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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 56 min 8 sec ago

Follow The Money

10 hours 53 min ago

Recently, Linda McQuaig asked a question which, so far, has stayed under the radar. Who, she asked, owns Stephen Harper? Mr. Harper has done his best to keep the answer to that question secret:

In the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership race, Harper disclosed some of his donors but kept secret 10 of the major ones. A list of donors to Harper's Conservative party leadership race two years later was at one point posted on the party's website but has since been removed.

At the time of those races, it was legal for leadership contenders to receive unlimited donations from corporations, including foreign-owned businesses operating in Canada.
Which led McQuaig to wonder if  the Koch Brothers are somehow connected to Harper:

In the recent U.S. congressional elections, the Koch brothers helped secure the victory of an unlikely band of far-right extremists who control both the House and Senate.

Among some 3 million political ads for both parties, there wasn't a single mention of the issue of income inequality -- either for it or against it, says Sam Pizzigati, editor of a newsletter on inequality at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.
We do know that the Koch Brothers support the work of the Fraser Institute, one of Harper's most vehement enablers. But, even if the Kochs have not contributed to Harper's rise, we should know who did. It's instructive to remember that Karl Heinz Schreiber gave Brian Mulroney the money to fund his first campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Schreiber did not give Mulroney money out of the goodness of his heart. We now know what he wanted in return.

Deep Throat's advice to Woodward and Bernstein is as relevant today as it was forty years ago. You find out all kinds of things when you follow the money. If Harper has not made it easy to do that, it's probably because he knows what happened to Richard Nixon after Woodward and Bernstein took Mark Felt's advice.

Have The RCMP Become Politicized?

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 05:12


On Tuesday, the RCMP  announced that it had arrested ten young Montrealers who were off to join the jihadist hordes in the Middle East. And, almost immediately, Stephen Harper flew to Quebec to remind nous autres that his government was tough on jihadists. Interestingly enough, almost as soon as the Mounties arrested the youngsters, they let the kids go.

Which raises the question, is there a political alliance between the RCMP and the Conservative government? Tom Walkom asks his readers to consider some recent history:

In 1999, the Mounties, accompanied by a television crew, raided the home of then British Columbia’s NDP premier Glen Clark. Clark was charged with breach of trust and accepting a benefit. His political career was destroyed. The New Democrats were trounced in the next election.Three years later, Clark was acquitted of all charges.
A month before the 2006 federal election, the RCMP announced they were undertaking a criminal investigation of then federal finance minister Ralph Goodale over the leak of confidential tax information about so-called income trusts.
That scandal eventually turned out to be less than it seemed. Goodale and his aides were eventually vindicated, although a senior bureaucrat was charged and convicted.
But the income-trust affair did help sink Paul Martin’s Liberal government, allowing Harper to become prime minister.
An independent investigation into the Mounties’ handling of the affair found that the force had broken no rules because there were none to break.
No party is completely spared the fallout from RCMP investigations. The force’s decision to charge former Conservative senator Mike Duffy for allegedly accepting a bribe from former Harper top aide Nigel Wright has done the prime minister no good.But the puzzling decision not to charge Wright for offering that alleged bribe promises to mitigate any political damage to the Conservatives.
Mere coincidences? I'm not so sure.

The Man Who Would Be King

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 04:52

Yesterday, the broadcast consortium announced that all the party leaders -- except Stephen Harper -- had agreed to attend a debate in French and a debate in English. Harper, you see, only plays by the rules he makes. And sometimes he breaks those. Think of his fixed election dates.

Such "imperial vanity," Michael Harris writes, may eventually sink Harper:

A politician can get away with a lot — until he starts rubbing the public’s face in his indifference to the rules mere mortals must obey. With Harper, we’re getting pretty close to that point.

So here’s another question: Can Stephen Harper — by the simple act of stamping his foot, taking his bat and going home — derail the national leaders’ debates? Will this decision turn into another yawner, as was the contempt of Parliament finding against Harper, or a step too far for a man infamously averse to playing fair?
The prime minister does not intend to -- you'll excuse the expression -- "reform." His recently announced infrastructure program again shows his obsession with making the rules:

An even more dangerous course of action for a party already known for partisan cheating is the government’s new Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. A better name would have been the Canada 150 Elect Conservatives Program; the deadlines for tapping into the fund are ridiculously tight, and the Opposition is accusing the government of gerrymandering the program for blatant political gain. The man who might be Canada’s next prime minister, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, didn’t mince words. To him, the program is a “slush fund” underwritten by the public for the benefit of Conservative MPs.
The man who would be king assumes that Canadians will accept anything he does. A better student of history might recall all the kings who were deposed -- starting with mad King George III.

Always Rigging The Game

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 05:19

From the beginning, everything Stephen Harper has done has had one objective: to rig the game in his favour. His latest foray is his attempt to legislatively re-write history. Steve Sullivan writes:

So far, Harper has limited himself to offending democracy and the law. Now he’s re-writing history. Buried in his government’s latest omnibus budget bill is an amendment to the Access to Information Act which denies people the opportunity to make access to information requests for data from the defunct long gun registry.

Big deal, right? The data was destroyed months ago, when the Harper government repealed it. But this amendment is backdated to the day the government introduced the bill to kill the registry — not the day the bill became law. It also would protect the RCMP and other government officials from any lawsuits or prosecutions linked to the destruction of the registry data — retroactively.

Time and again, Harper has sought to place himself above the law. And, time and again, the Supreme Court has told him the the law takes precedent over his wishes:

Stephen Harper is not a good loser — and he’s been losing a lot lately. The Supreme Court justices barely gave themselves time for a bathroom break last week before they came back and shot down the government’s argument that Omar Khadr deserved more time in a federal penitentiary — the third humiliating court defeat for the government on the Khadr file, if anyone’s counting.
But, if he can re-write the law on the gun registry, why not re-write the law on Khadr?

Will Harper amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to say that all teenagers who went to Afghanistan in 2005 and killed a U.S. soldier cannot be sentenced, even in another country, as a young offender? Could he amend his Life Means Life Act — which is not even close to being law yet — to retroactively apply to anyone named Omar Ahmed Khadr so he can never be released from prison unless Stephen Harper personally says it’s okay?
Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault recently pointed out that had the Martin government taken Harper's tack, there would have been no investigation of Adscam and no Gomery Commission:

Legault herself speculated about what the Liberals could have done a decade ago in order to eliminate the threat of the sponsorship scandal, had they been in a position to do what Harper is doing right now. “Because this could have been done, you know, to erase the authority of the auditor general in 2005 when she was investigating the sponsorship scandal,” she said.
So the man who rode to power on the sponsorship scandal is trying to make certain that Paul Martin's fate is not his own.

It's always about rigging the game.

One Or Two Loose Screws

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 05:52

Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney announced that the Harper government will show "zero tolerance" for groups advocating a boycott of Israel as a protest  against that government's treatment of Palestinians. Those who now openly criticize Israel include former president Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis. And their criticism is based on recent events. Murray Dobbins writes:

Indeed, during the recent Israeli election, Netanyahu declared towards the end of the campaign that there would never be a Palestinian state so long as he was prime minister. For most observers, this was at once shocking and simply a statement of what Netanyahu had always made clear by his actions: his continued building of settlements throughout the West Bank, his refusal to consider (even in negotiations) East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, his stunningly brutal bombing of Gaza and his repeated insults directed at U.S. President Barack Obama regarding Israel's responsibilities in reaching a peace settlement.
Netanyahu's new Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked -- who, incidentally, does not possess a law degree -- recently declared on Facebook:

"What's so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? … in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure." In the same post she declared war on Palestinian mothers: "They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."  Under Article 3 of the UN's Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, this kind of statement ("Direct and public incitement to commit genocide") is listed as an act that is "punishable" under the Convention.

Clearly, there are some loose screws in Netanyahu's cabinet.  But Harper's threat to punish people like Carter and the Pope -- as well as his obsessive pursuit of Omar Khadr -- suggest that there are one or two loose screws banging around in the heads of the Harper cabinet.

Targets Of Our Fellow Citizens

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 04:38


Bill C-51 has been passed by the House and is on track for speedy passage in the Senate. As it has from the very beginning, the Harper government is focused on aping the American experience. But, before we rush down that road yet again, we would be wise to consider what Chris Hedges recently wrote about the New American Security State:

A totalitarian state is only as strong as its informants. And the United States has a lot of them. They read our emails. They listen to, download and store our phone calls. They photograph us on street corners, on subway platforms, in stores, on highways and in public and private buildings. They track us through our electronic devices. They infiltrate our organizations. They entice and facilitate “acts of terrorism” by Muslims, radical environmentalists, activists and Black Bloc anarchists, framing these hapless dissidents and sending them off to prison for years. They have amassed detailed profiles of our habits, our tastes, our peculiar proclivities, our medical and financial records, our sexual orientations, our employment histories, our shopping habits and our criminal records. They store this information in government computers. It sits there, waiting like a time bomb, for the moment when the state decides to criminalize us.

