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Canada: The Cover-Up and Theft of Another Election.

Harper fraude

The Memory Hole of Continuous Proven Fraud  over Nine Years

Canadians are within a few days of stopping or allowing the Harper regime to continue to destroy the democracy and life fabric of Canada. But the dots are taboo to connect. The PR-led opposition has joined the corporate media in a public stage ritual of forgetting. The endless lies, election cheats, and bullying abuses through nine years of PMO civil destruction go scot free.

The Harper regime has cheated or stole every election. Yet not even the Conservative robo-call fraud to deprive up to 500,000 citizens of their votes in the 2011 election has been raised in the official campaign. No-one on stage remembers any of it back to the first Harper theft of power in 2006, featuring the Harper-RCMP deal to falsely accuse the Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale in criminal investigation just prior to the election. Nor is Harper’s violation of his own Election Act in calling the 2008 election and its massive illegal spending on attacks ads filling the airwaves with public hate just before the vote. All has been proven off the campaign stage, but all has been silenced on it. The regime’s near-daily record of lies, scandals and violations has gone the memory hole of the electoral campaign, with $54 million on hand for attack ads.

Nothing sticks because public information is repressed in every form by the Harper PMO, the corporate media publish only transient details and flattering pictures, and the mainstream parties silently submit to the rule of amnesia. Yet every destruction tracks back to the Mafia-like despotism of the Harper PMO whose rule of fear, division, lies, character assassination and public sector dismantling runs free with no connection on stage. Even as I write, Harper tells more public lies that “there are no cuts at the CBC” and that “marijuana is far more dangerous than tobacco’.

The Wheat Board clause is the addition replacing the gagging clause (which comes in enough). We may recall how the proven big liars and war criminals of the US Republican party getting re-elected there despite their crimes against democracy and law. Harper is the branch-plant version with more years allowed to strip the country’s public accountability and wealth to serve the rich. Constituencies of bigotry and greed provide the energies of attack always in motion.

From Fraud, War against Science and Dispossession of the Poor to tthe Niqab Sting

Fraud, war against public knowledge, and dispossession of the poor are the hallmarks of the Harper regime exposed in many forms off stage from an aroused Canadian public. But they are amnesiac in the official campaign. They continue with impunity and the tacit support of official opposition silence. The clear majority of citizens loathe the man destroying Canada’s common life substance and identity. But the pathological meaning is taboo to name on the public stage.

In the turning point of the election campaign that Harper was losing on the ground, national  attention was suddenly diverted to the veil rights of two indoctrinated women claiming duty to Allah and the Prophet to keep their faces hidden in citizenship ceremony. How could such a red herring reverse the Harper defeat overnight when not even the Koran prescribes veils?

Yet a feudal harem duty became solemnly claimed as a public right by the politically correct even in swearing citizen allegiance to Canada. Incredibly the leader of the Quebec stronghold of the opposition NDP took  the bait. Playing against the role that had been long fit up for him by the corporate press – the angry man – he donned the image of liberal tolerance. He stood up for the symbol of an ancient, foreign right of possession of women, and predictably alienated his Quebec support. Along with the NDP’s me-too neo-liberalism of “no deficit”, the party blew the national election lead into third place within days.

Public relations and political correctness are dear to marketing men and pollsters running the NDP too. But they do not work with citizens who dislike turncoats to neo-liberal dogma and are used to seeing people’s faces as fellow citizens.

Thus dragged into a stand enabling no-one’s life in the country, the campaign for the working people of Quebec and Canada became weak and alien – a betrayal of its voter base. In truth, the stand does not even protect the veiled immigrants. Their fathers and husbands can now demand the right of their proprietorship over them as a sacred right in Canada itself against long evolved citizen norms of openness and trust. Thus the entire Harper record of perpetual lies and harms against the common life interest of Canada disappeared into the memory hole over a false right serving no-one’s better existence in the country.

Thus a total diversion to a sectarian demand in citizenship oath itself succeeded. It completely switched the life-and-death of the 2015 election to an unconscious visceral plane where emotional knee-jerk was guaranteed – the master psych-op of the Harper regime. The fact that the issue is still before the courts known to rule against Harper over-stepping laws of every kind was ignored. But Harper rule won again by appeal to the knee-jerk unconscious of the masses.

This is in fact the crypto-fascist key of all Harper public appeal. Play the primeval fear card and step up PMO command to stop the fabricated danger to the country. Transnational attack dog Lynton Crosby, “master of the dark arts of dirty politics”, was on hand to orchestrate the diversion in the midst of a losing election. Simultaneously Harper’s-re-jigged Election Commission overrode the Election Act that says no non-Canadian may “induce anyone to vote” one way rather than another. Anything goes in this regime of corruption all the way down.

The Underlying Grammar of Amnesia and Illusion

The underlying deep structure of amnesia and illusion can be formulated in one sentence. National elections are increasingly reduced to a corporate market game of propagandas to sell one product rather others to targeted private-interest groups who will behave predictably as an aggregate as buyers of commodities for sale. The first premise here is that public intelligence does not exist, and the second is that any lie and fraud you can get away with is smart. .

No-one seems to see the entailment that the common life interest of citizens is ruled out a priori.Slogan rhetoric and partisan hype is all there is for the P-R managers of the game. “Middle class” can be asserted as vehemently by one party as the other with no meaning. The health, home and literacy of all citizens, not just the middle class having more money, is repelled by the marketing mind. Here the common interest is the latest opinion poll of selves with no facts involved.

