Down and Out in Harperconia

Saving Canada from devilish deals since 2008

Sweet tit-humping Christ I’m tired.

Tired of the chronic lack of accountability in Ottawa. Of a parliamentary press corps that been for far too long too prissy and timid to rightly ferret and call out endless examples Conservative corruption with tenacious vigour (see also: libel chill).

Tired of national apathy and cynicism understandably bred by a seemingly never ending barrage of brazen disregard for the collective values that have defined Canada for the past 40 plus years on the part of the Harpercons.

Tired of our national transition from innovator to regressive resource-based economy. Tired of corporatist Lysenkoism, capitalist force-projection masquerading as international development, and –especially — acts of self-interested international climate treaty sabotage to keep the tar sands safe.

And boy am I goddamn fucking exhausted at the prospect of having to subsidize this bright new CO2-saturated Tory blue future by having to slave the rest of my life in low-wage purgatory (Freedom 75, baby!) because the (quote) “entitlements” that allowed prior generations to achieve wealth and a general level of security are now somehow simultaneously unsustainable and morally suspect (because communism or something).

Ideologues who piss on the very concept of data-driven policy making and demonize those who commit sociology have no business redefining Canada to suit their self-destructive political nihilism. The next two years are (and no this isn’t hyperbole and it’s goddamn time Canadians stopped perpetually stifling ourselves for fear of seeming unhinged because the Tories already blew all the doors off this motherfucker ages ago) without a doubt pivotal to what Canada will look like for the next 20+ years. So much damage has been done that we are going to not only have to prepare for electoral change, but also for a long-term struggle to reshape an amorphous future.

But, most immediately, every vote counts, more than ever.

So keep watching this space; as they say, change begins at home.

The War Comes Home

Harper EI house calls

900ftJesus has some important questions for the Privacy Commissioner re: the new Harpercon plan to randomly audit EI clients for *gasp* fraud, via taxpayer-subsidized bureaucratic fishing expeditions (House calls? REALLY?):

What information are federal employees told to gather through house visits?

How is this information gathered? (silent observation, questions, questioning and/or observing people other than the client at the home?

What information is included on any reports given to HRDC?

What is the format of this information?

To what use is this information put? How is the information applied?

What privacy rating is assigned to this information?

Who has access to this information?

Where, how, and for how long is this information stored?

What training have employees who gather the information, and employees who have access to it received in privacy issues and security issues?

What information is given to the clients prior to a visit and during a visit concerning information that will be gathered?

What privacy considerations are specifically given to non-EI claimants sharing the home being visited?

Make no mistake: the Harper government is trying to do to EI recipients what its ideological predecessors, the Harris Reformatories, did to welfare recipients in Ontario in the 90s: demonize based on demonstrative appeals to self-aggrandizing Ford Nation assumptions about freeloaders (who, btw, were not, in fact, committing fraud willy-nilly back in the day, unless one contorts meaning into Gordian knots). Of course, EI != welfare. As 900ftJesus notes, “EI recipients are clients [emph. mine]. They have paid their insurance premiums and are clients, making insurance claims.”

Which is of course the overall point of the egregious Harpercon house call exercise: to dramatically shift Canadian perceptions on how we frame and view EI, until the lines between client and recipient (ie, leech) have been sufficiently blurred.

Stick a Fork in Senator Brazeau….

Senator Patrick Brazeau The Brazman domestic assault sexual assault

Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but things ain’t lookin’ good for the Brazman:

Senator Patrick Brazeau will be formally charged with domestic assault and sexual assault later this morning, following a brief appearance at the courthouse in Gatineau, Que.

Brazeau, who appeared in court wearing a black suit and white dress shirt, did not have his lawyer present for his first appearance at about 9:15 a.m. ET Friday.

Also (re: this):

I hope the good Senator dressed those words with ketchup before chowing down in his holding cell.

Update: Tim Harper (h/t Zerb):

In the ensuing years, each time [Brazeau] displayed a stunning lack of judgment or acted in his typically boorish and bullying manner, he took to blaming the messenger.

When Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn reported on Brazeau’s woeful attendance record in the Senate — he was within days of being fined for his absences at the time — he took to Twitter to slag the reporter.

“Change the D to a B in your last name and we’re even! Don’t mean it but needs saying,” the juvenile Brazeau told Ditchburn on his Twitter feed.

In recent weeks, Brazeau must have seen it all coming apart.

The Star caught him mocking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence at a Conservative fundraiser and CTV Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife found Brazeau was allegedly gaming the system, illegally claiming his father’s house as his primary residence so he could pocket a housing allowance.

Wednesday night, hours before police responded to the disturbance at Brazeau’s home, Fife reported that the senator had allegedly listed his mailing address as that of his ex-father-in-law’s house to gain an aboriginal tax exemption and Brazeau predictably branded Fife a racist.

[...]

Somehow, Brazeau seemed to think he could simply brazen his way through all this as charge was heaped upon charge, complication was piled upon complication and his enemies proliferated.

He has invited Canadians to once again heap scorn upon a discredited institution but, in this case, Canadians have no one to blame but Harper.

Co-sign.

Has Centralization of Power to the PMO Put Canadian Democracy on Life Support?

Don Lenihan has a must-read column up today, on how centralization of power to the Prime Minister’s office over the past several decades has atrophied the connection Canadians — especially youth — had with our government, and what he believes this could mean for Canada’s system of democracy:

In the early 1970s, the Trudeau government adopted a new generation of governance tools to make it more effective in the modern-day world. The approach involved rigorous new management practices, and the formation of complex plans — “strategies” — which the prime minister would push forward, using the power of his office.

What wasn’t clear at the time was that execution of these strategies also called for more Executive control over the system. As this came to light, it set in motion a decades-long centralizing trend during which succesive PMOs clawed ever more power away from Parliament.

While opposition parties condemned Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien and Harper for weakening democracy by weakening Parliament, these leaders saw increasing centralization as the unavoidable cost of getting things done. And, all things being equal, perhaps they were right.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Indeed, a whole new chapter may be opening. There is growing evidence of a ripple effect that is now reaching other parts of the body politic. If so, centralization may be having a far more profound impact on our system of government than anyone realized.

Falling voter turnout, especially among youth, is a striking example. Elections give citizens a legitimate and orderly way to challenge and change governments. Without them, our democracy would quickly revert to some form of authoritarian rule.

So why don’t young people vote? In particular, why don’t the ones who are protesting tuition hikes in Quebec, or those in the Occupy movement, take their concerns to the ballot box? Don’t they realize that their protests are calling into question the legitimacy of our democratically elected governments?

Yes, they realize this. That is exactly the point. They are taking to the streets because they don’t believe the political system works. They don’t believe it creates real accountability. Once elected, they think a government is essentially free to do what it wants, so they see no point in voting.

If this were just uninformed prattle, it would be annoying, but we would find ways to cope with it. Unfortunately, young people are making a serious point and the evidence for it is mounting.

Take Bill C-38. When replying to charges that it was a Trojan horse, the Harper government argued that it had to get these measures passed quickly to support the economic recovery. In other words, democracy was deemed less important than effective governance.

Okay, but where does this end? We learned a long time ago that, in a contest between democracy and effectiveness, nine times out of ten democracy will lose. Eventually, people will stop trusting the government at all.

Sound familiar? If not, let me spell it out.

It is one thing for opposition parties to accuse the government of being undemocratic. It is another when people take to the streets to do so. It is profoundly disturbing when a whole generation no longer sees a point in voting–or at least it should be.

The lesson here is simple: too much centralization undermines legitimacy. The more scope a government thinks it has to act unilaterally in the name of effectiveness, the less legitimacy those actions will have.

[D]emocracy was deemed less important than effective governance.” Think about that as the cult of libertarianism continues to court a new generation that is both frustrated with status quo politics and has been well-conditioned to respond positively to free-market fundamentalist boilerplate.

Features and bugs, redux.

x-posted at The Agonist

These Are Not Your Father’s Tories. Seriously.

“I worked for (Mulroney-era environment minister) Tom McMillan, who was a very red Tory. I wrote speeches for him. We never checked his speeches with the PMO. He’d get up to answer in Question Period. He didn’t have a script for how to answer. Brian Mulroney was not telling his cabinet members what to say, syllable by syllable… . I look at Peter Kent and I think my God man you had a great reputation. You were a great journalist. You won the Robert Kennedy Prize for journalism. And you’re going to stand up in the House and read the lines?”

- Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, from an interview with Dan Gardner

The F-35 boondoggle in context: This “is oppressive, dictatorial regime-building that would do any petro-state proud”

We are definitely not in Kansas anymore, Canuckistan — and Michael Harris says that we just had our “Wizard of Oz moment”:

The curtain has been well and truly whipped away from the PM’s self-promoting deceptions and he is revealed for what he is: a power-tripper on a mission to give Canada an extreme makeover that only the super-rich and the semi-comatose could endorse. And he is doing it with virtually no debate, creating something of a new phenomenon in Canadian politics; sole-source public policy.

We have Peter MacKay to thank for the official revelation — belated though it was. The minister of defensiveness has finally dished after weeks of embarrassing prevarications. It turns out the whole Harper cabinet was in on the F-35 whopper, an exercise that both the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General saw for what it was — a studied deception.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office had an even better description of the same process stateside. The Pentagon’s top weapons’ purchaser, Frank Kendall, said the plan to buy the F-35 was “acquisitions malpractice.” In this country, two sets of books were produced – one containing the real scoop, the other the “communications” version for the Great Unwashed. It turns out interim Liberal leader Bob Rae was dead right — the PM and cabinet knew they were lying to Canadians about the true costs of the F-35 during an election and Stephen Harper is ultimately accountable.

This is not “strong, stable government” a la Harper’s PR mantra. It is oppressive, dictatorial regime-building that would do any petro-state proud.

It is also the de-confederation of the country and the death spiral of independent information bearers. The war machine is more important than the social safety net. Canada can apparently have $45 billion jets and $800,000 military fly-overs, but must rein in the Old Age Supplement and cut food inspectors. The PM can blow $45,000 in public money on a baseball junket (why on earth was Harper’s official photographer along for the ride?), but 19,000 public servants must lose their jobs. And if these institutional thugs lose a seat in an election they lust after, there’s a plan B – gerrymander the riding, as they may well do in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Green Party leader Elizabeth May knocked off former cabinet sock-puppet Gary Lunn.

As for parliament, what’s parliament? Something to ignore, shutter, or the favored option, to geld.

Happy 1 year anniversary, Canuckistan — oh, and re: what Naomi Klein said:

For now, I’m happy, as noted, to let the Harpercons keep tripping over themselves; but that doesn’t mean we can’t reinforce (firmly and forcefully) the enormity of Harpercon efforts to subvert our democracy, and what it ultimately means for Canadians.

(Image: dbking, Flickr.)