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Warning: Canada Is Not What You Think It Is February 21, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Immigration, Racism, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I have read some journalism with the theme: can the Trump phenomenon happen in Canada.  Well, my friends, it already has, and it is called “Stephen Harper.”  Just as I refer to current Toronto Mayor John Tory as “Rob Ford minus the crack cocaine,” I would characterise the now departed Canadian Prime Minister (Harper) as Donald Trump without the Tweets (but with hair).  Although the Harper government was soundly defeated in the last election, Harper’s fear mongering legacy lives on in the Conservative Party, which as spawned a gaggle of would-be leaders, who are counting on the Trump effect to further inspire Canadian bigotry.



If you assume Canada is a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Trump, you may be mistaken.

By Andrew Mitrovica

February 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  Warning: if you believe Canada is a pretty, picture-postcard Islamophobia-free zone, then I recommend you stop reading this column. You’re about to be profoundly disappointed, shocked, or both.

Scratch its inviting surface and you will discover quickly that, as in most other Western democracies, Islamophobia is not only alive and rampant in Canada, but it has long been a defining characteristic of at least one of its major political parties and large swaths of the country’s corporate media.

The most recent evidence of this unassailable fact has been on unsavoury display in the still raw residue of the massacre of six Muslim Canadians at prayer in a Quebec City mosque earlier this month.

Immediately after the terrorist attack, politicians went about the ritual of decrying the murders, while praying for the victims and their grieving families and urging their countrymen to rally around the Muslim community as a sign of unity and support.

Meanwhile, after a burst of attention to blunt any criticism that it took a terrorist attack on Muslims in Canada by a white, reactionary male as seriously as attacks in Paris, Brussels or London, much of the establishment media promptly went on its way, as the carnage in a mosque receded comfortably into the rearview mirror.

But difficult questions remained unanswered. Chief among them: What to do about the Islamophobia that was stoked into a raging bonfire by some of the very politicians and media that were pleading – with all the faux solemnity they could muster – for harmony and understanding?

Condemning Islamophobia

Wisely sceptical of the flowery rhetoric, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – a prominent voice for Canada’s Muslim community – has written an open letter to politicians of all persuasions, urging them to take concrete steps to confront Islamophobia and racism and discrimination that exists plainly in their midst.

leitch-harperHarper and Leitch, the dynamic duo of Canadian racism, source: montrealsimon@blogspot.com

Finally, the NCCM threw its powerful backing behind a largely symbolic, non-binding motion sponsored by a governing Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that calls on the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and all religious discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec city attack.

For context, it’s important to note that after a few hours of perfunctory debate, Canadian parliamentarians unanimously adopted another Liberal MP’s motion in 2015 condemning the “rise of anti-Semitism around the world”.

Not surprisingly, Khalid’s motion has faced a much more different, tumultuous and instructive fate.

Rather than be approved swiftly and unanimously, Motion 103 has morphed into a running spectacle that has not only dominated Canada’s political agenda but has also exposed the pus of Islamophobia still oozing from Canadian politicians and media that only a few weeks ago were expressing sympathy for men murdered during evening prayers because they were Muslims.

‘Phantom horrors’

Leading the hysterical charge in opposing the motion is Canada’s Conservative Party and the bevy of candidates who are vying to lead it. All but one of the leadership candidates have signalled their vehement opposition to the motion, claiming that, among other phantom horrors, it would stifle freedom of speech and possibly act as a precursor to the invocation of “Sharia Law”.

This is, of course, lunacy. But it is lunacy that has coursed its malevolent way through the core of the Conservative Party for a long time and not, as some have suggested, emerged only lately from the swamp of Islamophobia to take up residence at the party’s radical “fringes”.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them. 

This is a revisionist lie. Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of his tenure fuelling and satisfying the not-so-latent Islamophobia that was politically appealing to his legion of supporters by making the niqab a racist dog-whistle and lauding “old-stock Canadians”.

By the way, the NCCM has sued Harper and his former spokesman for suggesting that the respected advocacy group had “documented ties to a terrorist organisation such as Hamas“.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them.

