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The Harper Regime: 90 Pound Weaklings When It Comes To Heavy Lifting

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 08:17

As I indicated in yesterday's post, the Harper Conservatives seem very selective in 'standing up for the vulnerable'; they just don't seem to have what it takes to do the real heavy lifting that is required in our troubled world, preferring instead to utter bellicose rhetoric and put our young men and women in harm's way battling an enemy that defies traditional methods of combat.

Globe reader Andrew van Velzen of Toronto offers his view of their performance thus far:
Stephen Harper badly wants to be a player – a contender, if you will – on the world stage (On Balance, Harper Is Right – editorial, Oct. 8). But Canada’s symbolic military contribution to the air assault on Islamic State targets won’t do it.

Canada has lost a huge amount of credibility on foreign affairs under Mr. Harper’s tutelage. Just look at the climate change file (Tories Behind On Climate Targets – Oct. 8). If Mr. Harper wants the world to notice him, how about committing Canada to working diligently for a political solution to the Syrian civil war, even if it means talking with Iran and Bashar al-Assad? Better yet, let’s settle thousands of Syrian refugees in Canada. That would be a concrete and positive step.

Maybe then the world would begin to show Mr. Harper some of the respect he so craves.And speaking of protecting the vulnerable, National Post letter writer John Shaw of Newmarket makes this point:
The arrogant idea that Canada can bomb people in Iraq into a more peaceful existence is being widely promoted. The reality is that there are now more innocent civilians being killed and even more bad guys than before the last Gulf War. ISIS has skillfully manipulated politicians, such as Stephen Harper, to act exactly as they wish — and war is exactly what these groups thrive on.
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Breitbarting to be legalized in Canada?

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 07:46
The Harper government wants to legalize theft—the appropriation of newsclips without permission for political advertising. So much for property rights, eh, fellas? But that’s always been a bit of a code term anyway, meaning ours and not theirs. Just ask... Dr.Dawg

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 06:07
Here, on the Cons' presumption that any individual who breaches the social contract must be punished with a total lack of freedom - and their curious lack of any similar principle when it comes to corporate wrongdoing.

For further reading...
- I've dealt with issues relating to mandatory minimum sentences plenty of times before, while the likes of Dan Gardner and John Moore have taken them on directly. But see examples of the Cons' unduly strict individual sentencing being struck down here and here
- Richard Blackwell reported on the SNC-Lavalin's demand to be held above the law here. And Armina Ligaya discussed its place on the World Bank's corruption blacklist here.
- Again, David Dayen discussed the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's rare step in preventing an abusive business from increasing its operations.
- But in case anybody's under the illusion that Canadian governments are doing anything of the sort, Justine Hunter reported here on the B.C. Libs' flouting of access-to-information legislation in dealing with reports about the Mount Polley dam collapse and spill, while the Star discussed the Ontario Libs' willingness to suppress investigation and inspection reports about private medical clinics.
- And finally, John Nicol and Dave Seglins report on the attempt of rail operators to return to the single-person crews that contributed to the Lac-Megantic explosion, while the new derailment, spill and fire near Wadena offers yet more reason to question whether we should trust the private sector to tell us what's necessary to keep rail transport safe.

On abuses of power

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 05:34
Shorter Ontario Libs:
It turns out that the public sees privatizing power as only slightly more desirable than the plague. But to ensure a swift transition of profits toward the private sector, we're fully prepared to falsely claim those are our only two options.

What To Do With The Surplus?

Northern Reflections - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 05:32

There's going to be one. And, if the Harper government gets its way, it will go to tax cuts. That happened under the Liberals, too. Linda McQuaig writes:

The trick is to make surpluses disappear quickly by doling them out in tax cuts — before there’s time for a serious national debate about what the electorate actually wants to do with their money.
So when Ottawa started generating big surpluses in the late 1990s, it quickly began slashing taxes — particularly on corporations and high-income earners. As a result, Ottawa now collects about $50 billion less in taxes per year than it would have if it hadn’t done all that tax-cutting, according to labour economist Toby Sanger. That has deprived governments of the revenue they’d need to provide the kind of enhanced public programs many Canadians probably would like. 
That's what right wing think tanks are advocating.  The International Monetary Fund, however has suggested  has suggested that now is the time to spend on infrastructure. Scott Clark and Peter Devries write:

“The time is right,” says the International Monetary Fund in its latest World Economic Outlook, “for an infrastructure push.”