The deciding force is private money, but this too is taboo to speak on the public stage. So is is the predictable  result. Those who control more money more fund the party that wins even it cumulatively destroys the collective life capital of society and world.

The party meant to oppose this refuses to say it nd the mass media never allow it into their ad vehicles. So the ‘left’ party buys in and presses everyone on its lists to give more money to pay corporate media for more ads. One X on a card at the end decides it all in the end. Yet ever more people cannot access even that.  This is the design of Harper’s Orwellian ‘Fair Elections Act’, excluding all those without an official identification resident address – in short, the poor and native citizens. Buttressing this fix of the election, Harper rule redefines electoral boundaries at the same time so that his party picks up an extra 22 seats, compared to the NDP and the Liberals adding six and two seats respectively. The riggings and frauds never stop.

In the dominant value system, the underlying formula is that more money in private pockets is the final good. Worship of riches that contribute no life function and increasingly pollute and deplete the world are kept out of public view. That the global gold baron patron of the Munk Institute debate been featured in this election is a metaphor of this regime’s total corruption. The instant institute becomes the private corporate ground for where Harper is willing to debate. No media or even opposition party reports that the Munk institute is a special recipient of many millions from Harper’s government, lavishes Tory front-men with rich company positions when they step down, helps to reset University of Toronto to a transnational corporate propaganda site, and causes continual human rights abuses in poor countries by its world-leading gold extractions from their lands. The right-wing audience repeatedly applauded Harper alone, and no mass media reported the fix.

This is one way in which the Harper regime reduces the country to a looting basin for borderless corporate market vehicles. His “economic record” never deviates from this outcome, but this again is taboo to say in the campaign. Mass ignorance rules along with absolute power to command. But no-one names the game. What distinguishes the Harper regime, from prior administrations is its war on public knowledge and democracy at every plane  – its market-fascist logic. But who thinks through the meaning of every step?  None is seen or connected on stage. Aan Orwellian propaganda field is the ocean to the voters and citizens surrounded by it.

As always in this totalizing corporate game, images are the only reality. Corporate media carry the only common messages the majority see. The truth becomes whatever sells.

Yet which contending party does not buy in?  For the Harper regime, taxes like death are bad by definition, and the more money in private pockets is the ruling public value. One meta law governs the war of movement – to feed without limit on the public purse and expropriate all life-serving programs outside private profit and control.

The Harper Corruption of Canada Spreads by the Taboo Against Naming It.

Even the official opposition with the most progressive tradition of the three major parties has played the corporate-ad game instead of naming the proven despot, liar, and fraud in the PMO.  As in BC in 2013, the NDP snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by empty advertising logic with no life substance. And as with Jack Layton who first let the fanatic Harper in the door by attacking only Liberals in the 2006 debates, the NDP is too busy going after Liberals to expose the usurper destroying the country.

A narcissism of small differences prevails, with the Liberals now outflanking the NDP to the left. The NDP’s leader, Thomas Mulcair, has the capacities of an ace prosecuting attorney to expose the Harper regime as tyrannically corrupt. Yet there has been no mention of the Harper record of continual public lies, cheating, criminal behaviors, war-mongering, and – most lethal to democracy – stripping of public science, communications and accountability at every level.

Consequences follow. The Harper regime has not only torn up the Kyoto Protocol. It has closed down scientific monitorings of everything from freshwater fish and contaminants to unique carbon load detectors, fired 2000 federal scientists, shut down and destroyed public archives of fisheries and oceans, prohibited any public communication of scientific information by those remaining, and abolished habitat-protecting laws 99% of Canada’s waterways.

Not only Canada’s environment and environmental knowledge, laws and resources have been attacked non-stop by the Harper regime. It wages war against all life-protective intelligence and knowledgethat can recognize the disastrous consequences. Its master goal is to serve the runaway global corporate juggernaut that devours the world to maximize private money demand as the only value there is.

Try to think of an exception. The long train of lies, abuses, interferences, public information destructions, criminal appointments, violations of laws, and vengeful uses of the state beggars belief in its perversion of the democratic process. Even more deeply, the collective life capital bases on which every one of us depends from the atmosphere to the ocean bottoms to the rule of life-protective law and common knowledge are exactly what are targeted and defunded to turn all of government into more private market riches at the top.

Yet the near-daily Harper outrages have already come and gone with no connected tracking of them in the official campaign. So silenced have the public positions of the opposition parties been that a complicity under partisan appearances seems hard to deny. Yet we need to know the depth of the corruption that has spread into Canada’s very metabolism and marrow. Unconscious submission to the ruling game of corporate mass sales has become the way we decide how to live even if it increasingly destroys Canada and life on earth.

Tracking the Beast Not Named

We need to recall out of the memory hole of all that has been forgotten in the 2015 election what destruction Harper has wrought on Canada’s abilities to function as a democratic society and intelligent civilisation. In fact, his meta program is to destroy everything that cannot be bought and sold for private profit – the underlying fanatic goal that is not seen.

