Friday, April 22, 2011

Stehphen Harper's Hit List: Who's Next?

Here is a list of government and non-profit organizations whose funding Harperites have cut or ended. Dateline: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Dennis Gruending

The Conservative government or the Harper government as it insists upon being called has either fallen or engineered its own defeat and the election is upon us. This is perhaps a good time to take stock of whom the Harperites have spent their time attacking in the past several years. (They have also lavished favour on their own, appointing them to be judges, to the Immigration Review Board, the CRTC or other federal agencies).

The Harper government has terminated the jobs of a dozen high-profile critics in vital public interest positions.

The list of organizations that have been shut down and cut back, and the individuals bullied, is a long one. We can expect it to grow if, as seems likely, Harper is re-elected. I have written extensively about some of these actions, including the government's attack on the ecumenical group KAIROS and the shameful treatment of the Rights and Democracy organization, but I cannot claim that my list is comprehensive.

Here, then, is an unofficial list of organizations whose funding has been cut or ended by the Harper government, including government agencies that supported civil society groups. The following list was compiled primarily by Judith Szabo and by Pearl Eliadis for 'Voices', a coalition of organizations and individuals which describes itself as "united in defence of democracy, free speech and transparency in Canada.

Organizations and watchdogs whose staff have been fired, forced out, publicly maligned, or who have resigned in protest:

1. Canada Firearms Program (Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, Director General)

2. Canadian Wheat Board (Adran Measner, President and CEO)

3. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (Linda Keen, chair)

4. Foreign Affairs (Richard Colvin, diplomat)

5. Military Police Complaints Commission (head, Peter Tinsley)

6. Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces (Yves Coté)

7. Parliamentary Budget Officer (Kevin Page) (funding cut)

8. RCMP Police Complaints Commission (Paul Kennedy, chair)

9. Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development Rémy Beauregard, President)

10. Statistics Canada (Munir Sheikh, Deputy Minister)

11. Veterans Ombudsman (Col. Pat Stogran)

12. Victims of Crime, Ombudsman (Steve Sullivan)

Community organizations, NGOs and research bodies reported to have been cut or defunded

1. Action travail des femmes

2. Afghan Association of Ontario, Canada Toronto

3. Alberta Network of Immigrant Women

4. Alternatives (Quebec)

5. Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale (A F E AS)

6. Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre

7. Brampton Neighbourhood Services (Ontario)

8. Canadian Arab Federation

9. Canadian Child Care Federation

10. Canadian Council for International Cooperation

11. Canadian Council on Learning

12. Canadian Council on Social Development

13. Canadian Heritage Centre for Research and Information on Canada

14. Canadian International Development Agency, Office of Democratic Governance

15. Canadian Labour Business Centre

16. Canada Policy Research Networks

17. Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women

18. Canada School of Public Service

19. Canadian Teachers' Federation International program

20. Canadian Volunteerism Initiative

21. Centre de documentation sur l'éducation des adultes et la condition feminine

22. Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)

23. Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples (Toronto)

24. Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada

25. Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Specialink

26. Climate Action Network

27. Community Access Program, internet access for communities at libraries, post offices, community centres

28. Community Action Resource Centre (CARC)

29. Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)

30. Court Challenges Program (except language rights cases and legacy cases)

31. Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in Dec/2010).

32. Democracy Council

33. Department of Foreign Affairs, Democracy Unit

34. Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in Dec/2010).

35. Environment: Youth International Internship Program

36. Eritrean Canadian Community Centre of Toronto (Funding cut by CIC in Dec/2010)

37. Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy(FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia

38. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society

39. First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program

40. Forum of Federations

41. Global Environmental Monitoring System

42. HRD Adult Learning and Literacy programs

43. HRD Youth Employment Programs

44. Hamilton's Settlement and Integration Services Organization (Ontario)

45. Immigrant settlement programs

46. Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services (Peel)

47. International Planned Parenthood Federation

48. Kairos

49. Law Reform Commission of Canada

50. Mada Al-Carmel Arab Centre

51. Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency has received only a promise of " conditional " funding if it avoids any and all connection with abortion.

