Columns 2015

Sympathy for Stephen Harper: Imagine that everyone you trusted had lied to you

Andrew Coyne | August 19, 2015

I am beginning to think we have done Stephen Harper a disservice. No, I’m sure we have. In fact, I think we — and by we I mean the media, me included — have been grossly unfair to him, and never more so than in the matter of Mike Duffy’s expenses.

You will be familiar with the picture we have created of him: suspicious, paranoid, controlling, a leader who trusts no one, leaves nothing to others, insists on taking a hand in even the smallest matter. Well, you’d be suspicious, paranoid and controlling, too, if everyone around you was lying to you all the time.

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Duffy trial cuts to heart of the PMO
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Aug. 17

The Mike Duffy trial is proving to have significant public value. With the thousands of e-mails tabled, it opens a window on the operation of the Prime Minister’s Office. It’s not as good as an oral record like the Nixon White House tapes. But it’s the next best thing.

Serial abuses of power are something that have long been suspected of Stephen Harper’s team. They’ve been written about in books and articles by some journalists starting many years ago. Other scribes have pooh-poohed the notion, saying it’s being too tough on the Conservative Leader. But with the text traffic, we get harder evidence of some of the activities. A trove of exhibit A’s.

On the Senate controversy alone, the work of PMO operatives included: promising Mr. Duffy he would be removed from an independent audit; concocting a secret plan to have the taxpayer-supported Tory treasury pay Mr. Duffy’s debts while telling the public a different story; planning to create a puppet-on-a-string Senate subcommittee to create a constitutional formula that would allow Mr. Duffy to continue sitting as a Prince Edward Island senator; repeatedly ordering up blatantly false party responses to questions in the Commons on the controversy.

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New York Times
The Closing of the Canadian Mind

Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education.

But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.

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The Crumbling of the Conservatives

by Kenneth Bagnell

Alberta’s NDP and its recent electoral success — decimating the governing Progressive Conservatives —- has surprised the country more than it should have. The reason for the defeat is far more prosaic than many of the commentators would have you believe. 

The reason is basic: Alberta’s PC party has had its day. Its reign lasted forty-four years. Enough. That’s what led to the change, not the appeal of the NDP policies or its leader, now Premier Rachel Notley. And it wasn’t triggered by the self-centered approach of the PC’s Jim Prentice whose virtually instant resignation was a bit tainted by a chilly aloof style. 

No, it was, to quote one of the most overworked clichés in politics: time for a change. And the change was monumental: before Election day May 5, the NDP held four seats; the day after election day, it held 53. (The PCs have only ten.)

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Andrew Coyne in The National Post  May 12, 2015

Andrew Coyne: A telling 24 hours in Stephen Harper’s world

He concludes with this:
The point is, this was all in the space of 24 hours. If one were to draw up an indictment of this government’s approach to politics and the public purpose, one might mention its wholesale contempt for Parliament, its disdain for the Charter of Rights and the courts’ role in upholding it, its penchant for secrecy, its chronic deceitfulness, its deepening ethical problems, its insistence on taking, at all times, the lowest, crudest path to its ends, its relentless politicization of everything.

But you’d think you would need to look back over its record over several years to find examples. You wouldn’t think to see them all spread before you in the course of a single day.
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Tina’s Report on Flying Blind, May 8, 2015

On May 8 I attended an all day conference at Ryerson called Flying Blind. This was put on by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to build public awareness of what has been a terrible year for free expression in Canada. Panels of eminent scientists, professors and media representatives from radio, TV and newspapers discussed how Canada is failing to create information, how difficult it is to access information and how the government is limiting dissemination of information. The day wound up with a brainstorming session on how to solve these problems.

Ideas included:

Media and universities must mobilize and fight to protect their right to collect and disseminate information. We must not allow mass surveillance to lead to self-censorship. Our laws are too weak. This government has pushed the limits and discovered that if it restricts openness and transparency, it cannot be held to account. Future governments are unlikely to give up that advantage, and so the law must be strengthened.

The Access to Information Act is over 30 years old and has never been updated. Ministries are exempt from access to information requests. The number of access to information requests from the public has risen exponentially since 2011. The Government spins this to mean that they are the most transparent government in history. The reverse is probably true.

Journalists are taught that to be an activist is to become partisan and lose objectivity. However, being an activist in support of freedom of expression is vital. If journalists and professors don’t advocate for freedom of expression, who will?