Perhaps Harper’s signature legacy in this sorry regard was first encouraging, and then promoting, the political career of Kellie Leitch – who, in turn, repaid her patron’s largesse with unrivalled zealotry and loyalty.

During last year’s election campaign, Leitch fronted the unveiling of a Harper-approved “tip line” for reporting so-called “barbaric cultural practices” – a thinly disguised, bureaucratic euphemism for Islam.

And, today, as a prominent and popular Conservative leadership candidate, Leitch keeps channelling her former boss’s odious modus operandi while attending a “freedom rally” stuffed with avowed Islamophobes who are convinced Motion 103 is an Islam-inspired plot to undermine Canadians’ rights and freedoms.

“It’s great to be in a room full of severely normal people tonight,” Leitch told the adoring crowd. “Canadian values are not fringe, and together, I know, we are going to fight for them.”

Leitch is Harper without the filter.

READ MORE: In Quebec, calls for unity amid rising Islamophobia

Cheering her on is an equally hysterical mob of largely right-wing journalists who have pounced on Khalid and her motion, chomping at the bit of Islamophobia while insisting, unconvincingly, that their objections to Motion 103 are motivated solely by their oh-so-sincere concern that it would grant one religion “special status” over all others.

Khalid put an emphatic lie to this transparently spurious reasoning after rising in the House of Commons to read out a sampling of the relentless torrent of hate, death threats and Islamophobia she has endured in the days since proffering her motion.

She has been called a “terrorist” and a “camel humping” “scumbag” who should be shot by a “Canadian patriot” or deported “like a disgusting piece of trash.” She has advised her staff not to answer the phone and to lock the office door behind them.

Undeterred, Khalid rightly excoriated the remnants of Harper’s Conservative caucus for its “cynical, divisive tactics … to try to start a fake frenzy around the word Islamophobia, instead of tackling the issue at hand.”

So, the next time you’re inclined to praise or even consider moving to Canada because it’s allegedly a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Donald Trump, it might be best to remember these obscenities before you act on your impulses.

Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Stephen Harper linked to Nazi intellectuals and Christian fundamentalists suggests Trevor Harrison’s book April 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Right Wing.
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The Conservative Party’s hidden agenda to support a pro Big Business, and an oppressive anti-democratic agenda

by Dr. Debra Chin

Mr. Harrison documents in the book entitled Of Passionate Intensity, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a member of the ultra-right wing Northern Foundation in 1989. Mr. Harrison documents that this Foundation was comprised of Neo-Nazi social Darwinist intellectuals.

More on Stephen Harper and the Northern Foundation as documented by Trevor Harrison

Preston Manning
Author Trevor Harrison links Preston Manning to Northern Foundation ideological interests.

Stephen Harper was Reform Party Policy chief, at a time when it had numerous members of the white supremacist group Heritage Front as members. Trevor Harrison, further documents that Mr. Harper even had Heritage Front members doing security for Preston Manning at Reform Party events in Ontario. The Reform Party would evolve into the Alliance Party of Canada, which sought to take over the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC Party) toward the formation of the “Conservative Party of Canada”. The taking over of the PC Party was sought to provide legitimacy to a movement that was largely continued to be perceived a fringe group from Alberta. However, the current Conservative Party is still apparently governed by the same fringe Reform Party mentality, which in turn is linked with the architects of the far right Northern Foundation.

When Stephen Harper was a member of the ultra-right-wing Northern Foundation in 1989, Mr. Harrison documents that this was a group that had numerous Neo-Nazi skinheads as organizers, as well as a leadership that included a well-known white supremacist and anti-feminist crusader as a prominent leader that sought to take over the mass-media to enable the fulfillment of a right wing agenda. The Northern Foundation, with the support of corporate allies was able to get Mr. Harper elected in the first place by indeed, taking over the mass-media in Canada. This was done to shelter Mr. Harper from the kinds of critical journalism which had kept him out of power, in the first place. Corporate mass-media owners would seek to remake Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party from being ultra right, into a fabricated image of a non-threatening “moderately conservative” party.

