Monday, December 29, 2008

Harper's Broken Promises:
A Comment by Democracy Watch

Reprinted from Toronto Star, Letters to Editor, December 29, 2008

Written by Duff Conacher, Co-ordinator, Democracy Watch

With his appointment of 18 Senators, most of whom are Conservative party cronies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has added another broken promise to the 27 democratic reform and government accountability promises the Conservatives have already broken since they were elected in January 2006.

In their 2006 election platform, the Conservatives promised to establish an independent Public Appointments Commission to ensure fair, merit-based and widely publicized searches for qualified candidates for the PM and his cabinet to appoint to government agencies, boards and commissions.

Harper broke this promise after opposition parties changed the Federal Accountability Act to ensure the commission would be non-partisan and operate independently of cabinet, and be accountable to Parliament if it did not ensure fair appointments. The Conservative cabinet has gone on to appoint more than 1,000 people to key government positions, many with ties to the Conservatives.

They also broke their promise to "Prevent party leaders from appointing candidates without the democratic consent of local electoral district associations" and Harper showed his dishonesty further by appointing several Conservative candidates for the recent election. He has also made false claims about why he has broken these promises, as usual blaming opposition parties for his failures.

The PM also used his so-called "Accountability Act" to cut the ethics rule that requires him and his cabinet and senior officials to be honest. He obviously wanted to protect himself from being found guilty of breaking the honesty rule.
Canadians deserve better. The Conservatives are practising dishonest, unethical, secretive, un-representative and wasteful federal politics as usual. The key question is, will the opposition parties offer good government to voters?

Duff Conacher, Co-ordinator, Democracy Watch, Ottawa

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Visit from St. Stephen

Copied from the Lethbridge Herald
Monday, 22 December 2008

’Twas just days before Christmas, and all through the House,
With Parliament prorogued, and no one about,
The calculating genius set to his work.
There were seats to be filled! No prerogative to shirk.
Setting aside any talk about changing the Senate,
The timing was right to dispense with that tenet.
No elections are needed when loyal Tories abound,
Announced at this time, they’d make barely a sound.
So clad in a sweater-vest, a populist nugget,
The PM opened a goody bag, so full who could lug it?
Inside were fat pay cheques, appointments nearly for life, a pension, free travel — no economic strife!
With a seat in the Red Chamber, your future is set,
Promises broken? For sure, but voters forget.
The critics were howling, “It’s undemocratic!”
But St. Stephen can quickly brush off all that static.
With faithful rewarded from coast to coast,
No one from Alberta, where we’d much rather vote.
Even with 18 senators, most leaning right,
The Grit majority in the Chamber is still water-tight.
“Now Manning! Now Dickson ! Now Gerstein and Wallin!
“On Duffy! On Greene! The Senate’s a-callin’!”

To the top of the patronage heap you will go,
To the tune of six million in taxpayers’ dough.
With the goody bag empty and Ms. Jean buying him time,
The PM is now due for a holiday sublime.
Fear not a coalition, nor taxpayers’ ire.
January will be ripe for that kind of fire.
And so with the PMO’s considerable might,
Best wishes for Christmas, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quebec Election shows effect of Harper Quebec Bashing

In the recent parliamentary debates surrounding the Liberal/NDP/BLOC coalition, Prime Minister Harper continually stated that it was treasonous and salicious for the Liberals and NDP Parities to form a coalition with the sovereignous BLOC Quebecois, something he said the Conservatives would never do, despite his efforts to do so in 2004.

His statements indicated his sentiment that the BLOC MP's were somehow less than those of the other parties since BLOC members support Quebec soverignty, and thus, he maintained, the breakup of the country. This was the same Prime Minister who declared Quebec a "distinct society" in the last government thus setting it apart from all of the others. This gained favour in Quebec and separtist sentiment dropped from ealier fever pitches and gained Conservatives some political leverage in the province.

It was projected that his recent Quebec Bashing would have a backlash in Quebec stoking up Quebec Nationalism once again...and this was seen in last night's Quebec election results. The Parti Quebecois, the Quebec sovereignist party, rose from 3rd place to 2nd (opposition opposition) with a gain of 15 seats from 36 seats to 51 seats in the 125 seat parliament.

