Tuesday, September 1, 2015

UPDATED: Something For The Harper Base To Ponder

Unless they want to add complete hypocrisy to their many other shortcomings, members of the Harper base have much to consider these days, not least of which is their leader's contemptuous treatment of military veterans. The group Harper has been quite fond of using for propaganda purposes knows only too well how shabbily they have been treated upon their return from risky, some would say foolhardy, engagements abroad. Finally, if the veterans have their way, a day of reckoning is at hand.

Two veterans with combined service of 52 years, Tom Beaver and Ron Clarke, write that the upcoming election is the perfect opportunity for those who claim to support our vets to make their outrage felt. And they have much reason to feel outrage.
[We] did not come home to peace but to another battle, this time with Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Their shameful record of failure to properly support veterans in the last decade is well-documented.

Within weeks of entering office the Conservatives brought into law a bill which stripped from disabled soldiers the right to a lifetime pension. This was replaced by a woefully inadequate one-time lump-sum payment.

When veterans sought justice in the courts, the Conservatives spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to oppose us — saying there was no special obligation by government to its military personnel.

Despite documented evidence of increasingly longer waiting times, the Conservatives proceeded to kill 900 jobs, slash budgets and close nine veterans offices. Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs managers collected more than $500,000 in reward money for cutting costs.

More of us took our own lives than were killed in the entire Afghanistan War. The number of soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder has more than doubled. Yet getting timely help is very tough.
The veterans discovered they were dealing with a new enemy well-versed in a different kind of warfare:
When veterans protested the cutbacks and the loss of meaningful pensions, the government tried to smear the courageous soldiers who were standing up. The government was caught circulating private medical records to politicians to discredit the veterans involved.

Between 2006 and 2014, the Conservative government clawed-back more than $1 billion from money budgeted to take care of returning veterans.
Both Beaver and Clarke, however, are hopeful that redress is near:
The most recent poll by Insights West shows a startling 73 per cent of Canadians are dissatisfied with how the Conservative government has treated veterans. More surprising is that 64 per cent of Conservative voters in the 2011 election are dissatisfied, with 25 per cent of Conservative voters very dissatisfied.

One-third of Conservative voters go one step further and say the lack of support of veterans is a “reason to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives” in this year’s federal election.

It is very encouraging that the poll shows so much support for better treatment for veterans, but there is only one survey that really counts for Canada’s veterans and that’s on Oct. 19.

On that day our organization, Canadian Veterans — Anyone But Conservative — Campaign 2015, is asking Canadians to support fair treatment and respect for veterans by voting for the candidate in your riding who has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate.

For the sake of our country and our veterans, please join us and let’s work together to defeat Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.
There are many reasons to get behind this movement. The gross mistreatment of veterans is one of them.

UPDATE: Read veteran Harry Smith's thoughts on the Harper regime's mistreatment of veterans here.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pulling Strings

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," bellowed the 'mighty' Oz as Dorothy and her companions were discovering the secret of his power.

Similarly, Stephen Harper would divert us from his machinations through manipulations and muzzling. Star letter-writers, however, are not so easily fooled:
Conservatives seeking happy vets for TV ads, Aug. 28

Perhaps veterans need to remember the conflict the military had with the Conservative government regarding repatriation of our fallen soldiers. General Rick Hillier had to stand firm against the Harper government in order to have the proper respect shown to the fallen members of our military.

More respect should be shown to all veterans; they are not here to be puppets for the Conservative dog and pony show.

Maureen Spinney, Caledonia

Re: Don't muzzle candidates, Editorial Aug. 28

As a master puppeteer Stephen Harper wants to personally control all aspects and activities of his party and its members and it’s hardly surprising he doesn’t want his candidates (people who supposedly want to be our representatives) taking part in all-candidates’ debates or press interviews where they might say something off-script.

Nor is it surprising that he will only speak before sympathetic supporters at campaign events and has progressed from limiting questions from the press to avoiding them all together.

He appears to have an obsessive need to micromanage every aspect of his party’s activities, with the one exception of his having not been at all interested in the details of Mike Duffy’s repayment of bogus expense claims despite the risk of those details undoing his government, his personal reputation and his re-election.

What a curious oversight!

