The fall session of Parliament closes with many issues still in the background – from new sex-worker legislation, to fear over Ottawa shootings, to de-funding refugee programs and conflicts with first nations over financial transparency – which will characterize the new session in the run up to the election.
The Harper government is increasing its direct influence over the CBC through provisions included in the recent 111 page budget bill. Under the new legislation the government – which is supposed to have an arms-length relationship with the CBC – will be able to exercise control over collective bargaining and pay issues. In addition, eight of the eleven members of the current appointed CBC board of directors have been financial supporters of the Conservative party.
The Conservative control of the public broadcaster is not the only way in which the Harper government is influencing what information enters the public sphere. They also exercise similar controls over the Canada Council for the Arts, the International Development Research Centre and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa – all organizations whose activities have come under attack by the Torie government.
In addition, the Harper government has consistently denied access to reporters investigating issues related to Conservative policy and practice. For instance, they have failed to answer questions regarding missing records at the Canadian Revenue Agency and have also evaded questions about why there are entire departments at Transport Canada that are left vacant – positions that monitor shipment of dangerous goods such as bitumen from the tar sands. Emails have been obtained which demonstrate that Canadian government officials have been coached on how to answer questions regarding such issues, particularly in regard to the lobbying activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which have been involved in promoting the Keystone Excel pipeline among American legislators.
Provinces have begun to hand over death records for many of the 150 000 children who died while in residential schools from 1870 until 1996. These records will provide additional information on who died, the cause of death and where they are buried.
The Harper government has spent nearly $500 million dollars in ads over the past five years.
Among major campaigns, the government’s ubiquitous “Economic Action Plan” advertisements cost $14.9 million, followed by ads focusing on “Responsible Resource Development” including full spread ads in the New York times to promote the Keystone Excel pipeline ($8.2 million) and a campaign promoting tax cuts ($7 million). All three are likely to figure prominently in the Conservatives’ 2015 bid for re-election
There are a lot of year-end lists this time of the year. CBC has release their own quiz based on what pundits consider to be “news making” issues from 2014. It’s interesting to see what they consider to be news-worthy political issues.
As 2014 draws to a close, the three major federal political parties are beginning to posture themselves for the impending election in 2015. As might be expected, the positioning that’s happening has revolved around emotional topics such as military involvement in Iraq and perceptions of home-grown terrorists. The personality of the party leaders is also in play as political spin doctors try to gain as much of the non-base support as possible.
A new book by a Canadian defence analyst and professor, Douglas Bland presents a particular slant on the possibility of increased confrontation between first nations people and the Harper government. Bland’s position seems to be directed at mitigating indigenous actions that would block Canadian infrastructure. Note that these articles on Bland’s book do not discuss the violence which has been sanctioned by the Canadian state against indigenous peoples historically, nor do they reflect on the violence being done to ecosystems and ways of life by expanding and subsidizing massive industrial developments such as the Tar Sands and pipelines. Along with articles on Bland’s book, I’ve included some alternative videos reflecting indigenous concerns below.