Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Harper Conservatives Toy With Tin-Pottery

(Credit to Creekside Blog for this image).

Conservatives will often claim that they are not "right wing".  Heck, some of them even call themselves moderates.  With the money behind their spin machine, they can certainly convince a lot of voters of this.

For Conservatives wanting to practice these lines of "truthiness" the challenge is the old "actions speak louder than words" adage.  The Conservative government has successively (and successfully) begun a "remoulding" of Canada in a very reactionary, right-wing way.  In their "war on logic" and "war on words", they've managed to twist the language of politics just enough that the general public is always one step behind the fibs.  If we are careful to check facts, however, we'll see that their actions do not follow their words - at least not their "sanitized-for-public-consumption" talking points.

Take the recent story of a backbench Conservative MP asking a question (obviously fed to him by the PMO, because ALL Conservative MPs are spoon-fed their questions and statements from Dear Leader) about the cost of the Opposition asking questions.

Wait-a-minute, you say, did you read that correctly?  The government is questioning the Opposition's RIGHT (and DUTY, we might add) to ask questions?

Yes they are.  And they'll probably convince a lot of people of the need to free the government of "pesky little things" like questions to enforce accountability.

Let's go over a little history here...  When the Harper Party came to power back in 2006, they were promising to uphold the accountability of the Canadian Government.  Harper appointed several watchdogs - hand-picked them actually - an "Accountability Commissioner", and new Parliamentary Budget Officer, among others.

Throughout the intervening time period Harper's Party has come up against these watchdogs, as they try everything in their ability to by-pass accountability.  The Harper PMO gave his caucus a guide to subvert the work of Parliament, forced an election over the Opposition questions about the F35 fighter purchase his government has championed - and vehemently defended cost-wise (you can read more about their attempts to mislead Canadians here), are trying to silence local mayors, and using EVERY opportunity under the sun to advertise his POLITICAL motives using tax-payer dollars (even angering his friends at the right wing National Citizen's Coalition).

Beyond gagging Parliament and any questioning of his government in the House, Harper's gang have tried to muzzle the very journalists who have sought to do the work they are trained to:  to question the government on issues that matter to Canadians.

This is all part of a very effective Harper strategy taught to Canadian Conservatives by their Republican cousins like Frank Luntz in the USA.  The strategy is quite insidious:  The goal is to subvert language itself.  Make people believe they are hearing one thing, when the government is actually doing something else - often the opposite.  Luntz has become somewhat of an expert at twisting reality.  He's been censured for it on more than one occasion, yet he is a favourite of Canadian Conservatives.

The reality is that Conservatives understand most Canadians (or even Americans for that matter) WILL stand up for the liberal principles of fairness and equality.  They know that their pet policy of cutting government to nothing but a military, with full privatization of the nation, and full corporate welfare (read: corporations pay little or no taxes) does not always resonate with most of the middle class who never actually benefit from it.  They know that Canadians DO NOT agree with them on abortion, or privatization of healthcare.  They need another tact.  A way to - with the help of corporate conservative-leaning media - win over the "soccer moms" and "Tim Hortons hockey Dads", and convince them that conservative policies help them (even if they don't).

Of course, to accomplish this, they have to prevent any questions - from media, or in Parliament - and curtail facts and research that point out otherwise.  They take many of their "pet policies" and introduce them through their back benches.  When the idea is lambasted by the public and opposition, there is no accountability from the Prime Minister's Office (even thought they spoon-fed the bills and questions).  This is how you get Conservative MPs rising to bring up anti-choice measures, or defending the governments horrible record on crime prevention.

Further to simply making hidden policy choices, the other step in the Conservative agenda is the constant claim that government should be "small", and they must cut in certain areas.  The cuts, of course will be agenda/ideologically driven.  One only has to look at the attacks the Conservatives have made on church organizations who have spoken out against Harper cuts (to groups like KAIROS and CIDA), to see how far this agenda has been driven.  Eventually they'll cut all funding to anyone who may speak against them.

With information on what the government is doing, or what they are spending OUR tax dollars on, a good opposition can properly do it's job, keeping the government accountable.  The national media can also do it's job - keeping the public informed about what the government is doing, or proposing.  A government - in principle, and in tradition - has always been open to respecting the will of Parliament, the Opposition, and the free press.  It seems the "Harper Government" not so much so.

This is where today's story of the Conservative MP's question comes in.  In ANY other nation, if WE Canadians observed a government attempting to prevent the freedom of Opposition questions, we would be screaming "tin pot dictator", and "fascism"!  Anywhere there are attempts to silence opposition, or prevent voting during elections, we would be among the first nations to send election observers.  We would stand in the UN (well, at least we used to) to defend democracy.

We stand against tyrants and acts to undermine democracy in other nations because we understand history, and we understand what brought those lands to the places they are at.  We understand what lack of vigilance can result in.

For Canadians to stand pat this Holiday Season would be a complete repudiation of the democracy in which we live.  The freedoms many of us have fought and died for are being sliced away... a death by 1000 cuts (perhaps more)... We need to put away our iPods, and XBoxes, and Facebook chat sessions, and reality TV shows JUST long enough to realize what is truly at play here... what are the true costs to Canadian values and Canadian democracy.

Please.  Stand up and be an active Canadian!

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Monday, December 03, 2012

Conservatives' Economic Failures

Ralph Goodale discusses the horrible fiscal management record of the Harper Government...

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

December 3rd, 2012


The Harper Conservatives will force another odious “Omnibus Budget Bill” through the House of Commons this week.

A lot of attention is focused on the anti-democratic nature of their “omnibus” process, forcing MPs to deal with 50 or more unrelated issues all at once in a single vote. It makes the vote totally meaningless.

But even worse, for all the verbiage in this budget legislation, the Conservatives are doing little of consequence to deliver what Canadians really need – i.e., more economic growth and less inequality.

Indeed, they’re moving in the opposite direction. Mr. Harper’s ideological obsession with austerity drives him to cut the federal government at every turn to make it as irrelevant as possible. And that risks weakening the economy by curtailing aggregate demand just when Canadian growth is already faltering.

Yes, the federal government must always demonstrate strong management and fiscal prudence. There is never an excuse for waste. But Canada does have a fiscal ace-in-the-hole for times like these, and that’s our federal debt-ratio.

That ratio compares the size of the federal debt to the economy overall. In the mid-1990’s, it had soared to a paralyzing 70%. In other words, the debt was equal to 70% of Canada’s GDP. Thanks to essential decisions by the Chretien/Martin governments, the federal debt-ratio was chopped below 35%. Best in the world!

That’s what gives Canada some fiscal flexibility today. Some of it should be utilized to invest in growth and combat inequality.

To start, the Harper Conservatives could stop escalating EI payroll taxes. They claim they don’t raise taxes, but that’s a lie. They are hiking payroll taxes by as much as $600-million every year, and that kills jobs.

Secondly, they could make federal tax credits for kids, caregivers and the disabled equally available to all Canadians. The way they’re structured right now, people below a certain income are ineligible. That’s perverse.

They could also focus on first-time jobs for young people struggling with unemployment rates at recession-like levels. They could help families cope with the high cost of post-secondary education. They could get serious about affordable housing. They could transfer the entire federal gas tax to local municipalities to help build community infrastructure.

There are many pro-active options, but the Harper government is content with mediocrity.

-- Post From My iPhone