Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Harper’

An open letter to Canada’s Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and Senators, from a broad and diverse coalition of 46 organizations representing millions of Canadians –

Support Canadian Food, Canadian Farmers, and the Canadian Wheat Board

Bill C-18, if passed, will destroy the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).  Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly stated that he will not recognize the plebiscite recently conducted by the CWB, in which results were clearly in favour of keeping the CWB as the sole marketing agent for prairie wheat and barley intended for human consumption.

The CWB was created by an Act of Parliament, and is run by a 15-member Board of Directors, ten of whom are elected by farmers.  The Wheat Board provides fair, equitable, reliable, and cost-effective services to farm families.  It provides stability in uncertain times, and is a foundation of Canada’s grain sector.

Ending the single desk authority of the CWB would throw western agriculture into turmoil and would transfer wealth created by Canadian farmers to big, private, often foreign-owned grain companies—money now returned to farmers, who spend it in their communities.  The Minneapolis Grain Exchange has already changed its rules to allow for speculation in futures contracts for Canadian wheat and barley—a move which will increase price volatility for purchasers without providing any benefit to farmers.

Canada’s political system is built on representative democracy.  This means that the law, not merely the person in power, is to be respected and followed.  The CWB Act is a law made by Parliament, and it requires a farmer vote before any substantive changes are made to the single desk authority.  Our current government is ignoring this law—refusing to hold the required vote—and moving to eliminate the requirement for a vote.  This is deeply concerning, as it strikes at the heart of our Canadian democracy.

We the undersigned:

  • Recognize the billions of dollars of economic value that the CWB creates each year—for farmers, rural communities, short line railroads, and the whole of Canada—as a result of its superior marketing ability, capacity to defend Canadian interests in trade disputes, and commitment to return to farmers all net proceeds from sales.
  • Are proud of the strong international reputation for quality and reliability that Canadian wheat and barley have earned—a direct result of the CWB and its companion institutions, the Canadian Grain Commission and Canadian International Grains Institute.
  • Deplore the government’s disregard for the outcome of the recent plebiscite in which 62% of farmers voted in favour of keeping the single desk for wheat and 51% supported keeping the single desk for barley.

We therefore call upon the Prime Ministers, MPs, and Senators to immediately stop undermining the single desk authority of the CWB.  We further insist that Parliament must comply with the Canadian Wheat Board Act, Section 47.1, which requires a binding plebiscite (vote) of farmers before any substantive change to the CWB’s single desk authority is initiated.

Signed:

  • Agriculture Workers Alliance
  • Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto
  • Big Carrot Natural Food Market
  • Biofreedom
  • Brandon University Students’ Union
  • Briarpatch Magazine
  • Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  • Canadian Wheat Board Alliance
  • CCNB Action (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)
  • Centre for Social Justice
  • Coalition On The Niagara Escarpment
  • Council of Canadians
  • Council of Canadians – Moose Jaw, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Prince Albert, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Winnipeg, Man. Chapter
  • CWA/SCA (Communications Workers Union) Canada
  • Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre
  • Food Secure Canada
  • Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board
  • GE Watch Comox Valley
  • GRAIN
  • Grain Services Union (GSU)
  • Greenpeace Canada
  • Growing Food Security in Alberta
  • Health Sciences Association of Alberta
  • Inter Pares
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 529
  • Lardeau Valley Seed Savers
  • Les AmiEs de la Terre de Québec
  • LIFT (Low Income Families Together)
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
  • New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice
  • Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Windsor
  • Organic Food Council of Manitoba (OFCM)
  • Oxfam Canada
  • Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL)
  • Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN)
  • Society for a GE Free BC
  • The Ark Farm, B&B, Vegetables, & Native Plants
  • Union paysanne
  • United Church of Canada
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

Stop the steamroller

Make your voice heard by sending a message to the PM and your MP at Stop the Steamroller.

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.

With the annual retreat of snow and ice blessedly underway, the crap and crud that mysteriously didn’t make it into my back lane dumpster is revealed in all of its putrescence. I call this a mystery because I don’t know how apparently sentient, reasonably healthy, bipedally-capable adults with opposable thumbs could miss the dumpster’s gaping maw and deposit their refuse behind it, under it, beside it — anywhere but in the damn dumpster. But they did. And because it apparently  bothers me more than my neighbours, I suppose I will have to clean it up.

