“I don’t think we’re in 1984, but I certainly do see a lot of the very, very same signs that create fertile ground for despotism.”
These are the chilling words of pollster and political sage Allan Gregg, who was speaking to me recently about what he called the “nefarious” state of affairs in Canada when the government is “vilifying” environmentalists and anyone else who might oppose the direction they are heading in.
He said it’s evident in other areas too, such as cutting the long form census. No one ever lodged a privacy complaint about it, he said, “but they don’t want the long form census because it is what informs progressive, rational decision makers about the policy direction they want to go in. They don’t need data to get in the way, or more importantly, to contradict where they want to go. Vilifying critics is part of that tactic of getting the ship on the course they believe the nation needs and wants.”
This is a guest post by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington. It originally appeared on Science Matters.
Access to information is a basic foundation of democracy. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms also gives us “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”
We must protect these rights. As we alter the chemical, physical and biological properties of the biosphere, we face an increasingly uncertain future, and the best information we have to guide us comes from science. That scientists – and even librarians – are speaking out against what appear to be increasing efforts to suppress information shows we have cause for concern. The situation has become so alarming that Canada’s Information Commissioner is investigating seven government departments in response to a complaint that they’re “muzzling” scientists.
Pollster, political advisor and pundit provocateur Allan Gregg believes Canadians have yet to grasp just how radical Harper and his Conservatives really are. In a recent interview he told me the Prime Minister should be thought of as a “revolutionary realist.”
Radicalism might not be the first thing we associate with the Harper government, especially when the administration has been known to throw around the label ‘radical’ like a scarlet letter, using the term to blacklist environmental groups and First Nations across the country.
Yet, despite how jarring the description, Gregg says Harper Conservatives are “radical to the extent that [they] aren’t incrementalists.”
“Harper is a realist and knows he can't get to where he wants to go in one fell swoop, and so he’ll try to get there by tacking,” said Gregg.
This is Conservatism of a whole new kind, Gregg adds, and Canadians don’t really seem to know what they’re dealing with.
This weekend, thousands of people will be out front of Barack Obama's White House to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline -- a 1,879 kilometer length of pipe that will allow oil to be pumped all the way from Northern Alberta to refineries in Texas.
It isn't the XL pipeline itself that is at the heart of the matter though. It is the 500,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude that will be pumped through the pipe that has so many Americans upset. And it should upset Canadians too.
This is a post by Michael Harris, originally published on iPolitics.
“Everything has a crack in it; that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen, take a bow.
Another crack has appeared in the Harper government’s surreptitious but merciless war to muzzle Canadian scientists — and just about everyone else.
The light entering through this particular crack shines on a disturbing fact. Canada, the only parliamentary democracy in the Commonwealth where a government has been found in contempt of Parliament, is now the only democracy in the world where a government bureaucrat can suppress scientific research.
The proposed agreement, signed by Stephen Harper in Russia on September 9 and kept secret until September 26, is being strong-armed through the house of commons after the required 21-day session in Parliament. Political action and environmental groups, opposition party leaders and experts in the field of international trade law are urging the Harper government to reconsider the agreement's immediate ratification, demanding an open parliamentary debate before the trade deal's future is decided.
Under FIPA the federal government is obliged to protect investor rights and profits, even to compensate for lost profits. That means when it comes to disputes involving Chinese investors, like the one over the future of Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Canadian government will have a duty to protect investor profits and not necessarily the jurisdictional rights of the British Columbian government, people or First Nations.
hat's the scariest thing happening just after Halloween? Is it the stomachaches our children will have from eating too many sweet treats? No, it’s the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), which will automatically come into force on November 2nd, binding Canada for 31 years to come.
Shockingly, the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA is set to automatically go into effect -- without a single debate or vote in Parliament. Our political representatives have not even had the chance to say "Boo".
The deal was signed in secret by the Harper Government on September 9th, and quietly tabled in the House of Commons on Sept.26th. No press release to the Canadian media. No briefing to our MPs to announce the details. Just a clock ticking off the 21 sitting days until FIPA comes into force on Nov.2.
But surely the Harper Government has protected Canada’s interests? Unfortunately, no.
This post is the first of a series on the Canada-China Investment "Straitjacket:" Exclusive Interview with Gus Van Harten.
I recently picked up a copy of Francis Fukuyama's 2011 book, The Origins of Political Order. Sitting on the bedside table at the house I was staying at, the book made for some 'light' bedtime reading. I heaved the enormous tome onto my lap and, opening it to a random page, read this alarming passage:
There is no rule of law in China today: the Chinese Communist Party does not accept the authority of any other institution in China as superior to it or able to overturn its decisions. Although the People's Republic of China has a constitution, the party makes the constitution rather than the reverse. If the current Chinese government wanted to nationalize all existing foreign investments, or renationalize the holdings of private individuals and return the country to Maoism, there is no legal framework preventing it from doing so. (Pg 248)
My concerns with China's treatment of foreign investments arose in light of China's recent bid for Nexen, a Canadian company with large holdings in the Alberta tar sands. Since Canada is having trouble with the management of the tar sands now, what would it look like if we had Chinese state-owned enterprises like the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) in the mix?
It turns out the problem is of magnitudes greater than I had originally conceived, and concerns not only Canada's management of its resources, but its sovereignty, its democracy, and the protection of the rights and values of its citizens.
Perhaps most strikingly, Canada is embracing this threat, showing telltale signs the real culprit in this dangerous deal isn't China at all.