Northern Reflections

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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 56 min 40 sec ago

Why Would Any . . .?

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 01:08

In his latest column, Tim Harper recounts his frustrated and frustrating attempts to talk to Conservative candidates across the country:

I never met Mike Little, the Conservative candidate in the key riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. I met every other candidate but Little had personal considerations so he couldn’t meet me. His campaign ignored my entreaties anyway until I was about to leave Vancouver, when I got a noncommittal statement on an environmental issue.

In Edmonton-Mill Woods, the campaign of Tim Uppal told me the minister of state for multiculturalism couldn’t meet me because he was too busy meeting voters. That wouldn’t be so odd, except I had first requested time with him dating back to June, before the election was even called.

After I called candidate Naval Bajaj on his cellphone, he agreed readily to an interview, but when I arrived at the strip mall that housed his campaign office a week later, it had been mysteriously cancelled. Like Uppal, a campaign aide told me he was too busy meeting voters. So, I offered to come back later that evening. Meeting voters, I was told. The next day? Meeting voters. The next evening? Meeting voters. 
Other journalists have had the same response to their requests for interviews:

Globe and Mail writer-at-large John Ibbitson reported on the weekend that he could not get an interview with the Conservative candidate in Mississauga Centre, and Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen was told by the office of Don Valley North Conservative candidate Joe Daniel that he would not be doing any interviews until after the election.
If there is one thing the Duffy trial has made clear, its that Harper candidates are kept on a short leash. And if -- like Mike Duffy, Brent Rathgeber or Bill Casey -- they break ranks, the PMO will spare no effort to destroy them.
Which leaves one to ask two questions: Why would any semi-intelligent person want to be a Conservative candidate? And why would any semi-intelligent person vote for a Conservative candidate?

No Ordinary Election

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 06:08

This is no ordinary election. Ralph Surette has been around quite awhile and he's seen a lot of governments. And, he writes, the Harper government is no ordinary government because of

its bewitching power, now installed in the Canadian psyche, capable of leaving even the opposition parties afraid of its power over public opinion, and functioning beyond the grasp of the mass media that have, to date, been incapable of telling the real story about Harper. For those who go on, sometimes in awed tones, about how Harper has "changed Canada," this is mainly how he's changed it -- by snuffing open debate. 
Mr. Harper's propaganda machine is "a thing of manipulative genius:"

It functions over the heads of both the opposition and the media, which have failed to bring him to book on the big issues and have, to date, served his purposes -- especially the big TV networks -- despite the snarling of the Tory base about the "liberal media."

Harper's right-wing radicalism -- especially the rich store of extreme statements from when he was head of the right-wing National Citizens' Coalition -- gets a pass. Another instance of this emerged recently in the dispute with Ontario, in which Harper refuses to dovetail the Canada Pension Plan with Ontario's proposed plan. It turns out that Harper once declared both the CPP and Old Age Security to be "tax grabs" that should be done away with.
That machine is now firmly ensconced in Ottawa. The only way to get rid of it and the rot that has infected Ottawa -- rot which has been publicly on display at the Duffy trial -- is to thoroughly fumigate the place:

What's needed is not just the defeat of a government, but a cleansing of the broader scourge of a corrosive ideology.

Not A Smart Man

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 05:02

We learned last week that the Prime Minister ignored the advice of his in-house lawyer. Alan Freeman writes:

When Perrin was asked by Harper’s then-chief of staff Nigel Wright to look into the whole issue of residency requirements for senators — just as the Mike Duffy expense scandal was catching fire in early 2013 — he soon found himself blindsided by the PMO’s other constitutional expert … Harper himself.

Perrin tried to object to his boss’s wobbly legal theory, but his carefully considered arguments soon ended up where all advice goes when it counters Harper’s will: the shredder. In the Harper PMO, the prime minister’s version of reality is the only one that matters. “The office obviously acts of the direction of the prime minister so his written word stands,” Perrin testified. End of discussion. Perrin was soon back at UBC.
Really smart leaders surround themselves with smart people who help them make decisions. But not Mr. Harper:

What’s truly remarkable about Stephen Harper’s one-man rule of Canada is that he really does seem to believe he is the ultimate autodidact — a master of all aspects of government policy, no matter how complex or obscure. He has experts on staff but, you see, he doesn’t really need them. And he can dispense with their advice when it becomes inconvenient.

