Tagged: Stephen Harper

Harper then and now: Old-stock Canadians.

‘The challenge we face here is the challenge of converting small-c conservatives into big-c Conservatives. It’s certainly not an insurmountable obstacle. I think we will see a growth in support (among ethnic voters). Whether it’s small growth or big growth, these efforts have to continue. We cannot be a party simply of oldstock Canadians. That is not feasible. It’s not right.

-Stephen Harper on courting the ethnic vote, The Ottawa Citizen [Ottawa, Ont] 16 Sep 2008: A.5.

vs.

“…we do not offer [refugees] a better health-care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive. I think that’s something that new and old stock Canadians can agree with.”

-Stephen Harper, Globe and Mail leaders’ debate, Sep 18, 2015

Maybe he’s [sadly] right people will agree with him. Leaving aside the ethical question of whether one human being deserves less what our medical system can offer over another because of newness,  I’m pretty sure refugees settled in Canada are, by definition, “new-stock” Canadians.

Anyway, the ethnic outreach continues…

P.S. What’s an “old-stock” Canadian? I don’t know, it’s not a term my generation (Generation X) and younger uses, but Barbara Kay, in a May 6, 2009 piece in the National Post, defined it as “Christians or Canadians of Christian heritage.”

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Duty of Loyalty

Yesterday there was a Twitter-storm over this story about Library and Archives Canada’s new Code of Conduct for its employees. It stresses something called “Duty of Loyalty” to the employer, to the government and to elected officials.

“Duty of Loyalty” sounds Orwellian but it is in fact a term from common law. Personally I think it’s fair for an employer to expect that it’s  decisions will not be constantly and publicly undermined by its employees (unless those decisions put public safety at risk).

Ex. The employer puts the Windows 8 operating system on its computers. You hate Windows 8. Is it fair for you to launch a public campaign in an attempt to get the employer to conform to your wishes?

Sometimes an employer will adopt an approach and you think there’s a better way. That happens all the time. But rarely is it black and white. Different strategies have strengths and weaknesses, and decisions may have been made with information you do not have at hand or to address issues the employer may place higher priority on. It’s certainly right for you to bring your concerns to your employer, and any good employer will encourage this from its employees. But for individual employees to constantly refuse to accept decisions is a road to nowhere.

But what about this situation? Let’s highlight a few things from the code:

As public servants, our duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada and its elected officials extends beyond our workplace to our personal activities.

For example, in a blog with access limited to certain friends, personal opinions about a new departmental or Government of Canada program intended to be expressed to a limited audience can, through no fault of the public servant, become public and the author identified. The public servant could be subject to disciplinary measures, as the simple act of limiting access to the blog does not negate a public servant’s duty of loyalty to the elected government.

That certainly sounds chilling and my first reaction was that this certainly violated the Charter. However there was also this:

The duty of loyalty is not absolute. In assessing and making a determination regarding any particular public criticism, the duty of loyalty must be balanced with other interests, such as the public servant’s freedom of expression. The substance (i.e. the content of the criticism), context (i.e. the frequency of the criticism, the forum or medium in which it is made) and the form (i.e. the manner in which the criticism is expressed, e.g. restrained or vitriolic) are all relevant factors. Situations in which an exception is likely to be made to the duty of loyalty include the following: 1. The Government is engaged in illegal acts 2. Government policies jeopardize life, health or safety. 3. The public servant’s criticism has no impact on his or her ability to perform effectively the duties of a public servant or on the public perception of that ability

Mitigating? A bit, maybe, but when you consider the restrictions placed on the employee later in the code it seems, well, ridiculous. On the specifics of that and on future employment for LAC employees and on a “snitch-line” I’m going to outsource to Bibliocracy.

What do the courts say about this? The relevant case-law is here [hat-tip Matthew Lazin-Ryder]

All three cases, even Fraser v. Public Service Staff Relations Board, strike me as tipping this code of conduct over in to Charter-violating territory.

