Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Lawrence Martin notes that the Cons' push for yet more layers of bureaucracy is based purely on a desire to cater to prejudice rather than any intention to improve the lot of Canada's First Nations:
Shortly after Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power in 2006, they moved to scrap the Kelowna Accord that had been negotiated by Paul Martin’s Liberals. It was Mr. Martin’s pride and joy. It had been so difficult to get a consensus from native leaders. But for this agreement, a new funding deal to improve living conditions for first nations communities, he had found one.

Conservatives were more concerned about the health of the existing funding than about any new funding. They wanted increased oversight. As part of their new system of accountability, they were broadening the auditor-general’s powers to scrutinize a whole new range of organizations. In so doing, they wanted Indian bands audited.

They went to auditor-general Sheila Fraser, whereupon Ms. Fraser, sources recall, told them to go jump in a deep river. She would have none of it. There was no need for her department to audit band chiefs, she reasoned, because they were already being audited heavily. They were being audited by municipalities, by provinces, by the private sector, as well as, in some instances, by Ottawa.

Ms. Fraser’s department had done a report before the Tories came to power showing that an average band produces close to 200 reports a year. If the bands didn’t file audited financial statements, their funding was cut off or delayed. The AG’s office thought that for any government to pretend it didn’t know where the money was being spent was foolhardy. There was likely some abuse, but no more or less than most other organizations.

The Conservatives’ motivation in pushing for the band audits was political, the AG’s office suspected. They wanted to score points with their base and the chiefs were an easy target.

This might help explain why the reaction in Attawapiskat to the government’s sending in a third-party manager to monitor the band’s financial affairs was so hostile.
- But when it comes to their own government, the Cons are rather less interested in listening to the many voices calling for more effective oversight.

- Meanwhile, Linda McQuaig points out that it isn't just in Canada that the Cons are managing to make life worse for the people who can least afford it:
What the Harper government is doing is disastrous for Canadians, but even more disastrous for those most directly under the heel of climate change — notably the one billion Africans who will be the first and hardest hit by climate change, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So the Harper government, working arm-in-arm with some of the world’s least vulnerable people — international oil interests — has done its best to sabotage a process aimed at preventing the catastrophic climate impacts that particularly threaten the world’s most vulnerable people: food and water shortages, crop reductions, flooding and loss of land.

Such callous disregard for the plight of the globe’s most defenceless citizens — it’s not really a stretch to label this an “animus” toward the world — is distinctly out of line with Canada’s traditional approach as a leading nation working with other nations to advance international goals.
Sadly, we’re now using our considerable power to destroy any hope of heading off climate disaster. It turns out that we’re just as effective at undermining attempts to solve the world’s problems as we once were at attempting to find solutions.

Canada is still punching above its weight. But, under the animus of the Harper government, those punches are now low blows, landing on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
- Finally, Thomas Walkom and Tim Harper both point out some of the consequences of the Cons' unilateral move to deflate future health care funding.

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