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Politics and its Discontents: Stephen Harper and The Canada Revenue Agency: The Unholy Alliance Continues

I have written many times about the unholy partnership between Stephen Harper and the Canada Revenue Agency that takes the form of an auditing witch hunt of those charities that in any way offer criticism of Dear Leader’s policies. The latest news offers further proof that official avowals of impartiality in selecting who will . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Stephen Harper and The Canada Revenue Agency: The Unholy Alliance Continues

Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper: The Political Predator and the E.I. Scam

It was the PMO's Picture of the Week. Stephen Harper receiving a report on the situation in Ukraine from the brutish former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris.In his never-ending pursuit of the ethnic vote.Even though, sadly for him, the only ones who covered the event were his PMO flunkies.Because even the dullards in the . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper: The Political Predator and the E.I. Scam

Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Tim Hudak, the GOP and Voter Suppression

I posted recently about an Ontario conservative scheme to suppress the vote in the upcoming provincial election.

A Party calling themselves None of the Above could be traced back to Mike Harris.

Recently it was also discovered that several Ontario households received letters from the PC Party with incorrect information, that would have sent . . . → Read More: Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Tim Hudak, the GOP and Voter Suppression

Pushed to the Left and Loving It: None of the Above and Latinos for Reform

During the 2010 U.S. mid-term election campaign, a group of “discontents” emerged, calling themselves Latinos for Reform.   President Obama had secured most of the Latino vote in 2008, so the group’s message was that Obama had let them down.  Given the Republican’s anti-immigration policies, LFR knew that voting GOP was not an option, . . . → Read More: Pushed to the Left and Loving It: None of the Above and Latinos for Reform

Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Beware of Those Bearing Pledges. They Might Just Have to Honour Them

Men should pledge themselves to nothing; for reflection makes a liar of their resolution.  Sophocles

Pledges are nothing new for politicians.  Some are broad in scope, like FDR’s pledge to a New Deal for Americans, or President Obama’s pledge to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.

In 1994, Newt . . . → Read More: Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Beware of Those Bearing Pledges. They Might Just Have to Honour Them

Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Tim Hudak Wants to be Like Mitch Daniels. No Wonder. He’s Another Mike Harris

Indiana- Louise Cohoon was at home when her 80-year-old mother called in a panic from Terre Haute: The $97 monthly Medicaid payment she relied on to supplement her $600-a-month income had been cut without warning by a private company that had taken over the state’s welfare system. (1)

Hold that thought.

The Globe and Mail . . . → Read More: Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Tim Hudak Wants to be Like Mitch Daniels. No Wonder. He’s Another Mike Harris

Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Should Hudak Be Running on an Anti-Union Platform Before he Has His Hands on the Public Purse?

In 1999, Mike Harris ran in Ontario on an anti-union platform, promising to get tough with union bosses.

The backlash was immediate, but Harris wasn’t worried. He had a secret weapon. Deceit.

In the run-up to the election he had pulled out all the stops, beginning with advertising at the expense of the Ontario taxpayer. . . . → Read More: Pushed to the Left and Loving It: Should Hudak Be Running on an Anti-Union Platform Before he Has His Hands on the Public Purse?

Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper and the Disgraceful Adventures of the Con Regime

As I've mentioned recently, I can't be sure whether Stephen Harper is now in a state of total denial, or totally broken by scandal, or just totally insane.But either way it's deeply disturbing, and one does have to question whether he's fit to remain in office. For there he was in the House . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper and the Disgraceful Adventures of the Con Regime

Politics and its Discontents: The Common Sense Revolution Redux ( A.K.A. Tiny Tim Roars)

H/t Theo Moudakis

If you have resided in Ontario for some years, and were of a certain age when Ontario’s Common Sense Revolution was conducted by Mike ‘The Knife’ Harris, you will recall it was a time of great upheaval that, contrary to the mythologizing that the right-wing so much enjoys fabricating, left the . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: The Common Sense Revolution Redux ( A.K.A. Tiny Tim Roars)

Trashy's World: Tim Hudak is sooooo out of touch!

Of course he is out of touch. It’s Tim Hudak that we’re talking about here, folks. That’s not a big surprise. But what is a surprise isthe extent of his disconnect. His “1 million jobs”, *ahem* “plan” is perhaps the most ill-thought out set of proposals I have ever seen rolled out in an election . . . → Read More: Trashy’s World: Tim Hudak is sooooo out of touch!

Alberta Diary: Advice to progressives: Don’t airbrush Jim Flaherty’s record out of sympathy for his family

The late Jim Flaherty tries on the traditional new shoes just before delivering his 2012 federal budget. Below, some of Mr. Flaherty’s friends and colleagues: former Ontario premier Mike Harris, in whose government he also served; Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Decent people naturally feel sympathy with the loved ones . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: Advice to progressives: Don’t airbrush Jim Flaherty’s record out of sympathy for his family

Alberta Diary: Shining you on: Alison Redford calls for a little selective sunshine on civil service salaries

The scene in February 2014: CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell pores through a list of senior Alberta civil service salaries as horrified deputy ministers and university professors look on. Actual Alberta public employees may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation Don Scott, left, with some guy . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: Shining you on: Alison Redford calls for a little selective sunshine on civil service salaries

Alberta Diary: How will we get back to the 19th Century without Stephen Harper? Why he should go, and won’t

A forlorn Richard Nixon waves goodbye to Washington for the last time from the steps of the presidential helicopter on Aug. 9, 1974. Don’t count on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do the same thing any time soon, even if it destroys his party. Below: Stephen Harper looking appropriately gloomy in a Toronto . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: How will we get back to the 19th Century without Stephen Harper? Why he should go, and won’t

Politics and its Discontents: Some Thoughts on ‘Tea Party Tim’

I wish I could take credit for the title sobriquet describing Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, but that distinction lies with Val Patrick of Hamilton whose letter, along with several others that appear in today’s Star, I am taking the liberty of reproducing below. Enjoy!

