Elizabeth May: A devastating first year of Conservative majority rule in Canada

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      The mainstream media is marking its report cards for the one-year anniversary under Harper Conservative majority rule. The bromides are calming—the Globe and Mail editorial gives the Conservative majority a positive spin—“more ups than downs”—while its reporter, John Ibbitson, wrote a piece nearly oozing with reverence for the prime minister.

      It is clear we all have our biases. I only entered politics back in 2006 because I feared what a Harper minority government would do to decades of environmental law and policy. I have been very critical of the cuts to climate science, retreat from Kyoto commitments, and sabotage of climate negotiations internationally since 2006. But with that bias out in the open, I believe the last year has been the most devastating in Canadian history for parliamentary democracy, for charter rights, to collective bargaining and trade union rights, for evidence-based public policy, and for environmental law and protection. And, of course, the damage to climate policy was accelerated.

      Here’s the evidence:

      1. Abuse of democracy: Every piece of government legislation introduced since the election has had time allocation applied to limit debate, smashing through historical records. Parliamentary committees have been meeting increasingly in secret. Omnibus legislation, forcing massive legislative changes through one bill, has been used, further depriving Parliament of adequate time to analyze and improve legislation. The auditor general’s report on the F-35 issue makes it clear that Parliament was not given accurate information about the cost of the fighter jets, even after the true cost was known within cabinet. No need to detail here the simmering scandal of electoral fraud and robocalls.

      2. Charter rights: The omnibus crime bill included nine separate pieces of legislation. Many sections involving mandatory minimum sentences arguably violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As well, the new refugee law, C-31, will require political refugee claimants arriving by boat (or anything the minister deems as “irregular entry”) to face automatic internment for up to a year without access to judicial review. This will include children between 16 and 18.

      3. Collective bargaining: The intervention by the federal Parliament into Air Canada labour disputes (twice) and Canada Post’s lock-out of its workers undermines labour rights. So, too, does the Conservative party-supported private member’s bill to impose more financial transparency on labour unions than on other professional groupings, such as law societies.

      4. Control of information: The Harper majority government has been the most closed and non-transparent in history. The number of people working in the Prime Minister’s Office has expanded, with its now over $10 million per year budget. Most of the PMO staff are described as “information officers”. Their job is to block access to information. No public servants or government scientists can speak to the media without permission; neither can they speak to MPs.

      5. Evidence-free decision making: Once again the omnibus crime bill must be mentioned. A “tough on crime” agenda was unhinged from the reality of falling crime rates. No amount of evidence from criminologists that mandatory minimums do not reduce crime rates, nor that it was unwise to pass the bill without estimates for the cost of new prisons, made a dent in the Conservative majority mantra that any opposition MP who objected was siding with criminals and showed no concern for victims. The budgetary cuts are now disproportionately targeting Statistics Canada. Who can deny that the Harper brand of Conservatism is an evidence-free zone?

      6. Assault on the natural world: The gloves are off. Harper and company have taken aim at environmental groups and First Nations opposed to the Enbridge supertanker scheme calling them “radicals” and labelling MPs who oppose the project as “against Canada”. While selling out our resources to China, without national security checks, Stephen Harper has promised Beijing the Enbridge project will proceed. In order to achieve this goal, come hell or high water, environmental laws are being eviscerated. And the sweeping changes are concealed in C-38, the budget implementation bill. The National Energy Board will now have jurisdiction over endangered species and navigable waters, if they occur in the way of any proposed pipeline. Meanwhile, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is repealed (under C-38) with an entirely new approach to replace it. The new law will restrict the study of impacts of major projects to areas “under the legislative authority of Parliament”—confined to fish and migratory birds. Where, in the past, an environmental review at the federal level was the most rigorous and comprehensive, new federal reviews would be a joke by Third World standards. The removal of habitat protection under the Fisheries Act is also part of the budget bill. So too, repealing the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. Meanwhile, $8 million has been freed up to harass environmental charities.

      Canadians must not remain silent. It is not only one area of public policy or one ecosystem that is threatened. Canada, our values and our traditions, are at risk.

      Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

      Comments

      23 Comments

      Gillian Scobie

      May 4, 2012 at 4:44am

      One thing everyone can do: read Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government. This book just won the Donner Prize on May 1st and details how to reform our constitution so the prime minister isn't able to be so powerful. Most people don't know that our political system runs almost entirely on trusting in the "good faith" of our PM. Without that, he has way too much power: very dangerous and undemocratic.

