Ottawa: Buying Ads Is Easier Than Rooting Out CPC Corruption

Power, like a desolating pestilence, Pollutes whate’er it touches.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab

What a week in “Ottawapiskat”!  In Canada’s capital city the embattled government of Stephen Harper is facing one scandal after another, topped yesterday by the very public exit from the CPC caucus of MP Brent Rathgeber. Mr. Rathgeber represents the riding of Edmonton – St. Albert, in the heart of Harper Conservative country. Mr. Rathgeber tweeted yesterday:

My decision to resign from the CPC Caucus is because of the Government’s lack of commitment to transparency and open government.

On his blog, the former CPC backbencher elaborated (boldface added):

Recent allegations concerning expense scandals and the Government’s response has been extremely troubling. I joined the Reform/conservative movements because I thought we were somehow different, a band of Ottawa outsiders riding into town to clean the place up, promoting open government and accountability.  I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with then-Conservative President (now Senator) Don Plett during the middle of the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The sponsorship scandal, which Harper has been getting political mileage out of for nearly a decade, was caused by the Liberal government’s mishandling of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s funds that was earmarked to promote federalism in Quebec but ended up lining the pockets of some unethical and unaccountable PR firms with ties to the Liberals. The scandal has permanently tainted the Liberal Party’s reputation inside and outside Quebec. But I digress. In the name of full disclosure I should admit that Mr. Plett is part of my extended family – we both hail from the same small prairie community where almost everyone is related (or was, back in the day when I was a child). It’s not a connection that I shout from the rooftops, and if Don is aware of the fact that his cousin’s daughter is a climate activist and blogger I’m sure he’s not publicizing it widely either.

But back to 2004, during the middle of the sponsorship scandal. I was on an Air Canada flight and during a stopover in Calgary I overheard a person seated near me engaging in a very animated conversation about the scandal, clearly from an Ottawa-insider perspective. When I looked closer, I realized it was Don Plett, whom I hadn’t seen in decades although I was aware of his rise from local plumber to the one of the most powerful positions in the Reform/CPC ranks. After greeting each other, we discussed the scandal. Don was rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of the Martin government falling because of its financial malfeasance. My response was that if the Conservatives were elected I expected the same thing to happen, the idea of which he protested against very emphatically. But once again, the old adage is proved correct – power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Meanwhile Greenpeace Canada is having some fun at the expense of Mr Harper and his government’s $16 million budget for pro-oil sands advertising. Yup, our taxpayer dollars hard at work imperiling our children’s air, water, and climate!




More links:

10 Reasons Why Harper Isn’t Really Canadian


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.



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*

“Stop Harper” Protest by Parliamentary Page During Conservative Throne Speech

A Senate page managed to stand just meters away from the prime minister with a sign saying “Stop Harper” during the government’s throne speech in Ottawa today.

Brigette Marcelle De Pape had this to say after being escorted out of the Senate Chamber and then fired:

Harper’s agenda is disastrous for this country and for my generation. We have to stop him from wasting billions on fighter jets, military bases, and corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs and destroying the climate. Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare, and a healthy environment for future generations.

Contrary to Harper’s rhetoric, Conservative values are not in fact Canadian values. How could they be when 3 out of 4 eligible voters didn’t even give their support to the Conservatives? But we will only be able to stop Harper’s agenda if people of all ages and from all walks of life engage in creative actions and civil disobedience.

This country needs a Canadian version of an Arab Spring, a flowering of popular movements that demonstrate that real power to change things lies not with Harper but in the hands of the people, when we act together in our streets, neighbourhoods and workplaces.

Well, Brigette is one Canadian who stood up and took a strong, nonviolent stand for a safe and sustainable future for Canadians. She is an example to the rest of us who realize what is at stake over the next four years.


More links:

Senate Page Explains Her Brave Stop Harper Protest On Floor of Senate Today

An interview on Global TV: Page Fired For Protest During Throne Speech

Update: Interview with Brigette on Power and Politics today:


Climate Crunch – Canada’s Unelected Senators Under Pressure From Chamber of Commerce To Vote Against Clean Energy Future

Today’s guest blogger is Climate Champion Cheryl McNamara, who has blogged on 350orbust before about the Canadian Climate Change Accountability Act, Bill C311. Cheryl organizes Climate Response, a grassroots group whose purpose is to elevate the public conversation on climate change and encourage the transition to a low-carbon economy. Her blog Carbon Slim offers tasks and tips to help readers reduce their carbon footprints. This was first posted on Carbon Slim Friday September 17.

Urge Senators to Pass Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act
This is something I’ve thrown myself into. I’ve put a lot of work into it, so you don’t have to.

Canada is close to passing the Climate Change Accountability Act, but it’s under threat by Conservative Senators. Parliamentarians passed the Bill (C-311) in May. Now the Bill needs the support of 53 Senators. Of the 105 Senators, 52 are Conservative.

