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, May 17, 2015

Harper History, Part 5B - G20, Census Axed, Contempt.

June 2010 – Mar 2011

In this the second half of part 5 of the ongoing Harper History series intended to remind our citizens exactly how little respect the Harper Regime has for our Democracy we touch upon the G20 fiasco, the killing of the census and the inability of the PBO to get information as to how the 'stimulus' funds were spent. Parliament continued to be 'dysfunctional' with the opposition seeming unable to hold Harper to account despite his refusal to release the information necessary for them to make informed decisions for fear of precipitating an election they were not prepared for, whist Harper almost daily dared them to do so.

On 26-& 27 June 2010 Harper hosted the G20 Leaders Summit in Toronto and had been under fire for months for the avalanche of funding around the Muskoka region where the leader were to be accommodated. It was revealed that besides the $50 million in G8 summit funds, Ottawa had funnelled another $50 million into the riding held by Industry minister Tony Clements in the past few years.
With summits in London, England and Pittsburgh, USA costing $30 million and $12.2 million (US) respectively the bill for this summit held whilst Canada was still in deep recession was estimated at $1.1 BILLION. Extravagant expenditures included the construction of a 'fake lake' just meters from the real Lake Ontario and $274,850 for a bandshell and new public washrooms in Baysville, 31 kms from the summit site.

Thousands of people gathered in Toronto to protest the summit and when a handfull of 'anarchists' destroyed property and smashed windows on the first day whilst police stood by and watched hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were illegally arrested and detained on the second day. It has never been revealed who authorized these arrests and no senior officers have been held to account. It remains unclear exactly who was realty in control of the 'security operation. The area where the leaders actually met in downtown Toronto was declared a security zone and laws were quietly changed to make it illegal to approach the area.
For more on the security zone see On that controversial “regulation”

On July 12 2010 The Conservative government defeated changes the Liberals and three of the four independents wanted in the Budget by a vote of 48 to 44. Seven Liberal senators failed to show up to vote giving Harper's Conservatives the slight majority. The 800+ page budget sailed through unscathed thus avoiding (for now) a showdown in the House of Commons and a possible election call.
Also in July the Long form census eliminated and the Canadian Press learned that “Employees were told a little over a year ago that there would be less emphasis on analysis. A highly praised survey on immigrants to Canada, for example, has been axed. Other analytical jobs, in areas such as business and trade statistics, and the aging population, have been eliminated.”

In August Munir Sheikh, the head of Statistics Canada, announced his resignation over this issue saying "I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,"
"It cannot," he said. "Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister."
For more on this please see Letter to the Prime-minister.
By this time numerous other key personnel had quit, been fired or been forced out of their government positions.
Also In August Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page reported that he could not tell with any accuracy how or indeed if all the Economic Action Plan funds had been spent saying it is impossible to draw authoritative conclusions about the program performance at this time. Parliamentary monitoring of program performance would be better served by a more consistent reporting regime, with appropriate incentives to ensure timely and accurate progress reporting.” For more on this see One to watch

On Oct 12 2010 , The Conservatives further demonstrated their contempt for Parliament by delivering their 'Economic Update' not in parliament but at a carefully staged and expensive special event in Mississauga this while parliament was recessed and the country was still deep in recession and they were preaching 'fiscal restraint'. This practice of making major announcements traditionally first revealed in parliament before their peers was to become the 'norm' for Harper who rarely if ever spoke publicly except in carefully controlled and stage managed events.

In November it was revealed that Conservative Senators were quietly using taxpayer-funded literature to target opposition ridings with a partisan crime message as the party gears up for the next election.

On November 16th In a late night surprise vote and without any debate the Conservatives used their clout in the Senate stacked by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to kill an NDP climate change bill that was passed by a majority of the House of Commons. The absence of more than 15 Liberals from the Senate for the surprise vote allowed the bill to be defeated. This was the first time in at least 70 years that the Senate has killed legislation from the Commons without a hearing, according to parliamentary experts.Harper then told the Commons that the bill which established greenhouse gas emissions targets for a period beyond that mandated by the Kyoto Protocol that it was “a completely irresponsible bill.” For more on this see Senate Shananikins.
During Oct & Nov 2010 the first official government announcements show up with titles proclaiming “The Harper Government” rather than the correct “The Government of Canada”. A few months later this was proclaimed by the regime to be the way all such documents should be titled. During this entire period thousands of dollars were spent bombarding us with those “Economic Action Plan” ads that told us nothing but promoted the Harper Regime on almost a daily basis.

