Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took power in 2006. For some 30 years prior, Canada’s immigration system was consistently viewed as of the most welcoming and generous in the world. Although not without growing pains, Canada once worked to accommodate the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity that travelled with immigrants to Canada. After 10 years of Conservative rule, the immigration climate in Canada is now darker and more exclusive than it has been since the 1970s.Read more
I taught Canadian government for 30 years and over that time the course content traced the growing shift of power from Parliament to the executive branch and increasingly to the position of Prime Minister.
I recall that most of my students paid very little attention to politics and topical political issues. In the years since, the erosion of Canadian democracy has continued at an accelerating rate and far too many Canadians – much like my former students – appear unaware of these developments or, worse still, indifferent to them.Read more
Right-leaning charities reporting zero "political" activity raises new questions about CRA’s auditing program
Report shows inquiry needed to examine CRA processes to ensure transparency and fairness
OTTAWA—Right-leaning charities are reporting zero “political” activity while engaging in work that appears to meet the Canada Revenue Agency’s definition, a new Broadbent Institute report has found. This raises new questions about the agency’s selection process for determining which charities are targeted for political-activity audits and how charities are interpreting CRA’s definition of “political” activity.Read more
Editor's note: after releasing its July jobs report on Aug. 8 showing 200 jobs were created overall, Statistics Canada said on Aug. 12 it had made an unspecified error in the labour force survey. The agency released an amended jobs report on Aug. 15. This has been updated to incorporate Statistics Canada's correction.
The Harper government boasts of rapid job creation since the recession. But today's revised job numbers demonstrate that the recovery has stalledRead more
Bear with me: I want to tell you about an odd thought I had the other day that may induce minor whiplash. I confess that it tests the bounds of believability. But I actually think it’s true:
“Seizing Canada’s moment.”
It’s an odd title for a Throne Speech that was absent any kind of momentous vision for this country.
“Seizing” the moment would mean tackling the challenges that today’s Canada faces: stagnant or falling wages for middle- and lower-income Canadians; crises in Aboriginal education, food, housing, and missing and murdered women; high youth unemployment; eroding citizen trust in democracy; and environmental degradation, to name but a few.Read more
During the last federal election, Stephen Harper promised that his Conservative government would introduce a new way to tax families with children after balancing the federal budget.
We are likely to hear a lot more about the merits of Harper's 'income-splitting' proposal before the 2015 election. The Conservatives continue to slash spending and erode public services precisely in order to create the fiscal room for this promised tax cut. Never mind that Mr. Harper’s aggressive agenda of tax cuts has already helped turn a $16 billion surplus in 2006 into annual deficits.Read more
Let me get this straight.
The Conservative government is looking to pivot from growing corruption and scandals with a Throne Speech later this month that talks about a “consumers first” agenda, including the latest proposal for an airline passenger bill of rights. At least that’s what Conservative sources are telling reporters about what to expect from the Parliamentary reboot on Oct. 16. Aside from some improvements to product safety brought about during their minority rule, the Conservatives boast a consumer-protection record that only partisans would try to laud. Guided by the idea that Ottawa needs to get out of the way of business, Harper has been trumpeting the mantra of red-tape cutting since first elected in 2006.
What this has really meant are cuts to safety inspections and costly adherence to the wisdom of deregulation. Hardly the building blocks of a “consumers first” agenda.
Take food safety. Who could forget Canada’s largest-ever beef recall last fall. People across the country became sick from the E. coli outbreak after consuming tainted meat produced at a federally regulated facility in Brooks, Alberta. The government’s own post-mortem of the XL Foods Ltd. recall shone the light on a food-safety system that had failed.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency failed to notice during routine inspections that the plant had not properly implemented or regularly updated its own plan to control risks. The massive facility — 430,000 square feet in total — slaughtered between 3,800 and 4,000 cattle daily.
The beef recall came months after the Conservative government tabled a budget that cut $56 million from the food agency’s operating resources over a three-year period. The union representing food inspectors estimates this will mean as many as 100 fewer inspectors, effectively reversing staffing measures put in place in response to the deadly listeriosis outbreak in 2008.
Remember that one? Twenty-two Canadians died after eating tainted meat from a Maple Leaf Foods facility in Toronto. In the wake of this massive outbreak, an independent investigation found multiple safety gaps in the food-safety system and a “void of leadership”
This same line could describe Ottawa’s approach to rail safety. Though more the inheritors than the architects of Canada's reckless rail-safety deregulation, the Harper Conservatives ignored repeated warnings about the folly of allowing the railway industry to police itself.
A Canada Safety Council report issued in 2007 called the deregulated industry "a disaster waiting to happen" and criticized the government's abrogation of its responsibility to public safety and the environment. And disaster did strike, when aging rail cars with inaccurately labeled hazardous materials exploded in Lac Mégantic, Quebec claiming 47 lives, eviscerating the core of the town at immeasurable cost to the community and at a monetary cost of close to a billion dollars.
With their single-minded focus on getting oil to market, Canada has seen massive increases in the amount of oil being shipped by rail — from 500 carloads in 2009, to a projected 140,000 this year. The Harper government is apparently content to continue to expose Canadians and our environment to unnecessary risk.
In the wake of the horrendous disaster in Quebec, we don’t know if the Conservatives will try to trumpet rail safety in the Throne Speech. But we do know from partisan leaks that they want to push an airline passenger bill of rights, which would protect flyers in cases of arbitrary delays or lost baggage.
This takes nerve.
Since winning power in 2006, the Conservative caucus has opposed the introduction of similar charters not once — but twice. In a minority government, Conservatives banded together with enough Bloc Québécois MPs in 2009 to kill an NDP plan. The Opposition tried again after the 2011 election, but the Conservative majority torpedoed that initiative earlier this year.
In fact, the Conservatives have tried to have it both ways. Back in 2008, they publicly supported a Liberal motion to entrench in law an airline passenger bill of rights. Behind the scenes, though, a senior policy adviser to the Transport Minister privately pressed Canada’s big airlines to step up their lobby campaign to make sure the motion failed.
“I don’t want us to be forced into regulating passenger protection issues,” the Conservative advisor wrote in an email released to the media under Canada’s access to information law.
Consumers first? Sure – when it’s politically convenient.
This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.
Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP.