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, September 13, 2015

Harper History, Part 9 – Omnibus budget, Anti-terrorist bill, Election call.

Summer 2014 – Aug 2nd 2015

In 2014 Green Party leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May described the dictatorship-style Harper PMO as a “$10-million-a-year partisan operation filled with ruthless, cutthroat psychopaths.” She added that the office was manned by people “employed for the purpose of harassing scientists, bullying MPs, and muzzling civil servants.”
It should be hard for anyone who has read through this series to disagree with that assessment for as she says “The staff at the PMO have no allegiance to anything other than getting the Conservative Party re-elected, it completely offends the principles of parliamentary democracy.”
In this the last part of the Harper History series we see little change in their suppression of parliamentary debate except perhaps to be even more controlling and secretive. In advance of the Oct 2015 election we see an ever increasing expenditure of taxpayers dollars promoting various measure proposed in yet another omnibus budget and continuous party ads degenerating opposition leader Trudeau. With the budget supposedly “balanced” though a series of bookkeeping fiddles the purse strings are suddenly opened just a few days ahead of the early election call. Throughout this entire time the senate spending scandal and the attempted cover up by Harper and the PMO was constantly in the news but no attempt will be made here to cover that fiasco.

July 2014
With the Harper Regime loosing a series of rulings in the Supreme Court of Canada from their plans for the senate to prostitution laws to his nomination to the court it should be no surprise that as well as Harpers direct attack upon Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin he now has set his minions out to attack the Supreme Court in general. It would seem that the Court making rulings that follow the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is now a “problem” and that groups using the Charter to defend their rights when a new attack upon our democracy issues from the Con Oligarchy is somehow antidemocratic.

In an outburst that revealed the Conservatives true colours MP Larry Miller told the Post’s John Ivison of his growing dismay that the “courts are making laws.” “I’m all for rights and freedoms,” he said, “but the Charter complicates things.” The problem, as far as rights and freedoms are concerned, is that we have “complicated” them by writing them into law..............
“Pierre Trudeau,” he said, “did this willfully and deliberately, taking rights away from the majority to protect the minority.” “Why elect people and pay them to do something the courts are doing,” Miller grumbles.
Just to make it clear that this is not just Larry Miller spouting off but a directive from above, we have another report of the same talking points being floated from the other side of the country......

Also in July PEN Canada who represents more than 1,000 writers and supporters, including Canadian literary luminaries Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel, and presses for freedom of expression at home and abroad faced an audit. We keep being told that it’s just a bureaucratic coincidence to see so many critics of the government facing audits and revocation of their charitable status since these audits started in 2012 — from Amnesty International to Kitchener birdwatchers to the David Suzuki Foundation. But PEN Canada — an organization devoted to free expression, for heaven’s sake — the whole exercise became officially creepy.

On October the 22ns 2014 a lone gunman with no apparent ties to any terrorist organization entered the halls of parliament with malicious intent and was killed by the parliamentary security forces. This was quickly turned into a “terrorist attack” upon Canada by the Harper regime even before the gunman was fully identified.
"The objective of these attacks was to instil fear and panic in our country, as I said yesterday, Canadians will not be intimidated. Here we are, in our seats, in our chamber, in the very heart of our democracy." Stephen Harper in the House of Commons Thursday October 23rd. This from the king of democratic destruction.
Also in October the Harper government introduced another omnibus budget bill. It brought forward the 458-page C-43 bill and said it intends to pass the legislation before the December break. It included substantial reductions in health transfers for provinces and measures to deny refugees heath care, although spending was announced for things like infrastructure or national defence it was all deferred in order to be able to announce a balanced budget before the election at which time suddenly the purse strings were loosened.

In November it was revealed that, even as various government departments reduced services and staffing levels, Public Accounts documents showed the Conservatives have held onto more than $7 billion in approved spending across a spectrum of departments. Since 2007-2008, the average amount that the government has underspent is 23 per cent of the allocated funds. Over the last three decades, the average was 2 per cent.

