Manufactured ignorance

Canada Watch

If we are to believe our intrepid prime minister, Stephen Harper, and his resolute sidekick, Tony Clement, the long-form census was terminated in the spring of 2010 for the noblest of reasons. The minority Conservative government simply could not condone a mandatory census, which not only threatened ordinary Canadians with fines and jail time for non-compliance but also intruded far too deeply into their private affairs. Why should Canadians be forced to tell government about the number of toilets in their house? To what end? As Industry Minister Clement further explained, “the government of Canada was the heavy. We were the ones who were coercing Canadians ... on behalf of the private sector, other governments and the provinces.” [...]

Harper government: the message, the message, the message

Canada Watch

If the hallmark of revolution is fundamental change in political values or governing institutions, then the Harper government’s communication strategy can reasonably be characterized as revolution by stealth or incremental revolution. In their drive to rid Ottawa of what they regard as a pervasive Liberal/liberal culture, the Harper team has also, perhaps as a side effect, undermined long-established parliamentary practices and advanced the trend toward executive dominance in Canada, weakening the checks and balances in the system. As self-defined outsiders, who felt disrespected in Ottawa, the key people in the Prime Minister’s Office apparently feel no allegiance to understandings they had never been party to. [...]

Tories face fresh patronage charges

Lawrence Cannon

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon tried to appoint the niece of a former Conservative premier to the embattled board of Rights and Democracy, even as it struggled to restore an image tattered by accusations of patronage and partisanship. It's the latest in a series of accusations of Tory patronage by the Harper government. [...]

Ex-New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, who was attending a campaign event with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday, acknowledged to The Canadian Press that he recommended his niece, lawyer Katrine Giroux. [...]

Constitutional reform by stealth

Canada Watch

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has aligned Canadian public policy closer to that of the United States in a number of areas such as foreign policy, the environment, and crime control. What perhaps is less apparent is the slow shift in the direction of US-style executive authority. In response to challenges issuing out of the House of Commons in the last couple of years, Harper has been resisting the premise that the executive is responsible to Parliament, despite its inveterate presence in the deep structure of Canada’s constitutional order. He has preferred, instead, to mimic some of the least defensible aspects of US constitutional practice concerning executive branch independence. Even if there is a semblance of a separation of powers doctrine present in Canadian constitutional law, it lacks the sharp edges of US constitutional practice. [...]

He's Still Here

Canada Watch

Seven years ago, when Canada Watch published “The Chrétien Era: A Red Book Audit,” a special issue on the legacy of Jean Chrétien, it was hard to imagine that we would be repeating the exercise with an issue on Stephen Harper. Harper was, after all, an anomaly in Canadian politics: a man with an overriding ideology and a determination to enforce that ideology upon a country with little sympathy for it. As a vocal libertarian, he was by definition an outsider. Canada, in contrast, is a country that usually requires its leaders to pay their party dues or at least to demonstrate some interest in public administration. Even Pierre Trudeau had to fight his way through Parliament and the Liberal Party before getting the keys to the Prime Minister’s Office. In contrast, the Canadian right had simply handed Harper the leadership. [...]

Prorogation - Prime Ministers must not become Kings

Canada Watch

Although Peter Mansbridge may still have trouble pronouncing it, and many Canadians may not be able to spell it, “prorogation” has become a new word in the political lexicon of virtually all Canadians. For many, “prorogation” may be a new word, even though it refers to a practice dating back to the reign of King Henry VIII, who invented “prorogation” as a way of sending Parliament away without dissolving it. In modern times, prorogation is used to break up parliaments expected to last three years or more into sessions. Parliament is prorogued when most of a session’s work is done, and there is a recognized need for a seasonal break and for a new session of Parliament to begin after the break, with a Speech from the Throne setting out a new government legislative agenda. ...

Reclaiming Canada's role as leader on human rights

Amnesty Logo

In a report released today "Getting Back On The 'Rights' Track", Amnesty International outlines a human rights agenda for Canada. It provides a blueprint for leadership at home and a consistent and principled stand for Canada abroad that should be adopted by all politicians during the election campaign. And it must be implemented by those who win the election. The report covers human rights issues within Canada including Indigenous rights, women's human rights and the need to protect the rights of Canadians abroad. [...]