The new security  state transforms all its citizens into snitches:

A state security and surveillance apparatus, at the same time, conditions all citizens to become informants. In airports and train, subway and bus stations the recruitment campaign is relentless. We are fed lurid government videos and other messages warning us to be vigilant and report anything suspicious. The videos, on endless loops broadcast through mounted television screens, have the prerequisite ominous music, the shady-looking criminal types, the alert citizen calling the authorities and in some cases the apprehended evildoer being led away in handcuffs. The message to be hypervigilant and help the state ferret out dangerous internal enemies is at the same time disseminated throughout government agencies, the mass media, the press and the entertainment industry. 
“If you see something say something,” goes the chorus. 
Alexander Solzhenitsyn provided witness to what happens in such as state:

His masterpiece “The Gulag Archipelago” . . . chronicles his time in Josef Stalin’s gulags and is a brilliant reflection of the nature of oppression and tyranny, describes a moment when an influx of western Ukrainians who had been soldiers during World War II arrived at his camp, at Ekibastuz. The Ukrainians, he wrote, “were horrified by the apathy and slavery they saw, and reached for their knives.” They began to murder the informants.

“Kill the stoolie!” That was it, the vital link! A knife in the heart of the stoolie! Make knives and cut the stoolie’s throats—that was it! 
That rationale for C-51 is that it protects us from the outsiders who seek to destroy us. But the reality is that the bill is aimed at those who the government deems the enemy within.

And, therefore, we are now the potential targets of our fellow citizens.

Richler On Stephen Harper

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 05:45


The late Mordecai Richler saw through the phoneys who inhabited the Canadian landscape. He had no patience for narrow nationalism -- whether English or French. He particularly loathed French Canadian nationalism, which he believed was rooted in old totems and religious sophistry. His son Noah has inherited his father's sensibilities.

For Noah Richler, Stephen Harper's narrow fear mongering has the same smell as  Maurice Duplessis' paranoia of two generations ago. He writes in The New Statesman:

Fear of Islam – not just Islamic State or “Islamism” – has bridged even the chasm of the country’s “two solitudes”: English- and French-speaking Canada. Recent polls suggest that Quebec sovereigntists, historically loath to support the Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, have come round with alacrity to his agitated views about security and the Muslim other.

Just over a year ago, the indépendantiste Parti Québécois (PQ) was defeated in the provincial election after pledging to bar citizens from wearing religious headscarves, turbans or “ostentatious” pendants while in government employment. But where the PQ’s “secular charter” failed, Harper appears determined to succeed. Since 22 October 2014, when the prime minister hid in a closet as a gunman rampaged through the Canadian House of Commons, Harper has shown himself to be a born-again version of his old acrimonious self. In no time at all, he used the hastily dubbed “terrorist” attack in Ottawa – in which a mentally ill vagrant named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at the capital’s National War Memorial before storming the House of Commons and being shot dead – to foment the sort of fear and political division that has served the Conservative government so well since it took office in 2006.

“The international jihadist movement [has] declared war . . . on any country, like ourselves, that values freedom, openness and tolerance,” Harper said after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January. The following month – and not coincidentally in Quebec – Harper pledged to overturn a law allowing prospective Canadians to wear the niqab during citizenship ceremonies. (In reality, any applicant must affirm her identity and remove her niqab before a magistrate privately, prior to the public ceremony.) Then, in March, the prime minister told parliament that the niqab was “rooted in a culture that is anti-women”.
A year ago, Quebecers wisely chose to reject Duplessis' revived navel gazing. But Stephen Harper is attempting to make navel gazing a national past time. Hardly surprising, really, for the Narcissist-in-Chief.

