Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

Terror bill, MP defection, show Liberals, Tories more alike

by Barry Weisleder
The massive ‘anti-terror’ Bill C-51 that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is rushing through the House of Commons has been roundly denounced, including by four former Prime Ministers and five ex-Supreme Court judges. It would create a secret police force with powers to spy on Canadians, to break the law in order to disrupt protest groups, and to detain suspects on the thin grounds that a crime “may occur.”

Continue reading Terror bill, MP defection, show Liberals, Tories more alike

Did Intervention in Middle East prompt Ottawa shootings?

by Evan Engering and Barry Weisleder

Immediately after two Canadian Forces soldiers were killed in separate incidents on October 20 and 22, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the assailants ‘terrorists’. Leader of the Official Opposition New Democratic Party, Tom Mulcair, disagreed, citing a blend of factors, psychological and political.

Harper seized on the gun fight in a hallway of Parliament, in which a deranged man with a rifle fell in a hail of police bullets, to step up his assault on civil liberties. Mulcair and the labour-based NDP opposed Harper’s words, but should oppose his direction on principle, not just on semantic grounds.

Against a backdrop of widespread grief for the dead soldiers and their families, Harper and the business media stoked the fires of patriotism, which spilled over into Islamophobic acts across the country.

The assailants, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, recent converts to Islam, were not linked to ISIS. What is not known is whether they lashed out for political or personal reasons. Thus, their actions can be seen as an indictment of Canada’s faltering mental health care system. Or they can be cited as ‘blow-back’ from western military intervention in the Middle East. Or both.

In any event, the context of the attack on the soldiers, and the Conservative government’s rhetoric in response to it, reveal another crack in the myth that Canada is a peace-keeping state.

In early October, Prime Minister Stephen Harper commited fighter jets, pilots and ground crew to join the U.S.-led bombing campaign in war-torn Iraq and Syria. That came on the heels of 13 years of Canadian military intervention in Afghanistan, and Ottawa’s involvement in NATO wars in the former Yugoslavia, in the Persian Gulf, Libya, and Somalia. This is not to mention Harper’s brash support for the Israeli apartheid state, and for its brutal summer 2014 onslaught against the people of Gaza.

Harper in Libya
Harper in Libya

Conservative foreign policy makes many enemies at home and abroad, but individual attacks against military personnel on Canadian soil play directly into the hands of the capitalist rulers, fanning the flames of pro-war sentiment, racism and jingoism. Stephen Harper and his collaborators, by their engagement in military interventions in the East, have certainly outraged peoples there, fanning the flames of their discontent with the West. Every bomb dropped by Canadian, American and allied fighter jets on Iraq and Syria brings fresh recruits to ISIS.

And the context of intervention goes back much further.
In this centennial year of World War 1 it is timely to recall Canada’s contribution to the sad legacy of big power nationalism and imperialism as it continues to plague the peoples of the Middle East. Canada joined WWI at Britain’s behest to fight for the class interests of the Triple Entente rulers against those of the Central Powers. Arms producers became obscenely rich, while millions of workers died in trenches, at sea, and by aerial bombardment.

That conflagration was sparked by an assasination in Sarajevo that detonated an already tense situation. For the Arab and Kurdish peoples then living in the countries now under attack, it meant the drawing of artificial borders along lines beneficial to the British and French colonial powers. The foreign rulers called that infamous arrangement the Sykes-Picot Agreement. It is no surprise that the current prime target of the Western rulers, the Islamic State, pledges to abolish the borders imposd by Sykes-Picot.

parliament%20of%20canadaPrime Minister Harper, in the wake of the Ottawa shootings, made an emotive speech that was broadcast live. In it, he condemned any and all who attack Canadian soldiers as somehow attacking all “Canadians as a free and democratic people”, and he doubled down on his “national security” plans. But one is hard pressed to recall the Prime Minister making such a hardline speech regarding the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women. He continues to refuse to launch an inquiry into that ongoing tragedy.

In the face of Conservative plans to legislate U.S. Patriot Act-style infringements on civil liberties, progressive and working class people should stand up to the government and its insidious plans. We should expose the big lies – the false claims that the Canadian state has a duty or right to interfere militarily in the Middle East, that the Canadian Forces are serving to protect all, rather than uphold the interests of corporate Canada, and that we should accept the expansion of the surveillance state for our own good.
Instead, the streets should be filled with demonstrators demanding: Canada out of NATO! Ottawa, Washington, London and allies, Out of the Middle East!

