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, July 26, 2015

Harper History, Part 7 – Suppressed Information – Advertising Overload

In reviewing the events for this period I was struck by how important is is to look back at the undemocratic and secretive actions of the Harper regime, even I, who has written frequently and consistently on this subject had forgotten so many of the things done to diminish our governance. This just 2 or 3 years ago, and remember what they do is a much better measure of their ideology than what they say!.
The amount of effort being put into suppressing information and controlling the message continued to increase substantially as the Harper regime consolidated their centralization of power within the PMO to the point where even some of their own MPs complained about not being permitted to speak in the House! The independent PBO position was eventually rolled into the mandate of the Parliamentary Library, the Inspector Generals position was eliminated, the environmental commissioner resigned early in frustration, and the RCMP were told they could not speak to our MPs without permission!

Here then are a FEW of the hits democracy took in 2012 / 13 under the Harper Regime........

Rights and Democracy, chartered by Parliament in 1988 to promote human rights and democratic development worldwide, was eliminated in 2012 In a statement in April, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird indicated the ailing group was among the casualties of government efforts to “find efficiencies and savings.” Legislation, he said, would be introduced in the “near future” to disband the organization and its functions would be absorbed by his department.

In July 2012 an estimated 2000 scientists gathered on Parliment hill to protest their indignation over the ongoing severe and targeted cutbacks on government research programs and new rules limiting the ability of government scientists to talk to journalists.
As part of their ongoing advertising blitz under the banner of Canada's Economic Action Plan was the Harper government's Canada Job Grant program which at the time did not exist and had not passed in the legislature. About $2.5 million was spent to do so on hockey night in Canada for a total of over $14 million on this false advertising.
Arising from the April budget the Inspector Generals Office wae eliminated officials noted that, despite its anemic resources — a paltry $1 million budget and a staff of eight — the IG’s office played a key role in making sure the government didn’t get blindsided by CSIS. The inspector general's key function was to produce an annual certificate stating whether CSIS had strayed outside the law, contravened ministerial direction or exercised its powers unreasonably. In her final certificate, Plunkett found CSIS continued to flout policy and made a serious number of reporting errors.

By October the Harper regime had signed the 'trade agreement' with China without ANY consultation with, or indeed information being revealed to, either parliament or the Canadian Citizens. ... it will operate the same way Chapter 11 of NAFTA works (which will) allow corporations to claim damages against Canada if any level of Canadian government (municipal, provincial or federal) causes them to experience less profit than had been anticipated.“
While Finance officials refused to disclose the budget for the current “action plan” a Treasury Board document shows that cabinet approved $16 million in “economic action plan” advertising in the first quarter of this year alone. A further $18 million was approved for other misleading advertising as well as $4.5 million for War of 1812 advertising. In all, the federal cabinet had already approved more than $64 million in ad spending for 2012-13

They then tabled yet another omnibus budget implementation bill. This one tipped the scales at 443 pages and contained a number of measures not included in the budget document presented in the spring including gutting protections contained in the Navigable Waters Protection Act and weakening the Canada Labour Code. Despite protracted objections from Canadians and the opposition the bill passed with few if any amendments and modified or abolished over 70 desperate pieces of legislation

As part of the Harper Regimes series of initiatives to cut support to charities and voluntary organizations programs were eliminated, funding was reduced or delayed and third-party research support was eradicated. The 2012 budget gave the Canada Revenue Agency $8 million, later topped up to $13.4 million, to conduct 60 political activity audits of charities, these audits appeared to target those charities that who may have been critical of the regimes policies.

December 2012:
After Auditor General Michael Ferguson found “inadequate documentation” of senators expense claims questions are raised about Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy declared primary residence in P.E.I., since he is claiming living expenses for staying in his longtime Ottawa-area home and Nigel Wright, the prime minister's chief of staff, apparently saying it appeared that Duffy's residence expenses complied with the rules. Three years later this issue is before the courts with Duffy and several other Senators suspended.
Jan 2013
The Department of Justice was laid bare in open court when senior lawyer Edgar Schmidt said he and his colleagues have been receiving “illegal” instructions regarding conflict of legislation with the Charter, with government lawyers being told to not raise concerns with the minister .… even if the probability of inconsistency is 95 per cent or more..........

The Liberals elected Justin Trudeau as their leader in late January and the Conservatives promptly launched a series of personal attack TV ads which then continued almost unabated over the ensuing 2 years till the election. Millions have been spent assassinating the leader whilst saying little about policy.

The federal government officially closed a Vancouver coast guard base that's considered to be the busiest in Canada along with the shuttering of three other B.C. coast guard communication centres as part of the government’s deep budget cuts , the Kitsilano Canadian Coast Guard Station no longer offers search-and-rescue services. Meanwhile opening The Office of Religious Freedom seemed to be much more important!
Having failed to seek a replacement for Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose contract the did not renew they then defeated an NDP to extend his mandateuntil a competent replacement is found. He was eventualy replaced as the by the Parliamentary Librarian 'temporarily' whilst a 'process' takes place to perhaps replace him. However in a continueing effort to control any real information getting out we learn that Librarian staff have been silenced.
Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada. Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”

The environmental commissioner resigned two years before the end of his mandate and just before leaving points out some major 'gaps' in in the environmental policies of the Conservative government.

