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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 35 min 9 sec ago

Four To Go

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:37


As Lawrence Martin sees it, there are four scenarios in Stephen Harper's future. The first is to hold an election at the prescribed date, set in place by a law he passed:

The thinking here is that he needs the time to make up ground on the leading Liberals. Also, he doesn’t want to risk alienating voters by changing the set October date. The timing of the Duffy trial, slated to run from April to June, is troublesome, but it’s better than being seen as forcing an early election to avoid it. The image of being morally bankrupt (see last week’s Paul Calandra fiasco) is already hurting the government. It doesn’t want to fuel that perception.
Then there's the possibility of a spring election:

Mr. Harper brings in a February budget that contains highly controversial measures, then triggers an election on it for the end of March. Many would see this as blatantly opportunistic, coming just ahead of the Duffy trial. But Mr. Harper would rely on the hope that the timing is an issue only for the campaign’s first few days, as we’ve seen in the past. Not to be ignored in these calculations is the chance that the Duffy charges could be settled out of court, or that the trial’s timing is pushed back. No doubt, the Prime Minister’s men will be pulling all strings possible to bring about such outcomes.
A third possibility is that Mr. Harper might call an election this fall:

If Justin Trudeau’s popularity numbers start to slide, Mr. Harper may pounce right away. There is concern in Liberal circles and hope in Conservative precincts that the reason Mr. Trudeau is rushing an autobiography into print (it will be released in three weeks) is that there are embarrassments from his past that he wants to disclose on his own terms, instead of leaving the deed to the Harper attack machine. The Conservatives have a budget update to deliver, and if they’re gaining ground, they may use it – with some big tax-cut promises – as a springboard for a snap election. It would be 31/2 years into a majority mandate. Jean Chrétien went to the polls twice on a similar time frame.
And then, of course, he could resign:

The PM reads the tea leaves/billboards and concludes that it’s time. He calls a Conservative leadership convention to be held in February. The option has much to recommend it. He goes out as one of the big winners in party history, having moved the conservative agenda appreciably forward in many policy areas. He avoids the distinct possibility of a humiliation at the hands of a Trudeau.

Mr. Harper always holds his cards close to his vest. So predicting which scenario he might follow is not easy. Reports are that the party is clamouring for him to leave.  But this is a party which grovels before its leader. And despite the fixed election law, we should all know by now that Mr. Harper believes he can break rules with impunity.

So which route will he take? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Canadian Rodney Dangerfield

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 06:28

Last week was not a good week for Stephen Harper. Certainly, Paul Calandra's performance in the House did not cover his boss in glory. But, Michael Harris writes, Stephen Harper's performance at the UN -- in front of an almost empty chamber -- gained him no praise or respect:

Harper has got to realize that you can’t score points talking up peace and maternal health. Everyone in the world knows he is itching to get deeper into the war in Iraq to bolster his international tough guy cred.

You can’t win applause at the UN when you have consistently made clear that the will of the majority of member states means nothing to you. The world’s top diplomats are beyond being taken in by blue sweaters, Beatle songs, and phoney speeches. Day in the Life of videos, cat photographs, and patriotic selfies now work only with dear friends and relatives.
Harper has as much respect for the UN as Calandra has for the House. And the international community has returned the disrespect:

The prime minister long ago used up any “benefit of the doubt” account he might once have had on foreign affairs. His analysis a decade ago would have had Canada front and centre in the last Iraq debacle — which anyone who takes a second to think about it knows set the stage for this latest ISIS fiasco.

The old thesis is back. One can bomb one’s way to peace in the Middle East without telling the folks back home what’s going on. You know, like Viet Nam. Only undemocratic war mongers believe that. And for that matter, only war mongers celebrate the beginning of the First World War, the way Harper did.
 Back home, the natives are getting restless:

Maybe it was published rumblings on Bourque Newswatch of Harper’s imminent exit from politics, a story based on anonymous sources in the Conservative Party of Canada from across Canada. While some might want to dismiss Bourque, it was an earlier series of stories on the same site correctly reported the looming corruption scandal at SNC-Lavalin.
Everyone -- at home and on the international stage -- is tired of Stephen Harper. The prime minister is now the Canadian version of Rodney Dangerfield.