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      Susan Rankin

      May 4, 2012 at 7:20am

      Thank you Elizabeth May. I dont know how you keep sane and any sense of decorum at all dealing with these monsters. Thank you and Keep up the good work.

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      p lg

      May 4, 2012 at 10:34am

      One word...SHAME

      Good news though, even Harper's magic 40% has dropped to 30%...and this is before we hear from Elections Canada on the robocalls. Kind of funny that no identified Conservative voters received a call from the faux elections canada telling them their polling station had been changed.

      Harper and his ilk are best described as "dominionists".

      So heavenly bound they are no earthly good.

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      W. S. Pierson

      May 4, 2012 at 11:12am

      The only thing that will stop this Harperian Government Juggernaut is for free thinking Conservative Ministers to vote against it... to snap the lease of this idiot and his posse and to start building a better Canada from within.

      What are the odds of that happening?

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      lawson45

      May 4, 2012 at 3:54pm

      Well May we find you a bigger disappointment!

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      Seth Oldham

      May 5, 2012 at 5:15am

      It's time for an uprising. The people need to raise their voices against Harper and figure out a grassroots mechanism of influence against the regime. I'm very afraid of what they'll do over the next two years before they start throwing money at health care and seniors in the last year before the election.

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      Canadian

      May 5, 2012 at 7:26am

      Several words...SHAME, UNTRUSTWORTHY, DECEITFUL, LIARS, CONTEMP for Canada's Democratic Institutions and the Canadian Values and Parliament, Anti Majority of Canadians. Those are just a few words to describe Stephen Harper's right-wing Conservative Majority dicatorial Government's rule over Canada.

      Good news though, even Stephen Harper's brainwashed 39% support has dropped down to 30%...and this is before we hear from Elections Canada on the robocalls scandal and of course another 3 years of Stephen Harper right-wing Majority Conservative rule over Canada. Kind of funny that no identified Conservative voters received a call from the faux Elections Canada telling them their polling station had been changed or closed early.

      Stephen Harper and his thugs " sorry I meant Cabinet Ministers and other of his Harper Government Ministers and employess loyal to Harper " who think they can continue to rule Canada which is what they're doing now while at the same time ignoring the voices of Millions of Canadians that is the vast Majority of Canadians for many more years to come are best described as "dominionists" at best.

      Stephen Harper's Zionist right-wing Conservative Majority Government in the Canadian Parliament, while ignoring the voices of tens of Millions of Canadians is UNSUSTAINABLE and won't last a long time let alone another decade of Majority rule.
      Can't wait to see Stephen Harper's Majority Conservative Dicatatorial Government that is OPPOSED by over 60% of Canadians, Collapse already.
      Vast Majority of Canadians don't Split your Vote in the October 2015 Federal Election to NOT ALLOW another Elitist Stephen Harper Majority Conservative Government to be "Democratically Elected" that ignores the opinions of the vast Majority of Canadians, shouldn't that be considered a Dictatorship?

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      R U Kiddingme

      May 5, 2012 at 9:34am

      Zionist? Decade between elections? Dictatorship? Posting twice in the same comments under different names?

      Stop helping

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      devastating to democracy

      May 5, 2012 at 11:45am

      Canada gets a make over and it feels more like a dictatorship everyday as the questionable Conservative Government does democracy in and causes election chaos to win an election that was rigged in more ways than one. What is also dramatic is Harper's drop in popularity which was at 24 percent but soon will be sitting somewhere in the lower teens. The majority of Canadians are frustrated and angry and feel cheated by a government they are certain wasn't their majority choice and all it will not take much for Canadians to say they have had enough. Is Harper going to be like Syria and blow Canadians away as jobs, jobs, jobs are on the line and the economy is fucked for sure and a recession is looming if not a condition the country is in already..
      What is going to burst first is it the housing market or Canadians disdain for their questionable leader who the majority of Canadians love to hate. The Conservatives are in big trouble and have a whole lot of explaining to do but don't count on it but do count on more corruption and hard times as Harper continues to ignore voters like they didn't even exist.

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      David Bloom

      May 6, 2012 at 2:59pm

      I've heard so many people claiming that the "Conservatives" have been moderate because they have made to substantive attempts to attack abortion rights or gay marriage.

      Those people are phenomenally naive. Social issues are not this government's priority. Their priorities are almost entirely about support for big business, eroding civilian rights and consolidating their own power. They realize that social issues will still trigger resistance, whereas Canadians have become numb about basic democracy and anything that involves numbers or complexity.

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