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March 31, 2011

20 reasons to say NO to Harper

The Canadian Charger

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Here are 20 reasons why Harper must go on May 2nd for Canada's sake:

1. Military overspending–Harper pours billions into the military and keeps sending young Canadians to die in Afghanistan.

He broke his word on a 2011 pullout without allowing the matter to go to a vote in the House. In fiscal 2008-2009, defence spending estimates amounted to $19.5 billion. By comparison, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs received $7.3 billion. In October, 2010, Auditor General Sheila Fraser found that $4.9 billion to buy 15 helicopters violated the rules and regulations, as the order was placed without competition. In 2009, the Harper government pledged $5 billion for new armoured vehicles. It now pledges at least $16 billion for 65 useless fighter jets. At the end of the Cold War, Canadians were dreaming of a peace dividend.

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2. Fighter Jets -While the Conservative government has refused to release the actual cost of the fighter jets, a top U.S. budget watchdog recently said these jets will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates.

  1. However, Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, said he doesn't know where that estimate comes from.

Mr. Sullivan said the estimated cost of the F-35A model that Canada is buying is "in the low 100 millions."

"Probably somewhere between $110-115 million," he said.

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3. Foreign Policy–Harper has an unbalanced approach to the Middle East. Ottawa now votes heavily in a pro-Israel direction, thus reversing previous Canadian policy on UN resolutions related to Israel-Palestine. When Israel invaded Lebanon and carried out a massive bombing campaign across the country, Harper termed the Israeli response “measured.” His government dismissed the Goldstone report on Israeli destruction of Gaza as “predetermined”.

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4. Citizen betrayal–The Harper government has taken the position that it has no obligation to come to the aid of Canadian citizens abroad. It cannot do the right thing for its citizens abroad without court orders. Abousfian Abdelrazik was only allowed to return to Canada after a court ordered it. Harper reluctantly agreed to allow Omar Khadr to return to Canada after he spends another year at Guantánamo, Harper has consistently ignored Canada’s treaty obligations on the rights of children in war which demand special treatment for children.

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5. National Betrayal–Harper was elected by Canadians, but his primary allegiance is to pro-U.S. interest groups. This is why he is keen to sell out Canada’s sovereignty in a continentalist pact called the “Security and Prosperity Partnership.” This supernational organization that includes Canada, the U.S. and Mexico would do away with national currencies and national legislatures and make Canada even more a vassal of the U.S. Empire.

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6. Punitive Justice–Harper wants to get tough on crime by putting more people in jail for longer periods, but that means we will need to build more correctional facilities and employ more staff to run them. He plans to increase expenditures for correctional services from $4.5 billion a year to $9.5 b y 2015, according to Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Again, we’re talking major expenditures. In the meantime, the Dutch are closing eight prisons. The evidence is in: the threat of prison is an ineffective deterrent. As well, it fails to prevent recidivism. Our neighbours to the south have crippled their state budgets by just the kind of tough-guy approach Harper favours. The government needs to be “smart on crime,” not “tough on crime,” with programs such as restorative justice and sentencing circles. (Restorative justice is a shame-based approach that involves such things as victim-offender confrontation and reconciliation. Sentencing circles are used in some First Nations communities.)

Under the euphemism Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety the Harper government will tighten restrictions on prison visits, limit the discretion accorded to judges when sentencing, in order to make prison sentences longer, and at a cost to the taxpayer of approximately $100,000 per year to incarcerate each prisoner. Moreover the policy takes no account of the special circumstances of First Nations people, who will be its chief victims, nor the steady decline in most categories of crime as the population ages. The Harper government counters this argument with the nonsense that unreported crime has escalated.

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7. Underfunding social programs–Harper believes that all taxes are bad. He has said as much, and his Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that the tax cuts put in place to fight the recession will not be reversed. Yet, the Conservatives say they will pay down the debt and eliminate the deficit as soon as possible. As a result, Canada’s ability to fund social programs will be crippled. On top of greatly increased spending for the military and a massive counterproductive “tough on crime” agenda, tax cuts will leave little or nothing for any social spending.

An estimated 250,000 seniors are living below the poverty line and the yet Harper refused NDP Leader Jack Layton's request for an additional $700 million for the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The GIS provides a non-taxable monthly payment to low-income seniors who are getting by on not much more than Old Age Security. And the Conservative budget had offered to top it up with $300 million in new money.

