Canada in 2012

Written by  //  December 28, 2012  //  Canada, Government & Governance  //  3 Comments

At Issue: The Year in politics — Best and worst in Canadian politics
(404 System Error) Historical Perspective… Text of Harper’s 1997 Council for National Policy speech
The text from a speech made by Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, to a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing U.S. think tank, and taken from the council’s website. Stephen Harper’s critique of the then-Liberal government in Ottawa paints a brutal mirror image of his own 2012 government
(404 System Error) Senator Tom Banks on Stephen Harperwritten before the May 2, 2011 election and worth re-reading
How Ottawa runs on oil
Suddenly Western money and influence are driving everything that happens in the nation’s capital
by Paul Wells and Tamsin McMahon, with Alex Ballingall
At Issue: Chantal  Hébert makes a good point about the Conservative government having not learned how to persuade rather than bully
The Canadian National Anthem (Molson Canadian version)
Why the government isn’t listening to academics, even when people in government want to
(OpenCanada.org) The problem we face today, or at least in the rest of this post, is the limited enthusiasm the policy world has for the recommendations made by academics and other non-government policy experts.
… there is good intent on the policy side of the gap, but these individuals are facing some trends and pressures that make it hard for those outside of government to have much influence.
What are these trends and pressures? First, the logic of politics often trumps what makes the most sense. Second, anti-science attitudes are not just an American phenomenon, even if they are sometimes exaggerated . Third, this government, more than most, centralizes policy-making, reducing the opportunities for outsiders to influence the process. See also The Academic-Policy Divide

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Government USB Key With Personal Info Of Thousands Of Canadians Goes Missing
(Canadian Press) Human Resources and Skills Development Canada says an employee reported on Nov. 16 that a USB key containing personal information, including Social Insurance Numbers, of about 5,000 Canadians was missing.
The department, which handles a variety of files including pensions, old age security, employment insurance and childcare tax credits, says all those affected have been contacted.
A spokesperson said in an email Friday evening that the affected people have been advised of the incident and informed of the steps they can take to help protect their personal information.
HRSDC notified the privacy commissioner’s office on Dec. 21 that the data had been lost.
25 December
What Canada’s Political Parties Need To Do In 2013
(HuffPost) With 2012 almost behind them, the competitors on Parliament Hill now look to the challenges of 2013. What do the five parties need to do to make next year a success?
National chief urges Canadians to ‘stand with us’
Idle No More movement stages national day of protest
(CBC) Hundreds of First Nations protesters waved flags, chanted slogans and shook a collective fist at the federal government as they gathered on Parliament Hill to put Canada on notice they would be “idle no more.”
More than 1,000 protesters, a group stretching several city blocks, marched through the streets of the capital Friday after meeting with Theresa Spence, the chief of northern Ontario’s troubled Attawapiskat First Nation, who is on a hunger strike.
National Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo … told the young activists gathered on the Hill that they they were “the change that we’ve been waiting for” and also called on Canadians to support the growing movement and its quest for Ottawa’s recognition of aboriginal treaty rights.
“We reach out to Canadians,” Atleo said. “We want you to understand that the Department of Justice, that the federal government, that so many governments over so many years, they stand on a principle that is unacceptable.”
20 December
Canada’s First Nations protest heralds a new alliance
The grassroots IdleNoMore movement of aboriginal people offers a more sustainable future for all Canadians
(The Guardian) Canada’s placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government’s budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.
It has seen rallies in dozens of cities, a disruption of legislature, blockades of major highways, drumming flash mobs in malls, a flurry of Twitter activity under the hashtag #IdleNoMore and a hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, in a tepee minutes from Ottawa’s parliament. Into her tenth day, Spence says she is “willing to die for her people” to get the prime minister, chiefs and Queen to discuss respect for historical treaties.
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan has dismissed the escalating protest movement, saying “that’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes.” He told international media that relations with First Nations are “very good”. If only that were the truth. What remains unspeakable in mainstream politics in Canada was recently uttered, in a moment of rare candour, by former Prime Minister Paul Martin:

“We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power.”

The evidence – and source of the current anger and unrest – is hard to dispute. While Canada has the world’s largest supply of fresh water, more than 100 aboriginal communities have tapwater so foul they are under continual boil alert (pdf). Aboriginal peoples constitute 3% of Canada’s population; they make up 20% of its prisons’ inmates. In the far north, the rate of tuberculosis is a stunning 137 times that of the rest of the country. And the suicide rate capital of the world? A small reserve in Ontario, where a group of school-age girls once signed a pact to collectively take their lives.
12 December
Commons Speaker rejects Tory arguments, upholds MPs’ rights to oppose government
(Leader Post) With Parliament poised to adjourn for the six-week Christmas break, Andrew Scheer delivered a ringing message to the Harper majority government: Voting numbers don’t trump MP rights.
“Let me be clear,” Scheer ruled. “The Speaker does not make decisions based on who is in control of the House.”
Peter Van Loan, the government House leader, had argued that since the Conservatives hold a clear majority in the Commons, the outcome of votes was preordained.

Government OKs foreign bids for Nexen, Progress Energy

(CBC) Bids by future state-owned enterprises in oilsands to be approved only in exceptional circumstances
The federal government has approved two major energy takeover deals, green-lighting a $15.1-billion bid for Nexen Inc. by a Chinese state oil company and a $5.2-billion bid by Malaysia’s Petronas for Progress Energy.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced new guidelines for evaluating proposed takeovers of Canadian companies by state-owned enterprises, including evaluating the possible influence of a foreign government in the enterprise.
The guidelines also indicate these could be some of the last foreign state-owned company takeovers in the oilsands: the new rules say that from now on those bids will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. More details from Canadian Press via HuffPost Foreign Investment In Canada, CNOOC Nexen Deal The Subject Of Industry Canada Announcement
6 December
Harper On Gun Laws: PM Says He Won’t Relax Rules On Prohibited Weapons
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued an unexpected rebuke to his government’s own firearms advisory committee, rejecting its recommendations and suggesting the group’s membership may need revisiting.
Documents obtained by the Coalition for Gun Control reveal the committee advising Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants some prohibited weapons, including hand guns and assault rifles, reclassified to make them more easily available.
The 14-member group is also pushing to make firearm licences good for at least 10 years, rather than the current five — a measure opposed by police who say the five-year renewals are a chance to weed out unstable gun owners.
Uncomfortable truths: Dr. Marie Wilson on the history of residential schools in Canada
By Jonathan Sas
(rabble.ca) For Commissioner Wilson, the residential schools are a sustained ribbon of story line in Canadian history. To date, they remain part of a “sustained ribbon of ignorance.” It is a defining part of how Canada has come to where it is today, with hugely disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal peoples on the streets, in the prisons, in the emergency wards, and, troublingly, in the child welfare system.
The fact remains that for many, if not most, non-Aboriginal Canadians, the legacy of the Residential Schools simply isn’t on the radar. In turn, this (perceived) lack of interest means there are few if any media outlets that dedicate reporting staff with any consistency or attentiveness to Aboriginal issues, let alone to the important work of the TRC.

