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May 8, 2015

Know the real Harper before you vote

The Canadian Charger

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During a recent interview with Steve Paikin, on the TV Ontario program The Agenda, journalist and author of Party of One Michael Harris explained why he feels that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not to be believed.

“Preston Manning said to me: 'Words don't mean much to Stephen.' If that's true, if words don't matter much to people, that means that their word doesn't matter much.”

He cited the example of Mr. Harper standing up in the House of Commons and on the record saying there were contracts signed for the F35 and giving a price and saying we were protected, when none of that was true. “There was no contract; the price was wildly out,” Mr. Harris said.

The ongoing saga of suspended Senator Mike Duffy – currently on trial facing 31 criminal charges- is another issue on which Canadians have yet to hear the truth from Mr. Harper, Mr. Harris said.

“People want a straight answer to the Mike Duffy situation. What did the Prime Minister know about that?  What did Nigel Wright do and what conversations were held? On the record we've got five different stories from the Prime Minister, starting with the story that Nigel Wright was fully enjoying his confidence and would not be resigning, until a few months later when he was fired because he lied and deceived me, lied and deceived the Canadian people.”

Mr. Harris cited the Afghan detainee situation as another issue upon which Mr. Harper was less than forthcoming to Canadians - the people he is supposed to represent. 

Richard Colvin – second in command at the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan -  first started red-flagging for Ottawa "serious, imminent and alarming" problems with the treatment of detainees in May 2006. However, Mr. Colvin indicated that rather than address his concerns on behalf of the Canadian people, the Harper government chose to sweep the dirt under the carpet.

"At first, we were mostly ignored. However by April 2007 we were receiving written messages from the senior Canadian government co-ordinator for Afghanistan to the effect that I should be quiet and do what I was told, and also phone messages from a DFAIT (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) assistant deputy minister suggesting that, in future, we should not put things on paper, but instead use the telephone," Mr. Colvin told MPs.

Mr. Harris asked who was telling the truth on this issue: “Richard Colvin our ambassador in Afghanistan who said we participated in torture or was the government correct which said we don't do that stuff.”

Mr. Harris added that the judges panel which was set up to find out exactly what the Canadian government documents on this issue said was disbanded by the Harper government in 2010. At the time the panel had received 4,000 of the 40,000 documents it requested from the government and many of these were heavily censored.

When confronted by Mr. Paikin – who clearly didn't appreciate Mr. Harris' characterization of Mr. Harper – Mr. Harris said of Mr. Harper: “I think he's amoral. I don't think the issue of right and wrong matters to him. I think the thing that matters to him is getting things to turn out the way he wants them to.”

He said he had talked to a couple of people who worked for Mr. Harper in the communications field and they all said the same thing:

“The truth did not matter to him. What mattered to him was the right perception being created by the people - one of the many hundreds of spinners that he puts out into the news everyday. And that's what Preston Manning meant when he said: 'I don't think words mean much to Stephen.' ”

Moreover, Mr. Harris explained how Mr. Harper's lack of respect for the truth has diminished the role parliament plays in governing the country, to the detriment of Canadians.

“For the first time in history this is a government that has brought in massive omnibus bills, containing lots of information that isn't financial; but much more important from a financial point of view, they have kept back the planning and priorities reports that are usually published along with the budget so people know how the money is going to be spent. Two things are happening: the document itself is so big that people can't possibly digest it and the numbers aren't there.”

When Kevin Page, parliamentary budget officer from 2008 to March 22, 2013, asked the Clerk of the Privy Council for the information he needed to do his job, Mr. Harris said the clerk replied in writing that he's not going to get it.

In keeping with Mr. Harper's modus operandi, Mr. Harris said he has destroyed the committee system by having all of the important meetings behind closed doors, limiting the ability of the committee to travel the country and even controlling the selection of witnesses.

“This guy Harper has worked to create a system where opposition MP's have no say in the process; parliament has become a minor obstacle, and his own MP's  - several of them – have not said a word in the House of Commons for years.”

He added that if our government officials are not telling people the truth the whole electoral process becomes a bit of a joke.

“In each of the last three elections the Conservatives cheated. The “in - out scandal” in 2006 with Dean Del Mastro, robocall in 2011. I believe this is still one of the great unsolved crimes of the country, not Michael Sona's doing.”

Mr. Paikin pointed out that all of what Mr. Harris said was known on May 2, 2011, yet Mr. Harper got elected by almost 40 per cent of Canadian voters.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time and these people got fooled,” Mr. Harris replied.

And if Canadian voters continue to turn a blind eye to Mr. Harper's conduct, Mr. Harris said they will not recognize the country they end up with as a result.

“If we continue along this path where the House of Commons has been turned into a small political obstacle instead of our central governing institution, this country will be changed unrecognizably if this government gets back in again because they have no respect for those institutions. I think when somebody can persuade the country and the other political parties that they own the information in a democracy you're at a meltdown stage.”

One can only wonder why Canadians continue to tolerate Mr. Harper's conduct, as outlined above. Mr. Harris offers an explanation.

“One of the sad parts of our political debates in Canada is that we have become celebrity worshippers of political success stories instead of scrutinisers of bad policy.”

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