Tea Party Tim Hudak has launched into . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Some Thoughts on ‘Tea Party Tim’

Politics and its Discontents: A Timely Reminder

Young Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, probably commands much more press coverage than he deserves. He certainly has been the object of more than one of my own blog posts, in part because of the fascinating window he opens into the mind of that segment of the electorate which . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: A Timely Reminder

Alberta Diary: The cheek of Jim Flaherty … expensing his Maybelline while preaching austerity!

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty before application of his Smashbox and Cover Girl. Below: Mr. Flaherty after his makeup makeover. Warning: Any resemblance to J. Edgar Hoover is certainly purely coincidental. Below that: FBI icon J. Edgar Hoover and the real Mr. Flaherty. Jim Flaherty portrait by Edmonton artist William Prettie.

Who would have . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: The cheek of Jim Flaherty … expensing his Maybelline while preaching austerity!

Politics and its Discontents: A New Threat To Seniors

I think we are all aware, at least on an intellectual level, that the gift of a relatively long life comes at a cost: physical and sometimes cognitive diminishment, myriad aches and pains, both physical and emotional, and susceptibility to scams and … . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: A New Threat To Seniors

An individual with opinions.: Ontario Progressive Conservatives embrace contradictions.

I was browsing through the Ontario Progressive Conservative ‘Party History’ page, and I noticed the amusing contradictions. Before that, let’s start with their more recent leader/Premier, pulled directly from their Party History page, (1995-2002) Premier Michael Harris “[His] achievements included welfare reform, health care restructuring, major reductions in public spending and more efficient government.”

 I . . . → Read More: An individual with opinions.: Ontario Progressive Conservatives embrace contradictions.

An individual with opinions.: Stephen Harper, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein – three case studies in the fascist inclination of neoliberal implementation.

If you’ve read Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, you’ll have an understanding that in order for powers to implement (radical) neoliberalism (privatization, elimination of public services, etc.), it has to be pushed through, rather rapidly – jammed through, if you will. Essentially, people benefit from government intervention, regulation, social programs and other things civilians require . . . → Read More: An individual with opinions.: Stephen Harper, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein – three case studies in the fascist inclination of neoliberal implementation.

An individual with opinions.: Stephen Harper, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein – three case studies in the fascist inclination of neoliberal implementation.

If you’ve read Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, you’ll have an understanding that in order for powers to implement (radical) neoliberalism (privatization, elimination of public services, etc.), it has to be pushed through, rather rapidly – jammed through, if you will. Essentially, people benefit from government intervention, regulation, social programs and other things civilians require for a stable and decent lifestyle (or at least survival). In order to eliminate these expectations of services, great shock and awe acts must be preformed by said government at the time to get away with radical privatization.

She even cites a Canadian example, the Mike Harris Progressive Conservatives in Ontario, and specifically the education minister at the time, and how he dealt with our education system. The minister was caught saying the government ought to create a “crisis” in order to justify education restructuring/defunding.

Books such as Slumming it at the Rodeo: the cultural roots of Canada’s right-wing revolution, or Hard right turn: the new face of neo-conservatism in Canada (haven’t read this one) try to compare some iconographic neoconservative Canadian figures: Preston Manning founder of the Reform Party, Mike Harris Progressive Conservative premier of Ontario and Ralph Klein also PC premier – but of Alberta. Substitute Stephen Harper with Preston Manning (his successor) and we have three demonstrated examples of leaders in power. Three party leaders and Premiers*. I will be focusing on their (un)democratic, autocratic and authoritative tactics and how it directly correlates to their neoliberal agenda.

I’m proposing that in order to get across heavy does of public sector cuts, which has both measurable and immeasurable impact on Canadians (especially middle to low income), requires force in various forms. This could be through subverting the legislative body, through autocratic centralization and control, and other means of deception. I will be delineating this, with examples, comparing Stephen Harper of Canada, Ralph Klein of Alberta and Mike Harris of Ontario. All of these figures, upon arrival, wished to do serious damage to the public sector – and actually managed to inflict it (and one is still in the process).

I won’t be focusing on their privatization, or government diminution as much, as you can read about that elsewhere – I will be mainly focusing on their tactics in order to administrate and enact those cuts.

Ralph Klein of Alberta

A man with a changing plan, Ralph Klein road the manufactured wave of deficit-mongering into power** with the Progressive Conservatives in 1992, and when there, started cutting programs of all stripes. Education, health-care, post-secondary – you name it. It was indeed a neoliberal agenda those with a motive for profit could value.

