After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Keen Lament: How Harper is putting his ideological and/or partisan needs ahead of nuclear safety, the CPC "hidden agenda" warned about in action.

A little over two years ago we were just about to enter an election campaign. At the time I was arguing that it would be less dangerous/destructive for Canada to re-elect the clearly tired, stale, and arguably corrupt Liberals to government than to provide Harper's CPC with a government, even a minority government, because of his "hidden agenda" to make over the Canadian government into something more in line with his vision of what it should be, and I based those fears on the consistent views he had publicly held from the late 80s until 2005 when he finally realized that those views were keeping him from attaining power. For this I was ridiculed and mocked by both the left and right, the right because I attacked their leader, the left because they argued only someone benefiting from corruption as a Liberal could possibly think that the Libs were safer/better than the CPC (or NDP, as for some reason a few of these critics actually thought the NDP could become the next government or at least the Official Opposition and would be able to keep Harper in check, well I would argue that the NDP has not been able to do much of anything to keep Harper in check and arguably have helped him more than harmed him by their incessant desire to replace the Libs and therefore continually equate the Libs and CPC as equally bad choice despite the clear differences between them) . My responses were rooted in my belief that as bad as theft of taxpayer dollars to the tune of a few tens of millions of dollars are that I would much prefer that to rampant abuse of power and manipulation of the judicial and civil service elements of our government to place them in the service of an ideological driven party (let alone one driven by the same ideological underpinnings as the GOP/movement conservatives in the USA), in this case the Harper CPC. Well, here we are two years later and what have we seen in that time I would argue shows the hidden agenda fear was grounded in substance and that it is being implemented as much as possible in the circumstances Harper's minority government allows him to manage.

As KNB noted in this post of hers here we have seen this pattern appear several times in two years where this government wants to do something that is opposed by independent arms-length bodies answerable not to a government but to Parliament as a whole (which in a minority situation is a very important distinction, in a majority government one can simply pass whatever legislation through Parliament one wants without having to worry about what anyone else might say/think/do (so long as it remains compliant with the Charter of course, at least while our Supreme Court is kept free of this hyperpartisanizing of the government by Harper that is), but in a minority government situation the government must be able to count on enough opposition MPs agreeing so as to have the needed majority to pass legislation to override the independent body's decision or more broadly their mandate) they simply do what they want by firing without good cause and/or ignoring what the independent regulator says while claiming that their own unique legal interpretation is all that matters/counts since obviously any government functionary daring to disagree with them is doing so only out of some partisan basis instead of on any real/valid grounds. We have seen this done to the Canadian Wheat Board, the Elections Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, TWO Chief Electoral Officers, the Environmental Commissioner (within the AG's department overall if I recall correctly) and now the nuclear safety regulator Linda Keen. This in two years come next week as a minority government with one of the weakest minority governments in history. I would suggest that this underscores exactly why this government can never be trusted with majority power and indeed is far too dangerous to have even in a minority situation. Keep in mind it was Harper in the closing week of the last election campaign that said people shouldn't worry about a Harper CPC government since the Liberal judiciary, bureaucracy, and Senate would be there to keep him in check. Well, given the way he is clearly abusing the bureaucracy and ignoring the role of independent bodies when they get in his way I would say that check is being systematically removed by Harper precisely because what he wants to do is not consistent with our prior legal practices, our laws as they currently are written (How can one claim to be all for law and order when you run a government that tosses it by the wayside whenever it gets in your way from how much you can advertise in an election to overriding the nuclear safety regulator for doing her job as the law required of her?) and certainly would not gain enough support in the HoC let alone the electorate if he did so openly (in other words since he hasn't the votes to change the legislation he will simply redefine/ignore it altogether).

Keep in mind this government has also redesigned the way judicial appointments are vetted. Prior to Harper the commissions doing so were made up of seven people, four of whom were NOT selected by government but by other bodies with appropriate expertise. Then Harper decides to add a police representative (which btw I find incredibly insane, judges should not have to worry about what a cop thinks of their qualifications, the cops enforce the laws, not interpret or create them, indeed often it is the judges that tell the police when they have crossed the line creating a certain amount of antipathy from police towards judges) to make it an 8 member body AND made the judicial council's representative the permanent chair thereby negating that body's vote unless a tie happens, which when there are seven people voting normally tends not to happen as a rule. So in the end the government appointees went from having a minority position in the screening process to having a majority control and that one of the three remaining non-governmental member bodies had its vote de facto stripped from them in the vetting process. This went under the radar screen of many people because it didn't seem like a big deal to them, but when you start rebalancing such powers towards the government instead of towards the citizenry then you have to wonder why they think they need that much power in the first place and what it is they wish to do with it.