After I stopped fuming at the unfairness of it all, I started thinking about garbage. We make a lot of it. Even little Winnipeg (pop. 684,000) manages to dispose of over 200,000 tonnes annually. While this is a minuscule share of the estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of municipal waste that is tossed away every year around the world, it’s still a lot. Judging from what doesn’t make it to the landfill, such as the recently mapped Atlantic Garbage Patch, it’s probably a lot more and definitely unsustainable.

Strangely, I’m grateful for my messy neighbours. Were it not for their disagreeable practices, I wouldn’t have taken the time to think about garbage at all. Bag it. Toss it (hopefully in the dumpster). Forget it. Out of sight, out of mind. Somebody takes it away, never to be seen again.

But most garbage doesn’t really go far. Nor does it go away. Not for decades. As it slowly decomposes, it leaches poisons into the groundwater and expels noxious gases into the atmosphere. Garbage is both a symptom and a cause of serious, potentially game ending challenges to human survival – which brings me to Canada’s federal election, replete as it is with the toxic flatulence that passes for political wisdom these days.

I gotta tell ya, looking at the sorry record of politicians of all stripes, I’m almost at the point of erecting a billboard in my yard that screams “DON’T VOTE. YOU’LL ONLY ENCOURAGE THEM!”

Yes, yes. I know. Stephen Harper is a contemptible, war-mongering, fossil-fueled son of a bitch and if he gets a majority he’ll shred the social safety net, torch the CBC and declare the Fourth Reich. (I don’t really think he’s a Nazi, but he has twice shut down Parliament to avoid the embarrassment of being held accountable by the Official Opposition. This betrays a certain contempt for democracy. It could become habit forming.)

Michael Ignatieff? Ummm. No. No thank you. I have nothing against Iggy personally (except for his support for the Iraq war and torture, until it became a political liability). But no. He leads the Liberal Party that has governed Canada for most of the last 143 years with unswerving loyalty to big business. In this respect their role is indistinguishable from that of the Conservatives. Stephen and Iggy: two little corporate castrati singing the Hallelujah Capitalist Chorus.

This brings us to Jack Layton and the NDP. (Though I like his style, I won’t bother with Gilles Duceppe until he does the anatomically impossible and runs candidates in the rest of Canada.)

I have voted NDP since I was old enough to vote – and that was a long time ago. In my youth I supported them because of their ties to labour, their socialist roots (sadly all but plucked out by now) and their willingness to take risks on behalf of working people (think Tommy Douglas and Medicare).

As I grew older and, if not wiser at least more experienced, I voted NDP because it represented the lesser of evils. The NDP might not be perfect, I reasoned, but at least it wasn’t as bad as the others. Or so it seemed.

After countless focus groups and rebrandings “Today’s NDP” (as we call it in Manitoba) has morphed into something approximating the Liberal Party – which is good news for the Liberal Party and bad news for the New Democrats.

Grits and Dippers want to put a human face on the economic system that creates all the garbage I was kvetching about at the top of the page. Tories aren’t so sentimental. So, while there are differences between the three parties, they owe a common allegiance to capitalism. And while all of them, to varying degrees, talk about environmental issues, none are willing to put The Environment front and centre in their vision for Canada.

Which brings me to Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada. Canada’s Green Party is unique in Canadian electoral politics because it has put the environment front and centre, where it belongs. They put forward a set of principles and proposals which, if adopted, would give me a measure of confidence about my grandchildren’s future.

Check out their program. I don’t agree with everything (who does?) but I like their approach. Intelligent. Straightforward. Thoughtfully developed and thought provoking. It won’t fit into a series of TV sound bites. You’ll be challenged and pleasantly inspired.

Can the Greens form the government? Not this time, but that shouldn’t disqualify them. Part of the reason we’re in this mess is because we vote for the “lesser of evils.” Motivated by fear, we support something we don’t want to block something we fear more. Or, because we don’t want to “waste our vote,” we give it to someone we think might win, even if they don’t really have that much to offer – a brain deadening strategy if ever there was one.

If you like the Green Program, vote Green. Your vote will not be wasted. To quote Tennyson, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” The same applies to voting.