“In many advanced economies,” says the report, “there is still substantial slack … Robust demand momentum has not yet taken hold … There are now worries that demand will remain persistently weak — a possibility that has been described as ‘secular stagnation’.”
Yet the Harper government insists that the way to grow an economy is to create supply, not demand. Which raises the question, who was all this austerity for? Not for ordinary folks. Consider what has happen to medicare funding, writes McQuaig:

When medicare was established in the late 1960s, Ottawa covered 50 per cent of the costs. Today, Ottawa contributes just 20 per cent — and this will fall to a mere 12 per cent over the next few decades under the new health care funding formula unilaterally imposed on the provinces by the Harper government in 2011.
The money which used to fund medicare has gone into the pockets of the wealthy, a trend which will continue if the Harper government introduces income splitting:

This is, of course, exactly what the Harper government is planning to do. It has promised to introduce income-splitting — a costly and deeply unfair tax cut which would see almost all of the benefits go to well-heeled families with stay-at-home mothers.
If you're a politician these days, it pays to look after the rich. they'll look after you in your retirement. The surplus benefits the wealthy and those who serve them.

Will Stephen Harper Win the War in Iraq and Canada?

Montreal Simon - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 05:02

Golly. If you depended exclusively upon some of the poobahs in our useless MSM to know what's happening, you might think that Stephen Harper was not only about to deal the ISIS crazies a crippling blow.

With six planes, and when they finally get there.

He's already dealt his chief political opponent a mortal blow, and is on his way to win the next election.

Because there's Chantale Hébert, already declaring that Justin Trudeau is Harper's War's first casualty. 
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When the Con Attack Machine Goes after the Media

Montreal Simon - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 02:25

It may be hard to believe, but it looks as if the smear artists in the PMO are worried about running out of ammunition for their legendary attack machine.

So they're making plans to "borrow" some from the MSM, without their permission. 
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Rick Mercer On Why the Con Speaker Should be Fired

Montreal Simon - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 17:59

As you know I'm not a big fan of the Con Speaker Andrew Scheer. I blame him for allowing our Parliament to be turned into a fascist circus, or a dog and pony show.

By allowing the Cons to get away with never giving a straight answer to any question, and for always tilting the same way like the Tower of Pisa. Or in his case the Tower of Harper.

In fact, I recently wrote I think he should be fired.

And now I see so does Rick Mercer...
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Pay No Attention To This Video

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 17:06
Please regard this only as a rare anomaly of nature, totally unrelated to the propaganda about climate change being promulgated by enemies of your goverment.
- The Harper Regime.

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Who Do You Trust?

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 16:01
My money is on environment watchdog Julie Gelfand. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's parliamentary assistant, Colin Carrie? Not so much:

H/t Press ProgressRecommend this Post

Canada's Militarized Foreign Policy

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 11:17

Perhaps the ultimate legacy of the Bush/Cheney regime was the militarization of America's foreign policy by which the use or threat of military force came to displace diplomacy as the principle instrument of foreign policy.  That Canada should succumb to this same contagion is as lamentable as it is inevitable in the era of neoliberalism.

Canada's militarized foreign policy could be summed up as, "we march to the sound of the guns." 

The nature of the war doesn't much matter.  We don't waste effort on the merits of what we're getting into, the objects we seek to attain or even how we'll get out of it and when.  Those questions are irrelevant when you enlist in the Global Hegemon's Foreign Legion. 

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or dieThe difficult decisions we leave to others as we send our young men and women into harm's way. 

The Americans have opted for air war in Iraq and Syria.  Britain is in.  So too is Australia.  We hear the sound of their guns and so we march.

The merits of the war we assume to be self-evident from the participation of all the others with whom we seek no more than to stand shoulder-to-shoulder.  What we may or may not accomplish doesn't matter.  We quest only to "degrade" the enemy. 

Like good Legionnaires we're going, not to war, but into battle.  We'll do battle for six months.  At the end of that we'll decide whether to continue doing battle.  Wars are conflicts with outcomes that result in an end of hostilities.  Battles can be waged forever without any terminal outcome.

This is what befalls nations that enlist in the Global Hegemon's Foreign Legion.

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 10:30
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Eugene Lang discusses the importance of fiscal choice in the lead up to the 2015 federal election. And Don Cayo reminds us that the Cons' determination to hand free money to the wealthy - most recently through income-splitting and increased TFSA limits - means that everybody else has to pay more for a lesser level of public service.

- Jordan Press reports on the latest conclusions from Canada's Environment Commissioner, who finds the Harper Cons predictably doing nothing whatsoever to meet greenhouse gas emission targets. And Karl Nerenberg looks at the Environment Commissioner's findings in more detail:
Commenting on the fact that the government's sector-by-sector regulatory approach will not achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions it promised at Copenhagen in 2009 (which were weaker than Kyoto), Gelfand looked straight at the cameras and said:

"When you make a commitment you need to keep it. It is very difficult for Canada to expect other countries to meet their commitments when Canada can't meet its own."

