Monday, January 28, 2013

A Very Conservative Loathing For Their Very Own Budgetary Officer

The Conservative Party had - at one time - at least pretended to be promising "accountability".  Since taking office, however, that remains a pipe-dream for the hoodwinked targeted voters who lent them their votes.

The Harper Gov't has been ANYTHING BUT ACCOUNTABLE.  Beyond simply not addresses past government weaknesses, the Harper Government decided they would simply invent their own realities.  Shucking science, and any sort of evidence to support their wonton embrace of a narrow ideology, the Conservatives have elevated public lack of accountability to a new art form.

In most democracies there are a few checks and balances to keep a government from running away with public freedoms and disregard for accountability:

- Parliamentary respect for ALL MPs ("honourable members")
- Responsibility to provide all parties access to details on government spending
- Active engagement of political media and Parliamentary press (so the public can find out what is going on)
- Respect for a highly trained civil service which will advise the gov't if they are heading the wrong way.
- Being open and honest with committees.
- If all else fails, most governments will still respect their election watchdogs and courts.

Forget about getting the facts from this bunch.  They are beyond that.  They've followed none of the principles listed above.  Rather, they have thumbed their noses at more than tradition - they've created a government that is accountable to no-one. 

Now some will say, "but, they are accountable to voters".  Really?  When the Conservative Party does everything they possibly can to ensure voters are not aware of their actions... When they go out of their way to obfuscate...  When they are being investigated for potential election fraud... THEN, the so-called accountability to the electorate is meaningless.

Here is Ralph Goodale's take on the Kevin Page situation.

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

January 28th, 2013


It was almost exactly a year ago now that Stephen Harper jetted off to Switzerland to give a speech to the world’s economic elite, announcing that Canada could no longer afford its Old Age Pension program, and he would soon cut it back.

That program to help low and middle-income Canadians has been in place since 1952.  Subject to income-related eligibility rules, it provides a monthly payment to each individual Canadian when he/she reaches the age of 65.  The total cost of doing that is currently about $36-billion.  That amounts to a modest 2.2% of our GDP.

This makes Canada’s Old Age Pension one of the most affordable social security programs in the whole world.  Similar systems in other countries use up 10% or more of their GDPs.  Ours is a bargain by comparison.

But Mr. Harper says the impending retirement “bulge” caused by all those post-war Baby Boomers, soon turning 65, will blow the bank.  He claims the Old Age Pension will become too costly.  So, he says, the eligibility age must be changed – from 65 to 67 years.  That will save big money, right?

Not really.  If no changes are made, the cost of Old Age Pensions will increase by the year 2030 to consume about 2.9% of GDP.  That’s up from 2.2% today, but still a small total cost by global standards.  With Mr. Harper’s changes, pension costs will still rise, but only to about 2.6% of GDP in 2030.

So all-in, the saving to the federal treasury is a rather tiny 0.3%.  Clearly, there can be no allegation that Old Age Pensions are unsustainable.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page pointed all this out, last February – just a couple of weeks after Mr. Harper’s erroneous claims in Switzerland.  The PBO’s findings were later confirmed by the Auditor-General.

Something similar happened on the Conservatives’ proposed purchase of F-35 stealth fighter-jets.  First, the PBO disclosed the Harper government’s colossal mismanagement and dishonesty in this multi-billion-dollar procurement boondoggle.  And then the Auditor-General confirmed he was right.

Time and time again, this pattern has repeated itself.  Kevin Page has been fearless in blowing the whistle on incompetence and deceit.

That explains the tirade against PBO this past weekend by Finance Minister Flaherty – ironically, just as he was jetting off to Switzerland for this year’s meeting of the world’s rich and famous.

post signature VICTORY FUND

Monday, January 21, 2013

Harper's Malevolent Regime

Ralph Goodale discusses Canada's resident "enfant terrible" government... Ralph spoke to a packed room at the LPCBC Policy Conference in Surrey on Saturday.

Mr. Goodale encouraged the large gathering to lead the fight for change in our great land.

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

January 21st, 2013


Stephen Harper’s government is perhaps best known for its over-reaching sense of impunity – the notion that “might makes right”.

They believe that a majority (for the time being) in the House of Commons should allow them to get away with anything they want, with no regard for what others believe or hold dear. They trample on people, values and institutions, just because they can.