In December
Stephen Harper's government is being called out for spending what the Liberals say is $548 million of taxpayers' money for partisan advertising - just prior to the 2015 election. A long ad campaign about a jobs plan that doesn't exist; feel-good ads about Canada's 150th anniversary - still two full years away; a two-month ad campaign ending this month, showcasing tax breaks that can't be accessed until March or April; and $9 million for ads denouncing Canada's wireless cellphone companies. “

In a scathing article former Conservative MP Mr Rathgeber points out that the Harper Regime continues to boast of programs that have not passed through the legislative process are are not in fact in place and does so with half truths and outright lies.

“It is shameful how a supposedly conservative government wastes tax dollars on blatant, self- serving, political advertising. These recent transgressions are in addition to the $5 Million Veterans Affairs is using to promote the laughable concept of how well Canada treats its veterans. Parliament amazingly voted an additional $21,400,000 Wednesday night for additional government advertising;”
(Read the majority Con Regime voted themselves increased advertising budget)

In January The Harper regime introduced Bill C-51, the new Anti-Terrorism Act which was quickly denounced as creating a 'police state' and reducing oversight upon CISIS and doing little to actually combat domestic terrorism.
At a press briefing to introduce the bill reporters in Ottawa became surly quickly when it was discovered the government lock-up they attended on the proposed anti-terror legislation was light on information and heavy on restrictions.
A hint of how the government might handle some of its Bill C-51 critics at committee first came from Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney Tuesday. Leading testimony before the committee, he spoke out against members of the opposition and “so-called experts” who oppose the bill.
The “so-called” experts to which he referred include: former prime ministers, retired Supreme Court justices, eminent former politicians, national security legal academics and constitutional scholars and others.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told CTV’s Question Period that any oversight efforts beyond the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which reports to Parliament on the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), would be redundant.
With a few minor amendments, and having rejected 60 amendments from the Greens and dozens more for the other parties, the bill passed third reading on May 6 with the support of the Liberals with a final vote of 183-96. It later passed in the Senate on June 9 following a vote of 44-28 in favour.

Early in
February 2015 Baird became the 21st senior Conservative MP to announce that they will not be seeking re-election during the 2015 federal election, scheduled for October 19. “Add in previous resignations, lost nomination bids and a death, and more than 30 Conservatives elected in Harper’s historic 2011 majority of 166 MPs are leaving or have left.”
Baird's departure from cabinet, along with the resignation of Jim Flaherty a month before his death last year, mean two of Harper's most powerful ministers will have left the prime minister's inner circle in less than a year. The election of a replacement MP was delayed until the October general election.

Also in Feb 2015 Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette accused the Conservative government of breaching its legal obligations to hand over information about the cost of Canada’s military mission in Iraq.
A PBO report said the Department of National Defence refused all requests for specific data on Operation Impact, the mission against Islamic State militants. “Several of these refusals appear to breach DND’s legal obligations under the Parliament of Canada Act,” the report states.......
The report also notes that the government has a history of reporting incremental costs of military missions that are significantly lower than the full costs. For instance, the report states that Operation Mobile, Canada’s most recent overseas mission in Libya, had full costs that were almost six times the reported incremental costs.

In March the rush to pass the Security bill continued with debate being restricted in both the House and in Committee despite the ever increasing objections to it from both the general public and legal and constitutional experts. The hearings clearly demonstrated how dysfunctional the committee process had become under the Harper Regime.
The Canadian Bar Association objects to the planned transformation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) into an agency that could actively disrupt terror plots. It argues the bill’s “vague and overly broad language” would capture legitimate activity, including environmental and aboriginal protests — and possibly put a chill on expressions of dissent. The SIRC committee's executive director, Michael Doucet, complained in this year's annual report that his staff had trouble getting relevant information from CSIS with it, on average, taking three years to investigate complaints against CSIS.
Late in February it was revealed that over a five-year period, Canada's national police force Mounties withheld some $10 million in funds earmarked for its National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre and related projects. It was later revealed that they also did not spend $97 million in 2013-14 that had earmarked for a series of key social programs, including one to fight youth unemployment and another to help the disabled. The shortfall amounted to more than five per cent of the budget for programs at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC),
In March we found out that Minister of Public Works and Government Services Diane Finley decided to give $1 million to the Markham Centre for Skills and Independence under the Enabling Accessibility Fund  despite the fact the project failed funding criteria and included a “number of deficiencies.” Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson noted that “there were a number of interventions in relation to the proposal by the Prime Minister’s Office, two ministers, staff in Ms. Finley’s office and senior departmental officials.” The unethical interference reached the highest levels of the PMO, with Harper’s then-chief of staff Nigel Wright involved in discussions that at one point also included Harper, who told Wright to “sort it out,” according to the report.