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

Your editorial argues that the “informal edict” not to participate in candidates’ debates and media interviews is not in democracy’s interest, so we must infer that it is in the party’s interest. Candidates would have to defend the indefensible in debates and the media. The Tories know they could only look worse, so they’re not taking any risks and counting on their loyal base to win again, even if Canadians want a change.

By parroting lines and refusing to debate, the Conservatives are avoiding critical scrutiny. They’re betting their political lives on fear of instability rather than hope for better government. What are we betting on?

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

The decision by the Harper Tory leadership to muzzle their candidates is a direct assault on the freedoms that define our Canadian parliamentary democracy. Public debate and participation of the press are among the essential democratic checks and balances that assure those freedoms.

That includes freedom to: learn and be better informed as candidates debate varying priorities and approaches; gather as citizens and publicly declare our own concerns and priorities; assess the commitment of candidates, their integrity of person and their response to pressure and argument; assess a candidate’s responsiveness to reason and discourse beyond the partisan line; publicly challenge the candidates on how truly representative of their constituencies they are rather than being slaves to a party line; challenge the party lines; hear informed challenges to purported statements of fact; and freedom of access.

What’s more, limiting the democratic freedom of its candidates provides suspicious evidence of an insidious readiness by the Harper Tories to limit the democratic freedoms of Canadian citizens.

As the Canadian electorate, we should be very worried about this action of the Harper Tories. Restriction to democratic freedoms is an ominous step backwards for progressive, democratic society and conjures up images of devastatingly dark periods in human history, past and present.

We must say no to their muzzling directive. We must say no to the Harper Tories. We must declare a passionate yes for parliament, for democracy, for freedoms that have been won at such sore cost and which bear the light of hope for so many.

James McKnight, St. Catharines

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Looking Back

Although it was made in 2013, the following 22 Minutes' video has lost none of its relevance:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Olivia Chow's Video About Bill C-51

Given yesterday's post on the growing worldwide governmental repression of civil society groups and NGOs, as well as the disturbing information included in my update, a video by Olivia Chow attacking the Liberal position on Bill C-51 seems especially pertinent.
The NDP is launching a national attack on Justin Trudeau’s Liberals over their support for Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism law.

The “T minus 51” blitz — 51 days from Saturday until the Oct. 19 election — will see dozens of NDP candidates in targeted ridings from coast to coast go door-to-door with special brochures attacking the Liberals on Bill C-51.

The weekend blitz will focus on ridings with incumbent Liberals who voted for the Conservatives’ “spy bill,” NDP sources say, including Toronto MPs Adam Vaughan and Chrystia Freeland.

Olivia Chow, the former MP and failed Toronto mayoral candidate, has gone a step further and created an online attack ad accusing Trudeau and Vaughan, her opponent in the new downtown riding of Spadina-Fort York, of “betraying” constituents by voting for a “dangerous and anti-democratic” law.

NDP leaders hope C-51, which they brand a threat to the civil liberties of peaceful protesters, journalists and anyone else who opposes the government, will be the wedge issue that convinces Canadians they are the real alternative to Harper’s Conservatives.

Liberals “said they were going to Ottawa to stand up to Stephen Harper and they didn’t,” an NDP organizer in Ottawa said on background Friday.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Night Humour

I was just checking my Twitter feed when I found this. Enjoy:

UPDATED: A Troubling Trend

Canadians have much to ponder before casting their ballots in October. Opinion polls tell us that the economy, healthcare and job creation are uppermost in their minds, all worthy topics to be sure. However, only 15% list Bill C-51, Harper's anti-terrorism legislation, as one of their top-five issues. More Canadians should be very, very concerned about it, given the disturbing international trends that are emerging as governments crack down on groups they feel threatened by.

Readers will recall that in addition to Bill C-51's troubling lack of oversight, there is a provision that could allow for mass arrests for protesters:
Within Bill C-51, the definition of what constitutes a threat to national security is broad and non-specific, making it difficult to understand how protesting in particular is affected. Any activities that undermine the security of Canada, including interfering with the economic or financial stability of Canada, are offences under Bill C-51.