Trevor Harrison also documents that “He [Mr. Harper] had little trouble doing so, as the media had been largely muffled by one fact: press baron Conrad Black, then reaching the height of his powers was also a member of the Northern Foundation and equally shy about having it publicly known.” Mr. Harrison elaborates that, “Journalists feared incurring his wrath as he employed many of them at the time, and was a potential employer for those whom he didn’t employ. Had they made the membership list public, Mr. Black would have been exposed.”

Now that Mr. Harper has been able to seize power by taking over the PC Party (through a breach of contract law), and with the help of, for example, media owners of CanWest Global (that form example, controls many Canadian newspapers including the National Post, and the Ottawa Citizen) who donated money to his political campaigns, the Conservative Party in association with the Northern Foundation now seeks to focus on the fulfillment of an NWO agenda.

Complaining of “socialist/progressive thinking”, and a media/political system controlled by ‘lib/left’ elites, who had been ‘able to impose their agenda on the Canadian people because “small-’c’ conservatives” had been divided. Mr. Harrison further documents that the Northern Foundation was the creation of a number of generally extreme right-wing conservatives, including Anne Hartmann (a director of REAL Women), Geoffrey Wasteneys (A long-standing member of the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada), George Potter (also a member of the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada), author Peter Brimelow, Link Byfield (son of Ted Byfield and himself publisher/president of Alberta Report), and Stephen Harper.

Mr. Harrison, also links former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, who continues to be a leading intellectual of the Conservative Party, right-wing author David Frum (linked to the current U.S. Bush administration), Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington and others, as having been affiliated to the Northern Foundation.

The roster of conservative adherents speaking at foundation conferences in 1989, 1990 and 1992 is equally instructive, further to Mr. Harrison’s very detailed documentation. Among speakers were Dr Walter Block (the Fraser Institute), Ed Vanwoudenberg (leader of the Christian Heritage party), Lubor Zink (an extreme right-wing columnist with the Sun chain), Dr. John Whitehall (of the Canadian Christian Anti-Communist Crusade), Ron Leitch (president of the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada), Gwen Landolt (founder of the right wing organization REAL Women), Ken Campbell (founder of Renaissance Canada), Paul Fromm (former member of the Western Guard, a neo-fascist group, and later of CFAR), and author William Gairdner. The Foundation’s quarterly, The Northern Voice, had sought to regularly provide advertising space for these same individuals, their fascistic visions, and their related organizations.

Ostensibly, therefore, the Northern Foundation has sought to be a vehicle for bringing together several disparate right-wing groups and otherwise for disseminating a Neo-Nazi ideology. Significantly, it also had cultivated substantial connections to the Reform Party, which would eventually evolve into the current Conservative Party of Canada.

Mr. Harrison also documents, that the Reform Party under the watchful eye of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper, housed former Neo-Nazi Western Guard (an infamous Toronto-area hate group launched in the 1960’s) members like Leigh Smith, and Wolfgang Droege. Mr. Droege had gone on to form Heritage Front and brought other members of that group into the Reform Party and eventual Conservative Party political interests.

More on the makings of the Northern Foundation

The Northern Foundation’s president was Rita Ann Hartmann, widow of former Western Guard radical Paul Hartmann. Ms. Hartmann had moved to Ottawa in 1987 with her six children, two of whom were skinheads who would go on to recruit on behalf of the Heritage Front in the national capital. The Hartmann family, the Toronto Star elaborates. lived in a huge home at 25 Delaware Avenue, in the well-to-do Golden Triangle neighbourhood. From there, Hartmann maintained connections with Neo-Nazi groups across North America. In March 1990, for example, she wrote to the ultra-violent Confederate Hammerskins of Tulsa, Oklahoma, using an alias she favours, Eleanor Cameron. Out of the same address, Ann Hartmann busied herself with REAL Women of Canada. Ms. Hartmann, who has a law degree from the University of Toronto, provides legal advice to REAL Women. In April 1989, for example, she gave an anti-abortion speech to a REAL Women conference at the Radisson Hotel in Ottawa.