Why? It’s the intrusions into the personal sphere – the belief that even private comments could reach the public.

However, there’s a reason why I’ve bolded elected officials and elected government. That insertion moves this to a whole new level because now you’ve moved from trying to restrict criticism of corporate policy to restricting criticism of politicians and political parties.

Osborne v. Canada (Treasury Board) is clear on where the law stands on this. And this code seemingly runs right up against it, especially where it requires employees seek permission to engage in political activity. And how is political activity defined? Here. The relevant one:

Carrying on any activity in support of, within or in opposition to a political party

Does this mean you need to seek permission to say “Stephen Harper is an idiot” at a dinner party?

It certainly could be perceived that way.

But I’m not a lawyer. And I think it will take a court to resolve this.

Just another example of the restrictions being placed on us in the era of HarperGovtm

Disclosure: I am not a librarian, but I work for a municipal library.

The reptile brain

Postmedia columnist journalist Stephen Maher tweets:

To which I forwarded him the Toronto Star article from my previous post. To which he replied:

Which is correct, I see.

“I just want to emphasize that the positions in this report do not reflect the positions of the government. I will take the advice of the leader of the Liberal Party under consideration. I’m obviously very concerned with some of the recommendations made in that report and I think the committee does need some re-examination in that light.”

This is heartening, and I applaud the Prime Minister. However, this is the same Stephen Harper who stocked the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee with gun industry lobbyists and gun enthusiasts. Their recommendations are the fruit of this. So it is great that he did, apparently, vigorously reject them (and Newtown has made it politically impossible to revisit). But what was he expecting from them? When your advisory board consists of only a single point of view, you will receive advice of limited utility.

And I think it’s clear that contrary to Mr. Maher, there is a segment of Canadian society that does question the restrictions on guns we have here. And they have the ear of a significant portion of the Conservative Party of Canada. Not the clout the gun lobby has down south, but clout nonetheless.

And read the Star piece again. There are no real principles espoused for loosening restrictions other than some very vague talk on “cost” and “effectiveness” – neither of which cite supporting material.

So what are we left with? Below is an ad for the Bushmaster rifle that was used in Newtown.

BushmasterAd-Maxim_0

 

As you can see, it is not an appeal to the 2nd Amendment to defend against domestic despots. Nor is it even an appeal to personal safety.

The Bushmaster marketing team is aiming directly at the reptilian brain.

Feel like you’re losing your dominance? Man up!

Man card reissued.

An empty suit of armour

The shootings in Newton, Connecticut continue to occupy my thoughts.

In part, it’s the identity of the victims. There is nothing more precious than children of that age – old enough to express themselves coupled with a complete absence of cynicism. Capable of the most hilarious – and often quite insightful – observations. The world is filled with wonder and hope for them, and not the sadness and misery adults too often see. My own child is now past those delightful years, but their memory is still fresh with me. And there was this (which was her school).

So yes, close to home in that way.

But there’s also how moments like this reveal the utter vapid and venal nature of the North American right-wing movement. The National Rifle Association has – wisely – gone into silent running. This is their last tweet:

But that hasn’t stopped others from unintentionally exposing the id. From former conservative blogging bigwig Jeff Goldstein’s primal scream, to CNN talking head Erik Erickson’s “It is not healthy for a nation to come together at tragedy so far removed from God” lament to the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer who…well….who spouted off things like this:

Sublimely eloquent evisceration of Mr. Fischer here. Short form here:

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It’s all empty. There are no intellectual underpinnings…just emotionalist outbursts. The closest is Glenn “Instapundit” Harlan who cites an academic study that purports to show “more guns = less crime”. Alas that study is this study. It also doesn’t help that he begins with a quote from William S. Burroughs:

“After a shooting spree,” author William Burroughs once said, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” Burroughs continued: “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”

This is the same William S. Burroughs who shot his wife in the face while playing  a drunk game of William Tell.

