Stephen Harper’s Conservatives like to present themselves as tough on crime, committed to accountable government and respectful of the rule of law. Given their record, we have to ask ourselves, when will we march them off to the nearest penitentiary to begin serving the mandatory minimum sentences they so richly deserve?
Like a Rocky Mountain avalanche in the making, a growing mountain of evidence of Harper’s cynical disregard for the rule of law threatens to bury even the pretense of Canadian democracy. Here are some examples . . .
Canadian Wheat Board Act Violated
On Oct. 18, 2011, Harper’s Conservative government introduced Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which aims to remove the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over exports of western Canadian wheat and barley. Not only are they proceeding with this legislation in defiance of the expressed will of most western farmers, they are in breech of Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act which requires the permission of grain producers prior to the introduction of this kind of legislation.
2006 Election – the In and Out Scandal
During the 2006 federal election, the Conservative Party tried to get around election spending limits by giving $1.3 million dollars to 67 riding offices that had not yet reached their individual spending limits. The ridings then returned the money to the party, claiming that it was being used to buy advertising. The money was used by the national campaign to fund an advertising blitz in the final weeks of the campaign. The scam might have gone undetected but for the chutzpah of some riding officials who applied to Elections Canada for a 60% reimbursement of their advertising expenses. Four senior Conservative Party members were charged under the Elections Canada Act with overspending and submitting false or misleading election expense documents. Just this month, the Tories successfully plea bargained their way out of facing these charges, agreeing to plead guilty to what the Tory spin-doctors are calling “administrative errors.”
The Cadman Affair and the Criminal Code of Canada
In 2005, the minority Liberal government of Paul Martin was in deep trouble. The Tories were intent on bringing them down, but the vote would be close. In Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, Vancouver writer Tom Zytaruk tells the story of attempts by Conservative Party officials to offer financial inducements to independent MP Chuck Cadman in return for his support in bringing down the Liberals. The Tories were unsuccessful in getting Cadman’s support. However, an interview with Stephen Harper conducted by Zytaruk makes it clear that Harper was aware of his Party’s efforts to buy Cadman’s vote. And vote buying is a serious offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, one that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Harper has a majority government and opposition parties have been unwilling to step outside of Parliament to hold governments accountable. For these reasons, Harper will remain untouchable unless we organize a broad movement to hold him accountable. There is a clear leadership role for well-resourced organizations such as The Council of Canadians and The Canadian Labour Congress. Perhaps we should remind them.