Open Letter To Stephen Harper
Re: Not Here for Canadians
To: All Members of Parliament elect and Canadian Senators
CC: The Green Party of Canada, New Democratic Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, Bloc Québécois, The Conservative Party of Canada
By Bobbie Saga,
May 16, 2011
Well, Mr.Harper, you got your coveted majority and realized your dream of unchecked power. Yes, it’s true, we Canadians who didn’t vote Conservative are stuck with you. So let’s be clear. Canada is a democratic state in the best sense of the term, and Canadians value social equality. Indeed, we are exceedingly proud of both.
You must understand, Mr. Harper, I’m aware of your affiliations with the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) and the Calgary School. I’m also aware you’ve somewhat managed to publicly distance yourself from your past. But in reality, I believe you have not. As well, one need only glance through that leaked little book of quotes your campaign team put together to know something about you. Really, Mr. Harper, it reads like a Stephen King paperback, peppered with some pretty embarrassing stuff. No, and as the saying goes, a tiger can't change the colour of its stripes, and yours are not true Tory blue.
Further, Big Brother may be monitoring our Facebook and email accounts once you push through your omnibus bill. But trust me, Mr. Harper, a few Canadians will be doing more than just watching you if you follow through as previously proposed. You promised within 100 days that you would pass the single omnibus bill that is a bundle of crime and justice bills. I find this deeply disturbing since it seems inclusive of your lawful access plans.
According to Dr. Michael Geist, University of Ottawa Law Professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, the previous Conservative lawful access legislation, purported to reshape Canada’s Internet, actually establishes massive surveillance and potential disclosure of personal information without proper court oversight. It has enormous privacy and cost implications, but it (previous legislation) had no real debate or hearings. "Lawful access is incredibly problematic for the Internet, privacy, and online freedoms, " Geist said. "It (new legislation) requires real debate yet seems likely to slip under the public radar."
Given your previous initiatives, including but not limited to Bill C-50, C51 and C52, this legislation seems to be in conflict with a report put out by the Department of Justice Canada in August 2002. The document was published following debate on the issue dating back to the mid-1990s, and was the beginning of an extensive stakeholder consultation process. The preamble is clear that while lawful access is indeed an important law enforcement tool, it’s equally clear it needs to be balanced with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Don’t you think it’s past time law enforcement agencies justified their need for this kind of legislation? Perhaps you missed that part, at least according to some legal experts, not to mention all of Canada’s privacy commissioners. In fact, Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart sent William Baker, former Deputy Minister for Public Safety Canada, a letter March 9 saying, " The Government itself took the view that this information was sensitive enough to make trafficking in such ‘identity information’ a Criminal Code offence." Don’t you think the public should also know what the current cost projections are since they, most likely, will be passed on to us, the public? As such, and as it now stands, it seems at least one of your "Here for Canada" package of election pledges is not "Here" for Canadians.
Mr. Harper, I wish to further point out that you once said, "When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern." Here, I concur. But then something happened I found exceedingly troubling, and I can’t exactly say when I first noticed it. Perhaps it was just six weeks following the 2008 election. Surly you remember when you went to the Governor General and requested prorogation? You know, when your cabinet minister presented a fiscal update the opposition parties strongly disagreed with? I guess the opposition parties took dissent too far when they announced they were bringing down your government on a vote of non-confidence. It seemed you just could not see a looming global economic crisis, or agree, given the circumstance, several provisions of your budget were simply unacceptable. I let that one slide.
But knowing our freedoms are fragile, I should have paid more attention. It took just one year before you did it again. Once my sensibilities kicked in, I was outraged by your hypocrisy, not to mention your actions. While many Canadians were distracted with Christmas, and the New Year, and life in general, you made a phone call to the Governor General to prorogue Parliament, this time for 63 days. I recall you saying you could not cope with Parliament, while dealing with the country’s economic troubles and host the Olympic Games at the same time. You hit international news with that one. I remember reading an article in The Economist that deliberately called you a "spokesperson" and accused you of not being able to "walk and chew gum at the same time."