Harper’s decision to continue Canada’s participation in the occupation of Afghanistan beyond 2011 is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Ignatieff’s acquiescence is similarly unsurprising. Still, in light of previous statements, their hypocrisy is impressive. For example:

“We will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission.”
–Stephen Harper quoted in National Post, January 6, 2010

“We’re bound by the parliamentary resolution. I’ve said clearly that our party’s position currently is that the military phase of the mission ends in 2011.”
–Michael Ignatieff quoted by Canadian Press, February 2009

“Mr. Speaker, as members of the House know, we made a pledge during the last election campaign to put international treaties and military engagements to a vote in this chamber.”
–Stephen Harper in the House of Commons, May 17, 2006

Tory-Liberal strategists and their apologists in the mainstream media are framing the issue in terms of training versus combat. By misrepresenting the character of the military mission they hope to defuse outrage over the promise not to commit Canada to “military engagements” without a Parliamentary vote.

Their refusal to debate the issue in the House of Commons deprives the NDP and BQ of an opportunity to challenge the government’s plans. It may also divert them from what should be the real issue, namely: “Should Canada have any involvement in Afghanistan?”

Most Canadians oppose continued military involvement in Afghanistan. A CBC-EKOS poll in April 2010 indicated that 60 per cent of Canadians opposed an extension of the military mission beyond 2011. A September 2010 Global News poll confirmed this view, with 61 per cent opining that “all Canadian troops need to come home.”

One has to ask what kind of democracy we have if the governing party and the principle opposition party can collude to flout the will of the majority of Canadians on issues as important as war and peace. Harper’s decision is one more indication of his lack of fitness to govern our country; Ignatieff’s complicity confirms his unsuitability to succeed Mr. Harper in the next election.

Where does this leave the NDP? A recent NDP statement is problematic:

“Harper waited until MPs left Ottawa and then engaged in a backroom deal with the Ignatieff Liberals to extend the military mission in Afghanistan. This is wrong,” said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton. “A majority of Canadians say they are against extending the military mission – Conservatives and Liberals must start listening to Canadians, not just to each other.”

“What New Democrats are saying is we need an increased focus on diplomacy, development and governance in Afghanistan, in order to build a lasting peace to this region,” said Layton. “Canada’s military has served with honour and done its fair share, now it’s time for Canada’s contribution to be through aid and diplomacy.”

Layton expresses his opposition to continued military action and his support for the peaceful aspirations of Canadians. This is positive.

However, his opportunistic genuflection to “Canada’s military” which “has served with honour and done its fair share” misleads Canadians about the shameful character of Canada’s involvement in America’s imperial war. The fact is, before the UN gave the occupation a fig-leaf of legality, the American-led invasion was a naked act of aggression, a crime against humanity, a war of aggression that had been on the drawing board well before Sept. 11, 2001. By supporting this war, Canada’s political leaders (Liberal and Conservative) are the moral equivalent of the Nazis we hanged at Nuremberg; our troops are their hired guns.

Layton’s commitment to ongoing aid for the the corrupt gang of drug lords and crooks that allegedly governs Afghanistan (aka, the Karzai government) reveals either a complete misreading of the war in Afghanistan (which is as much as anything else a civil war between ethnically defined contenders) or a preference for the kinder, gentler forms of imperialism that have characterized Canadian foreign policy in the past (also known as “peace keeping”).

The fact is, any Canadian involvement in Afghanistan that lends support to the Karzai government puts us on the side of America’s imperial project. Layton should know better.

Where does this leave the peace movement? I suppose we should be grateful for any kind of Parliamentary allies, however imperfect. That said, it seems unlikely that Parliament will extract us from this war or keep us out of future American imperial adventures.

In a recent article, Michel Chossudovsky argues:

“The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network which challenges the structures of power and authority.

“What is required is a mass movement of people which forcefully challenges the legitimacy of war, a global people’s movement which criminalizes war.

“Antiwar protest does not question the legitimacy of those to whom the protest is addressed.

“Protest is accepted under Western style “democracy”, precisely because it accepts the established political order, while exerting pressure on political leaders to shift their policy stance.

“Protest serves the interests of the war criminals in high office, to whom the demands are directed.

“Ultimately what is at stake is the legitimacy of the political and military actors and the economic power structures, which control the formulation and direction of US foreign policy.”

While much of his article appears to be more directed at the American peace movement, these concerns need to be addressed by Canadian activists if we are to move beyond the limitations of Layton’s lame response.

Chuck Cadman. Photo: CBC

Now that the Liberals and Conservatives have made kissy face over the Cadman Affair, it is time for the Mounties to investigate the possibility that the offer allegedly made by Tory officials to the late Chuck Cadman for his vote was a serious breach of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Tory representatives are alleged to have offered the terminally-ill MP a $1-million life insurance policy. According to the CBC, Stephen Harper has testified that he only authorized for Cadman to be approached with an offer of financial help for his election campaign if Cadman would vote against the Liberals, defeating the government, and then run for the Conservatives.

