8) Canadian families are now indebted at a rate approaching 146.8% of annual income. “It's not because everyone has all of a sudden decided to buy new BMWs and are using their VISA cards to re-do their wardrobe in Armani,” said one observer.

9) In early March, the government revealed its spending estimates.  As The Globe reported: “ ‘industrial, regional, and scientific-technological support programs’ will see the largest decrease with a 33.3 per cent reduction, reflecting the end of infrastructure stimulus spending. That is followed by a 14.1 per cent cut in spending on ‘environmental government services.’ ‘Cultural programs’ are in line for a 4.5 per cent reduction ... Areas in line for increases include a 10.1 per cent increase on ‘security and public safety programs;’… The estimates show Environment Canada faces a 20 per cent cut, bringing its budget to $872-million. That includes a 59 per cent reduction in spending for ‘Climate Change and Clean Air’ and a 51 per cent cut to substances and waste management.”

10) According to a CCPA study, if the federal government wants to control spending, it needs to examine its increasing outsourcing costs.  The study found that over the past five years, such costs have gone up 79 percent.  While most federal departments have had their budgets capped, spending on outside consultants hasn’t been touched and remains at $1 Billion annually. This has created a kind of “shadow public service” – with different hiring practices and transparency requirements.

11) Kevin Page of the Parliamentary Budget Office has caught the Harper government underestimating the cost of its legislation on prisoner and prison expansion and the new F-35 fighter jets (see below). Ironically, the Parliamentary Budget Officer was established by the Conservatives to ensure “truth in budgeting.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Creating an Unfair Society:

According to a recent CCPA report, the top one per cent of Canadians are “increasing their share of income at a historic pace, with wealth concentrated in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s.” Conservative policies are exacerbating this.

1a) The Conservatives decided to scrap the mandatory long-form census – in spite of its usefulness to economists, social scientists, businesses, municipalities, health researchers, and more. 

1b) One of many civil servants mistreated by the Harper government was Munir Sheikh, who resigned as Canada’s chief statistician after Industry Minister Clement gave the impression that Sheikh supported the census cut. (See Bev Oda above.) “It really cast doubt on the integrity of the agency,” Sheikh later told a House of Commons committee.

1c) It has been estimated that the new, voluntary census to be introduced this year will produce poorer economic data – weakening the government’s ability to make policy and run programs. It will also cost $30 million – more than the thorough one it is replacing.

2) Save the Children and UNICEF recently reported that Canada is falling behind other developed countries when it comes to the well-being of its poorest children. We rank 17th among 24 industrialized countries in terms of material well-being — including family income and housing. 

3) Food Bank usage is up 28 per cent over the past two years.  

4) Canada is the only G8 country without an affordable housing program. Affordable housing is key to fighting child poverty, creating jobs, and tackling homelessness. The number of homeless Canadians dying from tuberculosis is rising.

5a) Despite the fact that Harper always has women sitting around him in the House of Commons, the International Parliamentary Union ranks Canada 51st when it comes to equality in national parliaments. Only 30 percent of Harper’s Senate appointees are women – a drop from 45 percent under Chretien. 

5b) The government drastically cut funding for Status of Women Canada and even took the word “equality” out of its mandate.  He has eroded pay equity, calling it “a rip off.” In spite of the fact that the House of Commons has been calling for a comprehensive national strategy to combat violence against women since 2008, the government has failed to act.

6a) Canada was one of only four countries which voted against the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights when passed by the General Assembly in 2007. (That stance has since been reversed.) 

6b) Another of the Harper government’s first acts was to cancel the Kelowna Accord, designed to help Aboriginal citizens receive higher standards of clean water, housing, education, and more.  Forty per cent of Aboriginals in their early 20s do not have a high school diploma; reserve schools generally get $2,000 less per student than off-reserve schools.

6c) Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has said the Harper government is ignoring his people while unilaterally pushing legislation that will affect them: a bill allowing Ottawa to set regulations to improve the shocking state of on-reserve drinking water (with no added money), and another looking into the payments of reserve chiefs. Atleo said both bills ignore the accountability gap within the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs itself, as revealed by the Auditor General. Nevertheless, the water regulatory bill gives all power to the federal government, overriding existing reserve bylaws.

7) “Cheating Veterans” – That’s how former Veterans’ Ombudsman, Col. Pat Stogran, whose term wasn’t renewed after he spoke out, described the Harper government’s 2006 replacement of life-time pensions for disabled veterans with “lump sum” payouts. This has cost veterans hundreds of thousands in support. 

