There comes a time in every government’s standings when an event or series of events dominos to their defeat. Brian Mulroney got defeated on the deficit and implementation of the GST, the tax that we pay on almost everything we purchase. Jean Chretien got defeated when tyranny struck the inner core of his party. Paul Martin got defeated due to the sponsorship scandal. Stephen Harper has yet to be defeated, but for a man who campaigned on a platform of accountability and trust, his government’s actions have been anything but.
CBC recently reported that Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that there was a “prima facie breach of privilege” in the government. This means that there is sufficient evidence to suggest wrongdoing in the current government.
The issues were that the government was refusing to give financial information about the costs of their Tough on Crime agenda and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda misled a Commons committee after having admitted to telling her staff to doctor a document that denied $7 million in funding for aid organization Kairos.
The Globe and Mail reported on March 9 that the government is planning to spend $4 million in tax payer money to promote its 2011 budget. This added spending comes as Conservatives defend themselves after CTV reported that Elections Canada has charged them for spending $1.3 million more than the $18 million allowance in the 2006 Federal Election.
As a result, four important Conservative Party members face fines of $2,000 each for each charge and possible jail time while the party faces two charges with fines of $25,000 each.
Harper’s response to the issue was, “Our position’s been very clear. We respected the rules that were in place at the time.”
This $4 million addition also adds to the $65.4 million spent in government ads for the fiscal year that is set to end on March 31. Last year, $85 million went on ads where $15 million of which was spent specifically on the ads promoting the Economic Action Plan.
Thomas Mulcair, New Democratic Deputy Leader said, “They’re going to brazenly take $4-million of taxpayers’ money to try and brainwash the public about how good they are. Doing that in this highly-charged atmosphere, as we’re heading into a quite-possible election this spring is, I think, beyond the pale.”
On March 7, CTV reported that the Conservatives have become defensive after replacing the term, “Government of Canada” with “Harper Government.” There are about 300 references of this nature on the government website – each being asked to be dropped by a petition that got 14,000 Canadian signatures by that afternoon.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said, “It is sad when we’re looking at a government using the state as if it was its own thing.”
The Star reported on March 3 that a member of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s staff resigned after Kenney was accused of using his MP status to raise funds for his campaign. This is against parliamentary rules.
The letter asked for “an additional $200,000 of financial commitment.” It also stated: “Given the current political environment, we hope to have commitments by March 11, 2011.” As a result, a Tory staffer resigned.
As a second blow to Kenney’s office, Global News reported on March 8, that a “minister’s award for excellence” which was given to a Chinese restaurant in 2009 had the Conservative logo watermarked in the center. The Certificate was signed by “the Honorable Jason Kenney” and identifies him as both a member of the Conservative Party of Canada and the minister in charge of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.
Christiane Ouimet, former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner resigned on October 14, 2010. Four of her employees have reported to CTV in outrage how unfair the circumstances are for them. When Ouimet resigned, she received $354,000 for a separation allowance, $53,100 in lieu of forgone benefits and an extra 28 weeks of severance pay worth about $137,000. The departure agreement took place 10 days before Auditor General Sheila Fraser initiated an audit on Ouimet’s office. Ouimet’s staffers did not receive the benefits that she did, instead, they got penalties.
Fifty-nine-year-old Normand Desjardins, a former chief investigator with the commission quit after being screamed at by Ouimet in 2008. He told CTV, “I retired before age 60. So I was penalized by roughly one-fifth on my pension. It is very ironic. I get penalized and she got a half a million dollars to resign because she couldn't do her job.”
Ouimet was described by her former co-workers as a bully. In Fraser’s report, employees said that Ouimet “yelled, swore and also berated, marginalized and intimidated certain Public Service Integrity Commission employees and that she engaged in reprisal actions.”
Ouimet was forced to resign after Fraser saw that during Ouimet’s three years of work, all of the 228 allegations of public service wrongdoing or reprisals against whistle blowers that were brought to her office were dismissed shortly after.
A former staffer told CTV, "The commissioner used her discretionary power not to investigate. She should have done the opposite."
The commission was set up in 2007 with the aim of protecting public servants who blow the whistle on wrong doing within the federal government. During its creation, Ouimet was appointed to the head position.
On April 26, 2006, CBC reported that Harper’s government brought the Accountability Act into law. In a news conference in Ottawa, Harper said that the legislation would “replace the culture of entitlement that took root under the former government with a culture of accountability.”
However, this statement would become completely irrelevant on December 2, 2009 when CanWest News Service would report Harper’s claim as, “The government of Canada has taken all necessary actions in all instances where there is proof of abuse of Afghan prisoners. I think the opposition has nothing to do when it is talking about something that happened three years ago,” as he and his government were reluctant to divulge information on what was happening to detainees in Afghanistan.
After a battle between the government and the people of Canada on the conflict between ‘National Security Secrets’ and the ‘Right to Know’, Milliken ruled on March 22, 2010: “The chair must conclude that it is within the powers of the House of Commons to ask for the documents,” as was reported on March 27, 2010 by City News Toronto.
The situation became so serious that Milliken said that a vote to find the government, Defense Minister Peter MacKay, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, in contempt of parliament. A motion of contempt would have stripped the government and members of power and lead to an election.
As a result, the government gave the documents – censored. On November 27, 2009, The Globe and Mail reported that a Canadian diplomat by the name of Richard Colvin, who served 17 months in Afghanistan, said, “We detained, handed over for severe torture, a lot of innocent people.”
“Many were just local people: farmers; truck drivers; tailors, peasants – random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Colvin said.
Robert Walsh, law clerk of the Commons, replied that view of the government on keeping the documents on the detainees private "fails to recognize the constitutional function of the House of Commons to hold the government to account and does not adequately address parliamentary privilege as part of the constitutional law of Canada."
CBC reported on March 5, 2010, that University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran said, "If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees.
"There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That's what's in these documents, and that's why the government is covering up as hard as it can."
From torture to checks, Reuters reported on October 15, 2009, that the Liberal Party of Canada filed a complaint after the Conservatives put their logo on checks that were being given to businesses as part of their stimulus package.
“Mr. Harper is showing that his first impulse when he is in trouble is to shut down Parliament,” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said.
In an attempt to dodge defeat by a coalition consisting of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois, Stephen Harper shut down Parliament for a second time on December 30, 2009. The shutdown of Parliament would dissolve the inquiry into the Afghan detainees, stall government bills, and allow Harper to shove enough senators into the senate to take control of it.
The Montreal Gazette reported on January 18, 2010 that the last time Harper prorogued Parliament was in 2008 when he was trying to avoid a confidence vote on the detainee issue. At the time, he passed it off as a time to “recalibrate” his government.
On January 23, 2006, Stephen Harper won his first minority government. He won on the basis of accountability. He won with the lack of it. Every leader has an event or series of events that leads to their defeat. It is just a matter of time before this series dominos. Will you let Stephen remain standing in the end?