52. MATCH International

53. National association of Women and the Law (NAWL)

54. Native Women's Association of Canada

55. New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity

56. Northwood Neighbourhood Services (Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).

57. Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)

58. Ontario Association of Transitional Housing (OAITH)

59. Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care

60. PrideToronto

61. Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec

62. Riverdale Women's Centre in Toronto

63. Sierra Club of BC

64. Sisters in Spirit

65. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

66. South Asian Women's Centre

67. Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude " gender equality and political justice " and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying)

68. Tropicana Community Services

69. Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)

70. Women's Innovative Justice Initiative, Nova Scotia

71. Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program

72. York-Weston Community Services Centre Toronto

1 "Defunding" is the term used by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. In many instances, it is about turning down grant applications rather than cutting off funding midstream, but for organizations who rely on renewed program funding to support their work, and have done so for many years, it amounts to the same thing.

2 Citizenship and Immigration Canada cut or significantly reduced their principal funding approximately $471,000. Source: The Globe and Mail.

3 Cut in the last few years by federal government because of alleged mismanagement: Source

4 The Office of Democratic Governance, which channeled much of Canada's democracy funding, has been disbanded by CIDA.

5 A forum for discussion and collaboration among Canadian democracy promotion agencies. It has reportedly disappeared despite stated earlier commitments and interest from both government and NGOs to see it continue and even expand.

6 Folded into the Francophonie and Commonwealth division.

7 Cut in the last few years by federal government because of alleged mismanagement: Source

8 Cut in the last few years by federal government because of alleged mismanagement: Source

9 Including Anglican Church of Canada, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Canadian Religious Conference, and the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund.
10 The Centre has lost $571,000 all of its federal funding which represents nearly 70 percent of its overall budget. Source: The Globe and Mail.

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author and former Member of Parliament. He is also a former director of information for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. His books include the biography, Emmett Hall: Establishment Radical and his latest book is Truth to Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk, recently released by Kingsley Publishing Services of Calgary.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Choice by Senator Tommy Banks

There is only one thing about the outcome of the May 2nd election on which Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Harper agree. It is that one of them will be the Prime Minister of Canada. Mr. Layton, Mr. Duceppe and Ms. May are not in the running to form a government. They can’t. It will be either Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Harper.

That is the choice, and it is a very clear – in fact, stark choice. We will choose between openness or secrecy. Between listening or refusing to listen. Between someone who respects Parliament or someone who disdains it. Between things we can and will do now or things that, (provided of course that everything goes well), we might do in five or six years. Between someone who answers all questions from Canadians, or someone who won’t accept any.

Between Mr. Harper who said “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act”, or Mr. Ignatieff who said “ . . . we don’t want user fees. We want universal, accessible, free-at-the-point-of-service health care, paid out of general revenue. That’s just bottom line. Otherwise we get two-tiered”.

Between buying jets or helping vets. Between real early childhood learning and care or Saturday-night babysitting. Between respect for our great institutions or contempt for them. Between helping families or helping big corporations.

Between the Canada that we think we have, or the way in which Mr. Harper has already changed it.

Over the past few years Mr. Harper’s government has quietly engineered so many changes that there are some ways in which our country is barely recognizable. Many of us don’t yet realize the extent of those changes, because many of them have been brought about very carefully and gradually – almost imperceptibly in some cases.

This is diabolically clever. If these things had all been done at once, there would have been loud protests and reactions. But moving just one little brick at a time doesn’t cause much fuss – until you realize that the whole house has been renovated. And we’ve hardly noticed.

These are changes that are at the very heart of who and what Canadians are. They are changes to the protections that used to exist against the tyranny of the majority – or against a single-minded my-way-or-the-highway autocrat. These changes are losses to our very Canadian-ness. Let me remind you of some of them:

The Law Commission of Canada was created by an Act of Parliament in 1997. It worked very well. It kept an eye in a sort-of avuncular way, on necessary reforms of the law, including election law. The Commission couldn’t actually change law; but it was very good at letting governments and everybody else know when changes needed to be made and why. It was our legal Jiminy Cricket, and it performed a valuable service for Canada. The Commission was created by an Act of Parliament, and any government wanting to shut it down should have been up-front about it. It should have come to Parliament with a Bill to rescind The Law Commission of Canada Act. That’s what any of our 21 previous Prime Ministers would have done.

But to Mr. Harper, Parliament is an inconvenience. Somebody might ask “Why are you doing this?” But he didn’t want to go through all that Parliamentary trouble; so, rather than proposing the abolition of the Commission (a proposal about which there would have been pretty fierce debate on all sides), they just eliminated all funding for it in the federal budget. Governments can do that. Poof – no Law Commission. Nice and quiet. Just one little brick. Hardly noticed.

Then there was the Court Challenges Programme, set up in 1994, which was the means by which a bit of legal help could be provided to a private individual or small organization who didn’t have a lot of money, and who was taking on, or being taken on by, the Government of Canada. It leveled the legal playing field a bit. It was a perfect example of fundamental Canadian fairness.

By convincing a tough panel of judges of the reasonableness of your cause, you could get a little help in paying for some lawyers to go up against the phalanx of legal beagles that could always, and forever, and at public expense, be brought to bear against you by the State. In other words, if you weren’t rich, and if you were taking on or being taken on by the Feds, you might have had a chance. But Mr. Harper doesn’t like being questioned, let alone challenged. It’s so inconvenient! Solution? Quietly announce that the Court Challenges Programme is being, er, discontinued. Poof – no Court Challenges Programme – no court challenges. Hardly noticed.

The Coordination of Access to Information Request System (CAIRS) was created (by a Progressive-Conservative government) in 1989 so that departments of government could harmonize their responses to access-to-information requests that might need multi-departmental responses. It was efficient; it made sure that in most cases the left hand knew what the right hand was doing, or at least what they were saying; and it helped keep government open and accountable. Well, if you’re running a closed-door government, that’s not a good idea, is it? So, as a Treasury Board official explained to the Canadian Press, CAIRS was killed by the Harper government because “extensive” consultations showed it wasn’t valued by government departments. I guess that means that the extensive consultations were all with government departments. Wait! Wasn’t there anybody else with whom to extensively consult? Wasn’t there some other purpose and use for CAIRS? Didn’t it have something to do with openness and accountability? I guess not.

Robert Makichuk, speaking for Mr. Harper’s government, explained that “valuable resources currently being used to maintain CAIRS would be better used in the collection and analysis of improved statistical reporting”. Right. In other words, CAIRS was an inconvenience to the government. So poof – it’s disappeared. And, except for investigative reporters and other people who might (horrors!) ask questions, its loss is hardly noticed.

And the bridge too far for me: Cutting the already-utterly-inadequate funding for the exposure of Canadian art and artists in other countries. That funding was, by any comparison, already laughably miniscule. Mr. Harper says that “ordinary” Canadians don’t support the arts. He’s wrong. And his is now the only government of any significant country in the world that clearly just doesn’t get it.

All these changes were done quietly, cleverly, and under the radar. No fuss. No outcry. Just one little brick at a time. But in these and other ways, our Canadian house is no longer the kind of place it once was. Nobody minds good renovations. Nobody even minds tearing something down, as long as we put up something better in its place. That’s not what has happened.

Mr. Harper fired the head of the Canadian Wheat Board because he was doing his job properly. He removed the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission because she wanted to make sure that the Chalk River nuclear reactor was safe. Hardly noticed.

There are many more things that were hardly noticed: Cuts to funding for the Status of Women, Adult Learning and Literacy, Environmental Programs, museums funding, and more. All quietly, just one brick at a time. Hardly noticed.

As to campaign promises, everybody in sight on every side is guilty of breaking those. Except the Federal NDP of course, who haven’t yet had the opportunity. (It’s very easy to make promises that you know you will not likely have to keep).

