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Feb 01 2012

So what kind of week has it been?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes things seem to happen all at once? You know how it is – your boss compliments your work on the same day that you find a pair of jeans that fit perfectly on the same day that the radio plays all your favourite songs? Then a week later, your boss forgets your name, you spill bleach on the jeans, and your radio stabs you in the kidneys with a switchblade*.

You all know what I’m talking about, right?

Some times we have really good weeks, and some times we have terrible weeks. Most of the time it’s a mixed bag, but there’s those occasional periods where the scales seem to be tipped predominantly in one direction. So… what kind of week has it been?

Costly federal appointments office has nothing much to do

In the six years since the Harper government came to power, Canadian taxpayers have spent millions of dollars on supporting a federal appointments commission that doesn’t exist. The money has disappeared into a bureaucracy set up to support the commission — a bureaucracy that seems to have just about everything except a commission to support.

So you know the old trope about conservatives being in favour of ‘small government’ and cutting ‘wasteful’ spending (by which they mean things they are ideologically opposed to)? Yeah… it seems as though the evidence continues to mount that the supposed fiscal restraint associated with the right wing is as illusory as the moral superiority their base keeps talking about. This isn’t the only ghost department that the Harper government has created, mind you:

A federal agency created by the Harper government with great political fanfare in 2008 is costing millions of dollars to achieve pretty much nothing. The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board has just about everything a budding government agency could want.

So far, it has spent over $3.3 million for new offices, computers and furniture, well-paid executives and staff, travel budgets, expense accounts, board meetings, and lots of pricey consultants. All that’s missing is a reason for it to exist at all.

A bit of Canadian history for you: Stephen Harper was elected to his first minority government after the previous government was implicated in a major scandal involving misappropriation of taxpayer money. The Harper Conservatives rode into town on a platform of accountability and fiscal restraint, contrasting themselves with the profligate, wasteful, and untrustworthy Liberals.

Of course, as soon as they got into power they shut down all attempts at governmental transparency, and have floated from scandal to scandal (wasting tax dollars all the way) without any significant backlash by the Canadian electorate. Americans, this is my present to you: our voters are just as stupid as yours.

Still ‘radical’? Rich U.S. groups also gave to Ottawa

Rich American foundations are not only footing the bill for opposition to Canada’s oilsands. Tax returns show the Canadian government has also been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in largesse from some of the wealthiest private organizations in the United States. And some of that money came from the same U.S. groups that helped fund Canadian environmentalists.

Hey, y’all remember that time the federal minister of natural resources stood atop his soapbox and called the groups opposing the Keystone pipeline foreign radicals? Yeah… so it turns out that those same evil foreign groups sponsoring the anti-Canadian, anti-business, eeeevil opposition to the PMO’s plan to move tarsands oil through land he doesn’t own are also giving money to Ottawa.

I’m not sure how long it is going to take for Canadians to realize that the demonization tactics of the current government are not a substitution for good policy, or that the supposed ‘principled stand’ of Stephen Harper is a myth that is draped over an edifice of relentless hypocrisy. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that if there is no ‘enemy’ to decry, the Republican North Party has a tough time governing. While there have been occasional, isolated examples of actual leadership, the prevailing attitude has been that of a bully who finally achieves some measure of power and who uses it not to build something, but to get some measure of twisted revenge on those that opposed hir rise to tyranny.

And when the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality of the bully is exposed, the response is, well… unimpressive:

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office was asked if there is a difference between environmental groups and the federal government when it comes to accepting money from private U.S. foundations.

“The government encourages charitable donations and philanthropy,” wrote Andrew MacDougall, the PMO’s associate director of communications, in an email response. “But the government believes that regulatory decisions dealing with the responsible development of Canada’s natural resources should be up to Canadians. After all, development of these resources generates tax revenue that funds critical services that Canadians rely on, like health care and education. That’s why decisions regarding these projects should be made by Canadians and should be based on Canada’s interests.”

In case you missed it, that response didn’t even come close to answering the question.

Tory MP asks his constitutents if they speak ‘Indian’

Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon has raised a little ridicule by sending a survey out in his ethnically diverse riding asking constituents if they speak “Indian.” The problem, of course, is that there is no such language. In India, there are 29 languages each spoken by more than a million people, like Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi. English, though the first language of few Indians, often serves as a common tongue.

So you could be forgiven if you didn’t know there was a language called ‘Indian’ – especially if you live in a place that doesn’t have a large South Asian population. After all, Germans have their German, the Japanese speak an eponymous tongue… easy mistake to make, right? Here’s the thing: the Republican North Party has, of late, been making aggressive moves to expand their reach in recent immigrant communities. As a remnant of the party that opposed multiculturalism and whose base is not exactly pro-immigrant, they are trying to make up for some lost time by putting their party’s ideas in front of a group that may share many values but may not have had a lot of exposure. This is a perfectly acceptable and reasonable bit of politicking, and I have no problem with it.

However, the average person is afforded the luxury of not knowing the basic facts about India. A member of Parliament who wishes to claim to represent the interests of a Mississauga riding (the city is more than 20% South Asian) is allowed no such ignorance. It is not, incidentally, a difficult bit of staff work to learn that “Indian” isn’t a language. If there had been an Indian person, or even a South Asian person, or even someone who knows a South Asian person, working on Mr. Lizon’s campaign staff, they would have spotted this error easily. The fact that this survey raised zero eyebrows before going out says not only a great deal about Mr. Lizon’s ignorance and tin ear for his own riding, but about the representative diversity of his staff.

So, dear readers, I put to you once again the titular question: what kind of week has it been? Our government did not get any more incompetent in this past week, nor did they magically become newly mean-spirited or hypocritical. From that perspective, it’s been a lousy week. Then again, the fact that these kinds of sloppy errors are showing up repeatedly in major news outlets suggests to me that, in a perverse sort of way, this might be a good week for the Canadian people to learn exactly what kind of government they have elected. In that sense, I hope for many more weeks just like this one.

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*That usually happens during the weeks I am taking copious amounts of LSD

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Riptide

    And my inner cynic (well, okay, just me) instantly thought he was speaking of ‘Injuns’ (you know, feathers instead of dots, old boy).

  2. 2
    Crommunist

    The honest kind?

    I don’t know if asking First Nations if they speak “Indian” is better or worse than asking actual Indians. I would say worse, because the Canadian government has a history of trying to eradicate Aboriginal languages, whereas nobody’s really tried getting rid of Hindi (to the best of my knowledge).

  3. 3
    David

    Rick Mercer knows how it goes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME6bSd2bKU0

  4. 4
    ischemgeek

    … Which is why I often feel like trying to break down a cinderblock wall with my forehead would be more productive when I talk to people about politics and after they admit to all of the above (and more), they follow it up with, “… but at least they’re not the Liberals.”

    They ignore science, attack human rights, practice every bit of political dishonesty they preached against leading up to election and then some, create huge new bureaucracies for no reason while claiming to be supporters of small government, plan to make whether or not you get adequate health care even more tied to where you live than it is now, and so on… but at least they’re not the Liberals. Damn it, people, that the party that was last in power six years ago did bad things then does not negate the fact that the party that’s in power now is doing worse things now!

    … I’m going to just go eat my lunch now, lest I abuse italices even more

  5. 5
    Crommunist

    …lest I abuse italices even more

    They prefer the term “textually-slanted-Americans”.

  6. 6
    tariqata

    This post is spot on regarding the federal government, and it *exactly* sums up my feelings about the current mayor of Toronto, his (hopefully dwindling) council allies, and their ideological blinkers about public transit.

    But I hope that Canadians will be more than just dissatisfied with our current government(s) – if we aren’t also willing to express our dissatisfaction vocally and publicly, it’s too easy for politicians to cite the support of the silent majority for their policies – or the “taxpayers in Scarborough”.

  7. 7
    michaeld

    Yeah my local MP is a complete embarrassment I don’t know how he keeps getting elected.

  8. 8
    Beauzeaux

    We have a saying in our household that we are all able to recite in unison when Harper (or one of his minions)is on The National. It is as follows.

    We have a majority.
    We don’t care what you think.
    Fk you very much.

  9. 9
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    You should try moving to BC and talking about provincial politics. The NDP have been out of power for over ten years and have changed leaders twice in that span, but even after you run through the laundry list of bread, circuses and stealth poor/middle-class taxes (bridge tolls, hiking gas taxes instead of property taxes, putting in a consumer level carbon tax rather than some form of cap and trade, putting out propaganda attack ads when an election is not forthcoming, hinting at an election only to withdraw such hints when the HST referendum did not turn out in their favor [and then turning around and putting out anti-NDP propaganda anyway], and worst of all making massive cuts to services and top-bracket taxes then justifying the service cuts and funding reallocations with the Olympics) that the BC (Neo)Liberals have brought in, it’s “…but at least they’re not the NDP, the NDP are irresponsible.”

  10. 10
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    One problem I constantly find is getting accurate analysis. There are plenty of articles on the pure goings-on but where Americans have Current and MSNBC and a whole host of online independent sources that don’t buy into the bullshit of “we have to take the Right’s lies and tobacco science seriously because calling them lies and tobacco science is unfair”, I have found a desert as far as Canada is concerned and I find that the best source for political information is the Rick Mercer Report — which, unlike the Daily Show and Colbert Report, is only on for about half the year.

    My experience with mainstream political analysis in Canada consists of the following:
    1) Tom Flanagan going on Power and Politics and saying that Julian Assange should be assassinated

    2) The Globe and Mail hiring the amazingly fair and balanced pair of Tom Flanagan and Mike Duffy for analysis on the 2011 election campaign

    3) Kevin O’Leary unfairly disparaging Occupy during his horrible excuse of an interview with Chris Hedges

    4) Evan Solomon (host of Power and Politics) interviewing a Republican when the Occupy evictions were in full force and going along with the awful and stupid “this is the end” narrative

    And that’s at the federal level. At the provincial level, it is even harder, because there is a fair amount of backlash at the BC Liberals from the Socred wing (who are now jumping ship to the BC Conservatives) over the HST, the champion cause of Bill Vander Zalm. As such, I have to apply an extra filter because I have to deal with paleocon shit coming from the sides while trying to refute the neoliberal shit in front of me. The fact that both the Vancouver Sun and the Province are owned by the same company that owns the National Post doesn’t help matters much either.

    In fact, this blog is the best source of Canadian political analysis that I have found to date. That is sad. We most certainly have people out there who can do such analysis, so where the fuck are they?

  11. 11
    Crommunist

    In fact, this blog is the best source of Canadian political analysis that I have found to date. That is sad.

    Trying so hard not to be insulted :P

    The way I get around the slipshod reporting is to get news from a variety of sources. This includes non-news orgs like Twitter (following MPs is a surprisingly rich source of information). Two excellent sources that I’ve found for analysis are The Mark and Dr. Dawg. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of news reporting in the Globe and Mail – their commentary pages are a toss-up. I have a love-loathe relationship with Margaret Wente.

    And yes, the Vancouver Sun has to be read with the bullshit filter turned to “max”. They report the Canucks well, at least.

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