A quick question about those federal cuts…

Harper created four agencies and at least three of them are a complete waste of money.  One has even been scrapped (see number 2) but its chief exec continues being “funded”.  Think Milton but with much nicer digs and ON the payroll.

  1. The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (created by Harper in 2008).

    The agency was set up to perform three functions: set annual employment insurance contribution rates,  invest any EI surplus, and manage contingency funds. But Harper capped contribution rates, nixing that duty; and there has been no surplus to invest and no contingency funds to manage. So far, this waste of space has spent more than $3.3 million for new offices, computers and furniture, high-priced execs, consultants and other staff, travel budgets, expense accounts, and board meetings.  Yet it has nothing to do. “Its published budget for 2011-12 includes giving everyone raises, and moving the entire agency into new offices — all at an expected cost of $1.8 million.”

    “Compensation costs include stipends and expenses for the seven appointed board members, and $244,000 for a couple of executives. The agency’s executive director, retired senior public servant Phil Charko, is being paid about $150,000 a year to work part time. The budget provides another $200,000 to pay an investment manager if the agency ever has any money to invest. Another $300,000 is budgeted for additional corporate services such as IT management, human resources management, and translation services.” EI financing agency spends millions doing nothing, CBC, Jan 19, 2012

  2. Public Appointments Commission Secretariat (created by Harper in 2006)

    “The Public Appointments Commission Secretariat was originally set up to support a commission to oversee hiring processes in Ottawa, a centerpiece of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s accountability policy. When opposition parties blocked the appointment of the first Public Appointments commissioner, Harper scrapped the commission entirely. But the secretariat lives on with an annual budget of more than a million dollars. By fall of [2011], government documents show the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat had spent just over $2.5 million in donated federal services and cash.” Should the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat be scrapped?, CBC, Jan 27, 2012

  3. The Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor (created by Harper in 2011)

    “A mining watchdog agency that was supposed to hold Canadian companies accountable for their actions overseas has done little to protect communities abroad, critics say. In October 2009, the federal government appointed a corporate social responsibility counsellor to probe complaints about Canadian companies committing abuses in developing countries. The Toronto-based office…has received two complaints in the past two years — one of which was recently dropped because the mining corporation chose not to undergo the voluntary investigation.” Mining watchdog agency called ‘bogus PR job’, CBC, Nov 1, 2011

  4. The Office of Religious Freedom (created by socially conservative Christian right wing Harper in 2011)
    An $5 million a year agency to be located in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. Harper said its task would be threefold:
    –  Monitor religious freedom around the world;
    – Promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy;
    – Advance policies and programs that support religious freedom around the world.Separation of Church and State is old skool!

Harper is cutting 19,000 federal jobs and gutting every agency and department under the sun.  How are these four faring? Anyone know?

I have a hunch The Fraser Institute remains unconcerned

New rules in budget ‘create more fear’ among politically active charities.

Revenue Canada defines charities under four categories: those that relieve the poor, advance religion, advance education or those whose purposes benefit the community.

Who qualifies?

The Fraser Institute, a rightwing libertarian ‘think tank’ promoting unregulated free market capitalism (of the variety that brought down the global economy in 2008) and extremely limited government. TFI has enjoyed charitable tax status in Canada and the US since 1974.

Who doesn’t qualify?

Greenpeace had its charitable status revoked in 1989 for being an advocacy group.

Selling Harper’s pension changes one inflammatory column at a time

Globe and Mail columnists Margaret Wente and Dakshana Bascaramurty appear to be on tag-team duty, spinning the inter-generational hate and prejudice that is the foundation of Harper’s pension reform sales pitch.

A few observations:

