Canada’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict disappointing, to say the least. Canadians don’t favour Israel over Palestine. A recent poll showed roughly equal support for Israel and Palestine and more significantly, the poll also showed that the majority of Canadians are neutral towards the conflict.

And yet, when Prime Minister Harper recently spoke in response to Gaza-Israel clashes, he emphasized that unilateral “solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also criticized the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for her condemnation of Israel’s air-strikes, again re-iterating the narrative trumpeted by the Conservative Party- that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorists, and that any collateral damage in the process is ultimately the fault on the part of the terrorists.

No other administration in Canadian history has ever taken such a stance on the conflict. In fact, in comparison to the United States (perceived by many as overwhelmingly pro-Israel) and the European Union, (perceived more as pro-Palestine) Canada had the advantage of being in the middle.

Indeed, starting with Lester B. Peason’s UN peacekeeping mission during the 1956 War, Canada had cultivated a foreign policy outlook that often sided with the United Nations and pursued diplomacy, not ideology.

The Harper government chose to take a different route. The government has repeatedly criticized and gone against the United Nations, including voting against Palestinian statehood in the General Assembly in 2012.

The Prime Minister also visited the region in January of this year, and became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address the Israeli Knesset, where he delivered the memorable line: “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”  Conversely, Harper’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a little while later was much more formal and tense.

But what is the rationale behind the Harper government’s overwhelmingly pro-Israel stance when polls indicate that that position doesn’t represent Canadian views?

Academics think that the answer lies in domestic politics, not foreign. That is, there might be an electoral pay-off for the Conservative Party in adopting such a position. They can both console members of their own base while winning new votes from those who are frustrated by the other parties’ vague support for Israel.

montreal gaza protest

But then three serious problems remain.

First, the Canadian government’s foreign policy is supposed to reflect the opinions of the nation as a whole, and not just the views of a few strategic constituencies. The Harper government’s pro-Israel stance is quite simply unrepresentative of the views of a majority of Canadians.

Secondly, such a one-sided stance eliminates the potential ability of Canada to act as a credible mediator in the conflict. In a situation where the EU and the US are perceived as biased by one side towards the other, a more ‘neutral’ Canada may have been able to lead negotiations in a way that the others could not.  But given the rhetoric used by the PMO, that opportunity is no longer available.

Finally, on an even broader note, the Harper government’s statements on the conflict sustain certain toxic narratives that make this conflict so taboo and difficult to negotiate. Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization and Israel has the right to defend itself against rocket attacks. But trumpeting this statement alone, without any context or nuance, is simply dangerous. It does not educate about the conflict, and can instead reinforce hostile stereotypes about Palestinians and Muslims as a whole.

Such a stance spurs on hardliners within Israel while simultaneously communicating to groups like Hamas that the Western World is against them- thereby forcing both sides to take on more uncompromising stances, making negotiations more difficult.

Sacrificing such foreign policy considerations in preference of electoral goals is disappointing, to say the least.

 

Mohamed Fahmy was sure that he would be found not guilty that he had composed a tweet sent out after his acquittal that read: “Thank you Canada. I will be arriving soon for some love. No terrorism plans, I promise :)”

Instead, in a ruling that shocked many, Fahmy and his two Al Jazeera colleagues (Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed) were found guilty – Mohamed of aiding the ‘terrorist’ Muslim Brotherhood and sentenced to seven to ten years in prison. Other Al Jazeera journalists, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, tried in abstentia, were also convicted and sentenced ten years.

Fahmy holds dual Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, and many have questioned the type of response given by the Canadian government to this case. For example, while Fahmy’s family did recognize the fact that Foreign Affairs Minister Baird and Minister of State Yelich had met with them, Fahmy’s brother told interviewers “there should have been a higher-up pressure. There should have been more urgent pressure.”

Indeed, Prime Minister Harper did not address the matter until Wednesday, three days after the verdict, and months after the arrest. Even then, the Conservative government used careful words expressing disappointment over the verdict with the Prime Minister, citing “deep concerns.”

Other prominent figures such as British Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have been much more vocal in criticizing the verdict, and calling for clemency. Abbott even made a personal phone call to Egyptian President to appeal on Greste’s behalf.

There are those who argue that Fahmy’s dual citizenship complicates the ability of Canada to employ its diplomatic leverage beyond press releases and offering consular assistance. Others still state that there is little the Prime Minister, a lone individual, can do to press for Fahmy’s release, and instead call for the power of mobilization resting with grassroots movements.

While both may be true, it cannot be denied that political backing from high level figures is helpful. In this case, it would serve to boost existing social movements such as #FreeAJStaff. Similarly, while navigating cases of dual citizens is difficult – especially those who have been arrested in the country of their other citizenship – it does not mean that it is to be abandoned.

There are many speculations as to why the Harper government has held a stand-off approach regarding this trial. The optimists say that there might be closed-door negotiations that are occurring regarding negotiations of the prisoners. Indeed, Foreign Minister Baird defended his party’s reaction to the verdict stating that they preferred internal discussions over “bullhorn diplomacy.”

However there is skepticism as to what diplomatic leverage Canada may be able to exert in such discussions with Egypt. Pessimists also worry that the Harper government, in its prioritization of security and secularism in the region, may be to prop up a regime that isn’t composed of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At minimum, the Conservative government’s reaction to Fahmy’s verdict can be slotted into a larger trajectory of mixed messages in human rights advocacy, where it has often been criticized for being unable to match rhetoric and action.

On June 17, after years of resistance from environmental groups, citizens, and opposition parties, the Conservative government signed and approved the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline, which stretches across Alberta and British Columbia, has been in the works for the last few years, despite many Indigenous communities and Canadian scientists coming out to oppose the plans Enbridge has lain out. The fact that the government is ignoring these communities, sadly, should surprise no one.

The pipeline, which is $7.9 billion dollar project, will see the shipment of crude oil to Asian markets. The Toronto Star remarks will put Canada on the path to becoming a “global petropower,” something the big business loving Conservatives no doubt envision for Canada’s future.

However this is just another example of the voices of citizens being lost in the government quest to appease big business. The pipeline’s approval will affect all peoples in Canada, especially those who reside in the affected areas. We all know too well the devastating effects of oil spills. Look no further than the 2010 BP oil spill to see the devastation caused. Since the newly greenlit project was proposed, there has been fierce opposition from environmental groups as well as ordinary citizens who fear the damage the pipeline could have on one of the most beautiful areas of the country.

northern-gateway-pipeline-map

The coverage on the pipeline appears to be generally focused on these environmental concerns, which are extremely important, and the approval signifies a total disregard for environmental issues by the federal government. However, something that also should not be overlooked is that it’s also, not so shockingly, another example of this government’s continued role in colonialism across this country.

Harper’s Conservatives, with the approval of the pipeline, are continuing to drive home the message that Indigenous peoples in Canada are to be ignored. The Northern Gateway pipeline will cross large amounts of unceded territory, without the consent of many of communities that reside on the land.

While it should be noted that agreements do currently exist between Enbridge and around 60 per cent of the Indigenous groups who will see the pipeline cut through their land, this still means there are groups that have not agreed and will therefore have to face the pipeline crossing through and destroying their land, without their consent.

web-pipeline2_j_1347487cl-8

While the continued ignorance of Indigenous populations across the country is hardly new news (one only needs to look at the total lack of action over missing and murdered Indigenous women to see the level of government concern for Indigenous rights), the Northern Gateway pipeline is yet another case that cannot be ignored.

However the fight is far from over. Five lawsuits are currently on the table against the pipeline,  and three of the five come from First Nations groups in British Columbia. The pipeline project also is not scheduled, according to accounts, to begin construction until 16 months from now – a great deal of time that could see growing opposition.

Canadians should make their voices heard about the pipeline through whatever means are at their disposal. Over the next few weeks it can be guaranteed that there will be demonstrations against the project in cities across the country for people to make their voices heard. If you are more of an armchair activist, you should also be in contact with your MP – there will be an election in 2015, and no doubt the pipeline will become an election issue. The NDP and Liberals are currently claiming that they will fight the issue in parliament.

With support from wider swaths of the Canadian public, there is the chance that the pipeline could be halted. This is something that would be beneficial to all Canadians, especially those who will watch their land be destroyed if the pipeline comes into fruition.

After years of demands for a national inquiry into the status of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has finally released the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

The number – 1,186 women missing or murdered over the past thirty years – was made public last week by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. The reported cases of missing Indigenous women date back from 1952 onward, however a majority of the cases reported occurred from the1980s onward. The RCMP report found 1,017 Indigenous women were murdered from 1980 to 2012. 186 of the cases were of missing women.

These numbers are staggeringly higher than what was previously thought. The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) estimated in 2010 that there were over 500 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada, though also pointed to the fact that the number could be substantially higher.

NWAC was also behind the Sisters in Spirit (SIS) project that aimed to track the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women. However SIS lost federal funding in 2010, causing the research to end. Despite this, initiatives to investigate the number continued independently.

The numbers first came to light last week when Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN) released the tip, forcing the RCMP to announce that the numbers were in fact correct.

According to the RCMP report, Indigenous women only make up 4 per cent of the population in Canada, however they make up 16 per cent of murdered women, and 12 per cent of missing women.

Despite these numbers, the Conservative government is still opposing calls for a federal inquiry. The New Democratic Party (NDP) however have spoken out since the report has been released on the need for an inquiry, with leader Thomas Mulcair calling on Monday for the federal government to take action.

The current Conservative government has previously ignored all calls for a federal inquiry. Despite the fact that they ended funding for SIS with claims that it was time for “concrete steps,” none have appeared to actually have been taken. The numbers being released only shows how much a federal inquiry is needed to properly shed light on the issue – however it seems highly unlikely one will occur under this government.

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the welfare of Indigenous peoples, also called on May 12 for Canada to launch a ‘comprehensive national inquiry’ into the status of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

These numbers, while higher than previously thought, only reinforce how much of a culture of violence is tolerated against Indigenous women in Canada. While the RCMP are releasing these numbers, they should also be looking internally into how they themselves address cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, as so far they have proven to be just as complacent – at best – in properly addressing cases.

The numbers are part, according to the RCMP, of a larger National Operational Overview on Missing and Murdered Women to be released in the coming weeks.

In the past few weeks the already very publicized loophole of the Foreign Temporary Worker Program (aka FTWP), which was already a hot issue in the past few months, has taken center-stage in Canadian political life. What bothers most is that recently, mainstream media has been paying more attention and putting emphasis on only one aspect of the FTWP: the fact that such a program promotes the employment of foreign workers at the supposed detriment of Canadian workers.

The FTWP is flawed in many ways and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. This being said, it isn’t because of the foreign temporary workers themselves, it’s because of the distinction such a program makes between Canadian workers and their foreign counterparts. But who would expect anything else from a method that derives directly from an agenda of profit over people that wants to pit “Canadian” workers against “foreign” workers in an incessant race to the bottom, a strategy to push down everyone’s wages without any discrimination.

The mainstream media, in many of its reports, still views the FTWP as a solution brought by the Canadian government to regulate the flow of foreign nationals that want to work in Canada for a short period of time. But that’s the hoax, the mirage that has been put forward by the Conservative government.

It’s most certainly very far from the true premise behind the program. Once you understand the FTWP’s underlying purpose, you understand that in the past weeks, Canadian public opinion has fallen into the rhetorical trap laid by the Conservative agenda.

Laid off workers tfwp
Falling for the spin (image: aec-cea.ca)

The FTWP should be the Conservatives’ Achilles’ heel and yet in many ways, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Why? Because the criticism that has been put forward against the loophole prefers to focus on the dichotomy between foreigners and Canadians instead of the fact that workers, no matter what their nationality is, are being exploited, and thus that the struggle of foreign temporary worker is our own.

It’s a very clever, elaborate trap and one that’s almost invisible. It creates labour conditions that only exist for “foreigners” (people that aren’t Canadian) thus the debate will revolve around foreigners taking jobs from Canadians, deflecting attention from the issue of the hideous working conditions that are inflicted upon them, or the fact that multinationals benefit in many ways from foreign labour because it’s cheaper, not only in terms of wages, but also in social expenses.

The Conservatives want us to see things in such a manner because the crude reality is that the FTWP is just another one of their handouts to corporate Canada, and that would be much more damaging to them.

The FTWP could the catalyst for a renewed labor-union movement because it breeds in itself so many of the contradictions inherent in the Conservative agenda. The conditions that foreign temporary workers are living in today are a mirror of what might be to come in the near future for Canadian workers of all stripes and walks of life. In many ways the fight of the foreign temporary workers and the fight of Canadian workers goes hand in hand.

On this 1st of May, a day during which we remember the labor struggles of foregone times, we must renew the struggle for better working conditions, a living wage and full employment. The only way to do that is to build a movement that encompasses all labour on Canadian soil.

This is a struggle that isn’t confined to any specific nationality. All workers of Canada, be they foreign or Canadian citizens, must unite. Today, let us go into the streets and commit to create a society in which workers’ rights are inalienable no matter what your status might be. Let us commit to creating a society in which all workers have equal status and in which workers are always above profit.

A luta continua,

Pierre Karl Péladeau, or PKP, is the name on everyone’s lips since the announcement last week that he would be running in the riding of St-Jerôme for the Parti Québécois. Debates have blossomed throughout the Quebec political spectrum.

For some it was the coup de grâce that would help seal the unity of the right-wing and the left-wing of the sovereignist movement. Supposedly the momentum that PKP would bring to the PQ would be enough to ensure a majority. Others noted that this was the milestone that would forever infamously indicate the death of the left within the PQ. Unfortunately the arrival of Pierre Karl Péladeau within the ranks of the PQ is the explicit manifestation of an ideological rapprochement between the Stephen Harper neoconservatives and Pauline Marois’ strain of “xenophobic” nationalism.

It’s obvious that the framework and rhetoric that has been brought forward by the PQ through the Charter of Quebec Values is on many levels very similar to the wedge politics that the Conservatives have imposed in Ottawa. The rhetoric used by the PQ and the federal Conservative Party or the Wildrose Party in Alberta is dangerously similar. Another transversal characteristic of these three political movements: their strategy of divide and conquer, through which they have effectively targeted sections of the electorate with key issues thus polarizing the debate in their respective political spheres.

parti quebecor

Put in the boarder context of the political strategy of polarization, PKP’s arrival on the Quebec political scene is far from trivial; to the contrary it appears to be the normal course of action. Evidently the right-wing media, Sun News or the outlets of Quebecor, are natural allies of the PQ’s quest to flood the public space with senseless rhetoric void of any substantial content.

The similarities between the various movements gives us insight into the dynamic that fuels the PQ’s capsizing to the right. The fact that “Free Speech” becomes a justification for almost any statement no matter how derogatory, hateful or out of line it might be, is a simple recipe to capture and control attention. Commanding attention is a must in every political contest and in this specific case, the Quebec elections of 2014, it allows the PQ to sideline any meaningful debate.

Since the very start of this debate about the Charter, many Canadians from the ROC (Rest Of Canada) have found comfort in the fact that such a debate is only possible in Quebec, which implicitly implies somehow that the ROC is some what less xenophobic, less prone to racist behaviours. Sorry to break the news to my compatriots in the ROC but this is a myth.

PKP’s dashing entry into Quebec’s political arena was a timely reminder. After all, the tentacles of his media empire extend far beyond the borders of Quebec. When Marois talks of the threat of Muslim fundamentalism she’s perfectly in tune with the “high priests” of the neoconservative right embodied by none other than Ezra Levant, who happens to be (certainly a pure coincidence) on PKP’s payroll as a pundit for Sun News (technically PKP stepped down from Sun’s parent company Quebecor to run, but he still holds shares).

Has the coming of Pierre Karl Péladeau been beneficial for the PQ? Everything indicates that it hasn’t. The latest polls indicate it has actually compromised the PQ’s blueprint for Quebec in more ways than one.

If anyone has made the connection between the arrival of PKP within the PQ and the potential for the Conservatives to garner support in Quebec in the next federal election, it’s certainly the main strategists of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Conservatives now know for a fact that by using a rhetoric that appeals to xenophobia and islamophobia , something the Conservatives excel at, they can make substantial gains in the rural regions of Quebec in the next election.

No matter what the outcome on the 7th of April, new fractures have appeared in Quebec society, the void left by the Bloc Quebecois and the resurgence of an ethno-centric strain of nationalism fuelled by the Charter has created the space for the Conservatives to make substantial gains. Pauline Marois has made a massive bet and with every substantial bet comes an exponential amount of risk.

The PQ might get a majority, although that’s also up in the air, but madame Marois might have also leaked to the Conservatives the blueprint to win over the “heart” of Quebec.

It’s been in the news for the past couple of weeks, omnipresent in all most every headline, on every news channel, in every newspaper. Harper’s historic speech –in more ways than one– has generated much debate.

One of my fellow FTB colleagues wrote a piece that summed-up in many ways the shortcomings of Harper’s speech, it’s blatant disregard for the condition of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps throughout the Middle East, in the West Bank and Gaza.

The outrageous affirmation that Harper made that any criticism of Israel was ‘Anti-Semitic’ was seen as ‘little bit’ over the top even by right-wing political pundits.

Harper’s visit must be seen for what it is, it was the launch of his reelection campaign and that’s what is the most disturbing, that Harper and his neoconservatives used this visit to Israel to gain political points. How else could you explain the comments made by some MPs during the trip like the “one million dollar photo-op” or the huge cortege that followed Harper during his trip, made up obviously of staff and dignitaries but also full of political spin seekers.

harper israel wall

Now this was to be expected. Harper’s government is on it’s last legs, battered by the senate scandal. And as the saying goes when things are going bad domestically, take a trip.

Even the most ardent supporters of Harper must ask themselves one important question: was all of this out of love for Israel? Of course not, it was a political maneuver and it must be seen as such.

But this question also alludes to another important question: was Harper’s speech positive for Israel? If open ended conflict with the Palestinian people and Arab neighbours is the outcome you are seeking, then yes, this speech was exactly what you were looking for. But if even just one little thread in your body clings to the idea of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, whatever that peaceful solution is, then this speech trashed whatever little hope you might have had left.

But I will not enumerate in how many ways our prime minister’s speech was harmful for the peace process and for Canada’s international reputation. I’d rather focus on one of the most important points of the speech, one of those rare stones that has been left unturned.

In his speech, Harper made reference to the very important notion of ”never again” as he extended his apologies to the Jewish people for the Canadian government’s attitude during the Second World War and in the period after, where thousands of Jewish refugees were turned away from Canadian shores. Magically, whoopdiedoo, Harper is the best friend of the Jewish people… or not!

For me this was the most insulting moment of the speech, not because someone who isn’t Jewish made reference to this notion of ”never again”. Not at all. I would hope that all of humanity will come to embrace this notion. I was insulted because it was the height of hypocrisy.

When Harper said with a heavy heart ”never again”, he spoke as if it was a notion of the past, that somehow the atrocities of the Shoah and the Nazi Holocaust were an impossible re-occurrence. Maybe that is why so many persecuted Roma families are being detained in detention centers throughout Canada waiting their deportation? Maybe that’s why the Conservative government calls Roma and Mexican queer refugee claims bogus? Maybe that is why this Conservative government cut healthcare to refugee claimants and made the refugee claimant system tougher and more repressive?

roma rights canada

How can one apologize on one hand for the mistreatment and the discrimination of Jewish refugees in the 1940s and 1950s and the deportation and discrimination against refugees on the other hand?

The answer to all of these questions is that Harper doesn’t understand the notion of ”never again”. Not because he’s not Jewish, but because he doesn’t abide by the lessons of never again, the most important being that gaining political points out of fear-mongering and wedge politics is reckless and spineless.

”Never again” is a concept that transcends the past and the present, race, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation etc… Never again means that persecution for whatever reason is unjustifiable and should be condemned.

If I was to sum-up what ”never again” truly represents for Harper and his supporters that have misused and mistaken it for something else, ”never again” is love for humanity and hatred against oppression, racism and xenophobia. In the words of Sub-Commandante Marcos:

“I am a gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.”

This post originally appeared on TaylorNoakes.com, republished with permission from the author

Hats off to the Beaverton for nailing it with their headline Israeli Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns after long visit in Canada and to the Gazette’s Terry Mosher (aka Aislin) for this cartoon:

aislin harper israel

Now have a look at some of the Facebook comments this image got and replace the Star of David over the PM’s mouth with a Fleur-de-lys over Pauline Marois’ mouth. Would that be as shocking? Would that be Quebec bashing? How would these illustrious minds of the modern age have responded to such a caricature I ask you? With equal apparent offence? I should think not…

Unless you were living under a rock last week, the Prime Minister an avowed ‘friend of Israel’ had been touring the country like an invited rock star, along with an entourage including businesspeople, MPs, cabinet ministers and religious leaders, a group of about 200 in total. The entire trip is being paid for out of Canada’s general taxation revenue, meaning poor saps like you or I subsidized this ‘love fest’ in the Levant.

Now you’re probably thinking, well, this is what Prime Ministers do, they go to other countries and sign lucrative trade deals, don’t they?

But there’s no trade deal being signed, and we don’t buy much from the Israelis in the first place because they don’t build much of anything we could use.

So why is Harper dropping a significant amount of coin for a ‘Tories-only’ trip to the Holy Land?

Is it to improve relations between the two countries? Hardly. Only Tories were allowed on this trip, no representatives from any other major political party in Canada was allowed to go. And as to the private business types who were allowed, well, they were all major Tory financial supporters. If anything, this entire affair seems to be little more than a carefully crafted media circus dreamed up in advance of the 2015 election.

Don’t believe me? Then watch this video, wherein you can hear Tory MP Mark Adler whining like a little child that he won’t get an opportunity to get in on a photo-op near Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, something the MP describes as the “million dollar shot”:

This is the kind of trash we’ve elected to parliament. What an unfortunate joke.

It’s painfully clear the Tories embarked on this trip for purely political purposes. Fellating the State of Israel is good for the Tories not only because it secures the apparently strategic old-fogey Conservative Zionist vote, but further seeks to remind the Canadian people that Harper’s talking points re: Israel sound to be just about the same as the American President’s or the British Prime Minister’s. And this in turn makes Harper look like he’s a ‘player’ on the world stage.

Mulroney would do the same thing back in the 1980s, ensuring that at every big NATO meeting he had his mug photographed next to Reagan and Thatcher almost as if he needed to prove he was one of the big boys of his day.

Politics is ultimately all about image; some things never change.

Then there’s Israel.

I understand why Tories blindly support Israel. It’s not because all Tories are committed Zionists, far from it. In fact, the old Reform Party, from which the current incarnation of the Tories emerged, used to have a bit of problem signing up Holocaust deniers and other assorted racist scum to run in federal elections, but hey, who the fuck remembers what happened twenty years ago? Tories support Israel because the Yanks and the Brits do, and Tories have never had the confidence to pursue a Canadian-made foreign policy.

Nay, Tories have never had the balls to try and develop our own foreign policy. The Tory mentality is that whatever is locally produced must be deficient. This is why Deifenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow, why Mulroney sold us out on free trade.

Tories live to cut the legs out from under you and the whole of this nation. For the Conservative Party of Canada, this country only exists as long as other, bigger, more powerful countries count us as one of their friends.

Given this spectacle, it seems as though the PM earnestly believes Israel is indeed bigger and more powerful than us. And this in turn leads to Harper bromancing Benjamin Netanyahu.

harper netanyahu

Why on Earth would Canada care what Israel thinks of us? Why do we need to court Israeli public opinion? Israel isn’t even in the same league as a nation as great as Canada, so why do we give a flying Philadelphia fuck what their current government thinks of us? Why does Stephen Harper need to make a big show of how Israel is our ally?

As friends go, Israel is a really shitty friend.

For one it’s highly likely, though unconfirmed, that Mossad assassinated one of Canada’s greatest engineers and ballistics experts in 1990. Yes, Gerald Bull was a maverick who worked for some of the worst military dictatorships of the late 20th century and certainly shouldn’t have been developing super weapons like Project Babylon or improved SCUD missiles for the Iraqis, who were, to one degree or another, the West’s ally in the Gulf and bulwark against the theocracy which had overtaken Iran throughout the 1980s (it should also be pointed out that Israel sold Iran weapons during the Iran-Iraq War).

But to kill a man who had done nothing to threaten Israel because some people thought he might? What the hell happened to the rule of law?

Either way, if Mossad was concerned about Dr. Bull’s activities, they should have worked out an agreement with us first, he could’ve been designing artillery pieces for our own military from the comfort of the Kingston pen. Israel had no right to assassinate him and have never officially apologized for their actions.

Then there’s the issue of Mossad agents using Canadian passports to freely travel the world assassinating other people the State of Israel finds disagreeable. Yes, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda apparently do the exact same thing – but isn’t this the point? I expect our enemies would do such things, but I’d also expect our friends to respect us more than that.

Let’s not forget, a Canadian passport has always been a symbol of our nation’s international respect. Mossad’s use of our passports to assist in their efforts to go kill people doesn’t do us any good at all, it just means that the Canadian passport is worth scrutinizing even closer and is no longer the international symbol of openness and humanism it once was.

As Toronto Star columnist Tony Burman wrote recently, it’s time for Canada and Israel to stop living in a fantasy land. Israel’s lack of self-awareness, self-criticality and near total disregard of how the state appears from an outsider’s perspective would make the Parti Québécois blush. In fact, I’ve often been surprised Likud and the Parti Québécois aren’t closer, what with the common hatred of local minority groups and the insistence that only the majority’s religion is inoffensive, and that international laws and conventions don’t apply blah blah blah.

Peas in a pod…

This buddy-buddy relationship with Israel truly does nothing for us, though it does remind relatively intelligent people elsewhere that, when we’re governed by the more conservative elements of our society, we suddenly become very myopic in terms of foreign policy.

nuclear weapon

How can a nation such as Canada support one theocracy with secret, unmonitored, uncontrolled nuclear weapons (Israel) while supporting sanctions and eliminating diplomatic relations with another theocracy for their unconfirmed, apparent desire to produce a nuclear weapon (Iran)?

Shouldn’t the message be the same for all theocracies with nukes (i.e. get rid of your nukes, stand-down your military and then we can talk)? What difference does it make if Israel is a quasi-representative democracy, they have nuclear weapons and their deterrence strategy is to launch simultaneous nuclear strikes on any and all enemies if ‘overwhelmed’ by outside aggression, something which they came very close to doing during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

The Samson Option could include the use of as many as 400 nuclear weapons, many of which are of the thermonuclear variety with a one-megaton yield (fifty times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). They can be launched by ballistic missiles with an 11 000 kilometre range, from cruise-missile armed submarines, from jet fighters or even delivered via suitcases.

The very existence of Israel’s massive nuclear stockpile is in itself a destabilizing factor in the entirety of the Middle East. The way we turn a blind eye towards Israel’s countless foreign invasions (Suez Canal, 1956; all of its neighbours, 1967, all of its neighbours for a second time in 1973, Lebanon in 1982, Lebanon again in 2006, and all this aside from regular military action on Palestinian territory) and the intolerance and racism of the Likud Party and it’s allies is astonishing. What does this say about our own government?

For a truly disturbing mini-doc on contemporary anti-African racism in Israel, see the video posted below:

Harper wasted an opportunity to excoriate the current Israeli government for its human rights abuses, weapons of mass destruction and the not-so-subtle anti-African sentiment that has resulted in more than one instance of sitting members of the Knesset demanding African immigrants be rounded up and put in concentration camps; a law recently passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party will see undocumented African immigrants held for up to a year without trial. Instead of criticizing these laws, Harper said that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism.

I should remind the Prime Minister, and anyone else dumb enough to buy that nonsense, that these are two very different things, but neither apply to this article nor any of a torrent of articles recently published about this trip or about Israel broadly speaking. Harper is so loathe to criticize Israel the Tories had the Department of National Defence quietly removed any online traces of a report that a Canadian peacekeeper on a UN deployment was killed by an Israeli artillery strike in 2006. What’s particularly damning is that the IDF was either obscenely careless or bombed the UN outpost deliberately, as it was clearly marked on maps and familiar to IDF personnel operating in the region.

What’s particularly mortifying is that the Prime Minister has confused hatred of a religious group and hatred of nation, but has also posited hatred of a nation/religious group as what underlies criticism of Israel and it’s policies.

Again, I can’t help but draw the parallel to Québec. Criticize the PQ or the charter of values? That’s Quebec-bashing. Criticize the PLQ, CAQ, QS, ON etc. and that’s just politics.

Why is Stephen Harper telling me criticizing Israel’s current government is equal to hating Jews? Is he as dumb as those who endorse him, like world-class idiot Sarah Palin?

It isn’t and never was. Nor is criticizing the PQ and attack on all Québécois. Nor is criticizing the origins of the First World War an attack on any of the soldiers who fought in it.

But this is modern politics, and as long as people would rather react first and think second, Stephen Harper can make statements like this and embark on taxpayer-financed trips such as this without any repercussions. Similarly, Rob Ford can smoke crack right back into the mayor’s office and Pauline Marois may very well win a majority government by institutionalizing racism.

Disturbing, repugnant, ridiculous. But back to the issue at hand…

What kind of friend is Israel? And why must we support them at their worst?

It’s obscene that the Prime Minister can score political points in Canada by sycophantically and uncritically praising the current conservative Israeli government, and by extension support the vilest elements of contemporary Israeli society who conveniently ignore the lessons of the Holocaust and marginalize minorities in their own apparently liberal democratic nation. That members of Likud would use the same rhetoric in attacking Arabs or Africans today as fascists used against Jews throughout Europe and North America in the early 20th century is appalling to say the very least.

Stephen Harper does not speak for Canada. Any pretence he might have to this effect should come to an end well before the next regularly scheduled election. The Conservative Party of Canada is leading this nation down a road I’m quite uncomfortable with, and this campaign stop in the ‘Holy Land’ is just another fantastic reminder why the Tories are wholly unfit to govern.

Monday’s by-election results in four ridings (or mini-election) were not particularly memorable. But, as a federal political wonk, I have no choice but to scrutinize them to see if they have any augurs, good or bad, for the three major political players (please note that I am deliberately excluding the Green Party and Bloc from this analysis) in 2015’s Federal election.

As the old joke goes, the results of elections are never as important as what the political spin-doctors working for the winners make them out to be. Nor are they as insignificant as those working for the losers would have you believe.

First, let’s look at the winners. There can be no doubt that Justin Trudeau has plenty to crow about after his party not only maintained their strongholds in Bourassa and Toronto Centre, despite hard-fought NDP campaigns in both, but also came within 400 votes of stealing what had been previously regarded as one of the bluest riding in the country, Brandon-Souris, Manitoba.

The fact that they had a strong candidate with Tory roots (Rolf Dinsdale) certainly helped. But it’s clear that the Liberals benefited from a massive protest vote in the election most likely from both NDP (the Dipper candidate had finished second in 2011) and Conservative voters, many of whom appear to be pissed over Harper’s ongoing senate scandal. This coupled with the surprising results in Provencher (where they also finished second) seems to indicate that whatever political baggage Trudeau the Younger’s name once carried with it in Western Canada, and his tendency to alienate Western Canadians voters with various verbal blunders, is becoming less of a burden for the Liberals.

freeland mcquaig buttons

NDP strategists, on the other hand, have little to brag about after their party failed to increase its seat total in the House of Commons. While many dippers may be genuinely upset over Trudeau’s seriously tacky appropriation of Jack Layton’s now legendary deathbed address to his fellow Canadians, more cynical politicos will probably tell you that the party’s outrage over the victory speech quote probably had something to do with their desire to shift the focus of the media away from some fairly dismal election night results.

Bourassa may never have truly been within reach for the NDP (after all, it did belong to our new Mayor Denis ‘trade Deharnais’ Coderre for the better part of the last 16 years), but they definitely expected a closer contest in the Montreal North riding where they witnessed a huge growth in their vote share last time around with an unknown candidate and hardly any electioneering. Better news came out of Toronto Centre where star candidate Linda McQuaig did a bang-up job of challenging her Liberal rival, Christy Freeland, and came a close second in the final tally. Should she choose to return in 2011 after the riding is split into three, with the Rosedale (one of the wealthiest in neighbourhoods in Canada) portion forming a new separate riding, she would most likely win it.

