War on Democracy and Science with Stephen Harper

PM Stephen Harper was an Authoritarian who ruled his caucus with an iron fist. His religious background influenced how he governed, especially with his total disrespect for science. Like Trump, he didn’t believe in experts and ruled accordingly: ideology trumped evidence and data!

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave Canada a Constitutional Democracy and Harper hated it with a passion. Given that Harper believed the courts should be subservient to Parliament, he tried to force his will onto the courts but lost again and again. Our Charter was the only thing that stood in the way of an Autocratic ruler who would have subverted our Democracy to his whims.

The toxic polarization we are seeing with Conservatives today was introduced by Stephen Harper, a Republican ideologue. He governed for his base only. Remind you of someone?

Harper accomplished what he did by hiring Spin Doctors. Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer are doing the same.

Ottawa’s spin doctor payroll rivals that of the Commons

Canadians are seeing a quarter-billion dollars of their money used against them: not to provide them with information, but rather to delay, conceal and spin the information to enhance Harper’s image.

War on Democracy and Science

The Blitzkrieg on parliamentary democracy began in 2008. Stephen Harper controlled caucus, cabinet and the propaganda. It reached a point where Harper’s political staff had more power than the cabinet.

Harper’s foe isn’t the Supreme Court — it’s the Constitution

“Stephen Harper’s real fight is not with the Supreme Court per se, but with the 1982 Constitution that created the charter. The problem for the Supreme Court is that it has the sole responsibility to assess all laws passed by Parliament against their interpretation of the charter. That means laws sometimes get struck down — although Parliament always has the option of responding with another law.

“Ultimately, Harper is trying to crush a vision of Canada that sits behind the bulletproof glass of the Constitution — Pierre Trudeau’s vision, which saw the people as greater than their government. Harper can’t get at it, he can’t change it — and he can’t stand it. Which is why he has attacked an institution four times as popular as his PMO.

“Even after stacking the court, he now realizes that his appointees are left with the immoveable reality of the charter. That’s why MacKay tried to retroactively change the Supreme Court Act using the flim-flam of the budget implementation bill.”

Tories blasted for handbook on paralyzing Parliament

Excerpts: “The Harper government is being accused of a machiavellian plot to wreak parliamentary havoc after a secret Tory handbook on obstructing and manipulating Commons committees was leaked to the press.

Now we learn, in fact, that the monkey wrench gang have had a plan all along and not just any plan, a 200-page playbook on how to frustrate, obstruct and shut down the democratic process.”

Andrew Coyne: Canada’s Charter of Rights imposes vital limits on the discretion of government

“Parliamentary supremacy was never the principle by which Canada was governed, in other words, nor was judicial review the invention of the Charter. Before 1982, the courts were regularly called upon to decide whether one level of government had intruded upon another’s powers and prerogatives, and to toss out the offending legislation as ultra vires the Constitution. All the Charter did was grant the people the same protection. Henceforth, governments had to be as considerate of their citizens’ rights as they were of each other’s.”

“You can call that many things, but the one thing you can’t call it is anti-democratic. Because — I’m going to let you in on a secret here — the Charter was itself the creation of a democratically elected Parliament. More than a statement of abstract principle, the Charter is a list of solemn promises on Parliament’s part: about how it intended to act in future, about how its past acts were to be judged. It wasn’t the courts that imposed these obligations upon it. Parliament itself assumed them, presumably in good faith. All the courts are doing is holding it to its word.”

U of T : Harper consolidates his powers

“Harper has learned well how to exercise, maintain, and expand power. He has absorbed the lessons of his prime ministerial predecessors as well as those of the Karl Rove school of campaigning – controlled dispatches combined with a permanent, pervasive attack on the opposition and its leader.

A government elected in a campaign that centred on accountability and transparency has taken unaccountability and guile to new lengths. The prime minister sneaks into and out of Parliament, the “people’s house,” by avoiding its front door. Reporters must kowtow to his rules as if he were a pope; excommunication awaits miscreants.

