"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So why is Stephen Harper being allowed to completely undermine Democracy in Canada?

I've done my share of railing against Stephen Harper and his Merry band of Reform Conservatives over the past few months. And I've watched and commented as Harper has become bolder and bolder and become more and more extreme is his efforts to cling to power as our 22nd.Prime Minister. I've seen history in the making as I've watched Harper go to lengths never before seen in a Commonwealth nation to bend the rules, both written and otherwise in order to achieve his own agenda. He has, even gone so far, as to dispense with democracy all together. 

I have wondered aloud more than once, how, in a Democratic nation, this could possibly happen? The man has a minority government, he possesses little more than 30% of the popular vote. Yet he runs the county with all the abandon of a man with a sound majority backing him up. The fact of the matter is, there really is no one party or single entity strong enough to challenge this savvy politician with the Napoleonic Complex. (I am now convinced that as a kid, Harper was always the last person picked for neighborhood road hockey games).

He first of all succeeded in uniting the political parties to the right of center, then he annexed the name "Conservative" thanks to the Machiavellian mind set of Peter MacKay. The name "Conservative" meant nothing to Harper, but it's acquisition created the illusion of respectability. And that was all he needed to gain support east of Manitoba for the first time. Though duplicitous to say the least, this crafty Reformist from Alberta had set the wheels in motion for his ascendancy. 

But his timing was right as well. The country had gone through more than a decade of majority Liberal governments and as has been the pattern with the electorate, Canadians were sensing an environment of entitlement from the Grits, a wholly un-Canadian frame of mind. So a change was quite predictable. The fact that the Sponsorship scandal occurred just as Jean Chretien was nearing the end of his tenure as Prime Minister, thus leaving the Liberals a divided party, played quite well into Harper's hand. 

But the fact remains that the Liberals remain a divided party. They are somewhat more solidified than when lead by Stephan Dion or Paul Martin, but they have yet to return to their truly dominant form. And Harper, with his highly unethical tactics of spin-doctoring, character assassination, fear mongering , divisiveness, and out-right lies has ensured that the Liberals have remained that way. He has also done his utmost to ensure that wedges remain firmly in place so as to keep the Liberals, Bloc and NDP well separated and constantly squabbling among themselves.

In 2008, the majority of M.P.s attempted to form a coalition to overthrow the emerging tyrant Harper, but in a never before seen move to stave off a vote of non-confidence, Harper had the House of Commons Prorogued. The nominated leader of the Coalition, Stephan Dion was subsequently tossed from office as leader of the Liberals as a result of their buying into the Conservative spin-doctoring. And when Parliament resumed after a brief absence, there was a new Liberal Sheriff in town, Michael Ignatieff, and he wanted nothing to do with any kind of coalition. And the NDP, quite deservedly, felt betrayed and have had very little regard for the Grits ever since. The Bloc of course, will swing which ever way the wind blows if it suits their purpose. 

So Harper realized early on that Stephan Dion was a real threat to his power, that he may have been the only person on the other side of the floor capable of leading a palace coup and quite masterfully had him eliminated. And now, Harper rules seemingly unopposed.

But still I wonder, sometimes aloud, sometimes not, why this man is being allowed to systematically disassemble the democratic system in our country. The splintered left seems to be more fearful of the public opinion polls than of Harper himself, and are thus paralyzed in a perpetual state of inactivity. The Grits and the NDP both talk a good game in Question Period, but neither seems to have either the wherewithal or the  cojones to do what needs to be done to stop this megalomaniac Harper. 

It seems that both Ignatieff and Jack Layton see themselves as a possible Heirs Apparent as  Prime Minister and are thus as politically at odds with each other as they are with Harper. And Harper has seen to it that Canadians would look disfavorably on any kind of coalition of the left.  So his manipulation and lies have led to the virtual elimination of any competition in the House of commons. Both the Upper and the Lower Chambers are his, unchallenged, and he knows it.

And so it seems that the only possible Saviors of Democracy in Canada are the electorate itself. We gave this man the mandate to rule with a minority and he has transgressed, lied, cheated and manipulated his way into absolute power with nary a percentage point lost in the polls. Collectively, we as Canadian citizens have been content to fiddle as our system of Democracy burns. So either Canadians don't care about becoming a Totalitarian state, or far too many of us have sipped of  "Harper's cool-aid" and have been conned into believing his rhetoric. 

So next election Canadians, it's up to us. If we wish to see Canada remain a Democracy, we must collectively vote Harper and his collection of goons off the face of the Earth. Harper and his Reform/Conservatives should cease to exist as a political entity. And then Mr. Harper should be taken to task for his myriad indiscretions and out-right violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I can't guarantee that the next Prime Minister will be the greatest of all time, but he or she will know that they are accountable to the people of the Nation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So why is Canada being asked to remain in Afghanistan?


So as the story goes, The United States, England and an unspecified few NATO allies launched a clandestine mission to have Canada keep troops in Afghanistan past 2011. 

Well I guess it's nice to be wanted. And a little sweet-talking seems to be able to go a long way with this perpetually embattled Conservative government. 

The question remains however, how long ago did the Canadian Government know about out Allies desires to have our troops remain "in country" and how long have these negotiations been going on? According to the Canadian press:

"Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws show military planners have long been skeptical about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledge to pull Canadian soldiers out of Afghanistan entirely by 2011.
"It was recognized that a residual CF elements may remain in Afghanistan in a non-combat role post-2011," said a mission analysis briefing for the country's Ottawa-based overseas commander, Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard.
It urged planners to be flexible because the drawdown to "zero" forces might not happen.
"What does zero mean?" said one slide presentation, which went on to joke that at CEFCOM, Canada's central military command in Ottawa, "there is some thought that zero is an imaginary number."
The report went on to note the "uncertain" planning climate and that "zero may not mean zero."
Nonetheless, in a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Lessard said he was instructed by the country's top military commander to do "no planning for a follow-on mission."

So it seems that, either Harper really didn't know ahead of time what was going to happen with the Canadian troop  deployment, in which case his commanders knew better than he the dynamics of the situation, as they should. In which case, the Harper Government was negligent in telling Canadian Commanders to do "nothing" in the way of planning for a full withdraw of all Canadian Forces.

Or it could be that Harper knew all along that a residual contingent would need to remain in Afghanistan. Which would make it equally negligent on his part as he was impeding the ability of his Commanding Officers to adequately plan  ahead for the new Troop Deployment for purely political reasons. He didn't want to look bad for having gone back on his promise that all Canadian Forces troops would be out of Afghanistan by 2011.

So he was either lying to us yet again, which people have come to expect now from the Harper Cons, or he was just plain stupid. Neither of which  is a particularly good scenario. And as an aside here, I have to wonder out loud why 1/3 of all Canadians would still vote for Harper tomorrow according to the latest polls.

But I also have to wonder aloud, if, as we have been told, it is so vital for a NATO contingent to remain in Afghanistan in a training capacity, Why us? Yes according to Canadian Press, American Officers have claimed that we were a very "significant presence" in Kandahar Province. There are now 15, 000 American Troops doing what it took 3,000 Canadian troops to do for the past eight years. And I am a little taken aback now by this "3,000" figure. I thought all along the number of Canadian Combatants in Afghanistan was 2,000. This is the figure I have seen in print repeatedly over the past few years. Was that a lie also?

But we are now looking at about 1,000 Canadian Soldiers remaining for this training mission. Considering the Americans once had 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq, it would seem that designating an additional 1,000 as trainers would be a mere drop in the bucket for them. Are the Americans saying that our forces are better trainers than theirs? Hardly. Same with the British. And there were any number of other NATO allies who were willing to be in Afghanistan in Non-combat rolls, especially when our forces were streched to the max and punching far above their weight. 

So where are they now? It would be extremely presumptuous of us to assume that our forces are better than the French, German Spanish or Dutch.  I'm sure anyone of those countries would have jumped at the opportunity for this supposedly safe, non combat mission. But there is no word from the EU on further European troop deployments.

There could be a legitimate answer for this rather odd puzzle. No one for example, with the possible exception of the British, is as well acquainted with the Afghan conflict as us. We've been there for eight long years trying to help rebuild the province with one hand while using the other to fight the ever increasing Taliban forces to a perpetual draw. We know the enemy, we know their tactics and most of all, we used our natural "peace keeping" instincts to build bridges between the Afghans, various factions and ourselves. 

In the eyes of the Afghans at all levels, we have earned their respect and trust much more so than say, France which is becoming decidedly anti-Muslim or the U.S. who has the appearance of becoming anti-Muslim, mostly due to the rise of the "Tea-Party" and the radical right-wing conservatives in the States.

And despite the influence of the Harper Cons, the average Canadian unit on the ground has the reputation for being one of the most level headed and effective "Peace Keeping" forces in the world. We invented it and no one does peace keeping like us. And this requires having a good rapport with the locals, which again, aside from the British, no one else has. 

So on the one hand, I would like to think that our NATO allies have come to understand and also respect our connection and understanding of the Afghan situation. That quite possibly, because of our Peace Keeping nature, no one else is as equipped to fulfill the roll required of a NATO training force in Afghanistan.

This is what my patriotic side would like to believe. But I also have this damn skeptical side as well, thanks to the current political climate in Canada. I doubt there is a single solitary move made by this current Reform Conservative Government that isn't calculated to in some way, paint them in the best possible light, or at the very least, discredit the Liberals and the evil coalition.  So what is to be gained here for Harper and his Zealots?

Of course I don't have the real answers. We won't know that until someone gains the right documents from the Federal Government under the Freedom of Information Act. But because the extreme secretiveness of this government, that isn't likely to happen until The Harperites are long gone. 

But lets not forget that the 2011 withdraw date was set in 2008. And what was happening then? Yup, Harper was  doing his best to discredit Stephan Dion in a federal election, and to keep Mr. Dion from successfully staging a "Palace Coup" thereafter. So it was politically expedient for Harper to come up with an "End Date" at the time. And let us also not forget that this was at the same time that Canada's appeals to it's NATO allies for more support were falling on deaf ears, so this seemed like the "'get tough" thing to do. 

So extending the end date by three more years to 2011 seemed like the right thing. Give NATO and the U.S. enough time to get things done in Afghanistan and still sound like he was supporting the U.S, but appearing to be "tough" with regards to the length of our presence in that war-torn country. It was certainly enough to keep the highly combative NDP down on the farm. 

But Harper probably knew soon thereafter, with the advent of Barrack Obama in the United States and his shift in focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, that 2011 wasn't an attainable goal. But be that as it may, it highly probably that Harper knew well before we were told about the mission being extended yet again. Take a look for example, at the "Camp Mirage" fiasco. 

Why, after all these years of free use of The UAE as a staging ground would our Persian Gulf allies suddenly and arbitrarily want "pay back" in the form of greater access to Canadian Air Space? Could it be that Canada was attempting to renegotiate the deal for Camp Mirage, to extend it's free use of the land for an additional three years past what had previously been agreed  upon? Quite possible say's this writer.

The timing then may have been all wrong for the beans to have be spilled about an extension of the mission. But The Americans and our NATO allies gave Harper the face saving "we need you badly" scenario. It gave Harper a way to weasel out of his 2011 promise and the optics of it may have been payback from the allies for staying the course in the worst Province in the most war-torn country in the world for the past three years.

So it goes with out saying that Canada has gone over and above when it comes to our efforts in Afghanistan. We stayed the course at the behest of our allies when no one else was willing to step up. We kept the peace and fought the good fight, practically all by our selves in the most volatile province in Afghanistan. No one could have given more than Canada was asked to give. But whether or not we continue to give, long after we have met all that could reasonably be expected of our tiny army, because no one else can do what we do, based on our experience, or because it is the politically expedient thing to do, is anybody's guess. A question that will only be answered long after the last Canadian Soldier has left Afghanistan.


The End of Unlimited Internet?


The CRTC, Canada’s media regulator, has decided to allow Bell Canada, Rogers, Shaw and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to impose usage-based billing on independent internet service providers (indie ISPs) and YOU. These Big Telecom companies are obviously trying to gouge consumers, control the Internet market, and ensure that consumers continue to subscribe to their television services.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Courtesy of Mike Moffat via Twitter

Two of the most insightful comments about Canadian Politics I've read  today are courtesy of Mike Moffat via Twitter. I doubt anyone has summed up the climate on Parliament Hill more succinctly.

"Canadian politics is devolved into pure tribalism, 'Red Tory' has less inherent meaning than 'Crip' or 'Blood' ".

"Canadian Politics is no different than pro wrestling. Next election I'll run as a heel. Debate strategy: Insult the audience, hit opponent with folding chair". 

Mr. Moffat's Twitter-dress is:  http://twitter.com/#!/MikePMoffatt

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Keith Martin knows he can accomplish more "off the hill".


I found it interesting timing that this article surfaced so close to the posting of my last story about how dysfunctional The House of Commons is. Don't get me wrong, I don't delude my self in the least that my blog post was at all related, but it was certainly a timely coincidence.  

So here is first hand evidence of how dysfunctional Parliament has become due to the rabid partisan politics that exist on the "Hill" now. And Mr.Martin has pinpointed 2006 as the year when things started to go bad. And can we remember what happened in 2006? Yes, that's right, that's the Year the Reform Conservatives under Lord Volde-Harper came to power with a minority government. 

Mr. Martin originally came to politics under the Reform Banner (now there's an irony) because of his respect for Preston Manning, but he left in 2004 as he could not stand Harper's "one man band" style of leadership. The Progressive Conservative party had been betrayed by Peter MacKay by this point and subsequently usurped by the Carnivorous Reform/Alliance Party, so Mr. Martin chose to join the Liberal Party.

But now, Martin claims that under the current climate, The Canadian Government is not able to make any real changes in the world, or at home for that matter. Real change he contends will have to come from the private sector and in that regard, the Government is in danger of lagging far behind. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Question Period. Wouldn't it be nice if MPs asked genuine questions and the Government gave genuine answers?

I guess the saying goes, "when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade".

I've been absent from the internet in general and the blogosphere in particular for over two weeks now due to a computer malfunction. My old reliable lap top crashed. Or more precisely, I killed it. I asked to much of the old girl and her poor silicone heart just gave out.  So obviously, my first response was one of pure panic. My life had just ended. What on earth was I going to do with out access to my email, my blogs, Twitter, Face book, Google search, Wikipedia etc. Life would be empty, a complete void with out being able to gain entry to the cyber-world and all it's glorious digitized data. I was doomed to become a wandering, stumbling, vacuous, zombie, looking to feed off the souls of the living.

I had the TV portion of my internet package canceled during the summer, mostly because I could not afford both TV and Internet service. The choice of which one to keep was obvious at the time. But once my old Acer died, I couldn't even find solace in empty TV tripe. I was lost, my brain  was rapidly  melting, hastening my transformation into one of the undead. In desperation, I switched on the tube and started clicking through TV channels. "information, information, my psyche craved information". Nothing but white noise and snow. But miraculously, I reached channel 71, and there, low and behold was a signal. A bright, clear, colourful TV signal. And the station, was CPAC.

I felt it appropriate at that time to look skyward and to say a few words of thanks to the cyber-gods for delivering me from zombiedome. I immediately immersed my self in the real life, real time political world. Committees, Question Period, analysis, interviews. I soaked up every mega-byte of information like an empty, eagerly waiting data DVD. I was saved.

Eventually though, I found Question Period most troubling.  I listened closely to the questions being asked by the Opposition parties- the Liberals, Bloc and NDP.  They seemed legitimate questions to me, most of them anyway. It seemed to me that they were doing their jobs, attempting to hold the current Harper quasi-Conservative party accountable. And by the sounds of things,, there were plenty of things for the Reformists to account for: The security, dollar value and human rights issues around the G8/20 summits, purchase of the new F-35 fighter aircraft, seemingly with no competitive bids being tendered, same with the purchase of new helicopters for the military, the ethics or lack thereof surrounding construction contracts for restoration work to the Parliament Buildings West Block. And the list was far more extensive than this. 

Not that these issues bothered me in particular, it seemed to me at first to be the normal, logical "give and take" in Question Period. But the first disturbing thing that hit me was the consistency of the Reformist/Conservative answers to the myriad questions posed to them.  There was, and remains, a distinct pattern. It usually involved a lot of meaningless words (how many words depending on how serious the Government took the issue) delivered in a tone that quite distinctly sends the message that the Government was telling the rest of Canada's elected officials to "F#*% off and mind their own business". So in essence, there were no real answers at all.  

But then I began to notice that the tone of the actual questions were no better. Irate MPs would take to their feet and deliver stinging indictments of the Government in tones and ferocity that would have been worthy of  a Southern Evangelical Baptist Preacher. 

It was then that I realized that the whole damn process was nothing more than a verbal boxing match. Each side taking jabs at the other, both trying to see who can open up a wound and score the most political points. Both seeming to be looking for an opening in which to score the ever illusive one punch knock out. 

So in reality, Question Period really  has Nothing to do with Questions OR answers. It is completely adversarial. There is nothing collaborative what so ever in the process. It has nothing to do with running the country and everything to do with John Bairde claiming at the top of his lungs that the Liberals "suck", or even worse, that the Un-holy trinity, the dreaded Bloc-Liberal-NDP alliance was out to "kill us all". Mean while, the Opposition parties continue to go in search of conspiracy theories (not that they have far to look) in an attempt to connect Harper with the shooter on the grassy knoll.

So I have to wonder at which point, our elected officials will stop fighting with each other and start looking out for the best interests of the country....together!  It is indeed a miracle that the country hasn't gone to hell in a hand basket during all of this internecine squabbling, though the rest of the world, as reflected in our failure to gain a seat at the UN Security Council clearly seems to think we already have. 

Perhaps then, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the Federalist Bureaucrats who have kept the wheels turning while the eyes of the elected representatives have been on each others jugulars. No wait, that can't be it either, they've all been summarily executed.

So just who the heck is running the country then?  Now that is a rather scary question as I can't begin to make an educated guess, even a sarcastic off handed one. Perhaps like The International Space Station, Canada continues to spiral around of it's own accord, held in place by inertia and gravity. But let us hope that someone soon awakes from this pugilistic, pugnacious nightmare to take the helm before we all begin to spiral to our doom.