Harper`s Canada

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Harper’s Canada
John E. Trent
12 June 2015
1 Introduction
1.1 What has been said about the harms
of the Harper Conservatives? . . . . .
2 The Dumbing-Down of Canadian
2.1 Up the House of Commons . . . . . .
2.2 The Senate Scandal . . . . . . . . . .
2.3 Attacking the basis of Canadian
democracy: the electoral system . . .
2.4 The Prime Minister has all the power
2.5 Confrontation with the courts . . . . .
2.6 Trying to make the public service a
part of the Conservative Party . . . .
2.7 Sleaze Politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.8 Right wing policies undercutting
Canada’s democratic traditions . . . .
2.9 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.10 Harper headlines . . . . . . . . . . . .
4 Speak loudly and carry no stick at all:
Harper’s Foreign Policy or Abusing Foreign Policy to Build Local Support
4.1 Little knowledge of foreign policy explains simplistic approach . . . . . . .
4.2 Down with the United Nations . . . .
4.3 Harper supports Israel . . . . . . . . .
4.4 The Ups and Downs of Defence under
the Conservatives . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.5 Abuse of veterans . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.6 Arctic Farce . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.7 Despite Government Rhetoric, Canadian Humanitarian Aid Goes Via UN .
4.8 Development Assistance Goes Down
the Drain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
27 5 Economic and Political Policies: Mostly
for Business and the Rich
5.1 The Canadian economy: Not a National Action Plan . . . . . . . . . . .
of disintegration of the Canadian
under the Conservatives . . .
5.3 Policies that destroy . . . . . . . . . .
5.4 And More Policies that Hurt . . . . .
3 Stifling Science and Information, Muzzling Critics
6 Conclusion: The Necessary Renewal of
3.1 Silencing the scientific lambs . . . . . 31
3.2 Shutting up and shutting down our sci6.1 The Renewal Agenda . . . . . . . . . .
entific experts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
6.2 The Renewal of Canada: Possible Top3.3 Cutting off Canadian access to inforics For Pan-Canadian Conversations .
mation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
6.3 National Projects Requiring Action . .
3.4 Politicizing Canadian History . . . . . 38
6.4 Thinking about specific topics on the
3.5 Government communications conRenewal Agenda . . . . . . . . . . . .
trolled and misused . . . . . . . . . . . 38
6.5 Rethinking Democracy . . . . . . . . .
3.6 Spreading fear in Civil Society . . . . 40
6.6 Reducing Inequalities . . . . . . . . . .
A National Energy Policy: production, transportation and the environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
6.8 A New Look at Women’s Issues . . . . 102
6.9 Enhancing our Municipalities . . . . . 103
6.10 The Conservatives: Bad Economics,
Worse Management . . . . . . . . . . . 103
6.11 Vote Progressive . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
6.12 It ain’t over yet: In 2015 the Harper
Conservatives continue to harm Canada 108
7 References
7.1 Background Article References . . . .
7.1.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . .
7.1.2 The Dumbing Down of Democracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.1.3 Silencing the scientists and
muzzling critics . . . . . . . . .
7.1.4 Speak loudly and carry no stick
at all: Harper’s Foreign Policy
7.1.5 Economic and Political Policies: Mostly for Business and
the Rich . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7.1.6 The Necessary Renewal of
Canada . . . . . . . . . . . . .
opposition leaders and including the stifling of civil
society and watch-dog agencies. The crowds in the
streets are closely controlled. Offensive individuals
are publicly pilloried and perhaps taken off the playing field all together. Investments are concentrated
on short-term energy assets and resources, while technological innovation and the humanities and social
science are neglected. The legislature and governing party are controlled by an inner circle of powerful advisors. The police and military are modernized and heavily subsidized. Fear is nurtured. National pride is stimulated and public opinion captured
through the costly promotion of selective historical
events and public festivals like the Olympics and the
G-8. Both leaders have undertaken aggressive, singleminded foreign policy adventures to enhance their domestic standing with targeted clienteles. The leaders’
personalities are pumped up via international visits and humanizing photo-ops (Harper has not yet
been photographed bare-breasted). Democratic institutions are systematically undermined — including
elections, courts, the public service and agencies.
As I meditated on this analogy, I wondered if it
wasn’t too strong or simplistic. What was my surprise to come across an article that suggests we are
in fact observing a new category of regime in world
politics. Putin and Harper are not alone. Adhan
Knan, a writer and photographer from Istanbul and
Islamabad has given them the name of “managed
democracies” . These “neo-authoritarian states” include Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Ukraine,
Egypt, and Uzbekistan.
Khan provides the following rather unsettling definition: “A new form of democracy is on the rise in
the 21st century world. Its features are disturbing:
elections are held every five years or so; a winner is
announced who goes on to consolidate his power at
the expense of national institutions. Media freedoms
are curtailed, judicial independence undermined, security apparatuses corralled to serve the governing
clique, and civil society incapacitated. Those who
protest are crushed, arrested and jailed, undermining
open debate, the keystone for any democratic system.
And then the time comes for another round of elections and the cycle begins again. . . would-be dictators
cloaked in democratic garb.”
“The struggle of man against power is the
struggle of memory against forgetting” Milan Kundera, Czechoslovak anti-communist
novelist, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1979
“La MÉMOIRE reste un guide. Et l’OUBLI
. . . un danger”. Gilles Vigneault
One way to get a clear vision of Prime Minister
Stephen Harper is to make an analogy, to compare
him with similar cases. The similarities between
Putin’s Russia and Harper’s Canada are rather amazing. It starts with secrecy and centralized control at
the top. Power and wealth are entrusted to a close coterie of senior aids. Muzzling of the media is accompanied by reinforcing of alternate media. Opposition
is systematically dismantled, starting with fledgling
Such a description is hard for traditional Canadians to digest. One of the reasons for this booklet
is to provide chapter and verse to show that the description may be harsh but it is hardly an exaggeration. Our job as Canadian citizens is to recognize
the reality and to seek out a more progressive form
of democracy.
As one studies Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
his Conservative government, the authors, journalists
and scholars who have written about him rapidly focus a search light on a number or repetitive characteristics. He is mean and vengeful. The Canadian
Teachers Federation once likened him to a school
yard bully. He and his party ruthlessly attack and
try to destroy those they consider to be their opponents and enemies. The list is long. It includes, of
course, the opposition parties and their leaders especially the Liberals, but also lawyers, unions, public
servants, scientists, academics, agency heads, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as environmentalists, and journalists. Strangely enough, it can
also include members of their own party. He won a
seat in the House of Commons by defeating the Progressive Conservative who gave him his first job in
politics. As a fresh-faced Reform MP, he undercut
his leader, Preston Manning, with media leaks. He
went on to call a commission of inquiry that brought
his predecessor, Brian Mulroney, low and then issued
a ’fatwa’ against him. Today he detests Conservatives who go “off message” , that is, don’t follow to
the letter the party line. Nor does he like the major
media corporations. They too are “thrown under the
wheels of the bus” as “Harper and his Conservatives
have become ferocious partisans.”
Stephen Harper is also single minded. He has
a narrow view of the world based on his personal
economic and social conservative ideology which he
has spent a decade trying to impose on Canada and
Canadians. He is regressive. He wants to return
Canada to the past. His life work is to undo the
achievements of the Liberals and of liberalism of the
recent decades. Mr. Harper is a solitary man, distrustful of friends and colleagues. He never learnt the
dynamics of team play. He centralizes power in his
own hands and those of the Prime Minister’s Office
(PMO). In 2014 he drew the noose of the inner cir-
cle a little tighter when he named Dustin Van Vugt
as Executive Director of the Conservative party because he and his wife ’are trusted foot soldiers loyal
to Harper’. To know him is to know his party. So
much so that the party started producing a weekly
website video called 24 Seven of propaganda centred
on the Prime Minister but paid for with tax dollars.
From the Part’s point of view, it also has the merit
of getting around the conventional media and going
directly to the people.
He is secretive, hoarding information from Canadians through a calculated policy of communications
and cutting off sources of knowledge and evidence
such as the census. Of course, he hasn’t gotten where
he is through stupidity. He is smart. Harper knows
how to put two and two together. He moves stealthily
by little increments. He is diligent, working hard into
the night. But, all in all, his characteristics are the
antithesis, the very opposite, of being open, progressive, accommodating, civil and tolerant, the traits
by which Canadians had come to identify themselves
during the past half century.
By 2015, the Harper Conservatives (the name they
call themselves) will have been governing Canada for
10 years. When Canadians go to the polls in the
federal election that year, they should be aware of
the immense harm Harper has done to the traditional
Canada that the world had come to know and respect.
When he arrived in power in 2004 it was after
four consecutive Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. Finally the Liberals were
unmercifully crucified for their abuse of money and
power in the Quebec sponsorships scandal, eventually
laid bare in the Gomery Commission report. Stephen
Harper presented himself as a sort of Mr. Clean, a
man who would bring in a Conservative government
that stressed integrity, transparency, openness and
accountability. As we will see, this is not at all what
has happened.
As early as 2003, speaking at Civitas, a private
Conservative club in Toronto, Stephen Harper laid
out his plans for transforming Canada as an economic and social conservative. While admitting that
Prime Minister Thatcher of Great Britain and President Ronald Regan of the United States had already
realized much of the conservative agenda he said,
in government “we do need deeper and broader tax
cuts, further reductions in debt, further deregulation
and privatization.” The real challenge was in confronting “the social agenda of the modern left.” “Real
gains” he stressed “are inevitably incremental” . It is
clear that Prime Minister Harper has been driven by
a preconceived ideological agenda to turn back the
clock, to overturn the progressive state and replace
it with small, mean, regressive government. Even if
Thatcher and Reagan had succeeded in reducing government starting in the 1980s, the young Mr. Harper
wanted Canada to make a hard right turn to suit his
I will return to the notion “the traditional Canada”
in the Conclusion. Suffice it to say here that it manifests itself in our pride in Canada, our unity in diversity, mutual confidence and negotiated evolution, our
need for balance and inclusiveness, a sense of fairness
and accommodation, and a spirit of practical accommodation and continuous adaptation — both in national and foreign policy. At least it did until the
Harper Conservatives came along. Stephen Harper
and his colleagues have never been able to understand
the complex roots of Canada and the foundations of
its culture which is a search for balance and mutual
accommodation in a country of diverse forces that
need to be balanced. They have contravened all of
Canada’s traditional characteristics and attempted
to stand our way of dealing with each other on its
Prime Minister Harper has forgotten federalprovincial relations. He has hardly ever held a
federal-provincial conference. Conservative successes
in the West and suburban Ontario leave Atlantic
Canada declining in terms of population and political and economic dynamism. National policies of all
sorts have taken a beating. For instance, a multiyear
funding formula for health has been announced that
will transfer $30 billion less to the provinces than
the previous 10 year agreement and largely remove
Ottawa from its role in promoting a national public
health-care system.
We can say the same for Quebec which the Federal government has generally ignored and replace
it by an Anglo-Canadian agenda of a robust military and ties to the British monarchy and British
military history. Early on, the Harper Conservatives
had wooed Quebecers but turned their back on them
once they won a majority government without substantial Quebec support in 2011. That year, they
stripped equalization components out of programs
of which Quebec is the largest beneficiary, put the
’royal’ back in the navy and the air force, cut funding to Radio Canada, scrapped the long gun registry
and refused to let Quebec have its lists, toughened
criminal sentencing when Quebec favored rehabilitation, and pulled back on environmental issues Quebecers favor. This cutting Quebec adrift has been
reciprocated in Quebec by the independantists boasting that Canada has no real culture or relevance.
Thanks to the Harperites, we are back to the two
solitudes. In fact, there are three. As soon as they
came into power, the Harper Conservatives turned
their back on the native peoples by reneging on the
$5 billion Kelowna Accord painstakingly negotiated
between Ottawa, the provinces and the Aboriginals
over the previous two years. They have never been
able develop a working relationships with the native
peoples. This was not helped by the Prime Minister’s
statement that the murder of some 1,300 aboriginal
women and girls in the past ten years was not a sociological problem, only a series of crimes.
The narrow ideology of the Harper Conservatives
has been devoted to installing a more individualist, market-oriented, small-government Canada. Mr.
Harper’s deep convictions have driven a law and order agenda, cutting sales and corporate taxes, and
imposing spending cuts and job cuts on the public
service. Their entire time in power has been used to
transfer advantages to the private sector and denuding the federal government of its resources. The goal
has been to give corporations a free hand and to cut
their taxes. Unions have been attacked.
Instead of a balanced government, it has become
more and more centralized in the single hands of
the prime minister and his unelected servants in the
Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Harper has been an
autocratic centralizer of power, tightly controlling information, ministers and public servants. It is the
traditional Canadian democracy that has suffered
most under the Harper Conservative. Many institutions such as the House of Commons, the Senate, the
Cabinet, Elections Canada, have been terribly diminished. A culture of secrecy has been installed, the media brought to heel, and CBC minimalized. Harper
has systematically attacked not only opposition parties but public servants and non-governmental organizations. The tradition of big-tent accommodation,
fairness, mutual respect and tolerance are nowhere to
be found in the Harper regime which has been dominated by divisive, negative politics. Harper stands
accused of supporting, often surreptitiously, conservative social values and religious institutions to the
point where he has even had an office of religious
rights created in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The regime’s ideology is manifested in many of
the Harper Conservative policies. A harsh regime
of ’law and order’ ignores the roots of crime in its
drive for more prisons and more people in them for
longer terms – at a great cost to the society. Environmentalism, green policies and combatting climate change have been hobbled by policies which
serve only to advance resource extracting industries.
Every effort has been made to restrict scientific information, the census and communications so that
Canada is no longer a land of progressive, evidence
based governance. Billions of dollars have been cut
from government social programs while agencies and
departments have been emasculated. Programs and
agencies such as the Status of Women and Court
Challenges programs, Canada Mortgage and Housing, the Law Commission, the Long-arms Registry,
the Law Commission, the Long-form Census, Experimental Lakes Area program, the Arctic Institute, and
the National Round Table on the Environment and
the Economy (amongst dozens of others), many arts,
culture and research programs and most environmental and fisheries activities have been eliminated or
seriously curtailed.
As it is in domestic politics, so it is in foreign policy. Canada has traditionally supported efforts for
international peace, order and justice and multilateral institutions like the United Nations, as the best
context in which to balance American power and advance Canada’s own interests as one of the world’s
smaller major countries. But this is no longer acceptable under the Harper Conservatives. Harper announced early on in his Civitas speech that foreign af-
fairs would be fought on “Moral grounds. . . to defend
democracy, free enterprise and individual freedom”
(John Ibbitson, The Globe and Mail, 28-04-12). Because of this orientation, Canada has become a harsh,
abrasive and aggressive country. All sense of our competence as a prudent negotiator has been abandoned.
We are now renowned internationally as an environmental dinosaur, the only country to have renounced
its signature to the Kyoto Agreement and the African
Dessertification Control Treaty. We actively thwart
environmental negotiations. The Harper Conservative’s one-sided support for Israel in the Middle East,
the closure of our embassy in Iran and refusal of diplomatic attempts to seek reconciliation with them, our
minimal help for the Darfur and Mali, our thoughtless
insults to China and Russia, and our lack of respect
for the United Nations have not gone unnoticed by
our friends and allies. Numerous Canadian foreign
policy experts have noted how our country has been
diminished and Canadian pride trampled.
Although Harper has been determined to eliminate
everything that is liberal, it is not really a question
of being liberal or conservative. In fact, many Canadians have a strong streak of conservatism what with
our continuous search for peace and stability, good
government, and a slow evolutionary approach to development. Rather it is a question of being reactionary or progressive. Harper is a reactionary who
wants both to turn back the clock and serve a right
wing ideology.
Two final thoughts are in order before drawing this
introduction to a close. The motive for producing this
booklet is that it is all too easy for people to forget
what has gone on in politics for the past ten years.
Many may be tempted to forgive and forget. At the
same time, the governing party is in a position to
make vast electoral promises, and can use it’s, and
the government’s, financial resources and communications professionals to inundate the public with its
own campaign propaganda. That is why it is wise
for Canadians to be aware of the long list of harms
done to Canada by the Harper Conservatives. More
important, when you are reading about the current
situation, please keep asking yourself how we could
improve what is going on at present in the Canadian government. This is the most important aspect
of the booklet. We must ask ourselves how to improve Canada — what policies, institutions and procedures — will help us improve our governance and
our democracy? This is the subject to which we will
return in the conclusion.
What has been said about the
harms of the Harper Conservatives?
• “Here is a comment Harper himself made in 2009.
When it comes down to it he told the Globe
and Mail, ”I don’t believe any taxes are good
taxes,“ which is just a short way of saying he
believes that literally everything the state does
is bad.” (Andrew Potter, Maclean’s Magazine,
Second, this booklet is not meant to present a “balanced” picture of the past 10 years. It is a critical
analysis of the Harper regime. To borrow a term
from the Conservatives, the booklet is about ’principles’ and not ’going along to get along’. It would be
hypocritical to try to be even-handed when what voters need most is an unvarnished portrait of the house
that Harper has built as opposed to what Margaret
Atwood called, “the kind of country we want to live
in” . The Conservatives have abused tax payer money
to put forth their side of the story in thousands of
television ads. If you want to know about Conservative policies just watch the TV ads tonight. You
do not have to accept this booklet as the only truth.
But, in light of the Conservative’s abuse of knowledge
and information it is important that this book be
based on fact. So everything written in this booklet
is backed up by references to events and to other authors, experts, journalists, politicians and academics.
To save space and small print, these references are
presented on my webpage at johntrent.ca
• “The Prime Minister has established what could
be called ’Brand Canada’ — a land of low
taxes, law and order, and a strong military, infused with a robust nationalism, rooted in the
West and powered by Ontario’s affluent aspirational suburbs. . . There are dangers of their decline as regions drift apart and factions grow
more strident. . . the country will be a very different place. . . It will be divided as never before between left and right, progressive and conservative, east and west, decline and growth
— a clash of irreconcilable values. . . Lamenting
what he calls the dismantling of the progressive state. . . In 2003, speaking in Toronto to Civitas, a private Conservative club, Harper laid
out his core beliefs and priorities, we do need
deeper and broader tax cuts, further reductions in debt, further deregulation and privatization. . . ” (John Ibbitson, ’Harper Unbound:
Majority Rule: Year One’, Globe and Mail, 2804-201.
The reader should recognize that this booklet does
not just come out of my head. As a politist (political
scientist) I have tried to provide an empirical analysis
of facts and opinions about the Harper Government
using mainly the Canadian news media, particularly
the daily new papers during the past six years. This
being said, the facts and opinions are indeed selective. As mentioned above and in the Conclusion, my
choices are based on my 30 years of efforts to interpret the Canadian identity and what has and should
make Canada function best. The reader is free to
agree — or not.
“As an architect of Mr. Harper’s party, Tom
Flanagan was complicit in the cultivation of a climate of ruthlessness that put the PM into power
and has kept him there. The iron law of this political culture is that you do whatever it takes
to win. People and principles are expendable.
Dissent is not tolerated. Policies are props that
are fashioned to appeal to voters. Everything
is evaluated through the prism of whether it will
help or hurt the leader.” (Margaret Wente. ’The
Conscience of a Conservative’, The Globe and
Mail, 26-04-2114).
We will now go on to look at the Harper Conservative record in greater detail. In addition to the
usual narrative form, each chapter will include some
unique way of looking at the Harper record. Here,
to reinforce the Introduction’s depiction of Harper’s
Canada, I use a series of media quotes.
• “Something old: a way of doing politics —
controlling, secretive, obsessive, almost paranoid. . . the Prime Minister has his hands on everything of importance in the government. He
is formidably well-informed. When confronted
with positions that differ from his own, he
punches back, and hard. He will punch and
punch again, and his opponents will go away psychologically bleeding.” (Jeffrey Simpson, Globe
and Mail, 20-07-13).
Conservatives are masters.” (Andrew Cohen,
Ottawa Citizen, 14-05-2013).
• “Mr. Harper seems to be further alienating most
Quebeckers in an almost calculated way. Consequently, the vast majority have concluded that
he has written off Quebec politically. And not
surprisingly, the feeling is mutual. . . Not only is
Mr. Harper not the solution, he’s the problem.”
(Peter G. White, ’Quebec separatism: Harper’s
costly French kiss-off.’ Globe and Mail, 6-052013).
• “The party Mr. Harper sought would be more
tightly focused on fewer voters, but they would
be intensely loyal and capable of being rallied
around the three themes of market, family and
patriotism.” (Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail,
• Ekos Research asked 4,568 Canadians, “Do you
approve or disapprove of how Stephen Harper is
handling his job?” By 50 per cent to 28 per cent
the response was No. (Jeffrey Simpson, ’How
low can the Harper Conservatives go?’ Globe
and Mail, 27-04-2013).
• “If today both Harper and the party he leads
are actively disliked by more than seven voters
in 10, it may be because they have gone out
of their way to alienate them in every conceivable way — not by their policies, or even their
record, but simply by their style of governing,
as over-bearing as it is under-handed, and that
on a good day. . . When they are not refusing to
disclose what they are doing, they are giving
out false information; when they allow dissenting opinions to be voiced, they smear them as
unpatriotic or worse; when they open their own
mouths to speak, it is to read the same talking
points over and over, however these may conflict
with the facts, common courtesy, or their own
most solemn promises. . . Secretive, controlling,
manipulative, crude, autocratic, vicious, unprincipled, untrustworthy, paranoid . . . even by the
standards of Canadian politics, it is quite the
performance.” (Andrew Coyne, ’Nasty Party
reputation well deserved’, The Ottawa Citizen,
• “If you want government action to have any relation to society’s real needs, you must measure
the society’s characteristics accurately every now
and then. . . The Harper government is moving in
the opposite direction. It will spend more money
to send more of these long-form questionnaires to
more people, to produce a survey with a larger
sampling error so more millions of dollars can be
misallocated, and citizens will have fewer independent benchmarks against which to judge any
of this.” (Paul Wells, ’Harpers got us just where
he wants us’, Maclean’s Magazine, 16-08-2010).
• The Calgary West fight leaves the Conservative
Party in the awkward position of appearing to repudiate its Reform and Canadian Alliance populist roots, as well as Mr. Harper’s promises back
in opposition that he would never shield candidates from nomination battles. “It’s really interesting to watch the hypocrisy. It’s fascinating
what a so-called populist government does when
they obtain power,” says Keith Brownsey, a political scientist at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. (Stephen Chase, Globe and Mail, 10-022010).
• “Rather than elevating political life, the Conservatives have diminished it. They disdain the
rules of Parliament. They muzzle backbenchers.
They avoid the media. Critics pointedly call the
government nasty and high-handed. It practices
the politics of slash and burn. At this, Harper’s
• “ . . . nothing in Canada has come close to the attention, time and effort the Harper government
• “The propaganda machine has become mammoth and unrelenting. The parliamentary newspaper, the Hill Times, recently found there are
now no fewer than 1,500 communications staffers
on the governing payroll . . . virtually every government communication is filtered through central command.” (Lawrence Martin, Globe and
Mail, 29-11-2011).
puts into message managing, manipulating, and
image-making. Every message from anyone, be
it a minister or civil servant, has to be vetted
by the Prime Minister’s Office and, astonishingly, quiet often by the Prime Minister himself. . . Every time the government gets a request
for information, or a government person is designated to speak, a Message Event Proposal is prepared. . . Worse, there is a pervasive fear within
this government — fear of making a mistake,
of saying something ever so slightly off message
or creating the mildest unexpected controversy.”
(Jeffrey Simpson, ’The price we pay for a government of fear’, Globe and Mail, 8-06-2010).
• “Conservative tactics in the House of Commons
— essentially to never apologize, never explain,
rarely answer and always attack, while routinely
misrepresenting opponents positions, have gone
from bad to worse in the new session. The odious practice of routinely using omnibus legislation to ram unrelated measures through Parliament, which drew so much fire in 2012, continues
apace with Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s ’cyberbullying’ bill. (Michael Den Tandt, Citizen,
• “The great political migration of Canada’s Jewish community from the Liberals to the Conservatives is almost reflexively attributed to Prime
Minister Stephen Harper’s emphatic support for
Israel: if Mr. Harper champions Israel, the Jewish community will champion him. . . The Conservative government takes a “principled stance”
or as other would have it, dirty wedge politics”.
(Craig Offman, Globe and Mail, 30-11-2013).
• “A government’s tone and style gradually shape
an electorate’s view. Do people feel comfortable?... And this government’s tone and style are
beginning to wear on more and more Canadians.
The ferocious partisanship, the excessive secrecy,
the negative television ads, the lying directed at
opponents, the overwhelming sense that enemies
abound (including most of the media, of course),
the most manic preoccupation with spin and image, and now little scandals from the Senate have
created the impression. . . of a government that
has ideology and agenda but not much heart, empathy, feeling or understanding for anyone who
doesn’t share that ideology and agenda.” (Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail, 5-07-2013).
• “This quiet relaunch of the monarchy forms
part of a larger campaign, led by a group of
fierce monarchists. . . These men make no secret
of their eagerness to erase the Liberal dominated
narrative of recent Canadian history, with its
emphasis on the Charter, multiculturalism, and
the flag, and replace it with other, older traditions that embrace military victories and historical identification with Britain.” (Charlotte Gray,
’Reign Maker’, Walrus, Jan. 2012)
• “The state under Stephen Harper is becoming all-intrusive. Conservatism, as defined by
Ronald Regan, was about getting government
off the backs of the people. Conservatism, as
practiced by team Harper is more akin to an
Orwellian opposite. State controls are now at
a highpoint in our modern history.” (Lawrence
Martin, ’Message Control: Under this PM, the
state is everywhere’, Globe and Mail, 29-112011)
• “Clear eyed Conservatives should be aware
Harper has destroyed the name of Conservatives
for a generation” (Ottawa Citizen, 11-07-2011).
• “Mr. Harper promised Canadians a different
kind of government — modest, anti-elitist, and
respectful of the tax-payer’s dime. Now it turns
out that Conservatives can milk the system just
like anyone else. And when they get caught,
their buddies in high places will bail them out
• “It is a regression to the most primitive stage
of human superstition and credulity. . . believing
in magic. . . or ’gut feelings’ by politicians in
lieu of arguments based on reason and sound
research. . . facts matter not at all. . . Reagan
had no qualms about inventing things when
it seemed convenient. . . What Reagan was ultimately able to show is that even in the political
realm, repetition can overpower reality. . . One
way of understanding contemporary right-wing
ideology is to see it as a whole-hearted embrace
of these new conditions. Conservatives have become the party of all intuition, all the time.”
(Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter, ’Sanity: Facts
matter not at all. Perception is everything’, Ottawa Citizen, 26-05-2012).
(e.g. Nigel Wright). Conservatives are like the
kind of people they used to loath. But that’s
what happens when outsiders become insiders.
People start to feel entitled. They can’t resist
rewarding their friends.” (Margaret Wente, ’Ottawa insiders look after themselves’, Globe and
Mail, 21-05-13).
• “The National Research Council will be taking
its scientific cues from Canadian industry. . . The
move is in keeping with the Conservative government’s emphasis on a business model for public
policy, such as tying foreign aid to economic development.” (Barry McKenna & Ivan Semeniuk,
Globe and Mail, 8-05-2013).
• “Close to none of his Cabinet colleagues, Harper
ignores many, intimidates most, and trusts only
a few. He abhors spontaneity and showmanship,
fearing they open the door to mistakes and misunderstandings. . . He didn’t learn the dynamics
of team play. He seldom socializes. . . A room
filled with people he doesn’t know is Stephen
Harper’s idea of hell... He is a solitary guy. He is
very calculating”. (Jeffrey Simpson & B. Laghi,
Globe and Mail, 4-10-08).
• “We are incessantly pummelled with the rightwing litany: ’taxes are too high, workers are too
entitled, government is too big and a drag on
wealth creators, any restriction on the wealthy
is an attack on freedom, and unions are parasites. . . This agenda is benefitting the richest 1%
while the rest of us pay the price through reduced social services, job insecurity, environmental devastation, increased personal debt, soaring
tuition, and privatization of health care.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 28-06-2013.
• “His long-term goal, Harper said, is to make
Conservatives the natural governing party of the
country. . . a long-term determination to move
it — to transform Canadian society. . . He is so
intent on his long-term goal that he will not
let mere principle get in the way of reaching
that goal. . . This is a massive decentralization of
Canadian federalism . . . a small government revolution. . . So that’s the goal, a smaller federal
government.” (Paul Wells, ’Harper’s Canadian
Revolution’, Maclean’s Magazine, 29-09-2008).
• On parting company with the Conservatives, the
MP Rathberger. . . said, “the Prime Minister’s
Office seems to be accountable to nobody, not
even the Prime Minister and that PMO staffers
in their 20s operate opaquely and routinely without adult supervision.” Harper can’t afford to allow the perception to take root that he governs
through a highly centralized coterie of unelected
aides, dangerously disconnected from the rest of
his party. (John Geddes, ’Last chance to lead’,
Maclean’s Magazine, 24-06-2013).
• “A Conservative party that is not frightened
to embrace social conservatism and a hard-core
shift to the right. . . They include an attack on
unions and public service workers, condemnation
of gender-selection abortion and euthanasia, and
protection of the rights of gun owners. . . to satisfy his core base. . . ” (Mark Kennedy, ’PM’s
party tilts further to the right’, Ottawa Citizen,
• “Much has been made of the government’s muzzling of the science community, its low regard
for statistics, its hard line against environmentalists. . . there is some wonder about the motivation for these impulses. . . The Prime Minister is
a member of the Alliance Church, more specifi9
cally the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The
Church believes the free market is divinely inspired and views of science and environmentalism with what might be called scorn. . . Mr.
Harper never speaks about his religious beliefs;
much of what’s said about them is speculation. . . Given evangelicals’ strong ties to politics, the subject should not be left unexamined.”
(Lawrence Martin, ’Faith and Reason: Religion’s
fair game if it motivates politics’, Globe and
Mail, 31-07-2012).
• “It has become a commonplace of late to say
Conservatives have ’lost their way’. That’s not
about their navigational skills but their state of
mind: an acute lack of self-awareness that blinds
them to what they have become, a blinkered conviction of their own superior cleverness, a closed
loop of defensiveness that interprets every criticism that proves the rightness of the course they
are on. . . They must constantly be on the attack
and of course they cannot allow themselves to
be weakened by internal dissent, and of course
they cannot be open with the public about their
plans. . . It is the attitude of parties that have lost
touch, not just with their principles, or their supporters, but with reality. . . Its default demeanour
is sullen, wary, bullying and moronic.” (Andrew
Coyne, ’Six Degrees of Stephen Harper’, Ottawa
Citizen, 22-06-2013).
• “Cui bono the Romans asked? Who benefits?
If applied to most of the major laws and policies of the Harper government over the past
eight years, it would reveal that the beneficiaries
have overwhelmingly been the top executives, investors, and shareholders of the largest corporations. They have benefited from the massive corporate tax cuts, the privatization of public services, the attacks on unions and union rights, the
refusal to curb industrial pollution, the deregulations of controls on marketing, and the lax enforcement of regulations that remain.” Ed Finn,
CCPA Monitor, Ottawa, Canadian Centre for
Policy Alternatives, Feb., 2014)
• “Which Conservative MP had the bright idea
to dismantle the monopolistic Canadian Wheat
Board?... In a recent plebiscite, 62 per cent
of farmers voted to retain the Wheat Board’s
’single desk’ structure. . . This is just more ideological claptrap from a rigid government that
favours unbridled capitalism over ’socialist’ grain
co-operatives. Since 1935, the Canadian Wheat
board has matched up grain producers with
global markets. Without CWB support, how
will one individual farmer cope with that daunting task?” Patricia Robertson, Globe and Mail,
• “Conservative Party advertisements that denigrate Justin Trudeau’s past employment as a
teacher are an unwarranted attack on the profession and akin to the kind of bullying schools are
trying to control, says the Canadian Teacher’s
Federation?” (Glen McGregor, Ottawa Citizen,
• “The Conservatives are planning another attack on the new Liberal leader — this time using taxpayer’s dollars. . . They are planning to
send thousands of taxpayer-funded mail-outs to
households. . . ” (Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen, 25-04-2013).
• “Harper’s inconsistences and course corrections
. . . He accused critics of wanting to ’cut and
run’ in Afghanistan . . . but began withdrawing
Canadian forces . . . He was never going to downplay China’s human rights abuses . . . until it became useful recently to ardently court China
as a customer for tar sands . . . Other surprises:
Mulroney-style Senate appointments . . . The use
of G8 funding to help Tony Clement secure
re-election . . . The inexcusable defence of an
Employment Insurance agency that has done
no work . . . Defunding ideologically suspect aid
agencies . . . Expanding PMO staffing . . . The
threat of lost jobs in the federal public service
. . . Selling Canadian energy to the highest bidder, shipping unrefined product and jobs to other
places . . . Meddling in the market with favorable
tax treatment for the oil industry, weakening environmental reviews, and trash-talking foreign
environmentalists. . . Voter suppression via robocalls . . . Shrill defence of the Northern Gateway
pipeline. . . Frontal attacks on old age security
. . . ” (Susan Riley, ’Harper wins when voters
snooze’, Ottawa Citizen, 27-01-2012).
first elected seven years ago, Mr. Harper complained about the patronage appointments that
were handed out by the previous Liberal government. . . (Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, 2705-2013).
• “In the alternative universe that is contemporary
Ottawa, secrecy is accountability, subversion is
reform, communications are policy, movement is
action, convictions trump evidence, and incompetence passes effectiveness.” (Paul Heinbecker,
’Ottawa, the Foreign Policy Wonderland’, the
electronic Globe and Mail, 02-04-2014).
