Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andrew Nikiforuk offers his suggestions as to how Rachel Notley can improve Alberta's economy and political scene in her first term in office. And thwap comments on the right's more hysterical responses to Notley's victory.

- Meanwhile, Duncan Cameron writes that Albertans have joined the rest of Canada in rejecting a regressive tax system. And Louis-Philippe Rochon reminds us that there's still plenty more which needs to be done on that front at the federal level.

- Justin Ling discusses how C-51 fits into a wider pattern of intrusive surveillance plans - even as the U.S. reins in its own surveillance apparatus. And the Canadian Labour Congress laments the shredding of civil rights in the name of a secretive security state.

- Finally, the Star exposes the Cons' systematic purging of any watchdog who dares to live up to the title. Bruce Cheadle reports that the Cons' latest omnibus bill includes a retroactive prohibition against prosecution for what appear to have been gross violations of federal access to information legislation. And Lawrence Martin writes that the Cons can't survive an election campaign where integrity is a meaningful issue:
There was evidence beforehand that the PMO had interfered with a Deloitte audit on the expenses of Mike Duffy and other senators. But new court documents obtained by The Globe and Mail make the case stronger. In one, Corporal Benoit Jolette says the force’s investigation learned that the audit report “had made its way to the PMO, to their office and, I guess, revisions, what they wanted to have written in the report, was done.” In addition, e-mails from PMO officials speak of plans “to protect Senator Duffy.” Nigel Wright, then Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, writes of an intent to “put him in a different bucket.”

In terms of breach of the public trust, falsifying audits ranks high. The Harper Tories have been caught at it before. There was a case involving former cabinet minister Bev Oda altering a document for CIDA funding. In another they went so far as to distort a report by former auditor-general Sheila Fraser. They used her words to make it look like she was crediting their party with prudent financial management when in fact she was crediting the Liberals.

How much do they think they can get away with? Being caught once usually makes you think twice about being a repeat offender. Not these guys.

Last week’s revelations produced columns with headlines such as “The Duffy trial’s smoking gun just blew up in Harper’s face.” A telltale sign of the Tory troubles on the file is that they offered no rebuttal to pointed questioning in the Commons. Instead, they had backbencher Paul Calandra stand and issue a sheaf of non-answers. This was the same Mr. Calandra who some time ago gave a tear-drenched apology for making a mockery of Question Period with such answers. Rather than show any remorse, he was now doing it again.
The Duffy disclosures (there will be more to come) will likely turn out to be the most damaging. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair alleged in the House of Commons they constitute obstruction of justice. No such charges have been laid against PMO officials, but if they do not suffer legal consequences, there may well be political ones.

Yet again we have the integrity of this government being called into question. For the Conservatives, there is now a real risk of it becoming the ballot question. If it does, they can kiss their chances of re-election goodbye.

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