“The indigenous capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is almost beyond belief.”
Few Canadians can speak with a genuine understanding of that capacity. Dr. Marie Wilson, who sits on Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is one of them.
Commissioner Marie Wilson communicated this powerful message while in Montreal last week to deliver the annual Jeanne Sauvé Address. There she spoke to the incredible leadership being shown by survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools as thousands have courageously come forward to tell the country their stories.
Although the writing is of the low standard we have come to expect from the Westmount Examiner, the points pertaining to all three levels of government are only too valid
Voters just can’t get no satisfaction – from any level of government
(Westmount Examiner) The public deserves better from its elected officials
A recent study conducted by Samara, a non-profit organization aimed at improving political participation in this country, revealed that Canadians’ satisfaction with democracy has plummeted to new lows. Only 55 percent of us are satisfied with democracy; down a whopping 20 points from 2004. Many associate the staggering dip in confidence with the Conservative government and some of the rather – shall we say, undemocratic actions – (sic) it’s been accused of undertaking. Incidents, like the Robo-calls affair, (seen by many as attempted voter suppression), the G8 and F-35 fighter-jet spending extravaganzas, and attempts to muzzle the media certainly do nothing to assuage people’s concerns.
4 December
Budget bill amendments voted down in six-hour session
Efforts by opposition parties to amend the Conservative government’s latest omnibus budget bill culminated in hours of voting Tuesday. But in the end, the Conservative majority prevented all of the opposition amendments from passing.
Bill C-45 rings in at over 400 pages and like its predecessors makes changes to a myriad of rules and regulations, some that were explicitly in the Conservatives’ last budget and some that weren’t.
3 December
Elizabeth May: The most damaging things happening to Canada are the things you cannot see
My sense is that decisions are made by Stephen Harper alone. He dispatches orders directly to the Clerk of Privy Council, who sends instructions to the Deputy Ministers. The Ministers are handed the talking points to explain decisions they didn’t make.
What this means is that the civil service is completely corrupted by political pressure. The first phase of this process was the muzzling of scientists, then the massive lay-offs, ensuring that morale is at an all time low. The next step was to ask for reports that make a certain point, instead of asking for an objective assessment of the evidence. Government reports are no longer non-partisan. If I am right, the situation is very dangerous. And it is even more dangerous because it is invisible – in plain sight.
Who’s the Boss?
(Samara) Despite Canada’s status as one of the world’s leading democracies, new research shows that just over half of the population is satisfied with the way Canadian democracy works—a 20-point drop in less than 10 years. Canadians are even less satisfied with Members of Parliament, and a leading source of this dissatisfaction centres on MPs’ priorities: Canadians feel MPs do a better job representing the views of the party than they do representing their constituents.
1 December
Andrew Coyne: Don’t blame vote splitting, blame our electoral system
The problem, that is, is not vote splitting. The problem is the system.
(Calgary Herald) It is only under the current first-past-the-post voting system that vote splitting is even notionally an issue. Where first past the post is winner take all, in a proportional system, seats, and power, are allocated more in line with the number of votes a party receives. To hold a majority of the seats, you have to win a majority of the votes. And since it is rare for one party to do so, majorities are most often assembled from several parties. In effect, their votes are added together, rather than split.
There are a lot of reasons to prefer proportional representation – I’ve written about it often – but for the opposition parties, there is one reason in particular: the current system heavily favours the Conservatives, as the party with the support of the largest single block of voters.
29 November
Elizabeth May: Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 (Bill C-45)
I will speak to my amendments relatively quickly. I want to stress that neither Bill C-38 nor Bill C-45 are really about jobs, or growth or the budget. I will highlight the things in Bill C-45 that I hope to amend because they will hurt jobs.
I have fewer amendments today than I had tabled for Bill C-38 and Canadians might want to know the difference. Bill C-38, while a couple of pages shorter, did far more damage to the fabric of environmental laws in Canada. Bill C-38 took an axe to our Fisheries Act, destroying habitat protections; , repealed the Environmental Assessment Act; and put in place a substitute piece of legislation that would be an embarrassment to a developing country. It was absolutely abominable. … Now we are asked, in Bill C-45, to correct drafting errors made in Bill C-38 where the English does not accord with the French, or where, under the Fisheries Act, they forgot to protect certain aspects of navigation through the fisheries corridors where there are weirs and other fishing apparatus. We also have changes to the Environmental Assessment Act because of poor drafting the last time around. Why was the drafting poor? It was because 70 different laws were put together in one piece of legislation and forced through the House without a willingness to accept, in 425 pages of legislation, a single amendment.
24 November
Jeffrey Simpson: Canada’s ‘no comment’ Conservative government
… One part of the government’s approach is to systematically refuse to say anything. Each department has a large media and communications unit, the principle purpose of which seems to be to refuse comment or, as often, to read from what the Prime Minister’s Office has deemed to be the only thing worth saying on a given subject.
The communications people are on the shortest possible leash. They say only what the centre authorizes. Civil servants, who actually know things, are gagged. Formal contacts are verboten; informal contacts with media or interest groups are discouraged.
Ministers speak from prepared texts or notes prepared by others, except for a few who have the liberty to do a little verbal skating. Contracts are awarded to monitor media coverage, as Canadians discovered recently when it was learned a firm had been following coverage of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
15 November
China treaty uproar signals growing rift between Ottawa, grassroots conservatives
(Dogwood Initiative) Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves credit for doing something extraordinarily difficult: keeping groups of people who share some values — but fundamentally disagree on others — focused on areas of common agreement, not on their differences, for the past six years.
The Prime Minister’s ability to keep his caucus and supporters focused on toning down differences to maintain unity has been impressive. However, now that the Prime Minister has a majority government, cracks are appearing within his party. The growing backlash over potential Chinese control of Canadian resources is just the latest example of a growing trend.
As with the oil tanker and pipeline issue, the Conservatives are clearly at odds with their own supporters on Chinese trade issues. Unwittingly, the Prime Minister has triggered deeply held values about Canada’s control over its own natural resources. And from what we heard from the folks who give the party money, it is clear this is not just a minor annoyance that can be glossed over with a targeted tax credit before the next election.
For now, the China trade treaty is still on the table. Two weeks have passed since it was first eligible to be ratified. We watch, wait and wonder: has Harper realized such a move could be toxic to his own base?
There’s no doubt the backlash could have electoral consequences. Numerous polls show that since the last election, the Conservatives have lost around 30 per cent of their support in British Columbia. Polls also show dropping Conservative support in other parts of the country. If an election were held today, it is unlikely the Conservatives would get a majority.
9 November
Former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan seeks Liberal nomination
(CTV) Two high-profile British Columbians have thrown in their names for next year’s provincial election: one who is the only person ever to beat Premier Christy Clark on a ballot and another who came within a whisker of defeating her last year.
Former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan announced Friday he’ll be seeking the nomination to run for Clark’s Liberals in the riding of Vancouver-False Creek. Sullivan defeated Clark for the mayoral nomination of one of Vancouver’s municipal parties seven years ago.
24 October
The Conservative government has been approving tens of billions of dollars of budget measures, having large impacts on its fiscal position, without Cabinet always knowing the long-term financial consequences of the decisions, the federal auditor general says.
The new findings come as Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page threatens to take the federal government to court to obtain long-requested information on the impacts of billions of dollars of cuts announced in the 2012 budget. Page has promised to serve legal notice this week to several major federal departments. Tim Harper: Kevin Page’s battle with Conservatives is fundamental to Parliament
Keith Beardsley: Conservatives betrayed by their own words in war with Kevin Page
“We believe that an independent, non-partisan parliamentary budget office should produce forecasts of revenues and spending which are universally available and accepted by all parties and experts of all stripes. Such a body would ensure that the government is genuinely accountable for taxpayers’ dollars and that we maintain fiscal discipline at the federal level. (Stephen Harper, Oct 6 2004)
21 October
The Rise of Tyranny and the Imminent Fall of Canada by 2014
By Bishop Dennis P Drainville
(The Bishop’s views) Our country is well on the road to falling to the greatest enemy that we have ever faced. It is not an enemy from another part of the globe nor is this enemy funded by malign interests whose aim is to subjugate us to the will of a particular religious or philosophical ideal. No. The enemy we face is found in our own country and has been birthed by the apathy, alienation and ignorance of the people of Canada. This enemy has evolved through the intentional collusion of political and economic elements within our own body politic which has used as pretexts the present leadership vacuum, the crises in the world financial institutions and the destabilization of various countries in many parts of the world as a means of exerting total social control. Of course, I am speaking about the Government of Stephen Harper, the legally elected government that took office in May of 2011.
Although there are many pressing and important issues to concern us as citizens: the environment, the growing gap between rich and poor, the degradation of infrastructure and the unchecked abuse of corporate power, none of these is as potentially destructive to our nation as the death of our democratic institutions.
19 October
Canada’s first black MP, Lincoln Alexander, dies at 90
Lincoln Alexander, Canada’s first black MP and former Ontario lieutenant governor, has died at the age of 90.
(CTV News) Lt.-Gov. David Onley tweeted the news Friday morning, offering his condolences to Alexander’s wife Marni and his family.
The man known to all as “Linc” was a “living legend” in his hometown of Hamilton and a man whose life and career were “a series of groundbreaking firsts,” Onley said in a statement.
“At a time when racism was endemic in Canadian society, he broke through barriers that treated visible minorities as second-class citizens, strangers in their own land,” he said.
Lincoln Alexander dies at 90
(Hamilton Spectator via Toronto Star) … more than 30 years ago, when he retired his Hamilton West seat in the House of Commons, having been the first black Canadian to serve as MP, and a cabinet minister. He was closing in on 60.
And Linc had a few things left to do, like live another three decades, see three schools, a police station and expressway named after him, receive six honorary degrees and dozens of other honours ranging from the Order of Canada to the National Order of the Lion from Senegal.
And there was Brian Mulroney’s invitation in 1985 to become Ontario’s lieutenant-governor.
16 October
Liberals use Harper’s past attack on omnibus bills against him

