Commenting is getting lively on this newspaper article but I have to focus on working on the portfolio stuff so this is the last post I will do; it's troubling that folks lack insight into their own bias and lack of perspective but there you go.
The lack of insight into the anti-democratic ways of Team Harper are especially astonishing. Folks seem to think just because he has the Conservative Brand he's a fiscal wizard. Not.
There is also selective memory over the submarine fiasco that continues to this very day:
The lack of insight into the anti-democratic ways of Team Harper are especially astonishing. Folks seem to think just because he has the Conservative Brand he's a fiscal wizard. Not.
There is also selective memory over the submarine fiasco that continues to this very day:
Canada may buy nuclear submarines
Harper government considers mothballing 4 British-made diesel subs
By Greg Weston, CBC News Posted: Oct 27, 2011 9:55 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 28, 2011 7:25 AM ET
Scrapping Canada's subs
JUMP TO BEGINNING OF THE TRACK SKIP BACK 15 SECONDS WATCH SKIP FORWARD 30 SECONDS
Scrapping Canada's subs 2:07
CBC News has learned the Harper government is considering buying nuclear submarines to replace its problem-plagued fleet of diesel-powered subs, all of which are currently awash in red ink and out of service for major repairs.
The four second-hand subs Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government bought from the British navy in 1998 for $750 million were portrayed at the time as the military bargain of the century.
Instead, they have spent almost all of their time in naval repair yards, submerging Canadian taxpayers in an ocean of bills now totalling more than $1 billion and counting.
One of the subs, HMCS Chicoutimi, has been in active service of the Royal Canadian Navy exactly two days in the 13 years since it was purchased from the Brits.
The Chicoutimi caught fire on its maiden voyage from the U.K. to Canada, killing one sailor and injuring a number of others.
It has been in the repair shop ever since, and isn’t expected back in service for at least another two years and $400 million more in repairs and retrofits.
'In an ideal world, I know nuclear subs are what's needed under deep water, deep ice.'—Defence Minister Peter MacKay
National Defence said this week that one of the subs, the Victoria, could be back in service in 2012.
The other three would remain out of service until at least 2013. One may not be out of the repair shop until 2016.
By that time, the submarines will have cost taxpayers an estimated $3 billion, almost enough to have bought all new subs in the first place.
But the real problem is that by the time the whole fleet is in active service for the first time in 2016, the submarines will already be almost 30 years old with only perhaps 10 years of life left in them.
High-ranking sources tell CBC News the government is actively considering cutting its losses on the dud subs, and mothballing some if not all of them.
Should Canada buy nuclear subs? Take our survey.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay is hinting they might be replaced with nuclear submarines that could patrol under the Arctic ice, something the existing diesel-electric subs cannot do.
Outside the Commons this week, MacKay told CBC News the government is anxious to have its submarine fleet fully operational as soon as possible, providing a "very important capability for the Canadian Forces."
But asked whether the government might look at other subs, MacKay said: "Well there was a position taken some time ago to go with diesel-electric.
"But you know, in an ideal world, I know nuclear subs are what's needed under deep water, deep ice."
Nuclear submarines $3B each
Nuclear submarines are hugely expensive — they start around $3 billion apiece — and it is unclear where the Harper government would find that kind of money, much less how it could justify such an enormous expenditure during a period of supposed austerity.
The last time a Canadian government seriously considered nuclear subs was in the late 1980s before then prime minister Brian Mulroney sank the whole program amid a public uproar.
A decade later, the Chrétien government bought the four used diesel subs from the British navy in large part because it was seen as such a huge bargain.
Senator Art Eggleton, who was Liberal defence minister at the time, told CBC News Thursday that his government gave "absolutely no consideration" to buying nuclear submarines, although some inside the navy were pushing for them.
"We were coming out of a period of budget-cutting and nuclear submarines would have been far too expensive."
Instead, the British navy was offering a deal Eggleton said the Canadian military couldn’t refuse — the four diesel-electric submarines mothballed after only two years in service when the Royal Navy switched to nuclear subs.
"We got them at a quarter of the cost it would have cost to build new ones," Eggleton says. "We wouldn’t have had the money to build new ones."
He concedes the Liberal government gave serious consideration to not having submarines at all.
"It was either buy these subs, or get out of the submarine business altogether."
'It makes no difference to our security'
Some defence critics think that’s exactly what the current Conservative government should be considering — scrapping the problem-plagued diesel-electric fleet rather than throwing what they see as good money after bad.
"When you look at the cost of trying to get these things seaworthy again, it just doesn’t make sense," said Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute on defence issues.
The Harper government has just awarded a $25-billion contract to build a new fleet of Canadian destroyers and frigates, and Staples says that should be enough.
"Once you are in a hole, the first thing that you should do is stop digging, so I think that it is time to say goodbye to the submarines right now and focus on the new surface fleet."
Staples says the history of the diesel subs suggests Canada could get by without them.