All That Dead Money

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 06:04

In 1974, Arthur Laffer famously drew a curve on the back of a napkin while he had dinner with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. The curve illustrated Laffer's theory that, as governments cut taxes, their revenues increased. Margaret Thatcher gave the curve a try and it didn't work. Ronald Reagan gave it a shot, too; but he managed to create the biggest deficit  -- up to that time -- in American history. Next in line was Brian Mulroney, whose application of the Laffer Curve caused Canada to hit the "debt wall."

Paul Martin, Mulroney's successor, managed -- with a great deal of pain -- to bring government revenues into surplus and he began to pay down the national debt. But then came Stephen Harper, who insisted that taking the path that Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney had trod before him would bring Canada to the gates of economic Nirvana.

However, Frances Russell writes:

Corporate Canada reached a milestone in 2014. For the first time ever, it now has more cash on hand than Canada’s entire national debt – $630 billion and counting.

In other words, Canada’s big corporations could pay off Canada’s entire national debt in one fell swoop with just the cash sitting in their collective bank accounts. And they wouldn’t even have to touch their other assets.
David Macdonald, the senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, has had the temerity to point out that tax cuts have not increased government revenues or economic productivity:

Back in the 1990s, Corporate Canada said it would use the new money to build more factories, employ more workers and make Canada more productive.

“Governments dutifully cut social programs as taxes decreased,” Macdonald says. “But Corporate Canada passed on making Canada’s economy more productive….(And) Canadians are left with weaker health care, veterans care and other social programs.”
The Harper government's response was to order the Canada Revenue Agency to audit the CCPA because it displayed political bias. But the CCPA has the facts -- and history -- on its side. Wherever governments have followed Arthur Laffer's advice, the result has been a pile of dead money -- not increased government revenues.

And Stephen Harper continues to assert that Laffer's laughable curve is sound economics.

Getting It And Them

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 06:33

Paul Calandra's behaviour this week -- first preening arrogance, then blubbering self pity -- is symptomatic of our sick politics. Andrew Coyne writes:

There is no useful distinction to be made between sincerity and pretence in this tableau. Mr. Calandra’s self-pity was undoubtedly genuine, his manipulativeness admirably unforced. And the House’s empathetic response? We know you have no intention of changing anything. Neither do we. Indeed, your non-answers weren’t a great deal different than the non-answers we are normally given, or the ones we’d give ourselves, in the same position, just more obvious. Our chagrin was as feigned as your contrition.

Mind you, in a way being obvious does make it worse. Though the non-answer is as frequent a feature of Question Period as the non-question, it is ordinarily bounded by the time-hallowed conventions of hypocrisy. The minister who takes the trouble of pretending to answer does Parliament the courtesy of dissembling; by his efforts at concealment, he implicitly acknowledges there is a standard expected of him, even if he declines to meet it. He’s still not answering the question. But by observing the proper rituals, custom is respected, and a certain equilibrium between the parties is maintained. The Mafia operates on much the same lines.
Coyn'e analogy to the mafia goes straight to the point. There is nothing of national interest any more in the House of  Commons. Everything is now about self interest. And, therefore, everyday we see nothing but complete contempt for the fundamental institution of our democracy:

Calandra’s overtly nonsensical answers, by contrast, represented a deliberate flouting of convention. He was not just refusing to answer the question: he was rejecting the whole concept of question-answering. He was not only taking no care to conceal his refusal: he was going out of his way to make it obvious. It was a calculated snub to the Opposition, offered up, what is worse, in full view of the public. No wonder they were so filled with fake indignation.
Coyne rightly points out that the Harperites don't have a monopoly on contempt for Parliament.  But the Conservatives have raised that contempt to a new high. Consider the parade of Harper's parliamentary secretaries -- Pierre Poilievre, Dean del Maestro and now Calandra. What does that collection of blubbering boobs say about the man who appointed them?