The Conservatives are expected to introduce another omnibus budget bill any day now, but before that happens, the floor of the House of Commons will feature a debate on the past positions of Stephen Harper when it comes to these types of bills.
12 October
Backroom boy tells why progressives lost power in Canada
(RCI) Canada is currently governed by the right-of-centre Conservative Party. In the last election it won less than 40% of the popular vote while progressive parties won more than 53%. Part of the problem for progressives was that the vote was split between parties that refused to join forces.But there’s more to it than that according to Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella. He has written a book called “Fight the Right: a Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse.”
“If you look at the European Union, you look at the Americas, conservatives are dominating politically in a way that they’ve never really done before,” says Mr. Kinsella. His book argues there are two reasons for that. “They’ve got much better at communicating and speaking to people about everyday issues in a clear and comprehensible way. But the second thing, and even more so they’re successful, this is values, the inevitable stuff of life, hopes and dreams and aspirations and sometimes fears and resentments. They’re quite good at those. They have cornered the market on values. And that’s important because the political brain is an emotional brain.”
25 September
LAWRENCE MARTIN — Our new normal: the mockery of democracy
No matter – it isn’t stopping him from doing it again. “Being flagrantly exposed as a hyprocite,” the Montreal Gazette bluntly editorialized, “seems not to bother Stephen Harper.” Instead, it appears to embolden him. He tends to double down, as when his government was found in contempt of Parliament last year and he responded with the imposition, in near record fashion, of closure and time limits on debates.
It seems Mr. Harper has concluded that he can continually get away with in-your-face provocations. The media and the opposition parties, he reasons, will move on; at some point, everything becomes old news. Although the latest poll shows Mr. Harper with just a 35-per-cent approval rating (while Barack Obama, with a dismal economy, gets 50 per cent), he may be right. People have short memories.
17 September
Andrew Coyne: Tories, NDP and ‘the tax on everything’
Parliament, as you may have heard, is back from its summer recess. Some late-breaking developments: The NDP would like to tax everything, and the Conservatives are big fat liars. No change, in other words.
The cause of this latest exchange of pleasantries is the Conservative accusation, which I promise you are going to hear six times a day until doomsday, that the NDP would impose a tax on carbon emissions if it were elected — a carbon tax, for short, or as the Conservatives would prefer you call it, a “tax on everything.”
Foes angered as Conservatives plan second omnibus bill
The Conservatives are putting the opposition on notice that a second omnibus budget bill – with changes to federal science policy, business tax credits and pensions for public servants and MPs – will dominate the government’s fall legislative agenda.
15 September
Three years from next election, federal MPs prepare for a cutthroat parliamentary session
(Canada.com) The potentially perilous state of national unity will be front and centre as politicians confront the new reality of an aggressive separatist government in Quebec.
The proper role of government in our lives will be further sharpened as a key point of debate, as the governing Tories continue to cut the size of the federal government.
The quintessential Canadian economic dilemma — exploiting the country’s vast natural resources without spoiling the environment — will create sharp political divisions.
The country’s long-term economic prospects will be under review as politicians, business groups and others debate the wisdom of seeking free trade deals with economic giants such as Europe, India and even communist China.
There will be a strong focus on Canada’s place on the world stage, as tensions over Iran continue and the bloody civil war in Syria threatens to spill over to other Middle East countries.
Meanwhile, amid growing political polarization, there comes a warning that the country is descending into a society where ignorance reigns over reason.

Peter Lougheed R.I.P.

Peter Lougheed: The Candle for His Generation
By Peter Menzies
It is hard to imagine that in his years in politics he was not tough. It is a rugged business but also one which, as in the rest of life, causes many people of weaker character to feel that tough must manifest itself in harsh words, raised voices, and various other physical intimidation tactics. We have all faced them and some of us have used them. Perhaps he did, too, but there was little evidence of that in our encounters. Never once did I hear him use disparaging or dismissive language when discussing others in the political sphere. The core of his popularity was neither, as some recall, his progressive side and love for the arts (that was mostly at the urging, he always said, of his wife Jeanne), nor his conservative side. It was that he stood up for Alberta against federal political incursions and eastern corporate domination. His reign has been described by some as the launch of the West Wants In movement that provided the wave Preston Manning surfed all the way to Ottawa. In truth, the West has wanted in since 1905 but there’s little doubt it was Lougheed who lit the candle for his generation.
Listen to Peter Stockland reflecting on the legacy of Peter Lougheed yesterday on CBC’s Cross Country Checkup (browse to 00:53:17)
15 September
Jeffrey Simpson: Peter Lougheed, Mr. Alberta, helped the province come of age
Peter Lougheed was a Progressive Conservative in politics, a Tory in thinking, a gentleman in life, a lawyer in profession, an Albertan in breeding, a Canadian at heart.
He won his last election 30 years ago. Yet, for all but the youngest Albertans, he’s remembered as the best premier Alberta ever had. He would walk the streets of Calgary, or any other Alberta city or town, years after leaving public life and be hailed as “Mr. Premier” or just plain “Peter.” Small of stature but large of reputation, he recalled a time and a government when some of the province’s best and brightest wanted to serve, because it meant working with and under him.
Peter Lougheed’s speech to the 2008 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference
I want to get across my feelings from my life experience about the special factor of leadership. I’ll put it to you as strongly as I can: for seeking leadership you have to strive for the extraordinary. The ordinary won’t cut it. You have to strive for the extraordinary. But you have to do it in a particular way and that particular way is being part of a team. Everything that really amounts to anything is something done through the whole environment of a team. …
Pascal Zamprelli: A Rye-and-Coke for Peter Lougheed
Pascal pays tribute as he recounts a two-hour conversation with Peter Lougheed … Lougheed was not a typical politician. In it completely for the right reasons, he didn’t lie or scheme; he was a friendly, intelligent optimist
Above all, he was genuine. He never strayed so deep into the political bubble as to become unrecognizable to those outside the bubble. He didn’t have the “politician’s filter.” In other words, when he spoke to you, he sounded like a normal human being
Spend time looking at what Lougheed did, but also how he went about it. If you’re thinking of a life in politics, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better model in Canadian history.