Half a loaf, said many commentators. An increase that amounted to less than $2 a day for recipients.

Moreover, a plan proposed by Harper while campaigning would allow families with children under 18 to split their incomes for tax purposes, but it wouldn't take effect until Canada's deficit is gone.  But families need help now and suggested an NDP proposal to remove the federal tax on home heating and to pull all seniors out of poverty by boosting the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $700 million are better options that the Harper government has rejected.

The Harper government has done little to help Canadians save more for retirement and protect those who have lost pension income because their employers went bankrupt. One third of Canadians have no retirement savings beyond what is offered through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, while another third don’t have enough retirement savings to maintain their current standard of living. Over half of Canadian families do not belong to an employer sponsored pension plan. While the CPP covers 93% of workers, it is not is not sufficient on its own.

According to Statistics Canada, the $32.4 billion in RRSP contributions in 2006 represented only 7% of the total room available to eligible tax filers. Almost $500 billion of accumulated RRSP room remains unused.

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8. Native Rights–Harper has eliminated important programs such as smoking cessation programs for First Nations people, in spite of high levels of tobacco use among them. Also, he has repudiated the Kelowna Accord, depriving First Nations of resources to help get them out of poverty and misery. Natives are already overrepresented in prisons, and his expansion of the prison population will hit particularly hard on them.

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9. Environmental doubletalk–Harper’s policies on global warming are too little, too late. He rejected the Kyoto Accord, claiming it was “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.” However, while Kyoto calls for reductions based on 1990 rates of greenhouse gas production, Harper’s policy calls for a reduction of 20% by 2020 based on 2006 emissions. Of course, his government does not highlight the base year in its publicity. He used his Senate majority to kill Bill C-311, the climate change bill passed by the House of Commons.

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10. Contempt of Parliament–Harper disregarded his own legislation on fixed election dates when he felt that his government faced defeat by an opposition coalition. Sneaky, sneaky! Fortunately, he miscalculated.

In early March 2011, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken ruled – for the third time in one year – that the Harper government was in contempt of parliament. One ruling was for the government's refusal to provide documents requested by a Commons committee on the cost of corporate tax cuts and expanding prisons.  Mr. Milliken said the government's stonewalling was unacceptable, but its refusal to provide an explanation for denying a perfectly legitimate request, was even worse.

The second contempt ruling was for International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda's contradictory explanations to MP's that she didn't know who altered a document to overturn funding for the charitable group KAIROS.  Harper continues to defend this minister found guilty of lying to parliament, while many commentators think she was following orders from the Prime Minister's Office when she altered a government document.

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11. Subversion of Parliament–Harper provides antidemocratic leadership within his own party. In caucus, Conservative MP’s may not even speak unless they have permission, according to former caucus member Garth Turner. Harper surrounds himself with a clique of unelected right-wing advisors and tacticians, who come up with such gimmicks as a booklet on how to disrupt Commons committees to prevent them from doing their work.

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12. Census–Harper killed the compulsory long-form census. As a result, it will be impossible to carry out sound social planning required by all levels of government, businesses, and social agencies.

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13. Foreign Mining–Harper engineered defeat of Bill C-300, which would have held Canadian mining companies working abroad to abide by human rights and environmental standards.

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14. UAE-Harper is ruining a steadily growing economic relationship with the United Arab Emirates, Canada’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa. The UAE cancelled a 9-year-old arrangement for the free use of an air base outside Dubai as a transit point for our troops and equipment to and from Afghanistan. Ottawa has been scrambling since for alternates in Cyprus and Germany. Additional costs are pegged at up to $300 million. But that estimate was based on Canada quitting Afghanistan next year. Now that our mission has been extended to 2014, albeit on a smaller scale, there’s no telling the eventual additional expenditures. “What is it — $500 million? $600 million?” asked Bob Rae in the Commons. He and the NDP’s Paul Dewar also inquired unsuccessfully about the extra time needed to evacuate wounded soldiers from Afghanistan.