The biggest losers though, arguably, were the Harper Tories. Not only did their fortress in Manitoba come under formidable siege from the Grits, but they suffered a historic defeat in Toronto Centre, with their worst finish in history, and a terrible showing in Bourassa.

The conventional political wisdom about by-elections is that they are won or lost based your ability to motivate the base. This is surely bad news for Conservatives in the next Federal election. In Brandon (a quintessentially western rural riding if ever there was one) , where the party used to be able to count on overwhelming support, their voters seem to have either stayed away from the polls in droves, or worse, voted Liberal.

Prime Minister Harper must now face the music: his political shenanigans involving the Senate are starting to take their toll on his party.

Last week’s RCMP bombshell dump revealed a few things about the private e-mails of PMO staff and their counterparts in the Senate. For the dozen or so Harper administration staffers, lawyers and spin doctors, the documents give the Canadian public a rare glimpse of the way that the ultra-secretive Harper government operates in a major political crisis.

Though they do not vindicate the Prime Minister or corroborate his wildly implausible story of being completely unaware of what his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was doing in his attempts to contain the damage being done to the Prime Minister’s brand by Senator and former Harper bagman Mike Duffy’s various acts of fraud. They do not provide the smoking gun type of evidence that would expose the Prime Minister as the mastermind behind botched efforts to put the corruption scandal to bed.

This doesn’t mean Harper’s out of the woods yet. On the contrary, the now infamous Wright quote that his boss was “good to go,” with respect to negotiations he was having involving both the PM’s lawyer Benjamin Perrin & Duffy’s lawyer Allison Payne on the conditions that would be acceptable to all parties concerned, would suggest that there is definitely some fire to go with all the smoke coming out of the Prime Minister’s office at the moment.

While it may still be true (though this would not excuse Harper’s ignorance of the situation) that the Prime Minister had no clue that his right hand man at the time was cutting a $90 000 personal cheque to silence an embarrassing Senator and in the process committing a crime under federal law, it seems that Harper at least knew about the first proposed solution Wright made to pay, out of Conservative Party funds, Duff-man 32K in order to reimburse him for the amount that was being demanded by the Senate Rules committee for illegally claimed expenses related to his secondary residence in PEI. This idea was eventually nixed by President of the party and Senator appointed by Harper in 2009, Irving Gerstein, forcing Wright to find an alternative to, in his words, “close out” an increasingly irksome problem and Senator (Duffy).

Duff-man may be proclaiming his innocence from the bully pulpit, but the documents released by the RCMP make it clear that he was not simply the victim of bad accounting and a vindictive Prime Minister more than happy to throw him and his other former Senate cronies under the bus. In fact, it’s almost hard not to sympathize with Wright who appears to have become rather impatient with the Senator and his lawyer’s constant haggling with the PMO over the terms of his bail out.

More to the point, Duff-man appears to have hatched a cover story involving taking out a line of credit from the bank with the intention of duping the media and public into believing that the this, rather than the cheque from Wright, would be used to repay the Senate. Incidentally, I love Duffy’s cynical insistence on inserting “PEI-isms” into the media lines he was given to deliver.

It’s not all bad news for the government. It appears that at least one staffer, Chris Montgomery, working for then Government leader in the Senate and Cabinet Minister Senator Marjory Lebreton (remember her infamous lashing out at the media over reporting on the scandal as “Liberal elites and their media lickspittles”) tried in vain to prevent the Prime Minister and his minions from imposing their will on the damning Senate Committee report that would have denounced Duffy and his colleagues for their financial recklessness with the tax payer’s money. For this display of integrity, Montgomery earned the scorn of Harper lackey Patrick Rogers who is quoted in the e-mail as saying “This is epic. Montgomery is the problem.”

Indeed, defending the independence of the Senate and democratic institutions against the meddling of the executive is regarded by Harper and his staff as an unforgivable sin.

Never a dull moment in Toronto’s City Hall these days, is there? By now everyone knows that Rob Ford’s career is quite possibly the worst train wreck in Canadian political history. What is perhaps less understood by the general public are the ties between the Harper gang running the country and the Ford brothers in Hog town (somehow the old nickname just seems that much more fitting right now).

Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty nearly broke down in tears last week at a press conference when a journalist asked him whether he had any advice for this old friend of the family. He said simply that he hoped the man got help ( I think we’re past the point of AA meetings here, Jimbo).

Of course, Tories are all heart when it comes to their own. Whereas when we’re talking about the unfortunate souls addicted to heroin who count on safe injection sites all over the country, they have no patience and will again try and thwart any attempt to provide this type of harm reduction during this session of Parliament.

Other members of the Harper government were less sympathetic towards Ford, but none of them were willing to go as far as to call for the Mayor to turn in his official necklace and do the city, country and office he’s repeatedly disgraced with his various drunken shenanigans, a massive favour by quitting. This is a far cry from Harper’s infamous 2011 BBQ footage in which he praised Ford for cleaning up the previous administration’s “mess” created by Mayor David Miller, loosely affiliated with the NDP (Ah yes. Remember when Toronto’s biggest problem was a garbage strike?) .

The reasons for the measured criticisms are clear: “Ford Nation” suburbanites, many of whom inexplicably still back the Mayor, are largely found in the same 905 area code ridings that are critical to any Conservative victory in the next Federal Election. The Fords were staunch Harper allies in the last election and the Mayor’s shady brother Doug Ford has mused openly about running for the Tories in the upcoming election (presumably on some sort of tough on drug crime platform).

Obvious political and personal hypocrisy notwithstanding, there is also the fact that “Fordzilla”(as one wag on twitter dubbed him) is currently a lame duck Mayor whose personal problems are preventing him from governing the most populous and still most economically important city in Canada. This is as much a crisis in leadership and administration as it is a tragicomedy media circus playing out before an international audience.

Although the solution to the current crisis in Toronto is being debated, the answer may lie in the resolution reached by the Quebec government during the Vaillancourt scandal in which the gangster (this is the technical term used in his indictment) Mayor of Laval was removed from office. In that instance, the city was effectively run by a panel of three technocrats appointed by the provincial government until municipal elections were held, on November 3rd. This might not be the most democratic option for the Wynn government in Ontario but it remains a viable path forward.

It’s time for Federal Tories (especially those representing the Greater Toronto Area) to set aside their talking points and their election strategy book, grow some spine and join the rest of their fellow elected representatives of all stripes in denouncing the Mayor and calling for his immediate resignation.

* Top image by designwallah via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Those who read my blog posts on the federal government will know that there is a certain theme that seems to re-occur in many of them. This theme can basically be summed up as the sad history of American meddling in what is regarded by any self-respecting country as their internal business.

