A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Harper plays hide and seek

Declaring federal cabinet meetings secret!
Ordering cabinet members to clear all public announcements and comments through the Prime Minister’s Office!
Banning cabinet members from speaking to the media on their way into and out of cabinet meetings!
Refusing to disclose a full list of his campaign contributions and contributors!
Barring debate on the role of Canadian forces abroad!
Threatening to ignore the ethics commissioner if he ruled against the Prime Minister!
Refusing to answer questions he deems “unsubstantial.”
Stephen Harper ran for office, in part, on a platform of openess and transparency. So far its working. He’s openly secretive and transparently dictatorial! We can clearly see that he does not trust his own cabinet to speak publicly, and it is no secret to any of us that he does not like answering questions.
What’s next, when people start questioning why he needs so much privacy in public office, will he declare the whole of parliament private!
Keep up the cloak and dagger approach Mr. Harper, and there’s going to be a lot of people looking to find out what’s going on behind the closed curtain.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Is the US calling Harper's shots

Since writing the piece, "Time for Harper to show his cards" I have been receiving information from several sources that Harper did in fact receive US money for his campaign.
One roundabout source of information is former Conservative leadership contender David Orchard, who claims Harper did in fact receive US dollars, and the major job of the PM's spin doctors has been to conceal the fact and make Harper appear to be a moderate. We knew that.
Remember back in the debates when Harper said he'd publicly revealed the sources of his campaign contributions but no one seemed to be able to recall, or find evidence, of the disclosure?
Orchard is also pointing at the media who he claims are buying the misinformation wholesale. We knew that too.
What we didn't know is that former US Vice President Al Gore, in an interview from Utah, "http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article.php/20060131003149749" claims that: "The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta. And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra conservative leader in order to win the election and to protect its interests."
In the same interview Gore also warned that financial interests in the US are urging Harper to back out of the Kyoto agreement.
We didn't know what Gore was saying because it wasn't widely reported in Canada, which is odd, because the Canadian media usually picks up on what Mr. Gore has to say.
If Gore's allegation are true, then there is some serious criminality going on with Harper and his gang. It is, as far as I understand it, illegal for Canadian political parties to accept money from foreign nationals for election campaigns!
I am also seeing signs of a media whitewash of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's dealings with billionaire Karl-Heinz Schreiber. Schreiber claims to have given Mulroney large sums of money. Mulroney says he had no dealings whatsoever with Schreiber. If what Schreiber says is true, then Mulroney could be guilty of perjury.
The media isn't talking about it much, some claiming its old news. It's only old news if one ignores how many former Mulroney cronnies are now taking high ranking jobs in the Harper government, including former finance minister Michael Wilson, who is now Canada's ambassador to the US!
So, from appearances, there seems to be some hidden agenda tied to US money going on behind the scenes in the Harper government. One must wonder how much this is influencing Harper's decision to disallow debate on our military role in Afghanistan. Could it be the PM is concerned that such a debate may lead to information about foreign financial contributions to his election campaign being revealed!
As a former investigative journalist, my cat instincts smell a rat here! My instincts are telling me there should not only be a debate on Afghanistan, and an investigation into Harper's campaign finances, but also into his personal financial profile.
Does Mr. Harper own any stock in oil, munitions or arms trading companies?
Its a legitimate question because, despite the fact his portfolio is supposed to be held in trust while he's PM, any half wit can figure out that his oil stocks will increase in value if there is a war going on!
While some folks are calling for the RCMP to investigate some of the allegations I've outlined above, I'd prefer a public inquiry. Personally, I don't think the RCMP can be depended on to properly investigate dealings related to the military industrial complex because, as a police force, they are inextricably tied to the that complex. A public inquiry, by civilian authorities, would be the only way to ensure an objective revelation of exactly what is going on.
I also have to wonder, if a little guy like me, working from his home, can find signs of serious conflict of interest going on in the PMO, then where are the media and other political parties, who have the resources and ability to investigate these things.
To me, this is just one more reason in a long list of really good reasons why there should be a national debate over Afghanistan right now. And that's not all, there should also be a criminal investigation into Harper's campaign finances as well.
I'm sure the PM won't mind, afterall, he campaigned on cleaning up Ottawa and its ethics.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Time for Harper to show his cards