In April instead of announcing the budget in the House of Commons, Oliver's office summoned media to the Canada Goose's factory in Toronto to announce his budget. In order to predict a balanced budget for 2015-16 they reduced government contingency funds by $2 billion and included the recent sale of the government’s remaining shares in General Motors, for another $1 billion.

Also in April having totally failed to address climate change federally The environment minister Leona Aglukkaq sent a letter just before a premiers meeting on climate change in Quebec City about their climate change efforts. Many provinces didn't react favourably to the letter, calling on the federal government to focus more on its own efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Harper regime then booked $13.5 million for an all-out blitz in April and May to advertise its 2015 pre-election budget. The Canada Revenue Agency is spending $6 million on a concentrated TV bulk buy this month that includes pricey NHL playoff spots in what internal government documents describe as a continuation of an existing campaign that's been running all winter. The tax agency's $6 million in TV advertising is augmented by a $7.5 million campaign by the Finance department, all designed to promote previously announced and new targeted tax breaks. The spring ad blitz comes amid increasingly vocal opposition to the Harper government's use of taxpayer-funded advertising for clearly partisan reasons.

On June 3 2015 Liberal Senate leader Grant Mitchell confirmed that the government will shut down all debate on Bill C-51 at the Senate Chamber tomorrow. This means all amendments and the legislation as a whole will be voted on tomorrow. It passed in the Senate on June 9
Also in June The Harper regime appoints five new board members all with strong Conservative connections to the National Capital Commission ahead of a key decision on the future of a very controversial memorial to the victims of communism. “The question is, are these new appointments there simply to make sure this project is rubber stamped?” asked Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar.
Former Conservative MP Del Mastro was sentenced to one month in jail for overspending on his 2008 election campaign; breaking his own spending limit; then filing a false campaign report. He previously sat on the House of Commons ethics committee and regularly defended the Conservative Party in question period on allegations related to the illegal robocalls sent to voters in the 2011 election.
Tory MPs voted to pass a time allocation motion on Bill C-59, a 167-page, omnibus budget implementation bill, this was the hundredth time that the Harper Conservatives have restricted debate since the start of Canada’s 41st Parliament in 2011.
The Bill contains unprecedented amendments to retroactively rewrite access to information laws, exempting all records from the defunct long-gun registry, and also any “request, complaint, investigation, application, judicial review, appeal or other proceeding under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act,” related to those old records. It effectively alters history to make an old government bill come into force months before it was actually passed by Parliament.

On June the 19th parliament rose for summer and the Harper regimes minions promptly spread out across the country announcing a myriad of grants and projects designed to persuade the voting public to vote for them in the upcoming election. In one week late in July over $4 BILIONS worth of promises were made.

We could be forgiven for thinking the only thing happening on Canadian military bases over the past two weeks has been photo ops. Recently the department has sent out more than a dozen press releases and held several press conferences where Conservative MPs have announced investments in infrastructure at local bases and military facilities.

The federal government has funnelled 83 per cent of the projects under its signature infrastructure fund to Conservative-held ridings, according to an analysis by The Globe and Mail of the announcements made to date. The New Building Canada Fund was first announced in the 2013 budget, but it has only been within the past few weeks – on the eve of the federal election campaign – that specific announcements have started to flow at a steady pace.