It says that the Prime Minister doesn't care a whit about getting things right. He cares only about getting it -- (power) and them. (the opposition)

The Next Wedge

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 06:14

This week, the Conference Board released a report predicting generational warfare between Canadians. Macleans has also jumped on the bandwagon. Linda McQuaig writes:

I turn to Maclean's if I want to know what idea conservatives will be pushing next. So when I saw a recent copy of Maclean's featuring a jarring photo of an old person's wrinkled hand with the middle finger raised, I realized the right is gearing up to make generational conflict the next big thing.

Along with the photo of the raised middle finger was a cover photo of a smiling, white-haired older woman holding a wad of $50 bills, with many more floating around her head, as if money were raining down on her. The cover headline: "OLD. RICH. SPOILED."
Harperian politics is all about driving wedges between people. But it's also about total misrepresentation. McQuaig writes that, while the young face miserable employment prospects as a result of Harper's phobia of deficits, the real gap is still the gap between rich and poor:

So the suggestion that seniors as a group receive too much government support is absurd. Rich seniors, who need it least, are dramatically over-subsidized by government, while poor seniors definitely need more help, but have been all but abandoned by the Harper government.

For that matter, the precarious financial situation of young people is part of the erosion of economic security of working people in general, as the increasingly powerful corporate sector has pushed governments to redesign tax and trade laws in its favour, and to weaken union and workplace protections. This has allowed corporations to scoop up an increasingly large share of national income, at the expense of labour.

This corporate-government attack on workers has been fierce, but older workers, with more seniority, have been better positioned to defend themselves.
In fact, spending on infrastructure would increase everyone's employment prospects. However,

both Maclean's and the conference board's Stewart-Patterson suggest that young people could deal with their plight by launching a tax revolt -- the right's favourite cause that would lead to further cuts to our social safety net. How convenient for the right if it could enlist young people in its anti-tax crusade. 
What the right really fears is that young people will turn on them:

Above all, the right wants to ensure that the anger of disaffected youth doesn't end up directed towards the corporate elite -- as it was during Occupy Wall Street's campaign against the growing wealth and power of the 1%.

The accumulations at the top have continued to grow, and will lead to an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, as economist Thomas Piketty has documented in his widely acclaimed New York Times best-seller Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
The Harper government -- and before that the Harris government in Ontario -- has been very good at driving wedges between Canadians. They believe they have found the next big wedge.

A Mere Mortal

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 05:35
Andrew Nikiforuk writes that, according to Gus Van  Harten, the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement -- which Stephen Harper signed without any public debate -- trumps both First Nations and provincial rights which, up to this point,  have been enshrined in Canadian jurisprudence.

Van  Harten has several concerns about the agreement:

It gives China unique Most Favoured Nation status and "obligates Canada, but not China, to open its economy to the other state's investors."

It allows Chinese investors, in general, to purchase assets in Canada that Canadian investors would not be able to purchase in China.

It limits Canada's ability to screen Chinese investments to review under the Investment Canada Act while preserving China's ability to screen Canadian investments at any level of government and without the limitations imposed on screening by the Investment Canada Act.

It allows foreign investors from either country to bring claims against the other, but it does not allow either government to bring claims against foreign investors -- a clear imbalance.

It omits a reservation designed to preserve aboriginal rights, something included in all of Canada's 25 other similar investment and trade agreements.

The treaty has a lifespan of 31 years -- a longevity greater than the great majority of similar treaties signed by Canada.

It gives a special status to foreign investors such as the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) or China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec) in the form of substantive legal protections not enjoyed by other private parties, including domestic competitors.

It allows investors such as Chinese state-owned corporations to bring claims against the government in secret. (Van Harten says the arbitration would have to be made public only when an award is issued.)
Furthermore the treaty's definition of investment is extremely broad.