• “Set aside for a moment the Senate expense scandal, concerning the still unfathomable $90,000
payment to former Conservative Senator Mike
Duffy from former PMO Chief of Staff Nigel
Wright. Let’s take a glance at the rest: Federal Court judge Richard Mosley ruled that in
the May 2011 election fraud occurred in ridings
nationwide. . . the judge found that the perpetrators had access to the Conservative Party’s
CIMS database. The fraud was high-tech and
widespread. . . Next is the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and its patronage-tainted
hiring of Kevin Mac Adam, a former staffer
of Defence Minister Peter MacKay. . . One time
Stephen Harper appointee Arthur Porter. . . was
arrested in Panama this week and charged with
fraud. . . The backdrop has been the excruciatingly public meltdown in Toronto of the Ford
brothers’ political dynasty — staunchly Conservative and pro-Harper.” (Michael Den Tandt,
’Conservatives scandals grow by the day’, Ottawa Citizen, 29-05-2013).
• “The Prime Minister’s condemnation of Russian
violation of international law would have carried more moral weight if he had not previously
so strongly supported the illegal US invasion of
Iraq and consistently turned a blind eye to the
illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and
the 550,000 Israelis illegally settled there. Outside the alternative universe of Ottawa, forgiving
your friends and condemning your adversaries
for violations of international law is not principled foreign policy. And it is not leadership.”
Paul Heinbecker, ’Ottawa, the Foreign Policy
Wonderland’, the electronic Globe and Mail, 0204-2014).
• “As of Feb. 1, 2012, the number of full-time employees in the Prime Minister’s Office was 94,
with 21 of them making $100,000 or more . . . The
cost of Harper’s office soared 30 per cent between
2007 and 2010, from around $7.6 million to $9.8
million. . . ” (Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, 1304-2012.
• The Social Security Tribunal, which began work
last month as the body that will hear appeals
of employment assurance, Canada Pension Plan
and Old Age Security decisions has hired 46 fulltime members and a chair-person. The government says the tribunal will be ’fair, credible, impartial and independent. But at least
hals of the tribunal members — who will earn
as much as $124,500 a year — have ties to the
Conservatives. . . Before the Conservatives were
• “The pattern that emerges from these and other
bungles. . . is a consistent one. Step one: Fail to
gather consensus or anticipate opposition. Step
two: Make no effort to disarm or to co-opt critics, but antagonize them at every turn. Step
three: Attempt to bluster or to bully them into
submission. Step four: Ignore warnings of imminent collision with reality. Step five: crash and
burn.” (Andrew Coyne, ’Harper’s reputation as
strategist obscures his screw-ups’, Ottawa Citizen, 29-04-2014).
• “When 11 former presidents of the Canadian bar
Association rebuke the government for attacking
Canada’s top jurist, it is fair to ask the question:
How low can Prime Minister Harper’s government go? ... Attacking the integrity of the Chief
Justice is a very serious matter, an attack with-
out precedent in Canadian history. It shows a
Prime Minister furious at the Supreme Court,
angry at obstacles put in the way of his exercise
of power, willing to misrepresent facts and lash
out at one of the country’s most respected persons. . . What must especially gall Mr. Harper
is that he appointed a majority of the Court’s
current judges.” Jeffrey Simpson, ’Conservatives
sink to a new low’, Globe and Mail, 7-05-2014.
• “Watching the Harper government stumble from
one needless controversy to another — picking fights, settling scores, demeaning institutions
and individuals alike in the pursuit of no discernible principle or even political gain — one
has the distinct impression of a government, and
a prime minister, spinning out of control. . . At
what point do Conservatives of goodwill become
concerned about the long-term damage being
done to their party’s reputation under its present
leadership?” (Andrew Coyne, ’Harper’s reckless
smear of Canada’s top judge’, Ottawa Citizen,
• “Mr. Harper putting Pierre Poilievre in as
his Minister of Democratic Reform means we
will soon have no democracy at all.
Poilievre would no doubt feel comfortable defending ’democracy’ on the streets of Kiev with
the remnants of the skinheads there. Putting
this fellow who has shown little understanding
of democratic principles or practices in charge of
’reforming’ those practices is, in effect, Harper’s
way of retiring the whole concept of democracy
from Canadian politics.” (Fred Ryan, ’Kissing
old Canada good-bye?’ West Quebec Post, 1804-2014).
• “He is an evangelical conservative, so dedicated
to converting others to his world view that he has
transformed — polarized, really — the political
life of the country (Ibbitson 28-04-12).”
• “Harper’s new brand Canada seems to be on the
rise: aggressively patriotic, conservative on fiscal
policy and on the law-and-order front, relatively
unconcerned about the environment. . . proud of
its military and willing to spend money on it
(John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail, 28-04-12).”
• “Opposition to a Harper dynasty will coalesce
around someone with a set of opposing values
voters come to prefer (ibid).”
• “Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party is infused
with his own dedication to economic and social
conservatism. Rather than being a brokerage
party, it is values based. Eventually a progressive coalition will rise to challenge it making national politics a two-party, values-based contest
(Ibbitison 28-04-12).”
• “Nothing seems likely to stop the Canadian drift
toward politics defined by ideological divides
that Stephen Harper himself defined (John Ibbitson, ’Harper Unbound’ Globe and Mail, 2804-12 p.F6.).”
• Letter in the Globe and Mail: “For years, ’Ready,
Aim, Fire’ has been the Harper government’s
preferred approach to real or imagined problems.
This government can’t get passed an ideology
that brooks no compromise, that sees problems
where they don’t exist, science as belief rather
than fact, and enemies nearly everywhere” . (Edward Carson, Toronto, 19-06-2014).
• “Those who thought the Harper government
would ease up a bit after winning a majority
were wrong. . . If anything, the Harper government is more bullying, scornful of dissent, intent
on controlling every utterance, contemptuous of
the media and determined to carry on political
war at all times and by any means. . . You might
have thought that, with the prospects of four
more years in office, the government might be
somewhat less paranoid, controlling, doctrinaire
and relentlessly partisan. Forget that naiveté.”
Jeffrey Simpson, “Harper Government: And the
bullying goes on” , Globe and Mail, 16-12-2011.
• “Two protests seemingly miles apart, were about
the kind of country we want to live in. a) Save
our prison farms — they mean local food chains,
rehabilitation, mental health, socialization, minimum security; and b) What are prisons for —
Keeping us safe? Rehabilitation? Or harsh
punishment, pure and simple? The Canada we
thought we knew: civic responsibility, lending a
hand, second chances. This image got a boot in
the face. The Prime Minister has shown a suspicious interest in the infliction of pain.” Margaret
Atwood, Globe and Mail, 6-07-2010.
• “Dans les officines du pouvoir, l’information est
toujours filtrée. Avec ce gouvernement, déjà hostile aux medias, elle l’est davantage. Il apparaît clair, cependant, que M. Harper ne veut
pas seulement changer le gouvernement. Il veut
changer la société, le pays tout entier, le remodeler selon des schèmes de pensées plus conservatrices.” (Pierre Allard, ’Le brouillard malsain de
la propagande’, Le Droit, 9-09-2011).
• “Que doit-on penser, que doit-on faire d’un gouvernement qui fond plusieurs de ses grandes
politiques sur un monde sorti tout droit de
son imagination idéologique?
En matière
d’environnement, de criminalité, d’aide financière, et maintenant dans le dossier du recensement de 2011, le gouvernement Harper fait
constamment fi de la réalité . . . pour imposer
un agenda truffé d’embuches.” (Pierre Allard,
’Quand l’idéologie domine la réalité . . . ’ éditorial, Le Droit, 2011).
• “Lettre au premier ministre Stephen Harper; Ce
n’est pas ce Canada que je veux laisser à mes enfants et dans lequel je veux vivre. . . un Canada
qui ne se préoccupe plus d’environnement, qui
renie ses engagements internationaux, qui encourage les inégalités sociales, qui privilégie la
répression plutôt que la prévention et la réhabilitation dans la lutte contre la crime, qui réduit les services à la population pour les questions budgétaires, tout en réduisant l’impôt aux
corporations, qui se dote d’équipements militaires dernier cri, mais qui refuse de maintenir le financement de la santé aux provinces,
qui dilapide l’argent lorsqu’il organise des activités G7 — G20 mais qui coupe les subventions aux organismes culturels, qui est gouverné
de façon irrespectueuse par rapport à ses institutions démocratiques.” (Michel Hérvieux, Le
Droit, 3-01-2012).
• “Nycole Turmel se dit choquée qu’on utilise les
événements familiaux (le Bal de Neige) pour
promouvoir le début d’une guerre. . . C’est une
fête de famille qui célèbre l’hiver. Les conservateurs utilisent cet événement pour promouvoir la guerre alors que nos soldats se plaignent
qu’ils n’ont pas les ressources nécessaires pour
faire face à diverses séquelles comme le stresse
post-traumatiques, dit-elle”. (Philippe Orfali,
’La guerre encore au menu du Bal de neige :
l’activité avait soulevé un tollé en 2012, Le Droit,
• “Dans ce dossier de réforme de la loi électorale, l’ébauche du projet de loi s’est fait
sans consultation, ni des élus ni des autorités
concernées. . . Pierre Poilievre n’a en rien aidé.
Partisan et abrasif il a adopté sans retenu la
stratégie conservatrice d’attaquer ses adversaires
avec des flèches personnelles. Il a accusé le Directeur général des Élections d’être assoiffé de
pouvoir et a remis en cause l’impartialité de l’exvérificatrice générale,” Sheila Fraser. . . (Pierre
Jury, Éditorial, Le Droit, 29-04-2014).
• “Élu dans les sillages du scandale des commandites et des révélations de la Commission Gomery, Stephan Harper se présentait
comme un ’Monsieur Net’, comme un croisé
de l’intégrité et de la transparence, comme un
défenseur du Parlement et du peuple. . . Il n’a
fallu que quelques années pour que la main
de fer du premier ministre applique une discipline rigide, étouffant les dissensions dans les
rangs, érigeant une muraille presque infranchissable pour les médias, faisant même fi de la
volonté du Parlement. . . ” (Pierre Allard, ’Pouvoir et corruption’, éditorial, Le Droit, 21-062013).
• “Le groupe ’Journalistes canadiens pour la liberté d’expression’ a attribué une note de D —
• “Des exemples de dérapages se multiplient depuis
quelques mois.
Deux ministers John Duncan and Peter Penashue ont été contraints de
démissionner. . . Le gouvernement Harper a aussi
réussi à faire l’unanimité contre lui dans cinq
provinces en imposant sa réforme controversée de
l’assurance-emploie. . . Le gouvernement fédéral
a consacré 12 milliards de dollars dans la lutte
contre le terrorisme entre 2001 et 2009 mais on
ignore à quoi ont servi $3 milliards de cette
somme. . . Le gouvernement Harper a dépensé
$113 millions en annonces publicitaires pour la
promotion de ses budgets depuis 2009. Les partis de l’opposition estiment qu’il s’agit de la publicité partisane. . . Le gouvernement conservateur
a dépensé $23 million en frais de surveillance
des médias. . . Une douzaine de députés conservateurs ont aussi commencé à contester l’emprise
qu’exerce sur eux le bureau du premier ministre.”
(Joël-Denis Bellavance, La Presse, 13-05-2013).
à la performance du gouvernement sur les questions de transparence. Le rapport accuse le gouvernement d’entretenir une ’culture du secret’ illustré par certaines politiques et méthodes pour
museler les scientifiques du gouvernement. Sa
note était de F — un échec — l’an dernier. Le
Canada se classe 55ième parmi les 93 pays qui
ont les lois qui encadrent les demandes d’accès
à l’information — à cause des lois canadiennes
“archaïques”. . . Selon le Gouvernement conservateur il est “le plus ouvert et transparent de
l’histoire du Canada”. (La Presse, 2-05-13).
• “Aux prises avec un déficit record de 56 milliards $ en 2009-2010, le gouvernement Harper
prêche l’austérité budgétaire depuis deux ans.
Mais il semble que certains échappent à cette
austérité. . . Le budget de fonctionnement du
cabinet de Stephen Harper a augmenté de 30%
en deux ans.” (Joël-Denis Bellavance, La Presse,
• “Le personnel politique du gouvernement Harper
a empoché autour de 30 millions $ en indemnités de départ, dont plus de la moitié en sommes
versées à la discrétion des ministres, depuis que
les conservateurs ont pris le pouvoir en 2006.”
(Dominique La Haye, Journal de Montréal, 105-2014)
• “Sur les 30 événements prévu par le nouveau
Musée canadien de l’histoire à Gatineau, pour
commémorer le 150ième anniversaire du Canada,
26 vont célébrer des guerres, a dénoncé le député
libéral Stéphane Dion.” (Stéphanie Marin, La
Presse Canadienne à Ottawa).
• “Douze organisateurs et dirigeants conservateurs
ont ignoré, hier, l’invitation à comparaître devant le comité de l’éthique de la Chambre des
Communes qui étudie les dépenses électorales du
Parti conservateur. . . À ces 12 personnes, on doit
ajouter 11 agents officiels de candidats conservateurs lors des dernières élections, qui n’ont pas
daigné se montrer le bout du nez. . . (Isabelle Rodrigue, Le Droit, 14-08-2008).
The Dumbing-Down of Canadian Democracy
“Democracy is not an easy system of governance. It is fragile and its essence cannot be guaranteed only because there is an
assurance of periodic elections. . . This requires constant vigilance lest the people who
come into power. . . then go astray. This
vigilance can be exercised only if there is
information available to the people. Thus
transparency and availability of information
is critical to hold the government accountable.” Social Watch E-Newsletter, [email protected]
“The strangest of “strange things” inherent
in Prime Minster Harper’s approach to government has been the willingness to attack
the core elements of our democratic society,
especially the two most fundamental: the
courts and the management of our electoral
process.” Gar Pardy, Embassy web-site
This chapter will concentrate on the actions of
the Harper conservatives that have tended to erode
Canada’s democratic spirit, beliefs and institutions.
We need not get too fancy about our definition of
democracy. Let’s just use the old saying that democracy is government ’of’, ’by’ and ’for’ the people. Normally, it is ’of’ the people in that it is a representative
democracy elected in fair, free and open elections on
a regular basis. It is ’by’ the people, not in the original Greek sense of direct government by the entire
population of citizens, but because people can and
should not only participate in elections but also in
parties and in groups and associations that try to influence governments and politics. Finally, it is ’for’
the people in the sense that government is meant to
be in the general public interest and not beholden to
just one power block or élite.
These are the essential basics of democracy. But in
Canada there are other key elements that we should
not neglect. We should note that the definition of
democracy shows that it is mostly about the control
and distribution of power and the processes by which
this is done. It’s about procedures not about purposes. At about the time the Harper government was
first elected, political scientists were clear that Canadians believe in their democracy. But it is about how
things get done, not about particular sorts of policies
(see Dyck and Jackson & Jackson). In other words,
the procedures of democracy spell out the Canadian
political culture, or identity. Among the procedures
by which power is limited is by Constitutional limitations (distribution of power to various political institutions), by the rule of law (each person is equal
before the law), and by judicial review (the courts
decide on the legitimacy of laws). These procedures
are, in turn, underwritten by traditional values such
as freedom of opinion, the press and association.
All this was up-dated in 2013 in a speech at the
University of Ottawa by the Governor General, David
Johnson. He thought it was time to give us a little lesson on civics. He recalled that we have a ’responsible’
system of government in which the PM and Cabinet
are answerable to the elected Parliament which is responsible to the people. He was emphatic, “Without
healthy and robust national institutions we can well
ask ourselves, ’What is Canada?’ Our institutions
reflect our democratic values, values which unite us
as Canadians. They are therefore precious beyond
measure” (Ottawa Citizen, p. A13, 30-04-2013).
At the time he was making this speech, Elizabeth
May was writing the Queen to ask for a royal commission to investigate our electoral system, the Government was refusing to give Parliament basic information and was using questionable measures to cut
short debates, omnibus bills of enormous scope hid
amendments to dozens of laws, there was unprecedented muzzling of MPs and government scientists,
and the Conservatives were using taxpayer dollars to
pay for partisan ads attacking the opposition leaders. These are all practices that undermine our democratic institutions. The independent MP, Rathgeber,
a renegade from Harper’s Conservatives, in his extended essay described Harper’s caucus meetings as
briefings rather than debates. “There are no motions;
there are no votes.” Then enter the boys in short
pants (the young staffers of the Prime Minister’s Office) to tell you what to think and do. “Every time a
Member of Parliament allows himself to be manipulated by a PMO puppet master, he is acquiescing to
the breakdown of responsible government.”
But, our description of Canadian democracy is still
not complete. There is still the cultural element to
consider. The political scientist, Rand Dyck, recalls that the objectives of the United States are
“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” whereas
those of Canada are “peace, order and good government” according to our Constitution. In other
words, throughout our history, Canadians have been
drawn to a peaceful, lawful society in which the rules
of our democratic institutions are maintained. Further, the comparative study of the United States and
Canada by the eminent political sociologist, Seymour
Martin Lipset, showed that Canadians are relatively
more class conscious, elitist, law abiding, and oriented toward the government, the collectivity and
social groups. New evidence has shown that Canadians and Americans are actually becoming increasingly different from each other in their social values.
These findings were confirmed by the pollster Allan Gregg who asked ordinary Canadians what they
thought is distinctive about their country and they
replied, “Non-violence, tolerance, humane treatment
of the poor and disadvantaged and official bilingualism.” (Dyck pp.240-255) One might conclude that
Canadians prefer a power structure that is limited
because it is decentralized, dispersed and divided.
Unfortunately, we find that the current reality in
Canada under the Harper Conservatives is not in
conformity with Canada’s traditional identity. Looking in greater detail at how the Harper Conservatives have mistreated Canadian democracy, we will
see that you can harm democracy by circumventing
it, by stifling its resources, by attacking its representatives, by making people fearful, or by undercutting
its institutions. Here is a list of accusations against
the Harper Conservatives.
Up the House of Commons
For many years, Prime Minister Harper has let be
known that he prefers a reformed Senate in which
the senators would be elected by the provinces for
a set period of time. Having been told many times
that this would require a Constitutional amendment,
he eventually submitted his proposal to the Supreme
Court for its opinion. The Court has since stipulated
that the provinces as well as the federal government
would have to approve of major changes to the Senate
as a federal institution.
Knowing that the court consultation would take
time, Harper recognized he would have to use the
Senate as it is if he wanted to control the body to get
his legislation through Parliament. So it was that the
person who wanted to stop nominations to the Upper
Chamber ended up making the largest number
in Canadian history (62) giving the Conservatives a majority in the Senate. Amongst this
number, like his predecessors, he personally nominated several party hacks nominated to help promote
the Conservative Party at the tax-payers expense.
Two of these were Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.
Both had impressive careers and were well known by
the public. But there is nothing really new here.
However, as time went on they were both accused
of fraudulently padding their travel and living expenses and sometimes double charging. The two
senators were going to party meetings to promote
the Conservatives at public expense — as they had
been told they could. As this scandal became more
and more public, Harper was caught up in trying to defend the two in question-period and
then stonewalling most questions. Eventually,
it became know that the PM’s Chief of Staff, Nigel
Wright, offered Duffy $90,000 to cover his expenses
and quiet the scandal. It just made the Party look
more under-handed. As time went on, the Conservative Senators kicked Duffy and Wallin out of their
caucus and suspended them from the Senate. Harper
put all the blame on his loyal servant, Nigel Wright.
The scandal in all this was not in the nominations
or even choosing party hacks. Gradually it became
known that the youths in the Prime Minister’s
Office were telling the venerable Senate what
to do. Mike Duffy’s lawyer accused the PMO of approving the embattled Senator’s housing allowance
and choreographing how he would respond to criticism. He went on to say that “Senator Duffy was
told by the PMO that despite the truth of the matter,
for political reasons, mainly because the Conservative
base — the voting base — would not like this meaning the optics of state of Senate rules. . . he had to
repay. . . ” . The PMO even threatened to expel him
from the Senate over the residency issue. “The threat
seems obvious: you take the dive or the Subcommittee will throw you out” . It appears that the long arm
of the Prime Minister’s Office can even control Senate committees. The Prime Minister refused to take
any blame for his choices. And then, worst of all,
there were the weeks and months of lies and halftruths, stonewalling and delays, under-handed
deals and behind the scenes game-playing — all
this leading to the steady destruction of the reputation of one of Canada’s two Chambers of Parliament.
The journalist, Andrew Coyne, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, came to the following conclusion about
the sordid Senate scandal, “Well, that was edifying.
The Conservative government and one of its Senators would appear to have spent the better part of
the last year discreetly blackmailing each other. Now
they are doing so openly.”
The Senate Scandal
For many years, Prime Minister Harper has let be
known that he prefers a reformed Senate in which
the senators would be elected by the provinces for
a set period of time. Having been told many times
that this would require a Constitutional amendment,
he eventually submitted his proposal to the Supreme
Court for its opinion. The Court has since stipulated
that the provinces as well as the federal government
would have to approve of major changes to the Senate
as a federal institution.
Knowing that the court consultation would take
time, Harper recognized he would have to use the
Senate as it is if he wanted to control the body to get
his legislation through Parliament. So it was that the
person who wanted to stop nominations to the Upper
Chamber ended up making the largest number
in Canadian history (62) giving the Conservatives a majority in the Senate. Amongst this
number, like his predecessors, he personally nominated several party hacks nominated to help promote
the Conservative Party at the tax-payers expense.
Two of these were Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.
Both had impressive careers and were well known by
the public. But there is nothing really new here.
However, as time went on they were both accused
of fraudulently padding their travel and living expenses and sometimes double charging. The two
senators were going to party meetings to promote
the Conservatives at public expense — as they had
been told they could. As this scandal became more
and more public, Harper was caught up in trying to defend the two in question-period and
then stonewalling most questions. Eventually,
it became know that the PM’s Chief of Staff, Nigel
Wright, offered Duffy $90,000 to cover his expenses
and quiet the scandal. It just made the Party look
more under-handed. As time went on, the Conservative Senators kicked Duffy and Wallin out of their
caucus and suspended them from the Senate. Harper
put all the blame on his loyal servant, Nigel Wright.
The scandal in all this was not in the nominations
or even choosing party hacks. Gradually it became
known that the youths in the Prime Minister’s
Office were telling the venerable Senate what
to do. Mike Duffy’s lawyer accused the PMO of approving the embattled Senator’s housing allowance
and choreographing how he would respond to criticism. He went on to say that “Senator Duffy was
told by the PMO that despite the truth of the matter,
for political reasons, mainly because the Conservative
base — the voting base — would not like this meaning the optics of state of Senate rules. . . he had to
repay. . . ” . The PMO even threatened to expel him
from the Senate over the residency issue. “The threat
seems obvious: you take the dive or the Subcommittee will throw you out” . It appears that the long arm
of the Prime Minister’s Office can even control Senate committees. The Prime Minister refused to take
any blame for his choices. And then, worst of all,
there were the weeks and months of lies and halftruths, stonewalling and delays, under-handed
deals and behind the scenes game-playing — all
this leading to the steady destruction of the reputation of one of Canada’s two Chambers of Parliament.
The journalist, Andrew Coyne, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, came to the following conclusion about
the sordid Senate scandal, “Well, that was edifying.
The Conservative government and one of its Senators would appear to have spent the better part of
the last year discreetly blackmailing each other. Now
they are doing so openly.”
Attacking the basis of Canadian
democracy: the electoral system
One of the mainstays of Canadian democracy is the
fine reputation of its fair electoral process. Central to this process is the independent, hands-off,
non-partisan agency Elections Canada which oversees each election. The Chief Electoral officer is an
appointee who answers to Parliament not the government.
In 2000, Stephen Harper referred to Election
Canada officials as “jackasses” . Since he came into
power the federal electoral system has been in turmoil
and the Conservatives have treated with disdain the
laws that keep our elections fair. In the 2006 election,
Elections Canada said that some of the local advertising expenses were not eligible because they had
come from the federal campaign. Harper took the
agency to court but the court found that Elections
Canada was right. The 2011 election was bedevilled
by vote suppression tactics and illicit ’robocalls’ that
misdirected electors and were found to have been
the work of someone with access to the Conservative party voter lists. The Court convicted a former
Conservative Party staffer for the robocalls scandal
in Guelph and sentenced him to jail saying that it
was an “affront to the electoral process” . The judge
also said he believes the employee of the Conservative
party did not act alone. However, Elections Canada
pointed out it could never find the culprits until it
had investigative powers to compel testimony and to
oblige parties to keep lists of phone calls.
2014 was revenge time. The Conservative Government placed before Parliament a new, 252 page
’Fair Elections Act’ that they tried to force through
in several weeks. Among its many changes, the new
Act would have:
• Stripped the Chief Electoral Officer of authority
to appoint the Commissioner of Canada Elections and, instead, make him a subordinate of
the Director of Public Prosecutions who reports
to the Attorney General, a Cabinet member.
The commissioner who has the main investigatory powers.
• Stopped the Commissioner from informing
Canadians that an investigation is under way.
• Stopped the Chief Electoral officer from communicating with the Canadians.
• Take away the ability of people without their
identification to use the vouching system to vote.
• Increased fundraising and spending limits while
opening up new loopholes.
• Give incumbent politicians more power over pollworker appointments — the on-the-spot people
who verify our votes.
Fortunately, an immense rage across the country
stimulated by the Council of Canadians eventually
forced the Harper Conservatives to amend the Bill
and many of its most destabilizing electoral reforms
were abandoned. But the new act still does not require parties to keep phone lists and there is still no
ability to compel oral evidence from potential witnesses. Even worse, Canada is saddled with a new
law that, according to the Globe and Mail: frightfully complicates the vouching system (thereby disenfranchising many young and poor citizens); forbids
Elections Canada to educate the public; still makes
the Elections Commissioner an officer of the government — one of the very groups that he is meant to
investigate for electoral wrongdoing.
So here we have an example of legislation that affects the fundamentals of Canadian democracy, that
is to say legislation that sets up our non-partisan electoral rules, which turns out to be a textbook example
of how laws should not be drafted, debated, amended
or passed.
Kate Heartfield concluded in the Ottawa Citizen,
“The Elections Canada feud pits two streams of the
modern Conservative party against each other: conservatism proper, which respects the rule of law and
institutional authority, and the National Citizen’s
Coalition (of which a younger Harper was President)
strain of populist libertarianism that rejects centralized state power and praises civil disobedience, at
least when it comes to people refusing to obey the
Wheat Board, fill out census forms or follow election
financing rules.”
A perfect example of Heartfield’s observation was
the former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s
reaction to the guilty verdict of the court that
found he had spent more than the legal limit in the
2008 election, had failed to report a personal contribution to his campaign, and had submitted false
documents. Del Mastro had been personally selected
by Prime Minister Harper as his Parliamentary Secretary and was renowned for cantankerous and misleading rants in Parliament. Like his predecessor Pierre
Poilièvre and his successor, Paul Calandra he knew
no limits in his sheer partisan combativeness. Exiting the court he cast doubt on its verdict, saying
that he and the judge had a difference of opinion.
He said he would appeal and continue to sit as an
MP. Several days later he finally admitted he had to
resign from Parliament. As the judge said, Del Mastro “frequently distorted the truth” . Many thought
he did in Parliament too, acting as though Conservative politicians thought they were both above honesty
and above the law. At least the Globe and Mail was
happy with the judge’s decision. “PM’s former pit
bull gets his comeuppance” it headlined.
The Liberal candidate who Del Mastro defeated
in Peterborough, Betsy McGregor, had this to say,
“Voter, donors, campaign workers and fellow candidates were all denied a fair election. With his resignation, Peterborough is left with no voice in Parliament.
Election fraud is not a victimless crime. It damages
democracy and hurts us all.”
The Prime Minister has all the
The government has amassed unparalleled executive power in the hands of the Prime Minister and
the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO — Officials hire by
Harper to do his bidding).
Harper has down-graded the Canadian federal system by refusing to hold meetings and negotiations
with the provinces and then simply dictating new
policies to them without consultation. For instance
he unilaterally cut health transfers to the provinces.
The Prime Minister’s powers of appointment
extend to all the offices that might be able
to hold him in check including: Cabinet Ministers, the Governor General, all Senators, members
of the Supreme Court, the governor of the Bank of
Canada, all deputy ministers (civil service heads of
departments), presidents of Crown corporations, senior military officers, heads of the Security Services
and the RCMP, Chairs of Parliamentary Committees, MPs who become Parliamentary Secretaries to
Ministers, and the heads of agencies and officers of
Confrontation with the courts
Prime Minister Harper is so powerful that for the
first time in Canadian history he crossed over jurisdictional lines and attacked the Chief Judge
of the Supreme Court, Beverly MacLauglin. The
occasion was a call she tried to make to the Justice
Minister discuss the government’s list of nominees for
a Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court. The call
was never answered but a year later the PM accused
the Chief Justice of interference. It turns out the
short list of six names had four who were ineligible
so the Chief Justice had every reason to make the
call. As the Globe and Mail wrote in an editorial, it
gave the impression the PM was simply spoiling for
a fight with the High Court — which the newspaper
said was one of Mr. Harper’s moat imprudent
Later when the Court tossed out the old rules on
prostitution as a violation of prostitutes constitutional right not to be beaten or murdered, the Harper
government brought in new legislation which in effect
flung the ruling back in the judges faces by leaving the
impugned provisions mostly intact and imposing new
restrictions that appear to provoke a new confrontation with the court. The Conservatives are trying to
satisfy their political base by inciting the Court to
forms of ’judicial activism’ that enrage conservatives.
The multiple confrontations with the Canadian
courts are a clear indication that it is not a clash
of personalities with the Chief Justice but a very real
collision of beliefs about how Canada should work.
One explanation is that the Conservatives have a long
history of distrusting the Constitution and a will to
pick ’populist’ fights that pit authoritative institutions against the gut feelings of their voting base.
Even though the Supreme Court has long been known
to complement Parliament, not fight it, the Department of Justice under Peter Mackay launched a legal
cold war by forging ahead with legislation which they
knew would not likely be upheld by the courts. And
the courts are not alone. The Quebec National Assembly unanimously denounced Harper’s decision
to go ahead with the nomination of Judge Nadon to
the Quebec vacancy.
The battle over the courts carries over to the mode
of nomination for the Supreme Court Justices — an
extremely important power as the Supreme Court
makes decisions that affect all of our daily lives. After years of debate, the Liberals finally introduced
reforms in 2004 that included publishing criteria for
the jobs and a protocol for the selection process and
an advisory committee to vet the long list of applicants. Harper added the condition that nominees
had to appear before a nationally televised ad hoc,
all party committee of MPs and legal experts. But,
when the Globe and Mail outed his secret manipulations to get Judge Nadon, he became so enraged
that he cancelled the whole public and parliamentary participation in the nomination process. As the
November 2014 date for the replacement of Justice
Louis Lebel rolled around, Canadians did not know
who would be consulted or what criteria would be
used, or whether there would be an advisory selection
panel, or parliamentary input or public engagement.
Trying to make the public service
a part of the Conservative Party
Traditionally, the Canadian governments and people
have been able to count on public servants who were
rational, objective, professional and neutral. Not
many years ago it was considered one of the finest
government bureaucracies in the world. A variety of
ways have been used by the Conservatives to limit
the voice of the public service (including foreign affairs) by making it more submissive
and partisan. For instance, when Elections Canada
dared accuse the government of irregular party funding, the government took their own agency to court.
Ralph Heinzman, a University of Ottawa research
professor, prepared a report in 2014 on Canada’s public service for the think tank, Canada 2020. He has
come to the conclusion that the public service has
been ’neglected’, ’devalued’, and has seen its ’neutrality abused’ by the Conservative government. “A
big problem is that the Conservative don’t value the
public service as a national institution for Canada’s
democracy and see it as an extension of the government to be used as desired.”
One very explicit measure of the decline of the public service is the fact that since the arrival of the
Harper government in 2006, some 68,000 full-time
federal employees have chosen to retire.
Irwin Cotler was thinking of resigning. This was completely false at the time. House of Commons Speaker,
Andrew Scheer, called the conduct “reprehensible” .
The Conservatives also try to sully the reputation of
opposition leaders by resorting to attack ads that
journalists have called a dirt machine, sleaze,
deceitful, and low-grade political standards. A
teacher from Winnipeg wondered how the Conservatives could, at the same time, use ’bullying ads’ and
encourage anti-bullying campaigns in schools.
The Harper Government has been playing the
card of “ethnic politics” to the hilt. Its Israeli policy follows every wish of the right-wing Israeli
Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and anyone in
Canada who does not is branded as anti-Jewish. To
play to the Toronto Tamil community he refused to
attend the Commonwealth Conference in Sri Lanka
where the Sinhalese govern. Other leaders went to
the conference to try diplomacy. Many Asian business people who support the Conservatives smallgovernment policies are given rapid access to Canada.
During the Ukrainian uprising Harper tried to attract the Canadian Ukrainian community by being
pictured as a leader on the issue when he was generally at cross-purposes with other Western leaders.
Typical of the Conservative right wing policies
that are undercutting Canada’s democratic
traditions are the slow destruction of Canada’s
world-famous public broadcaster, the CBC,
abolishing the long-gun registry (at a time
three Mounties were shot to death in Moncton), cracking-down on labor unions, turning
over to the provinces entire responsibility for the
health system, and shrinking the government’s tax
base and capacity to help citizens.
Sleaze Politics
Right wing policies undercutting
Canada’s democratic traditions
Democracy is like a diamond: tough and durable at
The Conservatives also resort to dirty tricks. the core. But for those who are willing to work at it,
They hired a firm to telephone voters in the Montreal it is relatively easy to modify its multiple facets. It
riding of Mount Royal and tell them that Liberal MP is unfortunate if we ordinary citizens sit back and let
the manipulators change the meaning of our democracy before our very eyes while we do nothing about
it. What we have just seen is not only the exaggerated hierarchy and centralization of power under the
Harper Conservatives but also their reckless abuse of
these powers. As it has been said by Andrew Coyne,
“Time was when we had to wait weeks, even months
for each new abuse of power by the Harper government. Now they arrive by the day, sometimes two
or three at a time.” He concluded, “Several themes
run throughout these: contempt for civil liberties, for
due process, for established convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture
of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage” (Andrew Coyne, Ottawa Citizen, 7-06-2014).