In January 2011 and with the probability of an election in the near future and speculation about a coalition in the news Gov. Gen. David Johnston was busy brushing up on constitutional rules and said that “he sees nothing wrong or illegitimate with coalition governments and recognizes that “any governor general who has that role in a constitutional system like ours, from time to time will be confronted with questions where there is an element of discretion,”
However Liberal leader Micheal Ignatieff had been unequivocal in his rejection of a coalition and thus played right into Harper’s framing of a coalition as illegitimate and this may well have had some effect on the election to come.

In February Green Party Leader Elizabeth May clearly voiced the concerns that a number of noted historians and constitutional experts also said when she wrote:-
I am no fan of hyperbole. The notion that democracy in a safe, successful, wealthy country like Canada, constitutionally dedicated to “peace, order, and good government,” could be “in peril” may strike some readers as over the top. Nevertheless, there is a power struggle in Ottawa that, in earlier days, could have been viewed as a constitutional crisis. ” Some constitutional experts were wondering out loud if our prime minister should be referred to as “King Stephen I of Canada.”.
Also in February PBO officer Kevin Page in his appearance before the Commons Finance Committee when he appeared before committee Tuesday said that in his 25 years in the public service, no government has used the umbrella of “cabinet confidence” to hide tax data or justice legislation costs, and reiterated that this lack of data means that Parliamentarians are losing their control over the finances of the nation.
There is genuine concern that Parliament is losing control of its fiduciary responsibilities of approving financial authorities of public monies as afforded in the Constitution. In the recent past, Parliament was asked to approve changes to crime legislation without financial information or knowledge of monies set aside in the fiscal framework. “
For more on these two items and similar opinion please see Democracy in Peril?
On February 24, 2011, 4 senior Conservative Party members were charged in the In and Out Scandal under the Elections Canada Act with overspending over $1 million in the 2006 election including allegations that Conservative election expense documents submitted to Elections Canada were "false or misleading" and attempted to fraudulently gain almost $1 million in refunds from taxpayers. Over a year later the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal which saw the Conservative Party plead guilty over the 'In and Out' scandal, agreeing to repay $230,198.00 (or less than 25% of the moneys obtained by the fraud) for its role in the scheme.

On March 9th, 2011, the Harper administration was found to be in contempt of Canadian parliament for for its ongoing refusal to meet opposition requests for details of proposed bills and their cost estimates. This was the first time in the history of any commonwealth government that this had happened. Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa professor and constitutional expert had said this before the committee requesting the documents:-
"The executive is really placing itself above Parliament. For the first time that I know in Canadian history, the executive is saying we are superior to Parliament,"
"This is nothing more than an open defiance of Parliament. Nothing more, nothing less," he said. "The refusal to release the uncensored documents is a violation of the Canadian Constitution. This is the equivalent to a defiance of a judicial subpoena,"
On March 25th, 2011, The Speaker of the House of Commons having ruled three times that "the Harper government" appeared to breach parliamentary privilege and the Harper administration being found to be in contempt of Canadian parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them a vote of non confidence was held which was supported by all opposition parties resulting in the government falling and an election being called..

Early Friday afternoon, 156 opposition MPs – all of the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloquistes present in the House of Commons – rose to support a motion of no-confidence.
It was also a motion that declared the government to be in contempt of Parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them.

This was not the first nor was it to be the last instance of the Harper Regime showing its utter contempt for our Parliamentary Democracy rules and conventions. We were about to see their contempt for election rules and for Elections Canada, the arms length body charged with ensuring that our election were untainted by illegal activities.

The 2011 election and the controversy around election fraud and robo-calls will be covered separately in the next article.

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Owen Gray said...

The record points to astonishing abuses of power, Rural. And, so far, Harper remains undaunted.

Rural said...

I believe that if the public realizes the extent of said abuse over the last 8 years they will reject him in droves,Owen. Hence my continuing with this highly depressing but important synopsis of past evils.

Lorne said...

As I said in an earlier comment to your review, Rural, even for those of us who follow the many abuses that have occurred under this regime, it is almost overwhelming to see the extent of them as you are laying them down here.

Rural said...

And from what I can see, Lorne, the review of the next 4 years will be even more 'overwhelming'!