It includes what is not publicly tracked or connected – destroying the public post delivery and financially gutting the nation’s only public broadcaster CBC; attacking the prairie family farm by dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board; continuous gaggings of elected representatives; continual appointment of criminals to office; stripping Statistics Canada and the mandatory Canada Census that are the recording memory of the nation; destroying the country’s gun registry against provincial and law-enforcement requests; continual anti-union interference in collective bargaining; smearing of veteran advocates resisting abuse and dismissal of their federal ombudsman; tax agency attacks on venerable social charities not towing the Harper line; gag orders on any federal civil servant not controlled by partisan public relations officers; lying attack ads without remission on any opposition leader who may compete against Harper; putting protestors under blanket state surveillance with black lists of their leaders; covering up torture and lawless police and armed-force killings across continents; risking the lives of Canada’s foreign troops for Harper photo-ops (he forbids any photographers but his own at press conferences); continuously false cost estimates of public money for new institutional violence, dispossession and caging policies; falsification or disappearance of documents across jurisdictions; use of Government of Canada identifiers and publication channels for party propaganda including even government cheques, altogether costing over $700 million of taxpayer funds;  implicitly accepting bribes in return for public offices on the public purse for significant donors in every possible form of partisan pay-off; public contempt of parliament twice as prime minister with endless parliamentary abuses; fixed blocking of parliamentary and individual access to public information; silencing of the public service in every domain; forced loyalty oaths to political incumbents; omnibus bills that sneak through fascist-style overwhelming of any debate; secret trade deals that ruin the productive lives of countless thousands of citizens; dismembering Statistics Canada and lying about it;  arbitrary shut-downs of Parliament when convenient for continued rule; incessant interferences in independent bodies like the National Energy Board, the CRTC, the Integrity Office  and  – for reporting vast sums of illegal spending – the Parliamentary Budget Office itself.

As for foreign affairs, Harper’s attack-dog regime has been by far the most war-mongering administration in Canada’s history. It has declared without any evidence Iran as the “greatest threat in the world” while applaudingd the continuously war-criminal actions of the Israel state. It has led the NATO  bombing of once thriving Libya to irreversible ruin. It has jumped to recognise the violent and neo-Nazi-led coup in Ukraine and blame Russia for the resulting civil war and failed state. It has constructed endless false claims of Islamic terror threats and rushed to bomb in the Middle East to “stop ISIS” in ignorance of its Saudi-CIA funding, arming and creation. It has completely reversed Canada’s tradition as a peacemaker nation, voted off even the UN Human Rights Commission.

All follows the fascist pattern not named. Harper long ago gave notice of his readiness to commit the supreme crime under law in demand that Canada join the war-criminal bombing and genocide of Iraq on completely false pretexts in 2003. Here again, however, he has been given a free pass by the opposition parties in Parliament and on the 78-day campaign.

The Cover-Up Not Seen

Marketing elections run by private money for private money can override or silence all that a society needs for its better life. Once the corporate media control all perceptions to serve self-maximizing marketers from the top down with no common life interest binding across differences, no shared life value or ground can be seen.

If corporate-market PR machinations capture opposition parties themselves, there is no centre of gravity of the common good. There are only sales pitches to targeted consumers. Nothing else gets in. Since private money alone can buy the media time to pitch political products, the competition becomes over who has more money to buy ads.  That the election is won by those with most private money backing is an underling meaning that disappears into the frenetic contest to get more of it to win.  Nothing else is defined but more-money-needed in the 2015 campaign of the NDP even after all the evidence is in.

The shared life infrastructures of air to breathe, green space to enjoy and vocations to serve disappear from the conversation. Even the continuous frauds, lies, civil society destructions, and giveaways to the corporate rich are forgotten in this cover-up process not seen. Incredibly, no-one charges Harper for his proven record to destroy the very fabric of Canada’s democracy and capacity to govern for the public. It does not exist in this field of meaning. Only the memory hole remains on the campaign stage.

Do You Trust this Man? 

The electoral opposition to the Harper regime’s decade of society destruction and transfer of public wealth to the rich has one more big lie to consider. Just 12 days before the election, it was announced that the TPP (‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’) had been rammed through before the election and before Canadians or Parliament have had a chance even to read it. No matter. Harper proclaims he “is 100% certain that it is good for Canada and all Canadians”. All the terms and details remained secret and inaccessible. Not one of the factually certain costs to Canadians is admitted as an issue. No citizen or party and knows any more than allowed to be told to them. The Trade Minister refused to be interviewed.  All the certain life sacrifices of local economies, people’s secure livelihoods, food security, and vast new transportation pollution and carbon loads  are simply erased from the ledger. They do not exist to this mind-set.

The TPP was announced the day I complete this analysis. But already one can recognize that every step follows in the tracks of Harper’s absolutely unaccountable and fraudulent rule – unlimited central control, complete secrecy, exclusion of public information in every detail, silencing of everyone else around including his own party’s elected MP’s, worship of the transnational corporate system of ever more profit as infallible, omnipotent boast of knowing the future for all citizens, and a very big-lie core of all he proclaims.

One might say Harper is a fanatic beyond all precedent in Canada’s prime ministry, and a pathological liar by demand of the corporate market doctrine of which he is a creature. This is why the life-blind inner logic of what drives him is not available to his mind. What sustains him are the corporate media barons and the extreme right-wing business roundtables from which he graduates. This is why he must always have them around in debates, as at the Munk centre. They pump him on in the CEO-despotism and greed they all bow to that destroys the world.  The same happens across oceans in different variations. The TPP organizes corporate rule across the most distant continents into global dictatorship over all sovereign governments involved, over new and old unions of organized workers who can withdraw labour, over public policy shifts to serve people instead of endless foreign profits out of their countries, and over evolved recourses of democracy and  government by collective life need.

This is the covered up meaning of Harper’s certitude of better lives for all. What life-blind doctrine has ever been so mindlessly ignorant of the facts of human life and the common life support systems of our planet?  They simply do not exist to this corruption of mind. A borderless corporate market ever larger and more unaccountable to the public, human life and the biosphere itself is the God of the world destruction.