It would seem that Harper has destroyed any opportunity for a majority Conservative Government if his budget is defeated at the end of January and the Governor General calls an election rather than asking the coalition to form a government.

Kicking Harper out of the PM's chair would be a good day for Canada! We need a leader to unite...not divide us!

Monday, December 8, 2008

If Harper Survives

By Murray Dobbin (BIO)| December 5, 2008, Reprinted from

I am surprised that my astute Tyee colleagues Rafe Mair and Bill Tieleman have outright rejected the coalition government being proposed by the Liberals, NDP and Bloc.

Both know only too well just who Stephen Harper is and what he would do to the country should he ever achieve a majority.

With no mandate to do so, he would dismantle the work of three generations of Canadians in building a decent, if far from egalitarian, society.

He would, for starters, gut and or sell off the CBC.

He would repeal the Canada Health Act and open the Medicare system to massive privatization and balkanization.

He would, as quickly as he could, further gut the spending powers of the federal government with more destructive and ill-considered tax cuts for the wealthy and for Canada's corporate welfare bums.

He would rapidly devolve power to the provinces, balkanizing the country and its egalitarian approach to social programs.

Our foreign policy would be made in Washington and our energy and environmental policies would be made in Alberta. More billions would be poured into making our military a war-fighting adjunct to the U.S. war machine. (If you think Obama is going to dismantle the American Empire, think again.)

None of this will ever be part of a Harper election platform. But it is what he would do.

No ordinary moment

This is not an ordinary government, nor an ordinary prime minister. Harper has proven himself incapable of compromise. For more than two years, he governed as if he had a majority - not because the House of Commons was in broad agreement regarding his policies, but because he is contemptuous not only of the opposition parties but of virtually every aspect of our democratic system. He is contemptuous of Parliament and its committees - producing a 200-page guide on how to cripple the democratic process inside those committees. He is equally contemptuous of the 62 per cent of Canadians who rejected him and his party.

Having set elections dates, he cynically ignored his own law, then made barely any effort to broaden his political base during the election, preferring instead to solidify his already solid right-wing core.

Why? Because he simply can't stand the idea of compromising his rigid political ideology for the sake of the country.

Harper is a right-wing revolutionary manipulating a democratic system, which he detests for what it has produced: a pluralistic society, an activist state and a compassionate society.

So rather than compromise in the interests of the country, he determined before the election to govern by destroying the opposition parties through eliminating the government funding of political parties.

And don't forget, this government funding formula was a democratic breakthrough of historic proportions - eliminating the possibility of corporations seizing control of the political process with their money (and eliminating union funding, too).

Harper never 'evolved'

His arrogant response to the coalition government proposal of the three opposition parties demonstrates that he is not the least bit interested in changing his approach. If he outmaneuvers the coalition, he will continue to govern as if he has won a majority of the votes of Canadians, and not the 38 per cent he actually received. There is no humility here, no mea culpa, not a hint of any apology for his blatant brinkmanship.

Stephen Harper is a political leader out of control and he must be removed from power before he does even more damage to the country and to our democracy.

That is the context for the proposed coalition government. Canada faces not only an economic crisis, it faces a crisis in democracy. And the only way it can be solved is to remove Stephen Harper from power.

Is this a perfect solution? Hardly. It is messy and unsavoury in some aspects. Stephane Dion was massively rejected by Canadians. He, personally, does not deserve to be prime minister. Gilles Duceppe is a separatist - nominally at least - and it seems bizarre on the face of it to have him being key to the survival of the Liberal/NDP coalition.

But given the circumstances, these are acceptable flaws. The Harper government is doomed to defeat at some point simply because Harper is incapable of changing his governing style. He will continue to run roughshod over Canadian democracy and Canadian political culture. The opposition parties will, sooner or later, be obliged by their own mandates to throw him out.

