Canada in 2014

Written by  //  December 30, 2014  //  Canada  //  Comments Off on Canada in 2014

Bill C-60: Tories Quietly Taking Control Of CBC, Group Alleges
The Harper government is quietly seizing greater control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, while a public advocacy group accuses the Tories of stacking the CBC’s board with political allies.
Bill C-60, the Tories’ budget implementation bill, includes a clause that allows the prime minister’s cabinet to approve salaries, working conditions and collective bargaining positions for the CBC, The Hill Times reports.
The move, buried at the back of the 111-page bill, “appears to contradict a longstanding arm’s-length relationship between the independent CBC and any government in power,” the newspaper said
The budget bill would also extend the same powers over the CBC to three other cultural and scientific agencies: the Canada Council for the Arts, the International Development Research Centre and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
4 December
Conservative reforms to gun-licensing laws widely panned
A quarter-century after the École Polytechnique massacre and in the aftermath of a shooting on Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are moving slowly ahead on a divisive proposed law that loosens certain gun-licensing rules – a bill that has angered advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate.
Bill C-42 was tabled in October, two weeks before the Ottawa shooting. This week, the bill prompted a heated exchange in Question Period over gun laws ahead of Saturday’s 25th anniversary of the Montreal shooting that left 14 women dead. The bill has also reopened political fault lines dating back to the battle over the scuttled long-gun registry, as the Liberals and NDP oppose C-42’s current wording.
The Canadian Wheat Board’s harvest of rumours
(Globe & Mail editorial) Three years ago, the Harper government took away the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly. That was the right move. The company was renamed CWB, and its board and management were told to compete in the free market, and make ready for privatization by 2017. Also the right move.
But recently, rumours have been flying that the government is not so much trying to sell [the] company, but more like planning on giving it away to an American competitor for free. These are only rumours, but the government isn’t doing enough to put the lie to them. Which only feeds the suspicions. And when your main order of business is re-election, suspicions and accusations of secrecy are things you probably want to avoid.
Since the end of the monopoly, CWB has allegedly been prospering. We say “allegedly” because no one other than insiders knows for sure. The last substantial annual report on the company’s website, one containing a comprehensive income statement and balance sheet, dates from 2011-12.
Given that CWB is a company owned by Canadians, a creature of Parliament with its board and management appointed by the government, this can’t be justified. It’s CWB, not CSIS. It’s a business that markets grains. As long as it’s a public company, make its financials public. That way, if and when it is sold, Canadians will be able to judge whether they got value for money. This shouldn’t be hard for the government to understand.
3 December
NDP would revive long-gun registry, with some changes, Mulcair says
“What kind of duck do you hunt with an assault weapon? A pterodactyl?”
28 November
Peter Scowen: Conrad Black’s unique take on the history of Canada
In critics’ eyes, Mr. Black’s sin has been to use the book to issue an unwarranted corrective to modern, inclusive ideas about native Canadian history. He is incredibly dismissive of indigenous peoples. His comment early in the book that “Indian society was not in itself worthy of integral conservation, nor was its dilution a suitable subject for great lamentation” could have been uttered in the 19th century by an idiot British colonel over a round of gin and tonic.
In fairness, Mr. Black is critical in his book of colonists’ hypocrisy regarding the treaties they signed and rarely upheld. And, sitting down over lunch in a Toronto hotel, he agrees that Canada’s treatment of native people has been atrocious, and is not getting much better. “This business of [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper’s building more prisons that basically they throw the natives into, it’s just insane. It’s an outrage.”
But Mr. Black’s decision to write a bulky, Eurocentric political history that focuses on explorers, monarchs, politicians and train barons at the expense of natives, and everyone else, is making his book a tricky sell in 2014. It feels like something from another era.
Aging ships may force Canadian Navy to borrow from allies
(CBC The Current) The engine-room fire that left the HMCS Protecteur aflame and adrift off the coast of Hawaii last February is emblematic of what critics say is a rudderless Naval Defence policy. Two aging supply ships are out of commission and critics say the Navy may be forced to borrow ships from our allies.
11 November
Rick Mercer Veterans Rant Targets Tory Cuts On Remembrance Day (VIDEO)
Mercer focuses on cuts to Veterans Affairs which will lead to the closure of nine offices and, consequently, more obstacles to access for those who have served Canada in uniform.
“So if you’re a World War II vet and you have a problem, what do you do? Well, you don’t go to an office and talk to a real person — those days are over,” Mercer says. “There’s a 1-800 number they can call, or — this is my favourite, bearing in mind the average age is 88 — there’s an app they can download to their smartphone which will allow them to navigate the Veterans Affairs website, a website that will send them to the nearest Service Canada office where, if they need to make burial arrangements, they have to take a number and stand in line behind some guy like me who’s waiting to get his passport renewed.”
“I’m sorry, if you fought on the beach in Dieppe and survived, you should not have to spend any portion of your final days on this Earth in a Service Canada office.”
29 October
Karl Nerenberg: Do police and spies need more power?
The government promises new police and spy powers are in the works
… the Conservatives seem bound and determined to bring in some set of new powers for CSIS, in intelligence, and the RCMP (and other police forces) in enforcement and investigation.
They took one step earlier this week, with new powers for CSIS, which had been in preparation long before last Wednesday’s episode. These new powers include the capacity to protect the identity of informants, and to do overseas as well as domestic spying. … Legal experts say they are comforted by the fact that the protection-of-informants provision would also allow accused persons to confront their accusers. …
It is urgent, in fact, that the silos between Senate security, House security and the RCMP be broken down. … such Hill security measures will not necessarily require new legislation.
As for the rest, however, it is a different story. The Conservatives have hinted that they are considering preventive detention and expanded powers to snoop on Canadians with a view to finding out their political views.