But while Harper can claim some knowledge of economics by virtue of his master’s degree, since when is he an expert on constitutional law? Or climate science? Or statistics? Has he been going to night school without anyone noticing? Again and again, we’ve seen Harper personally determine government policy on his own, largely ignoring the views of experts — and certainly passing over any mumbled objections from his petrified cabinet ministers and shell-shocked caucus members.
The man who stubbornly refuses to take the advice of smart people -- people who know about things he knows nothing about -- is not a smart man.

Under His Thumb?

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 05:46

Given evidence which emerged last week at the Duffy trial, the NDP's Charlie Angus has written to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, asking why Nigel Wright was not charged with offering a bribe. Could it be that the Commissioner is under Mr. Harper's thumb? Given the record, Michael Harris writes, it's beginning to look like the entire force may be acting as Mr. Harper's private security detail:

The hallmark of the Harper era has been an attempt by the government to take ownership of all federal human assets in a degrading and political way. Civil servants have been used as props in fake TV news items. The justice department has drafted a string of unconstitutional legislation reflecting the CPC’s ideological agenda. Federal scientists have been muzzled like unruly dogs.

But one of the most disturbing elements of this tyrannical capture of every aspect of the machinery of government is the increasingly partisan behaviour of the RCMP. The Force has been used against

Harper’s political enemies, often without a shred of real misconduct on the table.
Helena Guergis was harassed for three months by a seven-member team of Mounties who found absolutely no truth to the criminal (and defamatory) allegations laid out in a letter written for the PM by Novak to the Commissioner of the RCMP.

The Force has never explained why that investigation got off the ground when all of the allegations were not only spurious but originated with highly dubious sources. In fact, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson directly called the source of the allegations against Guergis and decided on the spot there was no grounds for an investigation.

Bill Casey, the former Conservative MP and now Liberal candidate was thrown out of caucus because he would not agree to changes in the Atlantic Accord made unilaterally by the Harper government. Casey wasn’t just being grumpy. He had consulted with officials in the department of justice and they provided him with written opinions that the agreement had in fact been altered.

In a personal meeting with Casey, Harper dismissed the legal opinions with the view that the words meant what he, the PM, said they meant. Either Casey voted for the budget or he was out. When Casey chose to run as an Independent, he was faced with an RCMP investigation alleging that he had stolen funds from his former Electoral District Association.

As with Guergis, it was an entirely baseless accusation. But neither the government nor the RCMP showed the slightest remorse, even though Casey the victorious Independent MP raised the matter in the House of Commons and demanded an apology. He is still waiting for it.
And, recently, we discovered that the Mounties had shredded documents from the gun registry, even though the Information Commissioner was conducting an active investigation which required access to those documents. The government's most recent omnibus budget bill contained a clause absolving the Mounties from any illegal activity.

If the national police force is the servant of the prime minister and not the servant of the people, we are in deep, deep trouble.

Colossal Stupidity

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 03:30

The CBC has obtained a review of Canada's retirement system which was done for the Privy Council Office. The document has been heavily redacted. But its conclusions are clear:

"In 2010, Canada spent 5.0 per cent of GDP on public pensions (OAS/GIS and C/QPP), which is low compared with the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) of average of 9.4 per cent," it noted.

"The OECD projects that public expenditure on pensions in Canada will only increase to 6.3 per cent of GDP by 2050 – much lower than the 11.6 per cent of GDP projected for OECD countries on average."

The document also says Canada's public pensions "replace a relatively modest share of earnings for individuals with average earnings" compared with the OECD average of 34 countries; that is, about 45 per cent of earnings compared with the OECD's 54 per cent.

"Canada stands out as one of the countries with the smallest social security contributions and payroll taxes."
The Harperites claim that they are making up the gap with Tax Free Savings Accounts. But the review raises serious concerns about the overall efficacy of TFSA's:

The document notes that participation rates for TFSAs rise with income, with only 24 per cent of those making $20,000 annually or less contributing, compared with 60 per cent in the $150,000-plus bracket.