It does not mean just land or buildings but includes resource concession rights, debt instruments (that is, portfolio investment), intellectual property rights and "any other tangible or intangible... property and related property rights acquired or used for business purposes."
The Harper line about these trade agreements is that they create jobs.  But, obviously, their prime purpose is to protect investors -- at the cost of national sovereignty. You can bet that both the First Nations and the provinces will challenge the treaty in the courts -- all the way to the Supreme Court.

Three years ago, Harper insisted that he needed a majority government. He believed that, with a majority, he would be free of all restraints -- from parliamentary convention, from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and from the division of powers set out in the British North America Act.

Once again, the courts will have to remind Mr. Harper that he is a mere mortal.

A Fossil Fool

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 05:29


Stephen Harper is at the UN today to attend a meeting of the Security Council. He chose not to attend yesterday's meeting on climate change. As appalling as Harper's decision to skip that meeting was, Tom Walkom writes that, in the end, he probably did the climate a favour. In the past, when Harper has attended such meetings, his strategy was two fold: to obstruct and to delay:

He made an alliance of convenience with Russia, Australia and, at one point, Japan to deep-six any attempt to resurrect Kyoto.
In 2011, Canada became the first country to formally withdraw its ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.For a while, Harper aligned himself with U.S. President Barack Obama. Canada, the prime minister said, would follow Washington’s lead on the climate-change file.
He gleefully supported Obama’s efforts to replace binding international commitments with voluntary ones.
To that end, Harper solemnly agreed, at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, to reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions in lock-step with the Americans.But the prime minister never delivered. The U.S. under Obama is on track to meet its 2020 targets. Canada, by the federal environment department’s own admission, is not.

Two days ago, the Rockefeller Foundation announced that it was moving its assets out of fossil fuels. Stephen Heintz, the president of the Rockefeller Fund, announced that "progress toward complete divestment from fossil fuels is being made slowly but surely." When the family that made its fortune from Standard Oil says that the future is not in fossil fuels, you would think that announcement might give people like Mr. Harper pause.

But he's always been slow on the uptake. That's because he's a fossil fool.

The Bunker Buster

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 05:40

The conventional wisdom these days seems to hold that Stephen Harper will never testify at Mike Duffy's trial. But Scott Reid, who used to be Paul Martin's director of communications, knows what kind of damage scandal can do to a prime minister's future. He writes that no one should underestimate the havoc Duffy can wreck on Harper:

Imagine all of this unfolding in public – again. Except this time with added rigour and filled-in details. Not leaked out in spastic bursts through media reports, but explored carefully and transparently according to the rules of court. Imagine Nigel Wright’s testimony – as he’s compelled under oath to describe what conversations he had, with whom, and when.

For Harper, this situation is a blazing bonfire of political risk. The best-case scenarios are nerve-fraying. What might happen in the worst of all worlds is the stuff of horror films. The government may want to believe they’ve put this behind them but as this week’s brief pre-trial appearance reminds us, it’s back. Mike Duffy, the good senator from Just-Make-It-Out-To-Cash, is fighting for his freedom – and he is pointed at this government like a loaded weapon.

Any trial is also bound to explore questions that have so far gone unanswered. What sort of deal was originally cut with Duffy for partisan versus Parliamentary service? Why were the Conservatives willing to quietly vanish his expenses when they were thought to be only $30,000? How does that square with later denunciations of his profligate ways? What lies behind that email reporting the prime minister to be ‘good to go’?
In the end, Reid speculates, Harper may decide to get out of town. If he left by Christmas, his party still might have enough time to rehabilitate itself. After all, Dalton McGuinty's departure allowed Kathleen Wynne to win the next election.

However you look at it, Duffy is a precision guided missile aimed straight at Harper's bunker -- the kind of weapon the Americans call a "bunker buster." In the end, Duffy may not just destroy the bunker. He may destroy the prime minister.