"The fact that all four submarines are sitting tied up at a dry dock right now doesn’t mean that Canada is in any great danger. It makes no difference to our security
Harper, Serial Abuser of Power: The Evidence Compiled
The Tyee's full, updated list of 70 Harper government assaults on democracy and the law.
David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee. He was assisted in compiling and writing this list by friends and readers of The Tyee.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper: His government has piled up dozens of abuses of ethics and the law since coming to power in 2006. Photo: Flickr/Stephen Harper.
Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have racked up dozens of serious abuses of power since forming government in 2006. From scams to smears, monkey-wrenching opponents to intimidating public servants like an Orwellian gorilla, some offences are criminal, others just offend human decency.
CONTESTS, EVENTS & MORE FROM TYEE AND SELECT PARTNERS
Last week we published 59 examples in two parts, and asked our readers to suggest any we may have missed. Among the many suggestions we gratefully received, we concluded that 11 more meet the criteria for "abuses of power." Today we compile all 70 items into one omnibus of abuse by the Stephen Harper government.
This list is now also available as a tablet-friendly pdf which you can download for free here. Thanks, once more, to friends of The Tyee who help with this list.
SECTION I. ABUSING PARLIAMENT: SABOTAGE, SCANDALS, CORRUPTION AND CONTEMPT
This section includes examples of willful misgoverning by the PM and his team, 31 times they have lied, flouted rules and stymied democracy to achieve political and ideological ends.
PMO Tied to Senate Hush Money Scandal
An RCMP affidavit reported widespread involvement by PMO staffers in a secret payment to Senator Mike Duffy to try and make a political problem go away. The Senate expenses scandal brought on allegations of a cover-up, a breach of the public trust, and a whitewashing of a Senate report. The PMO was found to have hand in the altering of a damning Deloitte audit.
Harper Found in Contempt of Parliament
For refusing to disclose information on the costing of programs to Parliament, which Parliament was entitled to receive, the Harper government became the first in Canadian history to be found in contempt of Parliament.
Against Court Order, Refusal to Share Budget Info
Even though it lost a court case and was ordered to comply, the Harper government nevertheless refused to share 170 times reasons and impacts for cuts with Canada's independent budget watchdog, mocking Parliament's right to control the public purse.
Conservative Cabinet Staffers Granted Immunity from Testimony
A PMO edict absolved political staffers from ever having to testify before parliamentary committees.
Conservatives Falsify Reports and Documents
Among documents deliberately altered in the writing or the quoting by the government: CIDA document by Bev Oda's office on Kairos; the Senate Committee Report on the Duffy affair; a report by former auditor general Sheila Fraser on financial management.
Repeated Duplicity in Afghan Detainees Controversy
Among the abuses: Parliament was misled and denied documents. An inquiry was shut down. Tories attempted to discredit diplomat Richard Colvin whose testimony diverted from the government's line.
Repeated Duplicity on Costing of F-35 Fighter Jets
An auditor general's report revealed serial deceptive practices used by the Conservatives in misleading the public and Parliament on the projected cost of the fighter jets.
Harper Minister Lies, Blames Statistics Canada for Killing Long Form Census
Under fire for Conservatives killing the long form census, Industry Minister Tony Clement falsely stated that StatsCan backed the idea and assured the voluntary substitute would yield valid statistical data. Neither was true, outraged StatsCan sources confirmed.
Conservative MP Admits He Lied to Parliament
As opposition members claimed the Harper government was out to rig election rules in its favour, Conservative MP Brad Butt rose in the House of Commons to say why the bill was needed -- all the voter fraud he had personally witnessed. Weeks later he rose again to say his statements were false. Delivering his strained apology, he failed to explain why he lied in the first place.
Conservative House Leader Admits to Mockery of Question Period
Criticized far and wide for farcical answers in question period, Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to Harper, made a tearful apology for abuse of the democratic process.
Harper Maligns the Supreme Court Chief Justice
The Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of alleging inappropriate conduct by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. Facts undermined the credibility of the PM's position.
Conservatives Engage in Abuse of Process with Omnibus Bills
Harper's party pushed legislation through Parliament via omnibus bills, the scale of which Parliament had never seen. Such bills are widely condemnedas an abuse of the democratic process, because they blend and bury so many controversial laws within one dense package. Harper himself once railed against them, and his born again love for them made his own MPs queasy. Referencing such bills, former auditor general Sheila Fraser said that "Parliament has become so undermined that it is almost unable to do the job that people expect of it."
'Parliament has become so undermined that it is almost unable to do the job that people expect of it.' Former auditor general Sheila Fraser on Harper's omnibus bills.
Harperites Deliberately Sabotage, Stymie Committee System
Conservatives used tactics such as barring witnesses, closure, time limitations, and in camera sessions to an extent rarely, if ever, witnessed in Canada. In their early days in power, top Conservatives prepared a handbookinstructing committee chairpersons how to obstruct proceedings.
Harper's Own MPs Protest Muzzling
In a caucus known for his tight discipline, in 2014 some members finally rose up to contest being censored at question period by the Prime Minister's Office. Former Conservative backbencher Brent Rathgeber turned independent and published a book, Irresponsible Government, decrying anti-democratic practices.