The most insightful comment I read yesterday was that the American fascination with fetishization of guns was, in fact, the white American males’ fear of irrelevance. A safety blanket for those who fear they may no longer be top dog in a changing world. Despite the fact they, you know, continue to run things. But then who says fear is rational.

The last thing that has me concerned is – Stephen Harper having remade the Progressive Conservative Party of my father into the Republican Party – that dynamic is happening here. What is the public good in having the long-gun registry destroyed? What is the public policy purpose in reclassifying assault weapons of the type used in Newtown from “prohibited” (you can’t buy them) to “restricted” (you can buy them). American gun advocates at least attempt to couch it that an armed populace deters the government from behaving despotically. But not so here in Canuckistan. I suppose, like the long-form census, there is some mumbo-jumbo of it being “intrusive” that cites no constitutional or philosophical principle. But then there’s no problem with other irrational and likely unconstitutional intrusions. There certainly isn’t any statistical supporting evidence from the United States. Thus it seems to stem from, and designed to appeal to, the white male id and their fears of increasing irrelevance. So is clever play on the CPC’s part? Well, obviously it’s popular with a certain demographic but ultimately I don’t think the men of the CPC are that clever. I think they institute policies that appeal to insecure white men because they are insecure white men.

It’s not an original observation to say that – despite some lingering philosophical pretensions – the “conservative” movement exists solely to serve entrenched and privileged interests, both protecting directly as well as proactively targeting any group that might hypothetically challenge those interests. Example both there and, as mentioned above, here.

It looks ferocious, powerful and intimidating, but it’s  at moments like this that it is crystal clear it’s an empty shell of armour – intellectually and morally bankrupt.

UPDATE: Billmon

Are the bastards winning?

RossK has decided to take a hiatus. As he says:

I just found myself losing my sense of humour with the poli-blogging a little…And when that happens I’ve learned it’s time to take a bit of a break

This is too bad. Ross’s blog, The Gazetteer – along with Norm Farrell’s and Ian Reid’s – are my favourite stops for B.C. politics and he has provided many good insights. But what about his lament that the “Codswallopanarianists might actually winning.” Ross points to City Caucus’s Mike Klassen aping Ezra Levant’s “money-laundering” libel as the straw that broke his camel’s back (with a mention of the much more serious issue of the Tory Government using the RCMP and the Canadian Revenue Agency to intimidate and silence legitimate criticism).

Two very much related things come to mind. The first is the parable of the scorpion and the frog1. If you believe the facts are on your side, that the evidence is overwhelming that our democracy is being eroded in a significant fashion, that our economy has been rejigged to favour the most privileged…well there’s a reason for that. And that is it’s in the very essence of those responsible to make those choices. Thus they are simply being true to themselves and won’t one day wake up and say “oops…boy was that ever crazy!” and reverse course…

They simply can’t help themselves.

The Conservative Party of Canada, no longer held in check by minority government, is showing us its nature. Shutting down independent voices, silencing dissent, that’s its nature. It cannot be anything else. Stephen Harper built this party and filled it with people like him. The British Columbia Liberal Party is an extension of a faction of our “business-overclass” and we see, even now at this late date with its polling numbers in tatters, it repeating the patterns of the past. It cannot be anything else.

And the facts, in a can’t fool all of the people all of the time kind of way, are revealing this. And this forces them to take ever more extreme positions in order to avoid addressing or provide a diversion for what the facts reveal.

For me, the “Tyee hid it’s Donation Button” post was high-comedy, but I can see how it might depress. Repeat a lie often enough, etc. But note how this story has evolved. First it was, well, perhaps some charities are violating some regulations. Now we’ve moved from there to money laundering accusations -> which no matter how you try to parse is a suggestion of criminal activity.

It’s an extreme charge, an easily refuted charge, and to me it signals weakness not strength.

Whether it’s Mike Klassen/City Caucus or the Vancouver Province, they are going back to the well with retreaded canards that have already decisively failed to sway the civic electorate. Or it’s Ezra Levant, pushing (and in his case often exceeding) the boundaries of truth to enter the realm of defamation and libel.

