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Politics and its Discontents: On The Training of Marine Mammals (a.k.a. MPs)

As I mentioned in a blog post the other day, I am currently reading Tragedy in the Commons, a book that examines the gross deficits to be found in Canadian parliamentary democracy. One of the recurring complaints of the former MPs interviewed for the book is the lack of independence afforded them, ethereby rendering them unable to effectively represent the interests of their constituents, interests that are routinely superseded by the chief priority of the party, which is to gain and maintain power.

Former Conservative Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber, now sitting as an independent, is intimately (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Tragedy In The Commons

I know that I am hardly alone in sometimes thinking that the insights and observations of progressives have a Cassandra-like quality to them; we think we can see patterns auguring ill for our country and our democracy, but warnings are largely ignored by a quiescent or alienated proportion of the population, the latter so turned off by the cupidity and corruption that seems to abound in the political world that they have just disengaged and decided to pursue other aspects of life that seem more worthwhile.

One can argue that it has always been thus; others can, quite cogently, (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A New Season Beckons, But Nothing Changes

Many people think of September as the real beginning of the new year: kids go off to school, summer transitions to fall, fall fashions appear in the stores, and new careers are embarked upon. Sadly, our political culture seems resistant to change. True, this year there are municipal elections pending in October in Ontario, but on the federal level, the status quo continues, and the abuses of power persist. In so many ways it is like the peculiar time-loop situation Bill Murray found himself in in Groundhog Day.

Yesterday provided a stark reminder of the ruthless vindictiveness of the Harper (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Time To Revisit The Question Of Mandatory Voting?

In her column today, Susan Delacourt suggests that it is. While my own opposition to mandatory voting, the reasons for which I outlined in an earlier post, remains unchanged, she does offer a rather tantalizing reason for its consideration:

Some of the dumbing-down of discourse, in particular, has taken place because political campaigns have become preoccupied with simply getting out the vote (often with shiny baubles) rather than a debate of ideas.

If it would mean the end of the notorious Conservative ‘narrowcasting’ to its base, with their repugnant and divisive appeals to the basest instincts of voters, there might (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Our Anti-Democratic Democracy

This morning, in my print edition of The Toronto Star, I saw the following headline: Canadian scientists to be placed in isolation. While it turned out to be a story about the evacuation of a Canadian medical team helping to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone, for a brief moment I thought it concerned the latest efforts by the Harper regime to muzzle our scientists.

I can perhaps be forgiven for my initial confusion. Reading Paul Wells’ book on Stephen Harper, The Longer I’m Prime Minister, two things become apparent: the Harper regime is in constant re-election mode, and a (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror – A Closer Examination

While Stephen Harper’s attacks on charities have been followed here and elsewhere, the Star presents a good overview of how the offices of the CRA have been subverted by a vindictive regime that brooks no opposition to its neoliberal agenda.

The article begins with the egregious case of CoDevelopment Canada, a small Vancouver charity that works with its Latin American partners in helping to fund programs that assist the poor. Apparently, if that assistance threatens to upset the corporate status quo, a crime has been committed in Harperland.

One of CoDev’s Latin American partners is the Maria Elena Cuadra (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Our Poisoned Political Culture

Whether true or not, Canadians can, I think, be forgiven for wondering, quite seriously, whether the Harper cabal was somehow involved in the ominous break-in at Justin Trudeau’s home while his family was asleep. A destabilizing and disturbing crime for anyone who has experienced such a violation, it is clearly weighing heavily on the Liberal leader, who must be away from his family for extended periods of time. That may be the intended effect.

Perhaps Harper and his acolytes had nothing to do with it, but entertaining such suspicions is surely not unwarranted owing to the pernicious and poisonous political (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Mission Accomplished.

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh…..

H/t Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper Recommend this Post

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror: Targeted Charities Begin To Fight Back

It was with a certain pleasure that I read in Monday’s Star that some international aid charities are banding together to challenge the Harper-directed CRA witch hunt into charities that promote views counter to government policy:

A dozen such groups conferred last week about a joint strategy to present to agency officials next month, a reversal from the last two years, when many charities refrained from speaking out for fear of aggravating the taxman.

The challenge by a dozen charities, many of which have been or currently are being subjected to CRA audits/witch hunts, is being conducted under the aegis (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Poilievre Declares War on "Radical Unions"

Posted by MoS, the Disaffected Lib:

Pierre Backpfeifengesicht Poilievre has declared Conservative war on Canada’s “radical” unions and their electoral meddling. The Parliamentary Punk has sent out a letter asking for 5-dollar contributions to help the CPC fight back the union menace in the next general election.

Poilievre has singled out Sid Ryan and the Ontario Federation of Labour as the Tories’ arch enemy. The beggar’s bowl letter begins:


I’ll be blunt – the stakes have never been higher.

We’re not just fighting Thomas Mulcair’s NDP and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

This time, we’re also fighting a radical union (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror – Part Six

The latest installment of this series illustrating the Harper regime’s subversion of the Canada Revenue Agency to punish nonprofits for opposing government policies also demonstrates its pathologically secretive nature.

The following was recently reported in The Globe and Mail:

Since Ottawa first started cracking down on political activities among charities in 2012, Pen Canada has filed a series of access-to-information requests seeking, among other things, the criteria auditors use to determine what, exactly, constitutes political activity.

The Harper cabal has refused to release this information, offering only a heavily redacted CRA training booklet that listed “Specific Audit Guidelines,” as (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror: Star Readers Respond

Stephen Harper’s attack on those charities that refuse to hew to the regime’s dogma and ideology is becoming increasingly recognized for what it is: the wanton, immoral, unethical and likely illegal actions of a martinet who will brook no opposing views. Lacking even a modicum of subtlety, his purpose is to send an unequivocal message to induce a pervasive chill in nonprofits.

Yesterday, I took special delight in reading a series of letters from Toronto Star readers who are almost uniform in their condemnation of this unfit subversive who is undermining the democratic traditions of our country and the Canada (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Urban Camouflage for Canada’s Soldiers?

The past dozen or so years have left most of us familiar with the pixelated camouflage pattern, pioneered in Canada, and worn by many nations’ soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Americans are now going back to a more traditional camouflage for their combat uniforms. Canada, however, is not. We already have three variants of the pixelated pattern – a rich green pattern for temperate forests, the desert tan we see so often and a white/grey winter-Arctic camo.

It turns out there’s a fourth pixelated pattern under development, an urban camouflage that our warriors can use presumably in our cities. (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror – Part Five

As in the previous installments, this post examines the Harper regime’s unrelenting attacks on nonprofits that in any way oppose or criticize its agenda. The latest target is CoDevelopment Canada (CoDev), whose website lists the following as its mission:

CoDevelopment Canada is a B.C.-based NGO that works for social change and global education in the Americas. Founded in 1985 by a group of activists who wanted to go beyond financial aid, CoDev builds partnerships between like-minded organizations in Canada and Latin America to foster learning, social change, and community empowerment. These partnerships educate Canadians about Latin America (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: How To Stop Stephen Harper’s Use of The CRA As An Instrument Of Terror: The Beginnings Of A Plan

Lately I have been writing some posts on Stephen Harper’s reign of terror, his relentless attacks on charities that oppose his agenda. Groups as diverse as the United Church of Canada, Oxfam, and PEN Canada have fallen victim to this vindictive miscreant, undergoing audits thanks to the Prime Minister’s misuse of the CRA as his chief weapon. The more I read and learn about this egregious and contemptible misuse of power, the more upset and angry I become, given that this strikes at the heart of one of our most treasured freedoms, the right of free speech. I have been (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign of Terror – Part Four

Except, that is, in Harperland. The latest Orwellian edict to come down from the Harper-directed CRA, reported by The Winnipeg Free Press, is as follows:

The Canada Revenue Agency has told a well-known charity that it can no longer try to prevent poverty around the world, it can only alleviate poverty — because preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.

The bizarre bureaucratic brawl over a mission statement is yet more evidence of deteriorating relations between the Harper government and some parts of Canada’s charitable sector.

The lexical scuffle began when Oxfam Canada filed papers with (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign of Terror – Part Three

The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully. – Samuel Johnson

While I doubt that many within the Harper regime are literary types or schooled in the humanities, I suspect the above quotation or variants thereof represents the underlying spirit of their relentless attacks on nonprofits that oppose the government’s ruthless agenda.

And now there are indications that the noose is tightening, that the focus of those attacks is widening, with the purpose not only of cowing advocacy groups into silence lest they lose their charitable status, but also their supporters.

Today’s Star offers this chilling lead:

Canadian charities (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: King Stephen And The Law Of Diminishing Returns

Last evening I wrote a brief post on how the Harper regime is exploiting the tragedy in Gaza for political gain.

Anon responded with the following:

It is worse than no shame. It is disgusting. Over 630 people have died, including 30 Israelis and over 600 Palestinians, mostly non combatants and civilians including children. And he uses it as an opportunity to fundraise? And Cons supporters are OK with it? No wonder they are called the Nasty Party by pundits (e,g, Hebert, Coyne).

That comment got me thinking about the much-vaunted Tory base, which, perhaps, is beginning to show some (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Harper’s Reign Of Terror – Part 2

Yesterday I wrote a post on the war being conducted by Stephen Harper and his cadre against dissent in Canada. Specifically, the Prime Minister is diverting CRA resources and taxpayer monies to investigate those non-profits not on board with his agenda. Environmental groups have been especially hard hit.

Today comes word that the scope of Harper repression is expanding. As reported in The Toronto Star, the knock at the door has happened at PEN Canada.

The Canada Revenue Agency has launched a political-activities audit of PEN Canada, a small charity promoting freedom of expression that has criticized the Harper (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: On Harper’s Reign of Terror

Last week, Owen wrote a post he entitled Corrupting Civil Society, a reflection on the Harper war on non-profits that stand in opposition to any of his regime’s agenda. I recommend reading it for a good overview of the situation.

In yesterday’s Star, three letters articulated three excellent perspectives on this shameful war:

Tories intimidate charities into silence. Who’s next? Opinion July 16

One way to deal with the Harperites’ bullying of charities might be for all charitable organizations to renounce their charitable status. Personally, I make most of my donations to non-charities. I figure they are doing (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Not So Hard To Understand

This morning’s Star reports the fact that Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017 is eliciting something less than enthusiasm from the majority of Canadians living outside of Alberta:

Albertans are far more excited than other Canadians about the looming 150th birthday of the country in 2017, a new poll has found.

A full 70 per cent of Alberta residents intend to take part in the 150th celebrations — much more than the 58 per cent of Ontarians or 31 per cent of Quebecers who said they planned to participate, says the poll, which was carried out by Leger Marketing for the Association (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: On Federal Byelections

It is commonly held that Stephen Harper chose June 30 for the four recent byelections in the anticipation that turnout would be low. Even the advance polls, which were set for Friday and Saturday of what for many would be a long weekend, offered little motivation for the winter-weary to cast their ballots before escaping town. The turnout statistics show that the Prime Minister got his wish:

Fort McMurray-Athabasca (15.2 per cent)Macleod (19.6 per cent)Scarborough-Agincourt (29.4 per cent) Trinity-Spadina (31.6 per cent)

However, according to Tim Harper, not everything worked out according to plan. (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Long Reach Of Partisan Politics

h/t Montreal Simon

In Ontario, we noticed the long federal reach of divisive partisan politics during our recent election. Joe Oliver, our alleged finance minister, interposed his views, lamenting the fiscal state of Ontario that, according to him, is bringing down the rest of Canada. Of course, the disingenuous Uncle Joe denied trying to interfere in our electoral contest. Indeed, he kept up his unsolicited advice post-election, suggesting the following to Premier Kathleen Wynne:

In her column today, The Star’s Carol Goar offers a pungent rebuttal and some advice to the minister and his government:

He ignored the fact that (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Thomas Walkom Misses The Mark

One of the reasons I subscribe to The Toronto Star is the quality of its columnists. Tim Harper, Martin Regg Cohn, Thomas Walkom, Heather Mallick, etc. rarely disappoint. However, no one is perfect, and today’s column by Walkom is not up to his usual critical standards.

Entitled Conservatives’ downfall could be Stephen Harper’s dismissive tone, the piece seems to suggest that if Harper were nicer, people wouldn’t perceive his government in nearly as bad a light as they do:

When the obituary is finally written on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, it is the tone that will stand out.

(Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: On Harper’s Unhealthy Interest in Us

Even though we are away, I arose early enough to peruse The Toronto Star, and offer the following as additional evidence of its readers’ perspicacity:

Re: Harper nominates next privacy watchdog, May 29

Keep an eye on our spies, Editorial June 1I applaud the Star for taking a robust stand against the systematic corrosion of Canadians’ privacy rights under the proposed Tory legislation, as well as standing against revelations of already widespread snooping into our private data without proper oversight. This activity is the definition of governmental abuse, and reeks of opportunism of the vilest sort in a democracy.

(Read more…)