Parliamentary committees are informed by diktat what documents they may see and whom they may question. Parliament no longer supervises the government; the government supervises it. Harper has run a minority government as if it were a majority. Rather than build parliamentary alliances, he discredits their legitimacy.”

Stephen Harper government builds stone wall around information: Public editor.

“It is no secret that the Harper government has gone to extraordinary lengths to seek to control the agenda and thwart journalists’ dual purpose of holding politicians to account and making government more transparent to citizens.

“In an open letter published in April 2010, nine Canadian journalism organizations contended that under Harper the flow of information has “slowed to a trickle.

“Genuine transparency is replaced by slick propaganda and spin designed to manipulate public opinion,” the letter stated.”

Attacking the Supreme Court, the Conservatives sink to a new low

“When 11 former presidents of the Canadian Bar Association rebuke the government for attacking Canada’s top jurist, it is fair to ask: How low can Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government go? The answer is that just when you think new depths of conduct have been plumbed, even lower ones are found. “

Committee finds Harper government in contempt

“The committee has found the government in contempt and that’s a very serious finding,” Layton told reporters outside the Commons on Monday. “There’s no doubt it makes it more difficult to operate around here when you’re dealing with a government that’s so contemptuous of Canadians.”

If the report is adopted by the Commons — and it likely would be, given all three opposition parties passed it at committee level — then this would be the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that a government is found in contempt of Parliament.

Firing blind: The Harper government’s bungled crime agenda

“For the second time in as many weeks, major errors have been discovered in a government crime bill. Last week, you’ll remember we learned that the House of Commons sent an earlier, unamended version of Bill C-479 — legislation that amends parole rules — to the Senate. The version of C-479 — the Fairness for Victims Act — sent to the Senate was missing a handful of crucial amendments. Even setting aside those amendments, the bill contains a fatal flaw that leaves it very vulnerable to being overturned on constitutional grounds: It seeks to change parole rules retroactively for people who’ve already been convicted.”

Stephen Harper and restoring faith in our democracy

“Since he became prime minister in 2006, Harper has displayed a stunning disrespect for democracy in Canada, either approving or turning a blind eye to decisions that have undermined our democratic traditions and institutions and our faith in democracy.”

Beyond dirty politics: Harperism threatens democracy itself

“No prime minister before — not Paul Martin, Jean Chrétien, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson, John Diefenbaker and beyond — have ever assaulted the very principle of Parliament itself, ever attacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court, ever muzzled the scientists, neutered the parliamentary committee system, and so on.

Dirty politics, corruption — yes indeed. But Harperism is worse than all that. It is an ideological assault on the elements of the constitutional order. It hangs pictures of the Queen all over, but owes its loyalties to the same dark, anti-democratic, corporate and imperialist forces that drive the American right wing.”

How Harper exploits Canadians’ ignorance of parliamentary democracy

“Harper’s Blitzkreig on parliamentary democracy began in 2008. “Harper, in less than two years, made three unilateral decisions showing clearly how a Canadian prime minister not only can exercise unconstrained power at whim to prorogue and dissolve Parliament but also to declare on what he would accept or not accept as a vote of confidence,” the authors write.

Harper’s first unilateral decision was to call the 2008 federal election despite his own new fixed-date election law, framed precisely to prevent a prime minister from doing what he was about to do — dissolve Parliament to exploit good polling numbers.

His second was to prorogue parliament in December, 2008 to escape parliamentary defeat by a coalition of opposition parties, a defeat he deliberately provoked by slashing their parliamentary funding.

His third was to prorogue Parliament once more in December, 2009 — this time to escape parliamentary accountability regarding allegations that Afghan detainees had been tortured.”

Harper’s foe isn’t the Supreme Court — it’s the Constitution

“What a remarkable joke Stephen Harper continues to play on Canada: The law-and-order party is once again making it clear that it’s about as law-abiding as Bonnie and Clyde making a bank withdrawal.”

Stephen Harper and restoring faith in our democracy

“Since he became prime minister in 2006, Harper has displayed a stunning disrespect for democracy in Canada, either approving or turning a blind eye to decisions that have undermined our democratic traditions and institutions and our faith in democracy.”