8) National Defence Ombudsman Pierre Daigle has also spoken out about the unsympathetic treatment of the families of dead soldiers. He said his decision to go public followed a long, frustrating battle to get better treatment for these families.
9a) Since Harper took power the Conservatives have revamped Canada’s immigration system. Said one report: “ … they have deprived newcomers of the family support they need to integrate successfully, off-loaded responsibility for immigration, and given Canada a harsher, more forbidding face.” Family class immigrants have dropped by 10,000; the number of refugees is down by 25 percent, and visas for skilled workers are going to be cut, too. Instead, Canada admitted 180,000 temporary foreign workers last year – a source of low-cost labour for Harper’s corporate friends.
9b) The Conservatives are cutting $53 million from immigrant service agencies across the country. These settlement agencies offer language courses, help new Canadians find jobs, and other integration programs. Many will have to close. Ontario Immigration minister Eric Hoskins noted that: "Their specialties can't be replaced … They are upset at what they called the ‘blunt' and ‘brutal' manner the news was delivered to them, in a letter, two weeks before the holiday. None understands the justification and rationale behind it."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cutting Our Social Programs:

The Conservative agenda runs counter to the opinions of the majority of Canadians.  A recent Focus Canada survey revealed that our spending priorities are still social programs and the environment, not jets, prisons, and tax cuts for highly profitable corporations.  

1) Reflecting his small-government ideology, Harper wants the federal government to abandon certain financial and administrative responsibilities – returning to an era 50 years ago before our nation-building social programs. Instead, his government “will look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.”  Victorian England? 

2) Harper thinks Medicare is provincial and wants to break it up.  While heading the National Citizens Coalition, Harper said “the feds” should scrap the Canada Health Act.  He doesn’t dare repeat that now, but he rules as though the law guaranteeing Canadians universality, portability, accessibility, and more doesn’t exist. Measures to encourage the provinces to comply with the Act aren't being enforced.

2b) After five years of Conservative government, the Canadian Medical Association warned in early 2011 that public health care is in decline. Five million Canadians have no family doctor, emergency departments are overloaded, services for the mentally ill are minimal, and many patients can’t afford the drugs they need or a bed in long-term care when they need it.

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2c) Already it has been shown that Canada/EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) now being negotiated will cost Canada almost $3 Billion by protecting European Big Pharma patents, holding up generic alternatives.
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3a) Although seniors’ incomes have dropped for the first time in decades, it is clear the Harper government is laying the groundwork to replace Canada’s well-run, cost-effective, and stable CPP with a private, more expensive pension scheme – the  Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP), run by banks, mutual fund and insurance industries.  (Weren’t they behind the Financial Crisis?) One of the few media pundits to notice was the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick: “When Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the government of Alberta and insurance giant Sun Life all agree that a national privatized pension plan is a great idea for your retirement, be very afraid. Feel your fear and let your anger flower.”

3b) According to Sun Life Financial, Canadians are much less optimistic about retirement – and the average Canadian expects to retire at age 68, three years later than reported a year ago. The confidence level of working Canadians slumped to a low 39 in 2011, from 50 in 2008 and 51 in 2009. At the end of 2009, Canadians still believed recovery from the recession would be quicker than they now believe, but unemployment remained relatively high.

3c) When older workers stay on the job it affects the labour market, resulting in fewer job openings and increased competition for younger people. Canada’s youth jobless rate is 14.4 per cent.
3d) In the 2011 federal budget, responding to demands by the NDP, the government offered low-income seniors an extra $300 million annual enhancement to the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The NDP had requested $700 million.

3e) The government ignored the NDP’s request for a doubling of CPP benefits.

4) Harper’s Income Trust “betrayal.” In 2005, Harper wrote: "Income trusts are popular with seniors because they provide regular payments that are used by many to cover the costs of groceries, heating bills and medicine." Then, without notice or consultation, he terminated them.

5) One of Harper’s first acts as prime minister was to cancel nearly $4 Billion for child care and early learning funding, destroying the Liberal move toward a national program. It was replaced by a taxable $100 monthly cheque for children under six.  (Babysitting cost for two nights out?)

6) The Conservatives’ obsession with business has led them to divert research money from the social sciences – social work, health, education, literacy, poverty reduction – and the humanities to commerce, over-riding Canada’s independent research council. As well as narrowing the research subjects, critics fear this is “setting a dangerous precedent” that could give government the ability to direct funding to disciplines with more political clout.