Fortney: ‘Passion, humour and warmth’ made him a man of the people
Described by Alan Hustak in his 1979 book Peter Lougheed: A Biography as “a man of boyish charm” who exuded a “genuine sincerity and aggressive confidence,” the leaders I speak with are effusive in their praise of Lougheed’s personal qualities, ones that had lasting effects on their own lives.
Those lucky enough to meet him will tell you that while he was a statesman of both style and substance, that style was a very distinct, made-in-Alberta one.
He was charming, that is for certain, but not in the flamboyant, pirouetting fashion of his political adversary, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Rather than sport fashion models and celebrities on his arm, he was married to the same woman almost as long as Queen Elizabeth has been on her throne.
13 September

Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed dies in hospital
Peter Lougheed: the father of modern-day Alberta
(CBC) Peter Lougheed, the former Alberta premier who became the face of an emergent West in the 1970s and 1980s and transformed his province from a largely rural economy to a global energy powerhouse, has died.
Premier from 1971 to 1985, Lougheed not only presided over the development of Alberta’s massive oil and gas resources, he also pushed, at every conceivable opportunity, for Alberta and the West to be at the centre of national decision-making.
By the time he retired, the hated (to the West) National Energy Program was being dismantled, his chosen amending formula (symbolizing equality of the provinces) was entrenched in the Constitution and Alberta’s place at the main table, indeed as a central driver of the Canadian economy, was secure.
(National Post) Alberta’s ‘Blue-eyed Sheikh’ Peter Lougheed dead at 84 ; (Edmonton Journal) Former premier Lougheed dies in hospital

11 September
(Nick’s Gleanings) Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was recently anointed World Statesman of the Year by the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF). This body was co-founded by Rabbi Arthur Schneier who, after meeting Harper for the first time ever two weeks ago, said “he impressed me as a man who has vision and doesn’t veer.” By (sheer?) coincidence, this came just a few days after his government cut off diplomatic relations with Iran (which had been at a low ebb already for several years with both missions headed by chargé d’affaires, rather than ambassadors), although Rabbi Schneier maintained that “We’re not one issue” & that, while Harper had first come to the ACF’s attention when he undertook to open an Office of Religious Freedom in Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, his staunch support for Israel & his vocal criticism of Iran had also been factors in his selection. It is proof of Harper’s priorities that he will travel to New York to accept this, not particularly well-known, award during the opening week of the next session of the UN General Assembly while, when he was earlier offered an opportunity to address the General Assembly that same week, he couldn’t be bothered – the problem with ‘having vision & not veering’ is that in the wrong hands it can turn into sheer cussedness & an unwillingness to compromise, even when that may be the optimum option. (Globe & Mail) Harper, honoured in N.Y. as statesman of the year, aims to snub UN True statesmanship!
7 September
Stephen Harper’s five new senators reflect ethnic diversity - but not political – “In making the appointments, Harper continued his practice of appointing Conservatives.”
(Canada.com) Since coming to office in 2006, Harper has made 51 Senate appointments.
“Stephen Harper once said: ‘An appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th Century.’ Well, we now know what century he’s living in,” NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said in a written statement. “And Harper has got himself on the top ten list of most unaccountable Senator appointments by a single prime minister. It’s a shameful record of hypocrisy.”
27 July
Andrew Coyne: A beginner’s guide to understanding premier-speak
… when the premiers describe something as “provincial jurisdiction,” that does not mean the feds should not be involved. It means they should be involved, but only as and when the provinces tell them to: namely, to pay the bills. Thus, unlike health care, in which Ottawa must be “involved,” any federal involvement in energy policy is, according to Quebec’s Jean Charest, strictly “invitation-only.”
26 July
Provinces seal generic drug deal as Alberta-B.C. pipeline brawl overshadows premiers conference
(National Post) Canada’s premiers may have agreed to buy generic drugs together in an effort to save health care costs today, but an escalating pipeline feud between Alberta and British Columbia is threatening to derail the annual premiers meeting.
The premiers released a report today that lists ways of saving health care money while delivering services that are more efficient. One of the measures they have agreed to implement is to buy three to five generic drugs in bulk.
24 July
Canadians lack confidence governments can solve issues
Survey suggests lack of confidence in governments’ ability to balance budgets, fix health care
21 July
N.S. Premier Finds Ottawa’s Aloofness ‘Troubling’
Canada’s premiers haven’t had a group sit-down meeting with Stephen Harper since the last meeting of first ministers in 2009.
In an interview on CBC Radio’s The House, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter — who also serves as the chair of the Council of the Federation — said “a bit of a vacuum” has developed in federal-provincial relations under Harper’s government.
20 July
Harper’s agenda does not include federal-provincial conferences
By Michael Behiels
(iPolitics) With his majority government, Harper has speeded up the transformation of Canadian federalism. The omnibus Budget Bill, passed into law using closure techniques, has demolished a large number of federal statutes that deal, in part or in whole, with what Harper considers to be matters of provincial jurisdictions, especially those dealing with the regulation of the environment and other sensitive matters.
Harper will continue to transform Canada’s federation without engaging in any discussions with what he considers the pesky premiers, a majority of whom most certainly disagree with the excessive decentralization and asymmetry inherent in a watertight compartments classical federation.
Some of the premiers will argue correctly that Harper’s classical federalism will undermine quite rapidly the equality of citizenship and a sense of shared community from coast to coast to coast. Other premiers, like those of Quebec and Alberta, will back Harper’s executive revolution because it puts into place an essential element of the Meech Lake Accord – wholesale decentralization – which was rejected by two premiers and a majority of citizens in June of 1990.
National Chief re-elected. What now for First Nations?
(CBC) Canada’s First Nation chiefs have re-elected Shawn Atleo for a second term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
His re-election confirmed that chiefs preferred the National Chief’s pragmatic approach to dealing with the Canadian government on Indian affairs. Runner up in the election was Pam Palmater, a lawyer and indigenous governance professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University. She is a vocal critic of the pragmatic approach
The election also highlighted some of the challenges and difficulties that the chiefs and the community at large face in asserting their uniqueness in Canadian society. As well, it showed how the Internet is changing transparency in the First Nation communities.
19 July
Grit MPs Dion, Cotler plan to challenge ‘arbitrary’ riding boundary changes, Tory MP Gourde ‘surprised’ his riding split in two
(Hill Times online) Liberal MP Stéphane Dion calls proposed riding boundary changes ‘arbitrary’ and joins fellow MP Irwin Cotler in challenging proposed changes by Quebec’s federal electoral boundaries commission, while other Quebec MPs considering challenges
Mr. Dion said he takes particular issue with the commission’s attempt to limit riding population size to within 10 per cent of the established electoral quota of 101,321 residents to a riding. Under Section 15(2) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, a commission is required to keep the size of a riding to within 25 per cent of the electoral quota. Electoral boundaries commissions can consider existing communities, history, and geographic size in establishing new ridings that deviate from the electoral quota—a consideration Mr. Dion said needs to be made in the case of his riding.
John Moore: Former PM Paul Martin says Canada is on the wrong track
(Newstalk 1010) The former PM says he thinks Canadians have become smug about our purportedly superior economy. He points to how vulnerable we are to a global downturn and how our household debt could turn on us like a grizzly bear in the months or years to come. He calls the Harper Government “ideological” and says many of its cuts are motivated by sheer spite for past governments rather than rising from facts and common sense. He accused the government of cancelling some programs (national day care and the Kelowna Accord) just because the Conservatives don’t like to aknoweldge the successes of previous governments. Martin insists that if you want to build a solid economy, you have to fund education, child care and health care in order to provide everyone with the foundation on which they can build a business and a career. And he worries that our system is becoming overly partisan citing the Conservatives’ pit bull tactics and what he calls Thomas Mulcair’s “irresponsible” campaign against the Alberta oil sands.
You can listen to this morning’s conversation in the podcast for today’s show or by clicking the audio buttons on this blog.
Does Canada need masters of political management?
(Ottawa Citizen) Forget its dubious funding arrangements, now under review. Forget the ideology of its founders and the partisanship of its leaders. The Clayton H. Riddell School of Political Management at Carleton University is questionable because of its mission: to professionalize perpetual participants in the permanent campaign.
6 July
Dan Gardner: Harper likes his ministers weak
(Ottawa Citizen) On Wednesday, a minor and largely irrelevant minister was replaced by a minor and largely irrelevant minister, and with that the cabinet shuffle was complete. Thus, a prime minister who dominates the political landscape more than any before him, a prime minister with unprecedented control of Parliament and the machinery of government, a prime minister whose mastery of his party and caucus is absolute, confirmed once again that he likes things just the way they are.
Time to flip: The voters may be starting to tire of the prime minister’s bullying
(The Economist) … This strategy of polarising the electorate, playing to core supporters and vilifying opponents has been effective. But there are signs that it may be wearing thin. In recent provincial elections in Alberta and Ontario parties linked to Mr Harper lost elections they expected to win.
5 July
Civil servants share $6B ‘severance’ without losing jobs