Masked in the absurd slogan of “free trade” which is free for none but transnational corporations – and why they always love it – no media challenges this deranged mind-set any more than its big advertisers. And the two mainstream parties are always funded by its agents.  This is why the evil consequences are always ignored even though they follow necessarily from these one-sided treaties of transnational corporate rights. These are the real certainties that even the money masters and  their servants cannot deny – that big transnational foreign corporations will always displace and ruin small and local businesses in every sphere they enter; that jobs and wages will always be lost, lower and less secure in the aggregate; that organized workers in unions will always be smashed or reduced further; that environmental restraints and regulations will always be eliminated if they do not conform to corporate rights to the profits they expect;  that no-one except corporate lawyers will be able to judge by secret tribunal operations accountable to no one or no international law whether a public policy is valid if a private corporation sues it at public expense; and that every penalty for not conforming to this corporate treaty mechanism, with no non-profit public body allowed to dispute it, is without upper limit of money punishment to be paid by the taxpayers of the country that has disobeyed the new global corporate rights as judged by the private and unelected corporate-lawyer tribunal made up of the same people who wrote the treaty in secret and without public debate.  

This is the already established format of the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’ which no-one can truthfully deny, and this what Stephen Harper is “certain is good for Canada and Canadians” as he gives away Canada’s sovereignty and imposes still secret foreign terms on the country in the middle of an election. Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair has for the first time in this election stood against the job-destroying, hollowing-out system that Harper leads with big lies – just as Brian Mulroney did before him with NAFTA promising “jobs, jobs, jobs” when 500,00 secure manufacturing  jobs with living salaries and benefits were soon destroyed in fact.

The Harper regime has already lost 400,000 jobs under its watch. But the TPP will disemploy more than that when race-to-the-bottom Asian wages, safety, financial and environmental regulations are available to transnational corporations and banks to feed on at the expense of Canadian society, sovereignty, family security, youth opportunities and natural life and resources. This is the competition to the lowest denominators of life and life ruin that Harper adores as his ideal, ‘the free market’ of private corporate money sequence that override all else. .

Yet the real Canada beneath corporate-money functions sees through the endless lies and betrayals that are masked as “Conservative”. This worse-than-Mulroney despot and quisling of money power might come unstuck in his latest destruction of the common life bases of the country. Recall that this party of sell-out to private and transnational money powers ended up with two seats once the people caught on to the fraud.

Medicine Hat, Alberta Becomes First Canadian City To End Homelessness

Happy-Homeless-ManBy Amanda Froelich

When there are more foreclosed homes than individuals living on the street, you know there’s something wrong with ‘the system’. Cities like Dallas, Texas andHonolulu, Hawaii have implemented creative concepts to help remedy the homelessness crisis in the States, but until recently, no major Canadian city had successfully alleviated its homelessness issue.

But that has changed in the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta, where all 60,000 residents now sleep soundly in a safe environment with a roof. Thanks to a new policy in the Canadian city, housing is mandated for everyone who has spent 10 days in a shelter or on the streets.

Now, when officials of the city learn of an individual living in these circumstances, they move him or her (or the family) into a house or apartment. Mayor of the town, Ted Clugston, says 10 days is the absolute limit an individual may live on the streets – even though the city is normally quick to find housing for homeless individuals.

Medicine Hat’s “Housing First” plan ensures every individual is off the streets before tackling the underlying causes of homelessness. Utah adopted the same model to reduce its homelessness by 91% in ten years.

Clugston told CBC News: 

Housing First puts everything on its head. It used to be, ‘You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues. If you’re addicted to drugs, it’s going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you’re sleeping under a park bench.

This might be the best insurance against economic collapse (Ad)

In 2009, the city began building new homes for the homeless and has since moved nearly 900 people off the streets. Really, it all comes down to economics: An individual living on the streets costs the city about $100,000, compared to about $20,000 to house the individual. Since adopting Housing First, police calls about homeless people and emergency room visits have decreased dramatically.

When a city opts to care for its most troubled citizens, a bold statement is made about the people of the town and the leaders who manage it.

“This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people,” said Clugston.

‘Who is She?’ campaign calls for inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women

Image: Chiefs of Ontario facebook page

 

As the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women becomes harder to ignore in the face of mounting evidence and terrifying statistics, communities, families and activists have repeatedly called on the government to lead a national inquiry.

The current federal government has so far refused to do so with Conservative leader Stephen Harperstating it is “not high on our radar.”

On September 9, the Chiefs of Ontario decided to take matters into their own hands, and launched Who is She? — a fundraising campaign for a First Nations-led national inquiry.

Chief Isadore Day is the Regional Chief of Ontario, and is a spokesperson for the campaign. Roshini Nair spoke with him by phone. This interview has been edited and condensed.

What are you hoping to achieve with the Who is She? campaign?

Who is She? is a campaign organized by the Chiefs of Ontario to fundraise and raise awareness for an Ontario First Nations-led inquiry process into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. We want to raise the public conscience about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Is this just an Ontario-based campaign or are you involving people from around Canada?

Ontario is going to do what we could do as a region within the Assembly of First Nations to raise the level of awareness, to establish a national dialogue. From that perspective, we are taking the initiative as a region, but we are certainly extending our request to all other regions, and the country to become engaged in this issue.

And the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and other regions have been supportive?