This is where Harper's history as a member of the Calgary School of political thought has to be taken into consideration, as well as the heavy influence Leo Strauss has within that school, especially the part about how only the elite are qualified to have any say in how a nation is governed which is why it is acceptable to commit the "noble lie" to the great unwashed masses about what you will do to gain the power so you can exercise it on behalf of the elite, exactly what we saw with the accountable transparent, honest, and ethical government Harper's CPC was trumpeting they would be in the last election, indeed since the CPC was birthed in that act of dishonesty, treachery and betrayal. As the past two years have shown we have had anything but. Indeed, Harper showed his true colours on this in the very first day he was sworn to power by making the head of Public Works his unelected Quebec bagman first a Senator (something he swore only to do to represent Provinces that do not elect any CPC members, something clearly not the case for Quebec) and then makes him the Minister of Public Works, which is historically also known as the department of pork and patronage. Public Works was where the Sponsorship scandal was run out of, so that this should have been a department receiving increased transparency and accountability if that truly was a goal of the Harper CPC government. However, that was not what we got.

Now we come to the case regarding Linda Keen, a civil servant who until Harper branded her a Liberal partisan by insinuation/implication in the House of Commons had no record of acting in a partisan manner let alone was considered so by anyone, even those like Mr. Burns former Chairman of the AECL Board with whom she was in conflict with. Indeed, she appeared to be someone that took her responsibilities very seriously and if anything was a bit rigid in terms of interpreting her mandate, which I would argue in someone charged with nuclear safety protocols is a very good thing indeed. You don't want someone that is slapdash in their methods or casual about their responsibilities in such a serious position as overseeing nuclear safety, that should be blatantly obvious to anyone with two functioning neurons firing. Her job was, as previously covered here and elsewhere was to follow the nuclear safety regulations as defined by controlling legislation. Nowhere in that legislation does it make placing any other concerns/considerations than safe operations of nuclear reactors a part of her job, despite the claims of some that the section talking about the health of Canadians means exactly that. I would argue that the context makes it clear that the health being referred to is the health of those working in and living around the reactor and nothing more. To claim that goes to talking about the health concerns of Canadians needing radioactive isotopes unsupported by any clarification/precedent showing such seems more than a little dubious to me, which is why I find the government's argument here to be incredibly flimsy to nonexistent. Also, why hasn't the Harper government been able to cite the specific elements within the controlling legislation(s) to show she had such power to consider isotope needs versus reactor safety and that Lunn had the power/authority to do as he did unless they are not there? After all, if the government could cite the relevent authorities within the legislation it would cut off at the knees any Opposition criticism on this issue, so one would think they would have looked hard to find them to use and their absence indicating they do not exist (or that this government is so incapable/incompetent it couldn't find them after weeks of looking, not exactly a useful defence) despite the claims that they do by this government.

However, one cannot deny that this government went out of its way to claim that the lives and health of thousands of Canadians were in direct jeopardy if this reactor was not turned on immediately and that Keen was not doing her job when she refused to place that concern ahead of the "no risk" (in actuality small but not nonexistent risk) to restarting the reactor immediately while it was still not in compliance with safety regulations. What they failed to do though was provide the specific evidence that this was true, that there was a real shortage, that there were no other suppliers that could be tapped while the repairs were going on (Indeed, this is feeling just like the tax leakage defence for the broken promise on taxing Income Trusts made Oct 31 2006 and the blacked out documents which are to date the only evidence the CPC has released to support this position that matters were so serious and in danger that they had no choice but to act). I find that a very serious concern indeed, because if this government was only mildly overstating this then they were being incredibly irresponsible, and if they were making it up altogether then I would argue this would make them entirely unfit to be a government period. For all the wailing I heard from the CPC about how lives were at risk the hard evidence to support it was never provided, and therefore one is forced to ask whether this was a fiction to begin with? Others have raised serious questions as to the reality of this claim, and I must say I find their arguments far more compelling and actually backed up than I do the claim by the government regarding the imminent risk to Canadian lives.

Even if it were not a fiction though it would still not be enough cause to claim Keen was incompetent in the performance of her duties (and claiming she wasn't showing sufficient leadership skills is in my books a backhanded way of claiming incompetence without using the word IMHO) and therefore needed to be fired from her position. Why? Because it was never her job/place to consider/place the risks to Canadians health due to isotope shortage ahead of any safety concerns/issues regarding the operation of a nuclear reactor, no that belongs to the government and Parliament as a whole, which they exercised last December which was not contrary to CPC claims a vote of non-confidence in the regulator. Personally, I was opposed to the idea of the regulator being overrode in this manner because of the dangerous precedent it set (especially when I had not seen evidence to support that the danger to Canadian lives was so grave via the isotope shortage despite all the verbiage coming from the government about it) because those charged with nuclear safety should never have any other considerations to worry about. This should be a no-brainer concept for people to get, that you never want to place anything ahead of safety where nuclear reactors are concerned because of how serious any mistake with a nuclear reactor can be and how long the impacts from such a mistake can haunt both the physical region and the people exposed, which can be literally generations to eons depending on what happens and which radioactive material contaminants end up being involved.