While federal budget cuts are sending some public servants to the unemployment line, most of those keeping their jobs will be laughing all the way to the bank with a pay raise and special lump-sum cheques of up to $150,000. The payouts are part of the Harper government’s move to scrap a long-standing public service perk that gives federal workers severance pay even when they quit or retire.
The government has agreed to compensate public servants for all of the severance they have accumulated to date at the rate of one week’s wages for each year of employment. … in exchange for getting rid of the [previous] severance provision, the Harper government is giving public servants a special 0.75 per cent increase in wages over three years, a move that will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The severance benefit was equal to an extra week of pay a year, or roughly 1.9 per cent.
3 July
Michael Den Tandt: Polls show Canada actually more progressive after six years of Tory rule
(National Post) The poll does not even remotely suggest a country that has been pushed rightward, or is being pushed rightward, incrementally or otherwise, by Conservative rule. Nor does it suggest in any way that the Conservatives have a lock on the title of Canada’s new, “natural governing party.” If anything it suggests the Harper government has gotten offside with the majority in some important policy areas, especially with respect to environmental protection.
Bev Oda’s departure: an overdue nod to accountability
(Globe & Mail editorial) The departure of Bev Oda from the federal cabinet should have happened months ago. Nevertheless, her resignation – effective July 31, apparently prompted by the knowledge or belief that she would be shuffled out later this summer – is a much-needed signal that Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds his ministers accountable. [Not so sure about this]
Global Innovation Index 2012: Canada Drops Out Of Top 10
While the country ranked high on such measures as its institutions (second place) and market sophistication (seventh), it scored considerably lower on human capital and research, where it ranked 25th.
That suggests the country is not investing enough in higher education, has too few researchers and and is not spending enough on research and development.
Canada ranked particularly poorly in the number of science and engineering students it graduates, in which the country ranks only 46th in the world.
Canada did even more poorly on the GII’s ecological sustainability index, where it ranked 77th — the country’s worst score in the survey. The data showed inefficient use of energy and a relative lack of environmental certification by Canadian companies.
27 June
5,000 public servants learn their jobs are at risk
Federal government looking to eliminate 19,200 public service jobs over the next 3 years
(CBC) Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is the hardest hit in the latest announcements, with a total of 2,055 employees given notices, according to the two largest unions representing them.
The Canada Revenue Agency also had a big number, informing 1,212 employees they could lose their jobs. It was the first time it had given notices to any employees and hundreds of its auditors are being affected.
26 June
Den Tandt: In hindsight, Brian Mulroney just keeps looking better all the time
For all his blarney, Mulroney was a formidable negotiator and conciliator. Can Harper, with his hair-trigger instinct for the jugular, do as well? If the PQ wins the next Quebec election, expected this fall, we’ll get an answer. Little in the current prime minister’s record suggests we can afford to be optimistic.
21 June
Dan Gardner: Power makes politicians stupid
(Ottawa Citizen) The government has increasingly been accused of bullying opponents and treating Parliament like a rubber stamp. Even among Conservatives, the unprecedentedly sweeping nature of C-38 produced some modest rumblings of discontent.
The government could have responded by making a show of listening to the opposition and Conservative backbenchers, picking a few innocuous amendments, and passing them. Doing that would have cost the government essentially nothing.
But they didn’t do that. Instead, they methodically and relentlessly voted down every single one of hundreds of proposed amendments, no matter how modest or reasonable they may be — making themselves look immodest and unreasonable and seeming to confirm that they do, indeed, expect Parliament to rubber stamp legislation.
20 June
Andrew Coyne: Feud with budget officer a conflict between Conservatives and their own ideals
The reality is that the PBO has been given anything but the “free and timely access” that Parliament demanded. Time and time again, rather, he has been given the back of the government’s hand — stonewalled by the bureaucrats, ridiculed by the politicians, and lied to by both.
15 June
Gerald Caplan: Stephen Harper and the tyranny of majority government
Mr. Harper really doesn’t appreciate people who disagree with him and he’ll be damned if he’ll help them spread their unwelcome views. As he said in Europe.
What was new in Europe was that the Prime Minister articulated his position so explicitly. What’s not new is that he in fact started changing the rules right after his first minority victory in 2006. If you dissented on the issues Mr. Harper obviously cares most passionately about … you were chopped liver.
… For those who believe I’m exaggerating, you owe it to yourselves to read Alex Neve’s recent brief-but-comprehensive report of the Harper government record to date when it comes to democratic rights and values. It’ll shake you to your roots.
Conservatives draw fire for War of 1812 spending
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is spending more than $28 million on a war that happened 200 years ago. The Conservatives call the War of 1812 a decisive moment in Canada’s history that deserves to be recognized accordingly, but some have questioned the bicentennial’s price tag, particularly at a time when the government is slashing spending and laying off public servants.
Harper government praised for celebrating past, but also questioned
Tories fear marathon voting session may have exhausted political capital
(Canadian Press) After almost 24 hours of bobbing up and down in their seats for votes on the government’s budget bill, there’s no doubt Conservatives MPs are tired.
But government MPs and cabinet ministers are also expressing private concerns they’ll come out of the showdown over Bill C-38 having exhausted some of their political capital as well.
Conversations with Conservative caucus members conducted on condition they would not be quoted suggest MPs are hearing complaints from Tory voters in their ridings about the government’s bundling several measures into a budget bill that have nothing directly to do with the nation’s finances.
Those complaints may start anew in a few months.
Vote-fest continues, with or without shoes
(Canadian Press) Members of Parliament methodically bobbed from their seats through the night and into the afternoon as they voted on 871 opposition motions — grouped into 159 voteable packages — that are designed to thwart, or at least publicize, the Harper government’s sprawling omnibus budget implementation bill.
Andrew Coyne: Voting endlessly oddly appropriate way to protest abuse of Parliament
Viewed one way, the whole thing is quite silly. Given the government’s majority, none of the amendments is likely to pass, nor is the bill itself in any danger of defeat. Viewed another way, however, this is an important moment. For the first time since the last election, the opposition is putting up a serious fight against the abuses this government has visited upon Parliament: not only the omnibus bill, which repeals, amends or introduces more than 60 different pieces of legislation, but the repeated, almost routine curtailing of debate by means of “time allocation”; the failures of oversight, misstating of costs, and abdication of responsibility in the F-35 purchase; and the refusal to provide basic information on spending to Parliament or the Parliamentary Budget Officer — to say nothing of the stonewalling, prorogations and other indignities of the minority years.
6 June
Chantal Hébert: Five problem cases in cabinet that Harper must fix
(Toronto Star) … there comes a time when a poor ministerial alignment threatens to fundamentally derail a government’s message. In the case of Stephen Harper’s cabinet, that time has come.
24 May
Matt Gurney: Semi-rogue Tory MP shouldn’t underestimate caucus unrest
(National Post) … Post columnist John Ivison is entirely right to say that many of these reforms have no place in a budget bill. And Wilks was only being honest when he said that he doesn’t like everything in the bill, but didn’t see any point voting against it unless 12 other Tory MPs were also willing to break ranks and vote against the bill — the minimum number of dissenters required to stop it. If those 12 were willing to do it, he said, he’d do it, too. Wilks was quickly encouraged to walk back those comments by the Prime Minister’s Office, and walk them back he did, but he should have stuck by them. Not only because he’s right, but because the last few months have already seen several examples of the Conservative government changing course after their own caucus became restive.
19 May
Forget tuition fees: If anything calls for a riot, it’s Harper’s stealth governance
(Globe & Mail) There’s a bill, called C-38. It’s driven to Parliament on forklifts retrofitted for maximum stealth. This bill, similar at 420 pages in weight and heft to a small pony, is delivered to dead-eyed MPs, behind whom stands the chief whip, taser in hand. The drool-drenched backbenchers nod in unison, and put the bill back on the forklifts for rubber-stamping further down the line.
2 May
A Canadian Spring for Harperland?
The curtain has been well and truly whipped away from the PM’s self-promoting deceptions and he is revealed for what he is: a power-tripper on a mission to give Canada an extreme makeover that only the super-rich and the semi-comatose could endorse. And he is doing it with virtually no debate, creating something of a new phenomenon in Canadian politics; sole-source public policy.
