Harper is cutting off ‘lifeblood of democracy’
TheStar.com – opinion/editorialopinion
Published On Wed Feb 23 2011. By Carol Goar, Editorial Board
Here are a few of the things Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t want you to know:
• How much his crime crackdown will cost.
His government has introduced or enacted 21 pieces of legislation, meting out harsher sentences, abolishing early parole, eliminating the double credit for time served before sentencing, ending house arrest for major property crimes and requiring judges to send drug traffickers to jail.
The opposition parties have used every tactic available to find out how this affects the prison population and public spending. The government has stalled, stonewalled and claimed the information is “a matter of cabinet confidence.” Twice, under duress, it has released estimates for specific pieces of legislation.
As of last week, its partial price tag was $2.7 billion over five years. Liberal finance critic Scott Brison calls that number “absolutely unbelievable.”
• How much his latest corporate tax cut will cost the national treasury.
The Liberals say it is $6 billion. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says it is $4.6 billion. Economists aren’t sure.
• Who was in charge of security at last year’s G20 summit.
While local police officers beat protesters, arrested innocent citizens, abused their authority and refused to own up to their actions, it was the federal government that designed and implemented the security operation. Eight months after the fiasco, with five inquiries underway, Canadians are no closer to knowing who was at the top of the chain of command.
• What a North American security perimeter will actually mean.
Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama signed a historic border agreement this month, kicking off negotiations to align the two countries’ trade and security policies.
The Prime Minister said Canadian sovereignty is not on the table. Obama was more circumspect. “Obviously Canada and the United States are not going to match up perfectly on every measure with respect to how we balance security issues, privacy issues, openness issues,” he acknowledged.
• What criteria the government uses to cut off a non-profit organization’s funding.
Foreign aid is the focus at the moment. International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda ordered her officials to terminate federal support for Kairos, a coalition of 11 churches working to alleviate poverty and protect human rights, then denied doing it. No explanation was given. Meanwhile, the Canadians Teachers Federation is reeling after learning its program to send volunteers abroad to train teachers and develop courses has been axed.
But they’re not the only victims. Immigrant settlement groups, literacy groups, women’s groups and scientific research organizations have all lost their federal funding for reasons they can only guess.
• Whether Canadian troops in Afghanistan handed detainees over to state security officials knowing they would be tortured.
The government has attempted to block the release of military records, smeared public officials who tried to speak out and shut down Parliament to cover up this information.
The list goes on. Harper has stymied parliamentary committees, removed outspoken government watchdogs and obstructed Access to Information requests. He has prorogued Parliament twice.
Six years ago, as opposition leader, he wrote these words in an essay published by the Montreal Gazette: “Information is the lifeblood of a democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions and incompetent or corrupt governments can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy.”
It would be hard to put it better than that.
This isn’t just an issue affecting journalists, civil libertarians and opposition MPs. You’re being kept in the dark about what’s happening to your tax dollars and your country.
< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/943260–goar-harper-is-cutting-off-lifeblood-of-democracy >