In the same vein, we have the tragic case of Marc Emery, Canada’s legendary Prince of Pot. Emery has been serving his sentence in a US prison for the past three years for various conspiracy charges (including money laundering, distribution of an illegal substance, etc.).

Ever since those HEADY days (sorry, I couldn’t resist) that Emery, a libertarian crusader for the legalization of pot, opened his head shop in Vancouver back in ’94, he has been persecuted relentlessly by Canadian authorities, often on behalf of our morally conflicted (see 2012 legalization of the herb in Oregon & Colorado), drug obsessed neighbours to the south. Emery is just one of many victims of US hysteria over the massive amount of BC Gold that crosses their shared porous border (often illegally) with Canuckistan.

Last week on Parliament Hill, a handful of brave MPs (though not Justin, sadly) took a public stand in solidarity with Emery (Marc’s politically engaged wife Jodie organized the rally) called upon Public Safety Minister Steven Blainey to sign his extradition papers so that Emery can serve the remainder of his sentence here in Canada, closer to his family and friends. But since we are dealing with the same pro-US right-wingers who extradited him to the U.S. in 2010 to defend himself against this farcical case in an American courtroom in the first place, no one is holding their breath.

The irony is that Emery’s so called crimes (he freely admits that he sold seeds through the mail all over the US but maintains that virtually all the profits went towards his international campaign to legalize it) were never serious enough for the Canadian law to intervene, until they faced growing pressure from Uncle Sam (specifically the Drug Enforcement Administration) to turn him over to the gringos. In effect, we are looking at an egregious legal double standard here folks.

There can be little doubt that Emery’s arrest was motivated by politics more than anything else based on what the Yank police were saying about the case at the time  (read the DEA’s statement on his arrest). This isn’t just a grave miscarriage of justice, in other words, it is a question of Canada’s legal obligation to respect the rights of its own citizens and ensure that it protects its own legal sovereignty against growing infringement by the US, even if that means upsetting that elephantine State we live next to.

To say that Harper has a Senate problem is rather like saying that Walter White, from the hugely popular TV show Breaking Bad, has a crystal-meth problem. That is to say, that it understates the severity of the situation to a ridiculous degree. The Federal Conservatives and the Prime Minister, in particular, have been in full crisis mode since the Members of Parliament returned from their extended summer recess last week.

Their problems are caused by two separate but intertwined issues. Both touch on the legitimacy of the unelected, unaccountable and scandal-prone institution that is occasionally referred to as the upper-house of sober second thought.

The first has to do with the growing uproar of fraudulent expense claims made by three Harper appointees (read cronies) and one Chretien era Liberal (Mac Harb) who has since retired. The second problem is on account of a half-assed bill ( C-7) that is designed to reform the Senate by introducing two measures that might make the body slightly less undemocratic by allowing willing provinces to elect their Senators and limit their term in office to nine years. The latter may be overshadowed by the sexier Duffy-gate (apologies for the lazy Watergate reference) but is arguably more important, constitutionally speaking.

wallin-duffy

Duffy, Wallin and, to a lesser extent, Brazeau have all pushed back against Harper’s attempts to throw them under the bus, mainly from the Senate floor or in the media. First the “Honourable” Mike Duffy lashed out at his former political masters with a series of shocking revelations about how personally involved Harper was in the damage control strategy that appears to have been cooked up by his then Chief of Staff Nigel Wright.

The Prime Minister vehemently denies this charge, suggesting instead that he had no knowledge of the $90 000 bailout for Duffy arranged by his former lawyer Benjamin Perrin and Mr. Wright. Harper also claims that he never read Mr. Duffy the riot act nor did he threaten to expel him from the caucus if he didn’t resign first. Duffman only left the party because Harper’s former staffer Ray Novak and former Senate majority leader Ms. LeBreton leaned on him and let him know he’d get the boot if he didn’t fall on his own sword publicly.

Senator Pam Wallin also refuses to go out like a punk. She alleges that former Tory colleagues, senators LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, acting on behalf of the PM, orchestrated a campaign of leaks and the Senate Internal Economy Committee report (the body tasked with investigating Wallin’s expenses) was designed to tarnish her good name and intimidate her into complying with Harper’s wishes. She has since resigned from Conservative caucus but denies any fraud, claiming that she made an honest mistake in filing her expense claims. Wallin’s only crime: in her words, she was simply being an “activist senator” (note: the term activist mean something completely different in the over-privileged world of the Senate).

In the meantime, Harper’s feeble attempt at Senate reform appears to be going down the tubes. Last year, the Charest government submitted a reference to the Quebec Court of Appeals (the highest court in the province) in response to the Federal government’s attempts to change the Senate through the back door (a.k.a Bill C-7). Last Thursday, the Quebec court ruled Harper’s move unconstitutional.

The gist of the Court’s legal smack down is that the Feds are obliged to consult the provinces on a matter as important this and cannot make a substantive change to the constitution by means of a simple federal statute. Finally, any such process would be subject to the dreaded 7/50 formula found in section 38 (1) (B) which requires seven provinces representing at least 50 % of the Federation to ratify any proposed changes.

As the court said in its opinion, “they (the Feds) cannot circumvent it on the pretext that the constitutional amending process is complex or demanding.” This may not be the kibosh on Harpers plans, but when the Supreme Court of Canada hears the matter in Mid-November, the Quebec decision will definitely carry a lot of weight, and make it even harder for the justices to find in favour of the Federal government’s position.

Mohamed Harkat’s hearing last week at the Supreme Court of Canada wasn’t just held behind closed doors, but was, for the first time in the 138 year history of the Court, held in a secret location known only to those directly involved to the proceedings. The reason given for this unprecedented, undemocratic and arguably unconstitutional measure: national security!

Harkat is the latest refugee to be subjected to the security certificate system introduced by the Liberal government and used extensively by the Harper regime since they came to power in 2006. He has been under house arrest for over 11 years now, fighting the government’s attempts to deport him in court.

The crown alleges that he was a member of an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell and that the evidence against him is very strong. The trouble is, in the security certificate process, CISIS, other intelligence agencies and the Minister of Immigration are not obliged to reveal the details of their case, only a summary of it. As Mr. Harkat’s lawyers argue, this violates Mr. Harkat’s rights under the Charter (specifically the right to fair trial in section 11(d) and section 6).

What’s at stake here is much greater than the fate of one man, however tragic that fate might be. At issue are fundamental questions of Canadian justice and common law.

According to the crown’s position, there is a different and lower standard of proof being applied against Mr. Harkat than the normal one applied to Canadian citizens. As a result, what would typically be inadmissible evidence in court because it was obtained illegally (say by torture) is acceptable in these security certificate trials. In 2007, the Supreme Court actually ruled against this type of evidence in the Charkaoui case.

Harper’s amendments to the system are hardly reassuring. The so called “Special Advocates” who will be appointed by the State to test the quality of evidence against the accused are constrained by the rules surrounding this type of hearing which prevent them from even sharing what they have seen with their clients.

If the tragic case of Maher Arar has taught us anything, it is that government ministers cannot be trusted to make the right decision in cases involving deportations and Security Certificates. It is absolutely imperative that precautions be taken to ensure that their judgments be made accountable to Parliament and the public by eliminating secret trials.

The Harper government must comply with the recommendations of Amnesty International and the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-Terrorism Act and repeal the provisions in Immigration Refugee Protection Act that enable ministers to deport non-citizens to countries where they run the risk of being tortured on the basis of obscure evidence.

* This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

As Canada celebrates it’s 146th birthday, I’m thankful to have a break from the corrupt circus that has become our parliament. Unfortunately, even with our government on an extended summer vacation we are constantly reminded that they’re around.

Canada’s Economic Action Plan ads, our government’s propaganda campaign to convince us that everything is A-OK continues to drive everyone in the country crazy and cost a fortune.

They’re everywhere on television, most of all on our news networks. They’re all over the internet, our radio stations, our newspapers and god knows where else. If you are a Canadian, there is no escape.

According to Treasury Board guidelines, taxpayer-funded government ads are supposed to inform citizens about programs and services. Instead the ads are being used to brainwash people into thinking the economy is in top shape, our environment is being protected and other wished-for results.

The Conservative government has been cutting back on spending every which way to Sunday over the last couple years and yet their “marketing” campaign has continued unabated, even increased.

Since 2009 the government has spent $113 million on their Economic Action Plan ads. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recently asked Prime Minister Harper how heavy ad spending in a time of government cutbacks helps middle-class Canadians.

His answer was nothing short of civic pride: “Canadians understand and are very proud of the fact that Canada’s economy has performed so much better than other developed countries during these challenging times.” Apparently it doesn’t matter how well we’re actually doing so long as we feel good about ourselves.

And how we’re doing isn’t as good as advertised; Canada is no longer the leader of the G7 in growth, that honor now belongs to the United States. Other developed economies have also outpaced Canada since the 2009 recession, including Australia and all the Scandinavian countries.

Part of the reason Canada was able to whether the economic downturn better than most is Canada’s consumer debt being at an all-time high. Our unemployment rate has hovered around 7% for the last year, still 1% above where we started in 2009.

More surprisingly, the number of Canadians who need food banks are also at an all-time high. You have to wonder just who is benefiting from our tip top economy. I’d put money on the oil sand barons more than you or I.

The Action Plan ads aren’t fooling too many people these days, in fact a growing portion of the population are finding themselves annoyed or angered by them (glad I’m not alone). According to four different surveys the majority of respondents took to calling the material “propaganda” and a “waste of money.”

Canadians are ignoring them as well. As of April 2012, only 7% said they did something as a result of viewing one of the ads.

All this begs to question just why the Conservative Government is steadfast in its support and defense of these tiresome, useless ads. The Conservative Party has been polling lower than it has in years, running between second and third place despite the onslaught of advertising to convince us of their bang up job.

So, with the economy stagnating, people fed up of their propaganda and $113 million dollars spent, what is the logical thing to do? Double down of course!

A couple months ago the Conservatives put out a tender for a major new ad agency contract that might see the substance-free economic action plan brand continued until 2016 (even after the next election). Yes sir, three more years of this shit…

Happy Canada Day everyone!

* This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

It’s amazing how Canadians elect politicians who refuse to analyze the country’s problems, but that’s what we did when we handed Stephen Harper and his Tories a majority government. The Conservatives try and pride themselves as being the party of action (just look at those tiresome action plan ads), but the Conservative Party of Canada could better be described as the party of reaction.

Every so called action they’ve taken in the past two years has been a quick, but simple reaction to an otherwise complicated problem. Not once have they stopped to analyze the situation in order to address the core of an issue.

Last week, following the arrests of two terrorist suspects, newly elected Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said “There is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded, completely at war with innocents, at war with a society. Our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?”

The-root-causes-of-terrorism-is-terrorists

Trudeau’s comments were perfectly reasonable. We shouldn’t be satisfied by humbly thwarting a terrorist attack, we need to get to the crux of why they want to attack us in the first place. The best way to fight terrorism is through understanding their motives. If we merely cut off the head of the hydra, more heads will keep taking its place.

Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives weren’t having any of this. Harper said “This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression.” That statement was dumbed down even further a few days later when Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said that “the root causes of terrorism is terrorists.” Poilievre even repeated the declaration to make it abundantly clear that this is what the party believes.

At the time, I remember thinking to myself that it was as if George Bush’s brain had somehow been embedded into Poilievre’s skull. I realized soon after that this kind of nonsense was nothing new, their conservative views were just never explained so bluntly before.

No one has ever accused the Conservatives of being the party of intellectuals, but taking a look at their policy decisions over the last few years, one has to wonder if they think at all. They rule in the present without consideration for our future; you would think they don’t plan on staying in power for long.

They believe the root cause of crime is criminals. Instead of investing in crime’s source, such as poverty and drug addiction, the Tories decided to dish out harsher sentences to criminals and drug offenders. It won’t be long until we need more prisons.

They believe the root cause of global warming is the globe. The earth is warming itself so why try and fight it.

Instead of investing in green energy and technology, Harper gutted Canada’s environmental assessment laws, expanded oil sands development and now plans are in the works to have an equal sized mining project near Thunder Bay. The media has already taken to calling it “Tar Sands 2.0”

They believe the root cause of unemployment is unemployment. With the jobless rate still hovering around 7.5%, the Conservative government decided to revamp the unemployment system. Under the new rules, even seasonal workers will have to prove they are actively looking for work. Forcing seasonal laborers to take menial jobs a few months in the summer or winter will take jobs away from students trying to pay for school.

harper+poilievre
Harper and his pet Pierre

I’m sure there are other tautologies I could find to illustrate my point, but you get the idea. Quick fixes and short sighted thinking is no way to run a government.

It’s why they try and silence everyone from scientists to members of their own party. God forbid the word should get out about how thoughtless and unproductive their policies really are. I always thought Conservatives wanted a smaller government not a more foolish one.

Future generations are going to have to live with this government’s decisions, making statements a five year old child can make and holding to them doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

The root cause of the Conservative Party of Canada has clearly become stupidity.