I must admit that Stephen Harper's recent visit to Afghanistan was a gutsy move. It took some courage to go there.
However, Mr. Harper's visit with our armed forces personnel does not change the fact that there needs to be a debate in parliament about Canada's role in Afghanistan and it needs to happen now.
It is also time for Mr. Harper, and his Minister of Defence Gordon O'Connor, a former lobbyist for arms and munitions interests, to disclose fully, in black and white, any and all contributions made to their election campaigns by arms manufacturers and/or persons with ties to the arms and munitions industries, and the current American administration. They need to do this now, so Canadians can rest assured there is no hidden agenda behind this action.
The Conservatives ran on the premise of transparency and ethics, therefore, in the interest of transparency and ethical governance, it is imperative they reveal this information immediately. It is also time for them to put their money where their mouths were during the election campaign.
Do it now Mr. Harper, so Canadians can confidently and knowledgeably get behind our armed forces.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Harper's five-out baseball

About six weeks into the new minority Conservative government and the cracks in the fence are begining to show. We’ve all known from the start that this new government was just the old Mulroney planks glued back together again, with some of the missing pieces replaced by cheaply made vinyl, but some of us are still surprised how poorly the plastic board is holding up.

Some people in this country actually believed that Stephen Harper was going to keep his end of the ethics commitment, bring in a new ethics bill, and behave in an ethical manner. I for one did not believe him, and I am one of those who is not surprised.

First it was the appointment of a newly-elected Liberal to the Conservative cabinet.
Harper could have invited the fellow to join cabinet and keep his Liberal Party card, or he could have asked him to sit as an independent, and included him in the cabinet. Instead, he offered David Emerson a cabinet post if he would leave the Liberals and join the Conservatives. Strike One!

No one has missed the point that, if the shoe had been on the other foot, Harper would have been screaming blue murder. Imagine if Paul Martin had won, then turned around and offered Diane Yablonsky a cabinet post if she would switch parties. Heck, Harper would have been on the phone to ethics commissioner Shapiro whether Yablonsky accepted the deal or not. He’d have not only been calling for an investigation, but you can bet he’d be demanding a resignation, and Shapiro would be his man of the hour.
Instead, here’s Harper, defaming Mr. Shapiro, attacking the ethics commissioner for not having the moral authority to do such an investigation, and acting like it was Shapiro who thought up the idea. Truth is, Shapiro is doing his job, acting on information provided to him by members or parliament.

Harper says Shapiro doesn’t have any credibility to do the job. Based on what Canadians are seeing from Harper, its a situation where the kettle is calling the pot black. Harper’s own ethics plan calls for the institution of a rule that would prevent the Prime Minister from overruling, or discounting, an ethics commission ruling. Now, here’s Harper, as Prime Minister, doing all he can to discredit the ethics commissioner, and overrule him! Strike Two.

Then there’s the little matter of our troops in Afghanistan. On this issue I have to wonder who is handling the PM’s spin. All he really had to do was step up in front of the Canadian people and say, “Sorry about Afghanistan folks, but it was the Liberals who got us into this and made the commitment to stay there a year. If you want to spank somebody, get Paul Martin to drop his trousers!”

Instead, Harper and his new government stepped up to the pitch, even though it was crossing the plate well to the outside. First he used the Bush-ism, that it is not right to question the armed forces while they are engaged in battle, claiming such questions would undermine morale. Then he sent our top general, Hillier, out to inform the Canadian people about public policy ( a task that certainly goes above and beyond the call of duty because it is not the General’s job to set public policy, nor to explain it). When that didn’t go over so well, Harper sent out the new Defense Minister, one Gordon O’Connor, who accused the anti-Afghanistan movement of being thick in the head, and too slow to understand what was going on. When those two moves, combined, only served to increase the speed of the ball as it neared the plate, Harper came out arguing that a debate over the role of our armed forces in Afghanistan would set a dangerous precedent. The precedent, he seemed to fear being set, turned out to be the democratic principle of Canadians having a say in what their armed forces are doing in the world at large, which gave the anti-Afghan involvement pitch some real velocity, and had the ultimate effect of leaving the new PM swinging wildly at a pitch that was well out of the strike zone. Strike three!

But wait a minute, the batter is still at the plate!