Put simply, the last ten Conservative years have been
a complete abuse of Canadian democracy. What we
must learn from this is that if Canada is going to
return to democracy it calls for more than a change
of reigning party. We have to change our institutions and constitution to ensure that no prime minister and Prime Minister’s Office ever again has the
absolute power and the abuse of democracy that we
have witnessed in this chapter. Moreover, we need a
change in our political culture as Canadian citizens.
We must stop being fearful. We must return to the
core of our democratic diamond. We must stand up
to abuses of power as soon as they happen. Ten years
is much too long.
Normally, one of the great things about democracy
is that it is a natural ’humbler’. It has its own builtin civilizing force. You quickly learn that if you want
to speak at a meeting you have to let the other person speak. Similarly, if you want to govern, you have
to let the other group have their turn, whether you
like it or not. Well, the Harper conservatives have
had their chance to govern and they have done so
much harm to our democratic ’play by the rules’ system that it is very unlikely that many Canadians will
trust them to govern again for decades to come. You
would think the Conservatives have learned nothing
since Diefenbaker destroyed the magnificent Avro Arrow and ripped-up the plans — at great cost to Canadians.
Harper headlines
“Democracy in Decline” , Ottawa Citizen,
Citizen, 7-06-2014
“There’s no stopping our march to the right”
, Globe and Mail, 10-06-2014
“Bill proposes beefed-up powers for MPs” ,
Globe and Mail, 30-11-2013
“Canada’s democratic gap” , Ottawa Citizen, 28-04-2014
“The Conservatives and Elections Canada”
, Ottawa Citizen, 05-02-2014
“Tories move to halt elections act debate” ,
Ottawa Citizen, 06-02 -2014
“Ontario PCs face big fines for robocalls” ,
Ottawa Citizen, 29-05-2013
“Parliament at the point of no return” , Ottawa Citizen, 20-10-2012
“Absolute Power (2011 — 2015): How politics changed Stephen Harper and how he is
changing Canada” , Ottawa Citizen, 20-0913
“Letter to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth
II, requesting a Royal Inquiry to restore
Canada to a free and fair democracy” , Elizabeth May, MP, [email protected]
“Muzzling scientists is an assault on democracy” , David Suzuki, The West Quebec
Post, 12-04-2013.
“Farewell to a building block of democracy”
, Amy Kaufman and Jeff Moon, Ottawa Citizen, 04-11-2013.
“What is Harper’s problem with Elections
Canada? robocalls, overspending, candidates inappropriate contributions, in and
out expenses” , Kate Heartfield, Ottawa Citizen, 5-10-2013.
“You won’t believe what the press just did:
their jobs on the public’s behalf.” Elizabeth
Renzetti, Globe and Mail, 19-10-2013.
“Le député Del Mastro reconnu coupable:
dépenses électorales dépassées en 2008” La
Presse Canadienne, 1-11-2014.
Stifling Science and Information, Muzzling Critics
“The facts cannot alter contempt for science: The latest research on safe injection
sites is unlikely to spur any change in Canadian drug policy. The Conservative government’s disregard for evidence on harmreduction practices is part of a persistent
trajectory of governing through indifference
to scientific evidence.” Lisa Wright, Ottawa
Citizen, 11- 08-2014
“For the greatest part of history, the bulwark of not-knowing has been superstition, dogma, and orthodoxy”. Allan Gregg,
CCPA Monitor, Nov. 2012
Silencing the scientific lambs
Over the years there have been widespread misgivings
about how the Harper Government uses data and evidence, or refuses to use it, in making policy. This is
closely associated with a related problem that access
to information is a basic foundation of democracy.
Our entire notion of progress has reason at its core
— reason based on facts. Government scientists, who
of course, work for the Canadian people, are not only
a core part of the public service’s professionalism and
specialized competence but also a fundamental source
of information. But in 2007, the Conservatives laid
down a rule that any media interview with Environment Canada scientists would be “co-ordinated” by
communications staff. Recently it was also reported
that Canadian scientists going to international conferences were accompanied by a government ’minder’
— as the KGB did. The KGB used the same practices
during the Soviet Union to keep scientists and academics under control. Other scientific departments
and agencies in the government soon followed suit.
Thus it was not passing strange to find in the summer of 2014 that Canada’s information Commissioner
was investigating seven government departments in
response to complaints that they were ’muzzling scientists’.
This was just the end of a long series of complaints. A submission from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre and Democracy
Watch alleged that the federal government is preventing media and the Canadian public from speaking to government scientists for news stories. There
have also been complaints from the Canadian Science Writers’ Association and the World Federation
of Science Journalists. In 2012, hundreds of scientists marched on Parliament Hill to mark the ’death
of evidence’. In 2013, the Professional Institute of the
Public Service of Canada published its survey, “The
Big Chill: Silencing Public Interest Science” and in
2014 they followed up with “Vanishing Science: The
Disappearance of Canadian Public Interest Science”
. Both reports demonstrated the barriers to scientific
communication and collaboration imposed on government scientists by the Harper Conservatives. Then
another study from Simon Fraser University and the
Evidence for Democracy group showed that most scientists working for the Canadian government are not
adequately protected from political interference or assured of being able to speak freely. As we saw, some
departments explicitly forbid scientists to speak to
reporters without preapproval or without a department spokesperson monitoring the conversation.
Here is an example of what this can mean. The
Canadian Press asked for an interview with a scientist, Max Bothwell, of the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans who had just published an article in an
important scientific review. He is a specialist on invasive seaweed. It must be a very secretive and dangerous field of research, because it took 110 pages of
e-mails with 16 different officials and still the interview was never obtained. Or, as another example,
we can take the case of the federal scientists who
keep a close watch on the Arctic ice and wanted to
hold a strictly factual press conference to inform the
public about the extraordinary events unfolding in
the North. As the Ottawa Citizen reported, it would
have taken nine levels of approval, but the press con-
ference was killed by the sixth level. Again, at the end
of 2014, former Department of Fisheries and Oceans
scientist, Michael Rennie, reported that communications practices were even worse than Conservative
policies, “Never in four years did I receive communications approval to speak with media by deadline”
As Allan Gregg put it, “It seems as though our
government’s use of evidence and facts as the basis
of policy is declining, and in their place dogma, whim
and political expediency are on the rise.”
In some things, the Harper Conservatives were
very, very consistent. You can find their basic thinking in the least of their gestures. Take, for instance,
their decision to rebuild the Museum of Science and
Technology in south-east Ottawa for $80.5 million.
Nothing there you would say. But underneath one
finds the Conservatives’ deeply engrained disdain for
science and for Canada’s capital. For years, for
decades, the museum, housed in a former bakery, was
falling into dilapidation and finally had to be closed.
For years, all sorts of people had called for a new
national home to honor Canada’s scientific and technological achievements at a central site. For years
the Harper government refused to budge. But, with
the closure the embarrassment was too much so they
announced their piddling plans to refurbish the old
building. The Ottawa Citizen’s headline read, “A
stingy, small-minded museum plan: Tories don’t believe capital needs cultural institutions.”
The Conservatives did not restrict themselves to
hampering communication, they actually stymied scientific progress. The Harper team had learned to
treat specialized wisdom (from government scientists
and researchers, economists, lawyers, academics, foreign policy experts etc.) with a certain disdain.
Among the scientific, research and policy endeavours
shut down by the Harper Government, we should
stress the following:
• Muzzling government scientists by impeding
their talking to journalists.
• Refusing to meet with, and then to fund, the
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences.
Shutting up and shutting down
our scientific experts
• Eliminating the position of National Science Advisor in 2007 and closing the Council of Science
and Technology Advisors.
• Shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area,
world renowned for its forefront research on fresh
water (partially taken over by Ontario).
• Eliminating the National Round Table on the
Environment and the Economy, set up by Prime
Minister Mulroney to bring together expertise
from the scientific, corporate and governmental
• Dismantling the Long Gun Registry.
• By 2008, the prestigious British journal Nature
was already slamming Harper’s “manifest disregard for science” .
• Cutting $137 million from the budgets of the
three federal, research granting Councils in 2009
and leaving out completely ’Genome Canada’.
• Canceling, in 2010, the ’long-form’ census – the
comparative, long-term basis of much statistical
data on Canada that is the country’s ’navigational system’ used for the diagnosis and verification of policy. Two dozen senior leaders
from business, labour, government and academia
warned that dropping it would skew future statistical results and make it impossible to read
and project trends. Despite an outcry from more
than 370 organizations and tens of thousands of
citizens, the Harper Government refused to reconsider its decision.
• Not informing its advisory National Statistics
Council of its plans for the census.
• Cutting the Goods and Services Tax (twice) –
against all economic advice — thus helping to
create future government deficits.
• The Canadian Polar Commission was left without a board of directors for more than two years.
• Defence Research and Development Canada lost
242 jobs, 15% of its workforce.
It was founded by the Mulroney government in
1991 to oversee scientific research in the polar
region, including work on climate change.
• The National Roundtable on the Environment,
National Council on Welfare, and Canadian
Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science were “vaporized” .
• Making mandatory minimum sentences the core
of the Conservative ’tough-on-crime’ agenda –
against all the evidence-based advice of criminologists.
• Continuous opposition to Vancouver’s pioneering, medically approved, safe- injection site to
aid drug users, even after the B.C. Court ruled
it falls under provincial authority.
• A January 2013 report on environmental performance using indicators such as air quality and
bio-diversity, ranked Canada 15th among the
world’s 17 most developed nations.
• The president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety
Commission was fired.
• In 2013, close to 1,900 scientists received layoff
warning letters.
• Using enormous omnibus budget bills to hide legislation and decimate environmental protection
laws including sweeping cuts to water, air and
wildlife monitoring programs, a total restructuring of federal environmental reviews, and the
downloading of responsibility for lakes and rivers
to the provinces.
• Funding boosts have favoured applied science
and commercialization over basic research. The
government shifted the National Research Council’s mandate from doing basic science to aiding
industry. From 2006 to 2012, the Council’s publication output dropped 80% and its rate of new
patents by 95%.
• Environmental groups opposing pipeline plans
have been denounced as “radicals” , accused of
taking funds from “foreign special interests” and
subject to special audits regarding their charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency.
• As part of the 19,000 cuts to the federal public service in 2012, 50% of Stats Canada were
warned their jobs were at risk; 20% of Library
and Archives Canada were put on notice; CBC
got a 10% reduction; 30% of the operating budget of Parks Canada, was cut, thus eliminating 638 positions, 70% of whom were scientists
and social scientists. But, the Canada Revenue
Agency received an $8 million increase to investigate not-for-profit and charitable organizations.
• Among the hardest hit departments were the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture Canada which had responsibility food recalls and meat safety.
• Transport Canada announced it would be downsizing aviation security inspectors and reducing
its maritime security operations.
• In 2014, the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans shuttered all its labs monitoring pollutants in our
coastal waters.
• The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada was
amputated from the power of his Agency which
will henceforth be directed by its own president
with CPHO acting as an ’advisor to the minister. Some analysts saw it as muzzling a scientific
officer who could have had independent voice.
• In 2014, funding was eliminated for the National
Centre of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance one of
the most powerful research instruments in the
world. The original $12 million investment in
the Centre which had permitted Canada to be
at the forefront of research for ten years will now
be lost as the Centre closes down.
• Core funding was eliminated for the Canadian
Literacy and Learning Network and its provincial agencies that look after adult literacy and essential skills. The whole organization shut down.
• The charitable status of ’Dying with Dignity
Canada’ has been eliminated. The Canadian
Revenue Agency said its activities “to expand
choice in dying” is a political activity! The Conservatives appear to be opposed to promoting
choice and dignity at the end of life.
No wonder that as scientists paraded in the streets
of Ottawa in the summer of 2012, they chanted, “No
science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy”. They
repeated the protest in 18 cities across Canada in
2013. It is hard to deny that the anti-science policies of the Harper Conservatives have one objective:
to disarm well-informed and well-educated critics of
government policies. Nevertheless, it operates on the
theory of the ’big lie’, which when repeated often
enough tends to become the ’truth’. In 2013, the
Minister of State for Technology sent an e-mail to
the media claiming there were no problems with government policies. “Our government is committed to
science and technology. . . ”
This hacking at Canadian science follows extremely
well from Harper’s 2008 declaration that, “Grand
blueprints done on the blackboard and endorsed by
experts with no practical experience in the economy
or society, are disastrous” . This is quite a pretentious
statement for a guy who never had an entrepreneurial
job in his life and only worked for political parties and
interest groups.
As we saw, the Harper conservatives, used omnibus
legislation to gut environmental protection laws and
cut funding for environmental departments. Environmentalists have been branded as “radicals” , “unCanadian” , and “money-launderers” by government
spokesmen. As a result, the Canadian Climate Action Network discovered that the “Media coverage of
climate change science has been reduced by over 80
per cent” — which, of course, was one of the specific goals of the Harper government. Along with its
systematic attacks on Statistics Canada, it is not unreasonable to 4conclude that this indicates a deeply
held anti-scientific bias among Harper Conservatives.
On the other hand, William Robson, President of the
C.D. Howe Institute wrote that the statistical information is an essential tool for Canadians seeking to
ensure that the state’s use of its vast powers is “effec25
tive and benign” . . . so we can “judge how well these
systems work” . . . “and demand better performance”
Nevertheless the 2014 report from Professional Institute of the Public Service, entitled “The disintegration of public science in Canada, showed that between
the budgetary years of 2012-2013 and 2015-2016, ten
department and agencies with a scientific function
were forecast to lose $2.6 billion. The Conservatives
would cut these front line public services to be able
to claim they had ’balanced the budget’.
The whole sad process (sad for Canada) came to a
head in the autumn of 2014 when the anger and frustration of the international scientific community bubbled over in a full page advertisement in the form of
an “Open Letter for Canadian Leadership in Science”
addressed to Prime Minister Harper by 800 academic
researchers from the United States and other countries. They referred to barriers that inhibit collaboration with the media and with scientific colleagues
in Canada and around the world. They asked the
government to remove excessive and burdensome restrictions and barriers to research and communication aimed at overcoming threats to the planet and
public health. It referred to an editorial in New York
Times which described the restrictions as “an attempt
to guarantee public ignorance” .
Cutting off Canadian access to information
Ottawa’s obsession with controlling the
message has become so all-encompassing
that it now threatens both the health of
Canada’s democracy and the country’s reputation abroad. . . it’s like an Iron Curtain
has been drawn across the communication
of science in this country. Jonathon Gatehouse, Maclean’s Magazine, 13-05-2013
In 2005, the leader of the Opposition, Stephen
Harper said, “Information is the lifeblood of democracy” . Since becoming prime minister, his government has consistently shown a disregard for openness.
It started with the abolition of the ’long form’ census
document which is the crucial underpinning of most
basic, comparative information on the Canadian society and economy. A letter to the Globe and Mail
on July 29 2010, explained the government’s motivations: “The decision to eliminate the long form census
is a political tactic, pure and simple. Its point is to
eliminate benchmarks. Marginal groups will find it
much harder to call attention to their cause or to
the effect government policies are having on their interests. . . This is the hidden agenda we were warned
about when Mr. Harper first took office” .
By 2015 the results were in. The cancellation of the
long-form census has damaged research in key areas,
from how immigrants are doing and also the middle class to cities not being able to ensure their taxdollars are well spent. The result has been less data
for more money. Toronto, for instance, says it has
become more expensive and requires more staffing to
obtain data that is of less quality. The key areas
of concern are tracking long-term shifts and understanding what’s going on at the neighbourhood level.
An opposition private member placed a bill before
the House of Commons to reinstate the mandatory
long form census.
Then the government stopped the annual release
of federal cabinet records after the traditional 30
year holding period; in trade talks, only the government negotiators and big business representatives
know what is going on — not even MPs; every bit
of information is micro-managed. This caused the
Ottawa Citizen to conclude in an editorial that, “A
government that doesn’t listen and thinks it can do
what it wants unencumbered by the institutions that
underline our democracy, is an elected dictatorship.”
One of the major objectives of the Harper Conservatives has been cutting off access of Canadians to information. Supposed threats to ’public
security are used to ’black out’ huge sections of public documents requested through Access to information. Even worse, the important government information registry (the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System) was simply eliminated.
The government also stopped publishing the plans,
priorities, performance and annual reports of its top
secret Communications Security Establishment. Departmental studies that do not reflect well on the
government’s theories are buried. On the other hand,
the Hill Times newspaper has demonstrated how the
number of ’information officers’ in the Harper government has exploded. Their job is to conceal as much
information as possible.
After one year in power, here is how an obviously
enraged journalist, Lawrence Martin of the Globe and
Mail described the way Conservatives managed their
relationships: “Don’t answer questions in the Commons. Just slam the other side’s previous record.
Don’t wait for elections campaigns to run your cheap
attack ads. Run them before the new Opposition
leader is out of the gate. Don’t open the information
channels, as your transparency campaign promised.
Shut the channels down. Don’t listen to critics. Silence or smear them. Don’t admit a mistake. Act
like you know everything.”
Not only is the access of scientists to the media
controlled by the government’s central machine but
so is the right to speak of Cabinet Ministers. Even
the RCMP Commissioner is gagged. He, like other
top officials must have all meetings even with parliamentarians approved by government officials. Civil
servants are under orders not to provide information
to people outside the government without the written
consent of the central authorities in the Prime Minister’s office. Then there is the case of the Commissioner of Access to Information. That is something
the Conservatives really wanted to shut down. In
2014, the federal information commissioner reported
a one-third increase in complaints that the Harper
government is blocking or delaying ’access to
information’ requests. These delays included a
decline in staff and budget. But the Conservative
parliamentarians were not mean. They proposed increasing the fees for each request for information so
the Commissioner’s burden would decline — even if
Canadian citizens went without their information.
To help surmount this hurdle, Harper and Tony
Clement named a new Privacy Commissioner. He is
Daniel Therrien, a career bureaucrat closely linked
to government data-monitoring programs that have
been criticised as too invasive. A letter from two
dozen experts in the field told the Prime Minister
that his nomination of a state security specialist to the highly sensitive position of privacy
commissioner was “indefensible”.
Another way the Conservatives found of blocking
access to information was to close libraries. The first
to be targeted were scientific libraries. For instance,
seven of the eleven regional libraries of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans were closed with their
decades of aquatic research being scooped up for private use by companies or hauled off to the dumpster. But this soon extended to most of the libraries
in the various departments and agencies of the federal government such as Citizenship and Immigration
Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
and the Canadian Transportation Agency. These closures do away with much specialized knowledge and
irreplaceable documents as well as our capacity to do
research and understand Canadian history. As it has
been said, “librarians are our best search engines” .
Politicizing Canadian History
We have already seen that the Harper Conservatives want to ’re-form’ Canada and the way Canadians think. It is the first government to come into
power with this sort of agenda. Of course they never
brought it up in their election platform and Canadian
electors never gave them a mandate to transform the
Canadian culture. Nothing is spared. They are even
working to re-write Canadian history. References to
’Diefenbaker’ this and ’Macdonald’ that started popping up all over. The Harperites also want Canada to
be like most other states — aggressive and warlike.
Conservatives could not stand Canada being unique.
So they started to glorify the history of the War of
1812 and using scarce funds to build war monuments.
Then they moved on to glorifying the two world wars
without a word about Canada’s trend-setting record
as peacekeepers.
Next they took an ax to the unparalleled Canadian
Museum of Civilization and turned it into the Canadian Museum of History. Some observers thought it
was a refreshing commitment to Canadian history until they understood the true intentions of the Conservatives. As the professor and author Andrew Cohen
described it, “The government’s record is disturbing.
Its telling of history is consciously selective and relentlessly political. . . What we’re getting is Conserva27
tive history. In the choices it makes, in what it commemorates and doesn’t, it reflects a narrow, partisan
perspective” . A Conservative was heard to claim
that they want to eliminate the five decades from
1963 to 2013 from public conversation — it was too
Government communications controlled and misused
The Harper Conservatives stand accused by their
critics of being less not more accountable, of using
the tax-payers money to pay for party promotion,
of blurring the lines between political and administrative functions. All this can be seen best through
the lens of government communications procedures.
Small Communications Branches were originally set
up in the federal government to funnel information
to the media. But by 2014, the Canadian Taxpayers
Federation estimated that there were 3,325 information officers costing $263 million a year working for
the public service. Even so the problem is less with
the numbers than with what they do and how they
do it.
Traditionally the public administration was meant
to be neutral and to be part of the constitutional
balances of political powers in Ottawa. Still, citizens need to believe in that balance. And the lines
between the public service and their political masters need to be kept as distinct as possible. Under
the Conservatives the opposite has happened. At the
top, the lines have been blurred between the political staff of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and
the administrative staff of the Privy Council Office
(PCO). This does away with the PCO’s role as a
neutral, expert advisor to the PM.
Because both the PMO and the PCO come under
the prime minister, the Conservatives have worked
hard to use them together to advance party as well
as government communications. By 2008, the 40 people who worked for these two offices in the 1940’ and
50’s had escalated to 234 — just to serve the prime
minister. By 2011, the PCO’s budget alone had
topped out at nearly $160 million for the PM’s secretariat. This was to allow them to carry out their new
communications and publicity functions of managing
the Government’s $136 million saturation advertising
campaign to promote the ’Economic Action Plan’ —
even if it is doubtful the prime minister can legally
or ethically employ the public service for strictly selfserving marketing purposes. Especially, when in 2013
a Canadian Press survey revealed that the public considered the on-going ads to be “Political advertising,
a waste of tax-payers money, or junk” . Such reactions indicate that the government’s co-opting
the public service institutions for party purposes is diminishing public confidence in government and democracy.
The Globe and Mail editorialized, “The Harper
government has indulged its unfortunate habit of using federal dollars for partisan ends — from ads touting a post-recession economic plan that continued to
air years into the recovery, to the attack ads aimed
at the country’s biggest telecommunications companies. . . to ads trumpeting a child-care tax credit
regime that had yet to be approved by Parliament
— in an egregious misallocation of public funds.”
Of course, this is not all there is to the Conservative’s control and abuse of government communications. The Prime Minister rarely holds press
conferences — only photo ops. He sidesteps the
Parliamentary Press Gallery (which is meant to inform the public) by catering to the local and ethnic press, on-line social media, and a large network
of Conservative bloggers. Reporters for the national
media are prevented from questioning ministers on
their way to cabinet meetings. News is presented by
ministers in question period or by ministerial aids
doggedly repeating approved lines. Glen McGregor
of the Ottawa Citizen wrote, The Conservative Party
“fundraises by exploiting the fantasy that the Press
Gallery is a den of Commies intent on misinforming
Canadians about the triumphs of the Harper government” . The anti-media campaign extends to controlling government employees who are not allowed
to talk directly to journalists until they go through a
lengthy, centralized vetting process.
Another form of misleading communications related to the idea of the big lie is to use names for
legislation that in fact disguises the substance of the
law. For instance a law sub-titled “The Safe streets
and Communities Act” was really about stiffening
penalties for the possession of pot and building more
prisons. The “Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act” aimed at dismantling the Canadian Wheat
Board. This is just another part of a program of
secrecy, message control and misdirection. Tyranny
demands ignorance.
As one journalist has written, “The Conservative
government has a reputation for muzzling civil servants and lording over independent agencies and tribunals so as to crush any potential dissent.” They
went as far as subverting the ’Integrity Commissioner’. In choosing a replacement, the Conservatives jumped over three highly qualified candidates
(too highly qualified) to snatch out of the cupboard
the former associate deputy minister of agriculture
(not too highly qualified). In three years in the position from 2007 to 2010, 228 disclosures of wrongdoing
came before the Commissioner but she only investigated seven, five of which were closed with no finding
and two were left hanging in limbo. It is said that she
was bound and determined to protect deputy ministers and Stephen Harper’s ministers from potentially
harmful disclosures. When you have the power of
government and of appointment, there is more than
one way to skin anyone who appears to disagree with
Spreading fear in Civil Society
Did we mention that Canada under the Conservatives
has become like Putin’s Russia?
In June 2014, Canadians learned that the Harper
government is monitoring ’all known demonstrations’ in the country. Reports are collected
in a central registry in the Government Operations
Centre. Obviously tolerance, dissent and civil liberties do not rate high among Conservative values.
Ottawa also wanted to go after “whistle blowers” that is public servants who believe it is their
duty as citizens to denounce wrong-doing. The government used its powers to open more than 25 inquiries on media leaks in six different departments
since 2005.
Not only is the right of peaceful protest under pressure, so is the right of peaceful association. All the
private associations, community organizations, ad-
vocacy groups, churches, unions and charitable organizations are collectively called civil society. The
Harper government has worked aggressively
to silence civil society and spread fear of advocacy. In 2014, Ottawa continued its destabilizing
and threatening approach to civil society by suddenly
replacing its long term partner, Canadem, for the
observation of difficult foreign elections by two alternates without any experience, at the last minute and
without explanation, to observe the crucial Ukrainian
election. You can see even the agencies they worked
with were expendable on the high alter of some hidden Conservative reason. Many other groups were
simply abandoned such as the Institute on First Nations Statistics, the Institute on Governance, the National Organization on Aboriginal Health, the National Council on Social Welfare and the Canadian
Council on Learning. Also disposed of was the Research and Analysis Services on Remuneration, which
was the only independent unit furnishing comparative data on salaries in the public service and the
private sector.
At the same time, the Conservatives had the
Canada Revenue Agency, one of its strong-arm
guardians, hard at work ferreting out every last financial document of – you guessed it – Canada’s
charities! These are the associations that are usually
considered to be the handmaidens of governments
for reaching out into society at least cost and also
the protectors of democracy by having a first-hand
knowledge of what government is doing in specific
fields. The field is often called ’advocacy’ and if the
taps of advocacy are turned off the whole bottom
falls out of active, participatory democracy and we
become exactly like other authoritarian states. It almost appears that this is the aim of the Harper Conservatives.
You see, to have enough money, charities have to
have ’charitable status’ that exempts them from income tax and gives their donors tax deductions. And
it is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) which controls charitable status. You can imagine, all they
have to do is start investigating you and it takes up
days and days of your energy and time and instills a
fear which hobbles advocacy. So the CRA becomes
a bureaucratic tool the government can use to subtly
intimidate and silence its critics.
The onslaught began in 2012 when the Conservative government ordered the CRA to undertake a
wave of political and financial activity audits — eventually some 60 religious, foreign aid, environmental,
democratic and developmental associations were in
the government’s sights. The cost to the taxpayer
is an additional $13 million in the CRA’s budget to
create a special team of auditors. Some of the most
popular associations were included: the Suzuki Foundation, the United Church, Amnesty International,
Tides Canada Initiatives Society, Canadian Centre
for Policy Alternatives, Oxfam and Equiterre. Some
audits stretch for more than two years (how are you
meant to get any work done?) with repeated demands for detailed paper work, translation of all documents, reports on the political activities of foreign
partners etc. Government spokespersons have alleged
these organizations were associated with terrorists,
money-launderers, and foreign radicals. In international development, Canadian agencies were steered
away from inequality and human rights toward the
conservative goal of economic growth.
All audited organizations had one thing in common: at one point in time they had dared criticize the
Harper Conservatives. The results have been: “censorship by audit” , “selective targeting” , “advocacy
chill” , “gagging charities with red tape” and “selfcensoring for fear of displeasing the CRA” . Silencing
and discrediting were the goals. If you speak out you
were defunded. People became afraid. There is an
implicit questioning of civil society’s capacity to advocate and the rights of citizens to be critical of political authorities. The very basis of modern democracy
is under attack.
Thus it was that in September 2014, more than 400
intellectuals wrote to the Canada Revenue Agency to
demand that it stop its audit of the Canadian Centre
for Policy Alternatives, an Ottawa think-tank. The
group maintained that the Conservative government
was attempting to intimidate, to muzzle and to reduce to silence its detractors. The first wave of audits
targeted the environmental groups which were criticizing Conservative policies on energy and pipelines.
They then went after organizations fighting poverty,
promoting international aid and protecting human
rights. Gradually, there was an “emasculation of advocacy” as civil society organizations became obliged
to self-censure and spend their feeble resources on
accountants and lawyers. Conservative think-tanks
were not targeted.
Speak loudly and carry no
stick at all: Harper’s Foreign Policy or Abusing Foreign Policy to Build Local
I would like to take credit for it, but actually the title of this chapter was contained in a letter to the
editor in Le Droit which was comparing Harper’s
style to that of President Teddy Roosevelt’s as summarized in his famous saying about foreign policy,
“Speak softly and carry a big stick” . The title is
just one of the tongue-in-cheek aphorisms used to describe Harper’s foreign policy including: ’megaphone
diplomacy’, ’bullhorn diplomacy’, ’hit and run foreign policy, and ’policy without vision’. The other
generalized description of Harper’s foreign policy is
that it is ’pugnaciously simplistic’ because it sees the
world as ’polarized’ between ’good and evil’, ’right
and wrong’. Both these tendencies are captured in
the saying that ’being moral takes less sacrifice’.
In the future, should anyone ever care to look back
at Prime Minister Harper’s foreign policy it will be
noted for the following:
• A general lack of understanding of the complexities of international politics and, therefore, a
simplistic, black and white, for or against, choice
of policies.
• The rejection of decades of Canadian learning about world politics, in particular prudent
liberal internationalism, diplomatic negotiation
through the United Nation and other multilateral forums, and contributing to peace and security. This was based on the incorrect assumption that these were policies of the Liberal
Party rather than a well-developed, bipartisan
program of the Liberals and Conservatives. The
consequence was a drastic decline of Canada in
the eyes of the world.
• A dependence on gut feelings and ideology rather
than foreign affairs expertise.
• An attempt to change Canada and its culture
from a peace-making society into an aggressive
war-making country.
• A one —sided support for Israel in Middle East
• Being the recipient of multiple awards for obstructing climate change progress.
• The lack of a defence policy.
• Northern confusion
• Trashing Canada’s international development
I could have included Harper’s idea of a ’principled
forum policy’ but it is such a simplistic, self-serving
notion (Were all previous Canadian policies ’unprincipled’ ? Is one-sided support for Israel principled?)
that this pompous concept will disappear like the fog
in the morning sun.
Let us now deal with each of these traits in turn.
But, before we can understand the foreign policy
of the Harper government it is necessary to situate
it in its historical context. For an introduction to
Canada’s current foreign policy, I have turned to the
Rt. Hon. Joe Clark’s recent book, How We Lead:
Canada in a Century of Change. In this book he has
a chapter on ’Canada’s Policy Today’. As a former
Prime Minister and long serving Foreign Minister as
well as coming from a Conservative tradition, Mr.
Clark has excellent credentials for providing us an
overview of Canada’s foreign policy at the present
Clark starts off by reminding us that international
issues have played virtually no part in the elections
won by Stephen Harper, nor in the platforms or
prominent policy positions of his Conservative party
or in House of Commons debates. Nonetheless, his
party has encouraged a more aggressive, macho characterization of Canada’s role in the world and stepped
up Canada’s profile as a war-fighting nation with, at
least a few years ago, considerably increased defence
spending. Even so, there is no coherent and consistent approach to defence policy. As a counterpart,
there has been a steady and deliberate decline in the
funding and priority assigned to Canada’s diplomatic
and development capacity. Except for technical editing of documents produced by the Prime Minister’s
Office, advice of officials in the Foreign Affairs Department is generally not sought on crucial issues
and, when offered, is usually discounted or rejected.
The Conservatives wanted a harder-line position reflecting what Harper referred to as a “principled foreign policy” .
The Harper government explicitly rejects evenhandedness in the Middle East. “Israel has no greater
friend in the world today than Canada” Foreign Minister John Baird told the American Jewish Committee. Harper’s hostility toward the United Nations,
Clark maintains, is framed regularly in the context
of solidarity with Israel. And yet this is precisely the
time when Israel could benefit most from constructive examination of its options, the author suggests.
On the other hand, in the fields of the environment
and international development Canada has become a
denier and an outlier.
One of Clark’s major themes is that this government has been steering steadily and quietly away
from traditionally important areas of Canadian concern — diplomacy, pursuing broad multilateral relations, partnerships with civil society and NGO’s, international development and fighting poverty, a balanced role in the Middle East and robust support
for the United Nations. Harper maintains he doesn’t
want “to court every dictator with a vote at the UN”
. Also at the UN, our participation in peacekeeping
missions has fallen from first place when it began to
fifty-fifth in 2012.
One would think that in a proudly democratic society like Canada, the reasons for these changes should
be stated clearly and justified in open debate. This
has not been how Harper conducts his foreign policy. Clark points out that this is a notoriously controlling prime minister, who dominates his govern31
ment’s domestic and international policy more rigorously than any of his predecessors. The instinct to
marginalize or repudiate past successes and to treat
respected NGO’s as adversaries, not allies, is risking Canada’s international reputation. “Canada now
talks more than we act and our tone is almost adolescent — forceful, certain, enthusiastic, combative,
full of sound and fury ”.
In the Toronto Star the journalist Haroon Siddiqui summarizes Clark’s arguments in an article entitled, “Harper has ignored Canadian ways while destroying our reputation” . He says of Clark’s book,
“It’s a damning critique of how Harper has changed
Canada’s image in the world, from a nation admired
for its sophistication in mediating, peacekeeping, and
working co-operatively in multilateral institutions to
one that’s belligerent, divisive and dismissive of the
United Nations and other international institutions,
such as the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, and
the Organization of American States” .