The new Environment Commissioner added that the Conservatives' sector-by-sector regulatory approach is not working, especially since regulations for the oil and gas sector, promised in 2006, are still not forthcoming.

She did reveal, interestingly, that the Harper government has had draft oil and gas regulations sitting on a shelf for about a year; but that it has only consulted very narrowly and privately on those -- and only with one province.

When asked if that province was Alberta, Gelfand pointedly did not say no.

The new Commissioner was withering in her critique of that closed-door approach to policy-making. She said that in dealing with a matter as grave as climate change the government must be open and transparent with the public and with Parliament, and must consult widely.- Meanwhile, Lauren Krugel highlights the findings of Alberta's Auditor General to the effect that the province is similarly failing to even monitor the environmental effects of tar sands development.

- Jason Demers studies Saskatchewan's desperately overcrowded jails. And the Star-Phoenix makes the case for a stronger focus on rehabilitation, rather than simply warehousing prisoners.

- Finally, Paul Adams criticizes the Cons' insistence on forcing Canada into the latest Iraq war without a plan. And Tim Harper writes that the Harper sales pitch for war was based purely on patriotism and fear rather than any reasonable analysis of options.

The Curious Case Of Conservative Compassion

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 09:34

Some would say that the Harper regime's justification for its decision to commit militarily to the fight against ISIS was patriotic and stirring:

Said John Baird:
“My Canada heeds the call’’.... “My Canada protects the vulnerable. My Canada does not leave all the heavy lifting to others.’’Said Mr. Harper:
“If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world — and we should since so many of our challenges are global’’ ... “being a free rider means you are not taken seriously.’’Also from Mr. Harper:
“Our government has a duty to protect Canadians and to shoulder our burden in efforts to combat threats such as ISIL. We must do our part.”Such compassion, such commitment to the world that exists beyond Canada, such a stirring reminder of the duty to protect .... such utter and complete nonsense.

Actions, and in many cases, inactions, speak far louder than lofty rhetoric. Perhaps it is only the particular brand of conservatism practised by the Harper regime, but these clarion calls to duty and compassion expressed above seem more honoured in the breach than in the observance when this government's sorry record is scrutinized.

Consider the following inconvenient truths about our current regime:

Canada's cut to foreign aid was the biggest of all countries in 2013. According to One Campaign’s 2014 Data Report, as reported in The Star,
In 2013, Canada’s aid spending sunk to 0.27 of GNI — below the international average of .29, according to the One Report, which does not include debt relief in its calculations.This leads Stephen Brown, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa, to conclude
“We have a moral imperative for bombing, but not so much for helping the poor”.Now hot to protect the vulnerable, one wonders where the Harper regime's philanthropic impulses were in its refusal
to sponsor any more than 200 Syrian refugees, though the UN’s refugee agency asked us to take at least 10,000 refugees.Or, as Haroon Siddiqui recently pointed out,
He has also refused to allow a mere 100 children from Gaza, victims of Israeli bombings, to be brought to Canada for desperately needed medical treatment and rehabilitation. His sympathies are selective, mostly ideologically and politically driven.
Of the government's refusal to provide proper health care to refugees, I will not even speak.

Or consider how trying to track and help our domestic vulnerable has been hobbled by government's decision to cancel the mandatory long- form census:
It took David Hulchanski five years to create the most sophisticated tool to track urban poverty ever devised. The work was painstaking. The result was startling and worrisome.

It took Tony Clement five minutes — if that — to destroy Hulchanski’s mapping device.Without the reliable data provided by the long-form census data, his methodology, which was on the verge of being used across the country, was useless.

How about the regime's abject failure to protect the environment and help combat climate change, as outlined by The Globe and discussed in this blog yesterday?

And the muzzling of our scientists, virtually forbidden to share their worrisome research on the environment and climate change lest it hamper the imperative of economic development via such Harper-favoured projects as the Alberta tarsands, has been well-documented.

The list goes on and on, of course, but I believe the pattern is abundantly clear in these few examples. The latest war cries on the basis of patriotism and compassion for the vulnerable, certain to appeal to its base, is simply more evidence of the egregious hypocrisy of the Harper Conservatives that has only gotten worse the longer it has stayed in power. Recommend this Post

Leadership – it’s vital

Trashy's World - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 06:20
After watching the municipal campaigns in Ottawa unfold thus far, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the defining issue is leadership. Pro green bin or not (I pity the fools!), love Phase 2 of the LRT or scrap it, raise taxes, lower them or keep them the same, what really sets out one candidate from […]

Fire. Aim. Ready.