Must be Canadian baseball rules, where the biggest guy on the diamond gets to swing at as many balls as he wants until all the other players on the field get bored and go home!

And that moment is coming soon.

It will begin with the childcare debate. The previous government guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars to the provinces for a national childcare system. Harper wants to scrap it. This is not only going to get the back up players in the provincial duggouts in an uproar, but its certain to become a high fly ball on the federal field. Its not a matter of whether it will be caught or not, but which fielder is going to do the catching. The Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals are all in range, its just a matter of which one decides to get under it and wave the others off.

Now, despite the fact that Harper already has three strikes against him, and is about to put a fly ball out just behind second base, we Canadians are a generous lot, and are more than likely going to let him take a sixth pitch.

That pitch will come the day Harper and his team present their budget. What to watch for is one penny of that budget going into private health care. Yes, it appears, by his words at any rate, that Mr. Harper is against Ralph Klien’s “Third Way” approach to healthcare, which is basically a system where, if you have the coin, you can pass go and get your hemroids lanced ahead of the homeless guy who has been waiting in line since Jean Chretien wrote his book, Straight From the Heart! If there is anything in that budget that will allow King Ralph to go ahead with his plan, or that axes money already committed to childcare, or education, or wait list times at hospitals, then there will most definitely be a riot on the field.

Those of you who are watching this game closely will soon notice that the guys at first, second and third bases sending signals to each other. The gist of those signals will be: Look, this guy has had six pitches and he’s still not so much as managed a base hit. If we let him stay at bat we’re going to be here for a couple years and nothing is going to happen. We’ll keep lobbing balls across the plate and he’ll keep missing them. Let’s get him out of there and put in someone who at least can abide by the rules of the game.

At that point you can look for the players on the field to approach the umpire, that sexy little beast we all affectionately call GG, and ask her for a turn at bat.

GG will have to allow it, but first she’ll make all the players on the outfield don shirts of the same colour. If they do as she asks, she’ll have no choice but to call Harper out and send his crew to the outfield, from whence they came.

What will happen then, well the other guys, most likely led by the short guy with the “stache” will take a turn at bat. It will take some time for them to move through the order, and because none of them are real heavy hitters, we’ll be in for a few innings of walks and base runs, with the odd foul ball, and a few outs on over anxious base runners. They’ll stall a lot, swing at very little, bunt here and there, and maybe score the odd run. This will go on until the players all get tired of it and decide to trade in their baseball caps and gloves for hockey helmets and sticks, and get back to our second national sport, Federal Elections.

How long will all this take. Oh, I’ll bet we’re back at the rink about the same time the NHL players head to training camp and the kids return to school for the 06-07 season.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gordon O'Connor, we are NOT dense

Regarding this statement by Canadian Defennse Minister Gordon O'Connor, regarding the growing opposition to our government's role in Afghanistan.

"The population out there doesn't really understand right now why we're
there and what we're doing. You have to say the thing five, six, seven,
eight times before it really gets through to a large number of people." -
Defence Minister O'Connor instructs the foreign press.

There are a few things I'd like to tell Mr. O'Connor, and because I'm sure he is an intelligent fellow who can hear what people are saying, I don't suspect I'll need to repeat myself.

1. In a democracy, majority, right or wrong, rule.

2. The majority of Canadians voted for the opposition parties in the last federal election.

3. According to current polls, the majority of Canadians do not want Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

4. Most Canadians want a public debate on the role of Canada's armed forces in the world today, not just Afghanistan.

5. Just because people are questioning the role of our troops in Kandahar Province, and other places, does not mean they do not support our troops.

6. Our troops are our friends, neighbours and members of our families, and it is absurd to suggest that we don't have their best interests at heart.

7. Canadians are among the best educated people in the world, we do not need to be told over and over again. We can hear what we are being told and we do not need other people or government officials making up our minds for us.

8. In a parliamentary democracy, especially in a minority government, the role of that government is to represent the will of the people.

9. Clearly, the will of the people right now is to debate the role of our armed forces in the world at large.

10. It is very difficult to rally public support to a cause when you refer to the members of the public in derogatory fashion, ie. . . suggesting they are "dense" by saying things like:

"You have to say the thing five, six, seven, eight times before it really gets through to a large number of people."