The review also acknowledges "it is still too early to assess their effectiveness in raising savings adequacy."
The report is another example of the Harper government ignoring its own expertise. If the information falls outside Stephen Harper's ever shrinking frame of reference, it is ignored. Benjamin Perrin reminded us this week that Mr. Harper does this to his own detriment.

John Ibbitson writes admiringly about Mr. Harper's force of will. Others might call it colossal stupidity.

The Vets Are Going To War

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 06:23

The Harper Party used to be be able to count on the support of veterans. That was because they made the right noises. But, as Preston Manning said, "Words don't mean much to Stephen."

That's a lesson that  Canada's veterans have learned to their own chagrin. Tom Beaver and Ron Clarke have taken that lesson to the campaign trail and joined the Anyone But Harper Brigade. They quote former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier:

“I do not think we had any idea the scale and scope of what the impact would be. I truly do not. This is beyond a medical issue. I think many of our young men and women have lost confidence in our country to support them.”
Beaver and Clarke then go onto enumerate the reasons why veterans have lost faith in the Harper government:

1.  Conservatives kill lifetime pensions for veterans
2.  Harper minister insults veterans, closes nine veterans offices
3. Auditor General finds Harper government failing veterans
4. Conservatives slash 900 jobs despite pleas from managers
5. More than $1 billion not spent by ministry to help veterans
6. Judge orders government to pay $887 million to vets
7. Silencing and smearing veterans who criticize
The prime minister likes to claim that he stands four score for the security of Canadians. But the people who provided that security don't believe him. Why should you?

A Tangled Web

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 05:28

That's what you get, Shakespeare wrote, when first you practice to deceive. One lie follows another. That's certainly what happened in the Prime Minister's Office. Michael Harris writes:

It is becoming increasingly obvious that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair had it right: the CPC code of conduct is not taken from the Bible or some list of sacrosanct conservative principles. It’s taken from the Criminal Code. Canada has returned to the Mulroney era, when everything was okay unless it was illegal — notwithstanding Judge William Parker’s ruling in the Sinclair Stevens case. Even the appearance of conflict, the judge wrote, had to be avoided to maintain public trust in the system. Canadians now trust discount sushi more than they do Parliament under Harper.

And despite Wright’s vaunted reputation as an upright man, his defence of his actions in the Duffy affair displays the same ethical bankruptcy and dizzying sense of entitlement that emanated from the very heart of Stephen Harper’s office. This is David Dingwall’s chewing gum to the power of ten. When asked by Donald Bayne why he lied to the PM about his payout to Duffy, Wright said it wasn’t a “bad misrepresentation.” That euphemism could stop a charging rhino.
What it comes down to -- and Jack Layton warned us of this long ago -- is that you can't take Stephen Harper at his word:

Bottom line? Canadians can’t trust a single statement from a party that thinks perception is reality and actively promotes falsehoods when they are deemed to be in the government’s interest. And if you doubt that, consider the absurdity of the conflict between the testimony of Nigel Wright and the RCMP statement of former Harper PMO legal counsel Benjamin Perrin.
Mr. Harper keeps insisting that this election is about leadership. But a leader you can't trust is no leader. And a leader who insists that, when he does something it's legal, is merely the ghost of Richard Nixon. In the end, Nixon became entangled in his own web.

Will He Escape?

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 05:31

If you wonder how conservatives -- real conservatives -- are reacting to Stephen Harper's cross country tour, read David Krayden over at ipolitics. Krayden writes that he will vote Conservative -- not because of Stephen Harper, but in spite of him and a campaign that is all about him:

At any rate, it’s misleading to talk about a Conservative party campaign in 2015. This is a Stephen Harper campaign. If you understand that, you understand the thrust behind the ‘Just Not Ready’ ad: the veiled suggestion that Trudeau can have the office once Harper is done with it. This campaign just doesn’t put the leader front and centre — it focuses entirely on Stephen Harper, apparently excluding all other candidates. When Harper was in Vancouver last week, he stood — alone — against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. No incumbent MPs or earnest candidates by his side. The slogan attached to his podium was about him; it didn’t even mention the party.
Krayden long ago reached the conclusion that Harper is not who he claims to be:

At any rate, he’s leading a party that is conservative in name only. In a July pre-campaign announcement, Harper proudly claimed that the introduction of his government’s Universal Child Care Benefit was a “historic day” for Canada. And so it was — it was the day that a serving Conservative PM decided to define his legacy and political prospects in terms of how much money he’s willing to dump on the taxpayers who gave it to him in the first place.

