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June 3, 2013

Has the media finally turned against the Harper regime?

Harper Watch – May 19 to 26

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Prior to the 2011 election, the Conservatives pretty much owned the media. What criticism there was, was lukewarm and included some outrageous statements such as "Once Harper gets a majority, he will be able to ease up, be kinder, less controlling". And of course, the media repeated the Harper propaganda that "The Conservatives have done well on the economy" throughout the election campaign giving the Harper gang millions in free advertising. There was also the oft repeated "They run from the right but govern from the centre."

Well, ladies and gentlemen it looks like the times they are a changing.  This issue of Harper Watch features commentary articles from a wide range of journalists.  Some like Gerald Caplan, Lawrence Martin and Michael Harris have been critical of the regime for some time but the list also includes, Andrew Coyne, John Ivison, John Ibbitson and Tasha Kheiriddin.

National Post (Andrew Coyne) – Wright’s resignation not the government’s moral reclamation. It’s the next act in the tragedy

Section 17 (1) of the Senate Conflict of Interest code states: “Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept … any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.”

Section 16 (1) of the Parliament of Canada Act states that “no member of the Senate shall receive or agree to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, for services rendered … in relation to any bill, proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate or the House of Commons or a committee of either House. Moreover, Section 16 (3) makes “every person who gives, offers or promises to any member of the Senate” such compensation liable to imprisonment for up to one year.

Section 121 (1) of the Criminal Code states that anyone who “gives, offers or agrees to give or offer” to an official or “being an official, demands, accepts or offers or agrees to accept” any “loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind” in return for “cooperation, assistance, exercise of influence or an act or omission” in connection with “any matter of business relating to the government,” is guilty of an offence punishable by up to five years in jail.

Translation: paying a Senator under the table, for any reason, under any circumstances, is serious business. But when the recipient is under investigation by a Senate committee, when the purpose of the payment is to relieve him of responsibility for the expenses for which he is at that moment being audited, and when his benefactor is the most senior unelected official in the government, “serious” does not begin to describe it.

G&M (John Ibbitson) –  Harper refuses to give any answers on Senate expenses scandal

A visibly unhappy Stephen Harper sought to refocus his government in a speech to caucus Tuesday morning that made several claims but answered no questions….

Instead, he reminded his colleagues of previous reforms aimed at making MPs and senators more accountable. And, as predicted, he sought to swing the discussion back to the government’s record on jobs and the economy.

National Post (John Ivison) – Harper’s speech was a chance to be accountable. He blew it

He refused to take questions from a furious press corps. A good number of his own caucus were equally upset that he didn’t level with them about what he knew and when he knew it. “Honest backbenchers didn’t start this mess — it started at the centre.  There needs to be an apology to caucus and the public,” said another MP.

iPolitics (Tasha Kheiriddin) The cover-up is the scandal — not the Senate

This isn’t about Senate reform. This isn’t a distraction. This isn’t about protecting anyone — except the people at the heart of this mess, whose resignations the government dragged out over the Victoria Day long weekend, hoping that Canadians would be too busy seeding their lawn or opening their cottages to pay attention.

This is about integrity. This is about transparency. This is about a problem that people in the Prime Minister’s Office tried to bury under a pile of money.  This is, increasingly, about a cover-up.

G&M (Gerald Caplan) – Conservative attacks are nothing but bullying

One of them saw a Conservative ad on TV sneering at Justin Trudeau for doing a mock strip tease for a charity event. The class had only recently learned about cyberbullying after Rehtaeh Parsons and other high-profile teenage suicides by kids who’d been humiliated online.

“Yeah, they’re really not nice,” this 10-year old told his teacher. “He did a charity and they’re laughing at him and he looks like a clown and they’re saying he’s just a simple teacher and that’s not fair. They can’t do that, Madame, that’s cyberbullying.” Several students were seriously concerned that “Justin” would be “really sad about this.”

iPolitics (Michael Harris) –  Harper abandons his underlings to the heat on the Hill

The backbench of the Conservative party is suddenly important again — if they dare to be. They have got to stand up and be counted. It is one thing to have caved in to a personality cult based on a vision of discipline somewhere between vindictiveness and sheer intimidation. But it is another to be constantly going back to their constituents defending Stephen Harper values rather than Conservative values. The gap between the two is widening and the PMO/Senate scandal could turn it into a chasm.

iPolitics (Lawrence Martin) – Serial breaches of trust will doom the Harper machine

The soft treatment accorded Senator Mike Duffy begins to make more sense with recent revelations. Duffy billed Tory campaigns while campaigning for the party in the 2011 elections. He did this, according to reports, while also receiving an allowance for supposedly being in Ottawa on Senate business….