Author, Mr. Harrison also further documents that the Northern Foundation’s inaugural conference was also attended by a well-known Conservative MP; a founder of Alberta Report magazine; a senior representative of the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada; and a columnist for the Toronto Sun. Many of those associated with the Northern Foundation would go on to play key roles in the Neo-Nazi Heritage Front. These persons include Steve Dumas, the Foundation’s research officer, who would write a regular column in the Front’s Up Front publication under the pseudonym Steve Baker; Geoff Lupton, who had made an unsuccessful attempt in 1989 to establish a Nationalist Party club at Carleton University and who used the pseudonym Geoff Edwards when working on behalf of the Heritage Front; and Eric (Stilts) Hartmann, son of Paul and Ann, who was moved to pen an anti-abortion editorial for Mr. Droege.

“The Northern Foundation Conference was the start of it all for the Heritage Front,” recalls Droege. “From that point on, things really took off.” So too, did things take-over for Mr. Harper who became Prime Minister of Canada, and leader of a party which has apparently sought to fulfill the agenda of the Northern Foundation. That agenda apparently includes blocking candidates like Mr. Warner, which do not present the ideology of the Northern Foundation, that in turn endorses the U.S. President George Bush administration.

Further links with the neo-con National Citizens’ Coalition (NCC)

“The connections between the National Citizens’ Coalition (NCC) and the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Party go back a long way,” also documents Mr. Harrison. Their political agendas have been virtually identical: so called “deficit reduction” against progressive social policies; restriction of immigration; ending universal social programs; lowering taxes for corporations and high-income earners, and ending universal public healthcare,” further elaborates Mr. Harrison.

Colin Brown, the founder of the NCC, began his conservative crusade in 1967 with a full-page ad in the Globe and Mail attacking the federal Liberal government’s plans for a national medicare scheme. Brown would eventually incorporate the far right National Citizens’ Coalition in 1975.

There are no direct ties between the Conservative Party and the National Citizens’ Coalition. Furthermore, with the former President of the National Citizens’ Coalition as leader of the Conservative Party formal ties, with that organization, would be redundant.

The original Nazis, under Adolf Hitler, believed that a certain in-group of white Europeans, are descendants of Extraterrestrials called “Aryans”. Neo-Nazis or “modern Nazis”, further believe that these racially superior group of whites, are destined to once again rule the world, under the religious guidance of these “Aryans”, through the creation of a “New World Order” (NWO). “Globalization” is a project among these elites, toward the creation of the NWO.

As social Darwinists, Canada’s Neo-Nazi intellectuals believe that society and the world in general, would be strengthened when weaker “mongrel races” accept their “inferiority” and are allowed to perish, without the protection of social policy, like universal public healthcare, and human rights. Neo-Nazis view war i.e. the “War on Terrorism”, as desirable, to create a “warrior society”, and to ensure that the resources of the world are under the direction and exclusive control of “Aryan descendants”. A “warrior society” glorifies militarism and military service to defend against “enemies of society”, which include human rights and social activists.

The Northern Foundation of which Mr. Harper was a member, is a male-dominated and self-anointed “white brotherhood”. Females are not excluded though, provided that they accept its highly conformist and male chauvinistic culture of fascism.

Mr. Harper would eventually “officially” break-away from this group. Indeed, it would be unfair to Mr. Harper, to continually link him ideologically to a group that he may have simply sought to explore, in his process of political exploration and outreach. However, upon closer examination, the substantive policy direction of the Conservative government, appears to be emphatically driven by the expressed agenda of the Northern Foundation. This includes massive cuts to programs aimed, for example, at advancing the status of women; and protecting minorities from institutionalized discrimination.

The Neo-Nazism, that is associated with the Foundation, also ideologically embraces sexual repression; homophobia; and seeks to prevent constructive measures to redress the plight of the poor, which include senior citizens and children.

The apparent goals of the Northern Foundation, through the Harper government, appear to be to replace Canada as we know it, (as a progressive society), into being a regressive society under the U.S. colonial control, under the direction of a self-anointed Aryans. In other words, Mr. Harper appears to be attempting to use public office designed to defend the national interests of all Canadians, to carry out the apparent private agenda of a clique, whose members are determined to transform Canada into their own bleak fascist image under U.S. control.