Harper has already cleared the caucus of social conservatives: the list of Conservative MPs not running again is a Who’s Who of evangelical, assertively pro-life legislators in Canadian politics. Harper and the keen kids in the PMO have intimidated this crew for years.

Harper was never a social conservative. Once, he was a libertarian. Now he’s a libertarian who thinks big government — big Harper government — is the answer to all of Canada’s problems. He has become a living, breathing oxymoron.
Some might be tempted to remove the first two syllables of that last word. But the truth is that Stephen Harper is too smart by half.  The Duffy trial has revealed how morally bankrupt the Harper government really is. Nigel Wright's blood is in the water. Ray Novak will be the next to bleed publicly.

The question is, "Will Harper be part of the carnage?" If there are enough people like Krayden willing to vote for him, Stephen may escape Nigel's and Ray's collective fate.

That May Count For Nothing

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 06:06

Nigel Wright, we are told, is a very intelligent and righteous man. He has put a lot of effort into establishing his reputation as such. But Donald Bayne, Mike Duffy's lawyer, has been shredding that reputation. Alan Freeman writes:

Nigel Wright cuts a curious figure. Ramrod-straight, athletically slim, he’s a quiet presence in the witness box — calm, never raising his voice, even when clearly irritated by Bayne’s persistent questioning. He seems thoughtful, even cerebral, as he recalls his actions in the winter of 2013 as the Duffy scandal exploded in the PMO.

Yet Wright’s actions at the time clearly demonstrate that he was single-minded — even ruthless — in doing the boss’s bidding and shutting the scandal down, using any means at his disposal.

Government resources, Conservative party funds, his own bank account — they were all interchangeable to Wright, all tools to to be used in carrying out Stephen Harper’s wish to see the Duffy problem disappear. “I didn’t think that this was a distinction that was that significant,” Wright responded, when asked whether he saw any difference between Duffy paying back the money himself — the story the public initially was told — and being secretly reimbursed through the Conservative Party Fund.
It is Wright's inability to make distinctions which is so deeply troubling. One gets the impression that his ambition overtook his conscience. It's an old story. From Christopher Marlowe through Goethe down to Stephen Vincent Benet, it's about a man selling his soul and knowing what he was doing.

Most of the time the story ends tragically -- though in Benet's story, Jabez Stone had a good lawyer to get him off the hook. The irony is that Nigel Wright is supposed to be a very good lawyer. In the end, that may count for nothing.

A Nation Of Laws, Not Men

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 05:58


Thomas Mulcair wants to abolish the Senate outright. Stephen Harper wants to kill it through neglect. Both men propose to ignore the Supreme Court's direction on how change -- or abolition -- should be accomplished. But, if either man pays any attention to polls, he may want to re-think his position. BJ Siekierski writes:

Across the political spectrum, Canadians trust their top court more than they do possibly any other Canadian institution, and certainly more than Parliament. And though they may not always agree with every decision, a majority think the Court has generally had a positive effect on the country as a whole as it protected their rights and freedoms.
The poll, which was done by Angus Reid, reveals that:

[m]ore than twice as many Canadians express ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the Supreme Court as express such levels of confidence in Parliament (61 per cent versus 28 per cent,

“Confidence in politicians (12%) and political parties (13%) is even lower, but the institution in which Canadians have the least faith is the Senate. Just one-in-ten respondents (10%) have ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the scandal-plagued Red Chamber.”

Notwithstanding a level of confidence in the Senate that barely registers, however, 50 per cent of Canadians agreed with the change-inhibiting Supreme Court senate reference from April 2014, compared to only 20 per cent who disagreed. The remainder were unsure (10 per cent) or unaware of the ruling (20 per cent).

In the Court, it would seem, they have considerable trust.
Mr. Harper's contempt for the Court -- and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, in particular  -- is well documented. As a lawyer, Mulcair should know that he tangles with the court at his own peril. Mr. Harper has been reminded everyday of late that his contempt for courts has serious consequences. What matters is how they interpret facts, not how he interprets them.

