Thursday, January 6, 2011

Today's Top Ten Conservative Misdeeds

I'm attempting to release ten Conservative misdeeds a day or so, keeping track of them at the bottom of this page. Today's list:

10. Pierre Poilievre and the Calgary School: Most of us remember Poilievre's remarks about aboriginals at a time when Stephen Harper was making an empty apology for their treatment in the residential schools.

"Now along with this apology comes another $4 billion in compensation for those who partook in the residential schools over those years ... Now, you know, some of us are starting to ask: 'Are we really getting value for all of this money, and is more money really going to solve the problem?' My view is that we need to engender the values of hard work and independence and self reliance. That's the solution in the long run -- more money will not solve it."

He apologized for the remarks but what the media should have delved into, was the "some of us", who believed that those in the school "partook" willingly in their own systematic abuse, and are now just plain lazy. Like Stephen Harper, Poilievre is a product of the 'Calgary School' (a branch of their political science department), where young neocons are being spurned out, and one of their gurus is Tom Flanagan (the man who said that Julian Assange should be assassinated).

Several years ago, Marcie McDonald wrote an article for the Walrus magazine, entitled The Man Behind Stephen Harper, in which she discusses Tom Flanagan and the agenda of the Calgary School. From that article:
Consternation rumbled across the country like an approaching thunderhead. For aboriginal leaders, one of their worst nightmares appeared about to come true. Two weeks before last June’s federal election, pollsters were suddenly predicting that Conservative leader Stephen Harper might pull off an upset and form the next government.

What worried many in First Nations’ circles was not Harper himself, but the man poised to become the real power behind his prime ministerial throne: his national campaign director Tom Flanagan, a U.S.-born professor of political science at the University of Calgary. Most voters had never heard of Flanagan, who has managed to elude the media while helping choreograph Harper’s shrewd, three-year consolidation of power.

But among aboriginal activists, his name set off alarms. For the past three decades, Flanagan has churned out scholarly studies debunking the heroism of Métis icon Louis Riel, arguing against native land claims, and calling for an end to aboriginal rights. Those stands had already made him a controversial figure, but four years ago, his book, First Nations? Second Thoughts, sent tempers off the charts.
And the "Some of us" also includes Conservative MP Peter Goldring who had plenty to say about Louis Riel, when he posted (a taxpayer funded) newsletter to his website suggesting that Louis Riel was a villain.
Goldring posted the letter in response to a request from the federal New Democrats who wanted Louis Riel to be recognized as a father of confederation and wanted a conviction that saw him hanged for treason overturned. In his letter Goldring wrote, "Riel didn't father confederation; He fought those who did." Riel, a politician who fought for Metis rights in the late 1800s and also helped found the province of Manitoba, led two violent rebellions against the Canadian government and was hanged for treason.The letter went on to say, "To un-hang Louis Riel and to mount a statue to him on Parliament Hill would elevate anarchy and civil disobedience to that of democratic statesmanship." The letter has now been removed from Goldring's website, but the words have Alberta's Metis outraged.
9. Using our money to pay for Conservative Party fundraisers:
When Defence Minister Peter MacKay flew to British Columbia in January, he split his time between government business and two Tory fundraising gigs. Taxpayers footed the bill. When then-Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice flew to Nova Scotia to meet with provincial chiefs, he headlined a Conservative fundraising dinner in Prince Edward Island. Taxpayers paid for the trip ... The federal Conservatives – elected on promises to be squeaky clean – are using government resources to help fill their election war chest.

The Star easily found 25 examples of Tory ministers mixing fundraising and department business, each trip typically costing taxpayers several thousand dollars, though complete costs are not disclosed.
8. A day after Harper's latest patronage senate pick was announced, that pick, Larry Smith, revealed that he would be running for the neocons next election. So what does this mean? It means that he can now do an awful lot of pre-election campaigning, and charge the Canadian taxpayer for it. He's off to a good start. Stealing from us before becoming a Harper MP. We have to make sure he never does. This party has already surpassed their quota of thieves.

7. Broke laws by holding cabinet meetings in secret and the silencing of the press: In April of 2006, Time magazine sounded the alarm on the Harper government, and their unprecedented secrecy. Among the topics discussed:
--The PMO has restricted what Cabinet ministers, embassies, consulates and some Members of Parliament can say and do without first having their plans vetted by the PMO.

--Officials decide which reporters get to ask questions at the Prime Minister's press conferences and sometimes pass over those they suspect have questions they don't want to deal with.

--The PMO has not announced some of Harper's meetings with national and international leaders.

--The PMO has placed undue restrictions on allowing reporters into photo ops in the Prime Minister's Centre Block office, even though they have traditionally been allowed access. The PMO last week beefed up security and allowed only photographers and camera operators into a meeting ... Reporters who had been barred from the session got into a minor shoving match with Commons security guards.... "Canadians should be worried when they see the government trying to exert such an unprecedented level of control."
Peter Murdoch of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union said that it "smacks of totalitarianism." And Alasdair Roberts, a Syracuse University public-policy professor, asked "How can the average Canadian make a judgment about whether their government is being well run if they don't have access to the information?"

6. Peter Mackay fabricated a threat by Russia, when he suggested that they had entered our airspace unannounced and he had to send our jets to the rescue.
What’s the big deal?, was the response from the Russians. Canada had been notified of the flight and the Russian aircraft never entered Canadian airspace, they pointed out."The countries adjacent to the flight path had been notified and the planes did not violate the airspace of other countries. In this light the statements by the Canadian Defense Ministry provoke astonishment and can only be called a farce," Russia’s Ria Novosti quoted a government official ... there actually was no story. Nothing at all. It was fabricated by a government which found it momentarily expedient to huff and puff about the evil Russian bear.
And despite being outed by the press (about 1% of the press anyway), Mackay has repeated his performance. Apparently they played this little game to justify buying the "lemon" F-35s. Yes that's what we want. A government that will poke a stick at a country with nuclear weapons. But not to worry. If they don't burn up at take off, our planes will hunt them down.

5. Rod Bruinooge and the Sponsorship Scandal: Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge was involved in a bit of a ... shall we say "caper"? It started with the the patronage appointment of Bruinooge's old business associate, Gary Brazzell, to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). Apparently Rod owed Mr. Brazzell quite a bit of money at the time.
There was a recent Tory appointment that the WFP missed, as they always seem to miss it. That man is the one Manitoban who got plum appointments from both Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper. That man is Ladco Board Member and former Rod Bruinooge lawyer Gary Brazzell.
And Bruinooge went to work for Brazzell with a project he was involved in.
Less than two years after the Kenaston underpass finally ended traffic mayhem on one major south Winnipeg artery, the area's MP says it's time to do the same thing on Waverley (Waverley West is a project of Ladco). And Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge says his government is prepared to pony up its share of the cash." Senior Manitoba minister Vic Toews has signalled to me that should the province come on board, the federal government will be there," Bruinooge said. (Time for Waverley underpass: Tory MP Winnipeg Free Press By Mia Rabson June 16, 2008 )
But the name Gary Brazzell is interesting for another reason. In Stevie Cameron's book: On the take: crime, corruption and greed in the Mulroney years, she tells of how Mulroney gave out contracts to government Ad agencies.
During the Mulroney years, Montreal’s advertising and public relations community made the Ritz coffee shop something of a hangout in the mornings. Perhaps they were hoping for the chance of a word with Mulroney, who always stayed at the hotel when he was in town, or maybe they were just making sure they had regular contact with [Fernand] Roberge. “There was a real clique there,” said one of the advertising executives.
Mulroney had just fired the old VIA Rail board and appointed a new one packed with cronies and party bagmen, and one of them was Gary Brazzell.

And in all the wheeling a dealing, an ad agency with little experience was given a lucrative contract, despite the fact that there were many better qualified agencies who had submitted tenders. And at least one Mulroney appointee, Marc LeFrançois, would be named in Adsam several years later. The culture of entitlement that resulted in the Sponsorship Scandal was created then at the Ritz coffee shop. Cronyism is alive and well in Harperland.

4. When black Somali immigrant Suaad Hagi Mohamud went home for her mother's funeral, she was stopped at the airport before returning to Canada, because officials believed that her passport photo did not look like her. So they contacted our embassy, who told officials that she was an impostor and to keep her there. Her ordeal was frightening.
By cancelling her passport, they rendered her stateless. And rendered her to the Kenyans – the same Kenyans who had rendered another Canadian citizen, Bashir Makhtal, to an Ethiopian prison.The default position of a powerful bureaucracy is control. But when its political protectors are unresponsive to principles or the people, bureaucratic control unconsciously, and without any obvious will, can become sadism.Remarkably, the Canadian politician elected by the people to oversee the bureaucracy – and to help fellow Canadians in distress – failed in his highest obligation. Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon crushed her hope for quick justice with mistruths and irrelevancies. In demeaning and damaging language, he said she hadn't tried hard enough to prove she was a citizen.
And when members of the Foreign Affairs Committee were called to discuss her situation, the Conservatives acted in the usual fashion. Glen Pearson tells it best:
In the midst of it all walked in a quiet, demure woman, whose presence immediately sent an electric current through the committee members and especially the media. This was Ms. Suaad Mohamud, the Canadian citizen who had
been trapped, and for a time imprisoned, in Narobi, Kenya under the claim that she was an imposter. Her lawyer sat with her in the appropriate spot and when the right moment came she quietly addressed the committee.

Her story was a horror tale that resulted in her being denied access to the resources of her own Canadian government while at the same time being kept from her ten year old son living in Toronto. She had gone to see family in Africa but upon her attempt to return her identity was questioned, despite the fact she produced countless pieces of evidence to prove she was who she said she was.

... All three opposition parties offered heartfelt apologies. And some of the Government members expressed sorrow at what had happened to her. But clearly they had been given direction to not apologize for the incident. You could see the struggle in their own eyes and I could tell easily that a couple of them wanted to offer their apologies. But they didn’t and that is just a symbol of much that is wrong at the moment.
3. Harper's India Fiasco: On October 16, 2009; residents in the riding of Mississauga-Erindale opened their doors to a surprise visitor. It was none other than famous Bollywood actor and OXFAM Ambassador, Rahul Bose. He was there distributing pamphlets and asking those he spoke with to encourage Stephen Harper to go to Copenhagen and make an honest effort to address climate change.

Fearing a backlash from the Indo-Canadian community, the Harper government went into damage control. Time for a photo-op:
MUMBAI, India — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet India’s answer to Brad Pitt on Monday and pose for pictures with Indo-Canadian contestants of wildly popular TV dance contest. The reason? More votes in Canada.

The pictures of Harper meeting Bollywood mega-star Akshay Kumar are pure political gold, say Conservatives in Canada. So too is Harper’s tour Monday of the television studio that is home to the reality show Premier Dance League — the subcontinent’s version of So You Think You Can Dance — that is a hit here and with the Indian diaspora in Canada. Three Indo-Canadians have advanced through several rounds of the contest. Harper’s three days India will certainly contain some of the standard photo-ops one would expect ...
And who better to make the announcement than Conservative MP Bob Dechert, who just happens to represent Mississauga-Erindale where residents had been star-struck.
Mr. Speaker, before the Liberal leader decided to return to Canada to be crowned, the Liberal government pursued an ideological policy of isolation toward India, slapping it with sanctions and marginalizing Canada's influence with India well into this decade. Our government has been working to repair this long-term damage to our relationship. That is why the Prime Minister is in India this week, rebuilding relationships and deepening our economic ties with an emerging economic power.
Translation: blah, blah, blah.

But what our media missed about this little trip, where Harper played a dancing fool (stood still clapping while others danced around him), was that the press in India were roughed up and kept from media events. Just like home.
Controversy and chaos marked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Golden Temple visit. Harper refused to partake of prasad at Darshani Deodi after being dissuaded by his aide, Alisa Mohammed. He also declined langar.

SGPC officials said she also made them vacate their information office prior to the premier’s arrival. “When we objected, she said she had already spoken to the SGPC secretary on the matter. It is for the first time that we have suffered such humiliation at hands of a foreigner in our own office,” said a senior SGPC official, expressing resentment over the behaviour of the Canadian PM’s staff ....
2. In November of 2008, there was a very distressing story emerging from the Baffin Islands where more than 500 Narwhal whales were trapped in the ice. But instead of bringing in an ice breaker to free them, Gail Shea's office gave the order to simply shoot them. This made international headlines, since the American Humane Society had offered to rescue them. Captain Paul Watson who watched the slaughter was livid.
The slaughter of these Narwhals did not need to take place. The Humane Society offered to employ Inuit to keep the breathing holes open until a Canadian government icebreaker could arrive to break them out. The Canadian government refused to dispatch an icebreaker stating that the noise of the icebreaker would "stress" the whales.

There was nothing humane about the slaughter that followed as Inuit riflemen opened fire on the frightened whales. The "stress" of an icebreaker would have been minimal compared to the horrific trauma of having family members torn apart by bullets around them. There is no humane way to shoot a whale. For the DFO to describe this slaughter as "humane" is ludicrous ...
So what did the neocons do? Went after Captain Paul Watson. He told them to bring it on:
"A government that refuses to abide by democratic principles and closes the door of Parliament rather than to submit to the rule of the majority is hardly in a position to demand my resignation. The Canadian government has no power or authority over us and we have no cause to respect any demands from the Canadian government, especially the ridiculous Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Gail Shea remains Minister only because the honourable members of
Parliament have been denied the floor from which to fire her," said Captain Paul Watson.
1. Jim Flaherty Profits from private school: After announcing that his government would be providing "bursaries" so that children could attend private, for profit, religious schools, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer, BCer in Toronto exposed a scam that Flaherty and his wife had been engaged in, that netted a lot of profit for themselves and a few of their friends. He has all the documentation and it's well worth a read.

Hosing the Taxpayer 101.

That's it for today. I'm already working on tomorrow's list.

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