Saturday, March 27, 2010

Transparency Without Accountability. Reading Between the Lines

We need an unconstrained, unrestricted, full-fledged, unspoiled market economy, and we need it now ... We want to achieve the transition from a state-dominated economy to an economy based on the private sector, private initiative and private entrepreneurship . .. We are increasingly convinced that our country, or any other, is less unique than is often claimed ... The basic economic laws are valid across continents, economic systems, as well as ideological beliefs . . . The 'third way' [between central planning and the market economy] is the fastest way to the Third World. Vaclav Klaus, Czechoslovakian Minister of Finance, 1991 (1)

This two decades old quote was found in the introduction to the book Unfinished Business, written by former New Zealand finance minister Roger Douglas.

So what does a former Czechoslovakian Minister of Finance, and a former New Zealand Minister of Finance, have to do with us? Everything.

Rogernomics and Canada's Neoconservative Movement

Roger Douglas was the minister of finance in New Zealand from 1984 to 1989. Though elected with the left-wing Labour Party, he would take NZ sharply to the right, before the tables were cleared at his victory dinner. This was not by accident, as he would later advise the eager Canadian neocons:

"... beware the risks of candid disclosure before a fickle electorate, strike quickly once in power, define a total agenda, establish the essential control agencies, move simultaneously on a variety of policy fronts, embed the reforms as deeply as possible in legal and market channels so as to prevent early reversal, keep your nerve when faced with popular or electoral resistance and allow the programme to do its work." (2)
His policies were really not that new. Borrowed form Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan , they were just about dismantling a country's social safety net and paving the way for multi-nationals. And like Britain and the United States, under their neoconservative leaders; it was the ordinary citizens who suffered.
Saskatchewan political economist, Dr. John Warnock, travelled to New Zealand to study the effects of what New Zealanders dubbed 'Rogernomics.' The figures tell a story of devastation - a word used by New Zealand's own agricultural minister to describe the state of agriculture in four years after the 'reforms': A 40 per cent drop in farm income; a 50 per cent drop in the value of farm land; a policy of paying 3,000 farmers incentives of $ 45,000 to leave and the suggestion that another 15,000 (out of 79,000) should follow them.

Unemployment, which had been at 4 per cent before Douglas's reforms, jumped to over 12 per cent in just over a year and is still increasing.

"Douglas completely eliminated regional development grants and subsidies to rural services. Says Warnock, 'They had things like subsidized petroleum - regardless of where you were the price was the same - subsidized train service, bus service, airport service. They privatized all these things and the prices immediately skyrocketed.' A massive de-population of the countryside resulted, and approximately 40,000 New Zealanders per year have since left the country for Australia to find work since 'restructuring' took effect. (3)

But a handful of people got filthy rich, and isn't that all that really matters?

I picked up Unfinished Business at the library yesterday, because apparently it was the book that led Ralph Klein (Alberta Premier 1992-2006) and Mike Harris (Ontario Premier 1995-2002) through their years of slash and burn. I can't speak for Alberta, but in Ontario those years were horrendous.

More importantly, though; Roger Douglas also mentored Preston Manning and Stephen Harper, first speaking at the Reform Party's 1991 assembly, two years before his book was published.

He spoke of a ten point plan, which included messages, like "implement reforms by quantum leaps. Moving step by step lets invested interests mobilize. Speed is essential. It is impossible to move too fast. Once your momentum starts, never let it stop. Don't blink or wobble." (4)

Have you seen Stephen Harper "blink or wobble"? And another important thing to think about is that when Ralph Klein invited Douglas to speak to his caucus, a man by the name of Stockwell Day was in attendance. Our new unblinking head of the treasury. And when Douglas spoke to Mike Harris's crew, it included Jim Flaherty, Tony Clement, John Baird and Peter Van Loan.

Vaclav Klaus and Those Threatening 'isms'

Like Douglas, Klaus; now the President of Czechoslovakia, pursued a slash and burn agenda. He has been dubbed the Czechoslovakian Margaret Thatcher, and his policies called 'gangster capitalism", but it never stopped him or even slowed him down.