The second thing is we have a precedent for all this, in our neighbours to the south. Roy Edroso notes:

Once upon a time these guys were a fringe, of the sort that any political movement would need to lose if it were going to be taken seriously; now, they’re an important part of the Republican base.

This isn’t good news for the Republican Party. It’s very bad news. People are waking up. Rush Limbaugh’s ratings are tumbling. The Heartland Institute shoots itself. This is the Canadian right-wing’s future.

Ezra Levant is not an upgrade.

It’s not sustainable over the long haul – eventually they’ll collapse in on themselves, as they have before. The right-wing spent a decade in the wilderness at both the Federal level and at the provincial level here in B.C.. I believe it will happen again.

I don’t know RossK personally, but I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll be back blogging sooner rather than later. The facts are on his side.

1 Yes, the frog died too. Don’t push fables too far!

Compare and Contrast: Just who is the zealot?

That’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper weighing in on Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons with Peter Mansbridge. In addition to this interview, Mr. Harper was equally unambiguous with the Globe:

Mr. Harper said he has no doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “There is absolutely no doubt they are lying,” Mr. Harper said, referring to statements by Iran that the nuclear program is for peaceful uses.

The evidence is just growing overwhelming. This is not, as was the case of Iraq, merely the opinion of allies,” he said.

It echoes, almost note for note, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s. As I’ve mentioned before it echoes, almost note for note, Harper’s certainty in 2003 that Iraq was pursuing nuclear weapons:

I noted that there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein operates programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Experience confirms this. British, Canadian and American intelligence leaves no doubt on the matter. Saddam Hussein’s continued non-compliance and non-cooperation with the United Nations only confirms this information.

This runs contra the opinion of the IAEA, U.S., and Israeli military and security services. What’s more, U.S. and particularly Israeli military and security officials are no longer being subtle about their disagreement with leaders like Harper and Netanyahu on Iran.

[H]ead of Israel’s military, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, declared that the Iranian leadership had not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, that it was unlikely to go this “extra mile”, and was composed of “very rational people”. “Decisions must be made carefully out of historic responsibility but without hysteria,” added Gantz in a not-too-subtle dig at his political masters.

And…

[F]ormer head of Shin Bet (Israel’s MI5), described Netanyahu and Barak as “not fit to hold the steering wheel of power“. He went on: “I have observed them from up close … They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off … They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won’t have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race.”

And…

Dagan’s predecessor, Efraim Halevy, has said “it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel”, and that “the growing Haredi radicalisation poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad”. Then there is the current head of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, who is said to have told an audience of Israeli diplomats in December that a nuclear-armed Iran would not constitute an “existential threat” to Israel.

The U.S. military leadership is also circumspect:

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said in a television interview that it was “not prudent at this point” to attack Iran, and “a strike at this time would be destabilising”.

But in a comment likely to fuel speculation about Israel’s military plans, he added: “I wouldn’t suggest we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view.” The two countries were having a “candid, collaborative conversation” which was continuing, he said.

His concerns were echoed by William Hague, the British foreign secretary, who said it was “not a wise thing at this moment” for Israel to launch military action against Iran.

All of this says a lot about Benjamin Netanyahu. But it also says a lot about Stephen Harper. In fact this, more than any other questionable thing he’s done while in power, reveals the most about the man’s soul. And it is, in my opinion, truly frightening.

It speaks to a black and white, Manichean worldview. It speaks to the dismissal of the advice of experts. It speaks to governing by faith…to whatever end.

This is social conservatism at its absolute, dangerous worst.

At it’s hypocritical worst.

“As a concerned Israeli citizen who lives in the state of Israel with his family and all of his children and grandchildren,” he said, “I love very much the courage of those who live 10,000 miles away from the state of Israel and are ready that we will make every possible mistake that will cost lives of Israelis.”

Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister of Israel. NY Times.

