Government play-by-play

December 12, 2014

The Conservatives suggest they may finally be willing to take in more Syrian refugees, but only those from non-Muslim religious minorities, Christians in particular. Critics accuse the government of religious bias. (See December 9 and 5, and September 19.)

December 11, 2014

Corrections Canada rejects key recommendations to overhaul the treatment of prisoners with mental health issues in Canadian correctional centres, most notably to eliminate solitary confinement. 104 recommendations were made by the inquiry into the 2007 death of Ashley Smith, a young offender whose suicide in a federal corrections centre was ruled a homicide by an Ontario coroner’s jury. The government also refuses to introduce independent external oversight.

December 11, 2014

CBC announces cuts to nightly local news programming, as a result of federal funding cuts. The nightly 90 minute news will be reduced to one hour in some regions and half an hour in others.

December 10, 2014

In committee stage, it is revealed that buried in the Conservative’s 475-page omnibus budget bill (tabled October 23) are proposed changes to the Canada Marine Act to gut regulations for coal and LNG (liquefied natural gas) ports. The changes would allow the government to exempt ports from key environmental assessment requirements (under the Environmental Assessment Act and Species At Risk Act), hand over regulatory, administrative or judicial control of industrial activities to port authorities, provinces, or industry, and allow for industry rules to be incorporated into federal law without public oversight.

December 10, 2014

Recently released documents reveal that Canada opted out of every resolution to extend protection to 76 endangered species at the 2013 CITES convention, filing “reservations” against each motion. Canada is a signatory of CITES, an international conservation agreement to end commercial trade of endangered animal and plant species. Canada has been fighting CITES from restricting trade in polar bear parts, and in February the Canadian government came under fire for allowing the trade of endangered whale meat.

December 9, 2014

Responding to a damning US Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s use of torture in the years following the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister Harper claims the report “has nothing to do whatsoever with the government of Canada,” and denies that the government should re-examine its intelligence policy. Contrary to what the Prime Minister says, intelligence that Canada shared with the CIA as part of Canada’s information-sharing policy resulted in the torture of several Canadians, including Maher Arar and Omar Khadr, and in 2011 the Conservatives authorized law enforcement agencies to use intelligence obtained through torture.

December 9, 2014

As the UN Climate Change Conference enters its final days of negotiations, Prime Minister Harper says he has no plans to regulate the oil and gas industry, and that doing so in the current economic environment would be “crazy.”

December 9, 2014

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees makes a global call to help resettle over 100,000 Syrian refugees, and urges Canada to do more. Canada does not respond to the call (see December 5 and September 19).

December 9, 2014

Opposition MPs criticize the $7.2 million ad campaign to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, which have begun two and a half years early. Government ads for tax breaks (a $10 million campaign) have also begun well before tax season. Critics call it pre-election campaigning.

December 8, 2014

The Conservatives take six First Nations bands to court for their refusal to comply with the First Nations Transparency Act. One of those bands is Onion Lake Cree Nation, which is already taking the government to court for imposing the law on them (see November 26). The Transparency Act forces First Nations bands to publicly disclose their financial statements (including any money they’ve earned above and beyond funding by Aboriginal Affairs, and personal income), none of which involves taxpayers’ money or is under federal jurisdiction.

December 6, 2014

Canada’s new prostitution laws, which criminalize prostitution, come into force. The Conservatives’ original prostitution bill was struck down in 2013 as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision. The bill infringed on the Charter’s section 7, depriving sex workers of rights to the security of the person. The government re-introduced the bill this September with few changes. It comes into force, ironically, on the national day of remembrance and action on violence against women.

December 5, 2014

Amnesty International releases a report on the Syrian refugee crisis, calling out “the world’s pitiful response.” The Conservatives committed to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, but numbers released this week reveal that only 457 have landed in Canada so far. According to Amnesty, only 1.7% of the 3.8 million Syrian refugees have been offered sanctuary by countries outside of the region. They are calling for 5% by the end of next year, and a further 5% in 2016.

December 5, 2014

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticizes Canada for not setting more “ambitious and visionary” climate change goals. His criticism comes amid the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, from December 1-12.

December 4, 2014

Conservative MPs propose raising user fees for access to information requests. The fee hikes, they argue, would help mitigate budget cuts their government has made to the office of the Information Commissioner. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault criticized the fee hike, and warned that “Canadians’ right to access government information is in jeopardy.” She says her office has seen a 30% increase in complaints about withheld or delayed information.

November 27, 2014

The Conservatives back away from plans to introduce mandatory recycling of compact fluorescent light bulbs, which contain mercury. Instead they announce regulations for “voluntary” recycling.

November 26, 2014

53 First Nations fail to meet an extended deadline to comply with the Conservative’s First Nations Financial Transparency Act (Bill C-27), which forces bands to publicly disclose their financial statements (including any money they’ve earned above and beyond funding by Aboriginal Affairs, and personal income), none of which involves taxpayers’ money or is under federal jurisdiction. Aboriginal Affairs threatens to withhold funding for non-essential programs and services to bands that don’t comply, and essential funding as of December 12.

The Onion Lake Cree Nation in Alberta and Saskatchewan announces that it will take the federal government to court over the new law, claiming that the law violates First Nation jurisdiction and right to self-determination.

November 24, 2014

The Conservatives pass amendments to the Agricultural Growth Act (Bill C-18), giving large multinational plant breeders exclusive rights over seed. Breeders will now have complete authorization and control over the saving and reusing, conditioning, stocking, importing and exporting of seed, to the detriment of farmers—financial and otherwise. Although the “Farmer’s Privilege,” which allows farmers to save and replant non-patented seed, remains in place, farmers are no longer allowed to buy and sell this seed among each other. Heirloom seed is not affected by the amendments.

November 23, 2014

The Conservatives announce that they will spend $200 million over six years to improve mental health care for veterans. Although the announcement is welcome, critics suggest it is an attempt to preempt an auditor general’s report, released two days later, that is deeply critical of the Conservative’s neglect of veterans’ mental health needs. Then on November 28, it is revealed that the $200 million will actually be spread over 50 years, not six.

November 21, 2014

Canada votes against a UN resolution condemning glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism. Canada is one of only three nations to vote against the draft resolution, along with Ukraine and the US.

November 19, 2014

The Conservatives release figures suggesting that Veterans Affairs failed to spend $1.1 billion in funding over the previous seven years.

November 4, 2014

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says the government will comply with a Federal Court ruling that Conservative cuts to refugee health care were “cruel and unusual,” and must be restored (see October 1). The government, however, only restores some of the cuts, continuing to favour some refugees over others, thus putting the entire Conservative cabinet at risk of being found in contempt of court.

November 4, 2014

A CBC radio documentary reveals the Canadian government’s direct involvement in human smuggling, in sending deportees into Somalia through extremely dangerous means.

November 2, 2014

Canada drops its first bombs on Iraq as part of the US war against ISIS.

October 30, 2014

The Conservatives table a “scaled-down” version of their income splitting plan. The controversial tax credit, originally discussed last February, was shown to grossly favour wealthy families and have little-to-no benefit to low-income families and no benefit at all for single-parent families (85% of households won’t see a dime). The new bill amends the plan by capping tax savings at $2,000. The Conservatives are supplementing the tax credit with an increase in the Universal Child Care Benefit (a non-progressive, flat payment), but still refuse calls for a national child care program. Although the tax credit goes into effect on January 1, 2015, the Conservatives have, curiously, opted to withhold payments until July 2015, meaning families will retroactively receive $420 per child just in time for the next federal election.

October 28, 2014

The Conservatives table a bill to expand the powers of CSIS to investigate suspected terror threats. The legislation, Bill C-44, includes measures to allow CSIS to share information with other nations, investigate suspected terror threats outside Canada’s borders, and provide anonymity for its agents.

October 24, 2014

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says the government is looking at thresholds in Canadian law for preventative arrests, claiming that current anti-terrorism legislation doesn’t go far enough.

October 23, 2014

The day after the shooting and security breach in Ottawa, Harper says he plans to strengthen and speed up changes to Canada’s anti-terror laws, giving new powers to CSIS and the police. The new proposal will include a measure to allow for “preventative detention.” Rumours/leaks also suggest that the Conservatives are considering new hate speech legislation that would make it an offence to “condone” terrorist acts online.

According to Harper: “Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention, and arrest. They need to be much strengthened. I assure members that work, which is already under way, will be expedited.” According to Justice Minister Peter MacKay: “We’re examining all of those sections of the Criminal Code and all measures under the law that will allow us to, in some instances, take pre-emptive measures.”

