Harper’s House of Cards Disintegrating Under Weight of Con Senators


We are living in interesting times, as the saying goes. Here in Canada, the house of cards that is the federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper is starting to self-destruct; the only surprising thing to me is that it took this long to happen. The Harper government is throwing bodies overboard as fast as they can, hoping to avert the crisis and avoid closer scrutiny by voters and the media. Senator Mike Duffy, receiver of $90,000 personal cheques from Harper’s Chief of Staff and filer of dubious expense claims, has left the Conservative caucus but remains at the taxpayer’s expense a member of the Senate. Senator Pamela Wallin, whose exorbitant expenses were much defended by Harper & friends up until very recently, joined Duffy in his departure from the Conservative Senate caucus late last week, but (like Duffy) continues to receive her salary from us the taxpayers. Early this long weekend Sunday, as Stephen Harper prepared to exit the country for a visit to South America, Nigel Wright (writer of the afore-mentioned $90,000 personal cheque to Duffy) also announced his resignation from the PMO.

What other grenades remain in this government’s closet, waiting to explode?  Stay tuned; but as a climate activist and mom who has seen her children’s health and climate stability being sacrificed on the alter of Harper’s pro-oil, short-term-profit agenda I’m having the best Victoria Day weekend I’ve had since Harper came to power in 2006. My schadenfreude meter was particularly high this morning when I noticed the hashtag #PMHarperShouldResign was trending on Twitter in both Ottawa and Toronto. Now that’s the start of a good holiday Monday!


graphic: Franke James
graphic: Franke James

One of the Canadians who has been speaking out fearlessly about the federal government’s muzzling of scientists and artists while it pursues its fossil-foolish goals is Toronto artist and writer (and friend of 350orbust) Franke James. Franke has a new graphic book, Banned On The Hill: A True Story of Dirty Oil And Government Censorship, and she’s got a IndieGoGo campaign to help spread the word about the book, which tells the story of how a single-minded focus on tar (“oil”) sands expansion at all costs, including democracy, is playing out in Canada right now under this government. If you want to support this talented and outspoken artist, as well as Canadian democracy, consider donating to the Banned on the Hill campaign.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/65761477]


More links:


And under the heading of I-can’t-believe-she-can-say-this-with-a-straight-face:

Conservative Michelle Rempel says Wright wanted to ensure no taxpayer money was “on the hook

More on the Harper Government woes:

The Mike Duffy Bomb Sends More Shrapnel Through Conservatives

graphic: N Lumley
graphic & ditty: Helena Handbasket, @mypetgloat

Huffty Duffty sat on a wall,

Huffty Duffty had a great fall.

All Harper’s Horsies & Cheque Writing Men

Couldn’t put Huffty together again

*thanks to N Lumley for the share*

Canada-China Investment Treaty Threatens Canadian Security, Sovereignty, And Democracy

Photo: LeadNow.ca

What Stephen Harper has proven in his six year tenure as Prime Minister of Canada, particularly during his 18 months leading a majority government in the House of Commons, is that Canadian democracy is not as healthy as Canadians have assumed. In fact, it is clear that our democracy is only as healthy and vibrant as the Prime Minister of Canada allows it to be. And Stephen Harper, who exerts absolute control over his group of whipped-to-submission MPs, has taken our democracy by the neck and is strangling the life out of it in front of our eyes. The China-Canada Investment Treaty (FIPA), signed by Prime Minister Harper in Russia (!) last month, is set to be made into law next week, yet there has been no debate in the House of Commons, no public consultation, and almost no media coverage.  Like a criminal,  this Prime Minister prefers to conduct his business (which now happens to be the nation’s business) under the cover of darkness.

Elizabeth May, the only Green Party MP in the House of Commons, is working hard to shine the light on this treacherous treaty. This 60 second clip tells you all you need to know about it:



It confirms that Chinese state-owned enterprises would have the right to complain and charge for damages for decisions in Canada by municipal, provincial, territorial or federal governments. It confirms this treaty will apply till 2027 for a minimum, and potentially till 2042, and China can complain of anything it feels is arbitrary.