This definition allows for a broad interpretation of what constitutes a threat to national security: a protest calling for action on missing and murdered Indigenous women that blocks a highway, or an environmental protest that fails to secure the proper permits, could warrant widespread arrests.
A troubling worldwide trend demonstrates a solid basis for fears about Bill C-51's misuse, as reported in The Guardian.
Over the past three years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws that curtail the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations. Ninety-six countries have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity, in what the Carnegie Endowment calls a “viral-like spread of new laws” under which international aid groups and their local partners are vilified, harassed, closed down and sometimes expelled.
Parenthetically, one cannot help but think of the politically-motivated CRA audits of groups in Canada that disagree with government policies, which I have written about extensively on this blog.

The Guardian piece reports some very disturbing findings by Amnesty International:
“There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”
The list of countries involved in repression of civil society groups and NGOs is extensive, ranging from unsurprising states such as India, China, Russia and Egypt to Israel, Ecuador and Hungary.

Consider the following examples among putative democracies:

Israeli NGOs critical of the government – in particular the country’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories – are facing severe new restrictions amid a toxic political climate on the right that has sought to label them as disloyal.

A draft law seeks to cut off foreign funding by introducing a tax and labelling NGOs with external finance as “foreign agents” receiving funds from foreign governments to continue their work.

Some of Israel’s best-known human rights groups – including B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former soldiers that highlights alleged military human rights abuses – are likely to be affected.
Pachamama, an organisation that supports indigenous groups and campaigns for the conservation of biodiversity, was one of the first to feel the force of the clampdown on NGOs and civil society organisations by the government of President Rafael Correa.

A few months after executive decree 16 was issued in June 2013, Pachamama was closed down for having violated the order, in what Mario Melo, the foundation’s lawyer, calls a “tainted and invalid administrative process where Pachamama wasn’t given the right to defend itself”.
Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s populist prime minister, has called for the monitoring of certain “foreign-funded civil society organisations” that he describes as “agents of foreign powers”.

The targeted NGOs – referred to as “the dirty 13” in pro-government media, and including Transparency International, the Civil Liberties Union and the Roma Press Centre – received letters demanding two years of financial and administrative documentation within one week.
We live in a world deeply infected with a neoliberal agenda. Groups that interfere with that agenda are being widely targeted. Given the repressive measures that the Harper regime has consistently taken throughout its tenure, measures that include the muzzling of scientists, the defunding and dismantling of environmental oversight, the CRA audits the provisions of Bill C-51, and the terrible police abuse of citizens during the Toronto G20, we should all be very wary about casting our ballots lightly.

UPDATE: While I claim no prophetic powers, a report from Thinkpol appears to confirm the insidious and very dangerous nature of Bill C-51, as discussed above:
The RCMP are preparing to carry out a mass arrest operation against the indigenous Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern BC under Harper government’s Bill C-51 labelling as terrorists First Nations activists exercising their Aboriginal Title and Rights to protect their lands from oil and gas development, according to a joint statement by the groups supporters.

The Conservatives’ controversial anti-terror act criminalizes protests that may be seen as interfering with ‘the economic or financial stability of Canada’ and opponents of the bill had long feared that it would be used to stifle opposition to oil pipelines aggressively promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The activists have been protesting against the proposed Enbridge Pipeline and Pacific Trails Pipeline (Chevron), which are planned to cross the river at the exact points of our Pithouse, and Permaculture Garden that was built on the Unist´ot´en Territory of Talbits Kwah.

“The courageous stand taken by the Unist’ot’en and their supporters must not be criminalized by the RCMP nor targeted by government,” states Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Through the draconian Bill C51, the federal government is attempting to brand people defending the land and water as ‘security threats.’ The Unist’ot’en are heroes, while the real threat is this government destroying the planet and economy.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Some Comeuppance For The Minister of Democratic 'Reform'

The minister responsible for the Unfair Elections Act, Pierre Poilievre, has finally gotten a taste of his own medicine. In the following you will hear a telemarketer calling on behalf of his campaign being answered by 'Lenny,' a software program that manages to tie her up for about 11 minutes.
Lenny, in essence, picks up calls and answers them with pre-recorded audio clips from a doddering Australian man, sometimes keeping telemarketers on the phone for over 20 minutes.
The clips include non-sequiturs, complaints that he can’t hear the caller, and extended reflections about one of his daughter’s academic achievements. At one point he even chases away ducks.
You don't have to listen to the entire clip to make your day. Enjoy: