Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mr. Harper, secrecy is a demonstration of poor accountability.

Stephen Harper's secrecy campaign keeps on building. His muzzling of cabinet ministers and his communications director's bizarre belief that she has the right to tell the media, (and by extension, the population), nothing, is bad enough. Now he pushes further and declares that he has the constitutional right to keep the existence of cabinet meetings secret. Scotian and Cerberus cut right into this latest cyst to develop and start to drain the puss.

Constitutional right. So what?! Where is the need? He has the constitutional right to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause too, but he said he'd never do it. I never did believe that and now I know he'll use it without hesitation.

This is a man desperately afraid that the media, and thus the public, will find out something. As some of the commenters on here suggested, this is a desperate attempt to keep the "flaming wingnuts" quiet, and many of the cabinet ministers are flaming wingnuts. And that goes to the hidden agenda.

Harper lives in terror of a cabinet dispute breaking out. Once the wingnuts start to demand action on the Reform agenda to which they are wed, the moderate conservatives will object and the fight will be on. We can only hope that it will spill out into the hallway because then, and only then, will we hear what this crowd really intends for this country. Until that happens, you can expect more of the same silence, and where there actually is comment, it will be a pre-cleared talking point.

By way of demonstration, I'll go back to the comments. Scott from Montreal provided this comment which, although to the point, was intended as a bit of humour.

Graham: Mr. Speaker, will the honourable member please tell us why our troops in Afghanistan aren't getting the armaments they need to do the difficult job this Parliament has tasked them with?

O'Connor: We are cutting the GST by one percent this year, and another percent at some time in the next four years.
Now take a look at this after Kamloops-Thompson MP and parliamentary secretary for Veterans' Affairs, Betty Hinton, was having her feet held to the fire softballs tossed at her for missing the AGM of her Conservative Riding Association.

Hinton is looking forward to getting down to business with the Conservatives’ five policy priorities to enact in the coming month.

Those five key priorities are a federal accountability act, a GST cut, a child-care allowance, tougher criminal sentences and a patient wait-time guarantee.

“I’m hoping it will be co-operative for all parties,” she said. “These are fundamental things that Canadians have been asking for for a long time.”
Nevermind that the two issues which really counted to that riding were dismissed as unimportant.

And let's look at those five key priorities:

A GST cut. That little game of smoke and mirrors is going to cost us all but it is the lower income Canadian who pays heaviest since, what the Conservatives keep avoiding is that they are going to repeal the income tax changes made by the Liberals. I'll quote Rob Carrick here,

To really make the GST cut pay, you have to spend large amounts, say on furniture or a car. The tax savings on a $27,000 car would be $270, although that's just $54 annually if you own the vehicle for five years.
Childcare allowance. $1200 taxable dollars per year which does nothing to provide daycare spaces. This is nothing but tossing money about. Further, it provides working mothers or working couples with nothing. Count on all of this being taxed back.

Tougher criminal sentences. The crime rate is falling steadily and there is absolutely no proof that "tougher" sentences reduces the recidivity rate. In fact, the US model proves exactly the opposite.

Patient wait-time guarantee. That was Liberal policy before Harper pulled the rug out from the government. No details have come out on this. Just the same empty words. Will you be really really mad if I tell you this is going to be very very costly, and get ready for the solution. Look south.

Federal accountability. Absolute rubbish. Given the example of Harper's and his cabinet lack of ethics, his lack of transparency and his bunker mentality, anything produced by this crowd with respect to "accountability" is worthless. We've seen the performance standard of the Conservatives. Legislation isn't going to change that.

Of course, he could fire the lobbyist who holds the communications director's post in the PMO and I might be persuaded to change my mind on the last point.

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