Northern Reflections - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 05:58


Paul Adams has an interesting piece this morning over at ipolitics. As of yesterday, Canada is now officially at war. Adams points out that, in the last twenty-five years, the United States has led five major wars in the Middle East. The only one that succeeded was the First Gulf War. It succeeded because Colin Powell thought very carefully about the situation before sending troops into the desert. What guided Powell was what has become known as the Powell Doctrine, which is best summarized in the answers to five questions:

  • Is the goal clear and important?
  • Is it a last resort after non-military efforts have failed?
  • Does the mission command the support of the American people and the international community?
  • Have the costs and expected gains been clearly analyzed?
  • Can the planned military mission achieve the intended political objectives?
  • Are the goals clearly circumscribed and is there a plausible exit strategy?

Adams writes that some thought has been given to answering the first two questions. But the rest of the answers -- particularly to questions 4 and 5 -- have been ignored:

Neither the Obama administration nor, for its small part, the Harper government has been frank about the potential costs of the mission. I am thinking now not just of the financial expense of an open-ended mission. I’m also talking about blowback from the Muslim world — which includes the implications of allying ourselves with the loathsome, head-chopping Saudis and, if we are honest, Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian dictatorship. Not to mention the motley crew of Iraqi fighters who are now our military avatars.

Nor do many people who know about these things think that the military mission as it is now conceived — that is, bombing Islamic State and supplying the ragtag forces of our new best friends on the ground — can achieve its supposed aims. Stephen Harper, who seems so pleased just to be on the team, may say the mission is to “contain” Islamic State. But Obama, whose team it is, says the goal is to “eliminate” it.
We have entered a war without thinking about its long term consequences. When going to war, the standard advice is," Ready. Aim. Fire." We've got that advice backwards.

Stephen Harper and the Day of the Con Planet Burners

Montreal Simon - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 04:56

It happened during Question Period in the middle of the debate about whether Canada should go to war.

So most did not notice and it will soon be forgotten.

The moment when Tom Mulcair quoted Stephen Harper's infamous 2002 statement on Kyoto:

“Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations."

And the Cons rose to their feet clapping and cheering and laughing loudly. 

On the same day that this scathing report was released. 
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Harper's War: The Blood Moon and the Con Insanity

Montreal Simon - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 01:10

It's raining where I live tonight so I can't see the blood moon. But I'm sure if I was in Ottawa I would get a great view of it.

Hanging low and bloody over the House of Commons.

Because this was the day Stephen Harper finally got his War in Iraq.

And it couldn't have been a crazier show. 
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Playing with the big boys

Cathie from Canada - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 22:54
I haven't written anything about the Harper Cons enthusiastic support for Canada's participation in Son Of Iraqi Freedom Part Deux because I haven't really known where I stand on this.
I can't say I have thought it through still, but two things struck me today.
First, Michael Den Tandt explains why Harper wants Canadian fighter jets to participate
The PM told the House of Commons Friday – and there is no reason to disbelieve him – that he made the decision to deploy warplanes knowing that doing so is politically difficult, particularly in an election year. He also acknowledged, laudably in terms of simple frankness, what appears to be his main rationale. “If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world – and we should, since so many of our challenges are global – being a free rider means you are not taken seriously.”In other words, we're not throwing our marbles into the ring because the Harper Cons think our participation will actually make a difference in a fight against an awful enemy, but rather just so the rest of the guys on our side will still be our pals.
At least this time the goal of the whole exercise is clear -- to degrade and destroy ISIS.  If Obama has his way, western armies won't be an occupying force, handing out money and Viagra to warlords, sending soldiers out on meaningless and dangerous patrols, running prisons.
But if we're participating in a potential quagmire without any actual sense of mission ourselves, except to show everybody that we have jets too, then I wonder how Canadians will feel when we have more hearses to salute on the Highway of Heroes.
And that brings me to my second observation, about Trudeau's supposedly juvenile and much-criticized comparison of our CF-18s to big swinging dicks.
If Canada is flying combat missions only because we are trying to impress the big boys, then maybe we actually are just participating in a dick-measuring contest.

Your Paul Fromm Mayoral Election Banner Choices

Anti-Racist Canada - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 20:52
We apologize for not posting this update sooner. On September 28, we began a contest to see who could come up with the best banner for Paulie's campaign for mayor. Top prize is $50.00.

And here now are your choices:

Voting will commence immediately and will continue until midnight on October 28. 

That Was Then, This Is Now

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 18:16
Brent Rathgeber, the independent MP who left the Conservative caucus last year, reflects upon the corrruption of Stephen Harper:

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