But the government promised to end wait times in health care. They didn’t. They promised to end, once and for all, the whining of some provinces about the non-existent “fiscal imbalance”. They didn’t. They said they had brought final resolution to the softwood lumber problem with the U.S. They haven’t. They promised to create thousands of new child-care spaces in Canada. They haven’t. They promised not to tax income trusts (“We will NEVER do that!” they said). They taxed them. They promised to lower your income tax. They raised it. They said they had a good “made-in-Canada” plan to meet our obligations on climate change. They don’t. Mr. Harper has said plainly that whatever the Americans do is what we’ll do too.

They campaign on a platform of transparency and accountability; but they’re now trying to discredit the Parliamentary Budget Officer that they created, because he’s trying to do the job that they gave him.

Mr. Harper said that our form of government, evolved over centuries from the 900-year-old British Westminster tradition, was all wrong. We had to have fixed election dates, because otherwise, democratic principles would be trampled. ”Fixed election dates”, he said, “stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar. They level the playing field for all parties”.

So Parliament (remember them?) at Mr. Harper’s insistence, passed a law requiring fixed election dates, which Mr. Harper promptly broke.

Somebody once said that we get the kind of government we deserve. What did we do to deserve Mr. Harper?

He once said that we should all “Stand Up for Canada”. Well, let’s do that. We just have to decide whether the present version of Canada is the one that we’ll stand up for. Or stand for.

Thank you,

Tommy Banks
Tommy Banks is a Liberal Alberta Senator.

Goin' down that slippery slope

There has been much made of Stephen Harper's lack of openness in front of the media, limiting questions to 5 per day. In fact, a question from Terry Milewski went completely unanswered. Harper's control issues have been widely reported over the past few weeks, even though this control has been well documented for years.

In Liberal circles, it is widely believed that Harper's agenda during this election is to keep as many people home as possible. This strategy allows his conservative base to bring him back to power while those on the left split the vote, ruining any type of surge, particularly from the Liberals.

Harper has started talking-up a majority, which scares the beejeesus out of me. We've seen the nature of Harper's personality and the influence of him and the PMO over every tightly scripted communication from the government. We've also seen the flagrant disregard he has for parliament and our democratic processes. Here is why I think we should be very afraid of a Harper majority:

According to Professor Lawrence Britt, the fourteen characteristics of Facism:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cone of Silence - Jason Speaks

As taken from an article in the Globe today:

Some Conservative candidates across Canada are emulating Stephen Harper’s tightly scripted election campaign by refusing to attend all-candidates debates or appear before the media.

It’s a question of personal choice, said Calgary Southeast incumbent Jason Kenney, who said he would be happy to debate his opponents.

“Each candidate takes their own approach,” he said on Thursday. But he believes all-candidates debates can be of dubious worth.

To Jason, and his fellow regime conspirators, this election is a distraction, a waste of their valuable time. He forgets that he is supposed to represent his constituents in Ottawa, not the party. Whatever happened to the grassroots democratic reformation movement in which he was involved?

In the last election, he was known to be in his riding three times: one for a photo op of him door-knocking; another speaking to a group of grade 12 students at a Catholic high school where there may have been a dozen eligible voters in the room; and, at a party fundraiser at a community church which just so happened to coincide with a party fundraiser. It seems that grabbing money from the party faithful was more important than representing his leader's views to his constituents. I've seen more pictures of him in Toronto and Vancouver than I've ever heard anything about him being in his own riding.

Kenney is counting on the apathy of voters and his well-funded campaign to get him re-elected. Why does he need to deign to visit a riding that will give him an overwhelming majority anyways? Perhaps other candidates need to master the art of cultivated disdain and


Monday, April 4, 2011

An Inconvenient Democracy

I was speaking to a friend today who, as a young person, is just starting to pay attention to the election. She is not alone amoung young people but apathy towards an election is not restricted to the young.