27 October
Tories’ Anti-Terror Bill C-44 Extends CSIS Source Protection, Judicial Warrant Powers
(Canadian Press) Long-promised anti-terrorism legislation introduced by the Conservatives would strengthen protection of intelligence sources, but it stops short of shielding an identity crucial to proving someone’s innocence. …
The government has clearly signalled more changes will be put forward in coming weeks — measures that could lower the threshold for detaining a suspected homegrown radical or even outlaw glorification of terrorism.
25 October
Ian Brodie: There is no reason to turn Parliament Hill into an armed fortress
Canadians should be able to enjoy the environs of the Hill freely. But they should also not have to worry about the security situation when they come to see where their elected representatives do their work.
(National Post) The Prime Minister should, using his powers under the Inquiries Act, name a commission with representatives from the major political parties to work with the existing authorities on urgent steps to improve security in the precinct and recommend, if they see fit, a unified structure for security in the future. The Board of Internal Economy and Committee on Internal Economy cannot move quickly enough on their own to improve the situation. Neither can the House Security Service and Senate Protective Service. A small group, with a singular focus and a short mandate, is required.
Tories hint at even tougher anti-terror laws
The Conservative government suggested Friday it will bring in even tougher anti-terror powers than previously planned, as opposition warning against a rush to legislative change.
(TorStar) Those powers would be on top of amendments already previewed to increase the leeway for CSIS to track Canadian targets through intelligence-sharing with foreign agencies, and to provide blanket anonymity for CSIS informants whose intelligence federal prosecutors want to use as evidence in court.
[Public Safety Minister Steven]  Blaney said he is focused on making sure “we get the information which is critical, the intelligence. There’s only one way to do make that very operational, it’s to protect our sources.”
Blaney said the first bill to amend the CSIS act and others — heavily promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others in recent weeks — will be tabled as soon as possible.
23 October
Jeremy Keehn: Stephen Harper and the Question of Canadian Security
(The New Yorker) With a federal election slated for November, 2015, political discussion in Canada has focussed on the Conservatives’ economic record and the corruption trial of a Conservative senator that is scheduled for the spring. Suddenly, security is at the fore. Given my fellow Canadians’ generally deserved reputation for level-headedness, and the fact that the Conservatives won their 2011 mandate with under forty per cent of the popular vote, this seems unlikely to lead to a rally beneath the party’s banner. The federal Liberals, decimated in the 2011 election under Michael Ignatieff, are now led by Pierre Trudeau’s son, Justin, which will, as 2015 approaches, inevitably place the father’s vision of the country in a certain relief. But in the short term, as questions are put to the government about the attacks and what Canada will become in response, it may be Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the social-democratic New Democratic Party, the country’s Official Opposition, who takes the lead role in arguing for an alternative.
Coyne: Politics rises to what it should be in wake of Ottawa attacks
There is a script people in politics are called upon to perform, in times of crisis or tragedy. In the script, our leaders put politics aside in a moment of unity. At such times, they declare, we are all Canadians first, partisans second. They praise each other, and vow to work together. They may even hug.
In their televised speeches on Wednesday night, and in Parliament the next day, all three major party leaders stuck to the script. “In our country,” said the prime minister, “we are opponents but never enemies. We are Canadians one and all.” For his part, the NDP leader, Tom Mulcair, pledged his “solidarity” with “our prime minister,” while the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, offered his “full support” to “the government.
What we have in mind, I think, when we say that they have put politics aside, or that we hope they will put politics aside, is politics as we have been taught to believe it must be: full of low blows and cheap shots, eternally shallow, perpetually shrill.
But that is not all that politics need consist of. It can also be about tact, and dignity, and understatement. This is politics, in the sense of being politic — the art of striking the right note at any given moment, of capturing the feelings of those watching and reflecting them back to them.
Canadian parliament locked down, soldier fatally wounded in Ottawa shooting
(Reuters) – A gunman shot and fatally wounded a soldier in Ottawa on Wednesday and then entered the country’s parliament buildings chased by police, with at least 30 shots fired in dramatic scenes in the heart of the Canadian capital. A suspected gunman was shot dead inside the parliament building, a government minister said.
(CBC) Parliament Hill attack: MPs, eyewitnesses describe shootings
(Globe & Mail) Attack on Ottawa: Soldier shot at War Memorial has died
2 October
John Geddes: Seen and heard at #Can2020
Key quotes from speakers
Replace bromides about education with clarity on education’s aims.
A panel discussion on “income security” largely turned into a panel discussion on “income inequality.” And when it comes to inequality, the most frequently touted solution is, of course, education. Who can argue with the idea of creating opportunity for upward mobility through better schooling?
But the panel’s moderator, Diana Carney, the London-based editor of Making Capitalism More Incisive pressed for something, well, more incisive. “The question I would have is what are we educating for?” Carney asked. “We have a world where technology is taking our jobs, we don’t really know what’s going on.”
On the Canadian situation in particular, Carney pointed to data that shows merely churning out post-secondary graduates isn’t good enough. “We do have one of the best-educated workforces in the world already,” she pointed out. “So what more can we really do in that area?”
Debate and shape policy for an older Canada with fewer workers.
… the most direct answers came in the afternoon [from] Employment Minister Jason Kenney … talked about the need to create a Canada where apprenticeships and vocational training are esteemed equally with university degrees.
2 September
Despite tough talk, Canadian Forces are badly under-funded
Is Russian president Vladimir Putin a bad, bad man? We think probably he is.
Do the butchers of the Islamic State, now running amok in Iraq and Syria, pose a clear and present danger to Western civilization? It seems so.