0Canada’s Prison Watchdog Is Being Fired After Raising the Alarm About Problems in Jails

Howard Sapers is being shown the door after a long reign investigating abuses in Canadian prisons

The high price of speaking out in Ottawa: Editorial. The Harper government stifles or removes government watchdogs who get in its way.

“Forthright government watchdogs have a way of disappearing in Ottawa. They are quietly replaced. Their mandates are terminated or not renewed. They are suddenly found to be unqualified.”

Reflections of Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page:

An assault on Democracy and No accountability. “Serve your Country, Tell the Truth and get attacked for doing so”

Harper’s reputation as strategist obscures his screwups

“The pattern that emerges from these and other bungles — the Marc Nadon appointment to the Supreme Court, Northern Gateway — is a consistent one.
Step one: Fail to gather consensus or anticipate opposition.

Step two: Make no effort to disarm or co-opt critics, but antagonize them at every turn.

Step three: Attempt to bluster or bully them into submission.

Step four: Ignore warnings of imminent collision with reality.

Step five: crash and burn.”

“This government is neither [pragmatic or strategic]. It is reckless, not in the style of governments that overread their mandate, but in an aimless, scattershot way. It is partisan, but for no purpose other than stubbornness and tribalism. It will take every fight to the limit, pick fights if none present themselves, with no thought to the consequences of either victory or defeat but seemingly out of sheer blood lust. Like the proverbial dog chasing the car, it has no idea what it will do when it catches it.” [emphasis added]

Andrew Coyne: To recap, the prime minister is not responsible for almost anything

These days it seems the only expectation is that you should not actually break the law. What once were honest lies have been rechristened ‘spin’

“The notion that Stephen Harper should bear any responsibility for the actions of his staff, or indeed his own, is one of those quaint relics of a bygone age, like outdoor showers or honesty. There was a time when public office holders were expected to take responsibility for these things, as a matter of personal honour if nothing else. But conventions last only as long as they are observed. Today, the prime minister clings to his position — I was the victim of a conspiracy involving everyone around me — as tightly as Senator Duffy clings to his paycheque.”

Canadians pay the high costs of Stephen Harper’s Conservative propaganda machine

“Narcissism comes in different forms. Strange then, given Mr. Harper’s and his government’s obsession with showy spin and self-indulgent self-promotion in this orgy of narcissistic propaganda, that the prime minister himself seems to feel the need for disguises. What kind of leader would launch an all-out assault on democratic principles and unity in his country, employ a massive propaganda machine to try to cover it all up and sell himself to his people as something he’s not, and then smugly and quietly make them pay the costs for these insults on their intelligence and injuries to their country? Oh, right, I remember now what kind of leader does that – I’ve seen it before in other countries – a dictator.”

The Canada Revenue Agency’s political inquisitions

“…the latest charity to be targeted in a significant way is the United Steelworkers’ Humanity Fund, a labour-backed organization that has supported food banks and disaster relief initiatives for over 30 years” Harper has devoted MILLIONS of TAXPAYER DOLLARS “…to…target groups that are critical of federal policies. The list of charities being investigated and audited by the CRA looks increasingly like Stephen Harper’s ENEMY LIST.” [my emphasis]

Harper government stifling dissent, civil society groups say in report

“The coalition of 200 organizations and 500 individuals accuses the government of taking away funding or otherwise intimidating organizations that it disagrees with.

It accuses the government of muzzling scientists and public servants and portraying First Nations and aboriginal groups as threats to national security.

As a result, the report says, the government is silencing the public policy debate on important issues.

“We have borne witness to hundreds of cases in which individuals, organizations and institutions have been intimidated, defunded, shut down or vilified by the federal government,” the report states.”

Lawyers, guns and liars: Stephen Harper’s stunning contempt for the law

“The issue is whether Canadians are willing to live with a government that sees nothing wrong with retroactively amending a law to suit its own short-term political interests.