A Conservative MP became the first MP in more than a decade to raise a point of privilege against his own government in questioning why he was denied an opportunity to speak by his own party whip during question period. The Government Whip Gordon O'Connor response that was the most revealing. He told House Speaker Andrew Scheer that such matters (deciding who may speak to the house) are the exclusive purview of the parties, and, as such, firmly outside the Speakers jurisdiction.

Canada's Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent, would not allow the public posting of a final report by the now-defunct National Roundtable on Energy and Environment (NRTEE), a 25-year old government funded project that brought together Canada's brightest minds to work on the convergence of environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. He also prevented NRTEE materials from being transferred to a University of Ottawa think-tank, Sustainable Prosperity, where they will be made publicly available.
Minister Kent wrote:
“…the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) will upload no further content to its external website, as of the date on which this direction is signed.”
In April 2013 upon leaving as PBO Kevin Page said:-

I took the job when it was agreed that a few amazing and fearless public servants would join — namely, Mostafa Askari and Sahir Khan. We signed in proverbial blood. We vowed to give Canada a true legislative budget office. Nothing less. I chose career suicide. It was a very small price to pay. After all, I had lost a son; I was “out of range.”

Our institutions of accountability are in trouble. Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the executive (the prime minister and cabinet) to account.”
What’s in it for the government to have a strong legislative budget office? Not much. What’s in it for Parliament and Canadians to have a strong budget office? Maybe a great deal. If it matters to you, please tell your elected representatives.”

Members of the public wishing to comment to the NEB about the proposed East-West Pipeline are told they must first apply for permission to participate. Under the new rules, included in last springs omnibus budget any resident who wants to send in a letter about their concerns must first apply to the NEB for permission and fill out a 10-page form which asks for a resume and references.
Finally in this litany of information suppression we have the emails sent out to RCMP officials, telling them they need to get approval from the commissioner or the public safety minister’s office before talking to politicians. In response to a question in the House Candice Bergen (MP, Portage-Lisgar) said:-.
If parliamentarians need to or want to meet with RCMP or other officials, the appropriate place for them to do that is in Parliamentary committees. If that member has a concern about any RCMP member, they can speak with myself or the minister of public safety,”

And in May, in a clear and bold statement, Judge Richard Mosley wrote of the robocall fiasco : "I find that electoral fraud occurred during the 41st General Election.". However no results were overturned and to date only one campaign worker has been charged in what was obviously a much wider scam.

Next up:- More spent of “Action Plan” advertising, Parliament Prorogued again and another Omnibus Budget.

Please Note
Parts 1 to 5 are now available as one long document (19 pages - 7900 words) in chronological order and may be viewed, shared and downloaded on Google Docs. Due to the large number of embedded links I recommend you import it as a Docx, ODF Doc or HTML so that you may follow the references if you wish for more information on a particular issue.
Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


Owen Gray said...

The record is shocking, Rural. When you put all the pieces together, it's clear where Harper intends to go. It's a place all Canadians should fear.

Rural said...

His actions no longer shock me Owen, but they sure as hell scare me!

Lorne said...

Every Sunday I read your latest installment, Rural, and every Sunday I am horrified that this man has been running amoke all these years incrementally destroying our democracy. May it all end in October.

Rural said...

Amen to that Lorne!

Anonymous said...

Canadians still don't seem to realize that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are waging a media war against them.
The cycle is perfect:
- Cons get elected
- Media companies are starved for cash
- Cons spend hundreds of millions on advertising 'government' initiatives (as well as attack ads)
- Cons spread their message via cash-strapped editorial offices (propaganda)
- Media companies - desperate to keep the cycle going - endorse Harper and his goons or fail miserably with respect to true investigative journalism (I mean, why bother, when we get all the news we need from Harper and his 24/7 news reel company)
- The Cons get elected ... yet again.

Hopefully, we all collectively start to understand this situation and what it means to our messy democracy.

If we don't, we'll continue to believe that the endorsements are genuine. Which they are not.

Rural said...

All too true Anon, propaganda seems to be the one thing they are really good at!

The Mound of Sound said...

It's the complete abrogation of consent which is what distinguishes the governed from those who are merely ruled. In a democracy we are governed by consent. In an illiberal democracy we are ruled, largely through manipulation and deceit, this man Harper's stock in trade. Leading, building consensus, is dispensed with and instead a core (what was it, 39% of the 66% of eligible voters who turned out at the polls) is created to generate majority rule with just a fraction of the voters in support. We know that Harper is a chronic liar and a cunning manipulator - two utterly vile traits that continue to serve him so well. Why? Because his opposition leaders Layton/Mulcair and Ignatieff/Trudeau fail to seize on this and bring him down with it.

The leadership of the NDP and LPC has been pathetic to the point of disgusting. I became engaged in federal politics during the era of Pearson, Diefenbaker and Trudeau. The least of them would have dispatched a thug like Harper years ago. Trudeau would have shredded this man into a pile of pulp. It's a measure of the mediocrity of today's opposition leaders that Harper remains viable.

Rural said...

There is indeed a very difficult choice to be made in October, Mound, and there still remains the possibility that the master manipulator will return to finish destroying Canada!