A sense of impunity leads to excessive ministerial behavior – like Bev Oda’s orange juice, Jason Kenney’s limousines, Peter MacKay’s helicopter rides to fishing holes, Tony Clement’s ornamental gazebos and sidewalks-to-nowhere in Muskoka, Julian Fantino’s misuse of government websites, and Jim Flaherty’s meddling at the CRTC. They think they’re exempt from the rules.

That sense of impunity also leads to massive mistakes like the F-35 fiasco. It’s the biggest sole-sourced, untendered procurement (against all the rules) in Canadian history.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Auditor-General and the private firm of KPMG have all exposed the incompetence which riddled this file since the Conservatives came to power in 2006. Worse still is the deceit. They kept two sets of figures to hide the truth. What they disclosed to Parliament and the public was deliberately misleading.

And make no mistake. They haven’t changed. There’s no admission of wrong-doing. No apology. No change of course. Just a lot of spin and blather to obscure that reality that they’re plowing ahead to get the exact same result as first contrived.

Their sense of impunity also corrodes democracy.

No questions ever get answered in Question Period. Parliamentary committees are forced to go behind closed doors to conduct the public’s business in secret. Ministers’ offices delay and subvert Access-to-Information. Omnibus bills and Closure motions are used routinely to kill debate and stymie scrutiny of legislation.

In addition to the vicious attack-ads they use to malign political opponents, there’s also a systematic campaign of character assassination designed to intimidate non-governmental organizations, public servants, scientists, statisticians, Officers of Parliament, public-interest “watchdogs”, even churches and charities – to shut them up.

So much for freedom of speech! From the Parliamentary Budget Officer to the Nuclear Safety Commission, from ecumenical groups like KAIROS to Indian Chiefs like Theresa Spence, if you dare speak truth to power, this government will try to slander you.

That same sense of impunity also leads to the illegal election financing scam for which the Conservative Party was investigated, charged and had to plead guilty.

And don’t forget the still unexplained election irregularities in Etobicoke-Centre, Peterborough and Labrador, and the massive on-going investigation into thousands of illegal telephone calls, starting in Guelph, but potentially contaminating elections in some 200 ridings across the country.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, January 14, 2013

Goodale: Harper Must Step Up

There really is a LOT more the Reform-Conservatives can do for First Nations. Ralph Goodale discusses some of what must be done...

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

January 14th, 2013


As commentators dissect last week’s confrontations between the Harper government and various First Nations Chiefs and leaders, the situation is obviously at a delicate point – presenting real risks, but also opportunities.

While some will blame the Aboriginal side for being unclear, too theoretical or having a poor track-record, the same criticisms could apply to the government. There’s lots of blame to go around. The onus for making progress now rests on the Prime Minister. He’s the one who holds power and he always likes to tell us that he’s the one “who makes the rules.”

That was clearly demonstrated in 2006, the moment he took office, when he cancelled the Kelowna Accord. That fully-funded, five-year Accord dealt with Aboriginal housing and water, healthcare, education, economic development and stronger governance (including the concept of a First Nations Auditor-General to ensure transparency and accountability).

It took nearly 24 months of careful dialogue to build the trusting relationship in which Kelowna was rooted. The Accord had the support of the federal government, all 10 provinces and three territories, and the five national Aboriginal organizations – until Mr. Harper killed it.

Much goodwill was lost, but some hope was rekindled in 2008 when the government apologized for Canada’s sorry role in Indian Residential Schools. Sadly, there was little follow-up. The same happened in 2011 after out-going Auditor-General, Sheila Fraser, described Aboriginals as the most impoverished people in the country – nothing changed.

Then, a year ago, in response to the widely reported misery at Attawapiskat, Mr. Harper agreed to a Crown-First Nations Summit. But again, a year has passed with no progress, which brings us to the Idle-No-More movement, a hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and the tumult last week in Ottawa.

So where to from here? First, out of the glare of publicity, Mr. Harper needs to give Chief Spence the private but sincere assurance that the neglect of past years will be truly rectified. She must be persuaded to live, not starve.

Secondly, it will take time to restore the respect and trust that made Kelowna possible, especially in the complicated fields of treaty rights and land claims, but a credible beginning must be made very quickly. On the federal side, the government needs to be consultative, not unilateral. They must be prepared to serve the greater public good, not merely a narrow ideological base.

Third, immediate progress can be made in several areas. For example, a Royal Commission could get to work on what happened to hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

The budget this spring could bring federal funding for the K-12 education of First Nations children up to the higher amounts-per-child that provinces invest in non-Aboriginal kids. And the feds could get rid of their “cap” on funding for post-secondary education and child welfare.

These things would be a start.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Goodale on "#idlenomore"

Ralph discusses #idlenomore... A born in Sask movement...

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

December 31st, 2012


Over the past few weeks, a remarkable movement has taken shape among indigenous peoples in Canada. It’s called “Idle-No-More”.

Beginning with four women from Saskatchewan, the movement is driven largely by women and youth using social media like Twitter and Facebook. With the advice of elders, it’s committed to peaceful public events highlighting unacceptable realities in the lives of First Nations people, the Metis, Inuit and others.

Their spontaneous activities have reached across Canada and beyond. The initial spark was Stephen Harper’s second Omnibus Budget Bill (C-45).

In that incoherent hodge-podge of dozens of unrelated measures – all lumped together to prevent intelligent scrutiny – the Conservatives slipped-in several items that detract from the inherent rights of indigenous peoples, including weakened environmental rules and intrusions on First Nations’ land. There was no prior consultation or consent. It was totally arbitrary.

But Idle-No-More is about more than C-45.

It’s about this government running roughshod over Treaty Rights – something the Conservatives were bluntly warned about by none other than former Cabinet Minister, Jim Prentice.

It’s also about Mr. Harper’s failure to take any meaningful action to help build some genuine hope for the future following his 2008 “apology” for the tragic legacy of Indian Residential Schools. All those fine words are proving vacuous.

And then, just over a year ago, along came the housing crisis and human misery at Attawapiskat. The government’s reaction was a combination of indifference and scorn. They were shamed into meeting with indigenous leaders last January, but 12 months later the results are nil.

In the spirit of Idle-No-More, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now on a hunger strike in Ottawa, trying to get Mr. Harper to pay some attention. He doesn’t seem to realize that he has a personal constitutional obligation toward Chief Spence and all other Aboriginal people.

What’s needed is a rekindling of the hopeful sincerity that generated the “Kelowna Accords” of 2005.

It took 24 months of personal effort by then-Prime Minister Martin to establish the trust and respect upon which progress could be based – engaging the federal government, all provinces and territories, and all national Aboriginal organizations. Sadly, that ground-breaking initiative was cancelled the moment Stephen Harper took power.

And nothing of consequence has been accomplished since. On things that indigenous peoples need, the Harper government has been painfully idle far too long.

-- Post From My iPhone

Ukrainian Democracy - Possible?

Ralph Goodale on the Right to Democracy. Ralph displays his wealth of knowledge of democratic systems and lawmaking...

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

January 7th, 2012


This week, many Ukrainian Canadians are celebrating Orthodox Christmas, and then Malanka – New Year’s! Greetings and best wishes to all those of the Orthodox faith who practice their sacred traditions according to the Julian calendar.

Ukrainian settlement in Canada began 122 years ago. Some 1.3-million Canadians can trace their family heritage to Ukraine, including 13% of Saskatchewan’s population.

But even as they celebrate this joyous season, many will be thinking about the difficult struggle for true democracy which continues in Ukraine unabated.

The Parliamentary elections held this past fall were again tainted by serious irregularities. Corruption is a big problem. The main leaders of the democratic opposition are in jail. Academic and religious freedoms are under pressure. Freedom of the press is compromised. Human rights and the rule of law are in jeopardy.

Eugenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of jailed former-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, is calling for international sanctions against the current regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. So what can/should Canada do?

Our response needs to be carefully tuned and targeted to have the most useful effect, including:

· Relentless lobbying for the release of political prisoners and competent independent medical care for them in the meantime;
· Adjustments in Canada’s foreign aid to focus on democratic development and the successful functioning of civil society;
· Encouragement for Canadian broadcasters and business-people to invest in independent media outlets and honest news coverage in Ukraine;
· Insistence that any Trade Agreements between Canada and Ukraine must include enforceable provisions about the rule of law and respect for human rights;
· Canadian leadership through the G-8, G-20, IMF and UN to combat money laundering and obstruct the world travels and illicit business operations of oligarchs and corrupt officials.

This latter point may be among the most important. The objective would be to prevent those who undermine democracy, violate human rights and flout the rule of law from jet-setting around the globe with impunity, enjoying the fruits of their misbehaviour.

Canada could not accomplish such a result all on our own, but we could be an advocate and catalyst to bring the US, the EU and other nations into an effective partnership to this end. We need to have an impact before the next presidential elections in 2015.

-- Post From My iPhone