Joe Clark is not the only former prime minister
who can help us understand Harper’s foreign policy. Former Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, used a series of interviews in September 2014
to “stick his stiletto into Harper” . Mr. Mulroney battered the Harper orientation to foreign policy, climate
change, the Supreme Court and his so-called incrementalist governing approach. He told CTV “When
Canada, for the first time in our history, loses a vote
at the United Nations to become a member of the Security Council . . . to Portugal, which was on the verge
of bankruptcy at the time, you look in the mirror and
say I think we have a problem” .
Little knowledge of foreign policy
explains simplistic approach
When he came to government neither Harper nor the
members of his cabinet had ever traveled much outside of Canada let alone had any experience in international relations. So, lacking any knowledge of
foreign policy, their basic approach has been to apply their world view (ideology) to world affairs, to try
to replace liberal internationalism with a belligerent
Canada, to use the world stage to attract domestic ethnic audiences to their electoral base, and to
use bluster and bullying on the world stage just as
As a result, Harper’s foreign policy has been
they do at home. As former diplomat, Harry Ster- severely criticized over the years on almost every
ling wrote, “Harper has yet to demonstrate he under- front:
stands the fundamental difference between pursuing
• Scarce attention to the environment to the point
policies which are in Canada’s own national interests
that Canada has been called a “climate pariah”
from those which primarily seem based on serving his
for actually blocking progress in combatting cliown political and ideological objectives.” To make
mate change.
this work, it has been the Prime Minister’s Office
which has developed Canada’s foreign policy. The
• His early approach to gratuitously insult China
expertise of our diplomats and Department of Forfor its human rights record and then pursuing it
eign Affairs has generally been ignored.
as a major trade partner.
We have been provided few insights to the sources
of Harper’s world view. He appears to be totally
• His one-sided policies on the Middle East. Callindifferent to the views of others in pursuing his
ing Israel’s devastation of the civilian populahighly personal approach to international relations.
tion in Lebanon a “balanced response” to missile
It has been said that, “our Prime Minister has a very
attacks by Hezbollah as he later called the deBritish-centric approach to the world. He’s from a
struction of Gaza simply an expression of Israel’s
Loyalist family; he’s long been an admirer of their
“right to self-defence” .
system and is a loyal Economist reader; his role model
was Margaret Thatcher; and he says ’God save the
• Cuts to funding of NGOs (non-governmental asQueen’ in his speeches.” Perhaps this explains his
sociations) promoting human rights in the Midattachment to the monarchy and the return to the
dle East and the dismantling of Canada’s world
’royal’ appellation in our armed forces. Another therecognized Rights and Democracy council when
ory is that Harper is under the influence of his evanthey tried to give balanced support to Palestine.
gelical church which brings him to defend the JudeoChristian heritage and defend Israel. Another is that
• The government avoids public consultations and
he uses foreign policy for domestic politics to collect
does not welcome independent sources of policy
money and votes from selective ethnic communities.
advice. Rather it plays to a partisan base and
A more compelling explanation for Harper’s intersees little reason for funding non-governmental
national outlook comes from his Civitas speech in
actors that do not fall in with its agenda.
Toronto in 2003 when he provided a few clues to his
• Denying the repatriation of child soldier Omar
foreign policy beliefs. He wanted, he said, to “reKhadr from Guantanamo Bay.
discover” the traditional conservatism of the political philosopher Edmund Burke, which valued “so• Continually stonewalling Parliament’s access to
cial order” , custom and religious traditions and the
secret foreign policy records.
preservation of historic values and moral convictions.
The emerging debates on foreign affairs should be
• A diminished interest in African problems where
fought on moral grounds of right and duty. Dealembassies have been closed, in part because
ing with terrorism and its sponsors and battles with
Africa was a ’Liberal issue’.
modern tyrants are battles over values. “What motivates Harper?” asks journalist Mark Kennedy. “It’s
• Refusing to include funding for abortions and
about the simplicity of right and wrong, of good and
contraceptives, critical to the safeguard of
evil.” Thus, he chose Israeli democracy over Islamist
women’s health, in his Maternal and Child
terror. You have to emphatically choose a “side” .
Health Care program.
Mr. Harper must be one of the few political leaders
to find moral choices to be simple.
• Resistance toward peace talks in Afghanistan.
• The denigration of the United Nations, the
world’s one global forum.
• As early as 2007, polls showed Canadians wanted
collective security, not selective security, negotiation instead of confrontation.
• Canada’s nascent and successful cultural policies were abandoned in favour of a focus on
Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism by
the new “muscular Canada” .
• The liquidation of internationalism by a more
insular Canadian government.
• This country and its people, although certainly
not reviled, are no longer accorded the admiration and esteem that, until recently, was the
norm. We enjoyed confidence, trust, and respect
— the bedrock of diplomatic practice.
• Canada has fallen from first place (for much of
the 1990s) to 11th place in the UN Human Development Index.
• The Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Development budget has been
severely slashed by some $400 million (?) by
2014-15. The Canadian Studies Program was
eliminated as was the Commonwealth Secretariat.
• Centralized control over all communications by
the Prime Minister’s Office has virtually eliminated Canadian public and digital diplomacy.
• By 2014, Canada was the only country to have
reneged on the Kyoto Environment Treaty, the
UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the
Cluster Munitions Treaty and the only NATO
country not yet to have signed the Arms Trade
• Instead of working for diplomatic influence on Sri
Lanka as other countries like Great Britain did,
Canada simply boycotted the Commonwealth
meeting there.
• In 2007, at a huge photo-op, a beaming Harper
and Bill Gates announced a remarkable joint
venture to speed up HIV/AIDs vaccine. Three
years later the plans to build an $88 million,
non-profit vaccine manufacturing facility in Winnipeg were unceremoniously scrapped because, it
was said, none of the bids were good enough.
There were questions of conspiracy with the
pharmaceutical industry, great frustration and
• The former Prime Minister of Australia has said,
“If you want to kill children and women, cluster
bombs are the weapon of choice” . And he has
said Canada’s proposed ratification legislation,
“Contravenes both the spirit and the letter” of
the treaty to ban the use of cluster mines.
• Despite Canada being a long-time advocate of
global arms control, the Harper government has
not yet signed the Arms Trade Treaty which
would reduce the harm caused by irresponsible
and illegal trade in weapons — because, it seems,
of misrepresentation of the treaty by Conservative friends in the gun control lobby.
• Here is a real turn around. “In the eyes of
China’s academics. Stephen Harper is ’Canada’s
George W. Bush’, a leader who has overseen
a sullying of the country’s international reputation as its national character is rewritten by
the push for dirty oil-sands crude. . . Canada once
took seriously its role as a ’defender of peace
in the international community, a sincere mediator of international arguments and a good
global citizen’. . . ’Canada’s function as a model
country is weakening’, said the report. In the
worst case, ’its unique status globally will disappear as a consequence’.” ’ (Nathan Vanderklippe, ’Canada’s image in decline’, says Chinese
report by the Centre for Canadian Studies at the
Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Globe
and Mail, 16-05-2014).
• Nevertheless, over the years, the Harper conservatives have managed to enunciate a number of “principles” in foreign affairs. ’Soft power’
does not matter so multilateral organization and
diplomats do not really matter. On the other
hand, for the Conservatives Canada’s future
prosperity depends on the extractive resource
sector. So, for example, the government gave
Natural Resources Canada a $16 million increase
in its advertising budget in one year, presumably
for lobbying in the U.S. to approve our pipeline
• After 40 years as one of the world’s preeminent leaders in development thinking, the NorthSouth Institute had its core funding eliminated
by the Harper government and it was forced to
close its doors in 2014.
• Now, to end with here’s a real contradiction.
Harper is always going on about sovereignty but
when it comes to really doing something about it
he runs in the opposite direction. At the end of
2013, Harper placed Canada under the authority
of the International Centre for Settlement of Investor Disputes, a part of the World Bank which
allows foreign companies to sue countries. The
companies get to by-pass courts and use special
tribunals where the review process is handled by
arbitrators named by an America, the president
of the Bank. It is a one-way process where countries cannot sue corporations. Awards have run
in the billions of dollars. This process can stop
countries from legislating in fields such as health,
social welfare or the environment that companies
may not like. It is the same process used in Mr.
Harper’s trade deals. He appears to like business
more than he likes Canadian sovereignty,
He does not aspire to middle rank. Harper has
rearmed the Canadian forces and placed economic
diplomacy at the centre. Immigration must serve
Canadian interests. Development aid is integrated
to trade and commerce. With government acting as
an enabler for the free market, his principal policy
goal — in his own mind – is to build the Canadian
economy. Bilateral and multilateral relations are focused on those forums where there can be economic
In a book called The Ugly Canadian, Yves Engler has proposed that the two common threads
of Harper’s foreign policy are growing militarism and support for corporate interests.
We will look at militarism below. We all know that
the Alberta tar sands are perhaps the biggest extraction enterprise in the country but few will know
that overseas investment by Canadian mining companies rose from $30 billion in 2002 to $230 billion
in 2011. Accordingly, the federal government provided $15 million for a new Canada School of Energy and Environment, essentially an industry think
tank. At the same time, our diplomats have been
retrained as apologists for the tar sands and mining. Our development projects lend moral support
to corporations and diplomats pressure foreign governments not to enact stricter mining laws. Unfortunately, a report from the Prospectors and Developers
Association of Canada concluded: “Canadian companies have been the most significant group
involved in unfortunate incidents in the developing world” — incidents include: the displacement
of indigenous communities, environmental damage,
and violent confrontation with protesters.
By 2012, as the Globe and Mail journalist Jeffrey
Simpson pointed out, the Conservatives were running on blind ideology blended with profound
parochialism of the kind that was giving Canada
a reputation as an outlier except in military interventions. Foreign Affairs and aid budgets were seriously cut, embassy residences in prime locations sold
off, staff at missions hollowed out, consulates closed,
and budgets for outreach reduced. Canada, Simpson maintained, “Had retreated into an anglospheric
worldview coupled with a focus on trade deals, but
lacking any sense of a wider conception of international affairs.”
’Hit and run’ diplomacy, it has been said, does
not work because it does not bring opposing sides together or give Canadian diplomats a chance to make
a difference. On the other hand, Canada being a
small, open economy we must recognize that being
a negotiator, ’an honest broker’, is still the best role
that we can fulfill in international politics. The world
does not need another aggressive state full of threats
and bluster. And yet this is exactly what the Harper
Conservatives have given us. They decided to take a
hardline on Iran and closed our embassy their thus
cutting off all diplomacy. When a new government
was elected in Iran, the U.S. and Europeans started
to negotiate with it. The result was a seeming halt
in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief in
trade and financial sanctions. Canada followed Israel
in scoffing at the deal, further marginalizing itself in
the Middle East and with the United States.
Along came the Ukrainian crisis and once again
Harper and Baird outdid themselves in their insults to Vladimir Putin as the West’s “most vocal
hawks” with little to back it up except bluster. In the Conservatives own literature, Mr. Harper
is described as a “Cold War warrior at heart” who has
never trusted Russian under Putin — but also recognizes that his hard line on Moscow plays well with
Canada’s Ukrainian and Polish populations. Nevertheless, when it came to direct tangible help to
Ukraine there is a great gap between the lip and the
act. Our $200 million support was long delayed and
was only a loan and not a gift. A raft of other contributions such as training for horticultural farmers
amounted to a measly (in light of the needs) $38 million. There was not much for Ukraine’s real military
The Conservatives boast of standing up to dictators, but their democracy agenda does not
meet their rhetoric. In 2008, Harper promised
to establish a new multi-party, democracy promotion agency. But by 2010 the atmosphere for multiparty cooperation had been poisoned; the agency
had disappeared from the government’s agenda; the
existing Democracy Council was disbanded; funding
was terminated for the Forum of the Federations;
the Office of Democratic Governance within CIDA
vanished; the Democracy Unit in the Department of
Foreign Affairs was folded in with other units, and
then they closed the internationally respected Rights
and Democracy agency. Ottawa went on to disband
the Sudan Task Force at a time of renewed fighting in Darfur and the need for support of South Sudan. This coincided with the expiration of the government’s Global Peace and Security Fund. But, the
Conservatives still spend $5 million annually on an
Office of Religious Freedom.
Down with the United Nations
Until the arrival of the government of Stephen
Harper, Canada had played a leading role at the
United Nations. Since its founding, Canada has been
one of its great champions. It was a Canadian, Prof.
John Humphrey, who was the principal architect of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Canadian diplomacy has supported the broadening of
membership, decolonization, North-South Dialogue,
the Rio Summit on Environment and Development,
negotiations to halt ozone layer depletion and acid
rain, and efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.
More recent Canadian initiatives include campaigns
to ban land mines and curtail the trade in blood diamonds, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and orchestrating awareness of the plight
of child soldiers.
But, Canada did not just go along with the wave.
We have never thought the UN was a perfect institution. Canadians have always tried to improve
and reform the UN. Former Prime Minister Lester
B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work
in introducing peacekeeping to the UN. For years,
we worked to improve the openness of the Security
Council. More recently, Canada funded the Commission that created the idea of the international community’s ’Responsibility to Protect’ citizens. “R2P”
is slowly reconstituting notions of sovereignty so that
the world can get on with modernizing international
relations. Roland Paris’s recent research suggests
that Canadians still strongly support both the UN
and liberal internationalism. Thus, in the past,
Canada has been an active and successful player at
the UN because of our understanding of diplomacy
and of international politics.
This is no longer the case. Over the years, the Conservatives have accused the UN of ’moral relativism’,
’going along to get along’, and ’having to please every dictator in the UN’. Liberal internationalism (of
which multilateralism and the UN are among the key
components) was caricaturized as “weak and wrong”
. It is clear that the Harper Government’s aim has
been to diminish the UN in the eyes of Canadians
and indeed of the world.
Increasingly the government of Canada is under-
mining the UN and global cooperation. Some recent
examples: We have not signed the treaty to regulate
the arms trade; Canadian diplomats at the UN make
lacklustre contributions to debates on the Responsibility to Protect; we have withdrawn from the Kyoto
Protocol on climate change and the Convention on
Desertification; Canada sent one airplane to join a
UN peacekeeping mission to help Mali — a country we used to support; our draft legislation to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions would
nullify its intent. Our record on the issue of climate
change has been so deplorable that we have received
several ’fossil of the year’ awards. In addition, cuts to
the Department of Foreign Affairs and to the salaries
of its officers have reduced our diplomatic capacity.
We have drastically reduced the number of refugees
Canada accepts and our aid program has been cut
and folded in with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Where Canada was strong, it is now weak; where we
were once prudent we are now hostile to much of what
the UN does and represents.
Canadians who listened to their Prime Minister’s
speech at the 2014 United Nations opening general
debate were probably disappointed. Many had hoped
that his decision to address the General Assembly
would also mark a turning of the page, a renewal of
Canada’s former strong commitment to the world organization. However, Mr. Harper gave no indication
of any change in Canada’s withdrawn and at times
derisive approach to the UN. In fact, Mr. Harper,
by emphasizing his one international project for Maternal and Youth Health, and ignoring current crises
and the pressing agenda of programs in which Canada
should be re-engaging, has demonstrated once again
the narrowness of his understanding of the United
Nations and indeed of foreign relations.
Also while Harper was in New York, a record 120
heads of state attended a world summit on climate
change and heard important commitments (including from the U.S. and China) that improve prospects
for a renewed ClimateTtreaty at the 2015 conference
in Paris. However, Mr. Harper was a no-show, and
Canada remains a pariah in international climate politics.
High level talks are also being held on the
Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, where a
Secretary-General’s draft Outcome Document lists 17
priority objectives that will replace the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). But, Canada’s main
aim is only to ensure that its Maternal, Newborn and
Child Health (MNCH) program remains among the
world’s priorities.
Harper supports Israel
The Harper government explicitly rejects evenhandedness in the Middle East. “Israel has no greater
friend in the world today than Canada” Foreign Minister John Baird told the American Jewish Committee. Harper’s hostility toward the United Nations,
Joe Clark maintains, is framed regularly in the context of solidarity with Israel. And yet this is precisely the time when Israel could benefit most from
constructive examination of its options.
Harper’s binary approach is brash, with little respect for diplomatic politesse. On supporting Israel,
Harper is unequivocal. He is also doubtful about the
value of multilateralism and the norms of international law. Harper’s political goal is to polarize Canadian politics into a right-left contest to eliminate the
centre-straddling Liberal party. He will build a conservative Canada by shifting power to the West, and
enlisting new Canadians who favour less government
and emphasise law and order.
On the other hand, it is human rights and the rule
of law that should guide our policy with regard to Israel. The Israeli author Ari Shavit has warned that
Israel needs to confront the “moral, demographic and
political disaster” that is the military occupation of
Arab lands and the expansion of Israeli settlements.
These two practices go against international law and
Palestinian rights. Unlike other international leaders,
Harper steadfastly refused to bring up these issues
on his 2013 trip to Israel. It is here that we see that
Harper has most obdurately reversed Canada’s balanced foreign policy as a ’helpful fixer’ in the Middle
East (or elsewhere). One wonders why? Some suggest it is for electoral advantage. It indeed appears
true from the Conservatives efforts to woo Jewish voters and turn their money away from the Liberals.
But even the Conservatives know there are more
Muslims in Canada than Jews. So there must be
more to it than that. Harper has indicated it comes
in part from a strong personal instinct. Jeffrey Simpson writes in The Globe and Mail that it comes from
Harper’s ’Manichean’ view of the world, seeing it simply as a battle of good and evil — a binary view
of which we have often accused the Americans. In
an interview with The Ottawa Citizen on the eve of
Prime Minister Harper’s trip to Israel and the Middle East, Jason Kenney, Employment Minister, said
Canada has a ’moral obligation’ to support a secure
homeland for Israel in its daily existential struggle for
survival and stop the rise of “new anti-Semitism” . In
the end, Harper has intentionally reversed Canada’s
traditional ’balanced’ policy because he mistakenly
believed it was a ’Liberal’ policy.
All Canadian governments have always supported
Israel’s right to exist in security ever since the first
UN vote on the State of Israel in 1947, of which Lester
Pearson was one of the architects. What has changed
is Harper’s single —minded, abrasive support of Israel right or wrong. The problem with this is that
it is neither in Canada’s interest nor in the interest
of effective diplomacy. Our interest, as a country
with both Arab and Jewish citizens is not to work
for either one but to strive for a more secure Middle East for the good of everyone. It is un-Canadian
for either of these groups to seek Canadian support
for a foreign government. Harper’s unilateral policy
increases a sense of division that fuels strife. As retired diplomat Jeremy Kinsman has written in the
National Post, “Helping Israelis find an equitable solution, rather than mere cheerleading, is what friends
are for” . A diplomatic role for Canada would be for
us to seek to work with others in a complex situation — even if our influence in the region is minimal.
Now, according to Kinsman, “We’re out of it” , because we are no longer trusted by the Americans or
by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic
In his speech to the Knesset, to bolster his support for the “Jewish State” of Israel, Harper particularly insisted on the arrival of a “new strain of anti
—Semitism”. This strain, Harper claims, turns anger
from the Jewish race/religion to the State of Israel.
Thus, for Harper, criticizing Israel is tantamount to
being anti-Semitic and full of hate. This is sheer non37
sense. It is quite possible to be critical of Israeli policies without being anti-Israel. Canadians are critical
of many countries, even their own. Many different
people, including Jews, criticise Israel. As Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times, “If Israel doesn’t
stop the settlement madness, denying the Palestinians a West bank state, it will fit the caricature of
its worst enemies” . During the second Gaza crisis
in August 2014, 120 Quebec intellectuals and writers published a text in Le Devoir flaying the Harper
government for ’Abandoning Canada’s Peaceful Vocation’. They deplored the Conservatives betrayal of
Canada’s traditional force for peace by offering their
unconditional support to the Israeli government. At
the same time, 300 Holocaust survivors and their descendants condemned Israel’s ’genocide of Palestinian
people’ in an advertisement in the New York Times.
What we see here is another example of Harper’s
divisive politics. To make his point, he insinuates
that anyone who disagrees with him is his enemy. He
vituperates against a ’balanced’ approach to foreign
policy as “weak and wrong” and “moral relativism”
. He finds “dark corners” in civil society, on campuses and at the United Nations. This is an obvious
attempt to paint everyone who disagrees with him
on Israel as racist, full of hatred. The opposite is
the truth. It is those who truly admire Israel for its
culture and courage who are most upset when they
think some Israeli politicians are not behaving in the
country’s best interests. Besides, as André Pratte of
La Presse headlined his January 21st editorial, “In
whose name is Harper talking?” He is right. The
Prime Minister has never deigned to discuss his Israel policy with Parliament or the Canadian people.
It is simply dictated. Canada would be much better advised to return to doing the best it can, as a
respected honest broker.
In reality, Harper’s unblinking support for Netanyahou’s Israeli government is a microcosm of all
that is wrong with his foreign policy. It is simplistic,
seeing everything in black and white. Harper’s aggressiveness was carried over to the UN where Canadian diplomats were ordered to block resolutions even
mildly critical of Israel. Even at the G8’s 2011 meeting in Deauville, he vetoed any mention of Israel’s
borders in the final document. Baird, on becom-
ing Foreign Minister, told the Department of Foreign Affairs he did not want to hear the opinion of
their experts because he and the government had already fixed their positions on Israel and the Middle
East. The Conservative’s bellicosity marginalizes us
in the eyes of our friends and allies like Great Britain,
France and the United States all of whom pleaded
with Israeli to come to terms with the Palestinians.
No one talked to Canada. Washington, we were told,
took exception to Canada’s servile approach to Israel and thoughtless hostility to Iran. As the editorialist in Le Droit wrote, ’Canada does not facilitate peace’. In fact, it stirred up the flames. Critics
condemned Harper’s bullhorn diplomacy which had
replaced Canada’s traditional ’quiet diplomacy’.
The Ups and Downs of Defence
under the Conservatives
’Inconsistent’ is the one word that describes the defence policy of the Harper Conservatives. In fact,
the historian and military expert Jack Granatstein
went so far as to claim the Conservatives had no defence policy at all. The lack of consistency can be
seen throughout their defence initiatives but here we
will concentrate on the ups and downs of the defence
budget, the on again off again procurement policies,
the fragility of the armed forces and the inhuman
treatment of our veterans. But, we should never forget that the man that spent more than 18 billion of
our dollars in Afghanistan was one of the first to run
away leaving behind a state of warlords, Taliban and
narco-trafficers where women can’t go out without a
male guardian.
The bare facts are striking enough. Determined
to give Canada the means to be a ’warrior state’,
the markedly pro-military Stephen Harper increased
the Department of Defence’s budget from $!5 billion
in 2005 to $21 billion in 2011. But, in 2013-14 the
budget was cut by 22% or $3.1 billion. The public accounts for 2013-14 showed that for the third
consecutive year the expenditures for military equipment, arms and infrastructure had significant reductions. This brought the budget down to the lowest level since the Second World War, just one per
cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In real terms
this means the Defence budget will decline from On
another level, the World Federalists of Canada issued a 2014 report showing that Canada had only 34
UN peacekeepers out of a world total of more than
100,000 serving the UN.
Mind you, this did not stop the Conservatives from
spending a quarter of a million dollars on new army
insignia to replace the maple leaf with the older
British ’pips’ and crowns as part of the government’s
push to re-instate symbols of the monarchy. That
will likely go down well in Quebec.
Still, money talks. The Canadian military is now
woefully underequipped as a result of budget cuts and
poor procurement policies by the Conservatives and
previous governments. Our ancient CP-140 Aurora
airplanes started patrolling the Arctic in 1980. Costly
upgrade projects launched in the 1990s are still going
on. Still, the government has announced once again
it will not buy new surveillance aircraft even after 35
years of use.
Similarly, our jet fighters are so old that they were
bought under Pierre Trudeau, also in the 1980’s. In
2010 the Conservatives announced they would buy
the largely U.S. built Joint Strike Fighter only to
freeze the file in 2012 to make a new review which
still has not been made public. There is no decision
on a replacement fighter, nor even a decision on how
a decision will be made .But, then, the sneakiness
came back. A leaked, classified high-level Pentagon
briefing revealed that there were back-channel dealings of Prime Minister Harper’s government secretly
seeking early delivery in 2015 of four of the F-35 deepstrike fighters. A signed letter of intent would be a
firm commitment to buy the rest of the order while
officially maintaining that Canada is abiding by an
open and transparent evaluation of Canada’s combat aircraft needs — and all this while not informing
Parliament and continuing to deceive Canadians.
At the same time, the Navy’s supply ships are being decommissioned without replacements in sight
and other ships are years behind schedule and over
budget. This is so, Canada’s Auditor General says,
because the government took what were to be initial estimates and locked them in as actual project
budgets. The problem is procurement process and
politics he says.
The list of Conservative military equipment blunders is revealing of their back and forth decisionmaking. According to Prof. Elinor Sloan of Carleton,
as of September 2013:
• There had been no delivery on marine helicopters promised in 2008.
• No request made for proposal for Search and
Rescue aircraft anticipated in 2005
• No start of support ships promised for 2012.
• No design chosen for Arctic Patrol Ships planned
for delivery in 2013.
• No design for replacement destroyers now expected for first delivery in 2022.
• Government cancelled the army’s Close Combat
• The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter still under review.
• The promise for three armed, heavy ice breakers
died after a year.
• The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy failed to deliver a single vessel three years
after the shipyards were chosen in 2011.
Such a perilous state of affairs led the columnist
Michael Den Tandt to ask, “Question: For how much
longer can the federal Conservatives shamble along
with a national defence and procurement posture
that is disjointed, underfunded, poorly understood,
chronically secretive, obviously unequal to the challenges at hand?”
All of this was disquieting background for the run
up to the government’s decision to participate in the
war against the Islamic State (ISIL) using its decade’s
old equipment. The government was given plaudits
by some for acting to support its allies against a barbaric terrorist movement. Others including the opposition parties said the government was once again
reacting in its typical black and white, controlling,
only- one- path, mode. The Conservatives decided
all alone, never taking the opposition or the public
into their confidence. Baird talked about humanitarian assistance but there was little effort or much
delivery and as of 2014, Canada, the previous champion of refugees, had only agreed to help (perhaps)
1,300 Syrians (mostly paid for by private sponsors)
compared to Sweden’s 30-40,000.
There is a major gap between Harper’s rhetoric
about countering Putin and ISIL and his slashing of
military budgets. His preference for military history,
monuments, medals, ceremonies, parades and words
of praise do not help with equipment, deployment,
veteran’s services and budgets, as Jeffrey Simpson
has pointed out. “A string of broken promises, delays, cost overruns, policy reversals and braggadocio
have characterized the Harper Government’s defence
procurements efforts.”
Andrew Coyne was much less tender. Analysing
what he called the ’F-35 fighter fiasco’, he concluded,
“In sum, virtually every safeguard that was supposed
to protect the public purse and public interest was
subverted, evaded, or rolled over. Ministers failed to
exercise oversight over their departments; Parliament
was prevented from exercising oversight over ministers; the public was kept in the dark throughout. . . If
ever proof were needed of the weakness of our democratic institutions — and of the urgent necessity of
reform — this is it.”
Abuse of veterans
Let us now turn to the issue of the Conservative’s
abuse of our veterans. It was the Veteran’s Affairs
Minister Julian Fantino who arrived late one evening
to meet a delegation of veterans, proceeded to fight
with them and then stamp out. This is also the government that wanted to stop the public from seeing
the bodies of our Afghanistan heroes being brought
home. But these insults were nothing in comparison
to the abominable treatment of veterans by a government that flatters itself to be a champion of the
According to the veterans and the Royal Canadian
Legion, the government of Canada in the person of
Prime Minister Robert Borden had created a sort of
Social Compact with veterans when he said during
the First World War, “You need not fear that the
government and the country will omit to recognize
the valour of the service you are making to the country.” This promise was generally kept until the arrival of the Harper Conservatives. This is no small
matter. There are some 700,000 veterans of which
200,000 were in contact with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013. Under this government some
40,000 Canadians fought in Afghanistan and more
than 2,000 were wounded physically or mentally. In
2013-14, 18 soldiers committed suicide. They obviously needed our help. What did Ottawa do?
The Conservative government simply says it has no
obligation to honour the decisions of former governments. Thus, in 2006 it instituted a ’New Charter
for Veterans’. One of its principle weapons was to
condemn wounded veterans to a one-time pay out
supposedly of maximum of $300,000. In reality, the
government only gave out an average of $45,000 during the first seven years of the program — whereas
wounded veterans used to receive a non-taxable annual stipend of $31,000. The difference is staggering.
When veterans sued the government to get the money
back, the Harper government tried in vain to stop it
going to court and then dragged its feet during the
trial. The Minister was given $4 million more to advertise false claims of aiding veterans on TV.
But there was more to come. The Conservatives
next took an ax to the Veterans department budget
by $226 million, equal to 30% of its administrative
funding for 2011-2014. It was one of the deepest
ministerial cuts. Then to add insult to injury, the
Conservatives took away the Integrated Centres of
Personal Support and the nine regional bureaus of
Veterans Affairs Canada that were attached to them.
For wounded veterans these centres were their lifeline
for help, treatment and information from the government. I have a feeling that if most Canadians were to
know about this they would be sick to their stomachs
— but not the Conservatives.
All this came to ahead in November 2014 when two
new facts were revealed. The Department of Veterans Affairs had 900 fulltime positions eliminated between 2011 and 2014, representing 25% of its workforce. Veterans were waiting for up to eight months
for service because the remaining public servants each
had between 750 and 1200 files to deal with. Then
it became known that the Department had returned
$ millions of its unexpended budget that had been
voted by Parliament! That is why the Veterans had
all their services cut. In his attempt to explain the
situation, Pat Stogran, the first Veterans Ombudsman, said in his view, the senior bureaucrats run Veterans Affairs like an insurance company, “just trying
to write these people off as an industrial accident”
rather than as an agency to help vets. Mind you,
the Government certainly encouraged them in this
view. It offered senior bureaucrats some $5 million
in bonuses when they trimmed their budgets and had
unexpended funds to return to the Treasury Board..
Finally, the veterans began fighting back. A group
of Afghan veterans started a lawsuit against the federal government (what a spectacle) over their pensions. Six other groups of veteran advocates had
formed a coalition to boycott government announcements and galvanize votes against Conservatives.
Others plan to crisscross the country campaigning
against the Conservatives.
Arctic Farce
Since being prime minister, Stephen Harper has made
an annual summer visit to the people of the Canadian
North to show them they are loved by Ottawa. This is
all well and good. Of course, it is also an opportunity
for a picture such as the Titanic like photo of our hero
on the prow of a ship plunging through the ice with
a Canadian flag streaming in the wind behind him.
Like the Titanic, Harper’s Arctic policy was soon to
The Conservatives had decided to mutate Canada
into a war-fighting state and to turn its back on
peacekeeping traditions. This can even be seen in
the vaunted ’Northern Vision’. In 2007 Harper
promised an Arctic port at Nanisivik, the construction of eight Arctic patrol ships and the construction of a fleet of three heavy duty ice-breakers. Due
to budget cuts, regulatory snags, and some shortsightedness there is uncertainty about when or if the
Nanisivik port can start. The three ice-beakers have
reportedly become one and the plan for the patrol
ships cut back from eight to five. Seven years later,
nothing has been done except to make a start on
the first highway to the Arctic. While Canada blusters, Russia has moved ahead on all fronts.
Harper has also worked to make polar sovereignty
a foremost priority. There are triple goals: keeping
control over the 1,500 kilometer Northwest Passage as
global warming opens the possibility of shipping (52
vessels made full transits in 2012 and 2013); preparing for resource development; and cultivating a Conservative legacy as a champion of the North. But the
leitmotif is sovereignty. As Harper told Steven Chase
of the Globe and Mail, “The government’s position
is unequivocal. Canada’s Arctic is sovereign territory.” To which northern specialists, Heather ExnerPirot and Joel Plouffe respond, “It is in Canada’s
interest to use its position to advance common interests in the circumpolar world. But Prime Minister
Harper’s sovereignty rhetoric is proving detrimental
to Canada’s ability to do so.”
As Michael Den Tandt summarized in the Citizen,
“The search for Franklin alone does not comprise and
Arctic sovereignty strategy.”
In reality, in his Northern policy, Harper has been
building on the shoulders of previous Canadian governments and diplomats who negotiated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which gives Arctic
coastal states the right to enact laws against maritime
pollution. In addition, Article 76 of the Convention,
accords coastal states rights over “an extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles”. Countries
wishing to make this claim must submit supporting
scientific evidence. Norway filed its claim in 2006.
But despite Harper’s recent claim of the North Pole,
Canada still had not made a complete submission by
2014. But even more, there is a strong questioning
of the relevance of basing development of the North
simply on notions of sovereignty. The people of the
North would like to see transport and living subsidies
that would make living in the Arctic region more economical and open it to development projects. Also,
it has been said that only one thing can overcome the
challenges of weather and distance in the great white
North, and that is ’cooperation’. In an era of global
politics, Harper’s ’sovereignty’ rhetoric is out-of-date.
It is our increasing isolationism that is most dangerous to Canada’s interest in the Arctic. Perhaps the
best way to use our claim of sovereignty would be to
cooperate with the others in the Arctic Council to
advance our common interests.
Despite Government Rhetoric,
Canadian Humanitarian Aid Goes
Via UN
It is ironical, but even under the Harper Conservatives the favoured channel by far for Canadian government humanitarian dollars is the United Nations.
Humanitarian aid goes both to natural disasters and
human conflict zones in situations fraught with chaos,
starvation and violence. When such emergencies occur, donors look for the best and fastest ways of delivering assistance. About 10 per cent goes through the
Red Cross, 25 percent through NGOs and the bulk,
usually more than half, through the UN. The main
UN, on-the-ground, agencies are the World Food Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF), the Development Program (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — among others. The UN is also
responsible for coordination through the Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
and also for information, advance warning and research. We all know from the media that relief efforts are always under-funded and often leave much
to be desired. All the more reason, then that an
alternate foreign policy would be working hand and
fist to strengthen and improve the UN’s herculean responses to humanitarian need. The same is true of
our once robust acceptance of refugees. Despite repeated cries for help from Syria, the UN and friends
and relations, by 2014 Canada had barely accepted
1,000 of the millions of Syrian refugees while Sweden
alone had accepted some 40,000. The government
even closed our Embassy and Consulate in Damascus
to make it really difficult to get a visa to Canada.