What arrangements Duffy made with party headquarters (which organized his campaigning) we don’t know. But we do know there is a lot more to this story, a story which focuses public attention on the Conservatives’ moral character like never before.

iPolitics (Don Lenihan) – Stephen Harper and the ‘noble lie’

… the philosophy of neo-conservatives like Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush was heavily influenced by the political philosopher Leo Strauss — a quintessential anti-populist who taught that the public lacked the capacity to make informed decisions on political affairs.

In Strauss’ view, successful democracies are led by an elite group which can make the right decisions for the public, even though these will often conflict with what the public would expect or accept. Enlightened leaders bridge this gap by telling the public a story it can accept — what Strauss called a “noble lie.”

SAD WEEK IN THE COURTS – Federal judge confirms election fraud in 2011 vote

Electoral fraud occurred during the last federal election, a federal court judge ruled on Thursday, but there is no proof that it affected the outcomes in six ridings at issue, so the elections will not be overturned….Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley ruled that the calls “struck at the integrity of the electoral process by attempting to dissuade voters from casting ballots for their preferred candidates. This form of ‘voter suppression,’ was, until the 41st General Election, largely unknown in this country.”

The evidence points to “a concerted campaign by persons who had access to a database of voter information maintained by a political party,” Mosley writes, but says there was no allegation that any of the candidates in the six ridings were responsible for the campaign.

RELATED – COUNCIL OF CANADIANS PRESS RELEASE ON THE RULING – B.C. mining company justified in bringing in Chinese workers,Federal Court rules

The government was justified in issuing a positive labour market opinion that allowed a British Columbia mining company to hire 201 temporary foreign workers from China, the Federal Court ruled Tuesday.

The decision comes after two unions challenged the government and the companies involved, arguing Canadians are available to do the jobs required and that it was not necessary to look outside the country for foreign labour.

National Post – Andrew Coyne: Judge finds smoking gun in robocalls scandal but who pulled the trigger?

(A better headline would be: Federal Court grants licence to commit election fraud with impunity in the future.)

 …But as to the question of whether an electoral fraud occurred, of that the judge was in no doubt. He found that the calls were made, by the thousands, to scores of ridings nationwide; that they were not random, but targeted at non-Conservatives; that they commonly presented themselves, falsely, as being from Elections Canada, and provided false information about where to vote. Neither was he in doubt that they prevented at least some voters from getting to the polls, even if their numbers were not enough to be decisive in any riding.

And, troublingly, the judge found that this was no accident, nor the coincidence of a few bad apples with demon diallers. Rather, it was a deliberate and systemic attempt to subvert the democratic process, using resources ordinarily accessible only to a few: namely, the Conservatives’ highly prized Constituency Information Management System (CIMS). The evidence, he writes, suggests “there was an orchestrated effort to suppress votes during the 2011 election campaign by a person or persons with access to the CIMS database.”


Harper government buying ads to promote job grant program that doesn’t yet exist

Ottawa Citizen – The Harper government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising a program that does not yet exist.

Prime-time ads began airing this week during NHL playoff games — currently the priciest advertising real estate on the dial — that tout a new federal Canada Jobs Grant for training workers.

The trouble is, the freshly announced program is at present little more than a concept that has yet to be negotiated with provincial governments, and requires buy-in from employers as well.

Yahoo! News – Anti-Stephen Harper group raises enough money to air attack ad on Hockey Night in Canada

It’s a big success for a witty group of political activists.

Last month, Yahoo! Canada News reported that the ‘Sh#$ Harper Did’ group had produced an anti-Harper attack ad and were crowdfunding to have it broadcast on television.

Well, they’ve surpassed their goals and raised $76,412.

The commercial will be broadcast twice on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, including Friday night’s Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins playoff game.

According to the group’s executive director — and comedian — Sean Devlin, their goal is to counter the Harper government’s Economic Action plan ads which he says are “devoid of facts.” (Also see: Economic Action Plan ads cost taxpayers $21 million: report)


The Star – Stephen Harper should appoint a pro to head Canada’s library and archives: Editorial

As the head of Library and Archives Canada, a seemingly sleepy position, Daniel Caron was remarkably controversial. He stepped down Wednesday after being castigated by Heritage Minister James Moore for spending $4,500 of federal funds on Spanish lessons. Shortly thereafter, the New Democrats released a document detailing his “titanic expenses” — $174,000 over the past two years.

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