October 23, 2014

The Federal Court rules that Omar Khadr, the Canadian-born child soldier, has the right to expand his lawsuit against the Canadian government to include the claim that Canada conspired with the US in his torture and the violation of his fundamental rights during his decade spent at Guantanamo Bay.

October 23, 2014

The Conservatives table their latest omnibus budget bill, their sixth. It is a massive 458 pages. Among the dozens of non-budgetary items in the bill is a move to allow provinces to restrict refugee access to social assistance. The bill also establishes the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, an industry-friendly station designed to subsume the world-renowned environmental research station PEARL.

October 22, 2014

In a random shooting, a man named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shoots and kills a soldier standing at ceremonial guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa, then breaches security at Parliament before being shot and killed by security guards. The shooter had been staying at a homeless shelter and suffered from mental health issues. The Conservatives immediately label him a terrorist, setting the framework and the tone for how the story would be (mis)told in the media in the following days.

October 20, 2014

A Quebec man named Martin Couture-Rouleau runs into two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one, and is later shot and killed by police. The Conservatives immediately suggest it was a terrorist attack, and the RCMP reveal that the man was one of the 90 “potential terrorists” they were monitoring. Couture-Rouleau had been suffering from mental health issues. Justice Minister Peter MacKay says that in response the Conservatives are considering increasing the powers under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, which allows for detainment without charge.

October 16, 2014

The Hupacasath First Nation in BC puts the Chinese government on notice regarding the Canada-China foreign investment agreement (FIPA), saying, “any investment or development proposed by China’s state-owned corporations is not welcome within Hupacasath First Nation territory.” The Hupacasath is currently fighting a constitutional challenge on the FIPA, arguing it violates Section 35 of the Constitution, the duty to consult.

October 16, 2014

Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney announces plans to introduce changes to the CSIS Act to give CSIS more powers to track, investigate, and detain “homegrown terrorists,” particularly Canadians travelling abroad for suspected or potential terrorist activities (the bill, C-44, is tabled on October 28).

October 14, 2014

The Conservatives approve plans for a BC Hydro hydroelectric dam on the Peace River, Site C, despite an environmental assessment concluding that the dam will have “significant adverse environmental effects.” The assessment placed 80 legally binding conditions on the project. The BC government plans to use the electricity generated from the dam to power liquefied natural gas and mining projects. (British Columbia approves the project on December 16.)

October 11, 2014

The Conservatives add Romania (along with four other countries) to its list of Designated Countries of Origin (DCO), an arbitrary list of countries from which the government doesn’t want to receive refugees. Refugee claimants from DCOs are given less time to prepare a refugee claim and face faster deportation, denied the right to an appeal, and denied basic and emergency health care, available to other groups of refugees.

October 9, 2014

A charter challenge is brought against the Conservative’s so-called Fair Elections Act in the Ontario Superior Court by the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, and three individual electors. The legislation, which came into force in June 2014, is expected to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters through tougher ID restrictions—in particular students, seniors, Indigenous peoples and the poor. It also reduced the investigative powers of the chief electoral officer, muzzled Elections Canada’s reporting and investigations, created a bogeyman of endemic voter fraud, and diverted attention from the Conservative’s own history of election fraud.

October 9, 2014

The Conservatives consider adding a copyright exemption for political ads that use news footage.

October 3, 2014

The Conservatives announce their plan to go to war against ISIS in Iraq, supporting the American air combat mission. Canada will send up to 10 aircraft and 600 personnel for a six-month mission.

October 1, 2014

The controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) comes into effect (see September 12, 2014).

October 1, 2014

The Conservatives appeal a Federal Court decision that struck down the government’s policy of denying health care to refugees. The Court had ruled the policy “cruel and unusual” treatment. The Conservatives also filed a motion to stay the judgement (later refused by the judge), which would have kept thousands of refugees from receiving health care while the appeal goes through the court. (The Conservatives actually filed their appeal on September 22, eight days before their September 30 deadline, but didn’t bother informing anyone.) The Conservatives have until November 4 to rewrite the legislation (see November 4).

September 30, 2014

The Conservatives vote down an NDP motion to give the Speaker of the House the authority to enforce rules on relevancy and repetition during Question Period, to ensure that answers given are appropriate to the questions asked. Conservatives tried to argue that the motion was “one-sided” and only imposed rules on those who answer questions, and not on those who pose them, even though rules for the latter already exist.