Therefore it’s good, we can agree, that this country’s prime minister and foreign minister, Stephen Harper and John Baird, can get their Winston Churchill on now and then. Harper and Baird’s denunciations of Putin’s reckless invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign country that had not fired so much as a rubber band towards Russia, have been refreshingly blunt.
Oh – except for our military, which, according to reporting by the Canadian Press’s Murray Brewster, is about to have another $2.7-billion lopped off its annual budget. Awkward. Postmedia’s Matthew Fisher reports that Ottawa is under pressure from North Atlantic Treaty Organization members to spend more, not less, as Harper heads to Wales for a NATO summit. Might someone at this confab publicly suggest that, when it comes to smiting evil, Canada is mostly bluster?
Canada Revenue Agency’s ‘political’ targeting of charities under scrutiny
(Globe & Mail) The Canada Revenue Agency says it pays no attention to pro-government or anti-government political leanings when it chooses which charities to audit for their political activities.
But information gathered by The Canadian Press shows at least half of the 10 political-activity audits slated for 2012-2013 were conducted on charities in one narrow category — environmental groups, all of whom oppose government energy policies.
This group of initial audits included Tides Canada Foundation, Tides Canada Initiatives Society, Ecology Action Centre, Equiterre, Environmental Defence Canada Inc., with the David Suzuki Foundation following early in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
30 July
Canada West Canada EastRetour discret des toiles de Pellan aux Affaires étrangères
Les œuvres du peintre québécois avaient été retirées du hall d’entrée au profit d’un portrait de la reine Elizabeth II
Alfred Pellan est de retour au ministère des Affaires étrangères. Les deux toiles du peintre québécois, qui avaient été écartées du hall d’entrée du ministère au profit d’un portrait de la reine Elizabeth II, sont de retour… timidement, sur un mur adjacent.
Canada West Canada EastLes deux tableaux avaient été remplacés à la veille de la visite du prince William et de sa femme Kate, à l’été 2011. Plutôt que les peintures colorées du peintre québécois, les diplomates et visiteurs du ministère sont désormais accueillis par une grande reproduction d’un portrait de la reine, juché au-dessus du comptoir de la réception — où se trouvaient les Pellan depuis l’inauguration de l’édifice par la reine en 1973. … À l’époque du changement de décor, il y a trois ans, des fonctionnaires avaient jonglé avec l’idée de vendre les deux toiles du célèbre artiste québécois, évaluées à 90 000 $ chacune par le ministère. Mais cette possibilité a rapidement été abandonnée lorsque la nouvelle de leur remplacement dans l’entrée de l’édifice d’Ottawa a fait les manchettes, selon ce qu’avait alors révélé La Presse canadienne. On avait alors songé à les afficher ailleurs dans le ministère, notamment dans le lobby.
27 July
Canada 50 dollar billFeminist disappears from public history under Harper government
(Globe & Mail) The Harper government has spent millions to commemorate the War of 1812 and other episodes from Canadian history, but has also erased at least one inspiring piece of the past.
Therese Casgrain, a feminist icon and Quebec heroine who died in 1981, has been quietly removed from a national honour, to be replaced by a volunteer award bearing the prime minister’s banner.
… An image of Casgrain and her namesake volunteer-award medal also disappeared from Canada’s $50 bank note in 2012, replaced by the image of an icebreaker on a new currency series.
An image of the so-called Famous Five women was removed from the same bank note. Thérèse Casgrain, feminist icon, quietly shunted by Harper government — Federal award named after feminist icon and heroine of Quebec women’s rights movement eliminated
Le prix Thérèse-Casgrain abandonné en catimini par le gouvernement Harper
25 July
Canada Revenue Agency says ‘preventing poverty’ not allowed as goal for charity
(CP via Global News) The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty – because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.
The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada’s charitable sector.
The lexical scuffle began when Oxfam Canada filed papers with Industry Canada to renew its non-profit status, as required by Oct. 17 this year under a law passed in 2011.
16 July
Coyne: Conservatives’ incoherence really shows with Charter of Rights discontent
Amid the generally incoherent state of conservatism in this country, the movement’s continuing inability to come to terms with the charter, three decades on, is perhaps the outstanding example. People who supposedly stand for limited government get surprisingly antsy, once in office, about having their own discretion circumscribed. That they profess to do so in the name of Parliament only compounds the incoherence. Who do they think passed the charter?
Until now the complaints have been confined for the most part to the usual nameless backbenchers: a thousand years of parliamentary tradition, judge-made law, what did we fight the war for, etc. But with the government’s losing streak at the Supreme Court in danger of hitting double digits, the discontent has begun to break into the open.
10 July
Conservative government steps up scrutiny of charities’ political activities
The Conservative government has stepped up its scrutiny of the political activities of charities, adding fresh money for more audits, and casting its net well beyond the environmental groups that have opposed its energy policies.
Canada Revenue Agency, ordered in 2012 to audit political activities as a special project, now has also targeted charities focused on foreign aid, human rights, and even poverty.
The tax agency has also been given a bigger budget – $5-million more through to 2017 – and is making the special project a permanent part of its work.
With 52 political-activity audits currently underway, some stretching out two years and longer, charities say they’ve been left in limbo, nervous about speaking out on any issue lest they provoke a negative ruling from the taxman.
And their legal bills are rising rapidly – in some cases adding $100,000 to already strained budgets – as they try to navigate often-complex demands from CRA auditors.
8 July
Michael Byers: The Harper Disarmament Plan
Having chopped Canadian military spending to a historic low, the Prime Minister may be in the running for a Peace Prize
(National Post) Despite his tough talk about supporting the troops, Stephen Harper has reduced defence spending to just 1% of GDP — the lowest level in Canadian history.