It’s very easy to be brave when you don’t have skin in the game.

It really speaks to how the Harper Government[tm] makes decisions from top to bottom on anything.

Compare and contrast: Canada’s burgeoning moral authority

Harper is also looking for commitments to improve human rights in the world’s most populous country and will have a chance to deliver the message directly to China’s current and incoming leadership during a series of bilateral tête-à-têtes over the next four days.

Ottawa Citizen, February 8, 2012

vs.

Canada ordered its intelligence agency to use information that may have been extracted through torture if public safety is at risk, it has emerged.

The directive, obtained by Canadian media through freedom of information laws, was issued in 2010.

British Broadcasting Corp, February 8, 2012

Compare and contrast: Stephen Harper, WMD Supersleuth

Mr. Harper said he has no doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “There is absolutely no doubt they are lying,” Mr. Harper said, referring to statements by Iran that the nuclear program is for peaceful uses.

“The evidence is just growing overwhelming. This is not, as was the case of Iraq, merely the opinion of allies,” he said.

Stephen Harper, Globe and Mail, Jan 17, 2012

I noted that there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein operates programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Experience confirms this. British, Canadian and American intelligence leaves no doubt on the matter. Saddam Hussein’s continued non-compliance and non-cooperation with the United Nations only confirms this information.

Stephen Harper, Parliament, 2003

Meanwhile, in the evidence-based universe:

“The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it have a program about how advanced the programs really are,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call. The official was speaking on background.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has released a report which it says has credible evidence that Iran has carried “out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device”, but has offered no estimate of how long it would take Iran to be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

Though many Iran critics have focused on the report’s claims that Iran continues to participate in activities that indicate interest in building a bomb, the administration chose to focus on the IAEA’s conclusions that a “structured program” to develop a nuclear warhead was halted in 2003.

Update: Other doubters include…Israeli Intelligence:

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon – or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.

-Haaretz, January 18, 2012

Behold the future!

The Stephen Harper Govtm won’t allow the Cdn Forces to assist with flood cleanup for the most practical, non-ideological of reasons:

“Furthermore, the services you’re asking for — if they were authorized — would place the Canadian Forces in competition with the private sector, at the local or provincial level, which could perform this type of repair work.”

Jesus murphy.

UPDATE: Not to be outdone, the Ontario Conservative party proposes to harness the great untapped prison labour force.

Quick post-election thoughts

It was the Liberal-NDP vote-splitting in the Big Smoke that won the day for Harper. How did this happen? Well lots of smarter people than I have waxed poetic already, but here is my 10 second take…

I found this Liberal Party postmortem by Robert Silver very telling. Of note:

We entered the election with a clear strategy to triangulate the NDP on just about every single issue save Afghanistan.

Personally I think “save Afghanistan” is a bit of deal-breaker for many progressives but that’s just me. But even then the strategy strikes me as internally contradictory, given their party leader. Veering left with Tony Blair clone Michael Ignatieff at the helm? These two things cancel each other out.

Which is to say Michael Ignatieff was an incredible, perhaps fatal, mistake for the Liberal Party. It’s too bad because the Tories were vulnerable. Very vulnerable. And it wasn’t the Corporate Income Tax or the JSF or the Income-splitting or any of the other policies that helped those that needed help the least.

It was contempt of Parliament. It was prorogation. It was the abuse of authority. It was the suppression of information. I can’t say with any certainty if this is true, but I have the strongest of hunches there were a lot of Conservative voters in the ilk of my Dad – lifelong Conservatives who were deeply troubled by the behaviour of Stephen Harper’s crew. And then there were the Blue Liberals. And while these latter issues were discussed during the campaign, they were never the central message of the opposition parties.

This should have been hammered on to Harper again and again. He was on autopilot on message most of the time. “An unnecessary election? No, sir, you brought this on yourself. You have lied to Parliament. You have lied to the Canadian people and it will not stand, sir. It will not stand…”

That would have resonated with Dad.

Etc.