As much as Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair may be galled by the men and women in robes, we are still a nation of laws, not men.

Their World Is Changing

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 05:44

Harper Conservatives used to suffer from galloping certitude. They believed that they were paragons of virtue. Michael Harris writes:

Conservatives like to think they occupy the moral high-ground. There is the greenhorn Trudeau, the ideologically obsessed Mulcair, and somewhere on Mount Olympus, taking it all in with august superiority, are the transcendent Harper Conservatives.

But now, thanks in large part to the Duffy trial, the Conservatives now reside in the basement apartment of Canadian politics, exposed for their lying, cheating, and stunning abuses of power. And in any legitimate political system, that will have consequences.
It's getting really difficult to believe that the Harperites are the Party of Virtue. Nigel Wright may quote St. Mathew. But somehow it doesn't ring true:

My personal favourite was his claim to retroactive altruism, including a biblical reference to how one goes about playing the Good Samaritan. He gave the money to Duffy because he walked straight out of the Book of Matthew as a man living his faith. Yes, Nigel, the expurgated edition of Matthew 6 that goes something like this: “Let not the Left know what the Wright is doing, so that your giving will be in secret.”

A key part of the Cons’ narrative has always been that Wright forked over $90,000 to Duffy to spare Canadian taxpayers the expense. Where was that public-spirited concern when Wright was ready to use taxpayer-subsidized funds, $32,000 plus legal expenses, from the Conservative Party Fund, to make his Duffy problem go away?
Gifts -- real ones -- don't come with strings attached:

Wright’s depiction of that $90,000 cheque as a “gift” is patently absurd. Gifts don’t come with the advice to take it or face the consequences. The ‘or else’ in this case was frying Duffy in a Senate report, as opposed to going easy on him if he played ball with the PMO. The trouble is, Duffy didn’t think that he owed the money and still doesn’t. What’s more, neither Stephen Harper or Nigel Wright apparently did either. But judge for yourself: does this sound like a man grateful for the “gift” Wright kept insisting he accept?
Mr. Harper keeps repeating he knew nothing about what was going on -- although lots of other people did. His "media line" that Wright and Duffy kept everyone else out of the loop has been sunk. He and his followers may continue to insist they they are the Party of Virtue. But their world is changing.

Canada's Economic Federation

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 03:22


Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write that the economy is not in good shape. It hasn't been healthy for the last seven years:

The economy has been seriously underperforming for the past seven years and there’s little to suggest this will change over the next five.Business fixed investment, as a share of GDP, is virtually unchanged since 2008. The unemployment rate remains stuck around 7 per cent, and both the labour force participation rate and the employment rate are below 2008 levels. These trends are dragging down the growth potential of the Canadian economy, which is estimated at around 2 per cent a year, down from 3 per cent.
Unfortunately, when it comes to economic policy, all three of the major parties are entangled in the web of neo-liberalism:

The Conservatives’ growth strategy has always been clear — cut taxes, cut spending, balance the budget, cut the size of government, hope the U.S economy recovers, and pray for higher oil prices. The entire April budget is based on this failed strategy and on projections that are pure fantasy.

What is strange is that the Liberals and NDP are twisting themselves into knots to put together growth strategies that are supposed to be different from that of the Conservatives, while at the same time adopting the Tory orthodoxy that all deficits are bad, all debt is bad, and small government is good.
Wise economic strategy requires federal-provincial cooperation -- something which has been totally absent during the Harper years:

A credible long-term growth strategy should focus on strengthening the economic efficiency of the economy. This would require renewed federal-provincial trust and co-operation, with strong federal leadership — something that has been painfully lacking for years.

It would require, too, an acknowledgement that the tax system has become a serious impediment to economic growth and must be simplified. But it will take real political courage to remove inefficient and unjustifiable tax entitlements.

If we can negotiate international free trade agreements, then why is it so difficult to create a real economic union in Canada, with free movement of goods and services among provinces? Our infrastructure at all levels of government (especially municipal) is collapsing and a national financing strategy is needed to begin rebuilding it. We need a national environmental and energy strategy that includes developing new energy-saving technologies.
Canada is -- or used to be  -- a federation. Until we return to that notion, our economic future is bleak.