For decades, Canada’s level of defence spending was comparable to that of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway (all currently at 1.4%). After the Cold War ended, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin reduced defence spending to 1.2% of GDP — leading to what General Rick Hillier called a “decade of darkness.” The Afghanistan mission necessitated an increase, with spending returning to 1.4% by 2009.
But then Harper cut deep: At 1% of GDP, Canada’s new defence spending peers are Belgium, Latvia and Slovakia. Two factors account for the decrease. First, Harper is focused on delivering a surplus in 2015 that will enable him to cut taxes before the election. Deep spending reductions are therefore needed and, with no significant missions underway or anticipated, the military is an easy target. … Second, the Harper government has failed to complete a number of major defence procurement projects and, by so doing, kept them off the budget. For it is the year of spending, not the year of announcing or contracting, which determines when expenditures first show up on the balance sheet.

Government orders federal departments to keep tabs on all demonstrations across country
The federal government is expanding its surveillance of public activities to include all known demonstrations across the country, a move that collects information even on the most mundane of protests by Canadians.
The email requesting such information was sent out Tuesday by the Government Operations Centre in Ottawa to all federal departments.
“The Government Operations Centre is seeking your assistance in compiling a comprehensive listing of all known demonstrations which will occur either in your geographical area or that may touch on your mandate,” noted the email, leaked to the Citizen. “We will compile this information and make this information available to our partners unless of course, this information is not to be shared and not available on open sources. In the case of the latter, this information will only be used by the GOC for our Situational Awareness.” 4 June 2014

Heading into 2014 A black mood
The annual Nanos-IRPP tracking shows that, for the first time since Stephen Harper came to power, a majority of Canadians are unhappy with his government’s performance – and are worried about the country’s direction.
(IRPP Policy Options) The political mood of Canadians took a sharp, dark turn over the last year, according to tracking by Nanos Research and the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Canadians are becoming significantly more critical of the Conservative government’s performance, with a majority saying, for the first time since Stephen Harper took office, that the country is moving in the wrong direction. … The Prairie region was most critical of the federal government’s performance, which suggests that the Senate scandal may have damaged the Conservative government’s relations with its political base. Only 29 percent of Prairie respondents marked the government’s performance as “very good” or “somewhat good” – barely more than the percentage of Quebecers (27.6) who did so. (31 December 2013)

As usual, I don’t agree with much of his analysis, but this long, thoughtful piece by our friend David T. Jones for the Foreign Policy Research Institute is well worth reading and debating.
Canadian Summer 2014: Federal Picture Cloudy, Provinces Clear
In summer 2013, there was considerable confusion regarding political prospects for the federal government and the Quebec and Ontario provincial governments. The federal government was beset by scandal, notably fiscal irregularities among Tory senate appointees. There even were questions regarding Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s continuation in office. Both Quebec and Ontario had minority governments making it only a “matter of time” until official opposition (or the governments themselves) pulled the plug and forced elections.
Now the political situation is considerably clearer. Having patched some of the holes in its ship of state, the Tory government appears to have righted itself, albeit still rather battered. Quebec’s separatist Parti Quebecois was comprehensively defeated, and the Ontario Liberals won a defining majority government.
Separately, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) remain in limbo: major procurement and/or operational questions remain for all three major services, and now ballistic missile defense is emerging from purgatory.
Finally, U.S.-Canadian bilateral issues are fraught. The word is “Keystone”—earlier an issue “a cloud the size of a man’s hand” has now generated heavily clouded skies. For American officials, it is analogous to a scratch on a well-performing, attractive vehicle. Canadians do not agree; they repeatedly express puzzlement over decision delay and why “a pipeline” should be generating such angst. (June 2014)

In response to David’s article, Guy Stanley offers: No doubt aboot it: Canada is better than America in at least seven ways
Canada serves two predominant roles in modern American discourse. It is the place where Americans threaten to move when things aren’t going well at home (this is, perhaps surprisingly, true of both liberals and conservatives in America). It is also the butt of endless jokes, generally involving Canada being America’s hat or Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor or Robin Sparkles.
How great, exactly, is Canada?
Today is Canada Day, when our northern neighbors celebrate their country’s birth in 1867. And its a good as time as any to thoroughly explore the question: How great, exactly, is Canada? Should we be pining to move there, or mock it viciously?

Half Of Canadians Unhappy With Federal, Provincial Governments: Poll
People from coast to coast are celebrating Canada Day today but, according to a newly released poll, half of them find little reason to toast their federal and provincial governments.
The survey, conducted by Angus Reid Global in mid-May and interviewing some 1,500 Canadians online, found that just 49 per cent of Canadians said they held a favourable view of their federal or provincial governments.
Canadians feel this country excels at many things, including quality of life and the safety of our cities. But just 35 per cent thought that Canada’s quality of government ranked as either world class or above average.
This dim view of the institutions that govern us did not extend as strongly to local and municipal governments. Two-thirds of Canadians said they had a favourable view of these institutions, rising to 78 per cent in Quebec.
26 June
Ontario’s new lieutenant-governor well grounded in science, environment
(Montreal Gazette) Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a longtime public official specializing in scientific issues, is Ontario’s new lieutenant-governor, succeeding the long-serving David Onley.
The Governor General officially makes the appointment on the prime minister’s advice. Onley will continue in the job until Dowdeswell is formally installed in a ceremony that hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Dowdeswell is a former undersecretary-general of the United Nations and before that the head of its environment program. She’s also a former assistant deputy minister of Environment Canada and the first president of the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization, charged with figuring out what to do with the radioactive detritus from nuclear reactors. Her most recent job has been leading the Council of Canadian Academies, a think tank specializing in scientific work that supports important public-policy decisions.
Aislin on CBCCBC to cut newscasts, more jobs; broadcaster will also reduce newsroom space
The CBC is slashing some 20 per cent of its workforce over the next five years, while cutting back evening newscasts and in-house production and raising the possibility of selling its flagship headquarters in Toronto.
During a heated town hall with employees Thursday, the broadcaster announced its five-year strategic plan. President Hubert Lacroix unveiled sweeping changes designed to shift the CBC’s priorities from radio and television to digital and mobile services. …
The CBC is aiming to double its digital audience so that 18 million Canadians — or roughly half of the country — use its online or mobile services each month by 2020.
“As the media universe becomes more crowded, Canadians need a space they can call their own. We will be at the heart of that space,” Lacroix said. He said the broadcaster will not close any stations across the country, but 90-minute evening television newscasts will be cut to 30 or 60 minutes.
Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay: An open letter to Leah McLaren
(Globe & Mail) I would like to assure you that I also would have been outraged if my husband had actually stated what he is accused of saying in media headlines about women judges. Peter informed me (and the public in an open letter available on his Facebook page) that he said no such thing. He told me that he actually called on the Ontario bar to do more to promote women and to encourage them to apply to become judges. A correct statement, supported before and since by female judges he has spoken to.  An open letter to Peter MacKay’s wife
20 June
Peter MacKay: He’s the Minister of Wrong Again
At this point, I’m impressed with the sheer breadth and scope of Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s ineptitude. These days he’s wrong about so many things and manages to communicate this wrongness in so many mediums, I’m in awe.
John Moore: Tales of Canada’s turn to conservatism have been greatly exaggerated
(National Post) … a new survey about Canadian attitudes screams of the kind of dreamy Seventies leftism that gives even some liberals the shudders. Whom do Canadians most admire? Pierre Trudeau tops the list. The rest of the top 10 include tree hugger David Suzuki and noted communist Tommy Douglas (who, it should be noted, balanced more budgets than Stephen Harper can ever dream of).
Asked what accomplishment brings a trill to their spine, respondents cited universal health care, peacekeeping, and the Charter of Rights. That’s right: The thing that Canadians prize above all else is a billing method for health care services. The second thing they are most proud of is soldiers in blue hats who try to avoid firing their weapons.
This is not movement to the right. Indeed, if anything, Canada is moving in the opposite direction of much of the world.
15 June
Céline Cooper: Let’s commiserate with Ontario
(Montreal Gazette) Ontario and Quebec have a lot in common these days. We should be paying attention. Canada’s two most-populous provinces — both debt- and deficit-ridden, and both reeling from political scandal — could find themselves in some very similar circumstances in the coming years.
It may be time to get reacquainted.
14 June
Eric Grenier: Kathleen Wynne’s Victory Could Significantly Impact Trudeau, Harper
(HuffPost0 Progressive Conservatives took just 31 per cent of the vote, their lowest share in decades. The party lost ground in every region of the province, but most worryingly for federal Conservatives is that Hudak’s troops took a big hit in the 905 area code, dropping four points to just 32 per cent. That put them nine points behind Wynne’s Liberals.
Worse, Hudak did not lose votes to a centrist Liberal Party that might overlap with the federal Conservatives, but rather one that had moved sharply to the left. Ontarians preferred this move to the one taken to the right by the PCs, which will leave little wiggle room for Stephen Harper‘s party as Trudeau Liberals provide a more appetizing centrist option than Ignatieff did in 2011.
6 June
Coyne: Federal government suffering from too much power vested in one man
(… In the past week we’ve also learned that the government is monitoring “all known demonstrations” in the country, with all departments directed to send reports to a central registry; that the information commissioner has reported a one-third increase in complaints the government is blocking or delaying access to information requests; that a Liberal MP was secretly taped, allegedly by an intern in the Minister of Justice’s office, making embarrassing remarks about his leader.Several themes run throughout these: a contempt for civil liberties, for due process, for established convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage. Worse, there is virtually nothing anyone can do about it.
Several themes run throughout these: a contempt for civil liberties, for due process, for established convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage. Worse, there is virtually nothing anyone can do about it. …: because we have so centralized power in the Prime Minister’s Office, with so few constraints or countervailing powers.
Where this has lately come to a head is in the appointments process. … what we’ve been seeing lately is a series of puzzling, troublesome and downright incompetent appointments: the parade of senators now in various stages of trouble with the law; the ill-starred promotion of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court (his successor, Clement Gascon, was better received, but without even the pretense of parliamentary scrutiny that attended Nadon); the conversion of what had been an arm’s-length process for choosing the Bank of Canada governor into the personal pick of the Finance minister; the selection of Arthur Porter — Arthur Porter — to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The Therrien appointment seems almost benign in comparison.
29 May
CBC’s popular The Sunday Edition to be cut down to two hours
(Globe & Mail) For many Canadians, it is a Sunday morning ritual: Michael Enright’s opening essay, followed by a long-form interview or panel discussion, a documentary, some music, and all kinds of radio gold over three hours. Mr. Enright once received a letter from a Saskatchewan minister saying he was planning to move his nine a.m. service into the parking lot because his congregation was in their cars listening to the radio.
But come September, the final hour of CBC Radio One’s The Sunday Edition will be replaced by a current affairs program from Western Canada.The move – which will be announced at a CBC event on Thursday – was not motivated by budget cuts, according to CBC’s executive director, radio and audio, but an opportunity to try something new. the public broadcaster, looking to introduce new programs and personalities, felt the time slot was a good fit for The 180 – a show it has been developing with the popular former host of the CBC Calgary morning show, Jim Brown. The show is produced from Calgary and Vancouver. What CBC’s 12 new TV shows say about the public broadcaster’s future
Harper shift on Supreme Court nomination process less than ideal
(Globe & Mail editorial) The good news: That vacancy on the Supreme Court could finally be filled. The caveat: The process the Harper government has cooked up to accomplish that objective, asking the government of Quebec to submit a list of candidates from which it will select a new judge, sets a less than ideal precedent.
Should Ottawa consult with experts and stakeholders, including the provincial government? Of course. But choosing a new judge from a list created by Quebec City is an idea ripped straight from the rejected Charlottetown and Meech Lake accords.
The provincial Justice Minister was proudly telling the National Assembly that they had established a precedent, charting “the course for things to come.” Federal sources, however, were saying the opposite, and insisting that giving this kind of power to a provincial government was just a one-off, and not to be repeated. We need some clarity, please.
Roméo Dallaire resigns from Senate
Twenty years after he bore witnesses to one of the worst genocides of modern times, Roméo Dallaire is still consumed by the atrocities of war and how to prevent them.
It is for that reason, the former Canadian lieutenant-general said Wednesday, he is resigning as a senator.
“The international dimension of my work has shifted my sense of duties from the Senate here, and the nation, to the international sphere,” Mr. Dallaire told reporters the day after handing his resignation to the Governor-General. Text of speech in Senate
23 May
Very thorough report on the story
The secret short list that provoked the rift between Chief Justice and PMO
(Globe & Mail) Early last summer, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin sat down with five federal politicians at the stately court building on Wellington Street, just down the road from Parliament.
The Supreme Court selection panel – three Conservative MPs, a New Democrat MP and a Liberal MP – had come bearing a list of six candidates to replace Justice Morris Fish of Quebec.
That list, crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Department, was so troubling to Chief Justice McLachlin that she phoned Justice Minister Peter MacKay and took initial steps toward contacting the Prime Minister. These attempts to raise potential eligibility issues would later trigger an unprecedented public dispute between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, a coda to the ultimately failed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon.
21 May
Citizenship Act will create two classes of Canadians
By Michael Adams, president of the Environics Institute; Audrey Macklin, professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto; Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation.
The federal government argues that its proposed new Citizenship Act will “protect the value of citizenship.” We are concerned that it may have the opposite effect: making Canadian citizenship harder to get and easier to lose, and creating second-class citizens along the way.
The government is introducing stricter residency requirements, increasing the required period of permanent residency to four years from three. At first glance, this may not seem like a major change. But this is in addition to processing delays that stretch from one to three years.
16 May
Cultural Studies: The Stursbergians vs. The Gzowskiteers — Why it’s time for the nerds to stand up for their CBC
One side is the CBC of bespectacled young producers who subscribe to podcasts like 99% Invisible and Radiolab, who study the craft of radio like it’s Talmud, who learn to write code on weekends and who dream of someday telling a story as well as Ira Glass. The other is the CBC of transplanted Muchmusic VJs and washed-up alternative rockers from the ’90s, wooed into the building years ago by middle-aged executives who thought they were cool.
One is the CBC of brainy poli-sci and English lit grads who chose poorly, who could have been raking it in as lawyers, but who wanted to make documentaries and annoy politicians instead. The other is the CBC of hungry j-school grads, trained to dutifully rip headlines from newspapers and package them into five-minute cable news segments, over and over again.
28 April
Jim Prentice to run for Alberta PC leadership
Former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice will run for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, CBC News has learned.
He has begun putting together a campaign and finance team to make the run.
Prentice left federal politics three and a half years ago after holding several key portfolios in the government of Stephen Harper, including environment and aboriginal affairs.
Since then he’s been vice-chairman of CIBC and, more recently, took on the role of helping Enbridge work with First Nations opposed to the company’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia.
Prentice is seen as a so-called Red Tory, but he retains strong connections and a solid working relationship with both the Harper government and Alberta PCs.
23 April
CBC trims budget of Quebec investigative program
The CBC is cutting the budget of its flagship investigative program that lifted the lid five years ago on the widespread swindling of public funds in Quebec’s construction industry.
The weekly French-language television show Enquête (Investigation) has been celebrated for a stream of revelations about alleged corruption and fraud involving bureaucrats, politicians, union officials and industry bosses. … The cuts will affect the annual output at Enquête, a show that calls on its reporters to spend months cultivating sources and developing subjects – and fighting lawsuits that sometimes come after their scoops.
20 April
Pauline Marois is gone. Is Stephen Harper next, given the similarities? Siddiqui
Parallels between former Quebec premier Pauline Marois and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are inescapable.
(Toronto Star) In calling the Quebec election for April 7, Marois broke her own fixed election date legislation. In calling the 2008 election, Harper ignored his own 2007 law setting fixed election dates every four years.
Both use phony wedge issues to consolidate their base and polarize the public. Neither cares for the long-term consequences of deeply dividing society. Her charter of Quebec values dealt with a crisis that did not exist. He spent billions on “tough-on-crime” initiatives when crime has been going down. And the list goes on
14 April
CBC: Life support or the killing floor?
( … A former BBC executive named Mark Damazer … spoke in an unapologetic, forthright tone, describing public broadcasting as “an ideology, an act of political will.” It must be dedicated, he said, to “making all the good programs popular and all the popular programs good.” Then Damazer threw down the gauntlet: we must believe in it and invest in it or simply kill it.
“Keeping a kernel of public service broadcasting, but depriving it of weight and energy by endlessly hacking away at its funding … is in some senses worse than abolishing it,” he said, “because it allows politicians and you, the public, and an entire society to believe in the illusion of a civic space without actually having the substance of one.”
10 April

Jim Flaherty’s life and legacy: 1949-2014

(CBC) … Flaherty won wide recognition for steering Canada through the 2008 financial crisis and global recession and buoying Canada’s economic reputation. In conjunction with the Bank of Canada, he slashed interest rates in a bid to spur businesses and households to borrow money and spend.
He also introduced tax-free savings accounts in 2008 to allow people to earn tax-free investment income, and tightened mortgage lending rules several times to slow the apparent runaway growth of mortgage debt. (HuffPost) Jim Flaherty Obituary: 11 Ways He Changed Canada
Jim Flaherty’s values were forged by blue-collar roots, a big Irish family and heartbreaking adversity
Yet in the end, Canada’s flinty, wise-cracking former finance minister – who had little aptitude in high school for calculus or chemistry – was honoured in a way that few other Canadian politicians ever will be. After he resigned as finance minister in March, his face was on Manhattan’s NASDAQ billboard, looming omnisciently over Times Square.
A bootstraps philosopher credited with restoring a balanced budget and helping to raise Canada’s image as a sterling example of fiscal stewardship during a crisis, Mr. Flaherty also wasn’t above telling others to put their own houses in order – whether it was dressing down European countries or even his own province – for their fiscal profligacy.
Jim Flaherty: a tough-talking politician with a heart
(Globe & Mail) Jim Flaherty changed fiscal conservatism in Canada by delivering one of the largest deficits in modern history. When he quit as finance minister after eight years, he left the country on the road to balance.
That tough decision, taken during the Great Recession of 2008, symbolizes how Mr. Flaherty will be remembered – as a smart, fiscal conservative who proved to be a flexible finance minister during hard economic times.
Mr. Flaherty – remembered by friends and colleagues as a tough-talking politician with a heart, someone who never took himself too seriously – died of a heart attack Thursday. His death was a blow to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was a close friend and ally, as well as the entire Conservative Party. Mr. Flaherty’s legacy, as a conservative on fiscal policy but also as a politician who believed government had a role in helping individuals, drew praise from across the spectrum – from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow.
Bullous pemphigoid: how it affects the body
Late former finance minister Jim Flaherty suffered from rare skin disease
9 April
Canada Revenue Agency shuts online service to guard against Heartbleed bug
The Heartbleed security bug has forced Canada’s tax agency to block public access to its online services just three weeks ahead of the April 30 deadline for filing personal income tax.
27 March
After Heenan Blaikie, is it all over for Big Law?
Big Law—the law firms with hundreds of partners that service corporate Canada—is not feeling so big at the moment.
(Globe & Mail) It’s not just that the seventh-largest firm in the country, the 500-lawyers-plus Heenan Blaikie, suddenly imploded in February. Many other firms are quietly shedding staff. McCarthy Tétrault, one of the pillars of Bay Street law, is down from a pre-2008 high of nearly 700 lawyers to 560. Some top-tier firms are finding less expensive offices, or sloughing off a floor or two.
12 March
Another Canadian law firm will follow Heenan Blaikie to collapse in 2014, Deloitte report said to predict
(Financial Post) A Canadian managing partner of a large law firm has told Legal Post that a Deloitte Canada study indicates that at least one more mid-to-large Canadian law firm will be wound up in the next 12 months, following the recent demise of Heenan Blaikie, a venerable national law firm.
Legal Post has also received unconfirmed reports from other sources that the study identifies the law firm most likely to fail as a Toronto-based national law firm
5 February
Tories move to cut short debate on new elections act
( The governing Conservatives moved Wednesday to cut short debate on a new election bill that critics say helps the Tories and weakens oversight by Elections Canada.
House Leader Peter Van Loan gave notice Wednesday afternoon, a day after the 242-page bill was tabled, that the government will vote to send the bill to committee on Thursday, a move that seemed to signal the government plans to push the bill through the legislative process without changes. … While the bill has received endorsement from some observers, such as former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, opposition parties are expected to challenge provisions that could weaken Elections Canada’s enforcement clout or give the Conservatives any ballot-box advantage.
From Steven Shrybman (partner at Sack Goldblatt Mitchell and represents the Council of Canadians) writing in the Ottawa Citizen:

As for the risk that perpetrators of voter fraud will be prosecuted by the Commissioner of Elections, the increased penalties in Bill C-23 have to be weighed against the risk of getting caught.
To be sure, the Commissioner’s current record on that score is far from exemplary. Of the 200 ridings in which voter fraud is reported to have occurred during the May 2011 election, charges have been laid in respect of only one riding. But the likelihood of prosecution is further reduced under Bill C-23, which provides that the Commissioner of Elections is no longer to be appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, who is accountable to Parliament and not to the particular government in power. Instead, the Commissioner will be appointed by a public servant and report to the Attorney General.
Moreover, to ensure that no-one learns of any such investigation, the bill precludes the commissioner from revealing that any investigation is underway without the consent of all involved, including the person or political party under investigation.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, nothing in the bill would hold a political party to account for the unauthorized use of its database by those who have access to it. That is precisely what the “Pierre Poutines” (yes, likely more than one) did in 2011. Until such accountability is established, voter fraud will likely remain a feature of the Canadian electoral process.

4 February
Andrew Cohen: Canada’s Israel conversation
(Ottawa Citizen) Today the most vociferous attacks upon Jews come from other Jews. Amid the rain of taunts, insults and laments, here is something new: Jew-upon-Jew. Perhaps this is progress.
We cannot have an adult conversation in Canada about Israel without disparaging or discrediting each other. In the United States, Peter Beinart, an observant Jew and a Zionist, writes critically of Israel with a large, respectful following. In Canada, a Jewish group allegedly banned him from speaking.
3 February
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino Blames Union Amid Controversy
Embattled Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is blaming the union that represents federal government workers for much of the current friction between Canada’s ex-soldiers and the Harper Conservatives. And, just days after apologizing for arriving more than an hour late for a meeting with vets protesting the closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices, Fantino insists he has done nothing wrong.