What truly shows that this government is acting in a political manner instead of sound policy manner on this was the firing of Keen just before she was due to testify to a Commons committee on her actions and that of the government. What is really strange about this (aside of course from the late night nature of it the night before that hearing) though is that she was fired from the Presidency because of her lack of fitness for the job yet she is kept on the Commission itself as a board member, which looks like trying to eat your cake and have it by the government (she wasn't fired for cause, she was merely demoted, or so the spin goes). It also makes it look like they were hoping she would not testify after the firing on advice of legal counsel because she would be looking into filing a wrongful termination/firing lawsuit (which the government knew since she stated she would if fired in her letter responding to Lunn's Dec 27 2007 letter) and most lawyers tend to tell clients to go silent once such a process is initiated, which is hardly a secret or something this government would not have known. So to protect Lunn's clear incompetence on the nuclear file Harper is willing to expose the taxpayers to what could be a hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars wrongful termination lawsuit, is that what most Canadians would consider responsible good government being open, accountable and transparent? I hardly think so. Indeed I suspect if I were to go back two years in time and argue that Harper would fire the head of the CNSC because she refused to violate her job requirements because the government told her to do so without amending the appropriate legislation I would have been told this was nothing more than a fantasy and empty fear mongering, that no government would act in such a manner over something as serious as nuclear safety. Well here we are two years later and now we know better don't we.

I warned two years ago that the Harper government would place its own needs ahead of the needs of Canadians, that they would ignore the rule of law (which for those of you too ignorant to understand means more than just criminal law, it means all laws created by legislation and judicial rulings, something many do not seem to grasp) whenever it got in the way of their partisan desires and lust of power, and that they would cover up any scandal which threatened to negatively harm them no matter how obvious their fault/culpability/responsibility was as they did with the Grewal recordings fraud. I wonder how many of those on the left and in the center that thought I was "off my meds" about how dangerous this government would be from two years ago now wish they had given my arguments a bit more consideration instead of just brushing them off as being merely partisan nonsense and empty rhetoric. I don't wonder that of my critics from the right because they too often have shown themselves to be just like their leader, placing partisan interests ahead of reality/fact/truth. What the actions of the Harper government show about themselves and what they would be like if ever given majority power should scare the hell out of every sane Canadian voter and particularly those progressive voters that want to preserve the system of government that we have (and this means much more than the elected officials, I am talking about the across the board governmental structures including things like independent regulators to protect society ahead of partisan/profit motivations and other agencies set up to help those that need it) and make it clear that whatever else the Harper government must be defeated, even if that means supporting those you would otherwise not. Personally, I am hoping for a large national ABC movement within the electorate, because if we do not show that as a collective society that we refuse to accept this kind of revolutionary revision of our way of life (because Harper is no less dangerous to the future of this nation being one based in reality, facts, and science as the GWB Presidency was for the American institutions) we will lose it altogether. Just look at how badly damaged those structures are from FEMA to health to energy to environment to the basic rule of law where even torture and habeus corpus have become subordinate to political considerations, even to the point that they dominate over scientific realities. Is that what we want for this country? It is clearly what Harper wants, at least so long as it is his side in control, somehow I suspect that were they the opposition to a government acting in this way they would be howling about the dictatorial tyranny going down the road towards banana republic/fascist state, they certainly did so with the Liberals for far less than what we have seen from this CPC government.

We are living in very serious times right now, and the future shape/direction of our nation is at stake, indeed I would argue our future in terms of continuing to be a nation may well be at stake. If a weak minority government will act as arrogantly and outside of the normal operating procedures, precedents, and traditions of our country's Parliament as this one has it is only reasonable to expect they would be just that much more so if they held majority power. Given that we have seen this CPC place its own unique interpretations to elections law, Wheat Board Act, Access to Information Act, and now nuclear safety legislation it is far from unreasonable to worry about what else they may decide to place their interpretations above what the legislation/law and precedents regarding it have to say, and I find the idea of any political party placing itself above the law inherently a threat to any democracy's long term future. I opposed Harper and his CPC creation so extensively and with such intensity precisely because I feared this kind of abuse of power and willingness to place themselves above the law and the will of the people. It is why I am a Harper foe while not being a partisan of any other political party (despite the repeated claims by my critics to the contrary), it is because I place things like the rule of law, democratic process, and proper oversight of what any government does with it's power ahead of any mere partisan interests/concerns I might have, but then I happen to believe that the fundamental principles upon which this country is founded on and has been governed by matter far more than whether "my" side (whenever I have one, most of the time I am not aligned to any one party) wins or loses in any given election. What we have here is something horrible and dangerous and must be stopped.