Development Assistance
Down the Drain
But there is more to humanitarian assistance than
disaster aid. In the long run there is also on-going
hunger, poverty, unemployment, sickness, lack of ed-
ucation and a myriad other challenges. Canadians
used to think they had a responsibility to help the
poorest in the world. What is Canada’s response under Harper who came to power distrusting Canadian
aid? By 2011 one could see the start of a move to a
Conservative approach to aid. Before she was kicked
out for her $15 a glass orange juice, the Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda told international
organizations and NGOs that they better be ready for
change and they should practice transparent accounting. As Pierre Bergeron editorialized in Le Droit, “We
speak about accounting when the world wants to hear
us speak about humanity.”
Having given warning, the Conservatives followed
through by cutting the budget of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) by $377 million (7.5%) in 2012. In 2013 they found a new way
to hack at the foreign aid budget. They simply did
not spend it and sent $1 billion back to the treasury.
Project proposals had been sitting on CIDA Minister Julian Fantino’s desk (yes, the same man) for
months. It amounted to massive cuts without transparency as none of this was reported to Parliament
for debate. The next step was to insert Conservative
concepts of foreign aid which is to get maximal yield
for its ’investment’, a healthy management of ’risk’,
a strong belief in development ’banks’, aid projects
built around ’commercial interests’, particularly mining, and a profound faith in private enterprise. Remember, this is the field in which we are meant to be
helping the needy. The goodly sum of $25 million was
given to an ’Institute on mining and development’.
There was $20 million for the International Finance
Corporation to promote private-sector development.
Then came the final act. CIDA was simply folded
into the Department of Foreign Affairs. International
development no longer has a distinct Canadian presence. There are no longer any articles or debates
about foreign aid. It is hidden away. Another Canadian legacy has been smashed.
The aftermath is rather astounding but barely
provable. In 2014, Mr. Harper was lauded by the
World Bank, the World Health Organization and the
UN for Canada’s more than $5 billion contribution
to maternal and child health. The Prime Minister’s
Office liked the programme because ’the results of the
investment would be relatively easy to measure and it
would improve the Party’s image for being concerned
about global poverty and foreign aid.’ It is also almost exactly the amount of CIDA’s $5 billion budget
when it was folded in DFAIT-D. A coincidence?
In the autumn of 2014, the flag ship of Canadian
development policy analysis, the North-South Institute was obliged to close its doors when the Harper
Conservatives withdrew the government’s core funding. Its loss was mourned by three former party leaders, Paul Martin, Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent and
also the President of the Canadian Council for International Development (CCIC), Julia Sanchez. The
Institute was Canada’s only international development think-tank and contributed to global debates
on poverty reduction, gender inequality, the role of
the private sector, resource governance and more.
Canada’s aid levels at about 0.2% of national income
are now amongst the lowest among wealthy countries.
And yet the government felt we could afford to jettison this world recognized Canadian tool for development leadership and the dissemination of knowledge.
Economic and Political Policies: Mostly for Business and
the Rich
Chapter 1 was an overview of how to remember and
to think about the great harms the Harper Conservatives have done to Canada. The second, third and
fourth Chapters looked at the specific damages done
to our democracy, intelligence and world reputation.
In this last chapter, before the conclusions, we look at
various types of injurious Conservative policies, both
economic and political. Obviously it is impossible to
cover all policy areas, certainly not in great depth.
The objective will be to cover the main preoccupations of Conservative and show briefly how they have
marred the integrity of Canada and its citizens.
So let us first get an idea of the general orientation
of Conservative policies. In general, we may say the
following: from the beginning the principle objective
has been to minimize government and to serve business interests and aid the wealthy. We can see this
with regard to support for the resource industries,
free trade, tax reduction, income splitting, and child
care. Often this comes under the Harper heading
of ’stimulating economic growth’. Poverty, temporary foreign workers and refugees did not fall under
this heading. The Conservatives hung on to policies
through thick and thin that would satisfy their electoral base, especially their social concerns such as
crime and guns. They also had pet enemies like the
CBC, the telecommunication companies, unions, the
environment, and government regulations and services. In fact, it is well known that the Harper Conservatives did not much care for government in general and the public service and Ottawa in particular.
Some things they just didn’t seem to understand very
well such as Quebec, the native peoples and health
policy. It was as though these subjects flew under
their political radar. Now, let us turn to the various
policy areas, one at a time, starting with economic
The Canadian economy:
National Action Plan
Not a
One of the great boasts of the Harper Conservatives is
that they know how to manage the Canadian economy. The actual record shows this boast is false.
Let’s look at a list of the economic setbacks during
the Conservative hold on office:
• Instead of seeing government as a tool for economic innovation and investment and for promoting social justice, they destroyed the federal
government’s economic capacity to lead and protect;
• Like a one-eyed man, they focused only on balancing the budget and reducing taxes, thus neglecting Ottawa’s role in growing the economy;
• Being half-blind, the Conservatives looked after the rich and the business class while leaving
the poor and the middle class to fend for themselves.
• The Conservatives took a wrong-headed and
short-sighted approach to economic develop43
ment. Instead of investing in jobs, technological innovation and reinforcing leading edge industries, they threw Canada back into dependence on oil and other resources — usually sold
off without further profit producing treatment
and refining.
The Conservatives didn’t lose any time in showing
their colors in their first round of $1 billion program
cutbacks in 2006-7. The targets clearly indicated
Conservative political orientations. They included:
end to medical marijuana science funding; smaller
cabinet; consolidation of foreign missions; cancellation of High-Frequency Surface Wave Radar Project;
cuts to museums; reductions to Status of Women
Canada; elimination of Court Challenges Program;
elimination of Centre for Research and Information
on Canada; cutting of Law Commission of Canada;
elimination of RCMP drug-impaired driving program
training budget. In other words, the Conservatives
found that spending on women, museums, law, research, foreign affairs and science was expendable.
To go into a little greater depth, let us start with
the issue of the federal budget. Stephen Harper
believes his Master’s Degree in Economics allows him
to call himself an economist. Whatever the reason,
he felt justified in keeping his Finance Minister, Jim
Flaherty, on a short leash when he moved to Ottawa,
after having made a botch of the Ontario economy
under Premier Harris. So we can name the Canadian
economy for the eight years from 2006 to 2014 as the
Harper-Flaherty economic caldron. What happened?
They inherited a $14 billion structural surplus from the Liberal government and then, for
purely ideological reasons and against all economic
advice, the Harper-Flaherty duo cut the GST by 2
percent which wiped out the surplus and went on to
cost the federal treasury $115 billion between 2006
and 2015. If one adds the GST tax cuts to the income tax cuts of $17 billion a year and the corporate
income tax reductions of $13 billion annually, we find
the federal government $43.4 billion a year poorer
since 2005. In other words, “Canada doesn’t have a
deficit problem. Canada has a revenue problem” .
The deficit justified them in a policy of expenditure restraint which is still leading to cuts in Ottawa’s
programs. The Conservative ideological reasoning is
simple and clear. If they can starve Ottawa of its
tax revenues they can justify cuts to the federal government’s services to avoid budget deficits and thus
shrink the government’s role in the economy while
liberating the private sector to rule the roost. The
government’s balancing role is destroyed.
The second major economic jolt appeared to be
contradictory – in the short run. In 2008, HarperFlaherty, despite the rapidly worsening economy, denied that Canada was going into recession. Brought
up short by Harper’s participation if the G-20 international economic meeting and by the threat of
being usurped by a coalition of the opposition parties, Harper-Flaherty did a 180 degree about face and
adopted the largest temporary stimulus package ever
with increased expenditures of $45 billion over three
years — leading to a $55 billion deficit in 200910, the largest federal deficit ever. Of course,
they did not want to do it, but were forced to save the
Canadian economy by the opposition parties — and
then went on to call it their ’Economic Action Plan’
in all their advertising. In fact, their few economic
successes were handed to them on a platter by the
previous Liberal Government which had reduced the
debt ratios to their lowest level and had strengthened
the bank sector by refusing mergers of the giants and
increasing bank capital requirements. That is what
saw Canada through the great recession of 2008. But
the seeming Conservative ideological reversal did not
last long. They were soon back to what they like
best: firing people in the public service, cutting back
services so as to reduce the deficit, and generally reducing the size of government.
Two former leaders in the Finance Department,
Scott Clark and Peter De Vries, recorded the tragedy
that followed, “During the time Flaherty was Finance
Minister from 2006 to 2014, Canada’s federal debt
increased by $160 billion, the country recorded
record trade deficits, investment growth stalled, economic growth declined year over year, the unemployment rate remained stuck at seven per cent and the
labor force participation rate declined, as did the percentage of the adult population employed.” The principal error was to fixate on austerity and deficit reduction to the exclusion of investment and economic
growth during a fragile economy. It took, the Bank of
Canada until the end of 2014 to announce for the first
time that the economic recovery might be ’broadening’. Now, remember that this is the party which
keeps trumpeting that only it can manage the economy!
The third slap of Harper-Flaherty to Ottawa’s economic integrity was to hobble budgetary transparency. Information and data became unavailable
and the public defender, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, came under attack — unjustly
as it turned out. Then the Conservatives hid the
2012 and 2013 Budget particulars and much additional legislation in mammoth budget ’omnibus bills’
stretching to nearly 1000 pages and designed to avoid
in-depth parliamentary review. Since becoming a
majority government, the Harper Conservatives has
used vast omnibus budget bills not only to camouflage their financial plans but to hide away from the
opposition and the public other important legislation,
for instance on the environment, public servant pension plans and Canada’s fisheries.
The omnibus budget bills of more than 400
pages were a stab in the back for Canadian
democracy. In the case of Bill C-38 in 2012, MPs
were forced by the government to vote for 8 consecutive hours into the night so the government could
use its majority to turn back each and every one of
the 1,600 opposition party amendments. “These omnibus budget implementation bills subvert and evade
the normal principles of parliamentary review of
legislation. . . involving complex technical legal matters. . . with flaws and hidden implications lurking in
their hundreds of pages” , stated parliamentary expert, Prof. C.E.S.Franks.
Fourth, Harper-Flaherty spurned tax fairness
and after-tax equity. For instance, the incomesplitting policy only benefitted the rich as did the
Tax Free Savings Accounts which may cost the treasury some $10 billion annually. After years of concentrated Conservative propaganda against ’tax and
spend’ Canadians have forgotten that it has often
been the intention of Canadian governments to ’tax
and build’. As a result of Harper’s cutting in half the
federal government’s contributions to the Canadian
economy, we are now living in a stagnating country
where standards of living have flat-lined, the middle
class is shrinking, productivity and competitiveness
rates are down and deficits and debt are exacerbated
— in the provinces if not in Ottawa.
Fifth, as in other policy areas, Harper-Flaherty
didn’t bother consulting the provinces when
they decided to cut the Health Transfer to provinces
by $30 billion and to increase the age of entitlement
for Old Age Security by two years.
The Harper Conservatives like to claim that the
average Canadian is paying less in taxes now. The
Conservatives have reduced the Goods and Services
Tax (the infamous GST), some people have received
personal income tax reductions and also various targeted tax credits for specific groups (children’s sports,
art lessons and firefighters), Harper’s favourites, the
corporations now only contribute 14 per cent of total
federal revenues (it used to be 23 per cent), and there
are lower tariffs from free trade deals.
So if Ottawa is going to balance the budget (a turnaround of $29 billion) from where do all the federal
revenues come? Surprise, surprise! They will come
from the average Canadian tax payer. It is all slightof-hand. Here’s how it works. The government is
predicting that, aside from cutting expenditures on
services (3 per cent), total take from income taxes
will grow by about 5 per cent a year from 2012 to
2019. This is because the economy will supposedly
be growing, more people will be working, and people
will move up the tax scale. Et voilà! The annual income taxes that we average Canadians pay will rise
from their present $126 billion to $168 billion, that
is, they will grow from 46 per cent of Ottawa’s income to 50 per cent. So that is how economists can
claim that as a share of what the Government
is taking in, the average Joe is paying more.
Of course, this whole house of cards could collapse if
the tanking commodity markets rob the government
of their revenues. But then Harper will find someone else to blame – just as he did with the budget.
Canada no longer publishes an annual budget.
The other sources of the turn-around in the federal budget were program cuts and, as we learnt in
the last year, enormous amounts of unexpended
funds that were voted by Parliament. The federal government held on to $7 billion of what were
called “stealth cuts” in the last fiscal year bringing to
a total of $18 billion in lapsed spending from 2012 to
2014. The Conservative government sat on billions in
planned spending to balance its budget by the 2015
election, while many departments and agencies were
starved for funds. For instance the Defence Department, with lapsed spending of $1billion had to park
many of its military vehicles, cut back on training,
and cancel the purchase of spare parts.
Not only are Canadian finances not what the Conservatives claim, but Canada’s wealth inequality
is a national disaster. The past 13 years have
seen a pronounced increase in wealth in Canada, but
that wealth has flowed into the hands of a relatively
small group of the rich. For every new dollar of real
wealth generated in Canada since 1999, 66 cents have
gone to the wealthiest 20% of families, 23% to the
middle class and 10% to the other 60%. In general,
Canada’s richest 20% take home almost 50% of all income. 70% of all wealth belongs to the richest 20%.
Inequality has reached such extremes that according
to the Canadian Business magazine, the 86 wealthiest Canadians hold the same amount of wealth as the
poorest 11.4 million Canadians combined. In dollar
terms, under the guidance of the Conservatives, the
net worth of this small group has grown from $120
billion in 1999 to almost $180 billion in 2012.
On the street what this means is that in Ottawa,
one of Canada’s wealthiest cities, the number of poor
people forced to use the Food Bank jumped by 34%
during 2014. For Ontario, the average increase for
the use of food banks during 2014 was 20%.
Poor working conditions were the main cause including unstable jobs and the absence of regular salaries
along with the increases in the cost of living. During
the past seven years of Conservative government, the
number of people using food banks in Ontario grew
from 314,000 to 375,000 on average per month. As
Ed Broadbent has written, evidence shows that more
equal societies do better for everyone for health, life
expectancy, levels of social trust, opportunities and
upward mobility. A large majority of Canadians also
believe that severe inequality is bad for our democracy.
Another indicator of poverty and inequality are the
poor living conditions of the one million Canadi-
ans, representing the nearly 20 per cent of
the workforce, who are forced to work part
time and have no health benefits or pensions.
Nor are things getting better. Part-time work accounted for 80 per cent of net job creation in 20132014. Not only are these people poor but their lives
are thrown into turmoil, they have no guarantee of
minimum hours and their savings have evaporated.
They live on the edge in a brutal world where employers use them as a tool to cut costs. And they are
not alone. After Margaret Wente wrote in the Globe
that Harper deserved to be re-elected because in the
eight years he has been in office the Conservatives
have managed to increase average weekly earnings by
a whole 9.9 per cent, a letter from Richard Goldman
was received by the newspaper saying that Wente had
neglected to mention that unemployment is up, that
household debt-to-income ratio is up from 120 to 150
per cent, and that the poverty rate is up from 10.2
to 12 per cent. We also know that the percentage of
those working for the minimum wage between 2006
and 2012 (under the Conservatives) has grown by 59
per cent. The widespread effects of poverty go beyond personal finance to reduce consumer demand
and economic growth.
At the other end of the spectrum is the unending support of the Harper Conservatives for
the wealthy, for business and for the resource
industries. The Toronto Star reporter, Thomas
Walkom summarized the process in his analysis of
the 2010 budget. As always with the Harper Conservatives, he writes, the real nuggets are in the fine
print. In the Arctic, environmental regulations are
“streamlined” to make it easier for oil companies to
drill and mining firms to dig. Federal environmental
assessments are to be moved to the more industryfriendly National Energy Board. Reminiscent of Ontario’s Harris government (the home of Baird, Flaherty and Clement) a “red-tape commission” will be
set up to eliminate all kinds of federal regulations
deemed to interfere with business. Foreign ownership
restrictions will be further weakened for the telecommunications sector. Canada is ranked by KPMG as
the most favourable tax environment for business in
the developed world. On the other hand, foreign aid
is to be indefinitely frozen. This help to friends is all
in addition to the distribution of tax cuts. Remember
we just saw that Ottawa had reduced its taxes by $43
billion. Guess where the benefits went? According to
the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the bottom fifty
per cent of Canadian households averaged benefits
of $1,130 while the richest five per cent of households
received tax breaks of $4,170, almost four times more.
The unmitigated Conservative support for
the resource industries and particularly for the
oil sands of Alberta knew no limits. Canada
became an international climate change denier so
Alberta could increase its pollution. We insulted
the Americans (remember Harper saying “It’s a nobrainer” ) over the southern pipeline to carry Alberta
crude to the southern states. Harper even put $200
million into a land link to the Arctic by building
the 137 km. road to Tuktoyaktuk to reduce costs
of petroleum exploration in the Beaufort Sea. As one
example of clearing the path for resource development, the Conservatives eliminated 100 jobs in 2013
dealing with green energy and the energy economy
in the Natural Resources Department. We put all
our economic eggs in the resource industry basket to
the neglect of innovative energy exploration. In 2000,
raw resources accounted for 40 per cent of Canada’s
economic activity. By 2011, it had risen to close to 65
per cent. It was a first class blunder for the management of the Canadian economy (remember Harper
proclaiming, just like Putin, “Canada is an energy
super-power” ). The ramifications of resource dependence hobbled the development of the entire economy.
The few years of easy money pumped up our currency
and high labour costs hurt other export and service
sectors. Competitiveness plunged. We lost interest
in innovation and research and development in other
industries. Because money was cheap we ran up our
national and international debt. We became dependent on imported goods. This is the wrecked economy the Conservatives have bequeathed to Canadian
Signs of disintegration of the
Canadian economy under the
“You know, there’s two schools in economics
on this. One is that there are some good
taxes and the other is that no taxes are
good taxes. I’m in the latter category.
I don’t believe that any taxes are good
taxes.” Stephen Harper July 10, 2009 Geoffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail, 14-07-2009.
the regulator and guarantor of social justice. Roberto Savio, [email protected] ’Ever wonder why the world is a
mess?’ Other News, 30-06-2014.
Canada has slipped further down the
ranking of the world’s most competitive
economies, as the country’s lagging innovation puts it at a disadvantage, the World
Economic Forum said. It ranked Canada
15th down one position from last year and
the lowest ranking since 2006 on the index.
Globe and Mail, 3-09-2014.
Employment in Canada’s private sector is
at a standstill. While monthly employment
figures have seesawed through the year, one
trend is clear: companies are in no mood
to hire, having shed a record number of
jobs. Month-to-month measures have been
volatile but the longer term view shows
full-time and private positions have barely
budged in a year, while eight in ten new jobs
have been part-time. Tavia Grant, Globe
and Mail, 2-09-2014.
The Bank of Canada warned at the end of
2014 that current statistics suggest the market is ’slack’. High household debt loads are
a threat to financial stability; annual wage
growth has slowed; the number of hours
worked has little changed from a year ago;
and the country’s participation rate in employment, still at 66 per cent, is the lowest
in nearly 13 years.
There are roughly 265,000 fewer young
people with jobs today than there were
in 2008. . . Two-thirds of the vanished jobs
were full-time positions. . . Actual spending
on the federal Youth Employment Strategy
fell by over $50 million between 2010 and
2013 and it is planned to fall a further $30
million by 2016. Armine Yalnizyan, CCPA
Monitor, May 2014.
One of the Conservative’s flagship economic
programs, an income tax credit of $550 million for small businesses is likely to create
less than a 1,000 jobs in 2015 and 2016 according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This will be at a cost to the taxpayers of $550,000 per job, annually. At the
same time, freezing the level of contributions for employment insurance at a high
level will likely do away with 10,000 jobs
during the same period. (Canadian Press,
10-10-2014). A year after the announcement
of the tax, the new Finance Minister, Joe
Oliver, admitted the Finance Department
had not made any internal analysis of it because it had already been done by the lobby
group, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“The indulgence of one becomes the burden of another through excessive taxation”
fulminates Pierre Poilievre of the Conservatives. . . See the problem? The countries in
trouble tend to be on the low end of social
welfare spending while the big spenders are
in much better shape. Dan Gardner, ’Don’t
blame the Euro welfare state’, Ottawa Citizen, 20-06-2012
A very important element of the world mess
has been the growth of the ’new economy’. . . It is an economy that contemplates
permanent unemployment, lack of social investment, reduced taxation for large capital, the marginalization of trade unions,
and a reduction of the role of the state as
As Canadian exports declined in August
2014, it was acknowledged that the “Bank of
Canada has been repeating concerns regarding the lack of momentum in both exports
and business investment in the current ’expansion” ’ . Gordon Isfeld, Financial Post,
means that with inflation added in there
have had to be cuts to federal programs.
The result is the federal government’s gradual retreat from Canadian public life . . . that
is starting to be the hallmark of Harper’s career. Paul Wells, ’What Harper is hiding’,
Maclean’s Magazine, 15-04-2014.
The disappearance of 60,000 full-time jobs
in July 2014 confirmed Canada’s fall from
economic grace. Labour participation is
now lower than any time since 2001. The
Canadian labour market is mired, five full
years after the ’recovery’ began. It has
been since the Harper government started
putting on the fiscal brake in 2011. In
the meantime, the Americans are tolerating larger budget deficits, near-zero interest rates, quantitative easing and a deliberately weak dollar to get their economy moving ahead much faster than Canada’s. Jim
Stanford, ’That strong recovery? It was just
a myth’, Globe and Mail, 11-08-2014.
Although it had only announced it would
cut 19,000 public service jobs between 2012
and 2014, the Conservative government in
reality wiped nearly 37,000 people off the
federal payroll, or 8 per cent of its workforce.
The cuts for some departments
— such as Statistics Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development, Veterans
Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – were massive, varying between 20 and 35 per cent. The public servants providing benefits for Veterans lost 32
per cent of their effectives. Obviously, the
front line services offered by all these public servants will also be lost to the public.
By 2015, spending cuts will hit $14.5 billion a year. This is how the Conservatives
will be able to deliver their promised surplus
and tax breaks. Kathryn May, ’Budget Cuts
bigger, sooner, report says,’ Ottawa Citizen,
Since Harper was re-elected in 2011,
Canada’s employment rate grew more
slowly than any country in the G7 except
Italy. Campbell Clark, ’Jobs report bad news
for Harper’, Globe and Mail, 14-07-2014.
The Conservatives took bows for an economic stimulus plan that opposition parties forced on them. . . getting undeserved
credit. . . In fact some 140 countries are projected to grow faster this year than Canada.
Lawrence Martin, ’Taxes? Check. Trade,
jobs, pipelines? Stalled’, Globe and Mail,
The Auditor General’s report shows that
the federal government has lost all trace of
$3 billion that was meant to be devoted to
public security and the fight against terrorism. He also points out that Revenue
Canada doesn’t seem to be able to trace the
$29 billion in unpaid income tax. Philippe
Orfali, ’À la recherche de 3,1 milliards $,
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, established by the Conservatives in 2006 to provide greater accountability, was obliged to
take 60 federal departments to court after failing to persuade them to reveal their
deficit reduction plans. The Opposition
says without basic information they cannot intelligently vote on budget bills. Gloria Galloway, ’Budget watchdog takes feds
to court’, Globe and Mail, 22-10-2014.
Canada will purchase a fifth giant C-17
Globemaster transport plane from Boeing
for a cost of $415 million, double what other
countries are paying. By way of explanation Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said
“It’s part of the negotiations we have undertaken. . . It’s one of the last 10 that will
One thing remained constant in Flaherty’s
budgets. Program spending has been held
flat in real dollar terms since 2010. This
come off the assembly line.” He did not
say if Canada had asked why Boeing was
stopping production of the C-17 or what
would replace it. David Pugliese, ’C-17
costs Canada $415M — double what others
paid’, Ottawa Citizen, 20-12-2014.
Despite their pretentions to the contrary, when all
is said and done, the Canadian economy has been
scandalously mismanaged by the Harper Conservatives for the past ten years. The federal government is
weaker; deficit reduction has been the focus to the exclusion of all else while the federal debt remains high;
foreign companies can sue us under Harper’s trade
deals; Canadians have been misinformed or not informed about economic policies; legislation has been
hidden from public view; policies have not attained
their objectives; money has been squandered — or
just lost. But, what is worse is what the Conservatives have not done. Canadians still have to live with
high unemployment, high levels of personal indebtedness, poor trade, low competiveness and innovation,
weakened research and development, and high levels
of poverty and inequality and continuing pollution
and global warming.
Under the cover of this mismanagement, the Conservatives have quietly, continuously and surreptitiously been inserting their economic ideology into
the mainstream of Canadian life. They use the old
magicians trick. Keep the public’s eye focused elsewhere while you prepare new tricks behind the screen.
Thus, all eyes are focused on deficit reduction (not
debt reduction we must notice) while what is really
going on is reducing government, getting rid of regulations, and minimizing government’s sway in the
economy so that private wealth and power can be
increased and predominate.
Policies that destroy
Federalism = -1, Quebec/Francophonie = 0,
Native peoples = -2
Federalism: At the beginning of 2015, Lawrence
Martin in the Globe and Mail wrote a short paragraph that pretty much sums up Mr. Harper’s relationship to federalism. He wrote, “Today’s solidar49
ity of Canada is evident in spite of the presence of
a federal government frequently described as polarizing. The approach is more often confrontational than
conciliatory. It’s a government that steers away from
national programs and national projects. Its leader
won’t bring together all the premiers. It is a government woefully short of support in Quebec.”
The Prime Minister of Canada has not met together with the premiers of the provinces since 2009
— five years. And they say a week is a long time
in politics! Not only will Harper not call a federalprovincial meeting, he will not even accept an invitation from the Council of the Federation to meet
with the premiers. He says he meets with them individually, one at a time except of course for Kathleen
Wynne in Ontario who he refused to meet for over
a year. One can see the objective: Harper prefers
command and control to cooperation and conciliation. All his predecessors hosted federal-provincial
meetings, usually at least once a year. In 2012, Liberal Leader Bob Rae told reporters, “I don’t know any
other federation in the world where the first minister
refuses to have a meeting with all the premiers. It’s
without parallel in the world.”
The reason Canada needs meetings is very simple. We have a federal structure because we have
strong regional differences. If we want a country that
works and that can develop strong national policies
then we have to have meetings where we can talk
together. As Joe Clark wrote in his book, How We
Lead, Canada desperately needs to get back to having
national ’conversations’ which we have been missing
ever since Stephen Harper came to power. That is
why as far as a national consensus on major projects
is concerned, the country is rudderless and adrift in
a sea of globalized pressures.
What we get instead of national ’conversations’
is a series of dictatorial policies from Harper’s Ottawa. He tells provinces what they must do, like it or
lump it. This is the way it has been with health
policy, economic decisions, pipelines and equalization payments. For instance, Ottawa simply told
the provinces that starting in 2014 and going until
2024 the Canada Health Transfer will be reduced by
$36 billion. That is a fair piece of change! The
provinces pointed out that this means the federal
contribution to health costs will drop to less to 20
per cent — when it used to be 50 per cent. They
said there were no discussions before this decision
was taken. Their comments had no effect. That describes federal-provincial relations under the Harper
Quebec: One of the biggest pieces of the federal
mosaic is Quebec and the associated question of relations between French and English-speaking Canadians. To give him credit, Mr. Harper greatly improved
his spoken French and the Conservatives made a concerted effort to obtain seats for the party in Quebec. This worked out with a certain number of seats
around Quebec City. But their efforts were inconsistent and the party quickly showed it either did not
really care about Quebec or that it simply did not
understand it. The results were that by 2013, the
Harper Conservatives had the support of only 9% in
a CROP poll — down from the mid-twenties at the
time of the 2011 election. Mr. Harper himself was
only preferred by 7% of the respondents. The attachment of Quebecers to Canada suffered the same
collapse under the Conservatives. Between 2003 and
2012, the sense of strong affection of Quebecers for
Canada had plummeted from 50% to 34%. The point
is that under the Conservatives the country can never
attain a consensus of all its major components to
make the major decisions that are required to make
our way in this fractious world.
What caused this dislike of the Conservatives in
Quebec? The general answer is their lack of sensitivity to the nuances of cultural difference and their
lack of recognition of the specificities of Quebec as a
province and a people. Some examples will amply explain the gap between the Harper Conservatives and
Quebec. The disenchantment with the government in
Ottawa got its greatest boost from something seemingly insignificant. Ottawa quietly and without warning banished seven cultural support programs greatly
appreciated in Quebec, especially ones helping to export Canadian music and art etc. The cultural interest groups rose up as one and attacked the Conservatives while dragging public opinion with them.
There was an equally strong reaction across the population when the Conservatives abolished the long gun
registry which had largely been created in reaction
to the killing of the 14 female students at Polytechnique in Montreal. Then Harper refused to turn over
the names on the registry to the Quebec government
which challenged the decision in the courts. After
that, it was a long list of unilateral, insensitive and
thoughtless decisions by Harper, one after the other:
minimising climate change when the Quebec government and public opinion was going in the opposite
direction; heightening the place of the British monarchy — a red flag to Quebec; ignoring the Constitution
in his efforts to change the Senate which in some ways
protects Quebec (eventually refused by the Supreme
Court); trying to create a single national financial
regulator perceived as eclipsing Montreal’s exchange;
an attempt to impose a Federal Court judge in Quebec’s position within the Supreme Court; a unilateral
change to the equalization payments formula in 2009
which Quebec claimed it cost them dearly.
Last but not least there is the case of the strange
misunderstanding by the Conservatives that showing
off the RCMP and Ottawa’s law and order campaign
would actually be attractive to Quebecers, when the
opposite is the case. For example, Quebecers generally believe in rehabilitation rather than simply punishment for young offenders. When the Conservatives
went in the opposite direction in their omnibus legislation — C-10 — on criminal justice, the Quebec
Minister of Justice Jean-Marc Fournier travelled to
Ottawa to try to reason with them. He came home
empty-handed saying, “I do not recognize a Canada
that can make this sort of decision. It is not a government for Canada. It is a government of the Reform
Party.” Ottawa was accused to being “tone deaf” to
Quebec issues.
The Francophone Community: Closely related
to the Quebec question is the effect of Ottawa’s policies on bilingualism and the promotion of Frenchspeaking minority communities. Although there are
always disputes over these policy areas, things have
not gone very well under the Conservative regime. In
his 2013 report, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser lamented that bilingualism
in the federal public service was eroding slowly but
surely as a consequence of the previous financial crisis
and because of carelessness on the part of the government. Numerous federal institutions do not respect
their bilingual obligations. Too often, French is relegated to a ’symbolic’ level. Senior bureaucrats just
say a few words in French for the form at the beginning or the end of their talks. In addition, there have
been distinct failures during his mandate, according
to Mr. Fraser. Under the Conservatives, parliamentary briefings are now only given in English. Levels
of linguistic competence in bilingual positions have
been lowered. Pressure to use English in the office
has increased. There is a lack of resources for language teaching.
The president of the Federation of Francophone
and Acadian Communities, Marie-France Kenny says
this sense of “serious drift” in bilingualism in the Federal public service has been a source of collateral damage for the promotion of French. Too often, one neglects to take into consideration the side-swipe effect
of budgetary reductions on language policy. When he
announced his retirement from politics at the beginning of 2015, the NDP defender of official languages,
Yvon Godin gave a “fat zero” to the Harper government for official languages. “It is the Conservatives
who violate the language laws.” There has been a
definite decline. You just have to go out into the
population to see how budget cuts have had an impact on the official languages and the services to the
In addition, under the Conservatives there were a
whole series of offences to the goals of the Francophone minority. Unilingual Anglophones were nominated to senior positions such as judges and the auditor general. Harper even once felt obliged to apologize. But this did not stop the Conservative Party
from voting against an NDP private bill to ensure
that Supreme Court judges would have to be bilingual at the time of their nomination. Right from
the beginning of their mandate, the Conservatives
started off by a fundamental blow to bilingualism by
eliminating two of the three questions on language in
the census. The question on mother tongue remains
but the questions on the language most often spoken
in the home and on knowledge of official languages
were shot down by the minister Tony Clement. One
may wonder what a minister was doing nosing around
in the Census, but the result was to seriously reduce
the possibility of comparative research on long term
trends in linguistic viability.
Equally serious was the attack on Francophone immigration by the elimination of the last existing program which helped with the employment of workers competent in French. Then the citizenship online system, Express Entry, was produced without
a French version. Finally, just to show how small
minded senior Conservatives can be, it was discovered
that when he was named Minister of Foreign Affairs,
John Baird had printed unilingual English business
cards. Oh, yes, he also had them embossed in gold,
considerably reduced the name of Canada so his own
name could be larger, and took off the name of the
Foreign Affairs building which just happened to be
Lester B. Pearson, a former Liberal prime minister.
It did not take the Conservative ministers much time
to act with impunity.
Relations with Native Peoples: Relations between the Harper government and the native peoples began with an unmitigated disaster and never
really recovered. Ten years lost. Recently a group
of high level Canadians, including Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats came together to try to
pick up the pieces. In 2005, after 18 months of consultations, the federal Liberal government of Paul Martin along with all the provinces and territories and
representatives of the native peoples — all of them –
signed the Kelowna accord. It was worth $5 billion
and covered education, employment and living conditions. The Toronto Star headlined, ’Kelowna Accord
holds key to native renewal’. As soon as he came to
power, Stephen Harper threw it into the wastepaper
basket. He never explained why. So we have to assume that it was pure spite because it had been done
by the Liberals. No wonder the natives say that the
white man speaks with a forked tongue. Since then,
Harper has tried several times to renew relations with
the aboriginal population but without much success.