  1. The Globe and Mail, owned by Bell Media – a large corporation enjoying bottom of the barrel tax rates, has formally endorsed Stephen Harper and reform conservatism since 2006.
  2. The Globe increasingly emphasizes opinion and subtly crafts opinion to appear as news. Opinion pieces are promoted on its web front page and in its news category.  With few exceptions, the Globe’s opinion writers are wingnuts, among them the seasoned and highly skilled John Ibbitson, Tim Powers, and Margaret Wente.
  3. Harper has no financial basis for making the pension changes, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. Harper is making those changes anyway; a) because he has always loathed the social safety net and b) because he needs funds for other very costly projects, fueled by Bill C10 and Bill C30 (expanded prisons, privatization of prisons and warrantless spying on Canadian citizens).
  4. To sell the unnecessary pension changes, Harper sent Diane Finley on a national tour telling young people that older people are a burden.  The sales pitch isn’t working as 70% of Canadians polled oppose the changes. Not to worry. Now that the OAS eligibility changes are passed, the ever loyal and dutiful Globe will continue to promote Harper’s talking points.
  5. And finally, writing an inflammatory column has likely garnered journalism newbie Dakshana Bascaramurty sufficient attention to cement her standing at the Globe.  Her previous fluff pieces garnered 20-40 comments. This latest one has gotten her over a thousand so far.  In the dog-eat-dog mainstream media employing more Ibbitsons and fewer Salutins, I guess you do what you have to do.

Writing evidence-free columns is relatively easy work. It doesn’t require research, it doesn’t require much thought or care.  Plop a hateful headline atop your baseless sneers and you’ll have what it takes to be a Globe columnist.  Just don’t expect to be taken seriously or admired.

Conservative majority budget is a good first stab…in Canada’s back

Dr. Dawg summed up the Harper government’s pre-budget strategy best

The strategy was simple: prepare us for an attack by chainsaw-wielding maniacs—then just slap us around a little and break a few fingers. Folks will still sigh in relief, or so the Harper government is hoping…

Looking at the budget, I guess you could say they chainsawed a few fingers off and deeply wounded others hoping they’ll eventually fall off on their own. You know, when the gangrene sets in.

A few revealing snippets:

  • Most federal agencies are receiving dramatic cuts, including the Auditor General (the office that uncovered Adscam and Gazebogate, among other crimes) and the Chief Electoral Officer (currently investigating robofraud complaints in 200 federal ridings). The list of agencies losing millions of dollars in funding is here. Altogether 19,000 public servants are being laid off. As we’ve already seen, cuts in staff have worked out well for Canadian citizens.
  • Despite evidence from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that there is no public pension crisis, Harper has raised the eligibility age for OAS to 67 from 65.  He first announced this significant change, not during his election campaign and not even on Canadian soil, but at the World Economic Summit in Davos where western industrialized nations decided China state capitalism is the new model for capitalism. Postponing eligibility for OAS will also postpone eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement received by only the lowest-income seniors.
  • Ottawa will no longer invest in scientific discovery…and plans to force government labs to switch to commercial research aimed at improving business productivity.  Translation: Scientific research that isn’t specifically geared to beefing corporate profits isn’t likely to be funded; and corporations, particularly those that have the government’s ear, will determine the direction of scientific research.
  • The government will cut short environmental review hearings to 24 months.  That’s one way to deal with citizens – now referred to by Harper as “environmental terrorists” – opposed to pipelines being rammed through their communities.
  • Harper intends to cap federal health care spending in 2017, essentially leaving each province to fend for itself.  In December 2011, Flaherty advised the provinces he intended to reduce federal health transfers from 6% to between 3% and 4%.  The budget cements this plan.Harper’s primary  political interest has always been to rid Canada of public health care and starving the provinces has been a long-time strategy.

    “each province should raise its own revenue for health care – i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points.”
    (Stephen Harper, ‘Firewall’ letter, January 24, 2001)

    “What we clearly need is experimentation with market reforms and private delivery options [in health care].”
    (Stephen Harper, then President of the NCC, 2001)

“Reshaping Canada” in Harper’s image is officially underway.

The promise the Tories never mentioned during the election: A Fresh Plate of Steaming Scandal Every Week

This week it’s

Defence officials misled Parliament on F-35 deal: AG report

Canada’s new federal spending watchdog is set to deliver a scathing report on the F-35 fighter jet program early next month that will make distinctly unpleasant reading for the Conservative government.

The first draft of the report on replacing Canada’s fighter jets by new Auditor-General, Michael Ferguson, is said to charge the Department of National Defence with misleading Parliament, according to someone who has read it.

What will tomorrow bring?

The war on Canadian women begins, a year after Harper promised not to wage one

Not to be outdone by US Republicans, Canada’s fundamentalist Tories will hold an abortion debate in the House of Commons in April, one year after Harper promised never to have one.

In April 2011, during the election campaign, Stephen Harper promised not to reopen the abortion debate.