Conservative Bill Rewrites History to Protect Mounties from Potential Criminal Charges
To protect the RCMP, the government retroactively made an old bill come into force before it was passed by Parliament.
Harper Minister Caught in Advertising Scam with Public Funds
The Globe and Mail revealed that Harper's chosen Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre commissioned a team of public servants for overtime work on a Sunday to film him glad-handing constituents. The vanity video on the taxpayer dime was to promote the government's benefits for families.
Corrupt Conservative Cronies
The Senate scandal is just the latest eruption of crony corruption in Harperite ranks. Take Bruce Carson. He was a convicted fraudster before Harper made him a key advisor in the PMO. There, Carson was lobbied for money for a new University of Calgary eco-think tank. He then left the PMO to run the same think tank, converting it to an oil industry booster with a $15-million grant from the Harper government. The complex saga added one more criminal charge to others Carson faces for allegedly illegally working his connections with the Harper government.
Access to Information System Impeded
Many new roadblocks have been put up by the Harper Conservatives. Former Information Commissioner Robert Marleau concluded that having obtained absolute power, the prime minister "has absolutely abused that power to the maximum."
The Silencing of the Public Service
The PMO took an unprecedented step in instituting a system wherein the bureaucracy has all its communications vetted by the political nerve centre. The policy contribution role of the public service is significantly reduced. Complaints from insiders allege that the Privy Council office has become increasingly politicized.
Loyalty Oaths Imposed on Public Servants
Archivists and librarians were made to swear strict oaths of allegiance and were hit with restrictions on freedom of speech that editorialists of the right and left described as chilling.
Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet sat on more than 200 whistleblower files before quitting. Her style? 'Gross mismanagement,' concluded the auditor general.
Harper Government Sued by Justice Department Whistleblower
Time and again the Harper government proposes bills that end up being shot down by the courts, prompting critics to say such legislation is more about making political statements than lasting policy. The wasted efforts bothered senior justice department lawyer Edgar Schmidt so much he finally sued the government for breaking the law by inadequately evaluating whether proposed bills violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was promptly suspended without pay.
Conservatives Block Accreditation for Opposition MPs
In another example of partisanship taken to new heights, the PMO blockedopposition members from being accredited for international environment conferences and from visiting military bases.
Tactic Borrowed from North Korea's Dear Leader
Ostensibly neutral public servants were used as stooges, falsely posing as new citizens in a staged Citizenship Renewal public relations exercise by the Immigration Department. Media critics had a field day comparing the charade to practices undertaken by North Korean dictators.
Clampdown on Freedom of Speech of Diplomatic Corps
Ottawa's diplomats must get all communications approved from Conservative political operatives. Under Harper, the country's ambassadors are hardly heard from any more. In a recent speech, former United Nations ambassador Stephen Lewis said our political culture under the Conservatives has descended into "a nadir of indignity."
Aquatic Science Libraries Decimated
The Harper government's downsizing of federal libraries included sudden closing of seven world famous Department of Fisheries and Oceans archives. A leaked memo revealed the destruction and consolidation would save less than half a million dollars. Scientist patrons of the libraries, who witnessed chaotic chucking of rare literature, called it a "book burning" with no logical purpose other than to restrict environmental information. The Harper government claimed vital works would be digitally preserved, but never provided a plan or cost for doing so, nor any proof it had happened. No scientists interviewed by The Tyee believed digitizing would or could replace what was lost.
UN Blasts Canada's Treatment of Immigrants
Changes made to the Canada's immigration and refugee system under Harper were investigated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, whose report blasted how thousands of migrants are detained indefinitely without due process, many for over a year or more, as well as poor mental health support for those incarcerated.
Harper Government Denies Khadr Basic Rights
Defying court rulings, the Conservative government refused to accord Omar Khadr basic rights such as access to media. Editorialists of right and left persuasion described the move as unbefitting a democratic government.
Illegitimate Prorogation of Parliament, Twice
Prorogations are a legitimate procedure that can be abused depending on motivations. The Harper government provoked 60 protests across Canada and beyond its borders in 2010 after shutting the legislature's doors to escape condemnation on the Afghan detainees' file. It was the second prorogation in a year's period.
Undue Interference with Independent Agencies
Command and control system was extended to meddling in bodies like National Energy Board and CRTC whose arms-length autonomy is significantly reduced. A special target was the Parliamentary Budget Office, which was hit with condemnations and budget cuts for its critical reports.
Billions Borrowed without Parliament's Permission
The auditor general sounded alarms about the "prodigious" growth and size of federal borrowing. Those billions in "non-budgetary" spending used to get Parliament's oversight, but no more. The finance minister can borrow what he wants without Parliament's permission. Why? A loophole buried in a 2007 Harper omnibus bill.