It took until 2010-11 for the Harper Conservatives to start to re-establish negotiations with the
native peoples. With Shawn Atleo, National Chief
of the Assembly of First Nations, the federal government started negotiations to transform the schools,
economies and quality of life on reserves. Reports
said 60% of First Nations youths in their early 20s
do not have a high school diploma, compared to
10% among non-aboriginals. The discussions were
always wobbly. Already in 2011, Native groups in
one province after the other started to withdraw from
the National Panel on Education. By 2014, however, the government introduced ’historic’ legislation,
the ’First Nations Control of First Nations Education
Act’ (Bill C-33). By April 2014 some chiefs were saying the bill fell short of providing sufficient funds for
schools on reserves, was prepared without adequate
consultation, and gave the federal government control of the system. The criticism became so strong
that Chief Atleo felt obliged to resign and the legislation was withdrawn and that is the last we heard
of it.
But it was not the end of the Native Peoples conflicts with the Conservatives. From 1980 to 2012
more than 1,000 aboriginal women were murdered
according to the RCMP. Aboriginals make up just 4
per cent of the Canadian population, but 16 per cent
of female murder victims and 12 per cent of missing
women. Newspapers like the Globe and Mail editorialized that this is a deep sociological problem - even
worse an epidemic - and it needs a concerted study
to discover the causes. But, for years, the Conservatives have systematically refused to name a study
commission. Justice Minister MacKay brushed it off
by saying there have already been lots of studies. But
then along comes James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples who also
made a call for a national inquiry. His report on the
conditions of the native peoples in Canada found that
since the UN’s last report in 2004, “little progress”
has been made in improving the social and economic
well-being of the indigenous population. Mr. Anaya’s
report did not alter the Conservative’s position.
The Federal Government has for some years been
providing a $60 million northern food subsidy called
Nutrition North to help offset the horrendous costs
of ordinary food supplies in Nunavut. Even this simple program does not work. The Auditor General,
Michael Ferguson, revealed that the program’s overseers are in the dark about whether it is doing anything for the people it is meant to help. There is no
transparency, no accountability. It is claimed that
some retailers are skimming off the subsidy before it
gets to lower the price of food stuffs. The Conserva52
tives changed an older plan that provided transport
subsidies and instead transferred it to the retailers.
Slapping the other side of the face, the Harper Conservatives also passed the First Nations Fiscal Transparency Act to force them to publish the compensation paid to Chiefs and Councillors. It has been
found that the average tax-free payment (Including
salary, honorariums, per diems and travel costs) is
about $60,000. There does not appear to have been
much resistance to these salaries by the band members.
Unexpectedly it was the journalist, Terry Glavin,
who wrote the epitaph for relations between the native peoples and the Canadian government. “The conditions that torment aboriginal Canadians to this day
are no less a disgrace than the dead-end impoundments so many African-Americans find themselves in.
Aboriginal Canadians and African-Americans suffer
from a nearly identical suite of maladies: high rates
of cancer, of heart disease, mental illness, suicide,
spousal abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome and tuberculosis.” The median annual income of natives on reserves is $14,000 and for
the rest of Canadian wage workers is $48,000. Their
unemployment rate is twice that of the rest of the
working population. Roughly one-third of them are
on some form of welfare assistance. The incarceration rate of aboriginals is ten times higher than nonaboriginals. Over the past decade, the aboriginal
population in federal prisons has grown by more than
50 per cent. Some 30 per cent of native peoples have
less than a high school education. Gavin concludes,
“It’s not clear that the arc of the moral universe is
even bending in their direction at all.”
And More Policies that Hurt
Scrapping the environment: This whole booklet
could have been about the environment, but the influence of the Harper Conservatives on environmental policy is relatively clear and simple. They have
systematically scrapped it during the past ten years.
Efforts were made to abolish or defund any group
in the government with the word ’environment’ attached to it. Environment Canada lost personnel and
budget. Scientific research establishments were aban-
doned and scientific facts ignored. Environmental
regulations and pollution controls were downgraded
so they would not get in the way of resource corporations. Our carbon emissions reduction targets
will not be met. Environmental charities and interest groups have been attacked and had their funding challenged. Carbon pricing has been ridiculed.
On the international scene, under the Conservatives,
Canada became a ’climate pariah’ renowned not only
for opposing attempts to deal with global warming
but actually blocking negotiations. Species at risk
have also been ignored. It has been said that the
Conservative tactics are to ignore the climate issue
as long as they can, then proclaim they are doing
wonders, and then attack the opposition. The simple result is equally clear. Canada has lost both its
reputation and a decade of ’green’ sustainable development, all in the name of Harper’s infatuation with
the oil industry. At the beginning of 2015, scientists
from Japan and the United States informed us that
2014 was hottest year since records started to be kept
135 years ago. Costs of natural disasters are rising
Tough- on-crime means weak-on-thought:
Despite all evidence and all professional advice to the
contrary, the Harper Conservatives have persisted in
their tough-on-crime theory to satisfy a little rump
of their voters. As a result, there is more harsh legislation, more people are behind bars (especially aboriginals), the cost of prisons has skyrocketed, and the
parole system weakened – and all this at a time when
homicide rates are at their lowest. Improper rates
of solitary confinement have been maintained. Some
call it ’torture’.The federal government prefers punishment to rehabilitation even if: this goes against
criminology; against the beliefs of Quebecers; and
against recent trends in the United States which has
turned its back on the tough-on-crime belief. When
the government attacked opposition parties for being
’soft on crime’ they became afraid of taking on the
ridiculous Conservative policy that simply does not
work. The recently retired former director-general
of corrections and criminal justice, Mary Campbell
said the Conservative policies “reflect a deep, visceral
nastiness . . . and actually do nothing to reduce or address crime. . . ” She added, 20 years ago Canada was
regarded as a “world leader” in the corrections field.
Today it has reached its “lowest point” . Much of
their legislation had to be defeated in the courts.
Contradiction: Is scrapping the gun registry part
of the tough-on-crime policy? Again, presumably to
satisfy a part of their supporters and the arms lobby,
the Harper Conservatives passed the Law C-19 to
abolish the long gun arms registry — and this against
the advice of police chiefs and in defiance of international obligations. An RCMP expert reported that
terminating the registry might safe just $1.5 million
but would have 20 ’costs’ such as increased risks to
the public and the police, less efficient investigation,
and les accountability. Police would not know what
arms were in a house they were investigating. But the
Conservatives had buried this report so the Opposition would not have access to it during the debates.
It will be recalled that one of the major incidents
spawning the gun registry in the first place was the
brutal murder of 14 female students at École Polytechnique in Montreal. Thus Quebec has remained
very attached to the idea of a gun registry. The Quebec government appealed to Ottawa to transfer to it
the Quebec portion of the registry. To add insult to
injury, the federal government adamantly refused the
request. Quebec took it to court. Later, the federal
government passed new measures allowing store owners to stop collecting and keeping information permitting the identification of arms purchasers; easing rules
on transporting restricted guns, and giving Cabinet
the power to classify guns. One has to presume these
are new way of being tough-on-crime.
Hurting the poor and increasing inequality:
The Conservatives give the impression of helping us
by reducing taxes. But it is all a game of smoke and
mirrors. The two reductions in the TPS gave the
federal Conservatives the aura of lower taxes but, in
reality, they just shovel the services down the line to
the provinces and municipalities and forced them to
increase their taxes, fees and licenses. The taxpayers
get nothing for free. At the same time the Conservative government uses the excuse of a bare financial
cupboard to say they have to cut government services. And it is these cuts that really hurt the lower
and middle classes — more than the reductions in
their already low taxes ever could. So, during the
Conservative regime we have watched the continuing transfers to the provinces for health services be
reduced by $10 billion; the (un-) employment insurance payments become much more limited; and the
Partnership Strategies for the Fight Against Homelessness ended. Canada is now a mediocre performer
when it comes to heath care. Former Premier Roy
Romanow says one cause is the absence of the federal government which currently believes its job is
over once it transfers money to the provinces. Not
so Romanow says. Successful nations need a unifying infrastructure. Only leadership from Ottawa can
guarantee a common set of programs and standards.
Child care is another policy that has been debated
since the 1970s. It gave rise to a Federal-Provincial
program worth $5 billion over four years signed by
Paul Martin and the Premiers. It was thrown out
the window by Harper. The Conservatives have continually refused to support a national daycare program that would have provided a better system of
education and favoured working parents and gender
equality. Instead it doled out pitiful income tax credits that barely cover a couple of days a week of child
care (no education). It is now proposing a program of
’income-splitting’ for stay-at-home parents that will
only benefit the wealthy — which even Flaherty disagreed with. Together these two programs will be
costing the government more than $5 billion a year
— with still no additional daycare centres for working
parents. The federal government is also accused of
hampering pension reform. In 2014, all the premiers
had agreed, based on sound economic advice, that the
best way of improving pensions is to go ahead with
topping up the current Canadian Pension Program
(CPP). Only Flaherty disagreed. To this day, working Canadians still have grossly inadequate pension
programs, To top it all off, James Moore, Minister of
Industry declares on a radio program, “Is it my job to
feed my neighbours child? I don’t think so” (he later
apologized but people got the Conservative message).
So what sort of country and world do we live in
since the Conservatives came to power? Indigenous
children are two and a half times more likely to live in
poverty than white ones. In a typical month, nearly
882,000 Canadians are obliged to feed themselves at
their local Foodbank. This number has grown by
31% since the 2008-9 recession. During the past 10
year we have seen lots of trade deals but also the
losses of thousands of well-paying jobs in manufacturing, forestry and industry. There is no coherent
national policy addressing violence against women.
At the upper end of the totem pole, the 100 richest
Canadians saw their fortunes increase by 15% in 2013
while in comparative terms most Canadians have seen
their incomes stagnate. Still we have to compete in
a world where Oxfam has reported that by 2016, the
richest 1% of the world will own 50% of its wealth!
Think of it! It is indeed staggering. And their wealth
is growing rapidly. The top 80 billionaires saw their
assets grow by $600 billion or 50% in the past four
years while the poorest 50% saw their wealth drop by
$750 billion. At the most extreme end, a Swiss boss
of a multinational corporation walked away with a
retirement allowance of e 58 million. Inequality is
truly the most urgent and striking political problem
Canada faces and yet the Conservatives have done
nothing about it.
The Federal Public Service: Side-lining a noble institution: I know no one wants to think nice
thoughts about bureaucrats. But behind the scenes
they are the oil that keep the government wheels
turning — or at least they are meant to. From the
1940s to the 1980’s, the Federal Public Service had
one of the best reputations in the world for merit, integrity and competence. Under the Conservatives it
has been abused, attacked and ignored. There have
been continuous budget cuts. Pensions and sick leave
have been clawed back. Unions are under attack and
new legislation alters their capacity for negotiation.
There has been little supporting analysis for major
government initiatives. Programs are understaffed
and whole policy and research sections eliminated.
At the same time, billions are spent on outside contractors. Front-line services are reduced. People who
step out of line tend to be sacked.
But the unkindest cut of all is the fact that the public service has been ignored, side-lined. As a result
it is losing its sense of worth and its policy competence. All of this was best summed up by a person
who should know best, Mel Cappe, former Clerk of
the Privy Council Office, head of the public service
and chief advisor to the prime minister. In a 2013
guest lecture at the University of Ottawa he said,
“Ideology doesn’t need analysis, and if you have the
answers you don’t need questions, and that is where
we are these days” . Cappe worries about ministers
who come to the table with ready-made policies while
public servants are ignored, told to implement them
or asked to shape the evidence to support them. “The
public service runs the risk of being in decline and if
this continues to happen, Canadian will be worse off.”
All this despite the fact that three-quarters of Canadians want politicians and the public service to collaborate and 66 per cent think public servants should
“actively” provide expert advice and recommend policies, compared to 18 per cent who say their job is simply to implement the desires of politicians, according
to an Environics and Institute on Governance survey.
The CBC is burning: It seems to be very
obvious: the Harper Conservatives do not like the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC — Radio
Canada, RC). They have sliced it apart, one budget
cut at a time. The attack has been relatively quiet,
but remorseless since 2006 when the party started
to announce they wanted to review the entire CBC
mandate. Why do the Conservative dislike the CBC
so much? It is a difficult question. Perhaps from an
ideological stand point they simply do not like public, state-run operations. They think we should follow the American model where all is private. Maybe
they think that a public broadcaster is bound to be
full of pinko-commie-liberal mouthpieces. Possibly
they have found it an irritant, too often seeming to
take the side of issues that the Conservatives oppose.
But, to the degree any of this conjecture is correct, it
is strangely misplaced. The CBC was established in
the 1930s by a Conservative government to protect
the Canadian airwaves against a massive American
invasion. Almost all the Western, advanced countries
have public broadcasters and Canada contributes to
the CBC an average of just $29 per inhabitant, wellbeneath the average of $82 expended on public broadcasters in all the 18 countries. And, if the United
States has no public broadcaster it certainly does has
a massively large state-run sector of its economy —
just start with the military sector. So, on a purely
rational basis it is difficult to understand why the
Harper Conservatives can’t stand the CBC. Perhaps
it is simply that politicians do not like to be criticized!
Poor CBC – there is no help in sight. Our public
broadcaster (note: not state) is meant to be independent but has become a slave of the party in power.
The Conservatives named Hubert Lacroix as president — a lawyer and party supporter with no media
experience and surrounded by a board of friends of
the party. Further, the Omnibus Budget Bill gave
the federal cabinet the explicit power to give the
CBC orders about how they should negotiate with
employees, both unionized and non-unionized. This
was called a stealth attack on the corporation’s journalistic freedom. To make up for its budgetary losses,
the CBC was given authority to sell advertising —
which infuriated both its audience and competing
private broadcasters. Recent cuts to the budget have
meant that Radio-Canada no longer has the resources
to cover the activities of the Francophone community according to the Federation of Francophone and
Acadian Communities. But it is the French Canadians who should be the most satisfied with Radio
Canada’s often brilliant programming. Plans by CBC
management for so-called ’Strategies of Transformation’ are like “saving the furniture while the house
is on fire” . And the mismanagement by CBC executives of such high level scandals as the Ghomeshi affair hardly give much hope to the corporations
’friends’ who would like to preserve it.
But it is the budget cuts that are potentially lethal.
After promising stable, long-term funding for the
CBC in the 2011 election, Harper went on to slash
the CBC budget by $130 million and 675 jobs in 2014.
The Corporation is ’underfunded and over-tasked’.
It has to operate over five time zones and two official languages plus eight aboriginal languages, as
well as covering the North and Parliament and overseas. Between 2009 and 2014 the CBC-Radio-Canada
lost 2,000 positions. Sports have been cut back as
has been drama. Then the block-buster came. In
June 2014, the president Hubert Lacroix announced
the Corporation was expecting to lose another 1,500
employees and another $150 million. By 2020 the
CBC expects to lose around 25% of its present work
force. Therefore it needs a ’transformation strategy’.
It will get rid of half its office space and will become
’a media public enterprise giving priority to mobile
services’ — whatever that means. Gone will be inhouse production, many shows, and maybe all television broadcasting. It will be replaced by partnerships
with private producers. It would seem the Conservatives will win their. There was no need to up-set the
CBC’s supporters by attacking it head-on. Just keep
cutting the budget and the Corporation will implode.
Still enough money for building ideological
monuments! While the Harper Conservatives were
letting a Canadian monument like the CBC fall into
ruins, they were able to find lots of taxpayer’s dollars to lavish on ideological history lessons and monuments. While we were fighting in Afghanistan, Mr.
Harper thought it was necessary to build up our identity as a ’war-like people’. Of course, anyone who
knew a tiny bit about Canadian history already knew
that we had acquitted ourselves very well in two world
wars and the Korean War. But the Conservatives
thought they should spend $30 million dollars on TV
lessons about the war of 1812 — hardly a Canadian
war. But just to make sure we got the point they
squandered more money on a lavish monument to
the war on Parliament Hill. In addition, the Conservatives announced plans to earmark $83 million up
until 2020 to commemorate military history via public education, ceremonies, events and remembrance
partnerships. This is probably all required to get
Canadians away from the quaint idea that it was good
for Canada to promote peacekeeping. Publicity to remind us about Confederation in time for the 150 anniversary of the founding of Canada will cost another
$6.5 million. Then, to link in with their one-sided
support of Israel in the Middle East, the Conservatives thought we desperately needed a monument to
the holocaust at an anticipated cost of $8million. But
they were not finished. There was still another Conservative ideological cause from the past that required
a special monument. Thus, at a cost of $6.5 million,
a huge ’Memorial to the Victims of Communism’ will
appear to block the view of our Supreme Court building. This serious remembrance unfortunately served
to engender mockery as writers wondered when we
would get equal monuments to victims of capitalism
and colonialism. All of this from a cash-strapped
government that reportedly could no longer find the
money to invest in the conservation of our heritage
The politics of compassion: the Syrian
refugee crisis: This was the title of a series of articles in the Toronto Star in November 2014. The subtitle went on to read, Canada has resettled 200 Syrian
refugees while Sweden, which has only a quarter of
Canada’s population, has taken in more than 30,000.
These articles plus angry voices raised across the
country must have hurt the Harper Conservatives.
Just two months later, by January 2015, the government announced it will accept another 10,000 Syrians
— over three years. The in-depth articles went on to
describe the disarray of the present Canadian immigration and refugee system. The main problem, one
director of refugee services said, is that “somehow we
became the worst ever resettlement processing country” . Canada’s average processing time for privately
sponsored refugees from Lebanon is two years, from
Pakistan 4-5 years, from Egypt 3-5 years and from
South Africa 4-7 years. Meantime, in countries like
the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Norway the maximum is one year and the average is four to six months.
The delays, the Star concludes, point to a system
riven by politics and struggling against bureaucratic
By 2011, Canada already had a backlog of 21,000
sponsored refugee applications. We have to understand the words. These are private not government
sponsored refugees. These are families, churches and
associations who have set aside $12,000 for an individual and $26,000 for a family of four to support
refugees for a year (housing, clothing and food). To
deal with the backlog, in 2012 Citizenship and Immigration created a new ’Centralized Processing Office’
in Winnipeg to proceed toward an initial application
review in 30 days. A departmental assessment at the
end of 2013 reported that, “It is estimated it will take
the Office over two years to clear the existing inventory of cases, in addition to almost two and a half
years to process projected 2014 applications” . Sponsors were not receiving case decisions for almost a
year. Many were returned after months for an inconsistency in the spelling of a foreign name or a missing
address. Groups indicated their frustration was with
the Minister’s office, not with civil servants.
As though this insulting situation were not bad
enough, an earlier a crucial piece of federal legislation prohibiting provinces from requiring any minimum period of residence for refugees to qualify for
social assistance was wiped out by the Conservatives
in the 2015 budget. In 2012 the federal government
abruptly slashed the Interim Federal Health program
denying basic health care to thousands of refugee
claimants who had just suffered unimaginable physical and psychological trauma — without consulting
with anyone with knowledge of the potential results.
Nor did there appear to be any studies to support the
Conservative’s false ideological conclusion that “the
Canadian taxpayers were footing the bill for goldplated health care coverage for illegal immigrants and
bogus asylum claimants. . . ” By the summer of 2013,
health care workers were staging rallies in 19 cities to
get Ottawa to reverse its decision. They claimed that
vulnerable people are being denied care, that taxpayers are paying even more money, and the health of
other Canadians is being put at risk. Clinics and
hospitals have to pick up the costs, emergency wait
times are increased, and sick refugees with communicable diseases who cannot access primary care are
left wandering around in the public. By 2014, five
provinces had to provide basic coverage and the Federal Court declared the budget cuts constituted ’cruel
and unusual treatment’ and violated the Charter of
The cuts to health service were part of sweeping
changes to our refugee system by the Conservatives.
These included assembling a list of 35 countries of origin where refugee applications will not be accepted;
a detention system that can imprison people who arrive without proper identification; and an accelerated
time line for document submission that undermines
fair hearings. The result has been a dramatic decline in refugee claims. In 1957 we accepted 37,000
Hungarian refugees in one year. In 1968-69, 11,000
came from Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s there were
chartered flights to bring Tibetans and then 2,000
refugees came from Chile. Between 1979 and 1981
we brought in more than 50,000 Vietnamese ’boat
people’. In 1999 it was 5000 Kosovars. Between 2002
and 2014 there was only one modest effort for fasttracking some 3,300 Haitians after the earthquake.
What has happened to Canada? Have we become
too poor to help others or is it just the Conservative way of thinking? And we haven’t even begun
to discuss the hallucinating problems facing landed
immigrants trying to get Canadian citizenship. . . !
Security and Freedom: Our parents used to tell
us that there is a right way and a wrong way to do
everything. It has been one of the traits of Prime
Minister Stephen Harper’s reign that because he is
driven by his political obsessions he almost always
choses the wrong way to do something. When it
came to such a sensitive issue as announcing his new
anti-terrorism Bill C-51 at the start of 2015, instead
of doing it in Parliament to initiate a respectful national debate, he chose to do it in front of huge flags
at a carefully orchestrated pre-election rally for TV
consumption in southern Ontario where he desperately want to win seats. Polls show a large number
of Canadians want action against terrorists at home
and abroad. So Harper’s political antennae told him
to wrap himself in the Canadian flag and pretend
to be the great saviour of the nation. Indeed most
writers agree there are some elements of the new law
that will be useful such as sections aimed at someone who might commit an act of terrorism, making
it easier to obtain peace-bonds, extending the use of
no-fly lists, and giving new powers to CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) to disrupt threats
rather than just collect intelligence. And this latter
extended power will require a judge’s warrant and
political approbation.
As usual the problems are as numerous as the potential benefits. Prime Minister Harper rejected out
of hand concerns that security measures should be
balanced by protection of civil liberties. Instead he
just jabbed at the opposition for being weak-kneed.
Similarly – and most damagingly – Harper refused
any review boards and Parliamentary oversight —
even though all our close allies have effective oversight
by legislators. Harper does not appear to believe in
Members of Parliament or the traditional, prudent
Canadian faith in legal safeguards and institutions to
protect our freedom from a police state. Nor does he
seem to trust any of his police and security agencies
to whom he refused to provide additional resources
and budgets as they have been demanding for some
time. There was no explanation of how this new law
will make Canadian’s safer — especially in light of the
fact we already have generally unused anti-terrorism
legislation from 2001, 2002, 2011, 2013 and 2014. Every time we get a new act or threat of terrorism,
the politicians like Harper give us a new law rather
than improved security agencies. In a poll-fueled preelection atmosphere political positioning is more important than security or freedom.
Conclusion: The Necessary
Renewal of Canada
I am not an advocate for frequent
changes. . . but laws and institutions must go
hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more, enlightened, as new discoveries
are made. . . institutions must advance also
to keep pace with the times. Might as well
require a man to wear still the coat which
fitted him as a boy as civilized society to remain under the regimen of their barbarous
ancestors. Thomas Jefferson
a beating including the national public healthcare system. Quebec’s distinctiveness has been
generally ignored and replaced by an AngloCanadian agenda of a robust military and ties
to the British monarchy and British military
history. Aboriginals have been brushed aside.
Harper has highlighted Canada’s divisions.
• Installing a more individualist, market-oriented,
small-government Canada. Mr. Harper’s deep
convictions have driven a law and order agenda,
cutting sales and corporate taxes, imposing
spending cuts and job cuts on the public service
and generally transferring advantages to the private sector while attacking unions and denuding
the federal government of its resources.
• Down grading democracy by having authority
more and more centralized in the hands of the
prime minister and the unelected Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Harper has been an autocratic centralizer of power, tightly controlling information, ministers and public servants. Traditional Canadian democratic institutions including the House of Commons, the Senate, the Cabinet, Elections Canada and even the courts have
been terribly diminished. A culture of secrecy
has been installed, the media brought to heal,
and CBC minimalized.
Injustice is a classic trigger of anger. In such
instances, not only is anger appropriate —
it is necessary. Moral outrage can mobilize counter measures. Dr. Scott Schieman,
Globe and Mail, 24-12-2014.
The Conclusions: I hope I have demonstrated
in the preceding chapters the numerous harms the
Harper Conservatives have inflicted on Canada.
These include:
• Confronting the social agenda of the modern left
by using an “inevitably incremental” technique
that flew under the radar. It was brilliant. No
single harm was sufficiently large enough to mobilize a country-wide opposition. Prime Minister
Harper was driven by a preconceived ideological
plan to overturn the progressive state and replace it with small, regressive government.
• Forgetting federal-provincial relations. Harper
has hardly ever held a federal-provincial conference. National policies of all sorts have taken
• Muzzling any and all opposition: scientists, civil
society, parties and the media.
• Hobbling environmentalism, green policies and
combatting climate change have by policies
which serve only to advance resource extracting
• Restricting scientific information, the census and
communications by any means possible so that
Canada is no longer a land of evidence- based
• Changing foreign affairs so they would be fought
on “Moral grounds. . . to defend democracy, free
enterprise and individual freedom” . Canada has
become a harsh, abrasive and aggressive country
renowned internationally as an environmental
dinosaur actively thwarting environmental negotiations. One-sided support for Israel in the
Middle East, our refusal of diplomatic attempts
to seek reconciliation with Iran, our thoughtless
insults to China and Russia, and our lack of respect for the United Nations have not gone unnoticed.
• “Several themes run throughout: contempt for
civil liberties, for due process, for established
convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage” (Andrew Coyne, Ottawa Citizen, 7-06-2014).
This portrait of Harper’s Canada can lead to only
one conclusion. Canadians owe it to themselves to
vote him out of power.
The Renewal: You hear all the time that people want to get rid of Harper. This raises a whole
bunch of questions. First, we must ask ourselves
why we want to get rid of him by defining what is
wrong with Harper Conservatism and what its opposite, a more progressive philosophy, might look like in
contrast. Second, Harper has worked hard to bring
about change in Canada, and many authors think he
has succeeded. So, it is not enough for us to just
change the governing party. We must also have ideas
about what a new government should do. To be consequent with ourselves, we should think about the
sort of Canadian society we want. One way of answering is to look at the Canadian traditions that have
governed us over the past century — the very traditions Harper has worked to destroy. But, of course,
traditions are not enough. We must also ask ourselves
what sort of challenges we are facing as a country in a
globalized world — challenges Harper does not want
to face. Third, we should want to know if there is
some expectation of success in changing Canadians
society from conservatism to progressivism. Is there
some hope of achieving our goal?
Harperism and its opposite: The confrontation between the Harper Conservatives and the rest
of Canada, in its elemental form, is simply a part of
the age-old dispute between the forces of ’I’ and those
of ’We’. These represent the two sides of the human
personality and the eternal social struggle between
right and left. When we get up in the morning we
are more likely to think about what ’I’ need to do
today before thinking about family or friends. Most
family squabbles are a result of us thinking about
’I’ rather than ’We’. How many of us refer to ’my’
daughter, ’my’ son? This goes back to fundamentals.
Most of the time, we think about looking after ourself. Looking after No. 1 is the root of our careers,
our identity and our will to achieve. That is, until
we need others – such as our family, our union, our
neighbourhood or our platoon – to help us look after
In society it is much the same. Generally, societies allow their members to look after themselves
and their families. This is what Conservatives want.
Don’t interfere with ’my’ firearms, my wealth, my
company, my freedom. But, every once in a while, the
community takes precedence: for instance in wars,
calamities, or the need for health care. But it doesn’t
take long before people want to cast off the social
shackles and get back to doing their own thing. It did
not take long for the British to throw out Churchill,
their wartime hero. However, in the past hundred
years or so, societies have gradually learnt there are
many things we can do better for ourselves if we cooperate with others through taxes, good governance
and associations.
It may seem strange but sometimes the aims and
practices of ’I’ and ’We’ get mixed up and people start
contradicting themselves. Harper is loath to spend
money or build government programs. But, when
it came to a choice of losing power to the Coalition
or investing in infrastructure, he decided he would
spend on infrastructure. He spent more than any
other prime minister in our history. As another example, when he was in the opposition he used to love
to criticize the Liberal government for its secrecy and
its lack of transparency. He was going to do better but, in reality he has done much worse. Never
has a Canadian government been so secretive and so
hidden in its behaviour. Never has Ottawa been so
little democratic, so controlled by one man. Lack of
accountability and governmental authoritarianism go
not just against Harper’s earlier beliefs, they also go
against Conservative values.
Then there is that nasty old problem of power as
in the expression “all power corrupts, absolute power
corrupts absolutely” . It never takes long for the ’I’
and the ’We’ — the right and the left – to exaggerate
their positions and start becoming too powerful. And
this is what we must conclude from the demonstrations in this booklet: the Harper Conservatives have
exaggerated and abused their power. They have gone
too far. They have concentrated too much on serving the ’I’, the individuals, and they have persistently
ignored the ’We’, the common good of Canadians.
Harper minimized government while exalting corporations. He has been free with tax hand-outs but we
cannot have childhood education. He declares war
but he won’t look after our veterans. He supports oil
companies but ignores climate change. And so on. . .
The third anomaly of over-concentrating on the
right or the left, the conservative or the liberal, the
’I’ or the ’We’ is that it becomes destructive. The
good society must search for ’balance’. Canada before Harper excelled at seeking balance. Just look
at the vocation of our parties: Progressive Conservatives, Social Democrats, Centrist Liberals. Just as
Harper turned his back on Canada when he got rid
of the ’Progressive’ Conservatives, so Canadians must
turn their backs on him.
Poor Stephen: he has labored so strenuously to
make Canada over in his own dark, dour, destructive, retrogressive conservative image. He has never
been able to recognize that most Canadians already
have their own conservative image — progressive conservative. Harper’s conservatism wants to turn the
clock back to before the enlightenment and modern
progress. He is against evidence-based policy and
indeed scientists; he is against public knowledge; information is to be hoarded and controlled; he refuses
evidence-based ideas preferring ideology and religion
as guides. He orients his politics to acquisitive individualism and corporate greed. This is entirely unlike
the sunny disposition of the progressive conservatism
of Brian Mulroney, Jean Charest, Lucien Bouchard,
and Joe Clark who brought us cooperative, negotiated individualism, respect for the environment, constructive constitutionalism, and friendly foreign relations. Canadians will seek to forget Harper’s dark
decade of 2005 to 2015 the same way Quebecer’s pre60
fer to ignore the ’la grande noirceur’ of the Duplessis
years. Canadian electors are unlikely to allow themselves to be governed by a conservative government
— until a new leadership and a new party brings back
Progressive Conservatism.
Thus, this booklet brings us to one major conclusion: Harper and his Conservatives must go. Each of
the chapters has reminded us with facts and critical
analysis how much harm the Harper Conservatives
have done to Canada, our ideas, our institutions, our
democracy, our standing in the world and to our government policies. It is now up to us to decide what
needs to be changed and how to get rid of our embarrassing government
Canada’s political and economic traditions:
To know where we want to go we have to know where
we have come from and where we stand now. For
most of its modern life Canada has been composed
of conservative, liberal and social democratic strains.
From World War II to the 1970s, the liberalprogressive strain predominated, pushed by the social democrats and accompanied by the ’progressive’
conservatives. Largely it stood for a capitalist economy using active government as a balancing factor
to promote our basic values of equity, social services
and a diverse society. The role of government was to
assure that all Canadians benefitted from Canadian
wealth, security and potential.
From the 1980’s to the present our country, following world trends, has been dominated by conservatism of an increasingly non-progressive nature.
This type of conservatism is based on the idea of each
individual for himself. Unrestricted individual rights
are the aim of a society with less government, less
governmental interference in the economy, fewer social services, less taxes and less public regulation.
To this socio-economic dimension our society we
may add a geographic and cultural aspect. For
decades, Ontario and Quebec held a preponderant position in Canada. However, as the Prairie
Provinces and British Columbia gained in population
and resource wealth they came to increasingly resent
their minor position in the federation. With the election of the Conservatives of Mulroney and Harper the
West has worked hard to gain national power. This
desire was also imbedded in a more Americanized,
individualist political culture. The East-West rivalry
remains just under the surface with the Conservatives
in power and will have to be dealt with by the other
principal parties.
Canada’s traditional political culture: These
books also speak to our traditional sense of Canada,
first mentioned in the Introduction. The meaning of
’traditional Canada’ must be explained. It must act
as our anchor during present storms and our ethos
for the future. Many other successful countries have
founding myths and dominant communities which
have kept them united. Not Canada. Our country is
the result of a series of at least five tensions that are
never long-absent from the Canadian agenda: ethnic
disputes centred on French-English relationships, the
desires of native peoples, and multicultural relations
with new waves of immigrants; federal-provincial controversies of centralizing and decentralizing power
struggles, regionalism, and Quebec-Canada and EastWest disputes; religious disagreements starting with
Catholics and Protestants and now including Evangelists and Islamists and other religious groups; economic power struggles between unions and owners,
public and private enterprise, individual and collective rights and on-going attempts to define social equity; all overshadowed by the overwhelming presence
of our American neighbour.
These complex ’forces in tension’ have, in fact become the basis of Canada’s modern identity. In part
because they come along one on the tail of the other
so we never have time to resolve them completely —
they are in endless evolution — but mainly because
they have created a distinct pattern of behaviour, a
Canadian personality. And this in two senses: first
as a set of institutions developed to try to deal with
the tensions and second as a process for dealing with
each other, a sort of ’procedural consensus’.
Our basic institutions are federal, democratic, and
parliamentary: federal to respond to regional, religious and ethnic diversity; democratic to allow participation and dampen authoritarian tendencies; and
parliamentarian to counterbalance the first two with
strong and effective government. Right from our 1867
Constitution, Canadians have adapted to POGG:
peace, order, and good government — all three together. These have slowly been twinned with a capi61
talist, mixed economy and with cultural institutions:
we define ourselves as a society that is officially bilingual, multicultural and diverse. Our complex and cumulative pressures have created recognition that we
are a society of contending groups, none of which can
be dominant, a society of minorities, each of which
can only win in coalition with others. We have had to
learn to deal with each other civilly. We have learnt
accommodation. We search for balance among our
multiple tensions.
