Sunday, January 6, 2013

Harper Subversion of the Civil Service

That the Harper regime uses a myriad of tactics to exploit, manipulate and deceive the Canadian public through its propaganda, demagoguery, and demonization of those with contrary policy views has been well-chronicled in the media. Epithets like 'Taliban Jack' and the denigration of Thomas Mulcair and the NDP for “their dangerous economic experiments” are but two obvious examples of Harper's contempt both for truth and the intelligence of the electorate.

There is now ample evidence that fear of the regime has permeated the civil service. We are well-aware of the fact that the government has muzzled its scientists, an object lesson in its absolute commitment to controlling both the message and the messengers. Apparently that lesson has not been lost on Environment Canada, which commissioned polling firm Ipsos Reid to conduct a nationwide telephone survey last June to learn how Canadians view federal priorities regarding the environment, in order to help improve the way the government communicates with the public.

The results of any poll are heavily influenced by how the questions are posed. One transparent example of Harper influence on the design of the poll is found in the following:

One of the questions gauged perceptions of a carbon tax by asking respondents how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statement, on a scale from one to 10:

“Canada needs to implement a federal carbon tax to promote energy efficiency and protect the environment, even though it means increasing the cost of things like gas and groceries for consumers,” the statement read.

The results showed 43.5 per cent of respondents leaned toward the “strongly disagree” end of the spectrum, 19.1 per cent were on the “strongly agree” end and the rest fell somewhere in between.

With those preordained results, the regime spent much time during the fall session of Parliament accusing the NDP of wanting to impose a “$21-billion carbon tax” that would kill jobs.

As always, however, Toronto Star readers are on the job. Below I am reproducing their responses to the poll and the attitude it betrays:

Re: Environment Canada survey asked Canadians about carbon tax, oil exports, Jan. 2

Frankly, I’m surprised that only 4-in-10 respondents disagreed with a statement proposing implementation of a carbon tax that includes the warning, “even though it means increasing the cost of things like gas and groceries for consumers.” The statement seems somewhat disingenuous in its one-sided delivery— almost presupposing a negative response. I wonder what the response would have been if the statement had read: “Canada needs to implement a federal carbon tax to promote a low-carbon economy, which will generate high-quality green jobs, protect our environment, reduce health and insurance costs and reduce our exposure to volatile oil prices. Note that all fee revenues will be returned to Canadian citizens to offset an inevitable increase in fossil fuel energy costs.”

Camille Loxley, Toronto

One gets the impression, given the form of a June 2012 survey and the Harper government’s actions subsequent to its completion, that the objective of this survey was not so much to understand the thoughts of Canadians as to exploit them. The statement on carbon tax in particular supports an ongoing insidious argument trumpeted by Stephen Harper that falsely pits environment against economy. In this example there is no mention of the myriad of benefits a carbon tax would bring through a reduced use of fossil fuels — only negative connotations. It almost seems to be testing public reaction to a crafted message. Hardly honest, accurate or representative.

Ian Edwards, Toronto

Re: Bad year for environment, Editorial, Jan. 2

In chipping away our environmental protections, the Harper government is undermining its own credibility. Conservatives are supposed to be excellent stewards of the land. Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government actually took climate change seriously. Many conservative economists currently support a carbon tax as a means to transition to a clean energy economy. Who exactly then is this Conservative government representing?

Cheryl McNamara, Toronto

As always, however, it will take more than a few engaged Canadians to resist and counter the Harper regime's ongoing assault on reason. For that battle, all of us must be prepared to fight.


  1. It's nice to know, Lorne, that not everyone has lost his or her ability to think critically.

    1. We can only hope that it becomes a trend, Owen.