Friday, January 27, 2012

Much Over Due

Source: CBC News: Layoffs at Sask. Human Rights Commission

I know, there's been some things to talk about...and I've been dark on the blog. Some life changes at the moment, which have kept me pretty busy; but I shall try to keep the blog as updated as possible.

Firstly, let's talk about the layoffs at the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC). Six people from the staff were given their walking papers today, although two were confirmed to have been retiring soon, I'm sure the other layoffs came as a surprise.

Now, the nature of the positions lost have yet to be released. Furthermore, the information on who made the decision as also yet to be released, and the reason for the layoffs have also been withheld for now. As such, we do not know whether the six were let go for misconduct or for 'good reason' or rather this was simply the SHRC clearing house.

What we do know is this: Years ago, back in the first term of the Wall Government, an announcement came out that the government was contemplating moving some of the cases away from the SHRC and moving them into the regular justice system. For example, you can read up on that from a blog post which can be found here: LINK.

At the time, Wall wanted to dismantle SHRC tribunals and move the cases and complaints into the public justice system. At the time, I countered this idea with the reminder that our current justice system is bogged down and brings justice to a crawl. Moving a human rights complaint into the public justice system is going to do two things:

1.) It will ensure that human rights complaints take years to be seen by a judge
2.) It will ensure that claimants are forced to spend more money on legal fees to keep the case alive while waiting for it to be heard before the bench.

Essentially, as I argued before, a move to the public justice system will destroy these human right cases. These tribunals may take time as well, but as they are set up to hear only these types of cases, they can at least move the cases more quickly than the justice system could.

So, we must ask ourselves...Are these layoffs the first salvo of the Wall Government dismantling the SHRC completely? It is entirely possible...Until we hear otherwise, we must assume that these layoffs come from the government benches.

And then we must ask ourselves what is the purpose of dismantling the SHRC?

Well, the marriage commission argument comes back to mind. The Wall Government was quick to defend marriage commissioners who wanted to deny their services to same-sex couples, and even asked the courts to make a ruling on some of their solutions. When those were turned down, Wall's government mused different ideas (such as establishing a tiered commissioner list, one for heterosexuals and one for homosexuals.)

Surely, the SHRC would be kept busy by same-sex couples arguing their human rights were being violated by such a system...

And we all know the standard conservative, or 'right of centre', practice is to destroy opposition rather than deal with it reasonably. So, is this the opening of the government getting ready to silence any voices of dissent that will come from future legislative policy?

Possibly, but for now, it's still a cloudy issue. I'd suggest that it is certainly possible, but until we know more about the situation, I can't say for sure. All I can say is that we need to keep our eyes open and make sure that human rights are being respected in this province; otherwise, we all may wake up one day and find ourselves missing some liberties we had the night before.

Now, let's talk a bit about some federal issues. In the recent weeks, news has come out about some questionable bureaucratic choices in Ottawa. A department that was created to oversee Employment Insurance spent millions of dollars without achieving anything (though, the news also suggests that the Harper Government tied the hands of the department so much that they couldn't do anything).

And today, news of another department or rather a secretariat spending millions of dollars also came to light. Now, the one thing these have in common (other than wasting taxpayer dollars and achieving no results) was that they were both set up directly by the Harper Government. They did not exist prior to Harper coming to power.

As such, these are questionable spending choices that are clearly the decisions of the Harper Government. There's no attempting to pass the blame to former governments; this is a decision that comes completely from the Conservatives.

Now, if this news broke under a Liberal Government...Well, there would be a rally cry throughout the country to throw the bums out. As the Sponsorship Scandal proved, we don't like when governments misuse the public purse.

So, why is the rage absent?

Is it because, as far as we can see, the people benefiting from the spending are not directly Conservative party lackies?

Or is the rage absent because the government can pass the blame onto the bureaucracy? Despite Harper setting up these departments, and in the EI department case basically tying their hands and preventing them from doing their job, can the government really succeed in ducking from the fire on this one because people will perceive it as a waste in the bureaucracy rather than the government?

Unfortunately, that might very well be the case.

However, there is one item in the federal sphere that could cause a scandal to finally stick against the Conservatives. And that's the slowly building case that Tony Clement was personally involved in deciding what projects in his own riding would receive $50 million worth of federal funding during the G-8 summit. Clement has denied his involvement; then backtracked and denied being involved in the selection process.

So, keeping in mind the Sponsorship Scandal and the misdirected funds that were spent there...Clement is accused of being involved in an appropriation of funds that completely overshadows the Sponsorship Scandal in spending and level.

But of course, the government still refuses to take any action against Clement. And Clement continues to suggest his innocence and denies his involvement. However this turns out, it will be interesting to see the impact this has on both Clement and the Conservatives as time marches on.

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