“If the Harper Conservatives get away with this, what’s to stop some future government (of any party stripe) from backdating amendments to, for instance, clear itself of violations of election law? If you’ve got a get-out-of-jail-free card you can use more than once, will any prime minister be able to resist the temptation to bend the rules — to make one law for those who govern, another for the governed?”

Tories Have Shut Down Debate 100 Times This Parliament: Opposition

“”The Harper Conservatives have shut down democratic debate more than any other government in Canadian history,” Julian said in a statement.

“Conservatives have denied Parliament the right to fully debate nearly 60 pieces of legislation, containing over 11,000 pages.

“Amongst these thousands of pages are hastily passed laws that have been rejected by the courts, only to be brought back to Parliament and rammed through the House once again.””

Mel Hurtig’s wake-up call for Canada’s democracy: Hepburn

“Hurtig examines actions that Harper has taken that have affected our democracy, such as muzzling cabinet ministers, federal scientists and top bureaucrats, introducing omnibus bills, withholding information, gutting the Parliamentary Budget Office, distaining parliamentary committees, and overseeing a party rife with questionable campaign spending and robocalls. The list goes on.”

Harper is now a PM fleeing his own past

“By my count, the Harper team has been the subject of at least 15 investigations. The stable which he was supposed to muck out has become a pigsty on his watch.”

Whistleblower groups cry foul over appointment to tribunal

“Whistleblower advocate David Hutton says the appointment of a judge with a Conservative background to a key tribunal is bad news for public servants who want to expose government corruption.” “…the tribunal is the last hope for public servants who face reprisals after speaking up about fraud and other misuse of taxpayers’ money.”

Harper has ignored Canadian ways while destroying our reputation

“Joe Clark, Joe Clark, former Conservative prime minister, lays this out in detail in his latest book, How We Lead….

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.

Clark notes that Harper brought about these profound changes with “little public or no parliamentary discussion or attention.” Nor was Harper’s planned change of direction ever mentioned “in the platforms or prominent policy positions of his Conservative Party.”

Mel Hurtig Tags Stephen Harper: ‘The Arrogant Autocrat’

The great Canadian nationalist talks to The Tyee. Read slices of his razor-like book here all week.

““Stephen Harper has destroyed the House of Commons as the centre of democracy in this country. With his omnibus bills and other measures he has downgraded the House of Commons to nothing more than a nodding response to what is decided in the PMO.

“For a long time people were worried about Stephen Harper’s hidden agenda. But once he got majority power there was no question about his agenda. It was to centralize control of the country in his office.””

Busting Harper’s Favourite Myth: He’s Been Hell on Canada’s Economy

Canada got less competitive under Tories. And more tough truths from Mel Hurtig’s new book. First excerpt in a series.

“The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Canada 15th out of 144 countries in its Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-15. It was a drop of one notch from Canada’s 14th place finish the year before, which might not have been alarming but for the fact that this latest score was Canada’s lowest since Harper took power in 2006.”

Harper Shrugs as Foreigners Snap up Canadian-Owned Companies

PM waves goodbye to home-grown successes that should anchor economy. Second in a series.

“While the foreign takeover phenomenon pre-dates the Harper government, it’s worth recalling the critical role that it has played, and continues to play, in the hollowing out of our nation. There are ongoing tragic repercussions for our economic well-being, our sovereignty, and our ability to steer our own economy. “

Stephen Harper, Jobs Killer

When Tories brag about ‘their’ economy, pull up these grim unemployment facts. Third in a series.

” The Harper government’s jobs and economy growth record is the worst since the early 1930s.”

“Conservatives like to argue that the best job creator is a growing economy. But as Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale notes, the Harper government’s growth record is the worst since the early 1930s under then prime minister R.B. Bennett.

Goodale says of Harper, “In 2006, he was handed a steadily growing economy which had generated 3.5 million net new jobs, declining debt and taxes, a decade of balanced budgets, annual surpluses at about $13-billion…. That’s what Mr. Harper had to work with — the most robust fiscal situation in the western world. And he blew it in less than three years.””

Eight Ways the Harper Economy Is a Bust

These reality check truths are bound to dog Tories on election trail. Fourth in a series.

