Since we Liberals don’t have the luxury of coffers of millions of dollars at our disposal to help to counter the negative advertising the Conservative party has been using to influence public opinion to further their agenda I feel responsible to do my part to remind the public of the other side of the coin. We all need to remember the power of advertising not to mention the fact that as a result of our humanness and unless we question we can be easily be duped into believing half truths if they are repeated often enough. My caution for us is that repetition does not change the truth and I respectfully suggest that we consider and reflect on the following; I trust you will take time to do so:
• Today marks the two-year anniversary of the swearing-in of the Stephen Harper Conservative government.
• The Conservatives have few concrete accomplishments that they can point to over the last two years, but when you look at mismanagement, hypocrisy and dishonesty, they have racked up quite a record.
• Here are some highlights of the Harper government’s record over the past two years:
• Even Prime Minister Harper’s hand-picked panel levelled devastating criticism over the secretive manner in which the Conservative government has managed the Afghanistan mission.
• The government has misled Canadians over allegations of Afghan detainee abuse and has kept Canadians in the dark about the decision made three months ago to halt detainee transfers.
Nuclear Safety and Public Health
• By dismissing the safety concerns of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and by attempting to smear and scapegoat its former president, Mr. Harper has undermined the credibility and independence of the regulator on which all Canadians depend to ensure the security and safety of Canada's nuclear supply.
• Equally shameful is the Conservative government’s lack of preparedness and late response in addressing the public health crisis caused by the production shortage of medical isotopes.
• While Canada faces the impact of instability in international markets, Conservative fiscal policies have done little to stimulate the Canadian economy, notably our ailing manufacturing, forestry, livestock and tourism sectors.
• Worse still they got rid of the “contingency fund” generated by the Liberals to help tide us over in emergencies i.e. in the BSE and other crises a “best practice”, highly recommended by those in financial circles for anyone, including business and which could help many sectors now suffering as a result of their “slash and burn” policies.
• Also, rather than providing significant tax relief to kick-start the Canadian economy, the Conservatives chose to proceed with their costly and inefficient two per cent cut to the GST.
• The Conservatives broke an election promise not to tax income trusts, resulting in a loss to Canadians of $25 billion and counting.
• Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s incompetence was exposed when pressure from the Liberal caucus and Canada’s business community forced him to flip-flop on his disastrous interest deductibility measure.
• While Mr. Flaherty has been missing in action on the economic uncertainty facing Canada, he has found the time to ignore Treasury Board guidelines and dole out contracts to his friends from the Harris administration.
• Liberals were also successful in pressuring the government to reverse its decision to tie its new $1-billion community trust fund to the next budget and release the desperately-needed funds now.
• In Nairobi, Uganda, and then in Bali, the government continued its campaign of sabotaging the world’s efforts to combat climate change, while sinking Canada’s international reputation as a leader on the environmental file.
• Upon coming into office, the Conservatives gutted 92 per cent of program funding for climate change programs, threw the regulations for large polluters into the trash and shut down the four most successful climate change programs in Canada: the One Tonne Challenge, EnerGuide, Wind Power Production Incentive and the Renewable Power Production Incentive. They later repackaged many of these programs, reintroducing them with new names, less money and less accountability.
• The government suddenly and without debate announced it would no longer seek clemency for death row inmates in other countries – providing further proof that Canadians should be wary of a majority Conservative government.
• By not standing up for Canadian citizens facing the death penalty, the Conservatives are reversing a long-standing Canadian practice and are appealing to a right-wing base of support that does not represent the views of most Canadians.
The Larry O’Brien Affair
• The Ontario Provincial Police have filed criminal charges against Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien in their investigation into allegations that an Ottawa mayoral candidate was bribed with a federal appointment to drop out of the mayoral race.
• OPP evidence suggests several members of Harper’s inner circle – including the Minister of the Environment, John Baird, the chair of the 2006 Conservative Election campaign, John Reynolds, and the party's National Director, Doug Finley – may have played a role in this affair.
• The government operations and estimates committee is now looking into whether Mr. Baird’s decision to withhold funding from the Ottawa Light Rail project – a decision that may have helped Mr. O’Brien’s campaign – constituted political interference.
“In and Out” Affair
• The Commissioner of Canada Elections is looking into an alleged multi-million dollar "in-and-out" scheme where the Conservative Party channelled expenses for national radio and television ads through local candidates in the 2006 election, thereby allowing them to exceed the party's national spending limit and claim illegitimate rebates.
• The Prime Minister is backing off from his initial promise to hold a full public inquiry and Canadians are still waiting for the Prime Minister to appoint a commissioner for the scaled-down inquiry.
• The conflicting stories that came out of PMO about Mr. Harper’s knowledge of the Mulroney-Schreiber affair further underscore the need for a broad-scope judicial inquiry.
• Questions have also been raised about what was discussed at meetings between Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulroney, and what Justice Minister Rob Nicholson knows about the Harper government's decision to scrap a Justice Department review of the Mulroney settlement.
Canadian Wheat Board
• The Conservatives used abusive and underhanded methods to try and dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board against the wishes of the majority of farmers.
• After getting rid of the CWB president last year, it appears the government is continuing its campaign of muzzling its critics with the firing of former vice-president Deanna Allen last week.
• The government’s proposed redistribution of seats in the House of Commons is grossly unfair – Alberta and B.C. would have a seat in the House of Commons for every 105,000 citizens in their respective provinces, but Ontario will only have a seat for every 115,000 citizens. This difference will only get worse over time.
• Prime Minister Harper’s claim to have solved the so-called fiscal imbalance was exposed as a complete sham. In 2007, the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan launched furious campaigns against the government for breaking promises that will result in millions of lost revenue.
• Even long-time Conservatives in those provinces have turned their backs on the party. Long-time Conservative MP Bill Casey was kicked out of Caucus after voting with his conscience – against his government’s budget.
• The Conservatives cut $1 billion from crucial programs and services that help improve the lives of women and vulnerable Canadians.
• The government was forced to reinstate funding for the Summer Career Placement Program following pressure from the Liberal caucus and non-profit organizations across the country. The reversal came after the Liberals announced they would restore full funding to the Summer Jobs Program.
• The government broke an election promise to honour the $5.1-billion Kelowna Accord.
• The Conservatives turned back the clock on women’s equality by shutting down Status of Women offices across the country and removing the word “equality” from the mandate of its Women’s Program.
• The Conservatives broke an election promise to create 125,000 new child care spaces, and cancelled the Liberal Early Learning and Child Care agreements to pay for a $100-a-month taxable allowance, much less when declared, that does nothing to help families in need of child care. Phone around and check how many hours of child care it will buy you for the month.
Curbing Charter Rights
• The Conservatives tabled and supported a motion in the House of Commons to remove the rights of same-sex couples to marry across Canada, becoming the first government in Canadian history to actively support removing rights, rather than extending them.
• The government eliminated the Court Challenges program which has been vital in protecting the rights of visible minorities and official language groups.
• In 2005, the Prime Minister promised to immediately extend the program to widows of all Second World War and Korean War veterans, but after two budgets he has still not delivered.
• The Conservatives passed a Federal Accountability Act that Information Commissioner John Reid described as “retrograde and dangerous”, breaking 21 election promises relating to conflict of interest and failing to change the Access to Information Act.
• Many of the watered-down provisions that did make it into the final Accountability Act – notably lobbyist restrictions – still have not been brought into force.
• The Prime Minister continues to break his election promise to stop patronage appointments. The Conservatives have stacked independent judicial advisory committees with police officers, ignoring the objections of the Canadian Bar Association and even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
• Even Brian Mulroney’s former chief of staff, Norman Spector, slammed Mr. Harper this week for breaking his election promises to tighten up the influence of lobbyists.
• The Conservatives promised to get every cent of the $5 billion owed to Canada by the U.S. in duties. Instead, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister David Emerson cut a softwood lumber deal which only gave $4 billion to Canadian producers – leaving the U.S. with a $1 billion tip.
• The U.S. is now using this flawed deal to challenge Canada’s ability to assist workers and towns that are struggling to cope with job losses in the industry.
• The Conservatives broke their election promise to implement the Patient Wait Times Guarantee and downloaded responsibility for their wait times promise to the provinces and territories without investing any new money.
It appears like anyone that speaks against them are silenced or let go even from judicial committees. The list mounts, including the WCB and the latest victim being Linda Keen from the Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Is this the kind of leadership Canadians want? If you would like to keep up on the latest please check Michael@michaelcormican.com, www.liberal.com, press, local paper or TV news.
Michael Cormican, Liberal Candidate; Lethbridge Riding