The motion was brought forward after a back-and-forth between NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Conservative MP Paul Calandra on September 23 in which Calandra thrice responded to Mulcair’s questions about Canada’s military deployment to Iraq with irrelevant comments about the NDP’s position on Israel. Mulcair appealed to Speaker Andrew Scheer, then questioned the Speaker’s impartiality. Calandra later tearfully apologized to the House.

September 30, 2014

The Conservatives overturn a decision by the RCMP to discontinue their traditional winter muskrat hats and replace them with merino wool toques. The RCMP’s decision was in response to pressure from animal rights activists—or “radical” animal rights activists, in the words of Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. The Conservatives themselves acted in response to pressure from a fur lobby, who are not regarded as “radical.” The definition of “radical” was not discussed.

September 27, 2014

Harper offers a Canadian Forces Airbus to fly two EU officials back to Europe, at a cost of over $300,000. The two officials skipped their scheduled commercial flight to attend a last-minute reception with business leaders during negotiations on a Canada-EU trade deal.

September 24, 2014

The Conservatives vote down a NDP private members’ motion on an Energy Efficiency Program. The program would have helped Canadians increase the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses, through renovations and retrofits. The program was similar to the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, which the Conservatives brought in and then cancelled in 2012.

September 24, 2014

The Conservatives vote down the Conflict Minerals Act (Bill C-486), a private member’s bill put forward by NDP Paul Dewar. The act proposed stricter adherence to corporate practices relating to the extraction, processing, purchase, trade and use of conflict minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa, an area where the mining industry is regularly exploited to fund civil war and militant groups.

September 23, 2014

Harper skips out on the UN Climate Summit, a one-day leader’s summit set up by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon. The snub is especially acute given that Harper finds plenty of time to go to the UN a mere two days later to address the UN General Assembly. His speech is sparsely attended.

September 23, 2014

Canada is the only country to raise objections over a United Nations document re-establishing the objectives of the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The document was adopted at the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, attended by over 1,000 delegates and heads of state (neither Harper nor Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt attended the conference, sending instead Valcourt’s deputy minister). Canada objected to the wording of “free, prior and informed consent,” arguing it could be interpreted as a veto.

September 23, 2014

The NDP tables Bill C-628, dubbed “An Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest.” The bill aims to protect the North Coast of British Columbia against crude oil supertankers, which would frequent the coast if the Northern Gateway pipeline is built. The bill is not expected to pass.

September 19, 2014

The NDP exploit parliamentary procedure to force an hour-long debate on a federal inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The Conservatives have so far refused to debate the issue.

September 19, 2014

The Toronto Star reports that Canada has only resettled 200 Syrian refugees, most through private sponsorship, despite the government’s target of 1,300 by the end of this year. (By way of comparison, Sweden, with a quarter of Canada’s population, has taken in more than 30,000. Germany has resettled 6,000 refugees, welcomed another 11,800 asylum seekers and offered renewable, two-year residence visas to another 20,000 Syrians.)

September 16, 2014

The NDP tables a motion to reinstate a minimum wage of $15 for all federal employees. The Conservatives defeat the motion two days later.

September 15, 2014

Elizabeth May presents a Question of Privilege regarding the Conservative’s abuse of “time allocation” to cut off debate, having done so an historic 21 times during the last session of Parliament, and 75 times since gaining power. (The Conservatives refrain from cutting off debate until September 24, six sittings later, when they do so three times for three separate bills.)

September 15, 2014

Liberal MP Scott Brison obtains a Public Safety document revealing that the government has been monitoring over 600 protests, rallies and other events across Canada between 2006 and 2014. The majority were held by First Nations groups, along with environmental and social protests.

September 15, 2014

Second session of the 41st parliament begins.

September 12, 2014

Harper ratifies the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). The controversial and potentially unconstitutional 31-year binding agreement was brought in with no debate, and is expected to disproportionately favour Chinese investors. Under the agreement, Chinese investors can sue Canada for unlimited damages if any action by a federal or provincial government or court affects Chinese assets in the country (such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline). The agreement is currently under a constitutional challenge by the Hupacasath First Nation in BC, arguing it violates Section 35 of the Constitution, the duty to consult.

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