Harper's Obfuscation

Now, armed with a little more information about Berniergate, the opposition is beginning to ask more probing questions. The Liberals want to know how it could be that the documents remained misplaced for 5 weeks. The NDP wants to know how such a inept security breach will impact Canada's international reputation.

What I can't determine is when Harper's government learned of the return of the documents. I take from the news stories that Couillard contacted her lawyer, and he advised her to return the documents. I assume her lawyer facilitated this. But Bernier and Couillard broke up some time ago. The documents were with her for five weeks. When were the documents returned to the government? When did they learn of the security breach?

If the government learned of this any time before Couillard made her public disclosure, then Harper has not been forthright with the House when questions were asked about this relationship. He said that details of their relationship were not issues Canadians were entitled to know about. Well, clearly this is a relationship the details of which we are very much entitled to know about.

Couillard apparently shopped around to find someone to interview her about her relationship with Bernier. This would have taken days and perhaps weeks. Which means she must have had the knowledge of the return of the documents for some time now. It appears that Harper tried to hide the details from us, chastising the opposition for asking questions about Couillard.

You simply can't trust Harper to give an honest answer.


Bernier, an international star. Harper, still a creep.

Maxime Bernier is an international star this evening. Both the BBC and CNN have the story of his resignation on their main pages. Most disturbing, however, is Harper's creepy attempt at damage control. This is a breach of our national security.
Harper's government can no longer claim to have the confidence of Canadians. If he had an ounce of decency, he would resign as PM. His arrogant deflection of the questions posed in Parliament on this issue should make even the most stalwart Reformer sick.

From the BBC:
Canada's foreign minister has resigned after he admitted leaving classified documents in an unsafe place.
Maxime Bernier's resignation has been accepted by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Bernier had been criticised in recent weeks amid allegations that a former girlfriend had relationships with men connected to organized crime.
"Minister Bernier has learned and informed me that he left classified government documents in a non-secure location," said Mr Harper.

From CNN:
TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday that the country's foreign minister has resigned for leaving classified documents in a nonsecure location.
Harper said he accepted the resignation of Maxime Bernier, who has come under fire in recent weeks after it was reported that his ex-girlfriend had previous relationships with men who had ties with organized crime.
"Mr. Bernier has learned and informed me that he left classified documents in a nonsecure location. This is a serious error," Harper said.
Harper said that Bernier's controversial relationship with a woman linked to the Hells Angels was not a factor in the decision.


Harper Puts Canadians at Risk of Nuclear Nightmare

As we all know by now, late last year the Chalk River reactor, run by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., was shut down for maintenance at which time an inspection found that mandatory safety upgrades i.e., connecting cooling pumps to an emergency power supply, had not been completed as ordered. In the event of a power failure, the pumps would stop and the results would be a Chernobyl-style meltdown.

The operator was clearly in violation of its operating licence, so the AECL opted to keep it shut. Now, this reactor is the only one in Canada and one of few in the world to produce radioisotopes used in medical diagnosis. A supply of these isotopes is essential.

Atomic Energy of Canada didn’t perform the safety upgrades. Harper and his lackeys failed to ensure that they complied with the law (disinterested in safety perhaps) and so the culpability fell to them. Harper’s answer? Blame the messenger.

In their desperate search for a scapegoat, Harper and his folks turned their blame to the watchdog for public safety, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and in particular their president, Linda Keen.

Illogical though it may be, much like blaming Ralph Nader for the existence of Corvairs, the Conservatives got an easy ride for this. They blamed Linda Keen, which is just like blaming the judge when you’ve been found guilty. She is, after all, a highly skilled person adjudicating on an administrative tribunal where she considers the evidence and applies the law. Her credentials are unassailable.

Tonight the news reports say that the government has fired her. She was a whistle-blower in a sense. The difference is that this was part of her job duties. The government, faced with their obvious failure to act to ensure that isotopes were available, and their obvious failure to ensure that the reactor met safety requirements, turned the blame on the adjudicator whose duty it was to protect Canadians from a potential nuclear disaster.

I’m shocked and disgusted. Still, you’ve got to hand it to the Conservatives. They’ve masterfully manipulated the media. Few seem focused on the existence of an unsafe reactor, the isotope shortage appears solved and their smear campaign against the public servant who did the right thing will probably leave her tarnished and out of their way.


Thursday’s Harper Scandal

The CBC has been following a side story to the Mulroney, Schreiber kick-back scandal. It turns out that Mulroney, as a principal of Quebecor Media, set up meetings between Quebecor bigwigs and high-ranking government Tories. This took place in advance of the government’s announcement on how it would sell access to more radio frequencies.

The government is sitting on hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of dollars of potential income selling access/licences to use these frequencies. Quebecor wants in – they want to become a player in the cell-phone industry, and they want the auction to be structured in a way to make it easier and cheaper for them (to the detriment of tax payers and possible benefit of cell-phone users).

The scandal is that Mulroney is not a registered lobbyist.

Today Stéphane Dion put the question to Harper in question period. Harper – not just a hypocrite, but a coward too, didn’t rise to answer the question. He put industry minister Jim Prentice to speak for him. Prentice refused to answer the question, presumably so he wouldn’t be in contempt of Parliament. Dion asked: did Mr. Mulroney speak with Mr. Harper concerning the upcoming announcement of new rules for an auction of radio airwaves? Harper never rose to answer the question.

Sometimes silence is an answer.

Harper knows he has three options: 1. Accountability – he could tell the truth and face the consequences; 2. Lie – he could claim that he had no contact with Mulroney in this context and risk being found out later (when Mulroney testifies in the hearings next week); 3. Stay Silent – he could hide and never personally answer the question so if he’s found out nobody can say he lied.

Mea Culpa

I apologize for failing to regularly shed light on Harper’s hypocrisy. Thanks to Paul Martin’s discerning and prescient fiscal management, I’m kept busy with work.

I’m saddened by the failure of the media to keep the focus on Harper’s suppression of information. The ostensible raison d'être of the Reform Party and later the Alliance Party was accountability in government. Harper, with his autocratic arrogance, betrays these principles.

I suspect that many of his supporters, so giddy about the fact that their boy made it to the big chair, have now given up on those principles. Harper only paid lip service to these ideas, so in a sense he’s an honest hypocrite, at least in his own mind. He lied to his supporters and the electorate, but not to himself.

As for the long-term supporters of this movement, they’ve abandoned accountability as a goal. They dropped this principle in the quest for power.


Suppression of Ideas

Now, it’s a little surprising that the moralists in the Conservative Party would be willing pawns of an imperious Autocrat. I mean, they formerly espoused the belief in objective truths, such as the right of elected representatives to speak their minds, and the right of the media to scrutinize government. But these principles have been entirely abandoned in the early days of the Harper government. The question is why?

The answer is power. Harper’s minions have been persuaded that by following orders and not asking questions they can form a majority government at their next kick at the can, which Harper will orchestrate early in 2008. So, by abandoning the ideals of open government, free votes and grass-roots democracy, they are guaranteed the virtually unlimited power of a majority government.

Blinded by dreams of power, the Conservatives (and the duped electorate) will hand Harper unrestrained authority. This won’t be a Reichstag fire. But don’t expect Harper to change his ways once he has further consolidated his power. The minions will remain minions, still gagged and fearful of reprisal if they step out of line. And Harper will continue to hide from the media, or at least only make himself available to reporters who shelf personal integrity to plug the Harper line.

Others gagged by Harper:
Climate change expert muzzled: Federal scientist told not to speak about his novel
Talk to the Hand: Tories' plan to restrict media access
PM muzzles Canuck military
PM's muzzling his far-right faction


Accountability 101

Harper has threatened to publicly humiliate, fire or take away the travel privileges of any of his ministers who depart from the Harper line (see: Minister Muzzling and Harper Castrates his Ministers).

For all his promises of accountability, Harper has managed to silence his cabinet and shut out the media. What happened to open government, free votes and grass-roots democracy? Well, these were never Harper’s goals. In this sense he hasn’t been a hypocrite because he’s never believed in democracy. Which is fine, I suppose, from some subjective perspective.

Anyway, Harper has always viewed democracy as a means to an end – the end being obtaining power and implementing what he calls the “Hub and Spoke Management” system. This is a new phrase for most of us, but it describes a commonly employed structure of government wherein the Leader is in regular contact with his top aides, whose primary role is to carry out the wishes of the Leader. The aides are never to question the Leader or the righteousness of the régime.

This type of government organization is also known as an Autocracy. That’s where one person, the Leader, holds virtually all of the political power.

As the castratos describe it: "He is the hub, everyone else is the spoke and everybody basically reports to him..."


Harper under siege

Since his second week as PM, Harper has remained in hiding to avoid the backlash from his cabinet appointments. I imagine that when they find him in his hole, perhaps he’ll have grown a Saddam-style beard.

His refusal to speak to the media hasn’t gone unnoticed – CBC tonight had a report on Canada Now about how Harper abandoned Emerson, leaving him to deal with the scandal alone.

What surprises me is that nobody seems to have mentioned how arrogant Harper and his government have been since the election. Despite the fact that only 36% of Canadians wanted to send a Conservative to Ottawa, Harper has selected some of the most controversial and divisive MPs for his cabinet. And then, in the face of the storm Harper hasn’t had the decency to explain or defend his choices.

The “arrogance” label always bothered me when applied to Paul Martin’s Liberals. Even when they made controversial decisions, they always met their detractors to explain their decisions.

John Reynolds – now a lobbyist

John Reynolds, Canada’s number one Dick Cheney impersonator, has accepted a new job as a “Senior Strategic Advisor” (a.k.a. lobbyist) for Lang Michener, one of Canada’s largest business law firms.

This comes as no big surprise – last week a number of blogs predicted that he was about to accept the same job at Clark Wilson, a BC business law firm. Of course, Reynolds isn’t a lawyer. And of course, the legislation that the CPC proposed during the election to implement a 5-year cooling off period wouldn’t apply retroactively.

So, it seems that the Harpocrites have adopted the principle that if it’s not specifically prohibited by law, then they can go ahead and do it, even if it’s immoral, unethical and something about which they harped, so to speak, when they were in opposition.

Update: CBC article Former Conservative MP denies he's becoming a lobbyist


John Reynolds head to head with Ujjal Dosanjh

Today on the BC CBC radio program The Early Edition, host Rick Cluff interviewed John Reynolds and Ujjal Dosanjh about the Emerson Scandal.

CBC posted the audio of the interview on the web -- the link is in this story. I've added a link here directly to the audio file.

I've also typed a transcript of the first few minutes of the interview.

It's one of the funniest things I've heard in some time. John Reynolds (dullard) tries both ineffectively and pathetically to defend his worthless leader from the charge of hypocrisy. Ujjal makes short work of the failing Reynolds.

The transcript

The Early Edition's Rick Cluff speaks with Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh and with former Conservative MP John Reynolds:

CLUFF: This story continues to dominate open-lines, blogs, TV news, radio-call-in shows. It has all week long, and continues today. So, to respond to this we’ve lined up two major political figures in BC, Ujjal Dosanjh, the former federal , uh health minister who sits now as a Liberal MP, and John Reynolds, a former Conservative MP. Good morning to you both.

BOTH: Good morning.

CLUFF: Ah, John Reynolds, let me start with you, and I understand, um, you were asked by Mr. Harper to recruit, ah, David Emerson.


CLUFF: How did you go about that?

REYNOLDS: You know, David’s been a friend of mine for 30 years, in the provincial government, business-wise, uh, uh, I believe that, uh, he would be a real asset to the Government of Canada. I think he’s uh, uh a person that uh, really, as he said himself, he’s not as partisan as some of us may be. But uh, I just I, I talked to him on the phone and we discussed the uh, uh some of the negative sides of obviously of with the news uh, you know from the Liberal side and the NDP and they’re not going to be too thrilled when this type of thing happens and I understand that but uh you know I’m very happy that the Premier of our province has come out and the board of trade and other prominent business people – they’re very happy to have, uh David Emerson in the cabinet of a Conservative government cause it’s good for British Columbia.

CLUFF: I don’t think anyone questions Mr. Emerson’s pedigree and his background. I think most people question though, is the ethics and the fact that Mr. Harper had campaigned on the fact of government accountability, and he wouldn’t have any traitors in his cabinet?

REYNOLDS: Uh, I don’t think you ever heard him say that during the campaign at all. Uh, he-he-he asked David Emerson to join because he had no representation in the Lower Mainland, wanted representation here, and David Emerson, uh…

CLUFF: (interrupts) He had James Moore here.

REYNOLDS: was willing to do it. Uh, James Moore is a very young man and will play a very important part in the government.

CLUFF: When did you make the first phone call?

REYNOLDS: Uh, very shortly after the election.

CLUFF: Ujjal Dosanjh is on the line too, and I’m I’m just fascinated by your take on this whole thing. Now, two weeks after the election and the fact that David Emerson, a former colleague, a former member of the BC Liberal caucus is now sitting on the other side of the House, or will when the House convenes. How do you feel about that?

DOSANJH: Well, first of all, let me just say that there’s nothing personal in the comments I might make, um I have high regard for David. Personally, I just believe that uh, all of this was done in indecent haste. All of this has been done in the face of promises and moralizing and sanctimonious attitude that Mr. Harper and all of the Conservatives had on the opposition benches.

Um, what’s more troubling, including Mr. Emerson’s situation, is in fact, the pattern that Mr. Harper is engaged in. Um, he refused to answer questions from the Ethics Commissioner on the Grewal tapes. He has appointed, um, Mr. Emerson even before the writ is returned, and negotiated uh, a defection, uh, um, against which the kind of thing he railed against. Um, he has appointed a defence lobbyist who was a lobbyists, paid lobbyist until 2004, for many companies in the defence industry to be the Minister of Defence. He’s appointed an unelected Senator to the Senate, who was a fundraiser for the Conservative Party who actually said, “well, elections are kind of inconvenient.” Um, and ah he’s hiding, he’ll be hiding from the House of Commons. Uh, James Moore will end up answering the questions on public works in the House.

Now, that’s the issue. The issue is there was this, you know, nauseatingly sanctimonious attitude on the issue of ethics, accountability, openness, transparency, and the issue of defections, and on all of those counts, Mr. Harper has failed. And Mr. Emerson is just one part of that failure.

CLUFF: Mr. Reynolds, can you understand the people’s outrage in Vancouver Kingsway?

REYNOLDS: I can understand, you know much like people with Belinda Stronach’s riding were upset, and Scott Brison’s riding were upset. These things happen, uh, you know, people in business change companies, people in sports get traded. Politics is really, seems no different at times. You know that Mr. Emerson made a decision which he felt was good for British Columbia. Uh, we believe is good for British Columbia, and I’m very happy. Our Premier thinks so. Our board of trade president has been openly on air saying so. Uh, David Emerson will still continue to serve those constituents very very well, and as part of a government and part of a minister who will, uh, do some very important things for British Columbia.

CLUFF: But can you understand why, particularly a lot of young people, are lethargic, apathetic when it comes to casting a vote, and now more of them will be disillusioned by this too, they say “what does my vote count for?”

REYNOLDS: Well, I was with a lot of young people yesterday right in the city here of Vancouver and a lot of them were very happy and thought it was very good that David Emerson was…

CLUFF: I’m willing to bet that they were young Conservatives.

REYNOLDS: No, they were not. They were young business people, uh, uh, in a meeting of uh, of a law firm and they were quite excited. They were not Conservatives. They were, most of them were probably non-political at all. I think, uh. This is in the ballpark stuff. We all argue amongst each other. The average Canadian wants good government, but they want a change in government. They’ve got it. And they’ll see that change in the future.

CLUFF: Ujjal, Mr. Emerson said that he made this decision so he could better serve British Columbians, as Mr. Reynolds has just emphasized. How does that explanation sit with you?

DOSANJH: Well, it doesn’t sit at all. I mean, obviously he was serving British Columbians before. He would have been serving British Columbians as a member of our caucus. He actually said that if uh we had won he would have been sitting with us.

Uh, and as John Reynolds said so aptly that uh, you know, in business people move like this. And I think for Mr. Emerson it appears that this is simply a business move. Not in the profit sense of the term, but in the sense that he made a deal with Prime Minister Martin to serve. And that obviously soured as a result of the election.

He’s moved on to the next corporate best deal. And I believe that that’s absolutely cynical. You know, Belinda Stronach crossed the floor because she was unhappy with the policies and directions of Mr. Harper. Mr. Brison actually went away because he didn’t want the Conservatives and the Alliance to merge. Um, because he felt that it was not appropriate. Ah, there was some issues of principle – there’s none here. And uh, I believe that uh that uh, you know this is very very bad for the first few hours and days of this government that ran on the issue of openness, ethics, accountability and the like.

CLUFF: But Mr. Dosanjh, I mean people change political stripe all the time. To play devil’s advocate, you were an NDP premier who became a Liberal cabinet minister.

DOSANJH: Absolutely. And I joined the Liberals when they were at 35 percent because I wanted to make sure that we have a progressive government, that we not actually split the vote on the left. Uh, and I made that strategic decision out of a matter of principle. I was out of the politics for three years, hibernating, practicing law, uh, doing other things that people in their normal lives do. I was asked to consider it. I considered it. At that point I joined the party, ran under very controversial circumstances, and won an election. And I think that’s entirely different when it’s done out of a matter of principle. This is simply a decision as John Reynolds has said people make decisions in the business world.


Harper's first day -- new jobs for his co-conspirators

In the campaign Stephen Harper promised that he would "make sure that important public appointments are filled on the basis of merit and not simply as favours to friends and political supporters." If you believed this you might have been betrayed into voting for your local Conservative candidate. After all, what's worse than politicians who give jobs to their friends? If Harper promises not to do that, well, perhaps he's an ethical guy after all?

No chance. On his first day as Prime Minister, Harper appointed Michael Fortier, his friend and the Conservatives campaign co-chair (political supporter), as a minister. Yup. Thumbs up folks -- you've all got cushy jobs!

So, lie number 1 -- He said that he wouldn't give jobs to his friends. The first thing he did was give a job to his friend, the Conservative campaign manager. Harper is a hypocrite. This is hypocrisy.

Now, certainly we all remember the creed of the Reform party, i.e., that there is a democratic deficit in this country. Yes, the Reform, Alliance and non-progressive Conservative Party have all held as an article of faith that the electorate in Canada had not received the respect that they deserved. Harper himself claimed that he could re-establish respect for politics in our country by showing greater deference to the will of the electorate.

And of course, we have the results of the election. The people of Canada, through the exercise of their franchise, elected a certain number of individuals from each party. Canadian voters selected whom they wanted to represent them -- the parties and the people that they wanted to go to Ottawa to represent their interests.

Rather than respect the electorate, Harper installed his own guy. In fact, he did this despite the wishes of the voters. So, lie number 2 – Harper claimed that he would be the one leader to respect the wishes of the voters, yet his first act was to betray their confidence and override their wishes. Again, Harper is a hypocrite, and this is hypocrisy.

An important side note is that although Fortier did not run in this election, twice has he run in previous elections, losing both times. The people of Montreal don’t want him.

On to the Olde Triple-E Senate. Yes, as a founding member of the Reform party, Harper was one of the early advocates of an elected Senate. That’s what the first “E” stands for, in case you forgot. He stated on many occasions, including just a few weeks ago during the election, that he would not appoint Senators at his own whim, but would allow elections for Senatorial openings and then appoint the winners to the upper house.

On Monday, at the same time he gave his friend Michael Fortier his new job, Harper stated that he would appoint Fortier to the Senate. Yes, a Senate appointment to an unelected friend. An unelected friend, whom (see side note above) the people of Montreal twice refused to elect.

Therefore, lie number 3 is that Harper promised only to appoint Senators who had been elected, and on his first day Harper announced that he was appointing his unelected pal to the upper house.

Finally, Harper said that there were two reasons not to re-elect the Liberals. He said “It’s time for a change”, which is a stupid reason to choose one party over another. And he said that the Liberals had used the Ministry of Public Works to help their friends. He said that there should be more parliamentary oversight into the activities of such ministries, and that the Ministry of Public Works should bear greater public scrutiny of its spending.

