Altered Document had Oda in Knots

By now every Canadian should be aware of the scandal around the altered document. 

I am always amazed at how the Prime Minister who often talks about how his government is transparent, so routinely does everything he can to do the opposite. Although the story that has tied Bev Oda in knots is just surfacing this week, the incident actually goes back to 2009.
It is all about the group KAIROS, a  faith-based ecumenical organization. Their website says that the group works to affect social change through advocacy, education and research programs in Ecological Justice, Economic Justice, Energy and Extraction, Human Rights, Just and Sustainable Livelihoods, and Indigenous Peoples. They work with around 21 partner organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East; about eighty local grassroots groups across Canada; as well as with several other organizations, churches and individuals.
In  2009 the Harper government made the decision to decision to cut KAIROS off from federal aid funding. Bev Oda was the minister responsible at the time.
At the time, Ms. Oda insisted that the decision to cut KARIOS lose was a routine government decision but, around the same time,  Immigration Minister Jason Kenney boasted to an Israeli audience that the organization was cut off because the government didn’t like its views on Israel.
Those who supported KAIROS through this time suggested that the Conservatives  decided to cut off aid to groups whose political views differ from theirs – but the Harper crown said civil servants at the Canadian International Development Agency (CEDA) made the decision that the organization no longer matched their priorities.
Bev Oda
But, after a year’s delay, new documents surfaced in December 2010 showing that CIDA’s senior officials signed a memorandum recommending new funding for KAIROS before someone – neither Bev Oda nor the government will say who or when – inserted the word “not,” overruling the recommendation.
Jim Abbott, Oda’s Parliamentary Secretary told the house of Commons that  CIDA analyzed KAIROS funding request and found it didn’t meet their priorities.
Margaret Biggs, President of CEDA and the CEDA Vice President for Canadian Partnership, Narash Singh both say that when they signed the document it was to approve the funding request which would clearly say something quite different about who made the decision. This was a political decision, cut and dried.
It is an interesting and popular strategy used by Harper and crew. First they make an unpopular or controversial political decision. Then they say they were only following the advice of their senior government advisors about what they should do. The bureaucrats have no choice but  to zip their lips in the face of the lie. The government hides behind this deflection until the issue dies a natural death. Usually a crude but effective strategy. The problem is, as Stephen Harper is beginning to realize, that is the problem with truth. It tends to scratch its way to the surface given time.
Bev Oda will not say if she altered the document before she signed or if she signed the document approving the grant then had her decision reversed by the PMO and someone else inserted the “not” after the fact.
Either way this is pretty dodgy stuff.
I don’t think describing these guys as liars and cheats is too strong. The question really is, are you offended that your government acts like liars and cheats, or is that ok with you.

The person I feel sorry for is Bev Oda. By some reports, a hard working principled politician, she now either has to continue to tow the party line, or decide tell the truth, resign and sit as independent. 

I'm not holding my breath. 


Another Lukewski Form Letter

I along with several thousand other Canadians recently wrote my MP about our concerns about funding, or the lack thereof, to the CBC. Anyone who is a regular listener knows that CBC Radio is a little more that a shadow of it's former self. My action was part of a campaign initiated by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. 

A day or so ago I got a reply Not unexpectedly, it was another shit sandwich from Tom Lukiwski, my member of parliament. You remember Tom. He is one of the 13, do nothing, Saskatchewan Conservative MPs. That sandwich is something that those of us who write to our Conservative MPs and cabinet members get quite often. They start with "thanks for writing" and end with "...please do not hesitate to contact me...". The middle of the letter, where the substance should be is mostly bullshit.

In this case I got exactly the same reply as thousands of other concerned citizens who wrote did. This same form letter, obviously generated by the PMO was sent by scores of Conservative MPs to citizens coast to coast.

One of the things we asked in our letters was about the fact that while in a Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage hearing, Dean Del Mastro, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, openly muses about cutting all funding to the CBC.when he said when questioning Gary Maavara, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Corus Entertainment, "...do you think it's time that the Canadian government looks at it and says maybe it's time we get out of the broadcasting business..."

Lukiwski ignored that question in his reply. The Harper crowd don't answer "real agenda" questions.

Then he talked about the fact that Jean Chretien cut funding to the CBC when he was in power. I already know about Chretien's record re the CBC. I hate to think how much energy I expended fighting those cuts. What a former Liberal government did is not the issue at hand.

Then he claimed "The NDP's record is no better, having voted against funding for the CBC every year we have been in office" Lukiwski is now pretty much way into left field. The NDP has never voted against funding  to the CBC. They have voted against the Harper Government's budget which is quite a different thing and to be honest I'd be pretty pissed if the didn't.

Lukiwski goes on to suggest that the government's support for the CBC has increased again and again since they have been in power. This is just hocus pocus. In fact, the Conservative figures don't factor in inflation but, constant dollars. The true figure is in the negative.  


The Enemy is at the Gate

The Coalition is coming. The coalition is coming
I thought this story out of Ottawa was amusing.

A month or so ago, John Baird who, horror of horrors, might be my MP if I still lived there, sent out an e-mail encouraging supporters to come to a $500.00 a plate fund raiser on February 9th, in an effort to build up his war chest to deal with the expected 2011 election.

As the event gets closer, and John get a bit more nervous, he has ramped up the rhetoricThe soiree which was once promoted in a fairly low key manner is noted by the Globe & Mail’s Jane Taber, has moved into “the enemy is at the gate” mode. Baird now says, “There is a chance that the Ignatieff-led Liberal-Bloc Quebecois-NDP coalition may force an unwanted and unnecessary election on Canadians in 2011,”

Oh no, Help! Help! The coalition is coming! The coalition is coming!

The nervous Baird is now bringing in the heavy hitters. The event which will be held at the home of a wealthy Tory supporter now be attended by Minister Jim Flaherty, Stockwell Day, Marjory LeBreton, and other “special guests.”

The foxes snuck into the hen house a few years ago and I for one would be happy to see any attempt to rout them.

Coalition, or no coalition, just throw these guys out on their bushy tails.


I Wrote to my MP Today

Tom Lukiwski
Member of Parliament
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

February 7th 2011

Dear Sir;

I got another of your householder flyers today and I must tell you that I continue to find them offensive. They add nothing to the dialogue; they are misleading, dismissive of alternate views and in most cases the production values and content are amateurish. There is nothing helpful about them whatsoever.  They are ineffective and bothersome.

To be completely honest, I have seen so much of it over the years that I have lost all objectivity. Having your picture constantly slipping through my mail slot, at this point simply makes me angry.

Frankly, I think that to send these tons, yes tons, of material through the postal system each week is in a misuse of taxpayer’s dollars. I ask you to stop sending me this postal spam immediately. If not to placate me, at the very least to save some trees. 

In fact sir, when I really think about it, I wish that you would simply make the decision to retire from politics and let the voters replace you with someone who will speak up for our community. If that is too much for you to swallow, go back to the backroom politics from which you came.  Trade you MP’s chair for that of a back room boy and work with the Harper team, planning its treachery from behind the scenes.

You and the other Saskatchewan Members of Parliament have become irrelevant. You refuse to speak up for constituents except perhaps at the personal level. You and your colleagues are supposed to represent us but, you never speak out about issues which are important to Saskatchewan’s people and our collective voice is not being heard.

To be properly represented in Ottawa we need more than mouthpieces for the Prime Minister.

I have copied all your colleagues Saskatchewan Conservative MPs, not out of any malice nor to cause you embarrassment but, because the message would be the same for all of them. It is just that you are my MP.

Please give real consideration to my request. Many, many constituents will thank you for it

Yours Truly

Gord Hunter

c.c.  Prime Minister Harper
       All Saskatchewan Conservative MPs


It May Not be as Bad as it All Seems

It has been discouraging these last few years trying to figure out where Canadians' political values were moving. We have twice elected that Reform/Alliance/Conservatives bunch to the House of Commons despite the fact that they seem to represent values which many of us find tough to deal with. They: 
  • are tough on crime, 
  • they pander to the anti gun control lobby,
  • they shun climate change research and support dirty oil, 
  • they believe that lower corporate tax rates will solve our economic issues, 
  • they are soft of humanitarian aid, 
  • they are overtly militaristic, 
  • most of their elected members are little more than mouthpieces for the PMO and 
  • they have turned our political process into a Republican style, dirty war of words. 
What is to like and why do they stand a fairly good chance of getting re-elected, albeit to a minority? So are Canadians moving en mass to a more Republican style right-wing way of thinking. Perhaps not.

Environics Focus Canada  has done a regular public opinion survey of Canadian citizens since the mid-1970s. Jeffrey Simpson points out in yesterday's Globe & Mail that the results of that that poll suggests something different than we would be led to believe by the Harper crowd.  Canadians have probably not lost their minds despite of the way many of us vote. In fairness, that is my conclusion, not his.

The poll found that:
  • Almost 60% of Canadians prefer crime prevention programs and education over the tougher punishment proposed by Harper.
  • Canadians believe that our government's spending priorities ought to be education, health care, programs for the elderly, the environment and reducing child poverty. 
  • Over 70 percent of Canadians are in favor of redirecting military spending towards reducing greenhouse emissions. 
  • Eighty percent of Canadians believe that the government should invest in green jobs.
  • They think that there should be transition programs for those affected negatively by the shift to green energy from fossil fuels.
  •  The poll also found that too much focus is put on economic growth and that most Canadians believe that consumerism is one of the root causes of climate change.
  • Eighty two percent of us do not fear crime in our neighbourhoods.
  • Eighty percent of us feel that the gap between rich and poor has widened in the last 10 years.
  • Far in a majority of us think it is important to reduce that gap.
I take some solace in the poll results. We have not lost our collective minds. Or, perhaps not at the very least.

So where are we. The Liberals made a couple of bad leadership choices. I liked Dion and I respect Ignatieff but Iggy just don't seem to have captured the hearts and minds of Canadians and thoughtful Dion was no match for the bullyboy Harper style.

I think Jack Layton is a nice guy too but all this kitchen table/working man talk doesn't do a hell of a lot to capture the attention of Canadians except in a negative way.

So we might be stuck with those guys for a while yet but another lost election will put short shrift to both of them. Then perhaps we can move forward.