7 April
Rex Murphy: This is Mulcair’s moment
… the Harper administration … have coasted with weak opposition for a long while, and not paid a heavy price for having so unimpressive a front bench. The period of laziness without cost, and mediocrity making do are over. With this new opposition under a new leader, the Liberals will have to fight for their political lives, and the Conservatives will have to give up their useless games and conduct politics as adults for a change.
5 April
Katimavik should be a Tory favourite
By Elizabeth Payne,
(Ottawa Citizen) Picture this: A national volunteer program – kind of a Canadian Peace Corps – that benefits young Canadians, communities and, arguably, the country as a whole. You could call it the Governor General’s Youth Corps, say, or even the Royal Canadian Volunteer Corps. It’s hard to imagine a federal politician who wouldn’t eat up the idea.
Just don’t call it Katimavik.
Lawrence Martin: The PM needs a cabinet overhaul
The immediate question centres on the fate of Defence Minister Peter MacKay. Like Jean Chretien, Harper has shown reluctance to dump ministers who get in trouble. It’s tantamount to an admission of guilt and no PM likes to admit that.
But Harper would be well advised not only to shuffle MacKay but to enact a major cabinet overhaul.
John Ivison: Thomas Mulcair’s sure-footed start could be made moot by oil sands comments
… The man who would be prime minister plans to drive investment out of Canada, in order to make manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec competitive again, while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What could go wrong with that — a central planning experiment that proposes to kill two birds with one silver bullet?
4 April
Harper undoing Canada
By Frances Russell
(WFP via 404 System Error) Harper’s Canada is the exact opposite of the Canada he now keenly looks forward to dismantling. Respect for cultural, linguistic and racial diversity is being twisted into trolling the world for specific human widgets to power specific needs of business and industry. Refugees and families seeking reunification are to go to the back of the bus, if not be pushed right off. Intergenerational and interprovincial social and economic responsibility for each other as citizens, once the purview of a robust panoply of federal initiatives, is being downloaded onto the provinces after a short phase-out period.
Resources are to be exploited as fast as possible. Concern for the environment and the rights of aboriginal and other citizens are a distant second. Food safety is to be left to the food manufacturers, drug safety to the pharmaceutical industry, transportation safety to the transport industry. In the new, “liberated” marketplace, self-regulation is the mantra. When it comes to matters of human health and safety, individuals and families will be largely on their own.
John Ibbitson Tories’ economic reputation shot to pieces by fighter jets
3 April
Paul Wells: Why Tom Mulcair is Stephen Harper’s first real Opposition threat in years
Get ready for Beethoven vs. Nickelback in federal politics
29 March
More than a budget, this a blueprint to make over Canada
In principle, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is right. Canada must adjust to the demographic reality that it is an aging nation with a shrinking workforce.
In practice, his government has begun the process badly. It sprang a series of upsetting surprises on Canadians, disrupting their plans and pitting generations against each other. … It would have helped to know all this before last year’s election. But Harper never said a word about reducing the government’s commitment to Old Age Security, capping Ottawa’s contribution to medicare or loosening environmental regulations. He never told Canadians a Conservative government would keep paring public services after the budget was balanced.
20 March
Air Canada warns Aveos liquidation could strand passengers — Firm blames Air Canada for ‘devastating blow’
(CBC) the Quebec government appeared to be assessing the grounds for a lawsuit under terms of the legislation that transformed Air Canada from a Crown corporation into a private company in 1988.
[Aveos was created in 2007 when Air Canada restructured and converted its technical services division, which was responsible for all maintenance and repair work on its aircraft, into a stand-alone operation. At that time, it was understood that the new company would still adhere to the Air Canada Public Participation Act, keeping operations in Winnipeg, Montreal and Mississauga.]
19 March
Special Report | Designing prisons for the aging inmate
(CBC) Canada’s correctional investigator, Howard Sapers, says the proportion of federally-incarcerated inmates over the age of 50 has jumped 50 per cent in the last decade, to where they represent nearly 20 per cent of the total.
In his most recent annual report, Sapers said CSC needs a strategy for older offenders and he noted that the Older Offender Division created in 2000 has “long since been abandoned” and that “none of its recommendations ever saw the light of day.” CSC told CBC News it does not have units specifically designated for older offenders.
13 March
Omnibus crime bill C-10 passed; a Conservative election promise kept
(Maclean’s) As promised, the Conservative government in Ottawa has transformed the country’s legal landscape within the first 100 sitting days of its majority mandate. Last night, the Harper Tories finally passed Bill C-10, otherwise known as the omnibus crime bill, with its laundry list of legal changes [that] include mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug offenders, harsher penalties for violent crimes and sexual assault, and a provision allowing victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators more easily.
10 March
Andrew Coyne’s blunt speech to the Manning Centre conference, a gathering of conservatives, and Conservatives, wherein he reiterates the refrain But you are no longer that party.:
Question isn’t where conservatism is going, but where has it gone
What I believe in are a set of principles having to do with the freedom of the individual, the usefulness but not infallibility of markets, and the legitimate but limited role of the state. There are, in brief, a few things we need government to do, based on well-established criteria on which there is a high degree of expert consensus. The task is simply to get government to stick to those things, rather than waste scarce resources on things that could be done as well or better by other means: that is, government should only do what only government can do.
… there was a party, once, that believed in these things, to a somewhat greater extent than the other parties. That party called itself conservative, whether with a small or a large C, so I suppose you could call the things it believed conservatism. But you are no longer that party.
3 March
Prime Minister Stephen Harper should set scientists free, says Nature
Ottawa’s gagging of federal scientists has come under attack from a prominent journal urging Stephen Harper to quit his oppressive ways.
(Toronto Star) This matters because free and open communication of knowledge is the lifeblood of science. And it’s further evidence of Harper’s obsessive desire to control the message — any message — coming from federal sources. This has now reached the point of international embarrassment, with the Harper government prominently criticized for showing “little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.”
Chantal Hébert: Tories suffering from disconnect with voters not in power base
Whatever else may ail Stephen Harper’s government, it has some serious messaging issues.
On three occasions over about as many weeks, the Conservatives’ political instincts went missing in action in the heat of a parliamentary battle.
That was particularly striking this week as the government struggled without success to put allegations of vote-suppression in the 2011 campaign behind it.
On a matter that is — in political terms — more akin to a debilitating flu than to a passing cold, the Conservatives committed the cardinal sin of feeding the controversy by changing their tune virtually every day
1 March
Global group urges Tories to change crime bill
(Ottawa Citizen) The Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international group of thinkers, business people and former politicians that includes former head of the United Nations Kofi Annan and billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has signed an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and senators urging them to amend the crime bill and, instead of penalties, make marijuana legal. In its letter, released Wednesday, the group asked the government to consider taxing and regulating marijuana “as an alternative strategy to undermine organized crime and improve community health and safety.” No one but the PBO seems to care what things really cost
24 February
As the privacy fight turned ugly, democracy made a comeback
While a certain amount of electronic surveillance is justified, the possibility that such information could be made available without a warrant should be of concern to every Canadian
Having young kids keeps Canadians from voting booth
Recent immigrants and workers with long hours also less likely to vote, Statistics Canada finds
18 February
Le Canada au point de rupture?
(Le Devoir) … Dans ce contexte, le président de l’association conservatrice de Brome-Missisquoi, Peter White, reconnaît qu’il y a «du vrai dans ce qu’a dit Justin Trudeau cette semaine», et que le travail des conservateurs «nuit à la fédération».
Mais il estime que ce ne sont pas tant les politiques qui posent problème que la manière de les communiquer — situation qu’il a dénoncée dans une lettre il y a un mois. «La raison du décalage, selon moi, c’est que Stephen Harper ne prend pas le temps d’expliquer ce qu’il fait aux Québécois. Il ne fait pas de communications, ses ministres sont invisibles, et pendant ce temps, ses ennemis ont toute la place. M. Harper a abandonné le terrain et on voit le résultat: il y a une déconnexion, les gens se méfient de lui et il ne fait rien pour arranger ça.» See Peter G. White’s Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper FRENCH POWER: FOR BETTER OR WORSE, THE WORM HAS TURNEDIn the same vein, Chantal Hébert: Harper’s alienation of Quebec just what the Liberals need