The situation is precarious. Years of hard work to get the Act to this point could prove meaningless if it does not get the support from all 53 opposition Senators: 49 Liberal Senators, two Progressive Conservatives and two Independents.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling on its members to lobby the Senate to oppose the Bill. Join me in a concerted citizen campaign in support of Bill C-311. The Bill resumes debate on September 28th.

What’s the Big Deal? – If passed into law, the Climate Change Accountability Act will set science based emissions reductions, require the government to produce five year target plans, establish independent reviews, and punish polluters who break regulations. It will also position Canada as a global leader in the transition to a low carbon economy.

I heard Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climatologists, speak in Toronto on Wednesday. Dr. Hansen heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He’s been sounding the climate action clarion call for decades. Dr. Hansen reminded us that addressing climate change is a moral issue. The safe level of greenhouse gas parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere is 350. In the past, natural global warming has taken place at a rate of .0001 ppm. Currently, we are experiencing an increase of an astonishing 2 ppm per year. According to Hansen, if we burn all the fossil fuel left on the planet, the greenhouse gases will constitute 1000 ppm in our atmosphere.

What to do – Please visit for sample letters to Senators and their emails. Just cut and paste. Easy. If you have a bit more time and love strategy, cut and paste the sample letters to the CEOs of insurance companies and financial firms, who are Chamber of Commerce members. The letters ask them to lobby the Senate to support the Bill. I also include contact details. Please send these letters off and spread the word.

On September 28th Senator Neufeld will speak out against the Bill when the Senate resumes debate on it. Let’s bombard the Senate with emails. Soon I will craft sample targeted emails to Liberal Senators, PC Senators and the Independents, and upload them onto the Climate Response campaign page.

Also – please join the Facebook page, Urge Senators to Support Bill C-311 –!/group.php?gid=152085321489110

Let’s insure that the Climate Change Accountability Act becomes law. And when that’s done, let’s work to usher in a government that respects it.

What Happens When BP Spills Coffee, and Big-Oil Lovin’ Senator Murkowski’s Bill Voted Down in U.S. Senate

  • This video is making the rounds on the net – it was posted on Youtube on June 9th and already has over 200,000 views (*update – 8 hours later, it’s up to 749,461!*).  From the folks at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre:


Click here go to the UCB’s website.

  • Some great news on the climate change front!  From the League of Conservation Voters, this update about Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to block the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, which was voted on in the U.S. Senate today:

…the Senate struck down Senator Murkowski’s reckless proposal to gut the Clean Air Act’s ability to protect public health and hold the biggest polluters accountable for their carbon pollution. LCV would like to thank the Senators that voted down Senator Murkowski’s resolution for standing up to Big Oil and other corporate polluters.

Click here to read the LCV’s press release on the vote.

Click here to go to for ideas on how to get to work on a cleaner, brighter future in 2010.

Canada’s Climate Bill Passed By Majority of Parliamentarians May Be Blocked By Unelected Conservative Senators

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long been a proponent of an elected senate.  In the Canadian system, senators are selected by the Prime Minister. Traditionally, the Senate has been referred to as the “chamber of sober second thought”, but it has the same powers as the House of Commons except that it can not introduce legislation related to the raising or spending of money. Although the approval of both the Senate and the House of Commons is necessary for legislation, historically the Senate rarely rejects bills passed by the directly elected Commons.

Now that Mr. Harper finds himself in the position of being able to appoint senators, although he’s the PM of a minority, not a majority, government, he has made over 30 senate appointments, changing the face of the upper chamber.  The Conservatives now hold a plurality in the senate, and are poised to be one senator away from a majority when Harper replaces independent Senator Micheal Pitfield, who retired last week.

And that means Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, which was passed by the majority of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons in May, may be voted down by unelected senators who represent a minority government.  It doesn’t sound very democratic, does it?

If you agree, please take the time to send senators a message about respecting the wishes of Canadians.  A nanos research poll from early May shows that Canadians ranked global warming as the number one issue they wanted addressed at the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto in a few weeks.  Yet we have a minority Prime Minister who says that the economy trumps “everything”, almost as if he doesn’t recognize that we, or more accurately our children, have to live on the planet once we’ve trashed it in the name of “the economy”. And his Senate House Leader, Senator Marjorie LeBreton, has said that the Conservative government isn’t supportive of this bill because they have already addressed concerns about climate change, which is more Conservative PR spin with no substance.

What is a Canadian who is concerned about the environment, and who would like to ensure their children’s future is secure and bright, to do?  The most important thing that you can do right now is to contact Canadian senators, particularly Conservative senators, and let them know you that you want them to pass Bill C311.  For contact info and sample letters, and more steps to take, go to my “Action Not Apathy” page for information and links.

More links:

Ontario Senator Pitfield resigns.

Nanos G8/G20 Poll