Last week, Canadian Mennonite magazine revealed that it had been threatened by the government. A Canada Revenue audit team the magazine that it could lose its charitable status because of what it published. CRA found some 2011 articles to be in violation of the Income Tax Act which forbids "the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office." Where is this taking Canada? Will we be a nation without dissent, without criticism, without discourse? A nation where even the most well-meaning and well-respected charities must keep silent on everything or risk the wrath of government?
The Harper Conservatives are ramming another "omnibus" budget Bill (C-45) through Parliament. Coupled with "closure" to kill debate, it's all designed to be so humongous, convoluted and fast that no Parliament could possibly scrutinize the details and expose all the mistakes. (Sort of like the inspection system the Conservatives are responsible for at XL Foods -- a lot of contamination got through.)
The gap between rich and poor is widening, which is one of the key points highlighted in a recent publication by the Broadbent Institute. The policy paper entitled "Towards A More Equal Canada," highlights the problems of inequality in Canada, how we got to where we are, and how we can move forward.
Most areas of government funding are being trimmed, so why not arts grants too? A probable reason why the arts program escapes the Finance Minister's knife is because any cuts to the artsy set, results in a nation-wide howl that the Philistines are taking over. But to some, that's seen as public money funding someone's hobby.
Far-right Sun TV invited me to debate "whether or not Canada's main stream media has a left-leaning bias." Then warning flags went up. What if they wanted to tar and feather me for some of the nasty things I've written about them? Or for being soft on the CBC? Or less-than-reverent to the Queen? I accepted.
Canadian citizens may be shocked to learn that the Canadian Forces do not have the same Charter Rights as the rest of us. They give up those rights when they enlist. Maybe this law makes sense for the military -- it is used to suppress mutiny and rebellion, but at the same time, these are the people who are risking their lives for our freedom. Don't they deserve better?
Nearly half of Bill C-38 is directed at rewriting Canada's foundational environmental laws. Putting all this in a fast-track budget bill, with time allocation on debate, and heading to the Finance Committee, is a direct assault on the principles of parliamentary democracy.
On a day when many were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Stephen Harper's government announced legislation that will drastically reduce the number of regulatory agencies that exist to protect the environment in which individual Canadians enjoy their rights and freedoms.
Debts and deficits, the reasoning goes, are more important than combating unemployment or poverty. It is an either/or choice. It's not. The imperative is both a moral one -- to help the poor, help youth facing an uncertain job market, and help the unemployed -- and an economic one as helping these groups ultimately foster economic growth.
Of all the transgressions and failures the CBC has been accused of -- with renewed vigour since the Conservative government brought down its budget -- there is one indictment the Mother Corp. doesn't deserve: Don't blame it for failing to produce entertaining English-language TV.
Taking such a drastic step -- killing the CBC's once-revered flagship program -- will signal to the world, the country and CBC employees in all departments that there's a new day, a new public broadcaster in Canada. This would be better than cutting innovate shows like Connect with Mark Kelley and Dispatches.
Why has the federal government targeted the CBC, Telefilm and the National Film Board? The only logical answer is that these cuts are purely political and ideological. Ottawa's politicians must stop using the arts as a political football and realize that culture is a profitable industry comparable to any other.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has told Canadians: "Free your pennies from their prisons at home and donate them to charity." However, he does not want you to liberate American pennies from the prisons in your home by donating them to charity.
In this budget, we're seeing steep cuts to precisely those areas where the greatest opportunities for growth and evolution reside -- regional services, engaging documentary production, in-depth reporting, and comprehensive news gathering. At Reimagine CBC, we're using this moment as an opportunity for creative intervention.
Whether it's marginalizing low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS, or cutting funds to regional development programs that create jobs, or not announcing any new funding for affordable housing -- when the existing program funds are set to expire soon -- this budget is simply wrongheaded, misguided, prejudicial, and disconnected from the needs of Canadians.
David Frum recently published his analysis of the federal budget, and asked whether or not it definitively proves that Canada is the "best-governed country in the advanced democratic world." On a purely economic basis this budget is prudent in many ways. But as a policy document, it is a dismal failure that continues this government's disregard for the health of our democracy.