7) Don’t forget Harper supports Charter schools, often used to undermine the public education system.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

War, Jets, Guns, Prisons, and More:

On various levels, Canada is getting angrier and meaner. Is this the kind of transformation we really want? As one senior Liberal noted, the Conservatives are “out of touch, out of control.” Dangerous combination.

1a) Few Canadians know that the Taliban offered to turn over Al Qaeda leaders, if the FBI could show proof of the group’s involvement in the 9/11 disaster.  The US ignored this.  That was almost ten years and more than 100 Canadian lives.  Recent figures show civilian casualties have increased by 31 percent since last year. The number of children killed in the war is up 55 percent.

1b) After almost ten years and more than $18 Billion dollars, the Conservatives unilaterally cancelled the full troop withdrawal in 2011, voted for by Parliament, and will leave about 950 soldiers for another three years.  We will now be spending almost one Billion a year to train Afghan police and soldiers.  Peter Galbraith, former UN envoy to Afghanistan, says it will take many years to accomplish this, if ever. 

1c) When allegations that the government ignored reports that the Afghan security was torturing war prisoners – contravening the Geneva Conventions – went public, diplomat Richard Colvin was threatened with legal action, possibly jail, infringing on his rights. Then, Harper shut down Parliament for 22 days. 

1d) What many saw as “contempt of Parliament” led to an extraordinary ruling by Speaker Peter Milliken – who condemned the government for breaching parliamentary privilege by refusing to release uncensored documents. Thanks to Harper's manoeuvres, however, the torture issue is now lost in the complexities of an ad hoc parliamentary committee and procedural tie-ups. In early March, the BQ finally threatened to pull out of the Afghan detainee document review committee if it didn’t produce disclosures within six weeks.  “This delay makes no sense, because we were told that in January it would be done,” said Gilles Duceppe. ”Now there is a deadline.” 
2a) The government plans to buy 65 “problem-plagued,” as-yet-untested F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin through an untendered contract worth $9 Billion – plus $7 Billion more in maintenance costs.  That’s $16 Billion, probably more, of our diminishing tax dollars – the largest military procurement in Canada’s history.  In March, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page warned Canadians that the Harper government was low-balling the cost of the jets by more than $12 Billion. That’s $450-million per plane. To put this into perspective, $30 Billion is equivalent to $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in Canada.
2b) It has been noted that the “stealth” aspects of the F-35 allow it to conduct first strike air raids more safely. Right now, the US has “more F-35s than it wants or needs,” and our potential enemies the Russians and Chinese will probably find ways to detect the plane, making it less stealthy.

2c) Alan Williams, former assistant deputy minister of defence for materiel, has testified that:  "The procurement process is out of control and has degenerated into handouts for the chosen beneficiaries." As with the prison expansion and the corporate tax cut costs, the government is concealing relevant information. Liberal defence critic, Dominic Leblanc, demanded the release of a key air force report behind the purchase of the fighter jets.

2d) A Wikipedia page was altered, removing criticism of the government’s plans to buy the fighter jets and adding false praise for the jets by Ignatieff. The dirty trick was traced to a Department of National Defence computer.  

2e) According to a late March Nanos poll, 68 per cent of Canadians feel that “now is not a good time” to proceed with the F-35 fighter purchase.  

3a) Contrary to the views of almost 80 percent of Canadians, the government, supported by the US National Rifle Association, pushed hard to end the long-gun registry – even calling pro-registry police a “cult.”  Marty Cheliak, the RCMP Chief Superintendent and a strong proponent of the registry was suddenly replaced as head of the Canadian Firearms Program.

3b) The Harper-appointed civilian RCMP-head William Elliott finally resigned after an unprecedented mutiny.  It is claimed that citizens’ complaints were thwarted, officer-behaviour standards lowered, and morale destroyed. 

4a) Crime rates are down and the population is aging, but the Harper government claims it must introduce tougher laws, incarcerate more Canadians, and spend Billions – the cost is being kept confidential – to expand prisons because of an increase in “unreported” crime. According to the Correctional Service of Canada, the federal prison population will increase by 30 per cent in coming years. Pre-election prison construction announcements in various ridings reek of penal pork barrelling. 

4b) Forty percent of the bills introduced by the Conservatives recently are related to crime.  The Parliamentary Budget Officer predicted a price tag of $10 to $13 Billion for Bill C-25 alone – the Cons said $90 million – which eliminates the two-for-one credit for pre-trial time served, meaning longer time served. The Conservatives have been stonewalling, refusing to reveal the costs of their prison agenda, and have been accused, once again, of contempt of Parliament.