““The argument that Canada outperformed the rest of the world was overstated at the best of times. Even in the early years of recovery several other countries (including Germany, South Korea, Australia) did much better at protecting employment and rebuilding incomes. But with the rest of the world now gaining serious economic momentum, Canada’s boastful claims are increasingly far-fetched.”

Far from leading, we now lag behind many other countries on significant economic and social indicators, and our relative under-performance is only getting worse. We must take back the country and ensure that we protect our citizens and our values.”

How Harper Put Canada Massively in the Red

He ate up a huge federal surplus, piled up six deficits. This PM wants to run on fiscal smarts? Last in series.

“…Stephen Harper put the country back into deficit “before (not because of) the recession which arrived in late 2008.”

Harper has delivered six years of budgetary deficits since. Goodale sums up the impact for Canadians: “Since 2006, [the middle-class has] endured nine years of frustrating stagnation, insecure jobs, declining job quality, flat incomes, ballooning debt, escalating education costs, low savings, inadequate pensions and the growing spectre of the current generation of young Canadians not doing as well as their parents did.”

Is Harper the worst prime minister in history?

Part one of a two part series that examines Harper’s place in history.

“All of the prime ministers we consider successful have some major accomplishment they can point to – Harper doesn’t have that.. There are a lot of takeaways the government has done in terms of diminishing the capacity of government. I don’t think it’s a positive legacy – I think it is a very negative legacy. Still, given his longevity in power, and in regards to the fundamental things people grade a government on – such as the economy, democratic practices, the environment, corruption, foreign policy, culture, civil liberties – Harper’s record might very well place him as the worst prime minister in Canadian history.”

Is Harper Canada’s worst prime minister?

Excerpts: “When investigative journalist Stevie Cameron – who wrote two books about the Mulroney era – compares Harper and Mulroney on their corruption track records, she says: “Mulroney was a crook and corrupt [but] I don’t think Harper is corrupt financially. I think he’s corrupt in so many other ways… I don’t think he’s interested in money. I think he’s much more interested in power and secrecy.”

Michael Bate, editor of gossip magazine Frank, has compiled a list of Tories charged with one crime or another since 2006, which includes Michael Sona, Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter, Devinder Shory, Peter Penashue, Saulie Zajdel, Rahim Jaffer, Dean Del Mastro, James Bezan and Nathan Jacobson.

Other scandals of note during Harper’s tenure include:
The F-35 jet fighter contract.
The in and out scandal .
Bruce Carson influence-peddling scandal.”

His foreign policy record

“Under Harper, Canada’s peacekeeping force has been almost eradicated. Once the world’s number-one provider of peacekeeping personnel, Canada now ranks 67th on the UN’s peacekeeping contributors’ list, or a grand total of 122 people.

“Every indication of the Harper government is they have no interest in peacekeeping – which is part and parcel of their hostile attitude towards the UN.”

His cultural record

Stephen Harper has never hidden his contempt for the cultural sector. During the 2008 election he claimed that “ordinary people” don’t care about arts funding and have no sympathy for “rich” artists who gather at galas to whine about their grants. By then he’d cut $45-million to arts and culture programs.

So it’s no surprise that the one main cultural institution Harper seems determined to destroy is the CBC. When Ian Morrison, the long-time spokesperson of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, is asked to characterize the Harper government’s attitude towards the CBC, he replies: “Number one – subterfuge. If there is a hidden agenda and there are 50 items on that hidden agenda, CBC is near the top.”

Morrison says during the 2011 election Tory candidates professed support for the CBC but promptly began “sabotaging” it once the election was over. Indeed, in his 2012 budget, finance minister Jim Flaherty immediately cut $115-million from the CBC’s budget.

Even before Harper became prime minister, the CBC was one of the most poorly-funded public broadcasters in the world. Canada’s level of government support for the CBC ranks near the bottom compared with that of other Western industrialized nations: A 2006 report showed that Canada stood 16th out of 18 nations in per-capita funding of public broadcasters, at $33 per citizen, compared with an average of $80.