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like a bribe? Here is what the Criminal Code of Canada has to say about offering financial incentives to an MP in return for a vote:

119. (1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years who

(a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, directly or indirectly, corruptly accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves or another person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by them in their official capacity, or

(b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives or offers to a person mentioned in paragraph (a), or to anyone for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity.

Here is what Prime Minister Harper was recorded saying in an interview with Tom Zytaruk, author of Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story. You can listen to the Harper-Zytaruk interview here.

Zytaruk: “I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?”

Harper: “I don’t know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?”

Zytaruk: “This (inaudible) for the book. Not for the newspaper. This is for the book.”

Harper: “Um, I don’t know the details. I can tell you that I had told the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it. But I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind, he was going to vote with the Liberals and I knew why and I respected the decision. But they were just, they were convinced there was, there were financial issues. There may or may not have been, but I said that’s not, you know, I mean, I, that’s not going to change.”

Zytaruk: “You said (inaudible) beforehand and stuff? It wasn’t even a party guy, or maybe some friends, if it was people actually in the party?”

Harper: “No, no, they were legitimately representing the party. I said don’t press him. I mean, you have this theory that it’s, you know, financial insecurity and, you know, just, you know, if that’s what you’re saying, make that case but don’t press it. I don’t think, my view was, my view had been for two or three weeks preceding it, was that Chuck was not going to force an election. I just, we had all kinds of our guys were calling him, and trying to persuade him, I mean, but I just had concluded that’s where he stood and respected that.”

Zytaruk: “Thank you for that. And when (inaudible).”

Harper: “But the, uh, the offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election.”

Zytaruk: “Oh, OK.”

Harper: “OK? That’s my understanding of what they were talking about.”

Zytaruk: “But, the thing is, though, you made it clear you weren’t big on the idea in the first place?”

Harper: “Well, I just thought Chuck had made up his mind, in my own view …”

Zytaruk: “Oh, okay. So, it’s not like, he’s like, (inaudible).”

Harper: “I talked to Chuck myself. I talked to (inaudible). You know, I talked to him, oh, two or three weeks before that, and then several weeks before that. I mean, you know, I kind of had a sense of where he was going.”

Zytaruk: “Well, thank you very much.”

I couldn’t find anything on the Liberal Party of Canada web site today that indicates they are planning to pursue this issue, now that the Tories have dropped their $3.5-million libel lawsuit against the Liberal party over statements published on the party’s website about the Cadman affair. Reportedly, lawyers on both sides have lowered the cone of silence as a part of the settlement.

So, it is up to us, and perhaps the Official Opposition parties that have declined to get into bed with Stephen Harper.

Here are some folks you can write:

Now that they have settled their lawsuit out of court, the Tories may hope this affair will go away. Let’s prove them wrong.

Stephen the First, and hopefully the Last

The Star Chamber was an English court of law at the royal Palace of Westminster that sat between 1487 and 1641, when the court itself was abolished. Initially set up as a court of appeal, it evolved into an instrument of repression. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. In that sense, it bears an amazing resemblance to Stephen Harper’s no-fly list.

Today the CBC reported that two boys named Alistair Butt were stopped while trying to board flights last week because their names matched Harper’s list. According to the Canadian Press, Transport Canada won’t confirm if the boys are on a U.S. no-fly list, an airline no-fly list or Canada’s new no-fly list, which went into effect on June 18.

The boys, aged 10 and 15, were eventually allowed to fly, but you have to wonder at the stupidity of it all. Our government, in the interests of protecting us from terrorism is detaining children at airports while it continues to ignore what the Senate has called “gaping holes” in airport baggage handling security.

And apparently they are letting an allegedly dangerous guy named Alistair Butt roam the country at will — except for flying, anyway. If this man is such a threat to our security, why hasn’t he been arrested and tried? And if he is not actually in the business of blowing up planes or whatever it is the authorities think he wants to do, why can’t he get on a plane unmolested?

These, of course, are rhetorical questions. Rather than perpetrators, the Alistair Butts of this world are the latest victims of the so-called “war against terrorism.”

What is not in question is that this latest version of the Star Chamber has gotta go. It is a dangerous infringement of our civil liberties. It protects no one and inconveniences innocent people. It’s only purposes are to instill fear (which nicely dovetails with its criminal “war against terrorism” in Afghanistan), and appease the Bush leaguers to the south.