The support of the Harper government for the undermining of civil rights through the rationalization of the so-called “War on Terrorism”; operates to execute the glorification of militarism and war; messianic Zionism; an apparent bias toward ‘eugenics’ in relation to ignoring the global threat of the HIV-AIDS pandemic, (and the corresponding environmental-related “life and death” issue of Global Warming); and use religion as a means to manipulate the masses. All of these are being conducted to support the desire for Canada to become a U.S. colony through the endorsement of the Security and Prosperity and Partnership of North America (SPPNA); and are all supported by the expressed ideology of the Northern Foundation.

The dropping of Mark Warner in Toronto-Centre encapsulates the apparent Neo-Nazi intellectual foundations of the Conservative Party agenda

The Toronto Star reported on 1 November 2007, that the federal Conservatives under Mr. Harper’s direction ousted 43 year old international trade lawyer Mark Warner because he wanted to advance urban and social justice issues that are at odds with the prevailing Conservative Party ideology. Ousting a candidate who had been a member of the Conservative Party since the Brian Mulroney government, simply because he seeks to affirm human rights inclusive of redressing the plight of the poor and disenfranchised Canadians. is exactly the kind of ideological-motivated course of action that one would expect from a clique still acting to fulfill the vision of the Northern Foundation, as documented by Mr. Harrison.

“We’ve had, for a number of months, a series of differences between our campaign and the national campaign, over the degree to which I could run a campaign that would focus on the kinds of issues that matter in a downtown urban riding,: Mr. Warner had told the Toronto Star.

“Over the objections of leaders of the Toronto Centre riding association, Mr. Warner was removed by the Party’s National Campaign Manager, ” Mr. Warner’s website correspondingly acknowledges. LINK Conservative officials in their apparent desire to advance the ideology of the fascistic Northern Foundation, had sought to “actively resist Mr. Warner’s emphasis on housing, health care and cities issues.

Wake Up Canada: These Are the Tories Who Want Your Support December 2, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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Luxury travel contradicts Tories’ frugal image
Nov 22, 2008 04:30 AM

Staff Reporter, Toronto star

Federal politicians and public servants are blowing the bank on travel – taking a multitude of trips at high-class prices to London, Paris, Geneva, Sydney and various North American destinations.

A Star investigation found spending by ministers, political staff and bureaucrats that is far from the frugal image of the Stephen Harper government.

Some federal travellers can’t seem to get to London, England, for less than $6,000, even though economy seats were available for $1,000 to $2,000. In our analysis of 60,000 travel records over four years, we found $18,000 flights to Australia, $7,000 flights to Paris, $11,000 flights to Indonesia and $8,000 flights to Switzerland.

By contrast, travel surveys show businesses are reducing costs by choosing more economical flights. At least one other government, Alberta, has shown more care with taxpayer dollars. For example, the Alberta environment minister and an aide spent $3,200 each to fly to Bali for a United Nations conference on climate change last year. The former federal environment minister, John Baird, took a $10,920 flight to the same conference. Three political aides and two bureaucrats joined him at similar rates. Total airfare was $61,000.

In the Star’s investigation, we found that Harper’s ministers often travel with a large entourage, at a high cost.

For example, when former federal agriculture minister Chuck Strahl flew to Geneva for World Trade Organization talks in 2006, he took with him five political staff (his chief of staff, his senior policy adviser, his junior policy adviser, a parliamentary secretary, a second parliamentary secretary) and three bureaucrats – the deputy minister, the assistant deputy minister and the chief trade negotiator, who actually conducts the negotiations. The week-long trip to Geneva, which began with a meeting of provincial ministers in Newfoundland, cost taxpayers $84,000 in airfare and accommodations. Strahl’s airfare from Ottawa to Newfoundland to Geneva was $7,200.

A spokesperson for Strahl said the meetings in Geneva were “extremely important for international negotiations on supply management and the pressing issue of opening borders to Canadian beef.” Ted Yeomans said numerous aides went to support the minister at “informal side meetings” and business-class flights were chosen because “meetings commenced as soon as they arrived.”

Responding to questions about the Bali trip by former environment minister Baird, a spokesperson said the business-class flights “permitted members of the Canadian delegation to work while travelling and to assume their duties immediately upon arrival.” Asked if the travellers had, like the Alberta delegation, considered a cheaper option, spokesperson Sujata Raisinghani said “we cannot speculate or comment.”

According to government rules, approval for international trips must come from the prime minister’s office.

Confronted with the Star’s findings, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government will now limit the number of political assistants travelling outside Ottawa to two. Kory Teneycke also said the government is considering a plan to encourage federal travellers to fly economy class.

“Our government is always concerned about how hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. We are continually improving the way we manage taxpayer money, to ensure the best value for money,” he said.

This story is based on data and interviews with government officials and travel professionals. The data is a collection of approximately 60,000 federal travel records ($70 million in expenses) disclosed by 20 of the major federal departments, such as natural resources, environment, health and foreign affairs. The travel took place during a four-year period – the last two years of the Liberal government (2004-2006) and the first two years of the Conservative government (2006-2008).

Both Liberals and Conservatives have been big spenders but the Star’s analysis found most Conservative ministers spent slightly more than the Liberals they once accused of being lavish spenders.

In a detailed comparison of 12 major ministries, the Star found Conservative ministers outspent Liberal predecessors in 10 out of 12 cases. But the Liberals outspent the Conservatives in the Prime Minister’s Office. During the last two years of the Liberal government, the PMO spent $2.8 million on travel and hospitality. During its first two years, the Conservative PMO reports spending $2.6 million.

However, the Prime Minister’s Office said its own analysis showed that overall, “our Government has spent significantly less than the previous government on travel and hospitality, period.” Spokesperson Teneycke did not provide proof of their analysis.

The trips the Star studied ranged from overseas conferences in Europe to visits with friendly politicians in Australia, to high-priced trips by one minister who travelled south to Florida in the winter and southeast to Maine in the summer (see story, below).

The database the Star assembled includes flights, hotel stays and meals. As high as the costs are, they should reflect discounts of up to 25 per cent because of agreements the federal government, with its massive buying power, has with travel providers. So a $7,500 ticket would have cost the public $10,000. In either case, they are expensive tickets and indicate little attempt was made to get a better deal.

Travelling in business class (sometimes called executive class) is obviously more comfortable. The seats are bigger, many reconfigure into beds, and cocktails and dinner are much more civilized. These are big-ticket flights, taken by many senior federal government travellers.

The federal government has a cumbersome set of rules for travel. The Travel Directive policy manual says the “standard for air travel is economy class” and the “lowest available airfares” shall be sought, with bookings made as far in advance as possible.

Beyond that are several caveats: If you fly for longer than nine hours, you can take business class (London is roughly an eight-hour flight). If you are a senior bureaucrat (such as a deputy minister) travelling more than 850 kilometres, which is roughly the distance from Toronto to Quebec City, you can take business class.

Ministers are not subject to guidelines. Many senior officials, whether politicians, political staff or public servants, take the more expensive business-class flights no matter where they are travelling.

The federal government’s travel costs do not reflect current business practices. Companies are cutting costs by taking economical flights, or no flights at all. The National Business Travel Association says that since 2007, 72 per cent of business travellers are facing some restrictions on business class.

Not all federal travellers blow the bank.

In one example, then-Conservative Health Minister Tony Clement booked an economy flight to Kenya and Tanzania to visit health clinics and deliver a $150,000 Canadian government cheque. Clement sat in economy class. Up front in executive class sat his two political staffers, both flying on $11,000 tickets. Clement’s office confirmed the details of the trip, and when asked about the difference in price said only that Clement chose to fly economy. Clement is now Industry Minister.

The Star, noting that the trip had cost $30,000 in total, asked why it was necessary to spend that much to deliver an aid cheque. Clement spokesperson Stephane Shank said the minister first went to Nairobi, Kenya, to open an infectious disease treatment centre that was partly funded by the University of Manitoba and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. He also visited the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam to announce a one-time funding commitment of $150,000 toward the training of local doctors and nurses.

Allan Rock, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations (Rock’s expenses were listed under the Foreign Affairs Department), spent just $722 to fly to Geneva in March, 2006. Most flights to Geneva in the Star’s database are $7,000 to $8,000.

“It wasn’t a hardship flight,” said Rock, a former Liberal cabinet minister and now president of the University of Ottawa.

“I went to meet the Ugandan foreign minister to set the stage for an end to conflict in Uganda. I just went economy. The difference between economy and first class or business class is just astronomical. I just could not face the prospect of paying $7,000 for the sort of flight that is not a hardship flight. Just six to seven hours and sitting in the back in economy is not a hardship at all.”

Of all the government ministries studied, the Revenue Ministry was the most frugal. Officials there recorded, for example, $700 flights to London, England, and $1,200 flights to Brussels, Belgium.

Some of the high costs the Star found were related to short-hop domestic trips.

Last year, 17 government officials flew from Ottawa to Toronto to meet federal finance minister James Flaherty. The next day, Flaherty flew to Ottawa. This begs the question: Why didn’t the 17 officials just wait for him to be in Ottawa? Flaherty’s staff says this happened during lead-up to the budget and “a situation like this is limited to important matters and occurs rarely to ensure value for taxpayers.”

The biggest spender of all ministers during the four-year period was former Conservative Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, a frequent flyer with numerous trips to London, Paris and Australia. He spent $340,000 on ministerial travel over two years, more than any other minister in a similar period, Liberal or Conservative. (Ministers, as members of Parliament, receive other travel expense allowances for numerous trips home to their riding – the expenses detailed here are ministerial.)

Lunn takes along an entourage of political staff (including his event co-ordinator) when he is overseas. Locally, he mainly flies between Ottawa and his home province of British Columbia – largely ignoring resource-rich Alberta and avoiding Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Often, he flies home from Ottawa on Thursdays to “meet stakeholders.” Lunn’s aide told the Star the international trips are all part of the “minister’s commitment to make Canada a leader when it comes to natural resources.” Lunn is now minister of state for sport.

In a case where a more economical trip would have presented a better image, former Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice and his wife travelled to Belgium in July 2007 to help commemorate the thousands of Canadians who died at Passchendaele during World War I. Airfare for the couple was $13,000. A spokesperson said protocol required the minister to travel with his wife (he was meeting the King and Queen of Belgium), but she did not comment on the cost of the trip.

The Star also found some ministers use government jets and charters for flights when commercial flights would be cheaper. For example, former transport minister Lawrence Cannon used a government jet at least 22 times in two years. A spokesperson said it is the most cost-effective way to travel when the minister is headed to places (often in Quebec) where he cannot easily take a commercial flight. Cannon’s travel expenses appear low ($55,000 in two years) because the cost of his charter jets are recorded as zero. Cannon is now minister for foreign affairs.

Prompted by the Star’s questions, some political aides to Conservative ministers contacted the paper to say that some current public servants and members of the previous Liberal government also had some whopper travel bills.

An aide to former secretary of state for heritage Jason Kenney sent the Star an email explaining that Kenney flew on an $807 economy ticket to London, England, to attend a conference in November 2007. Up front in business class with a $4,697 ticket was a very embarrassed assistant deputy minister from the same department. Kenney’s aide was responding to a question about Kenney’s trip to Istanbul ($10,500 airfare) as the Canadian government representative to the secretive Bilderberg conference, an annual meeting of top business and government leaders. Kenney’s aide said Kenney went to Bilderberg to “converse about Canada’s successful experience managing diversity.”

An aide to former environment minister John Baird (he is now transport minister) emailed the Star to point out that Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion spent $27,000 to take five political aides to a Montreal environment conference when he was the environment minister. Records show the cost for the trip, to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in December 2005, was $23,560 and that he took seven aides: his chief of staff, director of communications, senior policy adviser, policy adviser, two special assistants and the director of parliamentary affairs.

Dion’s staff did not respond to requests for an interview.

Government travel costs have become easier to access thanks to a policy called Proactive Disclosure. Each government department must post its travel expenses, per person, within three months of each trip. Before 2004, the information could only be obtained via an access to information request.

But the federal records don’t reveal the full story of a trip. For example, an entry from 2007 shows that Ian Brodie, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Harper, took a $16,925 flight to Australia in May 2007. He went on his own and the trip is described only as “chief of staff’s visit to Australia.”