He gave a lecture a while back, where he warned his audience not to get trapped by 'isms'. His list included " ... feminism, environmentalism, socialism, multiculturalism, humanrightism and NGOism " (Jason Kenney got the vapours) (5)

He is also a staunch climate change denier and vetoed the Anti-Discrimination Law passed by parliament in 2008, that would have included protection for homsexuals, saying it was a dangerous threat to personal freedoms. (Jason Kenney swooned)

A Light Headed Jason Kenney Enters

So I mentioned that I picked up the book Unfinished Business, in an attempt to try and figure out what the Harper's government's agenda was, but was surprised to find that the first page would lead right to current headlines.

Not based on the dismantling of our social safety net, but the recent actions of our anti-multicultural, anti-immigration minister, Jason Kenney.

Earlier this month, Embassy Magazine ran a story: Federal Court asked to rule on Kenney's refugee claims: A Toronto-based lawyer is alleging the immigration minister might have interfered in the IRB's decision making.

Last June, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney publicly questioned the legitimacy of refugee claims made by Roma coming from the Czech Republic, saying they faced no real risk of state persecution.

The month prior to Kenney's announcement about Roma refugees, Stephen Harper visited Czechoslovakia, where the subject was discussed.

Harper also discussed with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek the soaring number of Romas, or Gypsies, entering Canada and claiming political asylum since late 2007, when Canada lifted visa requirements on Czech visitors. More than 80 Czech asylum-seekers have had their claims accepted, reflecting widespread concerns about discrimination and far-right violence directed against the community.

But Topolanek said the Roma are going to Canada for economic reasons rather than fleeing persecution, and blamed Canada's "soft" refugee determination process. Harper, meanwhile, indicated that Canada will bring back the visa rule if the situation isn't resolved.

Hmmmm. "Canada will bring back the visa rule ..." Not Kenney's idea after all.

But are these claims really "bogus"? Not according to Canwest European Correspondent Peter O'Neil.
A ghastly arson attack that has left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life contradicts Canadian and Czech government assertions that an exodus of Roma refugee claimants to Canada is driven by economics, rather than fear of persecution, say members of the Roma community here.

... They say they face a constant threat of neo-Nazi attacks and hateful demonstrations, where marchers head into Roma communities and call them "parasites," organized by increasingly sophisticated organizations such as the far-right Workers' Party.

"We are afraid for our lives," said Martin Duna, 31 ... "We are worried that Hitler is coming back." ... Duna's reference to Hitler, who sent Roma, as well as Jews and homosexuals, to extermination camps during the Second World War, isn't as extreme as it may sound ... Czech municipal politicians have won nationwide public praise for evicting Roma from apartments to live in metal containers in city outskirts; and human-rights groups have reported involuntary sterilizations of Roma women from the late 1960s to as recently as late last year.

Growing neo-Nazi violence, as well as discrimination and even segregation in areas such as health, housing, education, criminal justice and employment, have been reported in numerous publications issued by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International.

These claims don't sound "bogus" to me. It seems more like Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, are just protecting one of their own.

But their actions could have very devastating effects. It will be almost impossible for Roma to obtain Visas, but since all Czech citizens will now fall under that rule, there could be increased violence as they blame the "victims" for the problem.

Don't you just love neoconservatism, where their goddess Margaret Thatcher once said: "There is no such thing as society."


1. Unfinished Business, By: Roger Douglas, Random House, 1993, ISBN: 1869411994, Pg. 1

2. "The New Zealand Experiment: A Canadian Perspective", By Peter Clancy, Electronic Journal of Radical Organizational Theory, June 1996.

3. Preston Manning and the Reform Party. By: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 113-114

4. Preston Manning: The New Canada, By: Preston Manning, MacMillan Canada,ISBN: 0-7715-9150-0, pg. 276

5. Czech President Warns Against “Europeanism”, The Brussels Journal: the Voice of Conservatism (oops, another ism) in Europe, Paul Belien August 8, 2005

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