They are supportive of it. Other regions are supportive. Simply, we weren’t waiting for anybody, even the AFN. We just felt like it was time, and we did it. Our staff was ready, I worked closely with them, and we just did what we needed to do.

And I’d like to state for the record that Ontario First Nations are wanting to utilize the Who is She? campaign to invoke a national dialogue on this very critical issue because it’s not just a First Nations issue, it’s a Canadian issue.

There’s a sense of urgency. What are you looking for specifically in terms of funding?

We know that, we need at least $500,000 to begin the inquiry process. That’s a basic assumption, knowing that we’re going to have to hire lawyers, we’re going to have to have facilitators, and we’re going to have to have an information management system. There are a number of prerequisite issues we’re going to need to establish in the inquiry process.

And there will be costs associated with to ensuring that the families can become engaged. That there’s going to need to be possibly some professional counseling that’s going to be involved along the way, maybe some legal fees for folks that may come forward through the inquiry process that may say, hey listen, I’ve got more information about a case.

Without the statutory power and framework of a government-led inquiry, what does the process look like for an Indigenous-led inquiry?

An inquiry that’s coming from this perspective that doesn’t have the current statutory trigger for a national call for an inquiry means we definitely need to ensure that there’s safeguards in place such as confidentiality agreements. We’re going to have to do this thing right, so we will hire consultants that will help us navigate through the, some of the formal judicial elements of an inquiry and again, that takes money, that takes a little bit of time.

We’re actually taking responsibility for laying that process out. We would be working with those that we know in the legal community, we’ve got First Nation judges on the bench that will be able to provide us information.

This is going to be different because we are going to own the process, we are going to design the process, we are going to be able to walk our people through that process in a way that it’s us doing it.

Going forward there will probably be a much greater willingness on the part of our people to say “yes, you know what, I trust this process because it’s us doing it.” There’s a real “on the ground” sense that we’re taking control, and we’re also taking responsibility for the pain and anguish that’s been created as a result of this issue and that’s something I believe our citizens are going to feel quite comfortable with.

So the Conservative party has voted against an inquiry, whereas the Liberals, Greensand NDP have promised to launch inquiries. How does the election factor in the campaign?

It’s really important that we recognize opportunity during a federal election campaign. There will be a lot of Canadians paying attention to the issues that are important to various sectors in Canadian society.

A lot of people are wondering what’s happening with First Nations issues in this country and they will be looking at how federal parties respond to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. As we start to elevate and increase more awareness, it will certainly be an option for Canadians to say “how is this party responding to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and family violence?” and they’ll say “well this one doesn’t really care too much” and “this one does” so that’s who I’m going to vote for.

And then after the election — what if the next government is willing to mount an inquiry? What would happen to your inquiry?

There certainly will be a governance structure that ensures that there’s a decision-making process in place to allow us to make that change based on what the families want, what the communities want. We definitely are not going to replace a national inquiry. That’s not what this is about. We’re going to do what we can to prepare for an Ontario First Nations-led inquiry process and if we can dovetail some of our efforts, you know establish a much better way to engage, then certainly I think that’s something that a formal inquiry will probably invite.

And we’ll have them put ourselves in a much better position a lot sooner, because we didn’t wait for the federal government

How is the campaign going so far?

Well, we are getting money coming in. It happened right away. People were saying it’s about time, and there seems to have been a flood of enthusiasm and people congratulating us for this step forward. They were saying, more than anything, it’s time to get this work done

And what’s next?

We’re getting ready for other meetings with the premiers and territories and meeting with the federal government post 2015 federal election. I also want to recognize and commend the superb leadership and courage of Premier Kathleen Wynne who standing shoulder-to-shoulder on this issue on a number of different levels. They’re just waiting to find out exactly what it is that we want from Ontario. The fact that they’re standing beside us is symbolically a huge issue.

We want Canadians to make this known to the federal government that we really need to call an inquiry process. It’s a national issue, and we definitely want to take this opportunity to advocate on behalf of our families and above all, we want to prevent this thing from happening in the future.
Donate to the Who is She? campaign here.

Roshini Nair is a multimedia journalist based in Vancouver. Follow her on twitter @roshini_c_nai

TransCanada Whistleblower Spurs New Probe of Pipeline Giant’s Safety Record

Activists say latest allegations prove the corporation ‘cannot be trusted’ to operate its existing network, much less build new pipelines

Cut out section of pipe marked “junk” by TransCanada. (Photo: Public Citizen-David Whitley/flickr/cc)

Based on evidence provided by a whistleblower, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) is investigating pipeline giant TransCanada—the company behind both the Keystone XL and Energy East proposals—for safety-code violations, according to exclusive reporting by the Reuters news agency.

The energy regulator, which just finished accepting close to 2,000 applications from people wishing to participate in hearings on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline project, is reportedly looking into up to a dozen new allegations of pipeline safety-code violations—including “faulty or delayed repairs, sloppy welding work, and a failure to report key issues” to the nation’s energy regulator.

“Whistleblowers are extremely rare in this industry. The fact that there are now two raising such serious concerns combined with TransCanada’s horrible safety record should bring an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the National Energy Board.”
—Mark Calzavara, Council of Canadians

What’s more, notes Reuters, “it marks the second time in recent years the regulator has probed safety practices at Canada’s second-largest pipeline company following complaints by a whistleblower.”

TransCanada currently operates about 42,253 miles of natural gas pipelines across the continent, as well as the 2,639-mile section of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that has already been built. Several of those have ruptured in recent years.

In 2012, former TransCanada engineer Evan Vokes blew the whistle on his employer as he raised concerns about the competency of some pipeline inspectors and the company’s lack of compliance with welding regulations set by the NEB.

The following year, the watchdog group Public Citizen reported that dozens of anomalies, including dents and welds, had been identified along a 60-mile stretch of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, north of the Sabine River in Texas.

The current investigation also came to light via a different whistleblower who asked not to be identified but allowed Reuters to view correspondence between him or herself and the NEB.

Reuters journalist Mike De Souza reports:

According to a summary document prepared by a senior NEB official, the investigation was reviewing an allegation that TransCanada took several months to repair pipeline damage caused by a construction crew in May 2013 about 150 km (93 miles) north of Calgary, and also failed to report it to the regulator.

Another allegation describes sloppy repairs to a major line—the North Central Corridor—that serves companies in the oil sands. This natural gas pipeline had been damaged following an October 2013 explosion near Wabasca, Alberta.

Such incidents have long raised “serious questions about TransCanada’s ability to safely build and maintain pipelines,” the Council of Canadians, which opposes TransCanada’s attempts to expand its network, has said.

These latest revelations only support that position, explaining “why TransCanada has had five major pipeline ruptures in the past sixteen months,” Mark Calzavara, Council of Canadians regional organizer for Ontario, Québec, and Nunavut, told Common Dreams in an email.

“Whistleblowers are extremely rare in this industry,” he said. “The fact that there are now two raising such serious concerns combined with TransCanada’s horrible safety record should bring an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the National Energy Board. TransCanada has amply demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to build and operate the proposed Energy East pipeline.”

News outlets reported last month that TransCanada would seek U.S. State Department approval for the $600 million Upland Pipeline, which would begin in northwestern North Dakota and go north into Canada. It would transport up to 300,000 barrels of oil daily, connecting with other pipelines including the Energy East pipeline across Canada.

What if Premier Jim Prentice doesn’t do what everyone expects?

Jim Prentice

Alberta’s Legislature resumes sitting today, and the widespread expectation is that the Progressive Conservative majority will deal peremptorily with a few pieces of Legislation, mostly insignificant, pass a budget that will be introduced on March 26, and move quickly to an early election.

That is, as they say, the conventional wisdom.

But what if Premier Jim Prentice doesn’t do what everyone expects?

A few things have happened since the early-election buzz began weeks ago that might tempt Prentice to gracefully do as the Opposition demands and hold off for year or so until the “fixed election period” in cashiered premier Alison Redford’s silly voting legislation swings around in the spring of 2016.

For one thing, you just never know what a government is seeing when it looks at its own confidential public opinion polls. A better-than-expected performance by the NDP? Or worse from the government’s point of view, a better-than-expected performance by what’s left of the Wildrose Party thanks to their cantankerous rural power base still fuming about former leader Danielle Smith’s defection last December?

Regardless, I would bet you there are auguries the electorate is still more volatile than is traditional in Alberta and could turn quickly on Prentice as they turned on Redford if the planets lined up in just the wrong way from the government’s perspective.

If nothing else, the harsh and nearly instant public reaction to the premier’s look-in-the-mirror moment on the radio last Wednesday should give him pause for reflection.

 Then there’s the difficult matter of how to deal satisfactorily with Bill 10 — which requires the government to find common ground between backers of the private member’s bill it sidelined, which would have forced all publicly supported schools to allow gay-straight support groups for sexual minority children, and the government’s own considerable cohort of assertive social conservatives, who just hate that idea.

Not handled in exactly the right way — and there may be no such way — Bill 10 could also blow up in the government’s hands in the sensitive pre-election period.

And there’s the need for the government to persuade more voters that the economic crisis really is grave enough to justify whatever it is that Prentice wants to do. Why do that if you can just wait? With a little time, there’s always the chance things will start to perk up on the economic front.

Such developments could all provide arguments within the private counsels of the PC Party to think twice about hurrying into an early election — no matter what’s been said up to now.

Either way, it’s a high-stakes poker game. But if Prentice did decide to wait, well, whatever would the Opposition do then?

I’m not saying this is what Prentice is going to do — but he wouldn’t be doing his job if he weren’t thinking about it. And there’s certainly nothing like a little surprise to keep your foes off balance.

Speaking of which, who expected Prentice to say yes to a meeting with the leaders of the province’s principal public sector unions, as he did late yesterday?

On Friday, the presidents of Alberta’s four large public service unions representing health care workers, civil servants and others requested a meeting with the premier to discuss his idea of setting up a regime for public sector bargaining that would make it easier for the government to keep a lid on wage increases in the public sector.

Mr. Prentice has been under a certain amount of pressure from the right to “be like Ralph” — a reference to the late Ralph Klein’s successful campaign as premier in the mid-1990s to pressure public sector employees into agreeing to take 5-per-cent across-the-board wage cuts.

It’s early days yet, but I suspect Prentice has found this idea harder going than he imagined. For one thing, unlike the 1990s, the courts are no longer playing ball. Recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions have made it much harder for the government to arbitrarily throw out union contracts or prevent public employees from striking.

For another, Klein made it difficult for anyone else to use that strategy again when his government didn’t keep the promises it made to the same unions, led now in many cases by people who were around then and have fully functioning memories.

The unions were promised by Klein that if they took the rollbacks he wanted, they’d avoid layoffs and facility closings. They took the rollback deal to save jobs. Then they got layoffs and closings anyway.

Now Prentice and his government must suffer the consequences of Klein’s broken promises — since public sector union leaders find it much more difficult to trust any PC premier, thanks to Ralph’s bad example.

Under such circumstances, it would have been easy for Prentice to tell the unions to drop dead and refuse to meet, then gin up a confrontation to justify a polarizing election. Or just try to fob them off on a couple of flunkies.

Instead, he issued a statement yesterday that said, “I was asked to meet with public sector union leaders to discuss the government’s financial and labour relations intentions, and I am pleased to do so, and will convene a meeting within the next 10 days.”

This is smart. Smarter than I expected Prentice’s advisors would let him be. It puts him in a better position than he was in last week. It’s exactly what I would have done if I were wearing the premier’s cordovan deck shoes — so this is high praise!

It might also be smart for him to put off the election now that everyone has concluded it’s bound to be very soon.

If he did, Prentice could say, “I’ve listened to you and I’ve heard you, and I’m going to wait until time frame required by the election-period legislation.”

Could those Wildrose supporters who are still grumpy about the December counter-coup executed by the premier and Ms. Smith stay mad for more than a year? Or would they drift back to their comfortable old political home?

It’s a question worth asking. And it’s a question I’d bet you the sometimes-unpredictable Jim Prentice is thinking about right now.

Oil Bomb Train Explodes – Third in Last Three Weeks

Yet another train carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota derailed yesterday, this time in northwestern Illinois near the historic tourist area of Galena overlooking the Mississippi River. It follows recent derailments in West Virginia and Ontario. The area in which it occurred was not as remote as the Ontario derailment. However, it did not require as extensive evacuation as the one in West Virginia in which hundreds were forced from their homes in the bitter cold. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, firefighters were allowing the fireball to burn itself out.

The 105-car train included 103 cars loaded with the crude oil, with eight derailing. It’s not known yet if any oil spilled into the Mississippi River.

Residents of the Galena area might be especially uneasy about trains rolling through their area. A month ago, a train carrying ethanol derailed in Dubuque, Iowa 15 miles away, with a dozen cars going off the tracks and several landing on the frozen Mississippi River. That fire burned for a day before it went out.

So far this year, these derailments, followed by explosions and fires, have happened only in unpopulated and sparsely populated areas. But their frequency is alarming to more densely populated communities on the rail paths of these trains with many saying it’s only a matter of time until a derailment causes a disaster like the one that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013—or worse.

“Rail transport of crude oil has increased 4000% in the past six years,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Many of these trains travel along and over our waterways, putting our communities, first responders and drinking-water sources directly in harm’s way. This latest derailment shows yet again how explosive this practice can be. Urgent action is needed by the federal Department of Transportation to put the brakes on the unsafe transport of crude oil.”

The train that derailed yesterday had passed earlier through the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as well as the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2008, railroads carried 9,500 carloads of crude oil; in 2013, they carried more than 435,000 carloads. In the first half of 2014, 258,541 carloads were delivered. Rail imports of Canadian crude oil to the U.S. have increased 20 times since 2011. And as carloads skyrocketed so did accidents. As a result, more oil was spilled from railroad cars in 2013 than the entire period from 1975-2012. Bakken crude, with its exceptional volatility, caused some of the most spectacular derailments, including the one in West Virginia. But there’s evidence that Alberta tar sands oil, the cargo involved in the Ontario derailment, could be just as dangerous.

GalenaDerailment
Smoke billows from the train derailment outside Galena, Illinois. Photo credit: Chad Winterland

@pcdunham snagged a pic from the ski cam, galena derail. pic.twitter.com/d23tUBAELz— Matt (@mzt1504) March 5, 2015

Center for Biological Diversity, which has been tracking the derailments, said more aggressive action is needed to prevent these disasters.

“The only thing more mind-boggling than three such accidents in three weeks is the continued lack of action by the Obama administration to protect us from these dangerous oil trains,” said Center for Biological Diversity senior scientist Mollie Matteson. “The government has the authority to take immediate action to address this crisis which puts homes, waters and wildlife at risk–and yet it has sat back and watched. The fact that these trains are still moving on the rails is a national travesty. The next explosive wreck—and there will be more, so long as nothing changes—may take lives, burn up a town or level a city business district and pollute the drinking water of thousands of people. Enough is enough.”

While the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed new rules for trains carrying dangerous cargo, they would allow the easily ruptured DOT-111 tankers to remain in use for another two-and-a-half years and the industry continues to lobby for a longer phase-out period. However, the cars that derailed and burned yesterday were the supposedly safer newer CPC-1232 tankers.

Get ready, Alberta, for the glories of the First Ten Year Plan

Ten Year Plan

So, about that Ten Year Plan. Let’s take a very deep breath and try to get to the bottom of the strategic thinking behind what’s going on in Alberta.

Even though his Progressive Conservative Party still has about two years left to run in its mandate, recently passed a law that says there shouldn’t be an election for one more year, and nobody knows for sure what he plans to do, Premier Jim Prentice would like to call an early election because he wants to make changes so momentous, so sweeping, so astonishing that a new mandate is essential.

Or so he repeatedly says.

Don’t worry, he adds, we’ll have a plan for that… a Ten Year Plan. (Details to follow.)

Prentice never quite makes it clear, but his strategy seems to be to produce a budget that makes a lot of dramatic promises about cutting spending and call it a Ten Year Plan, then call a snap election while the opposition is still reeling and before anyone can think too deeply about what’s wrong with the Big Idea, such as it may be, or what the true alternatives might be.