A Sad State of Affairs

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 04:48


Susan Delacourt writes that the Conservative proposal for leaders debates is a shining example of what she calls Harperology 101:

He likes rules, as long as he’s making them, not so much when others do. (See Supreme Court of Canada rulings, independent watchdogs, etc.) His Conservative candidates have been no-shows at election debates in their ridings for years now, through several elections. And of course, Harper is famously and proudly dismissive of the mainstream media. Add that all up, and what other outcome would we expect when confronted with the mainstream, broadcast media making the rules for the TV debates?
For ten years he has been making the rules about communicating with Canadian voters. And, so far, his formula has been successful. Jeffrey Simpson writes:

The Conservatives are focused not on broadening their base but activating the base they have. With perhaps one exception. Conservative support seems to have widened in Quebec, where the issues of terrorism and identity politics around Muslim women’s head coverings, and the recruiting of several high-profile candidates, have helped.
The Conservatives need about 40 per cent of the national electorate to win. They benefit hugely from a split vote between the Liberals and New Democrats, a split that is not disappearing as the NDP gains ground in polling data and by winning the government in Alberta.
Split opposition is exactly what a party with a dedicated and motivated core vote needs. The party with such a core doesn’t even think much about the other 60 per cent of the electorate. It wants its own hard core to coalesce by fearing some of the 60 per cent (the other parties return the favour by scaring their supporters with the thought of another Conservative government): social liberals, secularists, tax-and-spenders, Big Government lovers, CBC-watchers, “elites” of all kinds.
The Conservatives know how to craft a message. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Reinforce everything all the time. Make the party’s four themes lock together: balanced budget, low taxes, smaller government, personal security. Mix in a little patriotism and Stephen Harper as a tried and trusted leader, and you have the Conservative campaign long before the election is called. All parties try tight messaging; the Conservatives do it best.
It's a supremely cynical approach to politics. By appealing to Canadian stupidity, he wins -- a truly sad state of affairs.

Making Sure the Majority Don't Get There.

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 05:51


Things could get ugly when the polls open on Election Day, 2015. Stephen Maher writes:

When Elections Canada mails out Voter Information Cards this fall, a new sentence in bold letters will appear at the bottom: Please note that this card is not a piece of ID.

This means that on election day, tens of thousands of people will likely turn up at their polling station, voter cards in hand, only to learn that they can’t vote.

In the last election, 400,000 Canadians used these cards to identify themselves. Another 120,171 had someone, usually a neighbour or relative, vouch for their identity.

This time there will be none of that, thanks to the Fair Elections Act passed by the Conservative government last year.
It's not that this problem was unforeseen. Harry Nuefeld, an expert on Canadian elections, warned the Conservatives that there would be problems:

“It can be anticipated that many tens of thousands of otherwise fully qualified voters will simply be unable to meet the new attestation-of-residence requirements,” he writes. "During my 33 years of election administration … my observation is that voting fraud which involves persons deciding to impersonate someone else, or find some other creative way to vote more than once, is extremely rare in this country.” 
But Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for ramming the "Fair" Elections Act through Parliament, would have none of it. There was potential fraud everywhere, he claimed. What he didn't say was that he and his party know that the majority of Canadians don't buy what he and they are selling. The only way to stay in power is to make sure that the majority of Canadians don't get to the polls.

His Legacy -- A Pigsty

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 05:29

During the 2006 leaders debate, Stephen Harper asked Paul Martin, “Will you tell us, Mr. Martin, how many criminal investigations are going on in your government?” The answer was "two." Harper rode one of those investigations -- the Gomery Commission -- all the way to power.

In the next leaders debate, Michael Harris writes, it would be interesting to hear Harper answer the same question:

If someone were to ask Steve the same question during the 2015 debate, he wouldn’t have enough fingers on both hands to compute the response. By my count, the Harper team has been the subject of at least 15 investigations.
 The public record keeps getting longer:

The Conservatives cheated in the 2006 election. Criminal charges of improper election spending were dropped in March 2012 as part of a plea deal. The CPC pleaded guilty to exceeding election spending limits and submitting fraudulent election records. They chequebooked their way out of the slime — paying a $52,000 fine and then repaying a further $230,198.

The PM’s former parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, has been convicted on three counts of election fraud arising out of the 2008 election. He is now facing the possibility of jail time. His cousin, David Del Mastro, is also facing charges related to the 2008 election.

What about the conviction of Guelph Conservative party worker Michael Sona? Although the robocall case has faded from view, it remains an unsolved crime — because although the existence of a conspiracy was acknowledged by two judges, the conspirators themselves remain unknown. Now that Elections Canada has been castrated by the ‘Fair Elections Act’, their identities probably will never be known.

Peter Penashue, former minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, had to step down after it was alleged that corporations had made illegal contributions to his 2011 campaign. He paid back $47,000 to Elections Canada.

