This open letter (version francais) was sent today by Canadian academics, including myself, to the Parliament of Wallonia and Belgian voters. We wrote the letter on Sunday, October 16, after seeing…
Source: Canadian academics’ open letter on the CETA and Wallonia/ lettre ouverte a propos du CETA et La Wallonie
Free trade is about as close to a sacred tenet as can be found in classical and neoclassical economic theory. And there is no economic heresy more sacrilegious than protectionism. An important part…
Source: What’s so Great about Free Trade?
It could be the Republican-style voter suppression tactics, or the muzzling of scientists. Or the cutting in half of health transfers, with the obvious intent of weakening Medicare by forcing the provinces to raise taxes or privatize health services—after the election. Or the obvious lack of respect for campaign finance legislation, independent officers of parliament, or the Supreme Court of Canada. Or the ingenious way the prime minister had of appearing to support Michael Chong’s Reform bill—while strategizing to kill it in the Senate. Or Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act), which drastically expands the definition of ‘security’, gives the government far too much discretion in its acts of surveillance, and criminalizes speech that has no direct connection to violent acts. Or it could be the ways in which the government’s failure to engage with others on climate change and the ham-fisted approach to building pipelines backfired. Or so-called omnibus budget implementation bills, so egregiously stuffed with arbitrary measures that they have sparked two different social protest movements—Idle No More and Evidence for Democracy.
Whatever your reasons for concern, it now appears that prime minister Harper wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to change Canada beyond recognition.
But has he succeeded? It may be that he has—but not in the way that he had intended. Popular support has been building for major change—to the point that political scientist Denis PIlon has called this the most propitious moment for major electoral reform (proportional representation) since 1919. An NDP government in Alberta has brought a breath of fresh air to environmental and energy policy by stating bluntly that it recognizes the truth about climate change and the particularly polluting nature of the oil sands. Imagine that, a truth-based policy! If there is also a change of government at the federal level (Liberal or NDP or minority government), Canada could present a very different face to the world in December, one that is determined to be part of the solution and not just meekly tied to whatever Washington is prevented from doing by its domestic oil lobby.
If there is a change in October, the future path of development for our health care system could also be very different from the one intended by the prime minister. Conservatives like to argue that it improves accountability to have less money sloshing around in unconditional transfers and forcing provinces to raise their own taxes. But they ignore that you can also achieve a better match between fiscal capacity and spending responsibilities by uploading certain responsibilities to the federal level that fit the federal government’s jurisdiction and competence –such as a greater national role for income support, student grants, and pharmacare. By resisting Harper’s agenda and finding creative new ways to reform our democratic institutions, our health care systems, and our economic priorities, we may indeed create a new Canada.
Mark Crawford teaches politics at Athabasca University.
It is remarkable that not one but two great national social protest movements have been sparked by Conservative omnibus “budget implementation” bills that were brought in shortly after the Conservatives gained a majority in Parliament after the last election. That says a lot about the character of this government and Mr. Harper’s leadership style in particular. But it also says a lot of the health of our democracy, and of civil society NGOs in particular.
During the years of Conservative minority government 2006-2011, Political scientists like myself worried publicly about what a government like Harper’s, which had already begun muzzling scientists and indulging in unprecedented back-to-back prorogations of Parliament in order to evade accountability, would be like if it gained a parliamentary majority. It didn’t take long to find out: just as premature prorogation was the weapon of choice in minority government, omnibus budget legislation became a key tool to fast-track Conservative priorities while minimizing accountability.
In the summer of 2012, a young Phd student named Katie Gibbs organized a protest in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. It also radically curtailed environmental assessments. You can learn more about the protest at http://www.desmog.ca/print/8240, (and more about the three-part CBC radio documentary Science Under Siege at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/science-under-siege-part-1-1.3091552 ).
Just a few months later, in October 2012, four women in Saskatchewan — Jessica Gordon, Sheelah McLean, Sylvia McAdams and Nina Wilsonfeld— – became concerned about Bill C-45
, the Conservative government’s second Omnibus Budget Bill, which had just been introduced in Ottawa. It included amendments to the Indian Act
that would “streamline” the voting and approval procedures associated with land designations; and amend the Navigable Waters Act in a way that affected First Nations interests (See my January 2013 editorial in the Prince George free Press here: http://www.pgfreepress.com/idle-no-more-spotlights-shortcomings/ ) .
My conclusion to that op-ed article rings just as true two and a half years later:
“It is great that Harper government issued an historic apology to First Nations for the residential schools in 2008. But that does not excuse the cavalier fashion in which native interests have been treated whenever they conflict with the government’s economic priorities. Like the F-35 fiasco, the determination to close the Onsite clinic and build more prisons regardless of either expert or public opinion; the breath-taking “any treaty is a good treaty” rush to sign trade deals, the Prorogation crisis, the unilateral cap on health spending, and the omnibus budgets themselves, the C-45 amendments
are an example of Stephen Harper’s general downgrading of democracy and proceduralism in policy-making. I for one find the prime minister’s whole approach to be a step in the wrong direction. The First Nations do not protest too much; the rest of us protest too little.”