It will be of greater benefit to Chinese investors in Canada than to Canadian investors in China.

No province has been asked if it approved of this agreement.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked that members of this place should acquaint themselves with the treaty. I have. It threatens our security, our sovereignty and our democracy. Yet this 60 seconds will be the only briefing this House gets.

Today in the House of Commons, NDP International Trade Critic Don Davies’ motion to postpone ratification and study the treaty further will be debated. To read the motion in full and to see other actions the NDP has taken on the FIPA issue, click here to go to Don Davies’ website.


Go to LeadNow.ca to sign their petition – over 54,000 Canadians have already signed it.

Email or telephone the Conservative MPs on the Standing Committee On International Trade to urge them to support the motion to postpone ratification and further study:

Rob Merrifield rob.merrifield@parl.gc.ca
Ron Cannan ron.cannan@parl.gc.ca
Russ Hiebert russ.hiebert@parl.gc.ca
Ed Holder ed.holder@parl.gc.ca
Gerald Keddy gerald.keddy@parl.gc.ca
Bev Shipley bev.shipley@parl.gc.ca
Devinder Shory devinder.shory@parl.gc.ca

Write Hon. Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, to demand that he postpone the implementation of the Agreement until there has been a proper study and input from Canadians.

Hon. Ed Fast:  ed.fast@parl.gc.ca House of Commons Office: 613-995-0183.  If you are in Mr. Fast’s riding of Abbotsford. B.C., go down to his office and let him know how you feel.

More links:

China Investment Treaty: Experts Sounds Alarm in Letter To Harper

Canada-China Investment Treaty: Elizabeth May’s Blog

Canada And China, BFFs: Are We Ready For This?

Chinese Companies Can Sue B.C. For Changing Course On Northern Gateway, Says Policy Expert

Canadian Democracy in Disarray


There is mounting alarm and opposition across Canada, even among many conservatives, about the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38. Yesterday Parlliamentary Speaker Andrew Scheer (a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan) denied Elizabeth May’s well argued Point of Order re: allowing Omnibus Budget Bill C-38 as a legitimate omnibus budget bill will bring our institutions into greater disrepute. I’m sure Mr. Scheer wasn’t at all swayed in his decision by his party’s leader, who is well known for not allowing any dissent within his ranks.

Some of the changes to the over 60 existing federal statutes included in this “budget” bill (a better name for it would be “Harper remaking Canada into his neocon image bill”) are:

  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is repealed, and a weaker version is introduced, without a single day of hearings before the parliamentary environment committee.
  • The Species  At Risk Act is amended, as well as the Navigable Waters Protection Act. This removes protection of endangered species and their habitat when approving pipeline projects. (Hmmm – I wonder why the Harper government would be interested in this change?!)
  • The Fisheries Act is gutted by removing provisions for habitat protection.
  • Parks Canada Agency Act is trimmed and staff are cut. Reporting requirements will be reduced, including the annual report. 638 of the nearly 3,000 Parks Canada workers will be cut. Environmental monitoring and ecological restoration in the Gulf Islands National Park are being cut.
  • Canadian Oil and Gas Operations Act is made more industry-friendly. It will be changed to promote seismic testing, allowing increased off-shore drilling.
  • Nuclear Safety Control Act undermined. Environmental assessments will be moved to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is a licensing body not an assessing body, so there is built-in conflict.
  • Canada Seeds Act inspections are privatized. This is being revamped so the job of inspecting seed crops is transferred from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors to “authorized service providers” (the private sector). Monsanto, here we come!
  • Agriculture is affected. Under the Prairie Farm Rehabiliation Act, publicly-owned grasslands have acted as community pastures under federal management, leasing grazing rights to farmers so they could devote their good land to crops, not livestock. This will end. Also, the Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, B.C., an important site for quarantine and virus-testing on plants strategically located on Vancouver Island to protect B.C.’s primary agricultural regions, will be moved to the heart of B.C.’s fruit and wine country.
  • National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy is killed. NRTEE brought industry leaders, environmentalists, First Nations, labour, and policy makers together to provide nonpartisan research and advice on federal policies. Its demise will leave a policy vacuum in relation to Canada’s economic development (despite Minister Kent’s assertions in the House of Commons that such information is widely available on the internet!).
  • More attacks on environmental groups are funded. The charities section now precludes gifts which may result in political activity, and $8 million in new money is given to the Canadian Revenue Agency to harass charities. Yep, our tax dollars hard at work!
  • Water programs are cut. Environment Canada is cutting several water-related programs and other will be cut severely, including some aimed at promoting or monitoring water-use efficiency. The Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey, the only national study of water consumption habits, is being cut after being in place since 1983. Also cut is monitoring effluent: Environment Canada’s Environmental Effects Monitoring Program, a systematic method for measuring the quality of effluent discharge, including from mines and pulp mills, will be cut by 20 percent.
  • The Fair Wages Act is repealed.

Bill c-38 hits home in my region in a particular way by ending the funding of the Environmental Lakes Area. Since being established in 1968, the ELA (located near Dryden Ontario) has been a world-class research facility where the secrets of algae blooms, acid rain, mercury pollution, and the impacts of aquaculture have been unlocked. The Harper government is planning to shut the ELA down in Bill C-38.

It’s clear that Stephen Harper has a disdain for science in general, and environmental science, which tells us about the world we live in and human (particularly industry) impacts on it, in particular. Here a child weighs in on Bill C-38. See the links below the video to take action.



Take Action:


Lead Now.ca: Stop The Sellout

For Sale: All Of Canada


  • The federal government has suggested it could replace a team of smokestack pollution specialists by turning to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appearing to contradict its own description of the scientists and their work on Environment Canada’s website.

The apparent contradiction comes as hundreds of charities and organizations across Canada will stage what they are calling a “Black out, Speak out” event on Parliament Hill on Monday, denouncing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government for adopting policies they describe as anti-environment and anti-democratic. Read full story on Canada.com.

  • Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is calling the government’s bluff in his office’s quest to get the details from the government of its billions of dollars in federal cuts, saying the request has “constitutional significance” for Parliament.  “By voting on the Budget Implementation Bill, Parliamentarians are exercising their constitutional role of authorizing the raising and spending of public finances. Without knowing the impact of the measures that are contained in that instrument, it is impossible for them to exercise this power constituent with their constitutional responsibilities. The information must be provided as part of the democratic process of Parliamentary governance,” said Mr. Page in an email interview with The Hill Times from Berlin, Germany, where he is attending the 17th International Conference of Social Security and Actuaries and Statisticians, held by the International Social Security Association. Read full story on hilltimes.com.
  • From Global News, coverage of yesterday’s BlackOutSpeakOut campaign to bring attention to the federal government’s war on nature and democracy:  The opposition has attracted the usual civil society groups, but also some strange bedfellows. Former Conservative fisheries minister John Fraser appeared with Davis Suzuki for a news conference in Vancouver denouncing the government as anti-democratic. He noted that in 1982 the Conservatives stayed out of the House for two weeks to block a Liberal omnibus bill and he called on Conservative MPs to speak out now that their own party is the offender. “Silence is not an option,” Fraser said. “Private members have got to speak up but they won’t speak up unless the public gets behind them.”The Canadian Federation of Municipalities, which often supports the government, called over the weekend for the bill to be split. Read the full story on GlobalNews.ca
  • Journalist Dan Gardener doesn’t mince words in his essay, Is He Lying Or Merely Incompetent? about the Harper government’s record on climate change:   In 2011, after the Conservatives won their long-desired majority, the government delivered a Throne Speech. Climate change wasn’t mentioned. Same for the 2012 budget. The budget did, however, scrap the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a body created by the Mulroney government to provide expert policy advice to the government.  It’s not needed any more, Kent said. There’s lots of policy advice out there. Just Google it.Last week, the environment commissioner, who works within the auditor general’s office, reported on the government’s climate change plan. There isn’t one, he said. Or rather, there isn’t anything sufficiently coherent and developed to be worthy of the name. Rather than putting a price on carbon emissions – either by a cap-and-trade system or by a carbon tax – the government went with command-and-control regulations and the commissioner’s report noted that the government doesn’t know what the costs of its regulations will be, or whether they will do any good. The commissioner also reported that, if current trends persist, Canada’s emissions in 2020 will be 7.5 per cent higher than they were in 2005, not 17 per cent lower, as the government had committed.That takes us to Monday, when John Baird – foreign affairs minister and former environment minister – defended the government’s decision to scrap the NR-TEE in the House of Commons.“Why should taxpayers have to pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax, something that the people of Canada have repeatedly rejected?” Baird fumed. “That is a message the Liberal party just will not accept. It should agree with Canadians. It should agree with the government to no discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families.”