In July despite their balanced budget promises made back in April the parliamentary budget officer says the federal Conservatives will fail to accomplish their key promise of balancing Ottawa’s books this year, instead running a $1-billion budget deficit in 2015,.
Later it was announced that Canada was officially in a recession although the PM refused to acknowledge this fact. The Conservative-dominated parliamentary finance committee voted against calling on Finance Minister Joe Oliver to testify in public about the state of Canada's finances amid a troubled economy as requested by the opposition.

In an apparent effort to keep their “war on terror” talking points before the public Minister Nicholson directed all bureaucrats working in security-related divisions to provide the minister's communications team with "...three MINA (ministerial) statements to the media regarding security in the context of terrorism each week." Since there were no such incidences the bureaucrats were unable to comply.

Late in July Stephen Harper, having not filled any vacancies for two years, announced a moratorium on further Senate appointments, blaming the problems of his previously poor choices on the provinces and suggesting that it needs to be abolished. (something that is not only all but impossible under the constitution but would leave a majority government with no checks to their power)
This has two advantages. The first and obvious advantage is that it saves costs. The second advantage is that I think it will force the provinces, over time … to either come up with a plan for comprehensive reform or to conclude that the only way to deal with the status quo is abolition.” said Harper.

One of the last things the Harper government did before it launched the federal election was to appoint Steven Kelly to the National Energy Board, who is a consultant for Kinder Morgan. This guy was paid to convince the government to approve the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. And now he’ll be part of the team that helps to decide if his own argument was convincing.

On Aug 2 2015 Stephen Harper called the election several weeks earlier than was required by law resulting in an extended campaign period. Upon emerging from seeing the Governor General he promptly said:-
As it is my intention to begin campaign-related activities, as is also the case for the other party leaders, it is important that these campaigns be funded by the parties themselves rather than taxpayers..........”
Given that the taxpayer reimburses 50% to 60% of all legitimate expenses incurred during an election period by political parties and their candidates and that, entirely due to measures brought in by Harper and his (un) Fair Elections Act, the upper limits to said reimbursements increases in proportion with the length of the campaign this to total and utter nonsense.

This is the final article in this series but we will attempt to publish a conclusion and index to the series in the near future. Although how to summarize 10 year of abuse in a few paragraphs makes this just a difficult as wading through the detritus has been in assembling this review of the democratic destruction by the Harper Regime.

Please Note
Parts 1 to 5 and Parts 6 to 9 are now available as two long document (19 pages - 7900 words and 27 pages - 10,230 words respectively) in chronological order and may be viewed, shared and downloaded on Google Docs. Here & Here. Due to the large number of embedded links I recommend you import them 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


The Mound of Sound said...

Brilliant post, Rural. I'll proceed to the earlier parts this afternoon.



Rural said...

Thanks Mound, its a long and depressing read but a necessary exercise (for those less informed than yourself) before making our choices in a few weeks.

Unknown said...

Your post Rural is not just a systematic, step by step study in tyranny it is an appalling expose on corruption and deceipt on a massive scale.Thanks for taking the time to do this. I think I already mentioned to you, but it's worth mentioning again. When Nigel Wright was testifying, many people were referring to him as a person of integrity, wanting to do the right thing, who just got caught up in a no win scenario. I went to your HH for 2010 to 2013, the years that Wright was Harpers chief of staff and it showed the numerous underhanded and corrupt behaviour by Harper that any person of integrity, once witnessing this behaviour would have resigned.I recommended that people review for themselves your HH. You've revealed what Harper has tried so hard to hide. Dismantling our democracy in secrecy is no guarantee that it will stay secret. I would love to see your HH series contribute to his downfall.

Rural said...

The series shows the near death of democracy by a thousand cuts, Pamela, which I found necessary to document to remind citizens of the incremental way in which the Harper regime has diminished our parliamentary democracy. I too truly hope it helps with relegating Harper and his cronies to a historical footnote.