Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

Content goes here.

- I'll second Greg's agreement with Chantal Hebert's latest:
As it did over the census, the Liberal opposition has turned to the social media to put pressure on the Conservatives. Given the alleged seriousness of the offence, one would think the party would turn its mind to putting its money where its mouth is in Parliament rather than on Facebook and Twitter.

If Harper was the leader of the official opposition, he would already be taking steps to withdraw the confidence of the House from the government.
The testimony that triggered the 2005 opposition siege of Martin’s minority government did not involve the Liberal leader or his ministers directly. It surfaced as the result of an inquiry set in motion by the prime minister himself and only a few months before its definitive conclusions were scheduled to be delivered to the public.

Still Harper made a strong case that the issue of the character of the government was one of such importance that it deserved to be put to voters at the earliest opportunity.

What was true then is as true now. The Prime Minister — by virtue of his role and his authority — defines the culture of his government and Canadians deserve to decide whether a culture of ministerial deceit is what they expect from a party that came to power promising to restore the integrity of an abused system.
- And unfortunately, the fact that the Libs are treating Oda's forgery as just another momentary scandal rather than linking it in any meaningful way to the broader question of whether or not the Cons can be left in office - including by publicly stating a willingness to work with other parties to achieve change - only figures to give force to criticisms like John Ibbitson's that the issue is one of "nit-picking" rather than the fitness for office of the Harper Cons.

- Rick Salutin is right to note that there's a serious lack of activist organization to serve as a counterweight to political leaders in reaching the broader public. But it's worth also adding the caveat that there's also a need for some kind of identifiable longer-term goal in organizing to ensure that one-time outpourings of public outrage such as that which toppled Hosni Mubarak don't simply give rise to more of the same under another figurehead leader.

- Finally, Dan Gardner's latest features a reminder as to just how much the Cons have done to eliminate inconvenient (though accurate) data from Canada's public debate:
While the world moves ever deeper into an Information Age, Canadian public policy is headed in the other direction. “As a nation, we have very little capacity to conduct social policy research, evaluate social programs or monitor progress towards achieving social aims,” concluded a federal report in 1998. That statement is even more true today.

“There is genuine concern that Parliament is losing control of its fiduciary responsibilities,” Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, told a House of Commons committee this week. Page raised his red flag for many reasons. The latest is the refusal of the Conservative government to provide MPs with the estimated costs of implementing its crime bill. The government says the estimates are “cabinet confidences.”

So Cabinet gets to see them, no one else. Vote, but vote blindly. Having come to power promising “open and transparent” government, the Conservatives have made government more closed and opaque than ever.

The Law Commission, which studied complex legal issues: closed. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), which reports on critical financial issues: under-funded and stonewalled. The long-form census, which was the source of essential data used by private and public sectors across the country: replaced with a useless survey.

Perhaps worst of all, civil servants are increasingly forbidden from organizing conferences or otherwise connecting with external researchers whose findings my be uncongenial to the government. Where contact is permitted, there are still restrictions. I know of one conference where a survey of the attendee’s views was quashed by frightened civil servants because it was likely to produce numbers the Conservatives don’t want to exist. Mission accomplished.

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