Closing The Canadian Mind

Sat, 08/15/2015 - 06:32

Stephen Marche is a Canadian journalist who writes for American publications. In this morning's New York Times, he provides Americans with some background information on Canada's ongoing federal election and current prime minister:

THE prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.
He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television, confronting his opponents in quieter, less public venues, like the scholarly Munk Debates and CPAC, Canada’s equivalent of CSPAN. His own campaign events were subject to gag orders until a public outcry forced him to rescind the forced silence of his supporters.
Mr. Harper’s campaign for re-election has so far been utterly consistent with the personality trait that has defined his tenure as prime minister: his peculiar hatred for sharing information.
Marche then goes on to document Harper's attempts over almost a decade to ensure Canadian ignorance: 
But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.Mr. Harper’s war against science has been even more damaging to the capacity of Canadians to know what their government is doing. The prime minister’s base of support is Alberta, a western province financially dependent on the oil industry, and he has been dedicated to protecting petrochemical companies from having their feelings hurt by any inconvenient research.
In 2012, he tried to defund government research centers in the High Arctic, and placed Canadian environmental scientists under gag orders. That year, National Research Council members were barred from discussing their work on snowfall with the media. Scientists for the governmental agency 
Environment Canada, under threat of losing their jobs, have been banned from discussing their research without political approval. Mentions of federal climate change research in the Canadian press have dropped 80 percent. The union that represents federal scientists and other professionals has, for the first time in its history, abandoned neutrality to campaign against Mr. Harper.
His active promotion of ignorance extends into the functions of government itself. Most shockingly, he ended the mandatory long-form census, a decision protested by nearly 500 organizations in Canada, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Catholic Council of Bishops. In the age of information, he has stripped Canada of its capacity to gather information about itself. The Harper years have seen a subtle darkening of Canadian life.
Harper's single minded focus, Marche writes, has been twofold: to close the Canadian mind and to change the essential nature of the country. This election, therefore, is seminal:
Whether or not he loses, he will leave Canada more ignorant than he found it. The real question for the coming election is a simple but grand one: Do Canadians like their country like that?
This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

What Those Emails Tell Us

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 06:13

When the Duffy trial re-opened this week, a 426 page binder of emails was introduced into evidence. Doanld Savoie writes that what they tell us is that:

Staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office roamed the corridors of the Senate as if it were an extension of their office. Audit reports were regarded as little more than briefing notes to be carefully managed by the centre. What truly matters in government now is the ability to manage the “blame game,” and it seems that only those operating at the centre have the required political clout to dictate how it should be managed. If PMO staffers think that they are free to tell the Senate how it should go about its work, one can only imagine what it must be like for ministers, their staffs and senior public servants whose careers are tied directly to the wishes of the prime minister.
The concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office isn't new. It began with Pierre Trudeau. However, under Stephen Harper:

We have created a two-tier system of government in Ottawa, or an upstairs-downstairs to governing. More to the point, governing from the centre has created a fault line in the government where things that matter to the prime minister and his immediate advisers are brought above the line and dealt with quickly and effectively. Only the prime minister and his advisers will decide what belongs above the fault line. It can be anything from a decision to go to war while not consulting the relevant ministers – let alone the cabinet – down to a $90,000 problem considered sufficiently important to generate 450+ pages of e-mails. Under these circumstances, why would anyone other than a career politician want to run for Parliament?

The e-mails are revealing in many ways. There is no evidence that the bureaucracy from the Privy Council Office, the Canada Revenue Agency or other departments was involved or even consulted. One would think, for example, that the CRA could have provided some advice on residence status under the Income Tax Act.
What does not matter to the prime minister and his advisers is pushed down below the fault line. Here, ministers and departments are expected to run on their tracks and not create fodder for the blame game. Here, public servants are also expected to attend countless meetings and deal with a growing array of oversight bodies that would not be tolerated in any other sector.
With Parliament losing relevance, with regional ministers no longer enjoying standing either inside government or in their region, with nothing of substance belonging to line ministers and their departments any more and with the concentration of political power at the centre, governing has become a process of political and economic elites talking to other political elites. This is where the public interest now takes shape, not through evidence-based policy advice.
Stephen Harper boasted that we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was through with it. Donald Savoie believes that it is barely recognizable now. If Mr. Harper is re-elected, it will be beyond repair.