Preview of proportional rep

As Jack Layton pointed out in the news conference of the three leaders, the coalition is exactly the way a government under proportional representation would work: parties with often very different philosophies and policies come together, find common ground, and put together a government that actually reflects the will of the people. If this coalition comes to pass, there needs to be a massive public lobbying campaign to ensure that it puts in place a system of proportional representation before the next election.

On purely constitutional grounds, the three coalition partners are completely within their rights and mandate to defeat the Harper government. The government has quite simply lost the confidence of the House. Period. When that happens, governments fall.

Bill Tieleman says this coalition will be terrible for the NDP. But he misses perhaps the most important aspect of this coalition. The three parties are all taking huge risks by putting the country before their partisan interests.

Duceppe is taking a huge risk in propping up a federalist coalition.

The Liberals risk alienating their more conservative supporters across the country.

The NDP risks losing support in the next election if the Liberals get credit for running a decent, moderate govt.

The three parties should be congratulated for taking these risks.

Send a message

Everyone who cares about the future of this country should drop what they are doing and vigorously support the proposed coalition. It is far from a done deal and Stephen Harper will do anything to hang on to power he does not deserve to wield.

We can only hope that the three coalition partners are just as determined in their efforts to rid the country of this destructive prime minister.

This column was first published on The Tyee.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Legitimacy of BLOC Votes

Last time I looked, Quebec was part of Canada, and as such they have equal right to select representatives to our National Parliament as any other Canadian.

Harper has continually undermined support for the BLOC indicating he believes in two kinds of Federal MP's...those from the Conservative, Liberal, or NDP Parties and those lesser MP's who support the BLOC.

Such nonsense...but an excellent way to fan Quebec Separatism by bashing Quebecers saying their vote doesn't count. Except I guess when it is supporting Harper and the Conservatives. Witness Harper's own attempt to grab power from the Paul Martin Liberals with a coalition attempt supported by the BLOC. How times change to suit your purpose! How dishonest to say its okay for the BLOC to support a Conservative Coalition but treasonous and salicious for the BLOC to support a Liberal Coalition. Such drivel.

Amazingly, past Mulroney Conservative Cabinet Minister Lucien Bouchard founded the Bloc Quebcois which in fact became the Official Opposition with Bouchard as leader. Was he a lesser Cabinet Minister in the Mulroney Cabinet than the others because of his sympathies with Quebec Nationalism? Doubtful! He was Prime Minister Mulroney's confidante and right hand man. Indeed, Bouchard was a well-known Quebec nationalist when Mulroney recruited him to the Conservative Cabinet in the hopes that he would bring a significant Quebec vote with him.

Those who have no strong reasons to oppose always attack the integrity of their opponents. If they can't explain their position logically, they attack the opponent person or group. Forget the to the emotions! This is anti-intellectualism to the greatest degree!

In this case Harper has worked to undermine the coalition by dividing Canadians whipping up soverignist sentiment in the process in Quebec and anti-Quebec sentiments in the rest of the country.

How can our National Leader consciously work to divide the country? Unusual isn't it for the leader of the country?

Perhaps he feels his political career is more important than the unity of the country he wants to lead.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The following letter to the editor was printed in The Toronto Star on Friday and I thought it fitting to reprint it here.

Harper has shut down parliament because he does not agree with it. Some say this is unprecedented. But he is following parliamentary tradition. Consider the following:

Re:1629: King Charles I in England

Re:1799: Napoleon in France

Re:1913: Victoriano Huerta, Mexico

Re:1933: Adolf Hitler in Germany

Re:1936: Francisco Franco in Spain

Re:1939: Benito Mussolini in Italy

Re:1973: Augusto Pinochet in Chile

Re:2008: Stephen Harper in Canada

Sean Fordyce, Gloucester

Friday, December 5, 2008

Canada's Parliament Shut Down---Prorogued

Pro-rogue--An Analysis of Its Meaning
by Scott Templeton, Whitby, Ontario

Now that parliament has been postponed lets take at look at the word pro-rogue…pro-rogue by itself means:

1) To discontinue a session of (The British parliament or a similar body)
2) To defer; postpone

But if we separate the word, ‘pro’ and ‘rogue’, we come to a complete different definition.