You could say this post is a Keen lament for where this CPC government is trying to take us against our will via deception and misrepresentation since when they were open about these goals they were never able to get even close to a minority government position. There is a reason why I believe that paying attention to politics is only slightly less important than paying attention to whether you are breathing, whether we want to accept it or not everything politicos do will eventually ripple down towards our lives and if we do not pay attention from the outset then we deserve ever nasty thing that ends up happening to us. Democracy, especially representative democracy requires an electorate willing to make the effort to be politically aware and informed, this government goes out of its way to prevent the electorate from being informed by facts, no what they want the electorate to be informed by is their spin unchallenged by facts since the facts generally undercut their political ideologically rooted spin. Not a healthy thing for any democracy, and certainly not the tradition of how we have governed ourselves in this country historically.

Mulitple sources/bloggers were involved in the creation of this post, these bloggers are:

In The House and Senate
Liberal Arts and minds
The Galloping Beaver
Kady O'Malley's blog at Macleans
Politics 'n' Poetry
Jimbobby Sez
More Notes from Underground

So if you wish to read up more on these issues please browse through their respective blogs, they are well worth the time. I am doing it this way since this post was written without me thinking to source which points were to each link while writing, and since I am having some trouble with blogger at the moment I decided to go this route this time. Sorry about any problems that causes for anyone, this will not be becoming a standard thing from me. Again, my apologies to all readers and especially the bloggers whose fine work I was using in this post.


OpenID Berlynn said...

I think it's a fair enough way of attributing and thanks for doing so. My only issue is that you don't use enough paragraph breaks!!!

Fri Jan 18, 06:33:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Scotian said...


I know, I try to do so but it is hard to figure out how to break some of the thought flows so that it doesn't start reading in a disjointed manner. I try to keep it to about a screenful on my computer but as you can see I am not always successful. Part of the problem for me is that the symbology I think in is not primarily linguistic nor is it primarily visual, so when I am translating my thoughts into words I end up with the wordiness that is my signature writing trait. All I can do is ask for your forgiveness in this.

As to the attribution part, I make it a point to be painstaking about doing so because that was the way I was brought up when writing essays and such were concerned. Personally I don't understand why it is hard for some people to accept that their thinking is built upon the work of others and that it is only fair to give accreditation when it applies. In this case each blog I listed had provided information and links that helped me form the opinion I wrote here, and to not acknowledge that is a hallmark of intellectual dishonesty according to the rules I grew up with.

I only did it the way I did today because blogger and I have been having arguments lately, normally I try to attribute more specifically elements within my writings, indeed to write it in such a manner that attribution is part of what I am doing as I express myself, like I did with KNB's bit at the second from the top paragraph. Unfortunately I ended up going a bit more a field than I had originally intended, more of a stream of consciousness manner than already at least semi formed in my mind already. I then started mixing several works together into what I was saying and didn't identify what came from where and I could either rewrite the whole thing or do as I did today. I am glad that you did not mind, I hope the others cited feel the same way. In some ways it is a bit easier to put the cites at the end of something when one is doing more of a general synthesis of information as opposed to straight combining several works into an integrated pattern approach (I really hope that made sense to you, some of the time I have a real hard time expressing what I am trying to say despite all of my facility with English).

Well, thank you for stopping by, hope you found the comment itself worth the effort of putting up with the lousy paragraph breaking.

Fri Jan 18, 09:53:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Chuck said...

BRAVO SCOTIAN !!!!!!!!!!!

You have put my thoughts and feelings into words far better than I ever could.

THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!

I only wish "ABC" could appear on the ballot. It is so unfair to have the vote spit.

Fri Jan 18, 10:43:00 PM 2008  
Blogger 900 ft Jesus said...

Scotian, I wasn't blogging 2 years ago, but if I had been, I would have agreed with you and been very happy to know that someone else saw the real danger of electing Harper. I was not happy with the Liberals at that time either, and like you, I still knew it was better to have them in than Harper.

For one thing, Martin had ordered an inquiry into the actions of his own party. Another - some Liberals were corrupt, but it was, as you said, to line the coffers, not to reshape the country despite what Canadians want, and by any means.

Looking over a politician's past performance and speeches is so important. From those, we can determine pretty much what their MO is, and what their ideology is. Like you said, Harper's was all there for anyone to read. Crafting speeches during an election to trick us is pretty transparent since people don't generally change their hard core views that fast, or at least without some strong indication as to what it was that caused that change.

That's why I like Dion. I like the consistency he has shown with issues, I like it that he has been able to change his stance when he learns something more, or when environments change. Not all the other contenders for the Lib leadership are like that.

Good post! When you bring current events into the larger picture of what this obscene PM is doing, it helps people see that larger picture, and the dangers it displays.

Sat Jan 19, 08:55:00 PM 2008  

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