You sure had your priorities straight. Parliament had much work to do, with 36 bills waiting to be dealt with. Yet because of your actions the bills died on the order paper, and all committee work came to a screeching halt. Having said this, it didn’t take long before real stories began surfacing about court battles launched by your government barring witnesses from Canadian government hearings investigating what government officials knew about torture of detainees turned over to Afghan authorities by our military. There was also the battle brewing with the opposition about releasing related documents and cries of alleged violations of international law. Can you say Pentagon Papers? And it didn’t end there. Your government exhibited a pattern of ruthlessly silencing or attacking government watchdogs and others having the courage, conviction, and expertise to criticize your brand of politics and your policies. The stories are telling if not unconscionable, and list of people you slammed, or otherwise harmed, is long.
Mr. Harper, you lost your moral authority to govern a long time ago. Plus, it was your secrecy concerning details on corporate tax cuts, the crime bills, and F35 gliders that culminated into contempt of Parliament. The opposition parties were bang on about you and brought down your government with good reason. Borne out of your extremist construct that’s pushing Canada to a Night Watchman State, you have no respect for the majority of Canadians and our way of life, or our rule of law, or our system of parliamentary democracy. As such, and as far as your election victory goes, it only serves to strengthen my resolve to continue to speak out against a government I strongly oppose. Perhaps we should hold a memorial at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It’s nothing personal, Mr. Harper, but average Canadians are also very partial to our social programs, such as health care and pension plans, including those for veterans. As well, we are stern in our resolve to keep them. Sadly, these were among top ranked issues not covered during the campaign. As such, I would like to call your attention to one in particular: healthcare. Now, I know it was your former boss at the NCC who said he wanted the Canada Health Act scrapped, but what you said about "alternatives" is suspect. I’m not taking the bait, Mr. Harper. No matter how, or even how often, you spin "alternatives," it’s still code for opening the system to user fees, or extra billing, and an eventual erosion of services denigrating into vastly different standards of care dependant on one’s bank balance. True, there are some problems. But that’s why we had a government study on the subject back in November 2002. Surely you know about the Romanow Commission? Since it was done on the taxpayers’ dime, you may want to read the report. It’s still very relevant and has some great recommendations. And I sure would not underestimate the collective intelligence of Canadians. I’ll even wager hard-earned, after-tax-dollars that’s what Ralph Klein did when he made a move towards privatization. A while back he suggested "alternatives" to health care delivery for the Alberta Empire. It seems, however, his subjects were unimpressed and very vocal about it too. Mr. Klein realized, after-the-fact, it was not politically prudent to press forward with his "Third Way."
In any case, Mr. Harper, please don’t think I don’t know of certain shifts your government made on the health file. Take, for example, the most recent disturbing development. I know you were busy with the campaign, but shortly following the drop of the writ, a pair of your party insiders went rogue. What a headline that was: "Conservatives quit over Vaughan health-care money." The gist of the story is a cool $10 million in federal funds allegedly went to a not-for-profit corporation to deliver health services on empty land next to a hospital that doesn’t exist. This one just doesn’t pass the sniff test. Besides, I thought delivery of health services was provincial jurisdiction. It seems somebody’s attempting to skirt a few rules.
And that reminds me of another little matter called trust. Everywhere people are talking about you and your inner circle. Just so you know, the words fascist and corrupt keep popping up. Someone called you "Nixon in a cardigan." Heck, just the other day I heard "Maurice Duplessis and the Union Nationale look Marxist and squeaky clean in comparison to your government." Come to think of it, the good people in La Belle Province are pretty shrewd when it comes to politics. Maybe that’s why the Orange Crush swept Quebec.
Anyway, the leaking of dirty little secrets must be a nightmare. My favorite was your covert Conservative committee handbook. I can’t imagine you were too pleased that one got out. I would also imagine you must have been a little ticked off when your government’s effort to wreak parliamentary havoc was dubbed a "Machiavellian plot." But hey, if the shoe fits? And of course there is Elections Canada alleging many in your caucus were recipients of funds coming under scrutiny as part of the in-and-out election-spending scheme. On that note, I suppose you weren’t too pleased about the Supreme Court’s May 5 decision not to hear your party’s appeal. You were lucky with the decision falling after the election. And call me skeptical, but that was a story that really got buried. There was a very brief and somewhat confusing CP press release reprinted on the CBC website for one afternoon with no details, and no follow-up. Then poof, all of a sudden it was gone. I checked for other coverage, only to find — none. But just so you know, I did a cut and paste of the release. One never knows when certain information might come in handy. Then there’s the Bruce Carson affair. He’s a disbarred lawyer who’s been convicted of fraud, etc. working in the PMO as your advisor. You didn’t know? Really? Well, I’d like to know who appointed "The Fixer" executive director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment. This so-called "scientific" foundation allegedly got millions in federal funds, but then Carson apparently changed the organization’s mandate to put out spin on the oil sands. Then there’s the allegation about his influence pedaling. If this is the case, I want our tax money back. And that goes for the border security money that allegedly went to Tony Clement’s riding to build things like a fancy gazebo.
And oh yes, how could I forget about Bev Oda? Seriously, Mr. Harper, someone who seemingly has such extreme views should NOT have anything to do with making important decisions for our government. But it seems that issue won’t go away anytime soon, especially if you break another election promise – like a well funded and organized, but minority group (your base) would like you to. The abortion debate was over a long time ago, and it had better stay that way. But perhaps that’s why the Status of Women had it’s funding slashed. Also, InSite, in my view, is simply another disgraceful example of your not-so-hidden, ideological agenda. For those in the know, it is a very logical solution to a tragic yet real part of our culture. The problem won’t go away just because you want to cut off aid to a few lost souls. You may want to tell your spin doctors that trying to justify the court challenge isn’t working. You may want to ask your Republican pals how dumping money into mega-prisons and its war on drugs is working out for them. Nice try though.
Mr. Harper, there are so many issues I take issue with. There is when you decided our government should be renamed in your name. We’ll, all I can say is that’s the epitome of arrogance. There is you cutting the already inadequate funding for international exposure of Canadian artists and their cultural contributions to society. That funding was already laughable. But you saying ordinary Canadians don’t support the arts is, quite simply, another NOT on another issue of a different kind. I like to read, and listen to music, and I like works of art on my walls, etc., etc., and I’m an ordinary Canadian who does care that we do everything possible to support our homegrown talent. God knows they need it. And that brings up another issue: could you please stop telling me what I care about or think because I’m getting rather tired of it. On that note, I can’t wait to read the three reports due out about the G8/G20, the Christiane Ouimet issue, and the Afghan detainee fiasco. Here, I gather, parliamentary procedure only works when you need it to.
Finally, I know politics is a blood sport, but it seems you don’t ever play nice, or by the rules. You did say we wouldn’t recognize Canada when you’re finished with it. Well, I make no apologies for what I believe in; that is, democracy and social equality. Quite frankly, Mr. Harper, I’ll make every effort to show absolute dissent for your government’s alleged corruption and your real contempt.
I caught the news Friday about the Supreme Court’s two announcements. On the appointments, Emmett Macfarlane, another Canadian from Harvard who’s not just visiting has some expertise on the subject. He says there’s a chance of you shaping the court by appointing people who lean toward a conservative approach. He also says the appointments can make a big difference and that your choice matters, adding, "The issues they decide are heavily political, social and moral issues often, especially when dealing with cases pertaining to the Charter of Rights." NO KIDDING! He then went on to caution people about drawing conclusions about what you might, or might not do. I wonder if Mr. Macfarlane saw all the comments on various streams after the announcement, and on both sides of what now appears to be a great divide. Congratulations on that one. As for the public not having a right to access all documents in your office, or the offices of cabinet ministers, I’ll reserve my judgement on the issue until I’ve had the chance to read the decision. Having said this, I guess you’ve reversed you stance on the subject since your Reform/Alliance days. But I’m sure my old Nemesis Ezra Levant over at Fox New North, as well as your long-time associate Tom Flanagan will be making many excuses for you, in addition to putting out much spin on both issues. God help us all!