However it is our procedural consensus for dealing
with each other that is the crown jewel of Canadian
identity. This is the soul of Canada. The process of
mutual acceptance is buttressed by attributes of civility, tolerance, fairness, balance, and compromise.
They are the genuine result of the pressures of contending groups. Thus the dominant notion is the
need for balance. For instance, even in a free enterprise economy, Canadians expect government to be
an active but not all powerful player. They believe
government is a legitimate instrument for achieving
common goals, for protecting human rights and as an
arbiter of social equity and stability. The rule of law
must be supported by social justice. Rights and human dignity have their own worth beyond the logic of
the market place. The idea of balance is like a high
wire acrobat with her balancing pole being pulled in
different directions while she seeks to move ahead and
bridge the gap. Don’t get me wrong. We all know
that these competing tensions mean that is rarely
easy sailing in Canada. All too often we are shouting at each other and making wild demands. But the
point is that beneath the rough seas is a calming set
of mutual behaviour.
As shown by polls, surveys and academic analysis,
Canadians have been pleased by these common characteristics. The greatest harm the Harper Conservatives have done to Canada is to try to undermine our
national identity. As we look ahead to re-launching
Canada we must make sure to preserve our most noble traditions: a sense of civility, accommodation, tolerance and balance and a government that has just
enough power to help us achieve common goals —
all the characteristics that have been denied by the
Harper Conservatives.
Expectations of success: So much for the past
and the present, now where do we go for the future?
If we look deeply, we may perceive that the worm is
beginning to turn. There is a growing refusal of the
main ideas of right-wing conservatism and indeed of
the Harper conservatives. Ideas are important. Usually it’s great books that announce a change in fundamental thinking in a society. They provide the
new concepts that push people to change their understanding of major social values. They create the
ripple effects of a stone thrown in a pond. This idea
was best said by the British economist John Maynard
Keyes who taught us that, “The ideas of economists
and political philosophers, both when they are right
and when they are wrong, are more powerful than
is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled
by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves
to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences,
are usually slaves of some defunct economist.” Let us
look briefly at four transformational books.
Definitely an example of a non-defunct economist
is Thomas Piketty whose book Capital in the TwentyFirst Century has been debated around the world
during the past year. The Financial Times called it
the economic book of the year. It is already changing
the debate and setting the agenda for international
Piketty uncovers key economic and social patterns
of the last three centuries in some 20 countries and
compares it with the renewed concentration of income in ever fewer hands over the past three decades.
Thus, the commanding heights of the economy are
dominated not by effort and merit but by inherited
wealth. The principal destabilizing force is that the
private return on capital can be significantly higher
for long periods of time than the rate of growth of
income and output. He finds there is an average return on capital of 4 to 5 percent while he predicts
the growth rate of our economies will not exceed 1 to
1.5 percent in the long run. In simple terms, those
who have investments make much more money that
those who have productive jobs and the economy as a
whole. Top earners can quickly separate themselves
from the rest by a wide margin. These top managers
by and large have the power to set their own remuneration. Their gains then join the pile of inherited
wealth. “ When the rate of return on capital signifi62
cantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy. . . then
it logically follows that inherited wealth grows faster
than output and income” (p.26). In more picturesque
fashion, Picketty declares that, “The past devours the
future” (p.571). This is generating extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic
values (what Piketty calls ’destabilization’). Such
high levels of inequality, Piketty maintains, are incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies.
The resurgence of inequality after 1980 is due
largely to political shifts. It cannot be reduced to
purely economic mechanisms. “The history of inequality is shaped by the way economic, social and
political actors view what tis just and what is not, as
well as by the relative power of these actors and the
collective choices that result” (p.20).However, there
are ways, according to Piketty, that “democracy can
regain control over capitalism and ensure that the
general interest takes precedence over private interests, while preserving economic openness and avoiding protectionist and nationalist reactions” (p.1). Investment in training, knowledge, and skills diffusion,
abetted by open borders for trade, is the key to overall productivity growth as well as the reduction of inequality. But it is more likely that countering these
effects would require a progressive global tax on capital which will require a high level of international
cooperation. To move in this direction will require
greater regional integration (Europe is the model),
new forms of property and democratic control, and
new forms of participation and governance. This in
turn, will depend on the availability of economic information to each of the involved parties. Economic
and financial transparency is essential for democratic
governance and participation. This would require the
publication of detailed accounts of private corporations (pp. 569-70).
A second book with transformational potential
is best-selling author, Joseph Heath’s Enlightenment 2.0. It moves us from economics to culture, that is, how we think and communicate in
current societies. The original Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals begin-
ning in late 17th-century Europe emphasizing reason
and individualism rather than tradition. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, to challenge
ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and to advance knowledge through the scientific method. It
promoted scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange. The Enlightenment was a revolution in human thought. This new way of thinking
was that rational thought begins with clearly stated
principles, uses correct logic to arrive at conclusions,
tests the conclusions against evidence, and then revises the principles in the light of the evidence.
Over the last twenty years, the political systems
of the western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy
and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to
be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’
hearts rather than their minds. The rapid-fire pace
of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of daily
news items and even the multitude of visual sources
of information all make it difficult for the voice of
reason to be heard.
The answer to this state of affairs Heath argues
lies in a new “slow politics” . It takes as its point of
departure recent psychological and philosophical research, which identifies quite clearly the social and
environmental preconditions for the exercise of rational thought (i.e. the mental capacity to draw conclusions). It is impossible to restore sanity merely by
being sane and trying to speak in a reasonable tone of
voice. The only way to restore sanity is by engaging
in collective action against the social conditions that
have crowded it out. In Heath’s defense, his whole
point is that restoring sanity won’t be easy, and will
involve a lot of hard work, counterintuitive thinking,
and bucking of prevalent trends. He also understands
that for social change to be effective the rule is to go
big or go home and that at best only incremental
changes are even on the radar.
Our third book about the possibility of transformative change is Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World by Joe
Schwartzberg. It concerns the most difficult problem
facing the human race: how to make world-wide de63
cisions that are reasonably fair to all of us. Global
problems require global solutions. Individual states,
no matter how powerful, can solve international problems. However, the United Nations, as presently constituted, is incapable of addressing many global problems effectively. Decisions made on the basis of one
nation — one vote fail to reflect the distribution of
power in the world at large. What is fair about a
nation like, say, Malta with a population of 413,000
having the same voting power as a country like India
with its 1,173,000,000 inhabitants? In the Security
Council, the allocation of power is both unfair and
out-of-date, giving permanent veto power to the five
victors of the Second World War in 1945. As a result, the Council has become unrepresentative, undemocratic and ineffective. Hence, member countries
are reluctant to endow the UN with the authority
and the resources it needs. Extensive reform, even
transformation is essential.
This book is rooted in the proposition that the design of decision-making systems greatly affects their
legitimacy and effectiveness. It proposes numerous systemic improvements, largely through weighted
voting formulae that balance the needs of big and
small. It advocates both inclusiveness and fairness.
The designs for each agency are appropriate to the
functions to be performed. Rules for weighted voting
depend on the tasks to be performed. The author indicates ways by which the interests of regions can supplement those of nations and by which the voices of
civil society and ordinary citizens can also be heard.
In numerous contexts, it promotes meritocracy and
gender equity. Essentially, the author proposes that a
few key and highly noticeable reforms might become
internal catalysts for further transformation.
The aim is not to create an unrealistic utopia, but
rather to establish a workable world, a world in which
the force of law supplants the law of force, a world
committed to sustainable development. Given the
many threats confronting our planet – such as the
threat of nuclear annihilation, global warming, pollution, health pandemics, economic crises, depletion
of biodiversity and vital resources, and the obscene
gap between rich and poor – the time frame for decisive action is short. The task before us is daunting,
says Schwartzberg, but, in light of the urgency, we
must and can find ways of mustering the will and
imagination to do the job. He does not throw up his
hands in despair. The genius of this book is that instead of just looking at the size of the challenge the
author submits it to rigorous analysis and shows how
we can take one step at a time to surmount the interrelated institutional blockages. The lesson for us
is that no matter how difficult the problem we confront, we can seek workable solutions. Schwartzberg
knows that it’s political will that is lacking. But he
believes that if ideas and rational thought can open
up the perspective of political solutions then politicians might be persuaded to walk in that direction.
These three, deeply researched, books tell us that
in the wider world new trends of economic, cultural
and political thought are appearing that call into
question many of the basic tenants of conservatism
that have dominated the landscape since the 1980s.
The first book tells us that market-led economics,
without political correctives, have meant that inherited wealth is concentrated in fewer hands and captures a greater rate of growth than that of the economy as a whole. “The past devours the future” .
Extreme inequalities are generated that undermine
democratic values of merit, effort, and social justice.
But, democracy can regain control through education, knowledge, information and the tax system —
all of which the Harper Conservatives have turned
their backs on. The second book moves us from economics to social culture and philosophy. The author calls for a return to the ideas of the Enlightenment which aimed to reform society using reason,
to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith,
and to advance knowledge through evidence-based
thought and intellectual interchange. The rapid-fire
pace of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of
daily news, advertisements and government slogans
all make it difficult for the voice of reason to be heard.
The only way to restore sanity is by engaging in collective action against the social conditions that have
crowded it out. The third book on reforming the
UN tells us the world must deal with international
organizations, the environment, global cooperation,
surmounting inequality and decision-making institutions that base their legitimacy on inclusiveness and
fairness. These traits have not defined the Harper
Now, how do these three transformative books help
us understand the current problems in Canada and
what to do about them? For the past three decades,
we have been submitted to the conservative ideology
that promotes the ’new economy’. According to this
way of thinking, government was too big, taxation
too high, and regulations too intrusive. Government
should not be big brother. Initiative should come
from business leaders and they should be compensated for their work. Greed is good, might is right.
All these thoughts have been implanted in the minds
of the public by big business which controls big media, big think tanks, and right-wing, fundamentalist
religion. They were supplement by trends in mainstream media worldwide that have basically eliminated analysis and concentrated on events and what
those who control the media say.
The result has been an economy that accepts permanent unemployment, reduced taxation for large
capital, the marginalization of trade unions, and a
reduction of the State as the regulator and guarantor of social justice. Single-minded tax-cutting means
the government can no longer promote social justice
because it has been starved of the funds to do so.
Deregulation and greed led to the financial disaster
of 2007-8 from which we have only recently started
to recover. Many families lost everything. Wealth
creation has pushed aside other social values such as
lending a helping hand or giving a second chance.
Canada’s outstanding public service has been diminished to a shadow of itself. Environmentalists have
been gagged. The quality of education was lowered,
wait lines at hospitals became endemic and Canadian scientific leadership diminished. Veterans are
neglected. Concentration of wealth and the outrageous incomes and bonuses of executives — including
those who made no profits — served to enhance social
divisions, make our society more litigious, and undercut such Canadian values as sharing, compromise and
tolerance. Briefly stated, these are the wrongs that
must be righted.
The Renewal in Concrete Terms: Unless we
have a little revolt, the only way to get rid of Harper
is to vote the Conservatives out of office. In concrete
terms, that means electing a majority of candidates
from the current opposition parties as Members of
Parliament. But, even then, our job is not done. At
the present time, the pollsters tell us that neither of
the opposition parties will have a majority by itself.
If they do not cooperate together, Harper may have
a sufficient number of seats to continue governing if
the votes of the other parties are split. What to do?
The answer would have been simple enough if the
Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP)
had been public-spirited enough to work together in
a Coalition. Then we could vote for the Coalition
and our job would be done. So let us give a little
thought to the idea of coalitions. I am not going to
talk about the Greens, even if I admire them and
their leader very much. The polls suggest they are
unlikely to come anywhere close to holding a balance
of power. The same thing can be said about the Bloc
Québécois which recently has been losing members
and electoral support. From what one hears from
the media, there are several in the leadership circles
and in the party memberships of the Liberals and the
NDP who would support a coalition. But it seems the
present leadership will not accept it. Sometimes this
is for petty, selfish reasons. The leaders – and by
this I mean the MPs at the head of the parties and
the backroom boys and girls — persist in thinking
that they know best and only their party can govern
the country. Sometimes it is because of their reading
of history. For some of the NDP, the Liberals have
always been the demon that stole their ideas and kept
them out of power. For some of the Liberals, the
New Democrats are a bunch of soft-headed socialists
who cannot be trusted with the country’s finances.
Probably both are wrong and a level-headed look at
the realities would tell them that they have much
more in common than either of them has with the
The idea of ’coalitions’ also got a bum rap in 2011
when a group of parties almost succeeded in dumping Harper. He started flailing around to protect his
power. He told Canadians that the Coalition of opposition parties was illegal and unconstitutional. This
is wrong. Any group of MPs which musters a majority in the House of Commons and has the structure
to maintain itself automatically becomes government.
Harper’s insults and injuries about coalitions discour65
aged Canadians from thinking about the many benefits of parties grouping together to govern. The reality is that most modern democratic countries are governed by coalitions and they seem to work quite well.
They oblige parties to work together, to learn from
each other, to develop common policies and thereby
to bridge some of the harsh divides and ideological
hang-ups of their societies. I insist on the constitutionality and the benefits of coalitions because it is
quite likely that, despite the current protestations of
New Democrats and Liberals, Canada will end up
being governed by a Coalition by the end of 2015 —
including the Greens.
So, if we do not go into the autumn election with
a coalition, all those who are determined to get rid
of Harper will have to do it the hard way. They will
have to vote strategically. This means that in each
riding across the country we must all decide on which
opposition candidate is most likely to win and then
vote for that person — whether or not the candidate represents the party you support. You can still
work for the party you prefer, but when it comes to
voting you vote for the one who can win and beat
the Conservative candidate. To judge who is likely
to be the strongest candidate, do not be swayed by
the wishful thinking of your preferred party. They
all are convinced they are going to win — until they
don’t. So watch the media coverage and then turn
to www.threehundredeight.com a website that provides up-to-date projections of the popular vote in
each riding. Then vote ’strategically’ to win. Now
if we all follow this advice and we elect a majority
of Liberals and New Democrats, without a clear winner, our job is still not finished. We must get on
the phone and write letters and use the social media
plus personal conversations to convince our preferred
party that they must form a coalition. So, you see
my friend. This is not a time for apathy. This is an
election that can be decided by citizens — us.
The Renewal Agenda
Let us start off with one last reminder of what we
are trying to overcome before going on to wonder
about how one sets an agenda for renewal and then
setting out some suggestions about the issues a new
government will have to consider to set Canada on a
The accompanying box is included for two reasons.
new course.
It confirms that your author is not the only person
keeping tabs on the harms of the Harper ConservaReader’s letter to Maclean’s Magazine
tives. Some citizens do it just as well and much more
10 Nov. 2014
briefly. As a matter of fact, I have an almost identical and even more virulent letter in French! SecHarper’s ’liberal’ bona fides? Er, No.
ondly, it lays out one last time and in very sucYour Oct. 27 editorial attempts to paint
cinct form the wrongs wrought by the Harper ConStephen Harper’s regime as ’liberal’. This
servatives. It thereby starts to lay out the agenda
despite so much evidence to the contrary:
of wrongs which must be righted by a new government. To this pointed list, one might add that the
• Gutting the long-form census;
Harper government has damaged our democratic in• Virtually muzzling government scienstitutions; increased partisanship, voter apathy and
low electoral turn out; widened economic inequality;
• Shutting down government science litarnished the Senate; instituted authoritarian govbraries;
ernment by Harper and the youngsters in the Prime
• Shutting down the long-gun registry;
Minister’s Office; governed in secrecy; diminished
Elections Canada and the electoral system; politi• Slashing staff and budgets at Environcized the public service; down-graded government
ment Canada;
services; side-lined the media and castrated the CBC;
• Wasting more than $100 million on
made puppets of parliamentarians and hobbled parads touting the government’s so-called
liamentary committees and debates; instituted vi’Economic Action Plan’, instead of
cious, personalized attack ads against opponents; pilspending the money on job creation;
loried environmentalists and other Canadian activist;
• Wasting $28 million ’commemorating’
suppressed science and evidence-based policy making
the War of 1812, instead of spending it
— truly the list is endless.
on real live veterans;
Despite ten years of these depredations, the Canadian people are not duped. Surveys conducted for the
• Maintaining a one-dimensional foreign
Department of Finance in February 2014, showed the
policy in favour of Israel in the Middle
extent of the disconnect between government policies
and the priorities of Canadians. Among the 12 fo• Repeatedly burying many pieces of uncus groups questioned, the economy, trade and enrelated legislation in massive ’omnibus’
ergy exports — dear to the heart of the government
budgets, in order to prevent detailed
— did not register among the respondents’ priorities.
discussions and debates;
Their priorities were elsewhere and included: educa• Eliminating valuable advisory bodies
tion, health, and the retirement benefits of veterans.
such as the National Roundtable on
They were particularly worried about the potential
the Environment;
environmental consequences of the Northern Gate• Attacking the integrity of professional
way Pipeline. You can fool some the people some of
public officials, including the parliathe time. . .
mentary budget officer, and the chief
National Conversations: To start building a rejustice of the Supreme Court.
newal agenda, we have to open some doors and windows. The last thing we want to do is to follow the
The Harper government ’liberal’ ? Nice try
path of the Harper Government. Its path was charbut it doesn’t succeed
acterized by authoritarianism, ideology, control, seGeoff King, Ottawa.
crecy and single options defined by the leader. What
we want now is the opposite. Our method for defining the renewal of Canada should by open, analytical,
participative, accessible, and the result of a deliberative process that leads to consensus.
In his 2013 book, How We Lead, the former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, Joe
Clark, severely criticised the Harper Conservatives
and then went on to make a profound proposal: we
should recommence are habit of holding ’national
conversations’. He wrote that, “Many of Canada’s
own defining initiatives flowed from serious national
conversations — royal commissions on cultural institutions, or health care, or free trade; first minister’s
conferences; parliamentary debates and election campaigns that reached beyond mere personalities and
into the realm of ideas. Those conversations lifted us
over our usual divides of culture and geography and
specific interests. But for two decades now, our country has gone silent. We need to renew pan-Canadian
conversations, and a discussion of our presence in the
world is an excellent place to start.” (p. 8).
Clark went on to say that most of us see the world
from our own perspective and are blind to those living
in different circumstances. Hence, the need for us to
meet each other and to talk. And Canada has plenty
of solitudes that we have had to learn to bridge. We
have done it so well that we have become trusted
as international interlocutors, moderate voices and
’connectors’. Rapid changes and new technologies
have reduced the priority we once accorded to understanding, persuading and co-operating. After our
constitutional debates people wanted to ’get back to
business’. Then along came the years of austerity
and we looked to housekeeping and not house- building. We narrowed our vision and gradually silenced
our inclusive conversations. The last meeting of first
ministers in Canada took place in 2008. The last
royal commission was in 2002. There were a few judicial commissions but these were investigations not
conversations. Election campaigns have come to focus on the narrow and the negative. So we have to
get back to national conversations.
If we agree on this goal, then the next question
becomes: which issues should be the subjects of national conversations? Now there is a question: how
do we and should we set the national agenda? The
answer is not easy. But everyone knows the question
is crucial. The one who sets the agenda for a meeting has a great chance of affecting its outcome. As
Clark has pointed out, aside from the policy orientations of our various governments, a great deal of
the path Canadians have trodden was laid out as a
result of a haphazard collection of diverse ways of
holding ’national conversations’. While the path had
the merit of being democratic, it was also very erratic,
lengthy and sometimes subject to failure. Away back
in the 1980’s there was a wave of ’futurologists’ who
suggested many more rational methods for analysing
trends and strategies. Without achieving this nirvana, let me suggest that, because the question of
agenda setting is so basic, it should become one of
the first topics for a new government. Setting up a
’Secretariat for National Conversations’ would help
Canada address the future in a more orderly fashion.
It could be an agency of the federal government but
would perhaps better be located in the Council of the
Federation or as a standalone institute in a university.
Its task would be to receive and evaluate suggestions
about issues requiring national debate and continuously publishing lists of proposed ’Conversations’. It
would be the obligation of the federal and provincial
governments to respond regularly on how the conversations should (or should not) be held. The governments (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal) may
take the lead and set a topic up as a policy field or
establish a commission, request a white paper, hand
it to a legislative committee, or sponsor a conference.
On the other hand, the governments may decide to
help private institutions to study an issue: universities, think tanks, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) or combinations of these and others. The
advantages of the Conversations Secretariat would be
that it could help rationalize and publicize national
issues, set up agendas, and keep the country focused
on future scenarios. These are also the reasons it
would best be established on ’neutral’ territory such
as the Council of the Federation
So I now will establish myself as a one-man secretariat to propose, first, a series of ’Canadian Conversations’ and then a more pointed, short term series
of ’National Projects’ on topics that have been in the
line-up for some time and which seem ripe for urgent
• A National Energy Policy: production, transportation, sustainability
government action. In both cases, the criteria for my
choices are my sense that there is a palpable national
need and the fact that they have already been picked
up by the ’national radar’ and are reflected in books,
studies and the media.
• Renewal of the St. Lawrence Seaway
The Renewal of Canada: Possible
Topics For Pan-Canadian Conversations
• Looking After the Experienced Canadians (formerly the Elderly)
• A Fast Train from Quebec to Windsor
• Infrastructure and Rapid Transit
• Canada’s Presence in the World: A New Global
• A National Day Care Program
• Rethinking Democracy: Elections, Parliament,
• Dealing with the Environment
• A New Look at Women’s issues
• Commission on Native Women
• Federal-Provincial Linkages and Cooperation
• How does the Quality of Education and Access
to it compare internationally?
• Healing the CBC/Radio Canada
• Inter-modal transport
• Stimulating Innovation and Entrepreneurship:
Taking the Long View
• Inter-Provincial Free Trade
• Inter-generational Fairness
• A Pan-Canadian Power Grid
• The meaning of Progressive Government
• Enhancing Canadian Identity: TV, Film, Social
Media, Culture
• Reconnecting the Bases of Society: the ’Village
Effect’ and ’Unifying Ideas’
These two lists have very important messages for
• The Whole of Health Care: Psychological, Op- the opposition parties who want to become the new
tometry, Dentistry, Pharmaceutical
government of Canada. First, we have a lot of work
to do. The Harper Conservatives are leaving Canada
• Enhancing our Municipalities
with a terrible backlog of unattended opportunities.
Second, Canadians don’t just need a new government.
• Reducing inequalities
They need a better one. This election must be seen
as an opportunity for improving Canada, not just
• Canadianizing our head of State
changing it. Third, Canadians are not likely to put
• Refurbishing our public service
up with a new team of back-room boys and girls. The
country needs up-front policy making. The opposi6.3 National Projects Requiring Ac- tion parties must not think that the policies they have
dreamt up are the end of the road. If Canada is to
regain its democracy, the people must be consulted
• Back to Kelowna: Coming to a Deal with the regularly and continually. Election 2015 must not be
Native Peoples
Thinking about specific topics on the most vulnerable and sometimes pay the ultimate
price”. One of the government’s tasks should be to
the Renewal Agenda
Canada’s Presence in the World: A New
Global Policy: Countries now have three forms of
security: national, human and global. Some 15 years
ago, the world set out to tackle the UN’s Millennium
Development Goals to lessen poverty, promote gender
equality and ensure sustainable development. There
have been some successes. Now we must tackle the
post-2015 development agenda. An ambitious report
delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described five priority ’transformative shifts’ for post2015:
• Leave no one behind
• Put sustainable development at the core
• Transform economies for jobs and inclusive
• Build peace and effective, open and accountable
public institutions
• Forge a new global partnership
There have been other reports and recommendations as we head toward a consensus plan. Essentially
the three challenges of the future are poverty, exclusion and environmental sustainability. But these
’transformative shifts’ show us just how great is the
global task before us. In an alternative foreign policy, the government of Canada will play a leading role
in tackling the world’s problems in cooperation with
other countries. To do this Canada has to be active
where the debates are held and the decisions made.
Canada has a great team of diplomats, legal minds,
public servants, financial specialists, committed civil
society leaders and academics whose life in service for
a better world has given them great experience and
potential to help others. People like Simon Hacker
who Patrick Martin of the Globe and Mail profiled in
the January 17, 2014 edition. From South-Western
Ontario, Simon is a humanitarian logistician who coordinates food aid for the four million Syrians that
the UN World Food Programme has identified as being at risk. As the article said, “Every day thousands of humanitarian workers risk their lives to help
encourage the contributions of its citizens.
But the overall global task is much larger. We
must study what works and does not work in development aid policies. Even more, as John McArthur
of Brookings proposes, we have to ask what minimum standard of services would be required to reach
all of humanity. Then we have to put in place the
required global infrastructures. And finally we will
need to clarify how governments and corporations
can be held accountable for their actions. Canada
will require a super-ministry approach to its foreign
affairs combined with the support of civil society to
help the world attain these global goals.
The manner in which Prime Mister Stephen Harper
conducted his foreign relations harks back to the
monarchial system where policies were elaborated,
in secret, by a tiny elite and then dictated to the
unwashed. We desperately need new ’White Paper’
studies on Foreign Affairs and on Defence, but we
must also elaborate an effective, on-going system of
public deliberations and parliamentary debates about
international relations. Public approval is one of the
three supports of foreign policy. The second is a set
of skilled, professional diplomats who can counsel the
government. The Department of Foreign Affairs must
be given back its self-respect instead of having policies and strategies dictated from the Prime Minister’s Office. The third foundation is a sound military. The Conservatives have recently returned to
the old Canadian ’elevator’ practice of up and down
defence budgets. This has to stop. We need to grow
up. Canada is an enormous, wealthy but vulnerable country. We must have a professional military
with top notch equipment and training. Defence purchasing must be modernized and sped up. Studies
have shown that Canada has always punched above
its weight in NATO — in the Balkans, in NATO’s
Stabilization Force, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and in
Libya. Presumably our military will continue to do
so if we give them the means.
One of the most informative studies of Canadian
foreign policy during the Harper Regime was carried
out by Roland Paris of the University of Ottawa. He
did an intensive and creative survey of public opin-
ion to see if it still supported Canadian traditions of
’liberal internationalism’ (liberal with a small ’l’ and
in the sense of ’democratic’) or whether it had been
taken over by Harper’s more aggressive, in- your-face,
nationalist, warrior foreign policy. Paris studied the
three mainstays that symbolize ’liberal internationalism’: support for the UN, peacekeeping and the
military. He found that this support for liberal internationalism has been maintained. The Canadian
public has not adopted Harper’s priorities. Not only
that, but the support is found across Canada including the Western provinces, across party affiliations,
and includes men and women and new Canadians.
Highly significant is the way Canadians think
about peacekeeping which the Harper Conservatives
tried to replace with an image of Canadian soldiers as
’valiant fighters’, not peacekeepers. Despite these efforts Canadians seem to persist in “associating peacekeeping with a broader array of behaviours, all of
which could be grouped under the heading of ’diplomatic peace-maker’. This phrase may encapsulate a
role that most Canadians believe their country plays
and should play in the world. . . The fact that the
world is changing does not diminish Canada’s stake
in working toward a stable international environment
based to the greatest extent possible on the rule of
law, not the law of the jungle. The strategy of seeking to strengthen multilateral cooperation and norms
has always made sense for a country in Canada’s position” , maintains Paris. Those who seek to govern
Canada would do well to read Paris’ study to see what
the Canadian public wants in their foreign policy.
Rethinking Democracy
The strangling of democracy by the Harper Conservatives demands that our first task is to take a broad approach to rebooting democracy so that it once again
corresponds to the expectations of Canadian citizens.
One such approach would be for a new government
to set up a ’deliberative democracy’ assembly to give
a thorough airing to our democratic aspirations in
a public forum. The essential elements of such a
’Deliberative Democracy Assembly’ would be that it
would have a structured, pan-Canadian, representation of, say, 750 volunteer citizens. They would be
informed about the comparative, international elements of democracy by a balanced corps of experts.
The deliberations might take a month. A Reporting
Committee would develop a consensus or majority
report for presentation to the public and the government. All proceedings would be open to the media
and would be televised to include an informed wider
We have seen that democracy can simply be defined as: government ’of’, ’by’ and ’for’ the people.
But, what we have learned in the past 10 years is
that it is the complexity of democracy which the Assembly will have to study. An elected Parliament is
a good place to begin. But is the electoral law and
funding fair and approved by all parties? Is there an
independent authority with adequate powers to oversee the electoral process? Can the parliament be shut
down by the executive (the prime minister)? Or, is
there a constitutionally mandated division of powers
between the executive and the legislative branches
that would put controls on the prime minister? Is
there a constitutionally written definition of the positions of head of state (the Governor General) and
of prime minister and the relationship between them?
And what about a clear definition of powers between
the political and administrative sides of government
where the come into regular contact as between the
Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office
or between deputy ministers and ministers? Last but
by no means least, how do we spell out the authority of Cabinet Ministers vis-à-vis the Prime Minister?
Surely the task of the PM is to convince, not to coerce. In Canada, at the present time, the answer to
all these questions is in the negative with the consequence that Mr. Harper has been able to bully
his way through the government and do pretty much
as he pleases. Our Constitution could use some updating. In fact, it could also use some modernization
in the field of federalism where the structure of relationships between Ottawa and the other orders of
government could really benefit from some definition.
What about government ’of’ the people. Is our
parliament actually representative of the people of
Canada and does the government represent the majority of the electors. Again the answers are in the
negative and will always be so until we return to
a two party system or change our electoral laws to
proportional representation to recognize our multiparty system. And once elected, we have seen from
Michael Chong’s proposed, private Reform Act that
the whole issue of the rights and powers of MPs vs.
the party leadership is a loaded issue ripe for change.
MPs are no longer able to hold the government to account. We should not forget the question of electoral
finance. Should access to people with deep pockets
be the only criteria? We should recognize that there
have be suggestions for ’democratic funding’ in the
form of assignable vouchers provided equally to each
citizen by the office of elections. Who should have an
oversight of government advertising?
The notion of government ’by’ the people brings
up the question of the role of civil society and of political rights. Over the past several decades we just
evolved into a system where government appreciated
being seconded by private associations of interested
and competent citizens. But there were no specified
rights. So Mr. Harper was able to shut down group
after group in the government and to threaten outside groups with a loss of funding or charitable status.
The government has abused the ’Access to Information’ system to the best of its ability. The chill was
in. How can we recognize and protect the role of
civil society in Canada? How solidly implanted are
our political rights? The protections offered by the
Supreme Court appear to be fairly robust — although
this has not stopped the Prime Minister from doing
his utmost to change the composition of the Court.
This brings to mind the need to institutionalize the
whole process of nominations of judges to our court
system. A linked issue is to reform the court system
so it would be more financially accessible to citizens
who are not millionaires. As for our broader ’human
rights’ their fragility has been underscored by the debate over ’security’ vs. protection of rights. It’s another area for a ’Deliberative Democracy Assembly’
to consider. So should the whole issue of adequate
checks and balances. Another is the question of an
adequate flow of information. As the Supreme Court
has decreed, Canadians should have the right to hear
as well as to speak. If so, will we ever deal with
the concentration of ownership of the media? As to
the question of governmental information, one would
never have expected a government of Canada to unilaterally modify the Census or to shut off the supply
of scientific information and to close down research
centres and libraries. But that is what the Harper
Conservatives have done and we have to ask if there
are any limits on the powers of a party that takes
over the government? We could also ask if there are
any protections for the agents of government and of
parliament that the Conservatives have decided to
But even before a Deliberative Assembly, we can
look at the record of the Harper government and see
that its effect on Canadian democracy has been to
make it autocratic, secretive, centralized, controlled
and frightening — the very antithesis of what democracy is meant to be. Studies have shown that the
Canadian public faults the government for its concentration of executive power, an inadequate electoral
system, the handling of policies, and abuse of democratic institutions. There have been plenty of suggestions for improving our democracy by research books,
think tanks, and dozens of journalists and individual
critics (see bibliography). Prominent among these
suggestions are the following. Canada should follow the lead of its Commonwealth cousins like Great
Britain, Australia and New Zealand and codify the
rules of parliamentary democracy so everyone will
play from the same rule book. Rules about such
things as prorogation, dissolution, election dates, a
parliamentary calendar, and votes of confidence need
to be codified so they are understood by all. To overcome the fact that Canada has “the heaviest, tightest
party disciplines of all the advanced parliamentary
democracies” , we must restore the power of party
caucuses to dismiss party leaders and give riding associations the right to choose their candidates without the leaders’ interference. To reinforce the power
of MPs and Parliament, control over the party’s finances must be transferred to the caucus and organizing and interpreting the use of polls should be run
by a party committee. The staff of the Prime minister’s Office should be cut in half as should be its
budget. MPs on parliamentary committees should
elect their chairs and members of committees should
be named for the duration of the session, so as to gain
Reducing Inequalities
Many people are of the opinion that the two worst
scourges in the world today are inequality and global
warming. Let us start with the first. There are many
sorts of inequality but here I will only deal with economic inequality that is, the growing gap between the
very rich and the poor. The basic figures are pretty
well known but just to recapitulate let us recall that
Canada shares this particular misery with the rest of
the world. A UN report stated that the richest one
per cent of the world population owns 40% of world
assets and the bottom half shares just one per cent.
In recent decades, despite steady economic growth,
inequality has risen in most countries in nearly every region of the world. A report by the economist
Branko Milanovic of the World Bank confirmed that
inequality between individuals has improved very little. From 1988 to 2008 people in the world’s top 1%
saw their incomes increase by 60% while those in the
bottom 5% had no change in their income; moreover,
8% of humanity takes home 50% of global income.