Lapdogs Appointed as Watchdogs
The most controversial was the case of former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet. Her office reviewed more than 200 whistleblowing cases. Disciplinary action followed on none of them. Ouimet's own angry staffers blew the whistle on their boss. The auditor general found Ouimet intimidated her employees, took "retaliatory action" against them and may have breached their privacy, all part of the Harper appointee's "gross mismanagement." Ouimet was paid more than $500,000 to leave her post.
SECTION II: 'HARPER BRAND' ABUSES: LIES, SPIES, AND THIS PORK SMELLS REALLY BAD
This election began the minute the last one ended. Since his first day as PM, Stephen Harper has reinforced his party's 'brand' by rewarding cronies, slapping the Conservative logo on government cheques, perfecting the no questions photo-op, instructing bureaucrats to start calling Canada's government "the Harper Government." The flip side has been relentless monitoring, muzzling and attacks on anyone who might tarnish the image. Here are 22 instances of power abused to build the Harper brand.
PMO Attempts to Cover up Video Leak Putting Troops at Risk
On an Iraq visit, the PMO was caught lying to try and cover up the leak of a promo video, which constituted a security breach. The PMO, noted a National Post editorial, "stumbled from blunder to evasion and falsehood in the service of shamelessly manipulative partisanship, especially in using our troops as PR props."
The 'Harper Government' Labelling Deception
Public servants were told to use "Harper Government" instead of "Government of Canada" in publicity releases. The Conservatives denied it was happening -- until internal memos revealed by the Canadian Press revealed the denial to be without basis.
Conservatives Place Party Logos on Government of Canada Cheques
Once "caught red-handed," they backed off. The federal ethics commissioner, adopting the exasperated tone of an adult lecturing a child, noted: "Public spending announcements are government activities, not partisan political activities, and it is not appropriate to brand them with partisan or personal identifiers."
Record Amounts of Partisan Political Advertising, on the Public Purse
Several media reports told how the Conservatives used taxpayer money for partisan political advertising in record quantity, costing the public treasury $750 million since Harper became PM. In one instance, the Tories spentlavishly on ads for the promotion of a jobs grant program that had yet to be made public or presented to parliament or the provinces. Even more nakedly partisan, a mailed blast, charged to the taxpayers, targeting Justin Trudeau.
Conservatives Stack Their Own Ridings with Infrastructure Funds
In a display of brazen pork barreling, the Conservatives arranged for no less than 83 percent of infrastructure fund projects go to Conservative ridings.
$50 Million Spending Deception as Documented by the Auditor General
The auditor general ruled Conservatives diverted $50-million from spending slated for border infrastructure to political spending on projects in Tony Clement's riding at the time of the G-8 summit. Parliament was willfully misled.
Patronage Run Amok
After promising a new way, the prime minister dismantled his newly created Public Appointments Commission and reverted to old-styled patronage by the barrel. In June 2015, the PM made 98 patronage appointments. That included stocking the National Capital Commission with loyalists in advance of decisions on the controversial monument to the victims of communism.
Undermining Statistics Canada, Killing Data
Against pleas from everyone who needs and uses data from the long form census, the Harper government scrapped it, prompting the Statistics Canada chief to resign in protest.
Government Muzzles Science Community
Top scientists came under such heavy monitoring by the Conservatives that they staged "Death of Evidence" protests for being denied freedom of speech. The Conservatives sent out chaperones or "media minders" to trackEnvironment Canada scientists and report on them.
'Death of Evidence' rally on Parliament Hill, July 10, 2012. Photo: Richard Webster.
Like Never Before, Limits Placed on Media Access
Journalists have been hard-pressed to recall another time when controls put on them were so tight. At the Conservatives' 2013 Calgary convention, reporters wrote of being harassed and penned in at every turn by the PMO's command and control system. In his book Killing The Messenger, journalist Mark Bourrie charts the many examples of new limits on freedom of speech introduced in the Harper era.
Harper's Team Tries to Ban Journalist for Asking Question
Veteran TV cameraman Dave Ellis covered a Harper speech about oil to a business audience. Though media had been instructed no questions allowed, Ellis posed one about charges laid against a Conservative MP. The PMO tried to punish Ellis and his network by kicking him off covering Harper's trip to Malaysia. After media hue and cry, Harper backed down and Ellis went.
Harper Minister Sucker Punches CBC Budget
After the 2011 federal election Heritage Minister James Moore assured Conservatives would "maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that." The next year, Harper's Cons delivered the biggest government cut to CBC since the mid-1990s, much deeper in proportion than overall trims to federal programs, defying public sentiment.
Suppression of Research
In the gun registration debate, incriminating research and documents such as a Firearms Report were deliberately withheld from the public. While ramping up their prison building, Conservatives suppressed related research and studies contradicting their political priorities.
The Vic Toews Porno Smear
In a vivid example of the browbeating of opponents, the minister of public safety said anyone who opposed federal plans to make electronic surveillance of Canadians easier for authorities was siding with child pornographers.