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15. Health Care - A recent Ipsos-Reid poll suggests that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians still think Harper has a hidden agenda; and this may include  health care – which pollsters say is Canadian's top concern. Although in recent years, Harper has tried to assuage fears about his approach to Canada’s health care program, pledging his devotion to both medicare and the Canada Health Act that governs it, some people fear that this will change if he gets a majority. After all, Harper at one point urged Alberta to pull out of national medicare; and his political mentor, Reform Party founder Preston Manning is upfront about his support for two-tier health care now that he's out of electoral politics. Critics fear Harper may cut cash funding of provincial health care so drastically that the Canadian Health Care Act will become meaningless and national medicare itself an empty shell. In last week’s budget, the Conservatives pledged to cut $17 billion more in government spending over the next five years; but they were very carefully not to say where these cuts would be made.  However, longtime Harper observers note that he's been very clear about his ultimate goal:  to get the federal government out of the business of virtually everything except banks, prisons, the military, foreign affairs and interprovincial commerce.

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16. Organized crime-While Harper talks tough on crime he does very little about organized crime. The Italian government has been continuously notifying Ottawa that organized crime figures are located in Canada, but it finds the Canadian government to be one of the most difficult to get information from on this issue. The proliferation of criminal groups in Canada really began in the early 1970s and gathered speed in subsequent decades. In its 2007 annual report, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada estimated there were 950 known organized crime groups in the country, an increase of nearly 20 percent over the previous year. The vast majority of these groups (80 percent, according to the CISC) are involved in the illegal drug trade. In British Columbia alone, the estimated number of organized crime gangs has more than doubled in recent years—from 52 in 2003 to 108 in 2005. In a public speech, the assistant commissioner of the RCMP in that province said that limited law enforcement resources mean that “only 30 percent of known organized crime groups can be targeted every year.”

Subsequently, CSIS said that there are somewhere between five and 150 criminal organizations operating in Canada - Asian triads, Colombian cartels, Mafia groups, Russian Mafia and Nigerian crime groups. The Hells Angels also have "enormous criminal clout" and are involved in drug trafficking, prostitution and money laundering through their 18 chapters in Canada.

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17. CHRC-In March 2010, The Public Service Alliance of Canada condemned the Harper government's decision to close Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax. The union maintains that the closure of the three offices will make it substantially harder for individuals from marginalized groups to launch human rights complaints. The three offices slated for closure received 70 per cent of all signed complaints to the CHRC in 2008.For John Gordon, National President of PSAC, the closures are indicative of a strategy by the Conservative government to destabilize human rights organizations and women's groups in Canada.

"When the Conservatives took power in 2006, one of their first moves was to abolish the Court Challenges Program and close Status of Women Canada offices across the country," Gordon said. "Women's groups were denied government funding if they engaged in research or advocacy work, and equality-seeking groups lost the ability to fund Charter of Rights challenges. The government has also cancelled funding to notable NGOs such as KAIROS, and appointed ultra-conservative partisan board members to Rights & Democracy -- manufacturing a massive crisis within the organization. The closure of CHRC offices is another example of this outrageous trend."

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18. Corporate Tax Cuts – The recent corporate tax cuts in the Conservative government budget will cost the federal treasury $47 billion over the next four years, at a time when Harper is pushing an austerity program for Canadians in order to balance the budget.  This means reduced spending on health care, education, social services and income support programs.

In fact these massive corporate tax cuts serve to increase the national deficit that Harper's policies have created. If they're so concerned about reducing the deficit, why give away billions to Canada's most profitable corporations such as banks and oil companies? Moreover, these tax cuts do little for struggling industries like forestry and manufacturing – job creating industries.

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19. North American Security Perimeter Agreement -Since February 4, 2011, when Harper and US President Barack Obama announced their historic declaration – ‘Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness’ – that sets forth how the United States and Canada will manage our shared homeland and economic security, the Conservative government has maintained that a security perimeter with the U.S. will not impact on sovereignty. However, The Vancouver Sun reported later that month that a survey conducted by Ipsos Reid found that 68% believe Canada, “will compromise too much power over decisions about immigration, privacy and security to get a perimeter security agreement.” The poll also found that 51% of Canadians don’t, “trust Stephen Harper to negotiate a deal that improves border access but doesn’t give up powers that are important to Canada maintaining its own independence.” With respect to transparency, “An overwhelming 91% of Canadians say the negotiations should take place in public so that they can see what is on the table.”

Thus far, both Parliament and Congress have been excluded from the whole process. In a recent Action Alert, the Council of Canadians acknowledged, “no one can know for sure what ‘perimeter security’ means until the details, which are being developed behind closed doors, are announced in June.

Negotiations on a Canada-U.S. trade and security agreement have sparked privacy concerns, along with fears that sovereignty could be sacrificed.

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20. Your own reason – add here and email it to The Canadian Charger to update this list.

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