29 January
Christie Blatchford: An unstoppable bully finally meets an immovable target
It’s an immensely sensitive issue for the government, of course, because veterans and the military are so central to the Conservative brand, and because the government is so bent on portraying itself as the soldiers’ friend. Cutting local offices that deal solely with veterans, aged and young, in favour of big, general-purpose Service Canada, however the economies of scale may play out, doesn’t square well with that pretty picture.
(Neither, of course, does the Service Canada website, which, in the “Forms Catalogue” it proudly has on offer, hasn’t one veterans-related form, though plenty for employment insurance, foreign-worker programs, income security and, of course, “Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children.”)
Veterans furious after minister wouldn’t hear plea to reopen local offices
Two of the seven men called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino after they arrived Tuesday for a scheduled meeting only to be told that he had been called away on business.
24 January
Canadian Citizenship Rules Face Broad Reform In 2014
(CBC via HuffPost) The federal government will introduce several changes to Canada’s citizenship rules after members of Parliament return to Ottawa next Monday following a six-week hiatus, says Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
21 January
John Ivison: Harper’s Israel trip is a political pilgrimage coupled with brazen political ambition
… The trip appears to have had a profound impact upon him. And if it has the happy corollary of making some of his MPs more electable, he will consider it worth the howls of protest from his political opponents.
18 January

Kevin Page: Before we can fix our economy, we must fix government
Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page says we must repair our institutions before we can fix the economy.
The time has come to launch a royal commission on the state of our institutions. We are now confronted by problems we can no longer ignore, and we cannot think up solutions without the facts.
As we set out into 2014, we are confronted with a host of complex economic problems we can no longer ignore. And yet, in the face of larger societal challenges the solutions may be especially difficult to see. Debate and vision are suffering in our nation’s capital. Trust has been eroded. Secrecy and control have become the new normal, at least for now. As other commentators have written, we face the death of evidence: the facts we need to solve our problems are too often ignored or actively obscured.

15 January
Lawrence Martin: Non-Conservatives need not apply
(iPolitics) We learn now that a Conservative MP has brought forward, with the blessing of the Prime Minister’s Office, a bill that would require parliamentary watchdogs and all their employees to disclose previous political activities.
The period of disclosure would cover the decade previous to their appointments. The legislation would be retroactive — meaning all current employees would effectively have to submit to political background checks.
Call it the Loyalty Act. According to the bill brought forward by MP Mark Adler of the York Centre riding, if the disclosures turn up suspicious past political activities, MPs or senators could then demand an investigation of the offender or offenders.
9 January
Ottawa hires ad firm for $22 million oilsands campaign
The Canadian arm of FleishmanHillard has been tapped to develop a $22 million ad campaign promoting the oilsands abroad.
The federal government has tapped an international public relations firm to roll out a $22 million advertising campaign promoting the oilsands and Canada’s natural resource sector across the world.The Canadian arm of FleishmanHillard has been awarded a $1.695 million contract to oversee the first phase of the ad blitz, expected to be deployed in United States, Europe, and Asia this year.Should the firm’s contract be extended into 2015, the work could be worth as much as $4 million, with the remaining $18 million budgeted for media buys.
The PR firm, which has previously done strategic communications work and public opinion research for at least two other federal departments, boasts a number of offices in all three targeted markets.
Opposition leader wants return of government inspection of railways
The Canadian government should return to inspecting the safety of railways in Canada, and not leave it to railway companies, Official Opposition NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said on Thursday (January 9) two days after another train derailment in Canada.
The Official Opposition leader told a press conference that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have let companies self-inspect their equipment and railway lines.
Mulcair was particularly harsh with the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling the government inaction ideologically motivated.
His comments come two days after a freight train derailment in the province of New Brunswick, that is still burning, and months after the July derailment of another freight train that smashed into the city of Lac-Megantic in the neighbouring province of Quebec, killing 47 people.
3 January
Paul Wells: Stephen Harper won’t stop believing
To be competitive in a 2015 election, however, Harper needs to improve his standing over the course of 2014. It’s not clear how he’ll do that. The most common techniques for getting voters to take a second look at a government are well known, and Harper tried every one of them in 2013. He shuffled his cabinet. He prorogued Parliament and came back with an unusually long and detailed Speech from the Throne. He delivered a rousing speech at a party convention. He concluded a historic trade deal with the European Union. He attended big funerals in both partisan mode (scrumming after Margaret Thatcher’s funeral to denounce Justin Trudeau’s remarks on the Boston terror bombings) and non-partisan (inviting Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell and Jean Chrétien onto his plane to attend Nelson Mandela’s memorial service). He held two Manitoba Conservative seats against strong Liberal by-election challenges. He ran radio ads against Justin Trudeau for almost a year.
A year ago, guessing how 2013 would play out for Harper, I noted that it was his second full year as a majority Prime Minister. “Whatever kind of Prime Minister he ever wanted to be,” I wrote, “this will be the kind of year he gets to be that Prime Minister.” But of course, governments alone don’t decide the course of history. History gets a say in the course of governments. In 2014, Harper has one more full year to turn his luck around. He cannot have expected he’d need it.
2 January
Jim Coutts, key adviser to Pearson and Trudeau, dies of cancer
Jim Coutts, an accomplished political tactician who was a key adviser to two former Liberal prime ministers, has died after a long battle with cancer.
Mr. Coutts, 75, was a secretary to Lester B. Pearson for two years and principal secretary to Pierre Trudeau for six.
Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board: $17 Billion Lawsuit Against Feds Will Move Ahead
The group Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board says it is moving ahead with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the federal government despite a court ruling in the fall.
The lawsuit is over legislation that removed the wheat board’s marketing monopoly on western wheat and barley sales.

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