At the time Harper became prime minister, the CBC’s operating budget was down to $1.1-billion (all figures in 2014 dollars) and peaked at $1.15-billion in 2007. Since then, it’s steadily declined and now stands at $929-million and is set to continue to fall. The CBC says it will cut 25 percent of its workforce by 2020 – or up to 1,500 jobs.

In 2013, the federal government surreptitiously placed the CBC under the Financial Administration Act, making it subject to review by the Treasury Board. This means the board can scrutinize how the CBC spends its money, in particular on labour. “The impact of that was to give the Treasury Board a supervisory role over management,” says Morrison.

Harper also stacked the CBC’s board with his political supporters. Since 2007, the CBC has been presided over by Tory donor and lawyer Hubert T. Lacroix, who used to work at the Canada’s most powerful corporate law firm, McCarthy Tétrault, as a business attorney. Lacroix has embraced, without complaint, every effort by the Harper government to downsize the CBC. Meanwhile, nine of the CBC board’s 11 members are Tory donors, most of whom have business or corporate law backgrounds.

The ideological shift at the CBC under Harper has been noticeable too, where pro-business shows have proliferated while investigative programs have been cut.

Harper has also attacked Canada’s historical institutions. In 2012, Harper chopped the budget of the national library and archives, making it more difficult for historians to research the country’s past. “The library and archives have almost been destroyed by this government,” says Ian McKay, a professor of history at Queen’s University. “The cuts to the archives were breathtaking – not cuts to some people but cancelation of whole programs. The things that got saved were anything to do with military history.”

Moreover, McKay says the Harper government has also changed our citizenship guide to reflect a narrow, pro-military and pro-business view of Canadian history, “very much emphasizing Canada’s role in war and [showing that] true Canadian heroes are warriors.”

Harper also changed the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa to the Museum of Canadian History, which emphasizes Canada’s role in military engagements. “They have taken a world-class museum facility and focused on a particular martial aspect,” says McKay.

When asked about Harper’s overall legacy, McKay replies:
“I would say it has been an unmitigated disaster. I don’t think we’ve ever had a prime minister who’s failed to articulate, to the extent this one has, a vision of the country. He’s essentially ruled the country as a CEO and given Canadians zero inspiration. I would be hard-pressed to find one moment where Harper has made us feel proud of Canada.”


Ominous, odious … omnibus: Big bills with big problems

“For the government … the point is to package politically popular measures together with poison pills, the better to corner the opposition into voting against them. “No Opposition MP can support a bill that retroactively absolves the RCMP – or anyone else – of breaking the law. So they’ll vote against it – and the Conservatives will spend the coming election campaign telling voters that New Democrats and Liberals didn’t support better services for veterans.”

Busting Harper’s Favourite Myth: He’s Been Hell on Canada’s Economy

Canada got less competitive under Tories. And more tough truths from Mel Hurtig’s new book. First excerpt in a series.


Election charges undermine Harper legacy

Conservatives’ ‘in-and-out’ scandal investigation cost taxpayers $2.3-million

Conservative Party fined for breaking election laws

Harper’s top aide being linked to in-and-out scandal

Tory party, 2 senators face election charges. Elections Act charges include claims party submitted ‘false or misleading’ expense statements

Next ‘in-and-out’ court date set for September

The In-And-Out Scandal Revisited

Harper’s tough-on-crime moment has passed him by

“After he became Canada’s 22nd prime minister, one of Stephen Harper’s top five priorities was to toughen up the justice system. As a policy priority it surpassed the environment, national defence and job creation. It seemed an odd choice, given how long Conservatives had been out of power, the fact that the crime rate was falling and Canadians felt relatively safe. But Harper moved quickly; since 2006, his government has introduced dozens of justice bills. The 2015 election campaign has already started and Harper is not about to abandon his goal of filling Canada’s prisons to the brink, regardless of cost. He has promised legislation to bring in ‘real’ life sentences, limit conditional release and impose more mandatory minimum penalties.”

Stephen Harper’s War on Science and Data continued here….

Click here for details of the Conservative attack on Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, driven by Conservative Ideology