Those investigations dealt with election fraud. But there are a host of other appointments which suggest Harper makes poor personnel choices:

And then there’s the little matter of Harper’s Senate appointments. Senator Mike Duffy has been charged with 31 offences related to Senate spending. If convicted he faces financial ruin, probably jail time. The prime minister is on record as saying he knew nothing about the secret $90,000 payment from his chief of staff to Duffy.

Is there anyone beyond his immediate family (and possibly Paul Calandra) who still believes that?

Suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau, who now manages a strip club, will be guest referee at a Great North Wrestling match in Ottawa scheduled for May 30, starring ‘Hannibal The Death Dealer’ and ‘Soa (Spirit of Allah) Amin’. Another personal choice of the PM.

Brazeau is facing two trials on personal matters: for assault and sexual assault, and for assault, threats and possession of cocaine. A framed photo of Brazeau, the PM and the alleged victim in this case has been entered into evidence at Brazeau’s ongoing sexual assault trial. The court has set aside 12 days in June for a preliminary trial on Brazeau’s Senate expense charges — the very day that Duffy’s trial is scheduled to resume. That trial could easily run into the fall election.

And then there are the cases of Arthur Porter and Bruce Carson, who face legal problems over the way they handled their affairs. Harris rightly observes that the man who road into Ottawa claiming he would clean up the place has turned it into a pigsty.

The New Serfs

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 05:26


The OECD has warned that increasingly concentrated wealth at the top of society spells disaster for the world's economy. Frances Russell writes:

When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issues a report entitled Power From the People, it’s time for governments to sit up and take heed.

“Inequality has risen in many advanced economies since the 1980s largely because of the concentration of incomes at the top of the distribution," OECD economists Florence Jaumotte and Carolina Osorio Buitron state. “Measures of inequality have increased substantially, but the most striking development is the large and continuous increase in the share of total income garnered by the 10 per cent of the population that earns the most,” they write in an OECD Finance and Development paper released in March.
You need look no further than the new labour market to see what concentration of wealth has wrought:

CBICWorldMarkets economist Benjamin Tal warned in a paper released in March that “our measure of employment quality has been on a clear downward trajectory over the past 25 years…. While the pace… has slowed in recent years, the level of quality, as measured by our index, is currently at a record low – 15 per cent below the rate seen in the early 1990s and 10 per cent below the level seen in the early 2000s.”

Tal goes on to report that the distribution of part-time/full-time employment since the 1980s shows a clear trend: “Since the 1980s, the number of part-time jobs has risen much faster than the number of full-time jobs. The damage caused to full-time employment during each recession was, in many ways, permanent…full-time job creation was unable to accelerate fast enough during the recovery to recover lost ground.” Tal also had another grim statistic: “During the year ending January, 2015, the number of self-employed workers rose four times faster than the number of paid employees. And since the late 1980s, the number of part-time jobs has risen much faster than the number of full-time.

“The damage caused to full-time employment during each recession was, in many ways, permanent,” he continued. “Over the past decade, wages in high-paying sectors rose almost twice as fast as wages in low-paying sectors …In other words, the fastest growing segment of the labour market is also the one with the weakest bargaining power.”
What we now have, Russell suggests, is a New Feudalism. A whole generation of Canadians faces part time and precarious employment, with no pensions and no benefits. And, if the Harper government has its way, the Canada Pension Plan won't do anything to alleviate their situation.

They are the new Lords of the Castle. And the young are the new serfs.

Taxes Or Integrity?

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 05:24

It's beginning to look like taxes -- whose tax cuts are best -- will be the central theme of the next election. But, Lawrence Martin writes, if the central theme is integrity, the Harperites will be toast:

So let’s say an audit is being done on you or your organization and that the audit could land you in deep trouble. It could possibly lead to criminal charges. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just order up changes to the audit? How about having the offending paragraphs deleted?
But even if you could, you wouldn’t want to take the risk. If you got caught, you would be in worse trouble, your credibility and integrity shattered.
Which brings us to the Prime Minister’s Office. If we are to believe the evidence, this is in fact what top officials in the highest office in the land did in handling the Senate expenses’ controversy. They took an extreme risk and are now getting caught. As for impact on integrity, time will tell and will probably spell hell.
Moreover, the Harperite propensity for telling lies is well documented:
In terms of breach of the public trust, falsifying audits ranks high. The Harper Tories have been caught at it before. There was a case involving former cabinet minister Bev Oda altering a document for CIDA funding. In another they went so far as to distort a report by former auditor-general Sheila Fraser. They used her words to make it look like she was crediting their party with prudent financial management when in fact she was crediting the Liberals.
Which suggests that they will continue to tell lies as long as they can get away with them. And, unless integrity becomes a central focus of the next election, they will continue to lie -- as they continue to destroy this country's democratic institutions.