In the early days of the reign of Mr. Klein, government expenditure was severely limited. Around 20% of healthcare funding was eliminated, leading to around 5,000 layoffs of nurses, and a 10% reduction of the remaining nurses wages; hospitals were shut down, and even some private clinics were open. Education (including post-secondary subsidization) was gutted as well – specifically, kindergarten received 50% less funding in the 1994 budget and massive amalgamations of school boards occured to save money.  Among that was various other privation, including their former Liqueur Control Board and various functions in the energy sector that was previous covered by the state.***

At points, he and his party didn’t think the typical legislative process for passing legislation would be good enough, so they used the tactic known as closure – which puts limits on how much the legislature can debate and discuss a certain bill. If the opposition is, you know, doing its job, you can put a limit on that and press the legislation through quickly. Yet it gets worse, early in his premier days (1994) his government introduced two bills,

Bill 41, the Government Organization Act, and Bill 57, the Delegated Administration Act…

…the bills gave almost unlimited power to executive council and individual ministers, thereby skirting the legislature. For example, under Bill 41, ministers would be able to create programs and services, change regulations, make loans, sell public property, or transfer programs and services to the private sector which in turn could set fees – all without legislative approval. The Liberals justifiably denounced Bill 41 as ‘government by regulation as opposed to legislation,’ ‘a massive derogation of power from the Legislative Assembly,’ and a threat ‘to parliamentary democracy.’ 

Similarly, the Liberals contended that Bill 57 avoided legislative scrutiny and seemed to allow for the privatization of any and all governmental services at ministerial whim and without accountability. Like Bill 41, Bill 57 seemed to open the door to unlimited ‘user-fees’ for services previous covered by the State. Both bills seemed ripe with potential for patronage and kickbacks. Perhaps more fundamentally, both also seemed to involve a substantial diminution of legislative authority. (1)

Bill 41 would be scrapped, reintroduced, then scrapped again – but it didn’t really matter, as the opposition and media pointed out, as Bill 57 gave the same powers regardless. This specific example shows the bigger problem of governmental hyper-centralization to dictatorial rule/majoritarianism, which neoconservatives in-power seem to implement (or want to),

On July 5, 1997, Treasurer Stockwell Day of Alberta announced in a tiny newspaper article that, like every other element of public life, democracy was being downsized: the fall sitting of the provincial legislature would be dumped, leaving a measly thirty-four days of public process for 1997…”We don’t need to be hitting the taxpayers with more costs of just sitting around shouting at each other,” he said, explaining the 50 percent cut in democracy.(2)

These two developments put together side by side either show the absolute incompetence and laziness of said government, or a malicious attempt to subvert the tradition of parliamentary democracy. First, give dictatorial powers to the ministers, and next, cut the sitting days in half, since you don’t really need the legislature any more, right?

It’s not really difficult to believe that Ralph would lead his government to that sort of fascist, more-dictatorial rule, considering he’s sort of defended, in public, Augusto Pinochet. That’s right, August Pinochet, the brutal dictator of Chile who illegally seized power from the democratically elected Allende. His crimes are well-documented,

Killing up and locking the government was not enough for Chile’s new junta government, however. The generals knew that their hold on power depended on Chileans being truly terrified. In the days that followed, roughly 13,500 civilians were arrested, loaded onto trucks and imprisoned [by Pinochet’s junta], according to a declassified CIA report. Thousands ended up in the two man football in Santiago, the Chile Stadium and the huge National Stadium. Inside the National Stadium, death replaced football as the public spectacle. Soldiers prowled the bleachers with hooded collaborators who pointed out “subversives”; the ones who were selected were hauled ff to locker rooms and skyboxes transformed into torture chambers . Hundreds were executed. Lifeless bodies started showing up on the side of major highways or floating in murky urban canals.(3)

And this is just the beginning, there were many more acts of disturbing, horrifying terror and destruction from the Pinochet dictatorship. Why would Klein say something like this, then?

Pinochet came in, Mr. Speaker, and I’m not saying that Pinochet was any better, but because of the only elected communist in Chile, Allende, and the socialist reforms he put in, Pinochet was forced, I would say, to mount a coup.

Because Pinochet was indeed a response to a communist – erm, socialist – elected leader, Allende. He nationalized much, he improved labour conditions, he invested in people, etc. The business elite in Chile and abroad rose (including active support from Ford) a huge fuss (because he got in the way of their profits and exploitation), supported Pinochet (along with the CIA) and boom – destruction for Chile. One of the things Pinochet did was support massive government cuts, to levels so low it caused catastrophic damage in Chile during that time. Unemployment sky-rocketed, poverty sky-rocketed, health deteriorated, etc.  One neoliberal government (Ralph’s PCs) defending an admittedly more fascist neoliberal government (Pinochet in Chile), sure. There’s certainly a similar lack of regard for the stable, traditional process for lawmaking, although one at the far extreme.  I wouldn’t be bringing up any relation if Klein didn’t, but, he did, which makes this narrative so much easier.