16 February
Canadian government is ‘muzzling its scientists’
Speakers at a major science meeting being held in Canada said communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed.
(BBC) The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.
The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.
16 February
Tories retreat on Internet snooping bill
(Globe & Mail) Since receiving a ton of backlash after announcing a new bill that would give police powers to access personal data from the Internet without a warrant, the government will consider changes to the legislation.
15 February
Can you spot the difference on “lawful access” bill?
(Canada.com) So the Conservative government sends off a contentious bill for printing and provides copies to House of Commons staff to distribute and table in Parliament — then withdraws it an hour later and replaces it with a new version?
That’s what happened Tuesday when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, through the Speaker of the House, tabled the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act just after 10:00 am. The short title is listed as “Lawful Access Act.” An hour later, House of Commons staff withdraw it and replace it with the identical bill, save a new short title. It’s now the “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.”
2 February
Harper Government Invests in New Play Creation
(Praxis Theatre) After years of slashing and bashing the Canadian arts community, the Harper Government has finally decided to embrace live theatre through an exciting new partnership just launched with co-producer SUN TV.
Under the terms of the arrangement just leaked this morning by The Globe and Mail, taxpayer funded Federal bureaucrats will be considered “in kind” donations to the Qubecor-owned news station. Leveraging the value that public servants can return to the taxpayer has been a Harper Government priority since their election in 2006, and under a majority government Canadians can expect to see increased focus on public/private initiatives that promote cultural works.
Federal bureaucrats posed as ‘new Canadians’ on Sun News citizenship ceremony
(Toronto Star) A citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on the Sun News network last October featured six federal bureaucrats posing as new Canadians. The event was requested by the office of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
Kenney’s office apologizes for ‘new Canadians’ stunt on Sun News [and blames it on bureaucrats]
(Globe & Mail) On Thursday, Sun News ’fessed up that a citizenship affirmation ceremony it staged in its downtown Toronto studio last October was fraudulent. While viewers were told the 10 people who pronounced the oath were new Canadians, six were actually federal bureaucrats faking it for the cameras. (National Post) Matt Gurney: Real new Canadians are too busy for Sun News
29 January
Stephen Harper’s ‘tough-on-crime’ laws are more misguided than ever
(Toronto Star) For 20 years there’s been a troubling disconnect between the reality of crime in Canada and people’s fear of it. The persistent — though mistaken — view that crime is on the rise has allowed governments to push through ever more “tough-on-crime” laws.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have taken this to extremes. The omnibus Bill C-10 before the Senate right now will foist enormous and unnecessary costs on taxpayers.
Yet in reality violent crime is down. Property crime is down. Other crimes are down. Crime is at its lowest since 1973.
27 January
Conservatives have put Canadians in a hole
(Calgary Herald) On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, bragging about our country, lecturing the Europeans and pointing to his agenda for the year ahead. … There is a strong argument to be made for belt-tightening in this time of global uncertainty, and it may be necessary to make changes to Old Age Security, but it might be wise instead to top up the fund with our tax dollars, except the Conservatives have put us in the hole.
If we want benefits beyond our ability to pay, as Harper said in Davos, that’s because he has simultaneously cut taxes and increased spending, reducing the government’s capacity to pay for anything.
Harper signals Canada’s looming R&D revamp
Prime Minister Stephen Harper ended any lingering uncertainty this week, vowing to act “soon” on a recent task force report that urged major changes to the troubled $3.5-billion-a-year Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit.
Costly federal appointments office has nothing much to do
Bureaucracy set up to support Public Appointments Commission, which was then scrapped
26 January
Harper vows ‘major transformations’ to position Canada for growth
“In the months to come, our government will undertake major transformations to position Canada for growth over the next generation,” Mr. Harper said in an address to some of the 2,600 forum delegates.
He also reiterated a commitment to streamline environmental approvals for major energy projects.
He vowed to press ahead with developing ways to export energy to Asia. And he announced all this at Davos, hoping Canadians were not paying attention?
Canadians finally getting it: crime is on the decline
New poll results show the public is abandoning a stubborn belief that crime is on the rise, bringing public opinion into alignment with a 20-year trend of declining crime rates.
The long-standing disconnect between public fears and reality has confounded criminologists and fuelled federal get-tough policies. … The poll, however, found that six out of 10 Canadians support a proposed federal omnibus crime bill increasing the length of jail time for some offences and reducing judicial discretion on sentencing. Mr. Neuman of Environics said the finding is consistent with the increasingly nuanced public perspective.
24 January
Canada should look to its think tanks
(Embassy) In this period of uncertainty, public policy needs solid research that looks ahead decades, takes into account emerging economies and low-income countries, and includes multinational approaches. Collaborative research by think tanks is the surest route.
A Healthy Distrust at First Nation-Crown Summit
(The Mark) The government must go beyond mere window dressing and pursue tangible outcomes that address the needs of Aboriginal Canadians.
In light of the recent tensions and public outcry surrounding the crisis in Attawapiskat, it is reasonable to suppose that the First Nations-federal government gathering today will touch on urgent matters facing many First Nations communities: housing and water, education and health, economic viability and resource rights. … How can lasting change be secured when not all of the parties to the First Nations-Crown relationship are present?
20 January
How Harper seized control of pipeline and health-care debates
Building a storyline that sticks helped the Conservatives sink two successive Liberal leaders and they are using the same strategy early in 2012 on a pair of major policy debates facing Canadians.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s team has attempted to leap out in front of its opponents and shape the narrative on the hot-button issues of health-care funding and oil pipeline construction.
Is Canada’s economy really dependent on global trade?
(Globe& Mail) … some economists are trying to develop a more useful measure of international trade. Among them is the Conference Board of Canada, which Thursday released the first of three reports based on what it calls “value-added trade.” The report should be required reading in Ottawa. Its conclusions challenge much of what we think we know about the nature of Canada’s economy. … The Global Trade and Analysis Project at Purdue University has created a database of input-output tables for the global economy. Input-output tables track the flow of goods and services as they pass through the value chain from raw materials to finished products. This data is compared with conventional trade data to estimate the import content of exports. The difference is the actual value derived in a particular country. (Mr. Armstrong recommends reading “Who Produces for Whom in the World Economy” for a thorough understanding of the concept, although his own explanation in the Conference Board paper is very lucid.)
19 January
Harper’s French disconnection
High-profile Quebec Tories blast the PM for ignoring the province
(Maclean’s) In a scathing open letter addressed to Canadians in general and the Conservative party in particular, White roundly criticizes the Conservative Party of Canada for ignoring francophones in general and Quebec in particular. “Today the voice of Quebec is virtually absent in Ottawa’s halls of power, or if present, it is a voice grown mighty small, and mighty easy to ignore,” [Peter] White writes in the letter dated Jan. 12.
NCC slammed for ‘disgusting character assassination’ attack ad against Rae
(Hill Times) Liberal and New Democrat MPs say the NCC’s attack ad against Bob Rae suggests Parliament should review the role of heavily-financed third-party lobby groups between elections.
7 January
Quebec outcry spiked Feds’ plan to sell Pellan paintings
Paintings were valued at $90,000 each
The Conservative government quietly planned to sell a pair of historic paintings by Quebec modern master Alfred Pellan after replacing them with a portrait of the Queen in the main reception area at the Department of Foreign Affairs. But it appears that after a public outcry in Quebec over the switch, the plan to sell the valuable works was spiked.
4 January
Peter MacKay weds rights activist, former beauty queen
On his website, Mr. MacKay said he was overjoyed to announce he and Ms. Afshin-Jam had married at a private ceremony surrounded by family and loved ones
3 January
Top CEOs got 189 times the average worker’s pay in 2010
(CTV) The economy may have weathered the recent economic storm, but a scant few Canadians are enjoying the benefits. In fact, the average worker is falling further behind, according to a study that found the average “Elite 100″ CEO will have earned more than the average Canadian’s annual income by noon on January 3.