There will likely not be much discussion of alternatives once the election has been called because the only parties with meaningful advertising budgets are Prentice’s Tories and what’s left of the Wildrose Party after its leadership defected to the PC benches. Both are now parties of the far right by Canadian standards.

Conveniently for the government, Alberta’s election laws make advertisements by other groups that “take a position on an issue with which a registered party or registered candidate is associated” illegal during the election period.

Just the same, Prentice has vowed, “This will be the most significant budget in modern times in the province.” The budget, he said, “will have impacts on every single person” in Alberta!

Why all this apocalyptic stuff? Well, that’s easy to explain. Notwithstanding Prentice’s omnipotent position as master of the mighty, enduring and forever united Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, ordinary Albertans are grumbling skeptically in surprising numbers about the idea of an election just now.

A lot of them see it as self-serving — Alison-Redford-style self serving, as a matter of fact — and figure it’s bad form at best, outright illegal at worst, to toss out the fixed-election-period law before it’s been tried once, or even politely repealed.

Plus, if the economy gets worse, the government is bound to grow less popular. Predictions like that of the Conference Board of Canada yesterday, which said Alberta is in for “two years of tough times” are another reason for the PCs to want an election now, not… after two years in which the fruits of their bad management are evident.

In addition, despite their bad habit of voting Conservative no matter what, Albertans are surprisingly resistant to changes in existing social democratic programs, public health care in particular. Some of them suspect we may be in for an application of the Shock Doctrine, with low oil prices as an excuse for attacking public services.

The suspicion may even be dawning — as it most certainly dawned on the premier’s advisors at Navigator Ltd. in the East British Colonial Building on Wellington Street in Toronto — that Prentice isn’t really all that congenial a fellow, and is far less likely to grow on Albertans the way Ralph Klein did even if he does the same dumb stuff.

Given all this, the PC Party and its high-priced advisors must be thinking, they need to get the election out of the way right now before the Opposition parties can get their ducks in a row. Well, all’s fair in love and politics, so what did you expect?

To do that, though, Albertans must be persuaded that without a mandate, and a plan, the Legislature will become the Dome of Doom, and possibly crumble into the North Saskatchewan River.

So what are the details of the cataclysmic changes that are to be included in the Ten Year Plan?

“There have been no decisions made,” Prentice proclaimed, but “it’s pretty clear in the circumstances that we are in that whoever is the premier had better have a mandate.” (Transcribed from the Edmonton Journal.)

As noted in this space yesterday, that’s the thing about Prentice’s policy pronouncements: no matter how many times he promises an exciting climax, a decisive moment, a Ten Year Plan, there never seem to be any details when the curtain is pulled back.

So, Alberta, here’s what we surmise: You’re going to have an early election whether you want it or note.

Prentice might or might not tell you when it’s going to be before he calls it. You may or may not have a few of the details before the election actually takes place of about how this notion of weaning the government off resource revenues might work, especially if there are to be no tax or royalty increases, both of which the premier seems to have already ruled out.

What you will have, Prentice has promised it (like he promised term limits), is that ten-yearplan.

And that, Prentice is bound to argue, is significant enough, even momentous enough, to require a snap election!

Now, I may not have to tell you that in the past, multi-year economic plans in one-party states haven’t exactly had a terrific track record. (Sorry, we’re not allowed to mention whichone-party state we have in mind, that being a Political Convention in Alberta.) Bureaucrats in the capital city (hint: not Edmonton, but at a similar latitude) tend to set unrealistic quotas but not bother to set measurable goals, or, if they do happen to set them, to keep making changes. The whole thing ends in tears.

But I don’t think you have to worry about that this time in Alberta because — as befits the political movement that doesn’t necessarily believe in either evolution of gay-straight alliances in public schools — the Prentice Government’s real Ten Year Plan is likely only to pray really hard for a return to high oil prices plus a couple of pipeline approvals while taking swipes at public employees to the cheers of the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Diversification of the economy? Oh, there will be promises made, but don’t expect any action or details. The Fraser Institute has already said we shouldn’t diversify the economy — after all, there’s nothing like owing your soul to the company store — and since Monday’s speech to the Edmonton Rotary Club we know the Fraser Institute is where Prentice gets his economic analysis.

After a successful election based on a Ten Year Plan with no details, sometime in Year Four of the plan the PCs can call another election and argue we need to elect them to one more massive majority so they can complete the Ten Year Plan, details to follow. Then everything will be rosy, or even Wildrosy, until the election after that.

The government can then get Navigator to use GroupThink ™ — I’m actually not making that part up — to come up with a catchy election slogan for a party not quite halfway through its First Ten Year Plan. Like, say, 4+4=10!

Having to hold an election every five years is inconvenient, of course, but it’s what you get when you became part of a federation long before you became a one-party petro-state. Still, thanks to GroupThink ™, that problem can be overcome.

Before you know it, it’ll be 2023 or so and time for yet another election before the Ten Year Plan finally runs out in 2025. Actually providing details of how it’s going to work can be put off until after that election.

A Second Ten Year Plan (details to follow) would get the PCs through to about 2035, by which time The Dynasty will have been around almost as long as … that other government … and Premier Prentice can be invited to the White House by President-for-Life Scott Walker to receive the Presidential Medal of Pipelines.

There, I think I’ve explained it. GroupThink ™. Ten Year Plans. And the Most Significant Budget in Modern Times. That’s all you need! Certainly not any details.

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