Of the advanced economies, the U.S. has some of
the worst disparities. Although its gross domestic
product has more than quadrupled in the past 40
years, most of the benefits have gone to the very top.
In 2012, the top 1% of Americans took home 22%
of the nation’s income while 95% of all income gains
have gone to the top 1%. The median income of
Americans hasn’t budged in 25 years. The economist
Joseph Stiglitz claims the inequality upswing began
30 years ago along with tax decreases for the rich and
the easing of the regulations in the financial sector.
It has worsened as the U.S. has underinvested in infrastructure, education, health care and social safety
nets. The ILO estimates that CEOs in America make
500 times more than their ordinary workers. Mobile
capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions to the
multilateral corporations. There has been a race to
the bottom for wages and working conditions. But,
greed also plays a role. The Justice Network estimates that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden
offshore, untaxed. This results in a tax loss of $260
billion to the U.S. every year.
In Canada, the picture has been much the same.
Canada’s richest 20% of families take home almost
50% of all income and, even worse, 70% of all Canadian wealth belongs to Canada’s wealthiest 20%.
And it has been getting worse. For every new dollar of real wealth generated in Canada since 1999, 66
cent has gone to the same 20% wealthiest families.
Figures from the Canadian Business Magazine show
that the 86 richest Canadian individuals and families
hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest 11.4
million Canadians combined. Their net worth had
grown to $180 billion in 2012. Few Canadian taxes
apply to wealth or capital directly. One of the largest
loopholes is that capital gains are taxed at half the
rate of normal income. When the income from the
private companies they control directly or indirectly
is included in their revenues, the top 1% of Canadians
took home an average $500,000 in 2011. What these
figures mean in practical terms is that at the other
end of the scale four million Canadians were affected
by some form of ’food insecurity’ in 2014, which is
almost half a million more than five years previously.
The inequality gap hinders people at both ends
of the spectrum from having a common vision of
their society and from desiring to undertake common
projects. The rich tend to secede from society leaving only ’trickle-down meanness’ in their wake, as former Clerk of the Privy Council, Alex Himelfarb, has
said. In other words, inequality subverts the quality of democracy. It also has a harmful effect on the
economy. As the French economist, Thomas Piketty
who we met above has pointed out the rate of return
on capital (profits from investments of the wealthy
class) is usually higher than economic growth. Income from wealth grows faster than wages. This
both continues the process of concentrating wealth
and slows down economic development. It leads to
the virtual stagnation of the purchasing power of the
lower and middle classes. Recent research indicates
that the very wealthy can hardly be described as entrepreneurs but they are very good at tax avoidance.
It is not certain that CEOs earn their vast salaries
and bonuses. On the other hand, surveys in 2014
for the ’Americas Barometer’ have shown that the
Canadian public generally worries about income inequality and expects government to reduce the disparities. Canadians have historically supported gov-
ernment as a nation-builder and protector of ’collective well-being’ and the survey show they still expect
government will look out for society’s disadvantaged.
Another survey for the Broadbent Institute showed
that 64% of respondents wanted more action from
the federal government. But, under the Conservatives and their austerity programs, the government’s
role in wealth redistribution has been reduced.
This somber picture of wealth concentration underlines the need for a ’National Conversation’ on
reducing inequalities, as called for by former Senator
Hugh Segal. However, as Jeffrey Simpson points out,
so far, none of the party leaders have shown they
are willing to ask citizens about the less fortunate.
Solutions to poverty require good data — as in a
long form census. It was his investigation of centuries of data that permitted Piketty to propose a
progressive global tax on capital along with boosting
minimum wages and improving education and training opportunities for the poor and middle class. A
technologically driven world requires new skills and
industries. Because such a global tax is a long way
off, two Canadian economists have proposed a small
tax on money exchanges and on sales of securities.
Such taxes would target those with money and bring
in billions of dollars but at low levels of tax and without harming the capital of the rich. The idea should
be easier to sell. Of course, this would likely require
some restraints on the ownership of the media and the
capacity to buy elections. Also required are affordable housing programs and daycare programs coupled
with basic education. The Child Benefit Supplement
has not been increased for seven years and the child
tax benefits should be increased beyond mere subsistence. The goal should be equal opportunity, say Ed
In the final analysis, surmounting inequality will
be a question of Canadian values. So let me leave
the last word to Jeff Turnbull, past president of the
Canadian Medical Association, writing in the Citizen of July 12, 2012. “As Canadians we have always
been able to transcend our differences for the greater
good, united by our shared values as a confederation
— values such as compassion and caring, fairness and
equity, and the importance we place on peace and diversity. This generation’s legacy will be measured
by the extent to which we have upheld these values.
What virtue exists in the number of fighter planes
we buy or how many people we put in prison? There
is, to be sure, the need for prudent fiscal management. This, however, cannot be at the expense of
what binds us together as a nation. . . Government’s
must not balance the books on the backs of some of
our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.” Dr. Turnbull went on to conclude that, “Fundamental change
can only take place when individuals and organizations representing large sectors of our society set out
expectations for our elected officials and hold them
accountable for meeting them.”
A National Energy Policy: production, transportation and the
In November, 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change gave its starkest warning
so far about the dangers of human-driven climate
change. Forests will burn, cities will flood, and infrastructure will collapse as a result. One week later
it was revealed that the G20 countries were flagrantly
ignoring these warning by continuing to prop up fossil
fuel exploration to the tune of $88 billion in subsidies
every year (only a portion of the total of $775 billion in supports around the world). For their part,
the Conservatives have slashed financing for climate
science, closed facilities that do research on climate,
portrayed the tar sands industry as environmentally
benign, attacked “environmental and other radical
groups” , and continued to give subsidies to the oil
industry. This was in addition to decimating our environmental legislation and removing safeguards for
water safety.
Nicholas Hulot, the French President’s special envoy for the protection of the planet, came to Canada
to reiterate that China and the United States have
started to act because the costs of natural disasters
and of pollution which are rising exponentially. Businesses are realizing that energy efficiency means productivity. The costs of renewable energy are plummeting. But Canada risks being left behind in the
economic gains of clean energy if the federal gov-
ernment doesn’t get on board. In 2013, $207 billion
(U.S.) around the world was invested in clean energy
deployment, not far below the $270 billion spent on
fossil fuel power generation. Canada’s investment in
clean energy in 2013 was a paltry $6.5 billion. The
Harper Conservative government has not set renewable energy targets, or joined in international climate change bodies, or recognized we can build economic growth while reducing climate change. Prior
to the major international climate change conference in Paris in 2015, countries must submit national
plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions with rich
countries taking the lead, but Canada has not even
taken action to fulfill its emissions reductions targets
set in Copenhagen five years ago.
For a path forward, we cannot do better than turn
to one of Canada’s best environment experts, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party. She proposes
a seven point program for tackling the climate crisis. We will start with federal- provincial conference (i.e. a ’National Conversation’) to ensure a national plan to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and
the end the practice of their subsidization. Next is
placing a price on carbon. It might be like BCs carbon tax which is used to reduce other tax burdens
and is therefore ’tax neutral’. Together, Canadians
would set shared goals for energy security, maximising jobs, and the transition to a low carbon economy. Coal-fired power plants would be phased out.
At the same time we should work with municipalities to emphasize the up-grading of critical infrastructure such as transportation and water works. Finally,
Canada’s vital Environmental Protection Act would
be restored along with the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act and a restored National
Round Table on Environment and Economy. David
Suzuki added his wish that Canada would emulate
110 other countries that have enshrined environmental rights in their Constitutions. Of course, the environment is not just about energy and climate change
but, it would be a major step ahead.
Canada saying everything is going fine and we are
getting more women in universities and the workforce, for example. Shortly thereafter, the UN received another report from the Canadian Feminist Alliance and the Canadian Labour Congress saying that
there has been a “systematic erosion” in the status
of Canadian women since 2004. It cited ’backward’
progress in everything from pay equity to child care
and the elimination of funding for advocacy groups.
Although there are more women in the work force,
the wage gap between men and women has actually
grown. Similarly, there are more female students in
academic institutions but hiring and promotion of
women in universities has not kept pace. Men are
still likely to have twice as many full-time positions
as women. The report also pointed to the closing
of 12 of Canada’s 16 Status of Women Offices, the
elimination of funding for court challenges and the
loss of the $5 billion child care program which was
dismantled when Harper came to power. As a result
Canada fell from 14th to 25th place in the World Forum’s gender- gap index. Hence, there is a strong
need for a new Royal Commission on the Status of
But, the problem is more urgent than that say
some. Pointing to the fact that many of the issues of
30 years ago —child care, pay equity, violence against
women, and women’s role in global peace and security
— are still as pressing today, Caroline Andrew, Director of the Centre on Governance at the University
of Ottawa, has called for the party leaders to hold
a debate on the status of women during the forthcoming election. The last leader’s debate on women
was in 1984. Women still form the majority of people
living in poverty, they do twice as much of the family tasks at home, and 8,000 women and children are
forced to seek protection in a shelter on any given day
– so the struggle to ensure the equal rights of women
is far from over. Only a leaders debate can shine a
strong enough light on these issues and what future
governments will do about them.
A New Look at Women’s Issues
Enhancing our Municipalities
In preparation for a special UN session on women, In February 2015, the mayors of Canada’s largest 18
the Harper government sent the UN a report on cities met to consider their common concerns prior to
the next federal election. These cities contain almost
two thirds of the population of the country and are
motors of employment. They agreed that, although
each has its particularities, all have the same need
for financial resources for infrastructure, housing and
transport. Social and environmental development is
not far behind. They calculate that 120 billion $ are
required just for their infrastructure needs. What
they want is for the federal government to sit down
with them to discuss reliable forms of revenue, transferred in a timely fashion. Ottawa needs to develop
an ’urban strategy’. For instance, at present a portion of gas taxes are refunded to municipalities for
infrastructure costs. Similar mechanisms could be
negotiated for other priority expenditures. Sounds
like a plan to me.
Needless to say, large cities do not in themselves
represent all of the needs of Canadian municipalities
— and we must not let the powerful hug the spotlight. Even so, it is good to note there is hope for the
future. At the end of 2014, the mayors of Calgary and
Edmonton signed a new agreement with the Premier
of Alberta that the Globe says may be a new model
for giving municipalities new powers and reworking
the way they are financed.
The Conservatives: Bad Economics, Worse Management
The Harper Conservatives like to portray themselves
as the economic saviours of the nation and prudent
managers of the public good. I don’t like to disappoint you but their propaganda is just not true.
The Conservatives have made all the wrong economic
choices and have unhinged our public wellbeing.
The data on Canada’s economic decline can be
found in the media — if one reads carefully. In 2014,
Canada dropped to 15th rank among the world’s
most competitive economies (out of 144 countries)
from 9th rank in 2009. According to the prestigious
World Economic Forum, the biggest long-term concern about the Canadian economy is the underinvestment in innovation and technology. Private sector
spending on R&D ranks 27th in the world; university/industry collaboration ranks 19th; and as for
government procurement of advanced technology —
a key driver of technological innovation — Canada
ranks 48th. Canada is also slipping down in higher
education and training, falling to 45th rank in postsecondary enrolments. Student debt is rising. This is
also reflected in youth employment. Despite the fact
there are 265,000 fewer young people employed today than in 2008, the Harper government has cut its
Youth Employment Strategy by $80 million between
2010 and 2016. They have been told to boost their
Strategy and to ensure corporations have to advertise
their positions to Canadian youth first before turning
to foreign workers.
As far as general employment is concerned, Canada
lost 112,000 private sector jobs in 2014 – almost
500,000 since 2004. The participation rate in the
labour market was only 66% in 2014, the worst in
the last 13 years. We lost 14% of our quality jobs
during the last 13 years. Tourism plunged by half
between 2000 and 2014. Exports also dropped from
44% of GDP in 2000 to 30% in 2013, again despite
Harpers high-flying trade deals. The result was that
since 2008, our debt to the rest of the world grew by
$290 billion. A lot of this was attributable to the inexorable rise in the value of the Canadian dollar (until very recently) which was endorsed, even celebrated
be James Flaherty as an public indicator of Canada’s
supposed strength. As to the income gap, the average
compensation for each of Canada’s top 100 corporate
bosses was some $8 million in 2012 while the average
wage sat at $47,000. Not much balance or incentive
there. Generally speaking, the behind-the-headlines
news is that, under Harper, the Canadian economy
is in free fall.
There is more and worse. Because of Harper’s two
key economic strategies, the Canadian economy has
been going in the wrong direction for the past decade.
The first bad decision was to put all his apples in the
resource extraction basket. He wanted preside over
a ’world energy super power’. As we have just seen,
the Canadian government should have been presiding over technological innovation and development
while the resource industries were left to do their
own thing rather than being buttresses by billions
of dollars in subsidies and enormous federal efforts to
promote their pipelines and trade.
One has to ask why the media and the public have
not been aware of our economic decline and the perils of dependence on resource extraction. Canada has
once again become a ’hewer of wood and drawer of
water’. It was because of Harper’s second economic
wrong turn — the focus on the federal deficit. The
first problem was that as an act of economic theatre
drama it masked what was really going on. It was all
Harper talked about so it was all the media had to report. Of course, conservative economists didn’t want
to look further. More fundamental was that the debt
drama was false and misleading and led to a cascade
of other economic errors. It was misleading, first, because Harper has driven down the federal government
so far that in the overall picture it is now a minor part
of the Canadian economy and not worth all the focus
he has placed on it. Second, has been the cost of this
focus. It has permitted Harper to cut some 47,000
federal jobs since 2011 (we were meant to be in a period of economic recovery, remember); to clobber the
federal government with another $27.5 billion in tax
cuts announced last year; and all this aided and abetted by a 2013-2014 total of $18 billion in ’lapsed’, Parliamentary approved spending that was returned to
the treasury (the Citizen called it “not frugality, it’s a
broken promise” ). In turn, having starved the federal
government for funds, Harper was able to claim that
he had no other choice but to cut federal spending
by $14 billion a year since 2011 all ending up with
“shuttered veteran’s offices, deteriorating statistical
data, questionable rail and food safety, unavailable
military hardware, and ridiculous waits for benefits”
. The deficit drama was false because it masked the
real tragedy. The Conservatives had, according to
the Royal Bank, driven up the Net Federal Debt by
$134.5 billion to a total of $615.8 billion since coming
to power in 2006.
If you were planning to vote for the Conservatives
because of their propaganda claim that only they can
manage the economy, well we now have the prove
that any other party would do better — unless they
have been bamboozled into believing in conservative
This background gives some hints about what we
should be doing for the Canadian economy. First,
we should have learned years ago that foreign corporations are not going to invest in much research
and development in Canada. Governments and universities (funded by governments) have to pick up the
slack if we are going to be competitive in international
business and development. This is not an argument
for big government. If we have learnt anything from
the conservatives it is that governments do not have
’do’ everything. They will be doing quite enough if
they lead, encourage, coordinate, plan, and support
businesses, civil society and universities to undertake
the required efforts in research, production and trade.
Secondly, recent opinion polls reported in the Citizen
show that the public is increasingly off-side with conservative values. Those considering themselves to be
’small-l liberal’ have gone from 24% of respondents
in 2008 to 47% in 2014. Increasingly they support
“progressive” values on law enforcement, marijuana,
foreign policy and — especially — the role and size of
government. They believe the role of government is to
invest in new areas such as job creation, public infrastructure, government regulation and stronger social
But, government can also prod the private sector,
guide it and give it support. For instance, government should be subsidizing resource industries to design, produce and export extractive machinery. For
too long we have been on the receiving end. Our
resources should be a ’value- added’ industry. Similarly, in the green sector, we should be designing and
building energy efficient housing and transportation
for ourselves and for export. The goal is to maximize energy efficiency. Again, government can help
by sponsoring research and development and helping
to expand international markets. Another idea whose
time has come is the field of energy. All our governments, along with the private sector and experts,
should be working together to produce a national energy and energy transportation strategy. There is
a growing national and international consensus (except for the Harper Conservatives, of course) that
we should establish a national —provincial carbon
tax, probably modeled on that of British Columbia
which works well and is tax-neutral. Another field
in which research has produced agreement is that
Canada should be exporting its know-how in services
and its expertise in all manner of fields. Government should be helping small companies and individ-
uals with special knowledge and talents — including
artists and academics. We should be expanding our
stock of skills via pan-Canadian education and apprentice ship goals. On the other hand, we should be
very careful about trade deals which only open potential markets without helping Canadians to exploit
them, while allowing foreign corporations to decide
what we can and cannot do because they can turn
around and sue us in international tribunals when
they don’t like our policies. In other words, government economic policy should guide Canadians and
help them to ’make the world their oyster’.
Vote Progressive
It is to be hoped that this little booklet will have
persuaded you that to defeat the Conservatives in
the coming election, you must get out and vote for
the strongest opposition candidate in your riding —
and then you must make sure that candidate and
her or his party are supporting progressive policies.
Which leads us to the last question: what is a ’progressive’ party and government. Unfortunately, like
others, my preoccupation with Harper has distracted
me from presenting a clear portrait of what it means
to be ’progressive’ as opposed to ’conservative’. First,
let me note that any party can be relatively progressive — the Social Democrats, the Liberals, the Greens
even the ’Progressive Conservatives’ in the old days.
It is not the label but the contents that count. So
you have to check out the ideas and policies of the
leaders and the candidates. There is no automatic
short cut. We each have to have a good idea of what
it means to be progressive, so that we will get what
we want. And we will not be alone. Another survey
at the beginning of 2015 by the public relations giant
Edelman, showed that Canadians want more government regulation of the food and beverage, banking
and health industries at a time when confidence in
big business and corporate leaders is waning because
they “failed to contribute to the greater good” . The
good news is that Canada and Germany are tied as
the second most trusted countries in the 27 surveyed,
which leaves the door open for a renewed Canada to
take its place in the world.
Essentially, being ’progressive’, means believing
that government can be a tool for helping citizens
and for reducing disparities between them. Let us be
careful. Government can also be a tool for domination — of the left or the right. It is hard for me to say
it but Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney were correct
in the 1980s to claim that government had become
too big and too domineering. While they were right,
Harper is not. He is an ideologue who has taken the
idea of minimalist government to its extremes. To be
more precise, let us consider some point by point orientations of what a progressive party should propose.
• A progressive party would advocate the Canadian values of balance, sharing, civility, tolerance
and mutual accommodation.
• Primordial to progressives would be the reestablishment of our basic democratic institutions and
welcoming rather than attacking and penalizing
our civil society associations.
• Progressives would work assiduously to reform
our multi-party electoral system so that all citizens will be represented on a fair and equal basis.
• A fair tax policy can help rebuild social programs, reduce gaps between rich and poor, restore environmental responsibility and revitalize
Canada’s democracy. Instead of the tax hysteria of the political right, it recognizes we have
to pay taxes to have good roads, schools, hospitals, health care and social services. Fair taxes
would seek the least punitive ones such as financial transaction taxes that are already used in 40
• The Magna Carta is 800 years old this year and
it should remind us no one is above the law but
all should have the protection of the law. We
need to reform our penal system and our judicial
rights — in particular making sure that people
have access to justice and the courts at reasonable costs.
• Progressives know that the people and the governments of Canada must work with the native
peoples to insure their just inclusion in the benefits of the Canadian society.
• A progressive party would promote environmen• To achieve all of these goals, Canadians must
tal sustainability and surmount economic inenhance their entrepreneurial spirit.
equality. It would promote mass transit and
Being progressive, then, is a mixture of values,
green energy and would go beyond concerns for
goals, projects and programs. It is the opposite of
the ’middle class’ to deal with poverty.
Harper’s conservatism. Using this point- by-point de• Progressive policies are based on evidence and scription we can hold our political candidates feet to
usually supported by scientific research and in- the fire and see whether or not they intend to head
in a progressive direction.
• In the current age, to be progressive is to want to
restore social connectivity and community spirit
including the organization of effective ’national
It ain’t over yet: In 2015 the
Harper Conservatives continue
to harm Canada
• Progressive policies would be intergenerational I finished writing this booklet in February 2015. But,
— seeking to be much fairer to our youth, reduce as I terminated the writing I was struck by the realthe costs of education and protecting our elders. ity that the Harper Conservatives were continuing to
perpetrate their harms to Canada. While they were
• While it will be the subject of debate, progressive
trying to look all warm and cuddly in time for the
economic policies would likely increase the minelection, under the surface there are plenty of signs
imum wage to a living wage, support the rights
that they are just as mean and vicious as they have
of workers organizations, and tax absurdly high
been at any time in the past ten years. So when the
incomes and profits.
election comes along, please do not imagine that the
• Progressives will favour not only federal- leopard will change its spots. Here are a few examprovincial collaboration to maintain the stability ples:
of our health care system but its extension into
• Reports show that the percentage of unemployed
pharmacare and homecare and halting the abuse
Canadians who qualify for ’Employment Insurof antibiotic drugs..
ance’ (EI) has now fallen below 40%. Therefore
1.3 million unemployed workers do not qualify
• Both poverty and the middle class will be helped
for traditional benefits or job training.
by a child care and early education program and
also increased affordable housing.
• Having silenced most people who dared to criticize them, the Conservatives got one of their
• Progressives would want to see greater citizen
backbench MPs to propose a private members
participation in the design and delivery of all
bill to put the fear of God into parliamentary
these programs. The government should aid citofficers who caused them problems such as the
izen study circles.
Access to Information Commissioner, the Pri• A progressive party would support the principle
vacy Commissioner and the Parliamentary Budof Canadian multicultural diversity by returning
get Officer by forcing them to expose their perto policies that would welcome refugees instead
sonal political histories.
of keeping them away and financially penalizing
• Mr. Harper once again refused to meet with the
and incarcerating them once they are here.
provincial premiers at the meeting of the Council
• Canada must return to its position as a leader
of the Federation.
in multilateral organizations in the world with
support for environmental values, prudent diplo• Mr. Harper, unlike the leaders in our allied
macy, and the reform of global institutions.
countries, showed his disdain for our Members of
Parliament by refusing to have a Parliamentary studied politics at the universities of Harvard, Monoversight committee for the new police powers of treal and Queen’s with additional studies at l’Instutut
our intelligence service (CICS).
d’études politiques in Paris and the Ryerson Technical Institute in Toronto. He taught political studies
The Rideau Lakes region of Ontario reported at the University of Ottawa for 30 years becoming
that its tourist industry has been decimated by Department Chair. As Executive Director of the Sothe lack of lock masters due to cuts in the Parks cial Science Federation of Canada he gained practiCanada budget.
cal knowledge of Ottawa politics. The dozen years
Canada ranks last of 11 advanced countries for when he was at the helm of the International Political Science Association as its Secretary General protimely health care for seniors.
vided him with first-hand knowledge of international
The Prime Minister’s Office invites the RCMP relations. During 50 years of research, writing and
to take over responsibility for security on Parlia- political and social activism in Canada, Prof. Trent
ment Hill – without consulting the Speakers of concentrated on the fields of education and culture,
the two Chambers who have constitutional au- federalism, and French-English relations. His current
thority over the precinct, or consulting the re- books deal with the development of political studies
sponsible Parliamentary Committee or even the and the reform of the United Nations. As a commuRCMP itself.
nity activist, he has promoted tourism, global institutional innovation and improved French-English relaThe Conservatives politicize their legislation on tions in Canada. This is his first partisan pamphlet.
terrorism rather than providing adequate funding to our security agencies — because it might
upset their budget.
• The Conservatives propose life sentences without
parole (’life means life’) for certain categories of Aucoin , Peter, Mark D. Jarvis , Lori Turnbull (2011).
killers – until forced to backtrack by public opin- Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responion.
sible Government, Toronto, Emond Montgomery.
Avaaz,(2008). “The Worst leader in the World?”
• The union for the 3,400 federal government
Canada in Action ad. Ottawa Citizen, 8-08-08.
health workers stated the government was tryBoily, Frédérick (2010). “Le conservatisme au
ing to force them to strike by refusing binding
Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval.
Bourrie, Mark (2015).
“Kill the Messengers:
• With other countries moving toward ’super- Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know”.
trains’, the Conservatives cut Via Rail’s subsidy Patrick Crean Editions
by 60% since 2011.
Bower, Tom (2006). “Conrad and Lady Black:
Dancing on the Edge”, London, HarperCollins.
• The renegade Conservative MP, Eve Adams,
Bricker, Darrell and John Ibbitson (2013). “The
who quit to join the Liberals criticized the ConBig
Shift”, Toronto, Harper Collins.
servative leadership for being “mean-spirited” ,
Hon. Joe (2013). “How We Lead: Canada
“fear-mongers and bullies” . She took aim at the
of Change”, Toronto, Random House
“profoundly unfair” income-splitting tax plan.
John E. Trent was born in Toronto and lives in (2014).
“Jim Flaherty’s legacy of failure”,
Chelsea, Quebec with his wife Colette and with their http://www.ipolitics.ca/2014/03/20/jim-flahertysfour children and five grandchildren nearby. He legacy-of-failure/
Coyne, Andrew (2013). “Six Degrees of Stephen
Harper”, Ottawa Citizen, 22-06-13.
Dobbin, Murray (2011).
“A party of thugs,
liars, cheats, crooks, dirty tricksters — and Christians”, for the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice,
[email protected] , 26-02-11.
Dyck, Rand (5th ed. 2008). “Canadian Politics:
Critical Approaches”, Toronto, Nelson-Thomson.
Engler, Yves (2012). “The Ugly Canadian: Stephen
Harper’s Foreign Policy”, Fernwood Publishing
Finn, Ed (2013). “Elaborate takeover scheme
gives corporations absolute power”, Ottawa, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, CCPA Monitor,
Galloway, Gloria (2013). “Is Canada’s party discipline strictest in the world? Experts say yes”, Globe
and Mail, 7-02-13.
Elizabeth & Heather Bastedo
“Canadian Democracy from the
Ground Up”, UBC Press
Gutstein, Donald (2014).
“Harperism: How
Stephen Harper and His Think Tank Colleagues Have
Transformed Canada”, Toronto, James Lorimer
Heath, Joseph (2014). “Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring sanity to our politics, our economy, and our lives”,
Toronto, HarperCollins Publishers.
Heinbecker, Paul (2010).
“Getting Back in
the Game:
A Foreign Policy Playbook for
Canada”,Toronto, Key Porter Books.
Himmelfarb, Alex and Jordan Himmelfarb (2013)
“Tax is not a four letter word”, Waterloo, Wilfred
Laurier University Press.
Himmelfarb, Alex (2012). “Slowly, stealthily, the
progressive state is being dismantled”, Ottawa, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, CCPA Monitor,
19(2) June.
Ibbitson, John (2012). “Harper Unbound: Majority Rule, One year”, Globe and Mail Focus, 28-04-12.
Jackson, Robert & Doreen Jackson (3rd. ed.
1994). “Politics in Canada”, Scarborough, PrenticeHall.
Kennedy, Mark (2013). “PM’s party tilts further
to the right”, Ottawa Citizen, 4-11-13.
Klassen, Jerome & Greg Albo (2013). Empire’s
Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan,
Kozolanka, Kirsten (ed.)(2014). Publicity and the
Canadian State: Critical Communications Perspectives, Totonto, University of Toronto Press.
David Macdonald (2014) Outrageous Fortune:
Documenting Canada’s Wealth Gap,
Martin, Lawrence (2010). Harperland: The Politics of Control, Toroento, Viking Canada.
McBride, Stephen and John Shields (1993). Dismantling a Nation: Canada and the New World Order, Halifax, Fernwood Publishing.
McDonald, Marcia (2010). The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada,
Toronto, Vintage Canada.
McKay, Ian & Jamie Swift (2012). Warrior Nation:
Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety,
Andrew (2012),
Harper’s evangelical mission: signs mount that
Canada’s government is beholden to a religious
agenda averse to science and religious debate”, the
tyee.ca , 22-03-12.
Paris, Roland (2014). “Are Canadians still liberal
internationalists? Foreign policy and public opinion
in the Harper era.” International Journal, 69(3) 274307.
Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the TwentyFirst Century, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.
Pilon, Denis (2007). The Politics of Voting,
Toronto, Emond Montomery
Saul, John Ralston ( ). A Fair Country: Telling
Truths about Canada
Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (2013). Transforming the
United Nations System, Tokyo, UN University Press.
Simpson, Jeffrey & Brian Laghi (2008) “Incremental Man”, Globe and Mail, 4-08-08.
Trent, John E. (ed.)(2013, 2014). The United
Nations and Canada: What Canada has done and
should be doing at the United Nations, Ottawa,
World Federalists Movement.
Turner, Chris (2014).
Science, on coupe!
Chercheurs muselés et aveuglement volontaire: Bienvenu au Canada de Stephen Harper, Montréal,
Wells, Paul (2008). “Harper’s Canadian Revolution
: Campaign 2008”, Toronto, Maclean’s, 29-09-08.
Background Article References
For Harper’s Canada
John E. Trent
“Turkey: Erdogan takes a page from Putin: After Sunday’s presidential election, PM joins club of
would-be dictators cloaked in democratic garb” , Adhan Khan, Globe and Mail, 12-08-2014
“Pouvoir et corruption”, Pierre Allard, Le Droit 2106-13;
“The selling out happened long ago, and voters
bought it”, Kate Heartfield, The Ottawa Citizen 2206-2013.
“Harper Unbound: Majority Rule, Year One” ,
John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail, 28-04-201212.
John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail, p.F7, 28-04-2012.
“Harper smash everyone: Sure, our PM is growing suspicious, isolated and rage prone. Otherwise,
great guy.” Scott Feschuk, Maclean’s Magazine, 1606-2014.
“Conservatives breathe sigh of relief with Van Vugt:
Harper loyalist to replace ousted Soudas as party’s
executive director”, Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, 507-2014.
“Stephen Harper stars in 24 Seven: The government is obsessed with image. Its propaganda show
does give us insight- just not necessarily the insight
the Conservatives might wish.” Jeffrey Simpson,
Globe and Mail, 9-07-2014.
The Dumbing Down of Democracy
“There’s no stopping our march to the right” ,
Lawrence Marin, Globe and Mail, 10-06-2014.
“The Senate Scandal, Duffy camp fights back:
’Take the dive’ or get thrown out” , Ottawa Citizen,
“Duffy’s lawyer makes sure Tories down, dirty, too”
, Andrew Coyne, Ottawa Citizen, 22-10-2013.
“Charter discontent shows Tory discord” , Andrew
Coyne, Ottawa Citizen, 17-07-2014.
“PS neutrality requires new moral contract” ,
Kathryn May, Ottawa Citizen, 10-06-2014.
“Harper government’s legal setbacks suggest a
strategy of confrontation” , Justin Ling, CBC News,
“A short list, long on controversy” , editorial, Globe
and Mail, 27-05-2014.
“High-Court Drama” , Sean Fine, Globe and Mail,
“Passing a judicial torch still shrouded in mystery:
The exercise of selecting our nation’s Supreme Court
justices has regressed”, Ian Macleod, Ottawa Citizen,
“Fair Elections Act: Fixed but still flawed”, editorial, Globe and Mail, 24-05-2014.
“Footnotes in Del Mastro v. Democracy”, Roy McGregor, Globe and Mail, 15-11-2014.
“Ex-Tory aide gets jail time for robocalls”, Michael
Oliveira, Globe and Mail, 20-11-2014.
“Conservative elections-law breaches starting to
pile up” Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, 20-112014.
“Government advertising: A message from the
Harper government”, Editorial, Globe and Mail, 1110-2014.
“Charities and the CRA: Censorship by audit” .
Devon Black, IPolitics, 05—08-2014, 9:00 pm.
“Tax blitz on charities casting wider net” , Dean
Beeby, Canadian Press, 11-07-2014.
“Foreign aid charities join audit protest” , Dean
Beeby, Canadian Press, 11-08-2014
“GG steps up for democracy” Lawrence Martin,
Globe and Mail, 30-04-2013.
“Democracy Canadian-style: How do you like it so
far?” Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, 17-12-2009.
“Pierre Trudeau and our decaying democracy” ,
Michael Den Tandt, Ottawa Citizen, 9-07-2012.
“Harper Government: And the bullying goes on” ,
Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail, 16-12-2011.
7.1.3 Silencing the scientists and muzzling
“PM has all the power” , Andrew Coyne, Ottawa
Citizen, 7006-2014.
“Justin Trudeau: Stings like a pillow” , Lawrence “No, Prime Minister: Why Stephen Harper is wagMartin, Globe and Mail, 23-04-2013.
ing war on the cream of Ottawa’s bureaucratic crop”,
Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, 17-05-2008.
“Scientists unite to protest ’death’ of research”,
Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen, 9-7-2012.
“Cracking Eggheads: Why Stephen Harper thinks
he’s smarter than the experts on everything from the
census to climate change, taxation and crime” John
Geddes, Maclean’s Magazine, 16-08-2010.
“The long form census will return. Voters won’t”,
Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail, 10-08-2010.
“Décision “insensée” et “antidemocratique” : des
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Paul Martin, Joe Clark, Ed Broadbent & Joseph
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Andrew Duffy, “Dying with Dignity to lose charity
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Tavia Grant, “Statistics: Damage from cancelled
census as bad asl feared, researchers say”, Globe and
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Speak loudly and carry no stick at all:
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The Conservatives boast of standing up to dictators,
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J. L. Granatstein, “No Canadian boots on the
ground”, Globe and Mail, 19-08-2014
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shortage”, Ottawa Citizen, 18-11-2013.
Michael Den Tandt, “Military may get back its
$3.1B budget cut”, Ottawa Citizen, 15-10-2014.
“Le fédéral coupe les vivres à l’armée”, La Presse
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John Geddes, “Just how seriously is Canada’s voice
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Matthew Fisher, “Russia bolsters claim to Arctic
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Salah Basalamah, “Canada can do more”, Ottawa
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Lee Berthiaume, “Millions in intended CIDA Funds
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Daniel Leblanc, “Miners show new way for CIDA”,
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