Harper's Fallen Soldiers Blackout
Emulating George W. Bush's optics tactics, Stephen Harper banned media coverage of fallen soldiers' caskets returning from Afghanistan. He also refused to lower the flag half-mast. Soldiers' family members expressed confusion and anger at the perceived show of disrespect.
Protesters Put under Blanket Surveillance
According to a leaked memo, as part of its command and control approach, the Conservatives have approved a system wherein all advocates, protesters and demonstrations can be monitored by authorities. The Government Operations Centre has requested federal departments to assist it in compiling a comprehensive inventory of protesters. Security specialists have called it a breach of Canadians' Charter of Rights. Conservatives have moved to give CSIS even more powers than the spy agency wants.
Rights and Democracy, Other Groups, Dismantled
In a show of brute force, the Montreal-based group Rights and Democracy was pole-axed for its alleged political leanings and eventually disbanded. Organizations like the church group Kairos were de-budgeted or dismantled for political leanings. Nuclear Safety Commission head Linda Keen was dumped. Among the complaints cited by the PM was that in her distant past, she had some Liberal ties.
Harper Government Spied on Aboriginal Critic, 'Retaliated'
Aboriginal child welfare advocate Cindy Blackstock was spied on by the Harper government, and when she arrived for a meeting with other First Nations leaders at the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs only she was barred entry. Finding Blackstock had been "retaliated" against by a ministry official, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal awarded her $20,000 for pain and suffering.
Revenue Canada Loosed to Attack Charities
Not all charities, just the ones that don't seem adequately aligned with the Harper brand. Enough to include many environmental, aid, human rights and free speech charities that banded together to push back against what looks like a politically motivated witch hunt.
Conservatives Use Unheard of Tactic to Force through Anti-Union Bill
Conservative senators went to the unprecedented extent of overruling their own Speaker. What could be so important to break Senate rules? A bill pushed by Harper that is almost certainly unconstitutional for its privacy invading measures forced onto unions, unlike other groups. Latest in a steady streamof Conservative attacks on organized labour in Canada.
Harper Smears Liberal Sikh MP, Insinuating Tie to Terrorism
When Liberals opposed a 2007 Conservative plan to extend anti-terror legislation, Stephen Harper singled out Grit MP Navdeep Bains, seeming to suggest that Bains' party was motivated by a desire to protect Bains' father-in-law, Darshan Singh Saini. A recent news story had claimed Singh Saini was on a list of witnesses sought by the RCMP for its Air India investigation, but provided no proof he was involved. In the House, Liberals erupted with outrage and Bains asked, in vain, that Harper apologize.
Veterans' Advocates Smeared
Medical files of Sean Bruyea, a strong advocate for veterans' rights, were leaked in a case that privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart described as "alarming." Veterans Affairs Canada ombudsman Pat Stogran was dumpedafter criticizing the government.
SECTION III: ELECTION ABUSES: SCAMS, SLIMES, STINGS AND CROOKED SPENDING
Stephen Harper's Conservatives have made federal elections a gladiators' arena where anything goes -- unless and until you are caught, that is. Here are 17 times his team violated election laws or ethics.
Conservatives Run Undercover Sting Operations
Conservatives secretly recorded political opponents and also used agent provocateur techniques to try and entrap them. A sting operation against Marlo Raynolds, a Liberal candidate in Alberta, was backed by then employment minister Jason Kenney.
Conservative Convicted on Robocalls Scam
Tory operative Michael Sona was given jail time for his role in the robocallsscam. The judge indicated more than one person was likely involved. In another court judgment in a case brought by the Council of Canadians, the ruling said the robocalls operation was widespread, not just limited to the Guelph riding. Donald Segretti who did dirty tricks for the Nixon White House told a Canadian reporter his skullduggery didn't go so low as to run schemes sending voters to the wrong polling stations.
Harper's Ex-Parliamentary Secretary Jailed for Breaking Election Law
Dean Del Maestro was one of Harper's favourites. As his parliamentary secretary, the PM frequently used him as an attack dog to allege misdeeds by opposition members. Del Maestro was given a jail sentence in June for his own election spending violations.
Dean Del Mastro received a jail sentence for election overspending.
'Reprehensible' Dirty Tricks Campaign against Irwin Cotler
Conservative Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled his party's own tactics in running a surreptitious misinformation campaign in the riding of the highly respected MP were "reprehensible."
Conservatives Bar Crosbie Candidacy
In a clear-cut case of the party hierarchy's undercutting of democratic rights, Ches Crosbie, son of former Tory cabinet minister John Crosbie, was barredfrom running for the party in Newfoundland.
Election Violations Prompt Resignation of Cabinet Member
Peter Penashue, another Harper Conservative was compelled to step down over election spending violations.
Conservatives Attempt Election Campaign Frame-up
In an attempted smear in the last week of the 2011 election campaign, a senior Harper strategist planted a false story in Sun Media that Michael Ignatieff was an Iraq war planner. (Neither Conservative operatives nor Sun Media opted to make hay with the true story that Stephen Harper had, while leader of the Canadian Alliance in 2003, published a letter in The Wall Street Journal itching to get Canada into that disastrous war and slamming then PM Jean Chretien for saying no.)