Reform? Forget It.

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 06:22

Michael Chong's Reform Act is about to die in the Senate. Andrew Coyne writes:

The private member’s bill, introduced by Conservative MP Michael Chong, is popular with the public, as the first serious attempt to free MPs, even a little, from the iron grip of the party leadership.

Moreover, it passed with all-party support in the House of Commons — by a vote of 260-17 — albeit in substantially watered-down form.
So it wouldn’t do to actually vote it down. Bad form, old chap. And anyway, unnecessary.

Instead it will simply never come to a vote. The Senate rises for the summer June 23, not to return until after the election. That’s just six weeks from now: 18 sitting days, by the Senate’s leisurely calendar. If the bill is not passed by then, it dies, along with every other piece of legislation still on the order paper.
You can bet that Bill C-51 -- the Anti Terror Bill -- will be passed quickly. But the Senate simply doesn't talk about what it doesn't want to talk about. And the Conservative dominated Senate doesn't want to talk about Chong's bill:

The first Liberal to speak on the bill, Sen. Joan Fraser, did not get to her feet until May 7, two months after its introduction; a motion to adjourn quickly followed. It has not been debated since.

Perhaps the bill may yet pass second reading, at this pace. Perhaps it might even be reported back from the Senate’s standing committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. But it’s a safe bet that it will fall just short of passing before the Senate closes up shop. So near and yet so far. Sorry, old bean.
Not that there was much to discuss. As it made its way through the House, the bill was gutted:

The Reform Act, in its present form, already represents something of a defeat for reformers. It was modest enough as first drafted (its two key measures: removing the requirement for a candidate to obtain the party leader’s signature on his nomination paper, at the same time as it set out a process for MPs to remove their leader). But when that met with resistance from the leaders’ offices, it was amended, and amended again, until there was very little left.
If you had hoped we would return to Responsible Government, forget it.

From The Bottom Up

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 05:41


It's no secret that Stephen Harper hates government. For almost a decade, he has worked maniacally to reduce the size and the scope of the federal government. At the same time, he has steadfastly refused to meet with the premiers. Somewhere along the line, he forgot that Canada is a federation. And, in the end, he may well have spawned a reaction he didn't foresee.

Christopher Waddell writes that the NDP victory in Alberta may point the way to a massive shift in how Canada is governed:

So, in reality, the NDP Alberta victory has created an unprecedented situation at a time when the federal government has vacated the field of policy-making. Whether it is in energy, health care, environment and climate change, social services, transportation, infrastructure or pensions (just to name a few), the field is virtually wide open for the three provinces to implement joint policies that can completely undermine or counter whatever the federal government may want to do.
Together, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec collectively are the home of 73 per cent of Canada’s population, produce 74 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product, are responsible for 71 per cent of Canada’s energy exports, 70 per cent of all Canada’s merchandise exports and about 80 per cent of our imports by dollar value.
If the three provinces decide they want to do something together on economic policy, taxation, social policy or anything else, either the rest of the country jumps on board or is left behind. 
Quebec and Ontario have already signaled their intention to establish a cap and trade system:
A broader collective effort by the three on climate change could both make progress on the issue and soften both opposition to the pipeline and some of the damage done by the Harper government’s reputation on climate change.
Equally valuable could be the development of a national energy strategy that looks at what we produce, what we export and how we sell it, designed to ensure all three provinces maximize their returns, particularly in the US market. If Alberta, Ontario and Quebec started down this path, how long would it be before British Columbia and Newfoundland jumped on board, again despite Ottawa’s unwillingness to participate?
If the Harper government continues to block attempts to improve the Canada Pension Plan, the three provinces could respond with their own supplementary system much as Ontario is starting to do.
Not happy with the new prostitution law, mandatory minimum sentences or other changes in the Harper government’s pandering to the “tough on crime” crowd? Collectively the provinces could take the federal government to court to overturn laws they believe are detrimental to the administration of justice and the criminal justice system. On past performance, the federal government is a consistent loser whenever it is challenged this way.
Mr. Harper believes that the world is organized from the top down. Canadians could be staging a coup -- from the bottom up.