Lets Start with‘PRO’--we all know that it refers to
1) the pros, the professional athletic leagues, as of football, baseball, or basketball: He's sure to be signed by the pros.
2) An expert in a field of endeavor
3) In support of're "pro-Canadian" meaning you support Canada

Now lets look at the word “ROGUE”
1) a dishonest, knavish person; scoundrel
2) to cheat
3) to uproot or destroy (plants, etc., that do not conform to a desired standard)
4) (of an animal) having an abnormally savage or unpredictable disposition, as a rogue elephant
5) no longer obedient, belonging, or accepted and hence not controllable or answerable; deviating, renegade: a rogue cop; a rogue union local

The analysis then--pro-rogue could mean in support of rogues...or support those who demonstrate the characteristics of rogues 1 to 5 above

So does that mean by extension that some of our politicians are dishonest, knavish scoundrels that cheat to uproot or destroy, have an unpredictable disposition and are no longer accepted?

Look at Canada's present government to judge the applicability of this analysis...Does it fit?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Conservative Government Fiddles While Rome Burns

Obviously I was wrong in predicting the Governor General's decision in meeting with PM Harper this morning. No one could have foreseen that she would make an unprecedented decision to allow parliament to be prorogued to allow the government to avoid facing a vote of confidence in the House of Commons.

This has never before happened to anyone's knowledge with parliamentary constitutional monarchies and sets a dangerous precedent for the future. The decision undoubtedly surprises Canada's premier constitutional experts.

The basic tenet of our parliamentary system is that government's continue to govern only while they maintain the confidence of the house. This seems to have changed with the Governor General's ruling today. It appears that future Prime Minister's now have precedent to request to shut down Parliament to avoid defeat through a vote of "non-confidence" in the house.

No one shall ever know the basis of Governor-General Michaelle Jean's historic decision because as head of the government, she need not answer to anyone. In addition, communications between the Governor General and the Prime Minister are privileged so we shall never know her rationale. Undoubtedly though, many constitutional experts will study her decision into the future. All of us will have to undoubtedly await a book of her experiences she writes following her retirement where she would undoubtedly reveal her thoughts on this historic day.

What seems to be true though...the constitutional landscape has been changed with the new precedent set today.

What also is true. We have no government at this critical time of economic uncertainty. Undoubtedly, though, the whole exercise has placed pressure on the Prime Minister to soften his autocratic, doctrinaire, and unilateral manner and he will produce a Good News Budget to garner widespread citizen support. The past week though may have undermined his Conservative Caucus and House of Commons support. The whole situation has poisoned the atmosphere of the house making a working minority parliament difficult.

Many also are blaming Stephane Dion's communication abilities as part of the weakness for the success of the coalition movement.

Could it be that we shall see new leaders for both the Conservatives and the Liberals early in the new year with another election taking place shortly after Parliament re-convenes in Late January.

I might point out that this post is no mea culpa in regards to my previous post and believe that the political landscape will change quickly in consideration of the constitutional challenges we have experienced in the last week.

In the meantime, Rome continues to burn!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Author's Preamble About the Cause and Resolution of Canada's Constitutional Crisis

From the title of this blog, it is obvious that it supports installation of the Liberal/NDP Coalition Government with the 18 month support of the Bloc. This is an unusual position for me, a former Federal Conservative Candidate in my riding, and so explanation is necessary.

As a Conservative, I must confess that I was more “progressive” than “conservative” occupying a position on the left end of the Tory Spectrum that would be classified as a “Pink Tory”…one who believes in individual initiative in success but also one who believes in strong social policies for the weak, poor, and disadvantaged working to provide equal opportunity for all, no matter the accident of birth.

With the coalition of the “Reform Party”, the “Alliance Party” and willing “Progressive Conservatives”, a new Neo-Con party was formed which deserted my belief systems, leaving me very concerned about the health of our country and its future with “one-man-band” Stephen Harper in charge.

Canada from it’s very beginning has always been a country of compromise and consensus, a quality not possessed by the present Prime Minister who has one position, "my way or the highway". He has silenced his cabinet and government members and all decisions of government come not from the cabinet table, but from the chosen few in the Prime Minister’s Office. Harper is head of a dictatorship!