The context of that quote provides even more light on this issue, that statement from Mr. Klein was in response to the leader of the Liberal party, an opposition member, suggesting that the government could provide auto-insurance and save money for the people of Alberta. Klein decided to compare such a plan to Allende in Chile,

Mr. Speaker, maybe the honourable member will explain to the media outside the house – I know he won’t here – how he plans to dismantle all of the insurance companies that exist here in Alberta, and say: with the great hand of government, the Liberals will now socialize all insurance. It sounds like Allende in Chile, you know, when he took over all the copper mines, all the minerals, all the resources, all the mining, all the newspapers…

Woah. Was Klein suggesting if the Liberals were in power, that there would be governmental and non-governmental forces forced to mount a violent coup against the Liberals? Creepy stuff here. A very bizarre pseudo-defence of brutal fascism abroad, as well as some sort of ominous and spooky threat to the opposition. A strange, but telling moment.

According to an article in The Tyee by Frank Dabbs, a man who has documented figures like Preston Manning and indeed Ralph Klein, the total legacy of the premiership of Ralph Klein (which ended in 2006; lead to his title “King Ralph”) is eroding democracy, and centralizing government proceedings to an undemocratic level,

In post-democratic Alberta, the opposition has no meaningful role in the legislative process because the legislature’s committees function like committees of the Conservative caucus. Opposition members attend them only at the pleasure of the government and never participate in votes unless the Tories wish it. This means opposition MLAs are excluded from effective participation in debating and amending bills on second reading. They are denied the policy inquiry and review opportunities that legislative standing committees normally enjoy in the British parliamentary model.

Mike Harris of Ontario

Another premier, this time for Ontario. He became premier/his party came to power in 1995 – a couple years after Ralph Klein. Much like Ralph Klein, he was a neo-conservative cowboy who waged a war on the public sector, and most brutally, teachers – just like Ralph Klein did!

Between 1995 and 1998, about $4.5 billion was cut from Ontario’s budget, from healthcare, education, post-secondary, welfare and other important services. Over 20 hospitals were shut down, over 6,000 nurses were fired and over 10,000 hospital beds were eliminated due to the cuts. In education, teachers pay was limited, their behaviour restricted – including millions of dollars removed from post-secondary subsidization, which brought Ontario to the highest tuition rates in Canada. The privation of our hydro-electricity company was bungled leading to the high rates you see now, and various other programs were slashed. You can read more about the saddening details and ramifications of the Mike Harris cuts over the years here.

Also similar to Ralph Klein, things became quite centralized, autocratic and swiftly implemented within his government and party. According to lobbyist Doug Prendergast, 

The Tories have made it possible, in theory, to introduce a bill on Monday and have it pass on third reading Thursday.(4)

Keep that in mind, for later. Our systems of parliamentary democracy, unfortunately, also contain mechanisms which would allow for a majority government to pretty much do whatever it wants (except, thankfully, for the judicial branch’s supreme authority notwithstanding the notwithstanding clause). Time allocation and closure can effectively render the purpose of parliament obsolete. Again, let’s look at a specific example to see this government in action. 1995, Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act (sound familiar?),

Bill 26… was hefty omnibus legislation into which the government rolled amendments to forty-seven laws, allowing the Tories to proceed with ambitious downsizing plans. The legislation empowered municipalities and other groups to replace money transfers from the province with funds raised through user fees and licenses, and it empowered the province to amalgamate cities with this legal Hydra. Less clever was its overwhelming of itself. In the drafting of Bill 26, deputy ministers dutifully sent every conceivable saving and restructuring they could think of to the premier’s office, which pasted them up and sent them over to the finance department, where the final bill was drafted.(5)

This bill was over 2,000 pages long, designed to stifle the opposition and media due to its overwhelming status. This tactic will be continued later by Stephen Harper, in his many budgets. Another trait Harper and Harris share is their management of their government, both preferring their chief executive status (premiership and prime ministership) as sole authority within a government,

One of Mike Harris’s first act a premier had been to address all the deputy ministers – the top executives in the huge provincial bureaucracy – at a closed-door session. On that occasion, he had delivered two messages. First, although the new government welcomed advice on how to implement its agenda, that agenda was not subject to debate. “I do require your absolute commitment to the final political determination of the government,” Mike Harris told them. Second, he reminded the deputy ministers that they owed their first allegiance, not to the minister, but to Harris himself. This was a timely reiteration of political reality in parliamentary democracies…

Harris wanted to remind the mandarinate that he and his political staff intended to keep firm, central control the government’s agenda. Ministers should be under no illusion that they were sovereign within their own departments.(6) 

If none of this even makes you question the democratic inklings of Mike Harris, let me give you a precise example. In 1998, During the amalgamation of Toronto, the Mike Harris PCs both railed for a less democratic Toronto while simultaneously ignoring the democratic wishes of the people in what we now know-as Toronto. In their giant amalgamation, which at that time, would put Toronto as the largest municipality in Canada, and one of the largest in North America – also reduced all of that areas total councillors from 106 to 44 (more than 50%!). If that wasn’t enough, the various cities held a wide referudum, which three quarters of the voting (now) Torontonians voted “no”. This didn’t stop the Harris Tories, and they continued with the amalgamation anyways – all in the name of fiscal responsibility. How about democratic responsibility?

These people view democratic in the most rudimentary and misguided way. They believe, once they’re there, they can do what they want – despite public protest. Or they just don’t care as to the implications of their actions, and go on with it regardless.

Stephen Harper of Canada

This is the man I need to write about the least, as this information is actually in the minds of many. His current agenda is well documented. So, instead of the traditional profile, I’ll draw up points of similarities between Stephen Harper and the other two above.

1. Source of legislative power brought to the “centre” (Prime Ministers office or premiers office). This is very evident with Mike Harris’s personal conduct, or Ralph Klein’s preference for ministerial dictatorship (he’ll at least tolerate some ministerial autonomy). Stephen Harper, though not unique in his preference of centralizing power in the executive office, has taken things to the most precarious level in Canadian history. The amount of staff for the Prime Ministers office is at a height never before seen in Canadian history, and all the orders come from there – the PM screens ministers and MPs statements to the media, pre-approves questions from the press, holds meetings in secrets, issues directives, etc. This lack of individual MPs (and ministers) empowerment, involvement and control in “their” own government can lead to blunders where the respective minister is left defending something they don’t even understand – this leads to hilarity and pity, if you want the details, you can read about it in my older post here.

All three of these men held a tight grip even on the non-politicians – the civil servants. For instance, Raplh Kleins’ minister of social services, Mike Cardinal issued a warning that those who spoke against government policy would be fired(7). There’s also the time Mike Harris denounced teachers for protesting, on the public dime, on Ontario television – this was during the time his government “banned” the teachers’ strike, through legislation. And Harper’s government has been issuing directives to the various departments to shut up if they disagree with the governments policy – including actually suppressing science results and scientists if they disagree with their policy (eg. climate change).

In a study done of 22 countries with parliamentary democracy, including Greece, New Zealand and Israel, Canada got the highest score in terms of power-concentration of the Prime Minister. Interesting result, and daunting. Even more daunting are the implications it may have on our provinces – how powerful are our premiers? Considering there’s less focus on them, the potential for abuse and autocratic rule there could be greater.

2. Parliament/legislature a rubber stamp; opposition is irrelevant.
This is pretty reliant and closely tied to the first point, but for organizations sake, it deserves its own heading. Mike Harris loaded up gigantic bills and packed them through Queen’s Park. In addition, as mentioned just above, Ralph Klein granted much authority to the ministers and premier (and wanted to grant more). Not that it would really matter, as with a majority of seats they could ram things through their legislative assembly quite easy. There’s two main ways for them to wield this. a) is through whipping their puppet-members to vote for whatever they want, enact closure of time allocation (which set limits how long a bill can be debated), and pass the legislation with minimal opposition. And b) is loading up giant bills so the opposition and media is overwhelmed.

Harper definitively is guilty of this. For the first point on time allocation and closure, the exceptional Elizabeth May points out,

This Parliamentary procedure is traditionally used for matters of great urgency and national importance. For example, from 1913 to 1956, a period of over 40 years, time allocation on debates was used 10 times.
However, since being elected with an majority government on May 2nd, a mere 10 months, the Harper Conservatives have used time allocation 16 times. (This does not include time allocation in the Senate, or in Committee.)

He’s also a dirty culprit of door number two, even in something as important sounding as the budget, as Aaron Wherry documents,

The 12 budget bills tabled between 1994 and 2005 averaged 73.6 pages.[Liberal rule]
The 11 budget bills tabled between 2006 and 2011 averaged 308.9 pages.[Conservative rule]

To be even more specific, in 2011, the budget was over 800 pages. It’s not just the budget, though, but it was also Harper’s omnibus crime bill, which was over 400 pages.

3. Get elected with less than 40% of the electorate, disregard democracy. In a first past the post-system, governments can be elected without a majority of Canadians – or even a majority of voters. This leads to philosophical questions as to what power should the government have considering their lack of majority support. At the very least, the government should uphold the law, and listen to referendums and plebiscites, no?

Mike Harris, with the Toronto amalgamation, completely ignored the democratic wishes and legitimate concerns of the citizens and ploughed through anyways. Ralph, who used to advocate for direct democracy, changed his tune when the opposition member tabled a bill which would grant exactly that.

Harper shares traits with both of these men. First, in the former crown corporation, the Wheat Board affair, Harper’s government violated the law a couple times, one time included ignoring the legally mandated referendum. Both time were under a different agricultural minister, which means two of those ministers are criminals – one remains in our government (tough on crime, eh?) The first time was under Chuck Strahl in 2006, which involved the Conservatives telling the Wheat Board to keep its mouth shut and not get in the way of the Conservatives’ plan to privatize it. The second time, under Gerry Ritz, which is a lot more daunting, but part of the same trend, was while invoking closure, the Conservatives dismantled the crown corporation and removed its privileges, while ignoring an essential portion of the law. The Canadian Wheat Board Act stipulated that the government had to hold a plebiscite of farmers under the system if they wanted to change the functions – hardly unreasonable. Well, it was too much for the Tories to listen to the will of the people – so they passed the legislation regardless. The Wheat Board was quite concerned, so they held one themselves to see if that would change the governments mind – and the farmers indeed voted to keep the system (like most of the previous plebiscites). The result, the agricultural minister was taken all the way up to the Supreme Court and told he broke the law. No real accountability, though, as he remains the criminal agricultural minister.

Result:

To pinch and cut the appendage that many Canadians and provincial dwellers rely on isn’t necessarily a political walk-in-the-park. Healtcare, education, post-secondary, welfare – these are all things that ultimately affect a majority of Canadians, in their respective provinces. When the trio of Harper, Klein and Mike high-tailed the decreased expenditure, it requires administrative imposition. Without swift action, mobilization from the affected parties could arise. As we’ve seen, teachers concerned about their pensions, their jobs, their livelihoods will respond to giant cuts to their operations and expectations. Citizens will notice worse and more expense healthcare. Activists will notice an increase in poverty. These things do not go unnoticed.

The tides of popular revolt are nearly inevitable, so before that happens, hastily ram through what you want, disregarding democratic and traditional convention for observation, analysis and debate within your legislative body. Chuck all that you want into one mammoth bill in which the opposition will be struggling to parse, and citizens who get their information from the befuddled media, will remain mostly ignorant. Better yet, do both, through the military-command and whipping of your puppet members who are tantamount to pawns on a chess board.

Governmental rollbacks are not popular. Despite the rhetoric, disregarding the popular illusion – if a kickback makes your life more brutal, that, naturally, will discontent you. It will bother you. Some things are supported in notion, at points – such as conscription. During WW2, the majority of Anglo Canadians supported the draft, yet when the draft came to them, personally, most tried to dodge it. Once the full effects are seen by the people, the people will react. Only then, do we learn.

This is what deception, subterfuge and brunt force are for. They’re to get shit done. Get it done, till people smell the coffee. Ever since 70s, the business elite have been trying to fool us Canadians to accept the bitter medicine of a worse living standard, less government assistance and a rise in income disparity… so they can have lower taxes and a exponential aristocratic living – repealing all the excellent developments of the 20th century. They’ve occupied our newspapers, they’ve occupied our television networks (they’ve bought our TV networks!), they’ve even infiltrated our universities and they’ve successfully influenced our politicians – on both sides of the aisles at points. Just as the nationalistic jingoistic military-industrial forces (successfully) indoctrinated a majority of Canadians to support conscription, they’ve told us to accept the rhetoric of “fiscal responsibility” over the concerns of equality, and real freedom for all. The decline of most of us, the majority of people, is the goal of them – the rapacious plutocrats. 

It is short-lived, and the more extreme they try to push, the more extreme the citizen reaction is. This is why it much be rushed, before people wake up. Ride the manufactured delusion that neoliberalism is natural and acceptable for modern civilians, but ride it posthaste. For the uncivilized barbarians, that are the people, may pelt you with rocks (it’s all they have) if you venture too slowly.

Don’t blink.

The decline in parliamentary democracy, and ultimately, the erosion of democracy in general, is the normal mechanism for powers and parties to implement their pro-plutocracy, classist, neoliberal agenda. Ralph did it, Harris did it and Harper is doing it now. Fascism is the natural friend of the Right. As the Right is the natural friend of the elite. And the elite wants shit done. And quasi-fascist, and flat-out-fascist tactics will be continued to be used by Harper and others until we burn the root of evil. It will continue to be used, because it’s successful. Unless radical change happens.

*Fun fact: Prime Minister in french is premier!

**Raplh Klein, admittedly, is more of a opportunist than a die-hard neoliberal. He still used it and wielded it like any other, but he has changed to fit roles before.

***Sadly, there isn’t really any online document comprehensively detailing the Ralph Klein PC cuts and actions, but I would suggest two books if you’re interested. The Trojan Horse: Alberta and the future of Canada, along with The Return of the Trojan Horse: Alberta and the New World (Dis)Order. Both books are quite rare, and the latter I only recently ordered. Once I get it, and read it, I may decide to publish the bits – online – that I see fit.

†The whole affair is just strange. As some sort of defence for his statements, he submitted a paper he wrote for a class in unversity when he was in his adolescence, it became evidence in the legislature. It was about Augusto Pinnochet, and he only got a mark of 77 on it – and that paper is used as an example, by the university, of how not cite information, and bordered on plagiarism. The whole thing is just really amusing, and to make things better, the presidents of both the University of Calgary and Alberta wrote letters in defence of Ralph Klein and his dis-satisfactory paper that he submitted to the Alberta Legislature.

Both had wide protest from teachers – which, for Mike Harris lead to attack ads against them, from the premiers office, on the public dime, denouncing the teachers’ strike. Klein did the same thing, except against those railing against healthcare cuts – again, on air, on the public dime.

† It gets worse, this bill was over 2,000 pages long. The speaker ruled that this was fine, just as Harper’s speaker ruled that the Conservatives giant omnibus bills are fine, and that limiting debate is fine, and that curtailing democracy is fine, etc.(8)

(1)Harrison, Trevor, and Gordon Laxer. The Trojan Horse: Alberta and the Future of Canada. Montréal: Black Rose, 1995. 126. 
(2)Laird, Gordon. Slumming It at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada’s Right-wing Revolution. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998. 69. 
(3)Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan /Henry Holt, 2007. 76-77. 
(4)Critterden, Guy. Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. By Ruth Cohen. Toronto: Insomniac, 2001. 62.
(5) Ibid. 64
(6)Ibbitson, John. Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice Hall Canada, 1997. 101. 
(7) Harrison, Trevor, and Gordon Laxer. The Trojan Horse: Alberta and the Future of Canada. 124.
(8)Alien Invasion How the Harris Tories Mismanaged Ontario. 86

. . . → Read More: An individual with opinions.: Stephen Harper, Mike Harris and Ralph Klein – three case studies in the fascist inclination of neoliberal implementation.

An individual with opinions.: Unions and the left in Ontario: short-sighted politically.

This isn’t a post defending Dalton McGuinty’s bravado and threats to violate the constitutional right of collective bargaining of the public sector workforces and unions – my opinion on that remains firm.

Unions can be a viable political source, just as businesses can – but not nearly as much, naturally, for lack of monies and influence. Unions back political parties, most notably the federal NDP, which largely contests the traditionally business-backed Liberals and now the dominant Conservatives. In Ontario, it gets a bit more complicated; unions still lend support to the provincial NDP, but there’s also particular unions that have helped Dalton McGuinty get elected the last few elections.

Mostly teachers unions and hospital unions, in reaction to the alternative, support the Dalton Liberals. The alternative is Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak, protégé and, indeed, successor of Mike Harris. Mike Harris, as I hope you know, brought a devastating agenda of neoconservatism to Ontario that led to billions of dollars in cuts and ten of thousands of lost – vital – public sector jobs. He cut welfare to some of the lowest levels in Canada, over 20 hospitals were closed down, over 6,000 nurses were fired, over 10,000 hospital beds were removed, he privatized and then further messed up our hydro-electric company, etc. In the Mike Harris Progressive Conservatives first few years in office, around $1.5 billion was eliminated from the education budget alone. This wasn’t just for secondary school, millions of dollars were removed from post-secondary subsidization – after all the defunding, Ontario had (and still has) the highest rate of tuition in Canada. If you want to read about more of the details of Mike Harris’s reign in Ontario, you can do so here.

All of this healthcare slashing was done with Tim Hudak in the Mike Harris PC government, and at points, Tim Hudak was actually the health minister and responsible for closing those hospitals down! And no, he wasn’t ignorant, he’s a real honest-to-goodness neocon. So much of one he was a speaker at a conference for the organization “Canadians for George Bush“, in support of you-know-who. Seriously. In addition to that insanity, he “used” to oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and even human rights commissions and all those other symbols of the late 20th/early 21st century. He denies these things, but unfotrunately for him, they’re on record.

So, yes, the Liberals are better than the alternative. The Liberals restored the billions of dollars that the Progressive Conservatives removed from education, healthcare and even post-secondary. They restored Ontario, at least somewhat. I’m not saying they’re some sort of messiah-like party that saved Ontario, but they definitively picked it up from out of the gutter.

Tim Hudak’s current obsession is unions – he wants to dis-empower them even more than their already pitiable status (less than 30% of the population is unionised, and has been declining for a while). He has good reason, as teachers unions and others funded the Working Families Coalition which ran attack ads against Tim Hudak (rightfully and fairly) fearmongering over what a Hudak PC government would do with education funding and other related material.

This organization helped the Liberals retain their power in the 2011 election, albeit with limitation – minority government. Now that the Liberals remain in power, they’re continuing their fairly new policy of neoliberalism and austerity (when they were first elected in 2002, the Liberals were a lot more liberal*). It’s quite light when you compare it with the actions of the current federal government, the previous Mike Harris government in Ontario, or even the last Liberal government federally. Yes, they’re cutting jobs. Yes, they’re cutting funding. Yes, they are assaulting the public sector, but it’s far more reasonable than past actions. I do think the Liberal’s “solution” to the “deficit” is stupid, misguided and ultimately the wrong approach, but let me put it this way: Tim Hudak doesn’t think the Liberals are going far enough, he was so dissatisfied he unilaterally withdrew any support for the budget-slashing 2012 budget and measures. That must mean the Liberals are doing the wrong thing better than the alternative, Hudak.

For example, the Liberals want about 1,000 public sector jobs cut this year. That may seem like a lot, but compare it with the over 6,000 of just nurses that happened under Mike Harris, it’s more palatable. 

***

Now that I’ve given you a background check, an a ton of information, let’s get to my point!

The current issue we’re facing involves two public teacher’s unions: they don’t want to accept the arbitrary “deal” being talked at the unions by the Liberals. The issue of contention is these two unions don’t want to freeze teachers who would otherwise be qualified for a pay raise for two years. Sam Hammond, the elementary teacher’s union leader has brought the rhetoric to a whole new lever with hyperbole. He alleged that “the current Liberal government’s rigid stand [is] the worst attack ever on teachers [in Ontario, presumably].” This is absolutely false, and you don’t need to look any farther than the previous provincial governments’ worse assault on teachers. The Liberals are responding to the non-compliance from the two unions with threats, and now actions, to pass a bill to force the teachers to accept the “deal”, as well as ban teachers protests. This certainly, eerily, matches the actions of the previous PC government – but it hasn’t got to the same level of disrespect and outright contempt that the Harris PCs showed (it got to the point, where Premier Harris ran commercials, on the public dime, to denounce the teachers’ protest).

These teachers unions are being stupid. Before you judge me as an anti-union scab, I actually have the unions’ best interest in mind – in the long term.

The Liberals support stymies the possibility of Hudak government, which, these teachers unions well know would be far more horrible and terrifying than another Liberal mandate. Yet, despite the Liberals decidedly right-wing shift, the right-wing media still constantly attacks him (Sun media, business think tanks, even our federal government attacks him!**) hoping to pave the way for a Hudak government. Now, it’s those on the left who are attacking McGuinty, too. Our, admittedly mediocre solution to a Hudak government is very precarious at the moment – and these disagreements only wain the tepid support for McGuinty even more. This could, from now to four years, end up with catastrophic results for the very unions that are fighting for their self-interest right now.

Indeed, they’re fighting for their self-interest right now – that’s what unions do; I can’t blame them for that. What I can blame them for, though, is venturing into a politically stupid move that not only puts themselves at far greater risk in the future – but also puts the rest of the province in a far greater risk.  It wasn’t only the public sector who took abuse under Mike Harris.

The whole event rings a perfect bell – and indeed comparison – to Bob Rae and the NDP’s relationship with public-sector unions when he and his party were in governorship of Ontario. A similar history, except unions traditionally back the NDP due to its pro-government expansion and investment stance rather than just for political convenience at the time. Like the Liberals, unions funded and helped get the NDP elected, but when it came time for a tiny cut back – after excellent, progressive and smart government expansion and improved regulations – the unions flipped out and railed an assault at Bob Rea and the NDP. The Social Contract, it was called, and all it entailed was for the public sector unions for a little sacrifice, for a few days of unpaid vacation. That’s it, but the unions wouldn’t accept it, and instead opted for a protest of Bob. Now, since Bob Rae was NDP and psudo-socialist, the business community hated Bob Rae. A hate different than the hate to the Liberals (there was massive campaign to demonize Bob Rae, even precipitating to the point of a billboard comparing Bob Rae to Stalin). Regardless, this lead to absolutely no favourable coverage for the NDP, as its traditional base neglected even neglected them due to a small transgression.

And guess what? Mike Harris sweeped the election for two mandates in which, as I already explained, devastated Ontario’s government – and indeed – communities. Teachers knew what to fear after that, and it was the PCs and any Harris or Harris clones (Hudak). I’m not saying that if the unions stuck with Bob Rae everything would be better (it probably wouldn’t have), but the unions did themselves absolutely no favours in choosing to respond that way.

And still, they betrayed Bob Rae, and are now creating negative publicity for Dalton***. This is against their long-term self-interest. This situation does have some key differences, but the happenstance and mentality behind the unions is the same with Rae and the Social Contract.

If ours unions were more tact, perhaps our governments would be less hostile to the public sector, and then, ultimately the citizens****. But they’re taking amateur moves such as the one during Bob Rae and under Dalton McGuinty.

As the Ottawa Sun put it, the unions are “biting the hand that feeds them”. We seldom agree, but in this case, we do for completely different reasons.

*They still have sensible spurts, like their response to the 2008 recession – with moderate stimulus.

**Jim Flaherty, former Ontario PC Cabinet Minister, now federal Finance Minister, is still getting involved in Ontario politics. He’s insulted Dalton McGuinty well over 6 times as of recently.

***There’s an argument to make that Dalton’s tough stance is making him more popular, but that doesn’t really help the unions either, does it?

****What I mean by this is if unions joined forces, and plotted out a longer-term strategy for its own security and expansion, then perhaps we’d have a more progressive and sensible government. In the long-run.

. . . → Read More: An individual with opinions.: Unions and the left in Ontario: short-sighted politically.

An individual with opinions.: Unions and the left in Ontario: short-sighted politically.

This isn’t a post defending Dalton McGuinty’s bravado and threats to violate the constitutional right of collective bargaining of the public sector workforces and unions – my opinion on that remains firm.

Unions can be a viable political source, just as businesses can – but not nearly as much, naturally, for lack of monies and . . . → Read More: An individual with opinions.: Unions and the left in Ontario: short-sighted politically.

David Climenhaga's Alberta Diary: The trouble with A-Bombs: if the blast doesn’t get you, the fallout just might

A typical Canadian reads the news from the Ottawa Press Gallery while Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney sends another email in the background. Below: Wildrose Party House Leader Rob Anderson; former federal PC leaders Joe Clark and Peter MacKay discuss the interesting pod marked “Return to Preston Manning” they found outside a party . . . → Read More: David Climenhaga’s Alberta Diary: The trouble with A-Bombs: if the blast doesn’t get you, the fallout just might

Alberta Diary: The trouble with A-Bombs: if the blast doesn’t get you, the fallout just might

A typical Canadian reads the news from the Ottawa Press Gallery while Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney sends another email in the background. Below: Wildrose Party House Leader Rob Anderson; former federal PC leaders Joe Clark and Peter MacKay discuss the interesting pod marked “Return to Preston Manning” they found outside a party . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: The trouble with A-Bombs: if the blast doesn’t get you, the fallout just might

daveberta.ca - Alberta politics blog: alison redford attends the bilderberg. thomas mulcair visits the oilsands.

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Premier Alison Redford is attending the 2012 Bilderberg Group conference.

There are no shortage of internet conspiracy theories about the mysterious Bilderberg Group conference, but now Alberta Premier Alison Redford will know the truth about the invite-only private annual meeting of the world’s top neo-liberal financial, business, and political elites.

Premier Redford has . . . → Read More: daveberta.ca – Alberta politics blog: alison redford attends the bilderberg. thomas mulcair visits the oilsands.