A Conservative government won’t allow the abortion debate to be reopened in Parliament, because it’s “not the priority of the Canadian people,” Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Thursday.

Apparently his majority is not about keeping promises to the electorate but of fulfilling the ideological need of a few old white men to control the wombs of Canadians.

A controversial proposal from a Conservative backbencher to legally define fetuses as human beings — and reopen the abortion debate — will have its day in the House of Commons.

Tory MP Stephen Woodworth wants Parliament to create a committee of politicians whose task it will be to review a law that stops short of defining unborn children as “human beings.”

A committee of MPs has agreed to give Woodworth at least one hour of debate sometime in April. He will receive a second hour of debate sometime either in late spring or early fall.

If parliamentarians agree to Woodworth’s request, a special committee would review Section 223 of the Criminal Code, which says a child becomes “a human being . . . when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”

That section of the Criminal Code says a homicide on a child happens when someone “causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse than the worst election fraud any western democracy has ever seen, we have this idiocy to worry about. And if the vicious attack on women in the US is any indication, we should not make light of this or pretend it’s going to go away after Old Fogie is through with his hour of preaching. God help us, we are just shy of being Oklahoma .

I definitely want to know who sits on “the committee of MPs” agreeing to reopening the abortion debate. It had better not be members of the opposition.

C10, a crime bill crafted by political crooks* for lobbyists and grifters

Using his Conservative majority, Harper has passed Bill C10, a draconian crime bill that isn’t needed and no province can afford. The bill, designed to keep people in prison longer through mandatory minimum sentencing (which is proven not to work), will be a colossal waste of tax revenue and flies in the face of evidence showing declining crime rates. The only beneficiaries will be for-profit private sector prison corporations. 

Two major US corporations lobbied hard for Harper’s crime bill:

Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group Inc. GEO is an active registered lobbyist that deals with the following branches of the Canadian Federal Government:

Correctional Service of Canada
Public Safety Canada
Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)
Public-Private Partnerships Canada, Solicitor General

The omnibus crime bill is not about public safety. It is about privatizing prisons. Read more…

The trouble with mandatory minimum sentences: From the CBC:

Back in the 80s, Eric Sterling was instrumental in the drafting of US legislation for mandatory minimum sentences. Twenty-five years later, he feels responsible for a law that he believes lead to a great deal of injustice. He’s joined two dozen former judges, special agents, police, narcotics investigators and other criminal justice professionals who have signed a letter imploring the Harper government not to follow the same path. We’ll hear from him and from the Canadian who’s been pivotal in creating our pending mandatory minimum law.

Listen to Anna Maria Tremonte’s interview with Sterling and Robert Sampson, the Mike Harris-era imbecile Harper hired to draft the basis for Bill C10.

Corporations that profit from prisons also lobby for long sentences because it, naturally, pays. Gotta keep that tax revenue flowing from the government to the corporations. The US prison industry has also become an inexpensive source of labour for other US corporations. Finally figured out what that three strikes rule in some states was all about. Lock up a petty criminal for life and you’ve got a somewhat reliable wage slave stripped of all rights and benefits.

Ever since Harper got his majority, I feel like I’m walking Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Never has the future looked more bleak.

* Laundry list of Harper election chicanery and law-breaking. The Tories are strongly implicated in the current robofraud scandal.

Stephen Harper’s Minister of Gazebos issues Gag Order on Spending Cuts

Tony Clement, by all accounts a completely untrustworthy politician – having pilfered $50 million from a G8 fund to buy himself some votes in his riding, and lied about it – is the President of the Treasury Board.

There is no one senior to him within the TB. Tony reports to Prime Minister Harper.

This week, the Treasury Board issued a gag order on government spending cuts.

The information hit the media.

A public backlash ensued.

Tony says ‘It’s wasn’t me, eh?’

The Conservative minister in charge of federal spending restraint is distancing himself from his own department’s edict that details of what gets cut be kept secret for months after the 2012 budget is released.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement said that, after reading about the memo on The Globe and Mail’s website Thursday, he was investigating why it had been issued to all federal departments.

[…]

The minister has recently delivered several speeches on the importance of “open government” and financial transparency. He acknowledged that message would be at odds with a clampdown on information about spending cuts.

“If that were the case, I would be crushed by the irony. But that is not the case,” he said.

This impossibly narcissistic criminal imbecile deserves nothing less than to be crushed by the irony.