3 Comments on "Canada in 2012"

  1. Guy Stanley January 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm · Reply

    Re Canada should look to its think tanks
    Perhaps our assorted think tanks could collaborate on some kind of road map. But I’m not sure it would do the job the author hopes. To me, anyway, Canada’s leadership still seems adrift on issues that are more than 5 years off in their development, especially when it comes to making investments. Look at the reception the WEF Risk report got in the National Post, for example. Unlike the leadership in some other countries, Canada’s does not seem to believe in such adages as “the future is not predicted, it is achieved” or “the best way to predict the future is to invent it yourself”. Instead, they seem to me anyway to have a “portfolio” mentality, shopping around for the best rate of return they can get on others’ strategic designs. The big resource plays, for instance, are betting on Asian growth and US fears of Middle Eastern political trends, not necessarily on the best medium and long term strategy for natural resource exploitation.
    Also, the think tanks by nature are not really about futures, they are about crunching data around current policy choices as an alternative to “official” analyses by public servants who may be overly directed by political orientations which the think tanks were created to contest. As I think an examination of current federal departments will show, the strategic analysis units have been significantly downgraded or eliminated in almost all of them. Some still have forecasting units around technology–but the DMs are not really rated on their ability to deal with the future…their operating horizon is 90 days to six months. A year is long term for them. It might have changed a bit since the election , but Harper seems to be reading still from a 2008 playbook, slightly tweaked to acknowledge the recession whose arrival he originally denied. I share the author’s concern that Canada’s decision-making machinery has some serious blind spots about the future. But I think the country has decided it’s more comfortable that way.

  2. Min Reyes February 19, 2012 at 11:12 am · Reply

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this. Any chance we can repost this on 404 with links to this site? We will gladly add your contact/twitter handle in the post?

    Please let us know.

    In solidarity,

    Min

  3. Nick's Gleanings June 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm · Reply

    If he [Stephen Harper] was really as smart as he deems himself to be, he would have let the odd amendment slip through; for as Henry Kissinger said on Larry King Live two decades ago ‘a deal in which one side is totally happy & the other is totally unhappy is not good for either side’. And among the 159 groups of amendments there must have been at least a handful that the Prime Minister could have lived with if he wasn’t so full of himself. Nick’s Gleanings #466

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