It was proposed that a broad coalition of organizations that have a stake in access to information be formed; that a web portal linked to social media as go-to place for all questions and stories be constructed; and that journalists should promise to do at least one thing this year that exposes local community to outside information.

It was suggested that we should use the run up to the election to make voters aware of suppression of information and talk to MPs and candidates about why access to information and freedom of expression are so important.

The organizers urged attendees to hold symposia and workshops, invite speakers, tweet, write blogs and work hard to get the message out.

Michael Harris on the budget in iPolitics
April 23, 2015

No wonder they’re spending $7.5 million in public money to advertise Joe Oliver’s budget. Bernie Madoff couldn’t have come up with a sneakier sell than this.

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John Ivison: Tories’ behaviour during anti-terror bill hearings borderline anti-democratic
National Post, March 31, 2015

Even in the darkest days of the Second World War, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons with the latest news, good or bad, and never shrank from a vote of censure.

“I am,” he used to say, “a servant of the House of Commons.”

The great Tory leader would probably be appalled by Canada’s Conservatives, who appear to believe the acronym MP stands for Masters of Parliament, given the way they treat its institutions like whipped dogs.

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Conservatives are wearing out the dog-whistle

Globe and Mail March 22, 2015

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have been a dog-whistle government since first being elected. With an election seven months away, the whistles are blowing more insistently than ever.

The whistles summon the Conservative base to another political mobilization. Those beyond the base can’t stand the sound; it drives them to distraction. But for those within the base, the whistles are music to their ears.

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Forget terrorists — be terrified of Harperites by Haroon Siddiqui The Star March 22, 2015

Another brick in Harper’s re-election edifice will be laid this week. He wants to extend and possibly expand Canada’s military involvement in the war on the Islamic State. The current six-month mission ends next month and he may want a longer mandate — to take him past the October election. 

In keeping with the Conservative penchant for saying one thing and doing another, the government is positing the war plan as non-partisan — after having brazenly used the war as a partisan wedge issue to whip up fear, paint critics as terrorist sympathizers (even possibly “a national security threat,” as Greenpeace has been told), and raise funds for the ruling party.

How Stephen Harper came to love politics of fear by Bob Hepburn The Star March 22, 2015

When Stephen Harper first became involved in politics 30 years ago as a chief aide to Calgary MP Jim Hawkes, he was filled with hard-line conservative ideas about how to make Canada a better place.

But Harper was a political idealist, not a strategist. Back then, he believed voters would simply come to embrace his ideas if he was just given a decent chance to explain them, logically and passionately.

Today, Harper is a totally different politician. Now, instead of championing ideas, he promotes the politics of fear, hate and polarization as the way to achieve his goals. It’s a strategy he clearly intends to use right through this October’s federal election.

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MP presents quick facts on Bill C-51 in Oakville

An article in the Beaver about Van Loan's speech which quotes Bev.

Approximately 12 members of Reclaim Our Democratic Canada waved signs reading ‘Wake Up Canada’ and ‘Tell Your MP Today. Stop C-51’ as the discussion got underway.

“We want Van Loan to know there are concerns about this,” said protester Bev LeFrancois.

Democracy at risk: what you can do to help: Hepburn

Canada at a tipping point with democratic reform is becoming major campaign issue.

By: Bob Hepburn Politics, Published on Wed Jan 14 2015

How can Stephen Harper and other political leaders be prevented from running roughshod over our democracy?

That’s the question many Canadians who see our democracy as being at risk are asking as political parties gear up for the federal election in October.

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January11, 2015 Star

Stephen Harper and restoring faith in our democracy:  Bob Hepburn
Stephen Harper has displayed stunning disrespect for our democracy since becoming prime minister.

“How does Stephen Harper get away with it?”

That’s what a reader wanted to know after watching a rerun of a Rick Mercer “rant” on CBC about the Harper government’s spending of millions of dollars on blatantly political TV ads to promote tax breaks before they had even been approved.

“Isn’t that illegal?” the reader asked. “Isn’t it undemocratic?”

How does Harper get away with it, indeed?

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Mulcair Promises Proportional Representation If NDP Wins Next Election

If the NDP forms Canada's next government, Thomas Mulcair says he'll put an end to majority governments elected by a minority of the population.

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