Anxiety Breeds Passivity

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 06:10

Over the weekend, Conservative senators announced that they will re-introduce a bill which previously sparked rebellion in the Red Chamber. The bill would force unions to publicly disclose their spending. It's all part of a movement which began forty years ago. Murray Dobbins writes:

In those pre-corporate globalization days, it was conventional political and social wisdom that the economy served the nation, and by inference, the community and families. The Bank of Canada's dual mandates -- unemployment and inflation -- were still competing but full employment was one of the few shared policy objectives of all three federal parties. It wasn't until the early '80s that inflation took a serious bite out of the accumulated wealth of the West's economic elite. That changed everything and "inflation fighting" became the obsession of the West's central banks.

But more than that it also became the weapon of choice of free-marketeers like former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin who with the co-operation of the Bank of Canada used extreme inflation targets (and subsequent high interest rates) to actually suppress economic growth and deliberately create high levels of unemployment. Few people recall that under Martin's ideological war on inflation throughout most of the 1990s, unemployment hovered around 9 per cent -- higher than it is now.Martin's war on inflation was actually a war on labour, justified by the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and subsequently, North American Free Trade Agreement. It was all about global competitiveness and that meant driving down the cost and power of labour. Enforced high unemployment was perhaps the most powerful weapon, but dramatic cuts to Employment Insurance eligibility and the elimination of the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) were effective as well. The CAP transferred money to the provinces and was targeted specifically at establishing a minimum national standard for welfare. With its cancellation and replacement with a lump sum (for health, education and welfare), the provinces radically reduced social assistance rates and shifted money into the politically popular items like medicare.
And the War on Labour continues to this day. It has reached the point now where the Harper government puts an end to strikes before they begin, based on the bogus argument that the economy is too fragile to permit labour disruptions.

The strategy is to keep workers anxious and living pay cheque to pay cheque:

Over the past few years, a stream of reports have revealed just what that sacrifice has entailed. It has even fostered the use of a new term to describe modern working life: precarity. The numbers are scary. The Canadian Payroll Association's annual poll revealed recently that 51 per cent of Canadian employees would be in real financial trouble if their paycheque were delayed by a week. A week. A quarter of those surveyed said they couldn't pull together even $2,000 to deal with an emergency. Almost half said they were spending all their income -- or more -- on basic family needs. The savings rate is now below 4 per cent -- it was 15 per cent in the 1980s. Personal debt is at record levels, some 160 per cent of annual income and no wonder: the real income gain of the average employee between 1980 and 2005 was a measly $52 -- two dollars a year. The only thing keeping many families afloat is rising house prices. But 17 per cent of mortgage holders will be under water if rates rise just 1.5 per cent.
Keep workers anxious and you keep them passive. And, if the population is passive, you can get away with anything.

Wearing It Proudly

Sun, 09/21/2014 - 06:13


This week Stephen Harper heads to the United Nations, an organization which he has consistently snubbed. The goal is to present himself as a world statesman -- not to the UN, but to the folks back home.

The problem, however, is what the problem always is for Harper. He's never willing to put his money where his mouth is. In fact, his singular talent lies in taking money away, even as her praises his own achievements.

If you really want some insight into Harper's expertise in international affairs, Carol Goar suggested last week, look at the number of Canadian international organizations he has shut down by simply cutting off their funding:

Last week, the North-South Institute, one of the country’s oldest foreign policy think-tanks folded. Its board of directors thanked the founders, donors and staff members for their contribution to 38 years of non-partisan research to strengthen Canada’s role in to the world. Then they quietly turned out the lights.

The year before that Rights and Democracy died. It was an arm’s-length federal agency set up by former prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1988 to encourage democracy and monitor human rights around the world.

In 2010, the government cut off funding to Match International, an organization that supported women’s rights in the developing world. With a blitz of fundraising and partners in 71 countries, it survived.Canadian Council on International Co-operation (CCIC), a coalition of 100 foreign aid groups striving to end global poverty, did not fare as well. When its grant was slashed, it had to lay off most of its staff. The organization still exists, but it has lost its voice.Ottawa also defunded a couple of church-based development groups — Kairos, which represents 11 denominations, and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace— but their members kept them afloat.
It's been clear for some time now that -- not withstanding his claims to the contrary -- Stephen Harper is no economic genius. And, when it comes to foreign affairs, Harper is an innocent abroad. The UN knows that. Still, Harper wears his ignorance proudly.