Harper's Office Deploys Interns for Dirty Tricks
In one instance that brought on allegations of Nixonian tactics, junior PMO staffers in the guise of normal citizens were sent out to disrupt a Justin Trudeau speech.
Citizens Ejected from Conservative Rallies
Tory operatives hauled out citizens from a Harper rally in the 2011 campaign because they had marginal ties to other parties. A spokesperson for the PM was compelled to apologize. Problem fixed this time around: Only fully vetted Harper supporters will be allowed, by invite only, to attend the PM's campaign stops. If they have a ticket.
Conservatives Make Campaign Event Attendees Sign Gag Order
Not only have Harper's campaign handlers made his campaign events by invite only, they were forcing anyone let in to sign an agreement not to transmit any description of the event or any images from it -- but dropped the gag orders after news stories made them an issue.
Conservatives Unfix Their Own Fixed Date Election Law
In 2008, Harper pulled the plug on his own government, violating his own new law, which stipulated elections every four years.
Guilty Plea on In and Out Affair
The Conservative Party and its fundraising arm pled guilty to some Elections Act charges stemming from their exceeding spending limits in the 2006 campaign. The investigation cost taxpayers over $2 million.
Cons' Elections Bill Strips Power from Elections Canada
The Fair Elections Act also makes it harder for Canadians to vote as more ID is required. Nationwide protests in which more than 400 academics took part forced Pierre Poilievre to withdraw some measures in the bill because of their alleged anti-democratic bent.
Harper Minister Smears Head of Elections Canada
In a bid to impugn his integrity, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre accused the Elections Canada CEO Marc Mayrand of being a power monger and wearing a team jersey.
Copyright Grab for Attack Ads
CTV News found out Conservatives aimed to rewrite copyright law to let political parties grab any media content and use it for free in their ads. The impact, warned CTV's Don Martin, "will be to cast a chill on every broadcast appearance" by MPs, commentators and reporters, who "must now be aware their views could end up featured in a political attack ad." By asserting "unlimited access to the airwaves for propaganda purposes," Martin said, the Harper government "could be seen as flirting with fascism."
Conservatives Use Terrorists' Propaganda in Attack Ad
Harper's party created a political ad incorporating music and horrifying images of doomed captives pulled straight from the Islamic State's own promotional video. The target: Justin Trudeau, whose views on the risks and rewards of bombing ISIS differ from Harper's.
Record Use of Personal Attack Ads
Under Harper's leadership, Conservatives became the first to routinely usepersonal attacks ads outside an election writ period. Their ads often usedquotes deliberately taken out of context. Incidence of attack ads by Harper Conservatives was heavier than by any other government.This list is now also available as a tablet-friendly pdf which you can download for free here
No matter how you add it up, Harper's fiscal record is a catastrophe
Sunday, April 19th, 2015
More from Scott Clark and Peter DeVries available here
On April 8, Finance Minister Joe Oliver stood up before the Economic Club in Toronto and delivered what can only be described as one of the greatest “fantasy economics” speeches in decades.
It was a message from a parallel universe — one in which the Harper government delivered ‘sound economic management’ through the recession (it didn’t), the economy recovered its pre-recession growth pattern (it hasn’t) and Ottawa is delivering tax relief for the average Canadian household (it isn’t). Stranger still, it’s a parallel universe where Pierre Trudeau is still around, haunting us.
In his speech, Oliver somehow contrived to blame Justin Trudeau for the alleged fiscal sins committed by his father during Trudeau Senior’s decade in power. (Justin Trudeau is 43. He was in his early teens when his father left office. Somehow we doubt Pierre was taking Justin’s fiscal advice at the time … but that’s the magic of rhetoric for you.)
According to Oliver, federal spending tripled between 1969 and 1979, driven by “the ideology of the man at the wheel and on the reckless assumption that commodity prices would remain high”. Change the timeline and Oliver could have been talking about Stephen Harper — but this is not a crowd that’s open to irony.
How bad a fiscal manager was Pierre Trudeau? Program spending did indeed triple between 1969 and 1979 in absolute terms. But measured as a share of GDP, program spending only rose from 15.4 per cent in 1969-70 to 16.7 per cent in 1979-80. As a share of GDP, revenues actually fell from 17.6 per cent in 1969-70 to 15.5 per cent in 1979-80.
According to Oliver, “Trudeau-era debt clung to Canada like a bad flu”. Actually, the federal debt burden only rose from 23.0 per cent to 27.7 per cent over the ten-year period. It rose further to 37.5 per cent in 1983-84, but this was due to the effects of the 1980-1981 recession.
In fact, the fiscal record of Trudeau Senior actually looks pretty good when compared to that of Brian Mulroney. Under Trudeau, the average annual deficit was 2.9 per cent of GDP between 1969-70 and 1979-80; under Mulroney the average annual deficit was 6.7 per cent of GDP between 1983-84 and 1994-95.