For public consumption, he has tried to moderate his image with his pastel blue sweaters camoflaging the real Stephen Harper until he gets a majority government. The real Stephen Harper is the Reform/Alliance Policy Advisor who wants to Americanize Canada with more powerful provincial governments, a smaller less important federal government with smaller taxes and reduced Federal responsibilities. This jeopardizes programs such as the Canada Pension Plan, Medicare programs, and transfer payments to universities creating a “Canada for the rich” and limited opportunity for the poor…he wants to create a “land of privilege”. Like, perhaps the worst American President ever, George W. Bush, the tax cuts Harper implements favours grand decreases for the rich and little for the poor. Witness a 2% cut in the GST. If you spend little like the poor, you benefit minimally. If you spend a lot like the rich, you benefit maximally. The similar situation is true for general tax decreases. Tax credits like those for children’s participation in sports programs again at maximum for the rich who can afford to have their children participate and nothing for the poor who cannot. He also implemented huge corporate tax decreases to improve the bottom line for the investors but nothing for the workers who produced all the wealth. In all ways, Harper benefits the rich, does little for the middle class, and virtually nothing for the poor.

In his recently disclosed fiscal update delivered by Finance Minister Flaherty on Nov. 27, 2008, he has stated his intention to outlaw strikes by the civil service, eliminate pay equity provisions of the country which insure pay equity for women, and to eliminate the $1.95 “kickback” per vote each party receives in a Federal Election. This subsidy was introduced to limit large donations by those who would want to benefit significantly from their donations…a bribe for “scratching their back”, to put it bluntly. The cutbacks to political party funding reduced their ability to hire researchers to provide an effective opposition, which was key to Harpers Plan…reduce the effectiveness of the opposition while giving Harper’s Government free rein with the use of government researchers and department expert staffs all paid for by the taxpayer. His strategy…silence the opposition and make it ineffective so he could steamroll unopposed!

Further, Harper has proven he is not a person of integrity in this new Obama age, when personal honesty, integrity and justice seem to be the new political order of the day, Harper has:

1) Repeatedly referred to a so-called negative ethic of making a deal to overthrow a minority government with the help of the BLOC, whom he says want to break up the country. In fact Harper signed a similar agreement with the BLOC to overthrow the Martin Government in 2004 and in TV presentations of December 4, 2008, repeatedly referred to the BLOC in his English message as SEPARISTIST (a negative connotation for that audience) and in his French message as SOVREIGNISTS (a positive connotation for that audience). Why a different message to different audiences?

2) Harper says that the only way the Liberal/NDP coalition can take over the reins of government is with a vote of the people in another General Election. This is blatantly untrue. Canada’s Constituition names the Prime Minister as the person who can command the “confidence of the House of Commons—Parliament”. Harper knows this and thus is the reason why he actually signed an agreement with the BLOC and the NDP in 2004 in an attempt to wrest control from the governing Liberals. If it was okay for Harper in 2004, why is it not okay for Dion in 2008?

3) Harper says the people elected him to be Prime Minister…again, blatantly untrue. Harper’s name only appeared on one ballot in the country in the riding of Calgary-Southwest, the only group of people that elected him. Similarly, all other ridings in the country elected someone on their unique ballot to represent their interests in Parliament. It’s true that each candidate for office had a party affiliation but this is incidental to who forms the government. If any MP who was a member of a party opposed his party vote, he could be responsible for turfing his party out of government according to the constitution as this may result in his former party losing the confidence of the house. Similarly, party numbers, and thus the government, may change when a member crosses the floor after election to support another party. This may result from blatant enticements and inducements such as cabinet appointments made by the party needing another member (Liberal Emerson from Vancouver who accepted a Cabinet Appointment from the Harper Government in 2006 to prop up the Conservative minority in Parliament, and the “reported” insurance benefits offered to the dying Chuck Cadman in trying to entice him to support Harper in attempting to replace the Paul Martin Liberal Government on a critical confidence vote. There have, of course, been movements from the Conservatives to Liberals at recent critical times (Scott Brison and Belinda Stronach come to mind)…but the point is, it is the majority members of the House of Commons quite irrespective of which party they supported when they were elected, that determines who governs. This is Proof that the members themselves are more important under the constitution rather than the parties they represent which is incidental to the fact under the constitution.

