In case you missed it, the Harper Conservatives claim that they have "done more for women and girls across Canada than any other government." The actual evidence simply does not support such a wild claim. Instead of addressing pay equity, the lack of which means about $126 billion in lost income potential of women in Canada, former Heritage Minister Bev Oda was more interested in freeing up $700,000 from unnecessary rent and utility bills after a $5 million funding cut to Status of Women. One out of three women in Canada suffers violence.
A government's claims of economic competence must surely depend upon a sound record in certain crucial areas -- such as economic growth, debt reduction, balanced budgets and management of the tax burden. On all four counts, the Harper regime is a serious disappointment. As for taxes, that's where Mr. Harper brags the most. But check reality! While claiming they never raise taxes, the Harper Conservatives have in fact increased the net tax burden on Canadians in each of their last four budgets. It happens in dozens of nefarious ways which they hope you won't notice.
One of the most frustrating characteristics of the Harper government is that it announces that it intends to take big steps forward on various issues of national importance, then takes furtive steps backward when nobody is looking. This promise-and-retreat routine has stricken our country's capacity to prepare for -- and respond to -- national emergencies, like the recent floods in Alberta and the train wreck in Lac-Mégantic.
The Conservatives' militarism is unrelenting. Last month, the Harper government launched a Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative at the University of Alberta. The program "allow[s] people to simultaneously obtain a university degree while also gaining leadership experience in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserves." The four-year Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative will be "co-directed by the University of Alberta and the CAF" and the government hopes to export this "test model" to other universities. The program is an attempt to reestablish the Canadian Officer Training Corps, which was offered at universities from 1912 until 1968.
The Conservative government could have taken a much bolder stance on wildlife poaching, especially given the recent Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). Canada has even more power to coerce China into bringing forth sweeping changes to it's treatment of animals and the environment.
The battle over Keystone XL has been brewing for more than four years. With a final decision on Keystone expected from President Obama as soon as the next month or so, the situation has reached a fever pitch: on February 17 in front of the White House, if expectations hold true, we will witness the largest rally ever held in the U.S. on the issue of climate change. More than 20,000 people will gather to lobby for action on climate change and to pressure their president to disallow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. These tens-of-thousands of everyday Americans, whether they know it or not, are protesting Canada as much as they are the Keystone project.
Today, Jason Kenney and the Conservative government announce a controversial list of countries that will determine who does and does not get access to healthcare in this country. This is what the government has facetiously called "public health and safety coverage" illuminating their limited understanding of the field of public health. As a family doctor working with refugees and refugee claimants, the potential impacts of this policy are horrifying. We will no doubt see individuals left with no choice but to allow their health to worsen before seeking services. It seems to me that this is a lose-lose situation.
This coming week, Parliament will vote on my amendments to Bill C-299, Conservative legislation that would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years on people who kidnap children. It would seem as though this would be just the kind of issue on which members of all parties could collaborate in good faith. Instead, however, this bill has become a prime example of how excessive haste -- and an uncooperative attitude toward parliamentary opposition -- can make for bad law and bad policy. It should be deeply troubling to Canadians that the laws governing our criminal justice system are being altered quite so nonchalantly. Surely, despite our differences on principle and policy we can at least agree that any proposed changes to the Criminal Code should be the object of serious scrutiny and debate.
The Harper government may choose to believe that a divided society is not bad for the economy, or that wealth will trickle down. Canadians from across the country may have to assure him that health will surely not. Canada has fared better than other nations in the global economic crisis, but success stories have not followed those who prescribed austerity.
As MP Bev Oda has chosen to abort not only her ministership, but her political career, the bombshell has informed a troubling narrative on Harper's Conservatives' treatment of womankind. As the Harper government's war on women rages on, anti-woman proposals which have been blighting in the right-wing fringe for years have come to fruition.
Is Stephen Harper quietly working to "re-brand" Canada? Is his government emphasizing the military, the monarchy and select episodes of Canadian history in order to create a competing brand of right-wing Canadian nationalism and divert attention from the great symbols of Liberal patriotism, like medicare and Lester Pearson? The pundit class thinks so.
The Conservative government, and the new CBC/Radio-Canada code of ethics violate the principles of independence, and impartiality that are so closely associated with the profession of journalism, and are a serious threat to the preservation of Canadian democracy, where freedom of the press is a fundamental value enshrined in our Constitution.