Picket Tory Minister to Defend Postal Services

Picket Tory Minister to Defend Postal Services
All Out September 20!
by Barry Weisleder
Momentum is growing towards a monster mass picket and rally to defend Canada’s postal services. The protest, set for Saturday, September 20, is against Canada Post Corporation plans to terminate home mail delivery. It will be held outside the Toronto constituency office of Conservative Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver at 511 Lawrence Avenue West.
Organizations endorsing the September 20 mass picket now include the Canadian Labour Congress, Ontario Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada-Ontario, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Brampton and Mississauga District Labour Council, CUPE Local 3903, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, NDP Socialist Caucus, Communist Party of Canada, International Socialists, and Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste.
Socialist Action/LAS initiated this effort, on the heels of a successful picket it convened on a very cold March 15 at the same site.
The September 20 speakers’ list now includes CUPW National President Denis Lemelin, CLC V.P. Marie Clarke Walker, OFL President Sid Ryan, OPSEU President Smokey Thomas, a leader of PSAC-Ontario (t.b.a.), and representatives of other endorsing organizations.
The aim of the protest is to compel the Conservative federal
government and Canada Post Corporation to reverse plans to end home mail delivery, to eliminate thousands of jobs in the postal service, and to
raise the price of postage.
postThe scheme to degrade postal services, to alienate the public towards them, serves the goal of gutting the federal public sector. Within that framework, the rulers strive to trash good jobs, slash postal workers’ pensions, and to break a progressive, democratic union. It is a road that leads to selling the most profitable parts of Canada Post to private sector vultures.
This brazenly broad assault must be stopped. It is a watershed moment for public services and for the workers’ movement across the Canadian state. The need for public resistance is urgent. Protest activity is developing across the country, with rallies, pickets and town hall meetings. Many municipal governments, including Toronto’s City Council, have voted to oppose the replacement of home mail delivery with collective mega-mail boxes.
September 20 is part of that resistance. The message to Eglinton-Lawrence MP Joe Oliver, the Tory Minister of Finance, is that his Conservative federal budget which aims to slash jobs and kill vital public services, while pampering the corporate elite, is unacceptable.
Joe Oliver voted in Parliament against the New Democratic Party motion to maintain door-to-door mail delivery. Seniors and people with mobility problems strongly oppose being forced to collect their mail at a so-called ‘community mail box’, blocks from home, under all kinds of weather conditions.
The resulting elimination of up to 8,000 letter carrier jobs would be a serious blow to young people and to many others seeking decent-paying employment in a time of great economic stress.
Canada Post is not in debt. And it could be even more profitable as a public asset if it provided banking services at postal outlets across the country. Canada Post and the Tory government suppressed a study that shows how providing banking and other services is the way forward. To the consternation of the vast majority of Canadians, the Tories are stealing workers’ pensions, while cutting jobs and services.
If this is the best that the Harper Conservatives have to offer, then they must go. If this is the best that capitalism has to offer, then it too must go. If Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper cannot run a postal service to meet human needs, they should step aside. Let postal workers show you how to run the service – under workers’ control.
Take notice Deepak Chopra, Joe Oliver and Stephen Harper: This fight SArallypostlsrvc201424has just begun. Across the country you are facing a rising torrent of opposition to the placement of mega-mail boxes in every city and town. We will not stop fighting your cuts until we reverse them. We will not stop until we remove you.

Harper’s Whipping boys

stephenharperhatesmeA perennial target of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hateful policies is the federal public service work force. Harper claims that fat-cat public employees collect much bigger pay packets than their counterparts in the private sector. Unfortunately for the Tory regime, a report by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office puts the lie to his claim, at least in part.

Almost all increases in federal public service pay over the last 11 years have merely kept up with inflation. New hires comprised about half of the extra $7.8 billion in pay for the workers between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the report shows.
Salaries accounted for about 47 per cent of the increase, the office says, but 96 per cent of that was just to keep pace with inflation over the 11 year period.
“The reality is, employees took a pay cut while the Conservatives went on a hiring binge” said NDP Treasury Board critic Mathieu Ravignat.
“They are using the public service as whipping boys and as a wedge between those who are having a hard time at the moment and public servants”, said NDP MP Paul Dewar, who asked the budget office to determine the cause of rising federal labour costs.
Dewar said the findings show Conservative Treasury Board President Tony Clement did not have the facts before launching an attack against the public service which he called bloated.
The PBO also seemed to dismiss the myth that costs have been driven by reclassification, that is, moving public employees into higher pay categories. Costs due to classification added less than 5 per cent of the total increase, the PBO found.
A point glossed over by NDP spokespersons is this: freezing or cutting the wages and jobs of public employees is not going to benefit workers in the private sector. Quite the opposite. It only whets the appetite of the ruling rich to hammer private sector workers, especially those who have no union representation. The clear answer is for workers to organize, unite and fight the attacks together.

Senate Scandal upstages CETA and Omnibus Bill C-4

by Barry Weisleder
How ironic would it be if Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ultimate downfall occurs due to a scandal involving some rip-off artists he appointed to the Senate, rather than as a consequence of Harper’s bestial record on the economy, the environment, First Nations and Canada’s wars of occupation abroad? Very ironic, eh?
But as things go in Ottawa, where both an ominous trade deal with Europe, and a meandering but menacing Throne Speech were quickly eclipsed by the deepening Senate imbroglio, anything seems possible.
The Conservative P.M. dug in his heels, and fired back at blistering Opposition attacks on his credibility. Harper insists that he knew nothing about the scheme to bail-out Senator Mike Duffy. He coldly disowned Senators Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau when scrutiny of their mis-spending habits became too hot and too damaging to the Conservative Party.
Harper even prorogued Parliament in a vain effort to ride out the storm. Still the crisis persists, undiminished by the so-called free trade triumph, or the baubles offered to consumers in an otherwise toxic Throne Speech.
While the political crisis, now six months old and deepening, widens rifts in Tory ranks, it is important not to lose sight of the threat to the common good posed by the still-gestating deal known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.
In the first place, like its predecessor ‘free’ trade deals, NAFTA and the FTA, CETA is not primarily about trade. Tariffs and duties between the two regions are, on average, less than four per cent. Nor will we see a major impact on sales of beef overseas, or cheese here. CETA is overwhelmingly a corporate bill of rights. It will jack up Canadian drug prices (by $2 billion a year) by extending patent protection for multinational pharmaceutical companies, mostly based in Europe. It will be harder for provinces and cities to favour local businesses when they buy goods or services. And it will enable corporations to sue governments if their owners think that environmental, labour or other regulations interfere with the maximization of profits. (Canada is facing $2.5 billion worth of corporate lawsuits under NAFTA.)
Secrecy marked the CETA negotiations, and still shrouds the contents. Progressive economists say Ottawa’s claim that the pact will create 80,000 new net jobs is entirely bogus. Europe’s 500 million consumers are enduring an economic recession, worsened by austerity measures that curb workers’ ability to buy much of anything beyond essentials. Unifor economist Jim Stanford predicts that CETA will, over time, vaporize up to 150,000 Canadian jobs.
Since 28 EU countries have to endorse the deal, and Ottawa needs to get the provinces on side by guaranteeing compensation for higher drug prices and for any harm done to home industries, there is thus time to defeat the deal before CETA is entrenched.
Likewise, there is an opportunity to challenge the pernicious plans outlined in the October 16 Tory Throne Speech. Harper’s endeavour to change the channel on his Senate problems includes promises to cut cellphone roaming costs, to unbundle cable-TV channels to allow consumers to pick and choose, and to allow people to carry booze across provincial boundaries for personal consumption.
But Harper’s mailed fist is revealed in core measures, such as a federal budget freeze, and curbing costs in the public sector by shedding staff. Legislation to require balanced budgets aims to entrench austerity. New laws to ensure life sentences for those convicted of major crimes, and to bar the release of serious repeat offenders, would help the Conservatives to posture as ‘law and order’ enforcers, as does their plan to shut down centres that provide drugs to addicts to wean them off dope dependency.
Then there is Omnibus Budget Bill C-4, tabled in the House of Commons on October 22. Part of the 321-page compendium of assorted, but unrelated items is a piece that would give the federal government the power to decide which of the 187,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada are “essential” and who therefore will be denied the right to strike. Forty thousand of them presently lack this right; many of the rest are likely to be deprived as well. Not only that, the new law would exclude dispute arbitration, except when the government agrees to it, and arbitrators would be obliged to give a “preponderance” of weight to the government’s claims as to what it could afford. Say good bye to the right to strike and to any semblence of fair arbitration in the federal public service. And this is buried in a bill that includes changes to employment insurance, workplace safety, veterans affairs, conflict of interest, immigration policy and more.
But where there ought to be concern about corporate criminality in the shipment of hazardous substances, in ravaging the environment, in violating indigenous peoples’ land rights, in hiding billions of dollars in offshore banks to avoid tax obligations, ‘law and order’ seems to be missing in action.
That brings us back to the parliamentary crisis. It operates on many levels. One more dimension is evident in Harper’s bid to ram through his appointment of a judge to the Supreme Court. The latest high court vacancy had to be filled, as a constitutional requirement, by a judge from the Quebec bar. Harper’s choice (for ideological reasons we can only imagine), is Marc Nadon, who once practiced maritime and transportation law in Quebec. But Nadon spent the last 20 years at the Federal Court’s appelate and trial divisions in Ottawa. So Harper aims to jam a square peg into a round hole. How? By amending the Supreme Court of Canada Act.
Like suspending Parliament four times over the past seven years, like trying to bully out of the Senate his own mangy appointees, those who he shielded and defended until recently, Stephen Harper’s actions on labour and the economy are those of a man who doesn’t take no for an answer, regardless the spirit or the letter of the law.
The saddest aspect of this ugly chapter is that most of the media attention focusses on the misdeeds of certain powerful individuals. But those potent hacks can be replaced by the ruling class when push comes to shove. A superficial approach to corruption, rather than a serious examination of the system that drives its minions to do what they do to perpetuate human exploitation, social oppression and the devastation of nature, is what passes for politics in the mainstream.
Unfortunately, the leadership of the workers’ movement, including those who sit atop the unions and the labour-based New Democratic Party, are complicit in this artful misdirection. They demonize Harper. This in turn tends to foster a ‘get rid of him at all costs’, lesser-evil, unprincipled politics. The net effect is the mis-education of the many, helping to keep the criminal elite class in charge of the sinking ship, weighed down as it is by stupendous capitalist greed.
Urgently needed is mass job action to stop the Tory attack on the right to strike, to defeat CETA, to reverse the public service cuts, to uphold aboriginal land rights, and of course, to abolish the Senate and the monarchy.