4) Harper questions the ethics of the Liberal/NDP/BLOC coalition, when in fact, his present government is a coalition of REFORM/ALLIANCE/PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE parties although this alliance under the banner of the Conservative Party did get electoal support as a minority government.

5) Harper argues the BLOC is out to destroy Canada and thus the Liberal/NDP Coalition should not be in any agreement with the BLOC to support their coalition budget and confidence without saying that he has sought their support over his term of power and in fact the BLOC have voted with Harper’s Government over 100 times including supporting his budgets on 14 occasions…Did Harper think they were destroying Canada then?

6) We are in critical economic times and Harper in two months since the election has not come up with a plan to stimulate the economy and in fact did not intend to have a budget until the end of January. The economic statement he had the Finance Minister read on Nov. 27, 2008, was combative, non conciliatory, and its contents only served to inflame the opposition.

So where do I think the present crisis is going to lead?
1) Harper will undoubtedly try to prorogue parliament suspending all action to intervene in our economy till the end of January. Hopefully, the Governor General will not agree to allow Harper to fiddle while Rome burns, economically speaking. This request though should lead to a credibility problem for Harper for trying to cling to power by asking that Parliament be suspended at this time of economic meltdown. I don’t believe that the Governor General will agree to this.

2) Secondly, Harper will call for another election. Again, I don’t think the Governor General will agree to this as we’ve just had an election.

3) I believe she will call on the Liberal/NDP coalition to form a government. I believe this government will be very socially progressive realizing that given the opportunity , the NDP and its forerunners have had profound influence on National Social Policy. Both Canada Pension and National Health Care were Tommy Douglas inspired and Petro Canada was Ed Broadbent inspired.

4) I further believe that the Liberal/NDP Coalition will give rise to a new political party, The Liberal Democrats, which will govern into the next decade or so. I believe also that this new party will sheppard in new eras of integrity, co-operation and consensus under which our people and our economy will flourish.

5) I believe that Conservatives will call a leadership convention at the earliest possible time to replace Stephen Harper as there is no place in Canadian Politics for an uncompromising demagogue.

6) I believe the resulting socially conscious coalition government will introduce such social policies as called for in my site

The New Coalition

The Coalition Agreement

Stephen Harper's negotiation with Bloc and NDP which he now calls "Separatists" and "Socialists" in his attempt to form a Coalition to overthrow Liberals in 2004

Liberals, NDP, Bloc sign coalition agreement

Leaders Vow Fast Economic Stimulous

Who Should Take Helm of Coalition?

Coalition Faces Uncharted Territory

Opposition Sets Coalition Terms

Is Bloc support for the Coalition a concern for Canadians?...A comment!

A Former Conservative Premier's Point of View

Rideau Hall's Choice

Dion's Letter to Governor General asking her not to proroge parliament

Constituionality of a coalition government

Conservatives Argument that they do have confidence of the house

Harper to talk to Canadians about constitutional crisis

Harper Lies about coalition details--Broadbent

Out Come the Knives

Prentice for Leader

John Baird for Leader

Harper Speaks to the Nation Tonight

Harper Questionned on Cadman Case

Secret Tape A Window on the Talks

Selected Press Reports Regarding Canada's Current Constitutional Challenge

Harper Shows His True Colours

Q & A On Coalition Governments

Harper was in on the ground floor on coalition building

Harper Invokes Bloc Bogeyman

Luxury Travel Contracdicts Tory Frugal Image

Constitution and Precedent are on Coalition's Side

Experts Weigh PM's Options

Harper Scrambles to Preserve Power

Tories Climb Down in Face of Coalitiom

Tories May Be Foisted By Own Consitutional Petard

This is not leadership

Coalition feud sparks flurry of online reaction

Harper Shows His True Colours