My father's generation, those who fought or lived through the Second World War, understand the cost of freedom, as do those of us in the Baby Boomer generation who heard the stories, or watched their father, uncle, or other men returned from the front, suffer in silence from the psychological scars of losing friends in battle. Since then, however, people have lost sight of what it means to live in a country as open and diverse as Canada. To enjoy being able to go where we want and when ever we want; to take a job in what ever field strikes our fancy; to get an education and health care; to have opportunities for work and lifestyle that can only be imagined in other less fortunate countries.

To them, the election is a waste of time and money. As long as they're working, we should not intrude on their daily existence with something as trite as an election. But, what is the purpose of a democracy if not to provide opportunities to its citizens to hold the government to account; to ask questions on a party's vision, direction, and policy? Stephen Harper has already shown that he has little regard for the parliamentary process and institutions. His government was held in contempt; he has four senior advistors (including two senators) charged with elections fraud, and he calls the election a waste of his time. To him, an election should not be required at this time. What an inconvenient democracy we have.

Life may be too easy here

Week 2 of the election and has anybody in Calgary noticed? This sets off two of my pet peeves:

1. Voter apathy
We live in an incredible country, free of tyranny (let's not get into the slippery slope discusssion this time) and the envy of many countries throughout the world. But many people I've met either don't know that an election has been called or don't care. A democracy by its nature requires a certain civic duty in order to be maintained. Elections don't come that often. Some might argue that we have had too many in the past decade but how else do we hold the government to account? And, it's not like the government has fallen everytime from a lack of confidence. More often than not, it was the government that canceled parliament. WE NEED TO VOTE! And, in order to do this election thing properly, we need to be aware of the issues and each party's platform. We need to be informed. This is a personal responsibility that needs to be exercised on a regular basis.

Another argument is that elections are too expensive. Would you rather have to fight for your lives and those of your family? WAKE UP and count the cost of freedom. These elections are cheap in comparison for my family's safety and opportunity to make their own way in life. Be thankful for our laws that limit spending, rather than the free-for-all of the US elections.

2. Voter ignorance
I am constantly amazed, and sometimes discouraged, by the ignorance of some people. When door knocking this weekend to obtain signatures of residents according to the law (Elections Canada Act), I actually had people who refused to sign because the candidate is a (wait for it...) "Liberal". My God! It was as if Ghadafi was trying to run. Really? You won't support our democratic process? Do you really prefer a dictatorship or, is it that you are so ignorant of the law and rules that govern elections, that you would limit the ability of people to even think of challenging the incumbent? If either of these is the case, STOP DRINKING THE KOOLAID!

The democratic process must be respected for all, if we are to survive as a society. That is All! Go about your business. Nothing to see here. Stick your noses back into your TV box. Bury your heads again. Canada will go on despite your apathy and ignorance because there are a few good people willing to fight on your behalf.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Election Fever? in Calgary?

There's a rumour that a federal election has been called, although you wouldn't know it by the absense of Jason Kenney. For those of us who follow the political news and just happen to be "other than Conservative" (I know, I know, we're seen as an endangered species in Alberta...), we see real opportunities for gains. Not that we expect any wins in Calgary South East, not this time, anyway.

However, the Conservative Party faces a serious lack of ethics, having lost the confidence of the House of Commons over it's secrecy and inability to see the HoC as a necessary part of the democratic process, with four senior advisors charged with elections fraud, a former senior advisor under investigation for illegal lobbying, and the list goes on. In fact, Jason Kenney is under investigation for a couple of issues - using HoC money and staff to do party politics, and hiring a private citizen to "fast-track" immigration visas from India (wonder what the price of immigrating goes for these days??? a few votes, perhaps?). I find it awfully convenient for the Minister of Immigration to also be named as the CPoC recruiting lead for immigrants.

Then, there is a lack of any kind of visionary policy development. Instead, they throw money at the issue-du-jour, and attack the opposition on perceived personality defects with the concept that a good offence is better than good defense.

With that, I'm off to our campaign kickoff event, where we present our new candidate and lots of good policy - Family Care, Pensions, and a Canada we can be proud of.