    Presumably, Baird meant “kill jobs,” not Canadian families, however, given the government’s penchant for rhetorical excess we can’t be sure. Read the full article on dangardener.ca.

Why I’m Speaking Out In Defence Of Two Core Canadian Values, Nature & Democracy

On Monday, I will be joining the BlackOutSpeakOut campaign, and joining a committed group of organizations representing millions of Canadians who are darkening  our websites in protest against the efforts of the Harper government to silence our voices. The BlackOutSpeakOut website describes this action this way:

Right now, Parliament is pushing through a bill to weaken many of the country’s most important environmental protection measures and silence the voices of all Canadians who seek to defend nature. Today it’s our voice; tomorrow it could be yours.

Here are the top five reasons to Speak Out:

  1. Charities are being targeted. The government is adding $8 million in new funding for the Canada Revenue Agency to audit charities like environmental groups in spite of the fact they have simply exercised their legal right to advocate for things like laws to fight global warming. This will have a chilling effect on democratic debate. What’s more, under these new laws, citizen groups will likely be shut out of environmental reviews of big projects like oil pipelines. Key government agencies with expertise will also have less input. Well-funded backroom lobbyists and political operatives will have greater influence.
  2. Canadians’ participation in Parliament is being disrespected. Instead of following the established process for making sweeping changes, which allows for thorough public debate, these changes are being shoehorned into a massive budget law. This drastically reduces the amount of consultation on a whole variety of topics. These changes will have serious consequences for all Canadians and our voices are not being heard.
  3. Nature is being put at serious risk. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is being replaced with a totally new law. Under it, Ottawa will play a much smaller role in protecting people from harmful projects, while retaining the right to basically rubber-stamp big projects that powerful oil interests want. And the new weaker rules are being applied to review processes that are already underway–so projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway tankers and pipeline project could get an easier ride.
  4. Too much power is in the hands of too few. The National Energy Board will no longer be able to say “no” to oil pipeline projects that are not in the public interest. Politicians in Cabinet will be able to overrule the expert energy regulator if powerful oil interests don’t like its decision. Permits that allow the destruction of habitat for fish and threatened or endangered species will now be issued behind closed doors without public scrutiny, if they are required at all.
  5. Trusted advisors to government that provide high-quality analysis for balanced policy are being ignored. The 2012 budget eliminates the funding for the last remaining government advisory body – the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE). The NRTEE provides analysis and advice on how to meet our international commitments to reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Many lakes, rivers and streams that provide habitat to fish will be at greater risk of destruction because of changes to the Fisheries Act contained within the budget implementation bill. Healthy fish habitat is important for fish and for the people and businesses that depend on them.