A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Harper History, Part 4 - Con Minority, Prorogued x2

Oct 2008 – Dec 2009,

With conservatives reelected with an increased minority we begin to see their true colours with increased self promotion on taxpayers money using 10%ers, the start of those iniquitous Economic Action Plan TV ads and clear disdain for parliamentary procedure. It becomes increasing difficult to obtain information from them be it by the press whose questions are carefully screened or by parliamentarians be it in the House or in committee. Any semblance of listening to alternative ideas and considering amendments to legislation is rapidly falling by the wayside.

The Conservatives were reelected Oct 14 2008 with an increased minority having spent the inherited surplus of 13.8 Billion and well on the way to the 2008 5.8 Billion deficit.

Oct. 10, 2008: In a prediction that would soon come back to haunt him, Harper says: "This country will not go into recession next year and will lead the G7 countries." The country promptly plunged into recession.
Nov 2008, With the Conservatives fiscal update being strongly criticized over various contentions issues including ending the per vote subsidy and other election rule changes and with 5 years of surplus forecast despite strong signs of a recession already visible the opposition parties all threatened to vote against the measures.

Early in December the Liberals and NDP signed an agreement with the support of the Bloc on proposed coalition government to replace the governing Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper. A non confidence vote was scheduled and Harper promptly prorogued (suspended) Parliament until the end of January thus killing both the vote and the proposed controversial legislation. It would be later be reintroduced but with some of the more odious proposals removed.

In January 2009, the Government of Canada launched its much flaunted but poorly implemented Economic Action Plan , those receiving funds for projects were required to erect huge signs recognizing the 'governments' contribution to the project. The Harper regime also spent millions upon a series of advertisements touting their 'plan', a series which continued for many years past the scheduled end of the program in 2011.

In February 2009 John Baird surprised the CBC's Don Newman in the lobby of parliament by telling him that "we intend to go over the heads of the House of Commons and the Governor-General." When challenged, Mr Baird elaborated: The Conservative government gains its mandate directly from the people of Canada. Only elections count. This attitude that parliament is irrelevant continued throughout the Harper Regimes rule and is strongly evident in all their actions in The House.
With regard to the the Throne speech, he said "We're going to ask Parliament for a mandate. Once we have that mandate, we're going to consider that basically gives us the right to consider those matters confidence going forward and to get results and get things done."
Harper had signalled for some time that he has little interest in the usual process by which minorities run. Parliamentary committee work met with obstruction by conservative members. A number of key pieces of legislation that were shaped and moderated by committees died on the order paper when Harper prorogued Parliament.
The amount of public money spent on telling Canadians that 'we have a plan, we have a plan' continued to rise with $34 million budgeted for just the first quarter of 2009 slated for advertising associated with the “Economic Action Plan”, over half of their already inflated self serving Ad expenditure.
Also in February with the above in mind Democracy Under Fire was started with the first few months dedicated to fully understanding how parliament was MEANT to work. By the fall it was evident that the Harper Regime had no regard for Parliamentary Conventions and along with many other progressive bloggers I began detailing the specific wrongdoing by Harper and his inner circle.
In May Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government again received the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Silence Award for “muzzling civil servants and cabinet ministers, blackballing reporters who pose tough questions and building a huge spin machine designed to staunch the flow of information.” and for “excluding [the press] from events they used to cover.”

In June Information Commissioner Robert Marleau abruptly resigned for "entirely personal and private" reasons, raising doubts about the pace and direction of reforms to Canada's access to information laws that he was spearheading. In his resignation letter he said “The President of the Treasury Board, as the designated minister under the Act, must provide the political leadership to change a transparency adverse culture.

Throughout 2008 – 2009 the Conservatives increasingly abused the parliamentary mailing / printing privileges by exceeding the volume of 'free' mail outs permuted to individual MPs and by including partisan material in said mail outs. The 'printing' costs by Con MPs was more that double that of the other MPs.

In August it was reported that a Conservative cabinet minister says most of the folks in his party "can't wait" to put a choker on the parliamentary budget office and its dogged bloodhound, Kevin Page. The only thing yet to be decided, the minister says, is whether to eliminate the office, or put Page on a short enough regulatory leash to render him harmless. "The guy has become just a complete pain in the ass," the minister said. "We can't put up with that anymore."
In other words, Page has been doing his job far too well.

In Oct 2009 The new Parliamentary Budget Officer says in trying to see if the “action Plan” is working “Many missing data correspond to implementation and outcome indicators that the GC collects as part of its standard due diligence process and should be readily available. Failing to include these data could hinder Parliament’s ability to provide meaningful oversight of the economic stimulus package.”
It was to become standard practice for information necessary for the PBO to produce accurate estimates to be withheld or delayed thus denying MPs accurate information upon which to base their decisions regarding the country’s finances upon. Whilst the government maintained that 90% of the funds had been “allocated” it appeared that only slightly more than 10% had actually flowed throughout the summer.

In November allegations of the abuse of Afghan detainees surfaced and the opposition began to ask for documents regarding this but were stonewalled by the government as being too sensitive for parliamentarians to see them.

On 8 December 2009, General Walter Natynczyk testified before a parliamentary committee regarding the abuse of Afghan detainees contrary to the governments claims. Two days later the House of Commons passed a motion requiring the release of unredacted documents concerning the Afghan detainees to the special committee hearing the issue. However, the government refused to abide by the motion.

On 30 December 2009, Parliament was put on hold, or 'prorogued' at the request of Prime Minister Harper. According to his spokesman, he sought this prorogation to consult with Canadians about the economy however it was generally agreed that the suspension was to avoid further questions on the Afghan affair..

Next up 880 page Omnibus Budget, withholding information.

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Owen Gray said...

Parliament is absolutely irrelevant to these folks, Rural. Democracy is such a bother.

Rural said...

And as future articles in this series will show, Owen, it gets worse as they get away with more and more disdain for process each year.

Lorne said...

When you remind us of what the Harper wrecking crew has been doing for so long, Rural, the breathtaking scope of his machine's damage to our country becomes readily apparent.

Rural said...

I thought I had a pretty good idea of how bad it was, Lorne, but as I research sources for this series I realize I do not know half of it!

Unknown said...

What really gets me rural is the corruption and silencing of parliament thay you describe so well, happened when Harper and his regime only had a minority.

Rural said...

The main difference from then to now is back then they were a little less blatant about it, Pamela.