Asked about the 11-day trip, a spokesperson for Brodie said the trip was “in advance of the APEC Summit” which was held in September. Trip records show that Harper’s office sent three advance staffers in July to prepare for his involvement in the Asia Pacific Economic Summit. The spokesperson would not comment on a press report in an Australian newspaper that at least part of the reason for Brodie’s visit was to thank members of the ruling John Howard government for providing advice that helped the Stephen Harper government get elected —–and possibly return the favour by advising Howard on his upcoming election (Howard lost that November).

Expense records can be viewed by the public, for free, at www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pd-dp/gr-rg/index-eng.asp.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-869-4425 or kdonovan@thestar.ca.

Elections in the U.S., Canada and Ecuador, and the Influence of Karl Rove September 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in About Canada, About Ecuador, About Repubicans, Canada, U.S. Election 2008.
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I have ties with three countries, the United States, Canada and Ecuador, which happen to be — all three– in the midst of election campaigns.


A single word comes to mind: Rove.  As in Karl Rove.  In the States Rove and his protégés are firmly in control of the McCain campaign.  And it’s all about Sarah Palin, who combines the characteristics of motherhood and apple pie at the same time as she comes across, as one commentator described her, as a toned down porn star.  Issues be damned.  It’s about Sarah, right to life (for the foetus if not for American soldiers and Iraqi and Afghani civilians), gay marriage, flexing American muscle in the face of terrorism, taking advantage of every vestige of racism that remains strong in the American psyche, and, of course, playing the religion card.  It’s a form of triumphalism that would make Joseph Goebbels proud.


In Canada, where a former Prime Minister, once famously said elections are no place to discuss issues, Conservative PM Stephen Harper has not forgotten the infamous Willie Horton commercial that sunk Michael Dukakis in the 1988 U.S. presidential election.  He is promoting life sentences for 14 year old gang members (with parole eligibility after 25 years – let no one ever say that Harper doesn’t have a heart).  In an attempt to paint his opponents as latte drinking, quiche eating elites, he has justified his cutting of funding to arts and culture because ordinary folks don’t care about the arts.  He went on to add: “average Canadians have no sympathy for ‘rich’ artists who gather at galas to whine about their grants.”


But it is in Ecuador, which is in the midst of a referendum to approve or reject a new progressive Constitution, that even Karl Rove could learn a thing or two.  The “No” campaign has stooped to lows that the master of lies, distortion and spin might not dare to descend.  The Ecuadorian right, along with its conservative allies in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, are shouting at the top of their collective voice (with the support of most Ecuadorian media) that the under the proposed new Constitution, the State will promote abortion, homosexuality, dictatorship, poverty and hunger (including the latter two is bitterly ironic in that those who for generation have held power and are desperate not to relinquish it, are the very ones responsible for the high degree of poverty and hunger that exist in the country in the first place).


Riding through the streets of Guayaquil, the nations largest city and principal seaport, I saw scores of humble apparently home-made “No” signs.  I said to myself that the “No” campaign must be somehow getting to ordinary people.  On closer look, however, I discovered that the signs, which appeared to be clumsily made with ball point pens, were in fact mass produced lithographs.  You might try that one some day, Karl.


No here is what for me is the most interesting irony.  In the U.S. and Canada, the Rovite candidates are poised to celebrate victory.  In Canada, Conservative PM Stephen Harper seems to be on the verge of converting his minority government into a majority one.  In the States, McCain still holds a slight edge over Obama, despite the fact that the popularity of the Republican Party is at an all-time low.  These campaigns are far from over, and could still turn around in favor of more moderate parties.


In Ecuador, however, despite the heavily financed campaign for the “No” vote coming from the traditional rightist parties and their corporate sponsors, and despite the backing of most of the media and political pundits for a “No” vote; the “Yes” campaign appears to hold a solid majority.  The majority of Ecuadorians, who live in a country where the levels of illiteracy and under education far exceed those of the United States and Canada, somehow have found a way to see through the lies and manipulations and have continued to support the Alianza País Party (which has created the proposed new Constitution) and its President, Rafael Correa, who have maintained high degrees of popularity despite constant attacks from the right and the media.


There is a powerful slogan that is often used at political rallies: “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido” (“the people, united, will never be defeated”).  In Ecuador, this seems to be developing into reality.  I have hopes for the same in the two North American alleged democracies.