Now, this is perhaps the most offensive thing about Fortiergate: Prime Minister Harper has made Michael Fortier the Minister of Public Works. He is unelected, a friend of Harper to whom Harper owes his own electoral success, and, because he is not a Member of Parliament, he cannot appear in the House of Commons to answer question about his ministry. In short, he is the least accountable of all the ministers.

So, Harper said that there should be more public scrutiny of departments such as the Ministry of Public Works, yet he has removed it from public scrutiny by appointing a minister who is not accountable to Parliament. This, if you are keeping track, is lie number 4, i.e. Harper has said that he is the one who would bring accountability to government, yet his first act is to restrict public scrutiny of the Public Works ministry.

Hypocrisy, lies and more hypocrisy. If you voted for the Conservatives, you can be forgiven for being duped. That was their plan. If you were an actual Conservative supporter, then you have been betrayed. You were not smart enough to realize, year after year, that Harper and his pals were lying to you.

Some reading:
Tory insider boosted to Senate, from the Toronto Star
Political pork tops principle, from the Ottawa Sun


It all happened so fast

Only days after the election, we learned that our new Prime Minister elect, Stephen Harper, the self-styled paragon of a principled leader, refused to participate in an investigation of one of his MPs.

I suppose that this shouldn't come as a surprise -- the Reform Party crafted its image by tossing the first stone. Deborah Grey, the first Reform MP made her mark by attacking the MP's pension plan, choosing to opt out on principle. Of course, after this advanced her cause and assisted in electing Reform MPs, she opted back in and now collects the nice fat pension that she formerly condemned. This is hypocrisy, and the Conservatives are full of it.

Harper, in his bellyaching opposition days, whined incessantly about the role of the ethics commissioner and the failure of the government to demonstrate integrity. He complained that there needed to be more oversight into MPs' actions.

Harper claimed that the election was all about ethics and ethical behaviour. On January 30, however, only one week after the Conservatives won the election, the parliamentary Ethics Commissioner, Bernard Shapiro, released a report indicating that Harper obstructed an investigation in the Gurmant Grewal affair.

Remember Grewal? He was the Conservative MP who tried to entice the Liberals to offer him a reward for crossing the floor and joining the Liberals shortly before a crucial vote in the House of Commons. He surreptitiously recorded his conversations in an attempt at entrapment.

The trap backfired, however, because the Liberals wouldn’t promise him anything and he looked like a creep for making secret recordings. And on top of this, the recordings that he disclosed appeared to have been edited.

The Ethics Commissioner was called in to investigate the situation to determine if there had been a violation of the Conflict of Interest Code. To conduct his investigation he needed the participation of all involved parties, including Harper.

The Report was released after the election, and what did we learn? It turns out Harper hid from the Commissioner, one can assume, to avoid answering some difficult questions. The Report states:

Unfortunately, although we made numerous attempts between August and November, we were informed Mr. Harper’s schedule did not permit an interview. We wished to clarify with Mr. Harper that Mr. Grewal first approached him on this matter after their Tuesday evening (May 17, 2005) caucus meeting and that it was only on Wednesday, May 18, 2005, during a telephone conversation with Mr. Grewal that he (Mr. Harper) was informed by Mr. Grewal that he was tape recording conversations with the Liberals about crossing the floor and the offers that were being discussed.

This is judge talk. What it means is that, despite Harper’s claims to support investigations into perceived wrongdoings by parliamentarians, Harper wouldn’t make himself available for this investigation, keeping in mind that this investigation involved him. Note: Harper is named nine times in the Report.

The Commissioner and everyone else may suspect that Harper has something to hide, but because he ducked questioning, the Commissioner isn’t permitted to come out and say this. Harper can’t be believed when he says that he couldn’t make available two hours at any time over a period of four months to meet with the Ethics Commissioner.

So, has Harper proven himself a hypocrite? Well, duh.

Would you like to read more?
The Report
Harper knows about ethics, from the Hamilton Spectator
Experts say Grewal tapes were altered, from the CBC
MP Grewal goes on stress leave, from the CBC
Dosanjh cleared: No offer to buy MP's vote, from the CBC