Saturday, August 18, 2007

The folks over at the Harper Index are devoted to keeping a spotlight on the ever devious actions of Steven Harper's Conservative government. Like most other night creatures the federal government thrives best in darkness, but the searchlight of the Harper Index often catches them in the act.
Two recent items in this site are quite interesting, pointing to how the proclaimed "openness" of the reinvented Conservatives is anything but.
One article by Geoffrey Stevens 'Blocking Public Documents Has Become a Pattern' runs down a list of recent cases where the Harper government has tried, and often succeeded, in blocking the public's right to know. The first item mentioned is how the feds tried to censor about 1,500 words from Justice O'Conner's inquiry into the Meher Arar case where an innocent Canadian citizen was handed over to the USA so he could be shipped off to Syria to be tortured. The Commission of Inquiry had to take the government to court to have the censored portions that were supposed to "compromise national security" released. The missing pieces were merely evidence that the RCMP and CSIS had more or less "taken orders" from the CIA. Hardly startling news and certainly no threat to "national security". "Embarrassing" maybe. Threat no. One of the bureaucrats who blacked out the portions released is William Elliot, the new RCMP Commissioner.
In other cases the Tories have been much more successful in hiding facts from the public. Last December they appointed a commission to look into the case of three other men whose circumstances were very much the same as Arar's. This is a case where the RCMP allegedly used information obtained by torture in Syria in applying for search warrants here in Canada. This Commission headed by Justice Frank Iacobucci is being held almost totally in camera. Even lawyers for the men are not allowed to attend.
Then there is the case of the seemingly never ending Air India Inquiry. In May of 2006 Harper appointed Justice John Major to conduct a full public inquiry into the botched police investigation of the 1985 crash that killed 329 people. At last count the federal government was blocking access on the part of the inquiry to no less than 800 documents. The scene had become so surreal that last February Justice Major threatened to shut down the Inquiry unless the government became more cooperative.
As if manipulating and thwarting supposedly official investigations was not enough the Harpercrats have begun to make a move on one of their old bete noires, the CBC. According to another article in the Harper Index the Conservatives have chosen the 'Architect of the "Common Sense Revolution" to Pick CBC News Heads'. Tom Long, the old advisor to the much despised Ontario government of Conservative Mike Harris, has been appointed to chose two new top managers for CBC News. Long has been a long time backroom boy and political manipulator in the Tory party, and cut his conspiratorial teeth in opposition to the more moderate conservative policies of Ontario Premier Bill Davis. The level of Long's playing field can be gauged by his run for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2000. His attempt collapsed when his campaign was caught in the fraudulent signing up of bogus party members in the Gaspe region of Quebec. Right down to the registration of those whose place of residence was a graveyard. Nice guy ! I guess that "human rights" extend to the dead as well. Ultra-democracy ?
While the opportunity to manipulate news is, of course, present in such an appointment -by creating a climate of self censorship due to fear- the real intent is probably a long term Conservative commitment to abolish the CBC. Ideological right wingers have as long a hate on for the CBC as they do for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Long's mandate in choosing the new managers includes to "identify opportunities for cost savings and operational efficiencies, ensure that new technology is acquired and implemented to support the efficiency drive". In such a climate you don't have to give outright orders about the "tone of the news". It becomes an unsaid but strict rule that you don't upset the political masters by being too visibly opposed to their agenda. Do too much of this and you become an "operational inefficiency".

No comments: