Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Harper’

Stephen Harper: a billion bucks quickly wasted.

June 28, 2010

Go, Canada!  Splashing out an inexplicable billion dollars on a massive security fence and 20,000 heavily armed cops to cower behind it while a scruffy handful of anarchists wreck downtown Toronto!  Me, I’m thinking it would have been cheaper to build a twenty dollar fence and just have local cops who would have been on duty anyway cower behind it in their regular attire.

On the other hand, there is an up side of the ridiculous level of “preparedness” a billion dollars supposedly bought:  there’s no way for a thinking voter to avoid the suspicion that the riot was purposefully ignored (or intentionally provoked) in order to justify the breathtaking price tag of fulfilling Harper’s authoritarian aspirations for a weekend.  Given the New Government of Canada’s unprecedented fondness for carefully staged PR opportunities, that’s the theory I’m going with until further notice.

Because sensationalist photos of burning cop cars and smashed windows are likely to dominate most mainstream coverage (as intended, one can’t help but suppose), I want to make a point of remembering the type of direct action the vast majority of dissidents were there to engage in, photo courtesy of the Star.

Benjamin Netanyahu, thug and proud of it.

May 31, 2010

Good news for pirates: According to Netahanyu, international waters are Israeli jurisdiction.  Not only that, but if you board a ship and slaughter the unarmed civilian passengers in international waters, it is an act of “self-defense“.

I’m sure there are a few boatloads of relieved Nigerians out there today.

In other news, Canadian Prime Minister Harper expressed his regret that Israel’s unprovoked massacre of a humanitarian aid convoy in international waters ruined what could otherwise have been a great photo op for Harper.

“I’m sorry this has coloured this (visit) but delighted you were able to join me at least last night and today.”

The real tragedy, according to Harper?  Wobbly message control.

And they wonder why certain parties might yearn to see the whole stinking edifice of Israel pushed into the sea.

Anti choice rally attracts thousands of people with no personal stake in the matter.

May 15, 2010

Pedgehog at Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome made an interesting observation vis a vis the anti choice march in New Brunswick:

there was a noticeable age gap – I didn’t see many people between the ages of 12 and 60.

I was curious as to whether the same conspicuous absence of “people who would be impacted by changes to abortion law” occurred in Ottawa.  Observe:

Children and old folks.

So, do we of child-bearing age get any say in this not-to-be-reopened abortion debate or is Steve just going to proceed as if he can muster a majority by pandering to superstitious old folks who have nothing personal at stake but get a kick out of telling younger women what they can and can’t do?

Notably, many of the children being bussed in from their Catholic schools, which is a shocking misuse of public funds.  Consider this –  if secular schools had bussed in children for a counter-demonstration in support of reproductive choice how would these very same people react?  By screaming blue murder and quite rightly calling for administrative heads to roll, that’s how.  Children are not props for our ideological photo ops.

Harper’s “Maternal Health Program” not about maternal health?

May 14, 2010

Harper’s administration made headlines last week for announcing it intends to cut funding from any international NGO that provides access to safe abortions.  So far, there hasn’t been much analysis of how much funding we’re talking about, or what the impact will be, or where that budget is going to go instead.

Thanks to Olivia Ward at the Star, we can begin to get an inkling of the implications:

In London, International Planned Parenthood Federation is waiting for a call from Canada that will preserve life-saving programs that help 31 million women and children.

But nearly a year after the U.K.-based organization tried to renew its $18 million grant – and on the eve of a G20 summit Harper has focused on maternal health — the line from Ottawa is silent…

Planned Parenthood includes abortion in its wide range of services to needy women and girls in 174 countries…

Canada supplies a significant part of Planned Parenthood’s $120 million annual budget

If Canada provides 15% of the total budget, we can probably expect a corresponding decline in the total number of women and children who once were assisted by this organization but will have no access to family planning information or services once Planned Parenthood pulls up stakes. So, four and a half million women and children may lose access to essential reproductive health services as a direct result of Harper’s benighted foreign policy decision.

That is only the result of de-funding one organization.  How many women’s health NGOs can we expect to feel the pinch?  My guess:  all of them.  As CEO of Marie Stopes Int’l  points out, “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and (that) includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions.”

Which begs the question, where is all that money going to go now?

I bet I know.

PRIESTS FOR LIFE, CANADA

Harper has not been shy about funneling millions of your tax dollars and mine to domestic evangelical groups while giving prominent, internationally respected secular organizations the axe.  I’m guessing Harper’s “Maternal Health Program” is a massive transfer of tens of millions of dollars of funds once earmarked for “maternal health” to international evangelical groups which have absolutely no interest in anything that is of interest to women, let alone maternal health.

In the same vein, I am very much looking forward to acquiring a copy of The Armageddon Factor:  the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which has Harper’s religious fan-base bursting blood vessels of indignation.  (Now that’s what I like to see!)

Brits tremble at the thought of a “Canadian-style parliament”

April 28, 2010

From Canwest:

“The parliamentary culture and media commentary (in Canada) continues to be more about an ongoing battle to ‘win’ a coveted majority rather than a focus on achieving stable governance and policy — an experience that may soon be replicated” in Britain, wrote researcher Anne White, a former director at the Toronto Board of Trade.”

I wouldn’t worry if I were them.  Stephen Harper and his posse are a rather unique phenomenon.  Recall, if you will, the Christmas Harper spent nostalgically gazing at multiple pictures of himself.  David Cameron may be a jerk, but is he a pathological narcissist psychologically incapable of coping with anything less than a complete grasp on the crown?

No, David Cameron may be a buffoon but he’s not a child.  I’m sure he understands the necessity for non-partisan cooperation in a government with a weak mandate.  He may wish things were otherwise, but I doubt the governance of Britain is going to grind to a complete halt.

Just How Clueless Does Stephen Harper Think You Are?

September 27, 2008

If you think you’re “ordinary”, he thinks you’re pretty damn clueless.  So clueless, in fact, that when you get home after a long day’s work and turn on the TV you tune in to live video coverage of social gatherings of film and television writers, producers, actors, technicians and support staff rather than watching the stuff they’ve created – and then get irritated because you find it boring.

“You know, I think when ordinary, working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people at a rich gala all subsidized by the taxpayers, claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know the subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.”  Stephen Harper

So… um…. what channel is that on Steve?  Sorry, I was busy watching Trailer Park Boys.  I didn’t realize “artists expounding on the grant application process over drinks ” was on.  Damn – I sure hope somebody recorded it!

Wait, might as well turn off that VCR.  I just remembered artists expounding on the grant application process over drinks is a pretty thick slice of my own social pie!

A lot of the full time, successful, tax paying artists I know got their leg-up from a tax-funded arts grant program like Canada Council.  Like my friends Lorenz, Pascal and Olivier.  I’m not sure whether Pascal and Olivier have time for many “rich, taxpayer-funded galas” what with their exhausting international touring schedules, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them express their (approving, supportive and uncomplaining) opinions of various grant programs and how to apply, and I know for certain there was liquor involved.  Beer.  Brewed in Quebec.  But I won’t quibble over such small details.

I also know full time artists who got their leg-up via tax-funded arts grant programs like welfare.  I won’t name names, as they will surely be hunted down and pilloried by bureaucrats if they are found to have earned money (albeit far from enough to live on) while chowing at the public trough.  But just between you and me, I’m one of them.

I decided one day I wanted to try writing as if it were a job (5 days a week, all day long) and see if I could finish a novel before my money ran out.  Well, I couldn’t finish a novel before my money ran out, because as soon as I started writing all day, every day, some kind of metaphysical levee seems to have burst and a flood of stories consumed me.  I just had to get them all down.  Before I knew what hit me, I had four novels on the go, not to mention a bunch of short stories, and when my savings ran out they weren’t done!  So I went on welfare (which paid for my rent and, if I was very frugal, enough “spaghetti, garlic and butter” to last through the month) and kept writing for a few more months.  Then my glasses broke, so I had to get a job, since there’s no margin for such things on welfare.  It was write or see.  I had to choose.

After I stopped working in writing and started working in a job which, as any non-creative job does, made me suicidally and catatonically depressed in a manner of months, a painter friend in a similar situation with a much higher tolerance for hardship and discomfort got his work into a top-notch gallery.  Suddenly his paintings were selling for thousands of dollars and flying off the walls.  No more welfare for the painter, tax money flowing to Ottawa. Win-win.

The point of sharing this is to illustrate that welfare, like any tax-funded arts grant program, sometimes produces wealth and sometimes it doesn’t.  But, with welfare, artists are not supposed to work. They can actually get in trouble for it if money changes hands.  They are supposed to be “job-hunting”, but I know from intimate experience that someone who would rather be writing is not a very productive private sector employee, particularly when entrusted with a PC and left to their own devices.  With legitimate arts funding programs, getting artists to do their work is the whole point and there’s no need to be furtive about it.  In fact, there’s every incentive to embrace the opportunity and work harder than they ever have before – mostly because that’s what artists do whenever the opportunity arises, but also to demonstrate they are deserving of the help.

Somebody needs to explain to Stephen Harper that arts funding is not the handout to burgundy-sipping parasites he believes it to be.  It’s venture capital for entrepreneurs.  Seed money.  Plant it wisely and wealth will grow.  Plant no seeds, reap no harvest.  And, like any vital commodity, the culture my country fails to produce will have to be imported.  I know Harper is a big fan of the US, but I’d sit through an episode of Da Vinci’s Inquest before I’d sit through 24 any day.

If I had a TV.  Which I don’t.  Actually, at the moment I’m watching episodes of Heimat (German) on DVD and before that it was Survivors (the 70’s BBC drama, not the American gong show).  But it’s the principle  of the thing!

Can the Private Sector Solve Canada’s Health Care Problems?

July 24, 2008

I found this nifty interactive research tool at the World Health Organisation website: http://www.who.int/whosis/data/Search.jsp

This gigantic statistical database allows you to assemble a table of health care standards and expenses by country, using the countries, indicators and years of your choosing. It’s pretty buggy but I’ve discovered it’s useful for winning arguments against those who advocate the privatisation of health care.

Like, for example, the number one fanboy of the American way of doing absolutely everything, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen “It’s past time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act” Harper.

The number one argument for the health care privatisation movement in Canada is: “the private sector is more innovative, cost-effective, fiscally responsible and efficient than the public sector”. (The number one method of establishing the factuality of this theory is repeating it over and over and over again ad infinitum until even people who generally consider themselves “critical thinkers” suddenly hear it coming out their own mouths.)

But is it? Is it really? Thanks to this WHO database we can have a look at the cost-effectiveness, fiscal responsibility and efficiency of our universal health care system and the American system Harper’s Conservatives covet so hungrily, side by side.

The following statistics are from 2005, which is the most recent year for which this data appears to be available:

Government expenditure on health as a percentage of total health expenditure:
Canada: 70.2% United States 45.1%

Hospital beds per 10,000 population:
Canada: 34 United States: 32

Infant Mortality rate per 1000 population:
Canada: 5 United States: 7

Maternal Mortality per 100,000 live births:
Canada: 7 United States: 11

Per capita total (government + private) expenditure on health:
Canada: $3463 United States: $6347

Life expectancy at birth:
Canada: 81 United States: 78

I was sitting around reflecting upon how absurd it is that Americans pay more than double what Canadians pay for their health care, receive worse care, die three years sooner, and ferociously argue against universal health care using Canada as a symbol of its dangers, when something very interesting jumped out at me.

I never realised the US government pays for ANY health care, let alone 45% of total health care expenditures. I thought, due to my leftist prejudice, that the government just left sick people completely at the mercy of the private sector. So for a moment I was pretty impressed. But then math kicked in again, just as it did when I was contemplating Labour’s welfare reform plans.

70.2% of $3463 is $2431.03
45.1% of $6347 is $2862.50

What does this mean?

The US government already spends $431.47 more per capita on health care than the Canadian government.

So Americans are actually paying more through their taxes for health care, and then paying that much again (and then some) out of their own pockets, and still receiving worse care than Canadians. On top of it all they are regularly bankrupted by medical expenses.

That surprised me so much I checked it three times. Then I had my genius boyfriend check it too. Conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to question the assumption that, whatever the faults of the American health care system, at least it’s cheaper for taxpayers.

But, unless the WHO database is so buggy it’s giving me false statistical information, that’s the how it is:

Americans shoulder a heavier tax burden for health care than Canadians.

So much for the efficiency, effectiveness and fiscal responsibility of the private sector in providing health care, eh?

If Ottawa giveth, then Ottawa can taketh away…

July 10, 2008

What happened to the free and open exchange of information when the president of a secretive conservative propaganda foundation won control of the Canadian federal government?

The Toronto Star investigates with a pretty good series of articles.

“This is the Prime Minister’s Office calling. I have the Prime Minister’s chief of staff on the line. Please hold.”

As I stood in my new, empty apartment in Ottawa a few weeks after the last election, phone in hand, it occurred to me I might want to remember this call. So, I made notes, scarcely believing the words I was recording.

Stephen Harper’s right-hand man, Ian Brodie, head of the most powerful and secretive PMO in national history, was telling me what I would be doing in the next few hours. You will issue a media release, he said, praising the Prime Minister for appointing David Emerson to cabinet. And you will immediately stop writing your blog.

But Brodie, the former Reform party organizer and University of Western Ontario professor, did not stop there. “If you want to be a f—ing independent,” he said, “then go ahead. We can arrange that.” And he was gone.

Welcome to Mr. Harper’s Ottawa.

This is a world in which a member of Parliament, sent by the people to represent them, is cowed and threatened by an unelected staffer. It’s a place where a political party can silence internal debate and, in a hasty few moments, overthrow the results of an election.

It’s where Harper MPs are told they need permission from the PMO to speak to reporters, and are expected to carry wallet cards reminding them how to avoid the media. It’s a capital in which promised free votes don’t take place, where a government elected on openness fights to restrict access to information and public servants fear for their careers if they dare speak in the public interest. Where regulators are fired for seeking to regulate and federal scientists muzzled for talking about science. Where MPs like myself and Bill Casey are expelled for speaking, and former cabinet minister Michael Chang demoted for having convictions.

~Garth Turner, ex-Conservative MP, Halton (blog)

Well, what did we expect?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper Sues the official Opposition for Opposing him

July 8, 2008

As much as I furrow my brow about the fact that a passionate admirer of Reagan and Thatcher – a man who has called the US neo-cons a “light and an inspiration” – is the Prime Minister of Canada, I can’t help but be impressed by Stephen Harper’s management of the media.  Apart from a couple of embarrassing mis-steps [1,2], his policy of shutting out national media in favour of announcing federal policy decisions to local reporters (less likely to be critical due to the unusual excitement of the scoop) seems to have been pretty effective:  Canadians hear very little about what their government is doing that doesn’t come directly from Stephen Harper’s mouth.

Which is probably why the Liberals had to resort to driving through Ottawa in a van with loudspeakers to broadcast a tape in which Harper admits he was aware of a bribe offered to Chuck Cadman (former independent MP) in 2005.   According to Cadman’s wife, her dying husband was offered a million dollar life insurance policy in exchange for supporting Harper’s party in a confidence vote that would have toppled the governing Liberals.  (Cadman, bless him, still did not side with the Conservatives.)

This reflects the same campaign tactic the Liberals used to attempt to defeat the Conservatives in 2005:  Repeating things that Harper has actually said.  As he was then, Harper is stomping mad.

And he is not going to take it lying down.  He is suing the liberals for three and a half million bucks for “defamation” and “misappropriation of personality” for exposing his comments to the public.  Tellingly, just like before, he is not claiming he didn’t make the comments (after all, they’re on tape), he’s only saying it’s unconscionable for the Liberals to use them for their own political purposes.

This may be the first time in Canadian history a Prime Minister has resorted to suing the official Opposition for their opposition, but it’s not a surprising move for a man who has just left a lucrative career as a hard-right propagandist (promoting the privatisation of Canadian health care, dismantling of unions and social services, campaigning against women’s rights and human rights, etc.)  He has obviously learned over the years that tight message control is the key to implementing policies the vast majority of Canadians would oppose if honest, open debate were tolerated.