Better Off?

Sat, 09/20/2014 - 05:19

The latest Conservative campaign ad proclaims that we are all "better off under Harper." But the latest EKOS poll suggests that Canadians don't feel that way at all. Rather, they believe we have entered what Frank Graves calls the "Age of Stagnation:"

So in a very real sense, progress — the promise of a better life, security and the comforts of middle class membership — has stopped. Moreover, the evidence is that the momentum of this new world of “progress lost” is in the wrong direction. The trajectories all point downward. Their gloomy outlook on the present fades to black when citizens ponder the future; only around ten per cent of us believe the next generation will experience the progress achieved by the previous generations.

The number of people defining themselves as middle class has fallen precipitously in both Canada and the United States. Here at home, the portion of the population which has fallen behind their parents’ incomes at the same period in life rises from 15 per cent to 34 per cent to 44 per cent as we move from seniors to boomers to Generation X. The long fall of the middle class is already happening; around 20 per cent have dropped out of self-defined middle class status altogether.
Lots of pundits haven't cottoned on yet:

The New York Times even says Canada’s middle class is the richest in the world (not true, but compared to what Frank Bruni calls ‘America the Shrunken’, we’re around par). The right wing commentariat gleefully seizes upon half-facts and shaky research to suggest that (a) this is a non-issue that only worries liberal policy wonks, and (b) things are going swimmingly well and anyone who says otherwise is prone to panic.
So Harper has right wing opinion makers on his side. Perhaps that's why he confidently suggests he is leading Canadians into a brighter future:

But to the public at large, this isn’t really up for debate. Canada’s ‘world-leading’ middle class is convinced it is falling behind. The public overwhelming rejects the notion that this is a crisis manufactured by the liberal intellectual elite. Furthermore, 73 per cent of Canadians reject the notion that income inequality is not an important issue. Even in the more conservative, anti-establishment constituencies, a clear majority recognizes the importance of this issue.
Never has a prime minister and his government been so disconnected to Canada's citizens. But you knew that. Didn't you?

Magic Steve

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 05:52


Between now and the next election, Stephen Harper will try hard to be a magician. He'll try to make his record disappear. Michael Harris writes:

That is a conversation Harper isn’t anxious to have, for any one of a number of reasons. The mismanagement and bottomless dishonesty on display during the F-35 acquisition process, for instance.

Then there’s the PM’s performance during the Wright/Duffy Affair. You remember how he treated the the truth on that occasion as a kind of multiple choice exercise in storytelling. Should the PM be subpoenaed to Mike Duffy’s criminal trial, he won’t have recourse to the ‘creative option’ — not without consequences.

Or recall the belly-flop of judgment that resulted in the appointments of Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter and several other weak links to powerful and sensitive positions.

There are lots of other things Harper doesn't want to talk about:

Certainly Harper’s not keen to talk about his calamitous record with the Senate — promising not to appoint any senators and then stacking the place with every idle Tory hack with a heartbeat. And then came the unconstitutional legislation to reform the Red Chamber, followed by the drive-by smear of Chief Justice McLachlin.

Or maybe Steve doesn’t want to talk about why he has spied on Canadians since coming to office in 2006, sticking the long nose of government deeper and deeper into its citizens’ privacy. In a police state, you might put union rallies, or a vigil for murdered native women, under surveillance — as they have been in Harper’s Canada. In a petro-state you might spy on a public discussion about the oilsands — but in a democracy? In Canada?
So, like a magician, he'll try to create distractions and change the subject:

Stephen Harper would rather talk about beheadings than the dead room he has made of public discourse in Canada — and his dismal record after eight years in power.
 He'll certainly talk about the other guys:

Brian Mulroney called Tom Mulcair the best leader of the Opposition since Diefenbaker. Harper says he’s not fit to run the country because … well, because he doesn’t excel in the corporate ass-kissing department. No lip-liner for Tom.

