Source: CBC News: Montreal - Rights Group Chief 'Hyperpartisan':" Ignatieff
Source: CBC News: Saskatchewan Refunding More than $200M
Source: CBC News: Gay Rights Section Nixed for Immigrant's Guide
Well, another day and a whole bunch of political news topics to talk about. Obviously, most people are concerned with the Federal Budget, but there are some smaller stories (but equally important) that I'd like to talk about. As such, I will make a separate post (tomorrow) in regards to the Federal Budget.
We'll start with the problems at Rights & Democracy. The group was established by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, as a watchdog for human rights and a promoter of democracy across the world. The group was led by Rémy Beauregard, until he passed away in January, at which time the Harper Government appointed former Canadian Alliance Candidate Gérard Latulippe.
Since that time, it is reported that pretty much all the employees working for Rights & Democracy have signed letters of non-confidence in the interim president and two of the board members; with three staffers being dismissed and then fired when they when public with their concerns over recent Conservative appointments to the organization.
So, how did this problem get started? After the Harper Government appointed new board members to the organization, they began to challenge the payment of grants to groups who were 'critical of Israel's human rights record.' As we all know, Prime Minister Harper has been trying to portray himself as the 'champion' of Israel here in Canada, attacking opposition leaders who are as verbally supportive as himself, and practically labeling them as anti-Israel.
Now, the question of Israel and it's human rights record falls outside of this blog. It is a complicated issue and it is not something I want to discuss here; for a variety of reasons, the strongest one being that this is a Canadian political blog, not an international one. As such, anyone who wants a debate on Israel will not find it here, and I encourage those interested about finding out more about the situation in Israel to consult academic and news sources.
So, back on topic. With the group challenging grants that were previously given the go ahead by the former President and old Board, concerns began to flare up within the organization. Then came the announcement that Lawrence Cannon had nominated Mr. Latulippe; as mentioned a former Canadian Alliance hopeful, as well as a controversial figure for comments over immigration of Muslims, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, and the list goes on.
Needless to say, the Opposition Parties have been challenging Cannon's decision to nominate Latulippe. With the Liberals saying his nomination is 'hyperpartisan'; while the NDP seems to suggest that Latulippe's nomination shows that the Conservatives are not committed to rehabilitating the now crumbling organization.
So, why bring this up? I mention this, because it is a perfect example of the way our Federal Conservative Government operates. They were elected saying things like 'Oh, we want an American nomination system where candidates must be approved by the House of Commons.' Then in that time, they've dismissed that notion, placed the blame on the opposition parties, and appointed whoever they wanted.
They were elected saying they wanted an elected Senate; then they turned around and filled the Senate, by appointment, with Conservatives anyways; again, blaming the opposition parties (This time the Liberals in the Senate) for the course of action they had to take.
Anyone else seeing the pattern here? Say we're going to do one thing, then do something else, and try and make it look like everyone but ourselves are responsible. Reminds me of watching a child break something in the house, then turn to you with doe eyes and promptly announce that they didn't break it, their other sibling did. It's time Canadians stopped taking Conservative pronouncements of innocence, and put this child in the corner, before we find ourselves with an out of control teenager in a few years who's going to wreck more than just the family car.
I forgot how much I hate talking in metaphors, so let me put that in plain speech. The Conservatives are going to continue this pattern under Stephen Harper, and we need to rebuke it as electors. We need to show them that this is not the way we want politicians to behave in Canada, that we want parties that can work together. And the only way you can get that message across, is to vote the Harper Conservatives out of office. If we keep them around or, I shutter to think, give them a majority...Then this behaviour is going to get worse, and they will destroy the Canada we know and replace it with the version they think we should have.
Well, moving away from Rights & Democracy, but keeping the ball in the Federal court, let's talk about Canada's much approved Immigration Handbook. The Conservatives revamped the handbook months ago, to various approval, and for a time were riding high on what a good job they had seemed to do on it...Until, someone noticed a glaring omission, and then someone else found out that omission was done on purpose.
I'm speaking of course of references to Canada's support of same-sex marriage and other benefits that homosexual persons in Canada are privy to; such as relations between two consenting same-sex adults being decriminalized in 1969, or that sexual orientation is protected under the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. All of this, was seemingly missing from the Immigration Handbook.
At first glance, it might just be possible that it didn't cross anyone's mind to put such information in. After all, we wouldn't say when alcohol was decriminalized or when so-and-so was legalized, so perhaps it was just people figured the decriminalization of something didn't need to be put in. That is until you find out that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, personally redacted the entry on those subjects before the handbook was to be printed.
That's right, Minister Kenney; who has been a vocal opponent to same-sex marriage when brought before the House of Commons in the past, was given a handbook which included this section on homosexual rights and freedoms in Canada, but personally ordered the section to be removed from the book. Furthermore, it's reported that officials in the Department of Immigration, attempted to plead with Kenney to put the section back in before the handbook was printed, but that Kenney refused.
In fact, the entire book seems to be missing reference to gays & lesbians in Canada, with one exception: A photograph of Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury, who won a gold medal, and has a subtitle saying that he is an activist for gay and lesbian rights. Which Kenney held up as his example that the handbook did indeed make mention to gays & lesbians. Homosexual activist group EGALE has said they're in talks with Kenney to get gays & lesbians mentioned in the next printing of the book, which should be around next year...
But, how much can we really trust Kenney? When it was first noted that the draft version contained the missing references, Kenney pleaded ignorance and acted surprised, as if he didn't know that they did and as if he wasn't the one who ordered the passages taken out. Keep in mind, this comes from a Minister who is on record of saying 'gays have every right to marry, provided it's not someone of the same sex.' On top of that, Kenney appointed a fellow conservative opposed to same-sex marriage to the Immigration and Refugee Board; a board which can determined whether or not a gay person could seek refugee status in Canada.
Now, some of you likely know of what is happening in Uganda. There is presently a bill before the Uganda Government that would effectively criminalize homosexuality in the African country, and make the maximum penalty for homosexuality death. That's right, Uganda could start executing people just for being gay. Keep that in mind with Iran, who hanged two teenagers caught having same-sex relations almost two years ago. And numerous other nations who have, and will continue, to execute persons who identify themselves as homosexual.
Homosexuals in various nations must worry about state sanction execution, not just the fear of their fellow citizens potentially beating them to death, and because of this are legally entitled to seek refuge status in Canada. So, with a anti-gay Conservative Immigration Board, how much blood is going to be on Canada's hands if we turn away Ugandan homosexuals, and their anti-gay law passes?
This is just further examples of the partisan nature of the Federal Conservative Government. If they can't get their agenda passed through the House of Commons, they will fill the bureaucracy with numerous minions and cronies who will ensure that the 'political neutral bureaucracy' becomes nothing more than a stool pigeon of the Conservative Party; just like we've seen with Rights & Democracy.
Canadians need to wake up to the underhanded nature this government is using, not to mention the seeds of division they are planting. Same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of homosexuality, and equal protection under the law are on the books of Canadian law and are not going to go away, no matter how much this government tries. We know that the Conservative Party is filled with anti-homosexual members; Brad Trost, Maurice Vellacott, Garry Breitkreuz (and those are three from Saskatchewan!) and numerous others who want to see this sort of anti-gay agenda pursued. Harper can distance himself all he wants, in his attempt to woo moderate voters, but we all know the truth and actions like Kenney's only show that Harper has given his Ministers "carte blanche" to enact their hateful policies.
Obviously, Minister Kenney should resign. As I noted, Immigration is an important issue in regards to homosexual rights, when you consider that homosexuals often are threatened in other nations, up to the point of their lives, and we cannot afford to have a homophobic Minister, appointing homophobic Immigration Board Members, who will turn someone away from Canada and effectively sign their death warrant.
Canadians expect better from their politicians and their public servants, and we need to demand better, or we're going to find ourselves with blood on our hands in the years to come, simply because we stood by while a Minister allowed his own biases and ignorance to influence how he did his job.
Moving along, and looking provincially for a moment. Remember when our Finance Minister tabled his budget and said that Saskatchewan could expect potash revenues of $1.8 billion dollars in the year to come. Well, all the Sask Party boys and girls started patting themselves on the back, congratulating themselves over how much money they would have in the year to come. And of course, like any good financial manager, they started to spend that money before the cheque came in.
All of this, despite numerous voices saying that the projection was 'unrealistic' and 'over-optimistic'. The Sask Party MLAs ignored these warnings, and probably accused the people saying it of 'being down on Saskatchewan'. Then, as we all know, the bubble burst. Our Finance Minister had to return to the Legislature and announce that potash revenues would likely be closer to $109 million dollars...
So, either someone missed some decimal points while the budget was being written...Or our government should have listened. Either way, it's bad news for them. Bring us forward to today, and you'll see that the news is getting worse. The government announced that it will be paying $200 million dollars to the potash industry, meaning that instead of even getting the $109 million dollars they later adjusted, we're actually getting nothing.
This is because of transfer payments made from the potash companies to the provincial government based on the original projection of $1.9 billion dollars. This is money that has to be paid back to the potash companies and totals more than the revenue earned by the sales of potash this year.
Despite being out $200 million dollars, our Finance Minister has said:
"This is the first time we have seen potash drop to a negative figure, but I'm pleased our diverse economy has managed to lessen the impact,"
So, no mention of the initial mistake that led to this problem...Furthermore, does anyone else think that last part sounds almost surprised? In that our Finance Minister did not expect the other areas of our economy to lessen the blow the potash revenues had? And if he is surprised, we should all be concerned. After all, if our Finance Minister is surprised that other areas performed better and made up some of the loss, it clearly shows that our finance department is in serious need of reorganization.
Despite this, the government continues to be optimistic. After all, oil and other resources provided $154 million dollars this year...Despite government spending totaling $100 million dollars. So, now the government won't have to reach as deeply into the 'Rainy Day Fund' as they had planned in an attempt to balance their budget which is scheduled for March 24th, although they still plan to take a whopping $510 million from the fund.
All of this, at a time when SaskPower and most recently SaskWater, have announced that they need to raise rates on Saskatchewan residents. Did I mention that the Sask Party Government has taken money from the Crown Corporations since coming to power? That their 'Saskatchewan First' initiative as made Crowns unable to invest outside of Saskatchewan, restricting their income and forcing them to raise rates here in an attempt to be able to stay economically viable? I guess I didn't, but that's all true.
But, I hear you say, that sounds like a recipe that would destroy the Crown Corporations; and Saskatchewan loves its Crown Corporations, not to mention the Wall Government pledged not to touch the Crowns...
But think back to the 80's and the Grant Devine Government. One of the excuses Devine used to use when it came to dismantling and selling off the Crowns, was their lack of being economically viable. And of course, Premier Devine did everything in his power to MAKE the Crowns non-economically viable so he could justify selling them off and dismantling them. And yes, Brad Wall was a political protege of Premier Devine, so when it comes to busting up the Crowns and making it look like the Crowns' fault, he learned from the master.
Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it, as the old saying goes. And right now, I think I see, as Shirley Bassey would say, a little bit of history repeating.