Have you ever noticed that sometimes things seem to happen all at once? You know how it is – your boss compliments your work on the same day that you find a pair of jeans that fit perfectly on the same day that the radio plays all your favourite songs? Then a week later, your boss forgets your name, you spill bleach on the jeans, and your radio stabs you in the kidneys with a switchblade*.
You all know what I’m talking about, right?
Some times we have really good weeks, and some times we have terrible weeks. Most of the time it’s a mixed bag, but there’s those occasional periods where the scales seem to be tipped predominantly in one direction. So… what kind of week has it been?
In the six years since the Harper government came to power, Canadian taxpayers have spent millions of dollars on supporting a federal appointments commission that doesn’t exist. The money has disappeared into a bureaucracy set up to support the commission — a bureaucracy that seems to have just about everything except a commission to support.
So you know the old trope about conservatives being in favour of ‘small government’ and cutting ‘wasteful’ spending (by which they mean things they are ideologically opposed to)? Yeah… it seems as though the evidence continues to mount that the supposed fiscal restraint associated with the right wing is as illusory as the moral superiority their base keeps talking about. This isn’t the only ghost department that the Harper government has created, mind you:
A federal agency created by the Harper government with great political fanfare in 2008 is costing millions of dollars to achieve pretty much nothing. The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board has just about everything a budding government agency could want.
So far, it has spent over $3.3 million for new offices, computers and furniture, well-paid executives and staff, travel budgets, expense accounts, board meetings, and lots of pricey consultants. All that’s missing is a reason for it to exist at all.
A bit of Canadian history for you: Stephen Harper was elected to his first minority government after the previous government was implicated in a major scandal involving misappropriation of taxpayer money. The Harper Conservatives rode into town on a platform of accountability and fiscal restraint, contrasting themselves with the profligate, wasteful, and untrustworthy Liberals.
Of course, as soon as they got into power they shut down all attempts at governmental transparency, and have floated from scandal to scandal (wasting tax dollars all the way) without any significant backlash by the Canadian electorate. Americans, this is my present to you: our voters are just as stupid as yours.
Rich American foundations are not only footing the bill for opposition to Canada’s oilsands. Tax returns show the Canadian government has also been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in largesse from some of the wealthiest private organizations in the United States. And some of that money came from the same U.S. groups that helped fund Canadian environmentalists.
Hey, y’all remember that time the federal minister of natural resources stood atop his soapbox and called the groups opposing the Keystone pipeline foreign radicals? Yeah… so it turns out that those same evil foreign groups sponsoring the anti-Canadian, anti-business, eeeevil opposition to the PMO’s plan to move tarsands oil through land he doesn’t own are also giving money to Ottawa.
I’m not sure how long it is going to take for Canadians to realize that the demonization tactics of the current government are not a substitution for good policy, or that the supposed ‘principled stand’ of Stephen Harper is a myth that is draped over an edifice of relentless hypocrisy. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that if there is no ‘enemy’ to decry, the Republican North Party has a tough time governing. While there have been occasional, isolated examples of actual leadership, the prevailing attitude has been that of a bully who finally achieves some measure of power and who uses it not to build something, but to get some measure of twisted revenge on those that opposed hir rise to tyranny.
And when the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality of the bully is exposed, the response is, well… unimpressive:
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office was asked if there is a difference between environmental groups and the federal government when it comes to accepting money from private U.S. foundations.
“The government encourages charitable donations and philanthropy,” wrote Andrew MacDougall, the PMO’s associate director of communications, in an email response. “But the government believes that regulatory decisions dealing with the responsible development of Canada’s natural resources should be up to Canadians. After all, development of these resources generates tax revenue that funds critical services that Canadians rely on, like health care and education. That’s why decisions regarding these projects should be made by Canadians and should be based on Canada’s interests.”
In case you missed it, that response didn’t even come close to answering the question.
Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon has raised a little ridicule by sending a survey out in his ethnically diverse riding asking constituents if they speak “Indian.” The problem, of course, is that there is no such language. In India, there are 29 languages each spoken by more than a million people, like Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi. English, though the first language of few Indians, often serves as a common tongue.
So you could be forgiven if you didn’t know there was a language called ‘Indian’ – especially if you live in a place that doesn’t have a large South Asian population. After all, Germans have their German, the Japanese speak an eponymous tongue… easy mistake to make, right? Here’s the thing: the Republican North Party has, of late, been making aggressive moves to expand their reach in recent immigrant communities. As a remnant of the party that opposed multiculturalism and whose base is not exactly pro-immigrant, they are trying to make up for some lost time by putting their party’s ideas in front of a group that may share many values but may not have had a lot of exposure. This is a perfectly acceptable and reasonable bit of politicking, and I have no problem with it.
However, the average person is afforded the luxury of not knowing the basic facts about India. A member of Parliament who wishes to claim to represent the interests of a Mississauga riding (the city is more than 20% South Asian) is allowed no such ignorance. It is not, incidentally, a difficult bit of staff work to learn that “Indian” isn’t a language. If there had been an Indian person, or even a South Asian person, or even someone who knows a South Asian person, working on Mr. Lizon’s campaign staff, they would have spotted this error easily. The fact that this survey raised zero eyebrows before going out says not only a great deal about Mr. Lizon’s ignorance and tin ear for his own riding, but about the representative diversity of his staff.
So, dear readers, I put to you once again the titular question: what kind of week has it been? Our government did not get any more incompetent in this past week, nor did they magically become newly mean-spirited or hypocritical. From that perspective, it’s been a lousy week. Then again, the fact that these kinds of sloppy errors are showing up repeatedly in major news outlets suggests to me that, in a perverse sort of way, this might be a good week for the Canadian people to learn exactly what kind of government they have elected. In that sense, I hope for many more weeks just like this one.
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*That usually happens during the weeks I am taking copious amounts of LSD