Between 1983-84 and 1994-95, program spending under Mulroney fell from 18.4 per cent of GDP to 15.7 per cent, while the revenue share actually rose from 15.6 per cent to 16.6 per cent. This weak performance, along with rising interest rates, resulted in the debt burden dramatically increasing from 37.5 per cent in 1983-84 to 66.6 per cent in 1994-95.
Mulroney did balance the operating budget — but that wasn’t nearly enough to solve the fiscal problem facing the government. In retrospect, the Mulroney government was simply reluctant to take the fiscal actions needed to stop the country from sliding into crisis in the early 1990s.
In 1984, the Conservative government actually published a document — ‘Agenda for Economic Renewal’ — which stated that, without major action to cut program spending and/or raise taxes, the federal debt burden would double by the end of the decade. Which is exactly what happened. (Disclosure: Both of us were heavily involved in the preparation of all of the Mulroney budgets.)
Mulroney’s Finance minister, Michael Wilson, did his best to warn Canadians about the dangers of failing to aggressively contain the fiscal problem. His May 1985 budget did raise revenues and reduce spending. However, after the confrontation between the “senior from Vanier and Mr. Mulroney” over changes to old age security benefits, Mr. Wilson lost not only the PM’s support for further measures to reduce the deficit, but also the backing of the business community. Wilson was on his own.
So what about the Liberals? Oliver is hardly going to give any credit to Jean Chretien and Paul Martin for getting the federal government out of the worst fiscal crisis it had ever faced.
According to Oliver, the Liberals balanced the budget “by hiking taxes, cutting vital programs and slashing billions in transfer payments.” (Disclosure: Both of us were very involved in the preparation of the Liberal budgets in 1994-1995 and subsequent years.)
Since Harper was elected, the federal debt has increased by over $150 billion, wiping out the reduction in federal debt achieved under Chretien and Martin. Not much to boast about there.
Now, as far as we can recall, the Liberals imposed a temporary capital tax on large deposit taking institutions; a higher tax on large corporations; a temporary corporate surtax; and higher excise taxes on gasoline and tobacco products. That was it. There were no higher taxes on the elderly, as Oliver has claimed. Indeed the Liberal government benefitted from the Mulroney government’s decision to introduce the GST in 1991, reform the personal and corporate income tax systems, partially de-index the personal income tax system in 1984, implement the North America Free Trade Agreement and sell several Crown corporations – all major structural changes which fostered economic growth and resulted in a more stable fiscal situation. Finally, the Liberal government eventually implemented the largest income tax (personal and corporate) reduction in Canadian history in the 2000 budget.
There was no slashing of vital programs in the 1995 budget. Quite the opposite; for the first time, the government introduced a process to carefully review federal program spending — what it was doing, what it should be doing. That program review process was transparent and accountable — unlike the spending reviews undertaken by the Harper government since 2010, for which the government has refused to provide information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Granted, the Liberals did cut transfer payments to the provinces. But with debt as a percentage of GDP at a post-Second World War high and with ever-increasing interest rates due to a lack of confidence in financial markets, everything had to be put on the table. Once the federal government achieved a balanced budget, that interest rate risk premium quickly disappeared and all levels of government benefited from lower borrowing costs. The Liberals then introduced a 10-year plan which put the major transfers to the provinces on a sustainable and growing track.
In 1994-95, the federal deficit was 4.7 per cent of GDP. By 1997-98 the deficit had been eliminated and the federal government ran surpluses for the next nine years. The federal debt was actually reduced by $90 billion; the debt burden fell from 66.6 per cent in 1994-95 to 31.4 per cent in 2006-07.
How does this compare to the Harper government’s fiscal record? In 2006-07, the Conservatives inherited a surplus of $13.8 billion — which they turned into a deficit of $5.8 billion within two years.
Since then, they have been in deficit each and every year. In 2009-10, the deficit reached its peak of 3.5 per cent of GDP. They are desperate now to show a surplus in 2015-16 — one surplus in nine years. Since Harper was elected, the federal debt has increased by over $150 billion, wiping out the reduction in federal debt achieved under Chretien and Martin. Not much to boast about there.
Joe Oliver has announced that the government will introduce balanced budget legislation. But legislation won’t keep a government out of the red if it lacks the political will to do so.
What about the government’s commitment to economic growth and job creation? Who hasn’t heard about the 1.2 million jobs created since “the depths of the recession”? Again — time for a reality check.
The figure — 1.2 million — is correct, but almost meaningless. It certainly doesn’t describe the performance of the economy since 2006 and the labour market situation in Canada. Since 2006, economic growth has declined in every year since 2010 and averaged only 1.7 per cent per year. In the previous nine years, economic growth averaged 3.4 per cent per year. In 2014, only 120,000 new jobs were created — less than in 2013.
At the end of 2014, the unemployment rate was higher than at the end of 2008. The labour force participation rate was lower than in 2008. The employment rate (the percentage of the adult population employed) was lower than at the end of 2008. The youth unemployment rate was higher than at the end of 2008. The share of total employment made up of full-time jobs was less than in 2008 — and the quality of jobs had sunk to its lowest level in a quarter of a century.
Then there’s Oliver’s claim that his government has put money back in the hands of Canadians through its commitment to reducing taxes. This government has definitely cut taxes for high-income, single-earner families with children under 18 — just 15 per cent of all families. They’ve been very good to families with teenage children who — somehow — still need ‘child care’. They’ve been generous to families who can afford to put their kids in sports leagues and summer camps, and they’ve cut taxes for high-income seniors who can split their pension income with a spouse.
The government has announced it will double the contribution limits for Tax-Free Savings Accounts, despite research by the PBO and others indicating this will — again — overwhelmingly benefit high-income Canadians and leave a growing unfunded liability to be paid for by all Canadians in the future. Oliver and Harper claim to be doing this for our grandchildren. Somehow we don’t think they’ll be grateful.
All of this, of course, came after the government’s biggest and most foolish tax cut — the two point cut in the GST which every economist warned them was a terrible idea. Sure enough, it was a major factor in putting the government into deficit.
The key thing to remember here is that these tax cuts accomplished nothing for the economy. None of them contributed to economic growth or job creation. They certainly didn’t contribute to tax fairness.
Numbers don’t lie, but people do. It’s one thing to spin your failures as successes — it’s another thing entirely to try to present a decade of fiscal failure as one long triumph. The journalists going into the budget lockup will have their work cut out for them, trying to separate the Harper government’s fiscal fantasies from the true record of the past ten years.
Scott Clark is president of C.S. Clark Consulting. Together with Peter DeVries he writes the public policy blog 3DPolicy. Prior to that he held a number of senior positions in the Canadian government dealing with both domestic and international policy issues, including deputy minister of finance and senior adviser to the prime minister. He has an honours BA in economics and mathematics from Queen’s University and a PhD in economics from the University of California at Berkeley.
Peter DeVries is a consultant in fiscal policy and public management issues, primarily on an international basis. From 1984 to 2005, he held a number of senior positions in the Department of Finance, including director of the Fiscal Policy Division, responsible for overall preparation of the federal budget. Mr. DeVries holds an MA in economics from McMaster University.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
While it was illuminating getting insults from the ordinary citizens of Alberta and elsewhere it's time to get back to portfolio preparation. This stuff is mind boggling but there you go. Some folks lack insight, some have a severe case of Islamphobia and most of these folks think I am a Liberal clone. Wow.
Justin Trudeau offers strongest defence yet of Omar Khadr settlement at Calgary Stampede
Published on: July 15, 2017 | Last Updated: July 15, 2017 6:11 PM MDT
Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau during his visit to the 2017 Calgary Stampede. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA
Justin Trudeau offered his strongest defence yet of his government’s $10.5-million settlement with Omar Khadr on Saturday, saying he hopes it serves as an example to future governments.
“When governments violate Canadians’ fundamental rights, there have to be consequences and we hope that the message going forward to all future governments is: you can not ignore or be complicit in the violation of Canadians fundamental rights, regardless of what they did,” said Trudeau.
The prime minister spoke at the Indian Village on the Calgary Stampede grounds, initially reiterating what he’s been saying for the past few days: he understands why people are frustrated but he thinks the government would have lost the case to Khadr if they had fought in court, and it would have cost between $30-40 million in the process. Trudeau then went on to offer the more strident human rights defence.
Trudeau spent the day in Calgary, attending two pancake breakfasts in the morning before visiting the Indian Village in the afternoon and rounding off the day at the rodeo.
He’s faced widespread criticism over the past few days over the Khadr payment. Khadr fought against coalition forces in Afghanistan as a 15 year old, before being sent to Guantanamo Bay where he was repeatedly tortured.
The prime minister initially wasn’t planning on coming to Stampede this year due to a scheduling conflict with the United States’ National Governors Association conference in Rhode Island. However, he managed to get to all his meetings at the conference, including a sit-down with vice-president Mike Pence, scheduled for Friday, freeing him up to spend time in Calgary on Saturday.
The prime minister largely had a friendly reception in the city, although he spent most of his time in solid Liberal territory.
Trudeau started the day by meeting Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Neither the mayor nor the prime minister took any questions from the press.
Next he went to the Marda Loop Communities Association Stampede breakfast with Liberal Calgary Centre MP and Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr. The prime minister was greeted by a little girl in a pink cowboy hat, whose cast he signed and a little boy who got him to sign a copy of the Marvel Civil War comic book in which Trudeau appears on the cover as part of the Canadian super hero team Alpha Fight.
Trudeau declined to weigh in on the decision of interim NDP leader Tom Mulcair and the candidates running for the federal NDP leadership, to skip Stampede, simply saying: “I’m not going to comment on decisions that other political parties make.”
He said that several people teased him about his failure to mention Alberta during a Canada Day speech, but they were generally understanding of his explanation that it was a honest mistake.