And Justin? Justin is a callow little defiler of young brides and his father was a slut — or at least that was the gist of Ezra Levant’s recent unhinged rant on the person the polls keep saying will be Canada’s next prime minister. As Scott Feschuk cleverly put it on Twitter, this was Ezra’s “magnus Trudeau-pus … the masterpiece Ezra has been working toward all his life: Trudeau steals a kiss.”

And he'll rely on other folks like Ezra Levant to do his talking for him. When it's all said and done, maybe Ezra will make Magic Steve go away.

Harper's War On The CCPA

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 05:11


The Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives is in Mr. Harper's sites. Linda McQuaig writes:

Of course, we’re all familiar now with how Stephen Harper suppresses information that contradicts his agenda: blocking the collection of statistics, muzzling government scientists, auditing charities that critique his policies. And yet, somehow the news that the Harper government is conducting a harassing audit on the CCPA manages to break fresh ground.

This time there’s no recourse to the pretence that the audit was random. A Canada Revenue Agency document, obtained through Access to Information, makes it clear that the organization is being audited because its research and educational materials were considered “biased” and “one-sided.”
Does that mean that the Fraser Institute operates without bias? In fact, Fraser is only one of several right wing think tanks in Canada:

These right-wing policy shops have played a huge role in implanting an ideology that treats the rich as ‘wealth creators’ who must be freed from government regulation — and whose goodwill must be constantly cultivated, lest they be discouraged from investing. This has boiled down to a simple message — government bad, private sector good — that has become the mantra of our times, the guiding force in shaping public policy.
CCPA takes a different point of view -- and a much more vigorous approach to its research:

It would be a stretch for the Fraser Institute, for example, to make a claim of academic rigour. Every year, the institute receives widespread media coverage for its “Tax Freedom Day” — designed to make Canadians feel overburdened by taxes — but the research behind this PR gimmick is shoddy, based on wild exaggerations, flawed math and chicanery, according to an analysis done by tax expert Neil Brooks.

For instance, by failing to factor out inflation and income growth, the Fraser researchers concluded that over the previous four decades taxes on Canadians had risen by a staggering 1,550 per cent … when, in fact, they had risen by about 40 per cent, Brooks showed.

And, so, the Harperites have declared war on the CCPA. Imagine what would happen if voters concluded that their government had lied to them shamelessly and consistently.

Mistaking Malevolence For Moral Clarity

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 06:18


Stephen Harper is a nasty piece of work. Just how nasty was made clear recently when he refused to allow wounded Palestinian children into Canada for medical treatment. Andrew Mitrovici writes:

What plausible excuse could Harper have for standing on the sidelines when so many of Canada’s allies — including Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and Egypt — already have provided safe havens or medical aid to scores of wounded children?

Harper’s PR flacks have claimed that it would be too risky to move those kids from whatever is left of their shattered homes in Gaza for treatment in Canada. That’s crap. We know it — everybody knows it, including the geniuses in the PMO who came up with that line of spin.

So much of what Harper says is crap. But this kind of crap reveals the man at his most craven. And it stands in stark contrast to his pledge to offer medical assistance to Ukrainians who need it. In a recent speech to the Canada-Ukraine Federation, Harper said:

 “Let me say at this point just how pleased I am to be able to support the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and the worthy cause that’s brought us all here together tonight and to salute the medical personnel who will be going to the aid of Ukrainians bloodied in the Euromaidan protest and affected by the ongoing conflict. Congratulations to everyone supporting this great cause,” Harper said. “It is, my friends, sadly too late to help the heavenly hundred who were slain simply for the crime of seeking a better country … We can help those who survived and lived to continue the struggle.”
This is the man who some insist is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize? Obviously, they have mistaken malevolence for "moral clarity."