4c) Bill S-10 proposes a mandatory six-month sentence (if there is a past offence) for possessing as few as six marijuana plants – the same sentence applied to a trafficker with 200 plants. When the Liberals tried to raise the number of plants to 20, the government refused. This will affect a disproportionate number of Canadians aged 18-25. Even a person giving a prescription drug to another could be charged. Ignatieff: “…this bill doesn’t distinguish between massive grow-ops and a first-time offender with a small amount.  What’s more, the Conservatives won’t tell us what the fiscal implications of this bill are. How many billions will it cost?  How many mega-prisons will have to be built?”

4d) Conservative Senators refused to amend S-10 provisions which remove judicial discretion for minor drug offences by automatically applying a mandatory minimum sentence to anyone with minor drug convictions over the last 10 years. Hutchinson (above) testified that mandatory minimum sentences in the US were often unfair and put people behind bars who didn’t need to be there. In some cases, people who were only peripherally involved in a crime were sent to jail for 10 years because of mandatory minimum sentencing.

4e) Bill C-59, which eliminates Accelerated Parole Review (APR), will result in at least 1,500 low risk, first-time, non-violent offenders each year spending at least six months longer in prison at taxpayers’ expense. Critics say Canadian proposals to reduce parole eligibility will reduce the amount of time inmates spend under supervision in the community, preparing them for full release, and this will lead to a higher degree of recidivism.

4f) Right-wing Republican Newt Gingrich has admitted that this Tough on Crime agenda doesn’t work and has led to the US prison population growing “13 times faster than the general population” at a cost of $68 Billion in 2010 – a 300 percent jump in 25 years. That means one in every 100 American adults is behind bars – up from one in 400 in the 1970s – with half of released inmates back inside within three years.

4g) Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who represented Arkansas in the U.S. Congress and a former prosecutor who advocated a tough approach to crime, has joined other high-profile members of his party in advocating a revision of harsh American justice policies. “We have made some mistakes and I hope you can learn from those mistakes,” Mr. Hutchinson told the Commons public safety committee

4h) While paying lip service for victims of crime, the Conservatives cut the budget to Grants for the Victims of Crime Initiative by 41 percent and Contributions for the Victims of Crime Initiative by 34 percent. It has also cancelled without explanation a successful, low-cost anti-gang program geared toward youth-at-risk, even though it had been announced with great fanfare by two Conservative ministers in 2007.

4i) Six prison farms – possibly Canada’s most effective rehabilitation programs where inmates produce food for themselves and other prisons – are being closed because they cost $4.1 million. Observers say the Conservatives’ punitive attitude is turning Corrections Canada into Punishment Canada, resulting in warehoused inmates being “hardened” not “healed.”

4j) One reason the government gave for closing the prison farms is that it wanted to replace them with programs that would offer the inmates more marketable skills.  Since August, when the Frontenac prison farm was closed eight inmates have been doing carpentry, but more than 50 have not been given anything equivalent to the farm program.

4k) In February, Parliament passed a motion ordering the government to “refrain from taking any steps to sell, dismantle or reduce operations at any of Canada’s prison farms in any way, until independent experts have had an opportunity to fully review the value of the farm program and fully report in writing.” However, the government has ignored this by selling valuable farm equipment.

5)  Harper recently reiterated his support for capital punishment.

6) With Bill C-49, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act, the government claims it will not tolerate “the abuse of our generous immigration system.” But the bill is arbitrary and draconian.  It will allow the minister to designate vessels as “mass arrivals,” allowing authorities to hold would-be refugee claimants, including children, for up to one year while their case is heard. All three opposition parties claim this would be unconstitutional. 
7) The government’s use of Security Certificates, as in the case of Algerian Mohamed Harkat, allowing detention without charge and no access to evidence for reasons of national security is undemocratic and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Constitution. “Secret trials” are a slippery slope.
8a) Under Harper’s watch, Canada saw the largest mass arrest in its history – and the most violent. People were arbitrarily searched, humiliated, attacked with batons and rubber bullets, tear gassed, pepper sprayed, kicked in the face, and had bones broken by 20.000 armed police officers, some of whom had removed their badge numbers.  The government praised the police.

8b) The Billion spent on “militarizing” downtown Toronto was nothing less than a misappropriation of public funds.  Fake lake included. Industry Minister Tony Clement has been accused of using $50 million tax dollars to build a fancy gazebo in his riding, buy off constituents, and grease donors’ palms. 

9) Security is also the excuse for Bill C-49, which facilitates the sharing of Canadian passenger records. CBC’s the Fifth Estate has revealed that 20 government departments are now involved in national “security,” along with CSIS and the RCMP.