Dear Messieurs Ignatieff, Layton, Duceppe and Ms. May,
In the 2006 election, the Conservative Party’s slogan was “Stand Up for Canada”. In the coming election, your common slogan must be “Stand Up for Canadian Democracy”.
I know that you will explain to Canadians why you disagree with various policies of the current government. I am asking that, in addition, you remind Canadians of the numerous practices of Stephen Harper which are undermining our democratic institutions - Parliament; the Judiciary; the Civil Service; and Canadians’ right to information and the truth from their government:
• Shutting Down (Proroguing) Parliament twice in 5 years, once to avoid a non-confidence vote which would have brought their government to an end, and once to avoid providing information to Parliament on whether our armed forces were collaborating in torture.
• Ignoring Canadian Legislation: After passing legislation to establish a fixed date for federal elections, the Prime Minister called an election in 2008 in violation of the new law. Recently, four senior Conservatives were charged with willfully exceeding spending limits in the 2006 election campaign.
• Disrupting Parliamentary Committees: The Conservatives prepared a secret 200 page manual to guide Conservative MPs on how to subvert the work of Parliamentary Committees. Conservative MPs adopted these tactics on many occasions. This is the type of political “thuggery” one expects in Russia or Zimbabwe but not in Canada.
• Refusing to Answer Questions: Ministers refuse to answer questions during Question Period and refuse to allow their staff to respond to questions when summoned by Parliamentary Committees.
Undermining the Canadian Judiciary
• Recently, Minister Kenney criticized Federal Court judges for rendering decisions he didn’t agree with. He was sending a message about how they should behave in the future. Such remarks show contempt for judicial independence---an absolute necessity in our system of government.
Attacking the Civil Service
• Firing or maligning civil servants who don’t agree with the government: The head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (Linda Kean) was fired for ordering the shutdown of the Chalk River reactor. Richard Colvin, a respected Foreign Service Officer, was ruthlessly subjected to personal attacks by the Harper Conservatives as a result of his testimony to a parliamentary committee.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Defense Minister sent out emails promoting the purchase of F-35 airplanes and demeaning the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Defense’s concern about the sole-source deal as “BS”, without any explanation of this distasteful comment.
• Lying about Senior Civil Servants: Minister Oda said that the CIDA President supported the government’s decision to eliminate funding to Kairos. Months later, the Minister admitted that her statement was false.
The Minister of Industry (Tony Clement) claimed that the Chief Statistician (Munir Sheikh) supported the government’s decision to substitute a voluntary census survey for the traditional long form survey. Mr. Sheikh resigned his position in order to tell Canadians that a voluntary survey could not do the job of a mandatory census (i.e., the government lied about his advice).
Lying to, and Hiding Information From, Canadians
• The government claimed that hundreds of Canadians had complained about the intrusiveness of the long-form census. Yet, the government was unable to substantiate this claim, and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada had received just three complaints about the census in the last decade.
• The government has introduced a dozen crime-related bills. Yet, when asked by MPs about the expected costs of this legislation, so that they can decide its merits, the government claimed that such information is a “Cabinet confidence”. It looks more like Cabinet arrogance and secrecy about Canadians’ public affairs.
So, my hopes rest with you to remind Canadians of the extreme steps which the Conservative Party, under its current leader, is prepared to take to remain in power. And if Stephen Harper ever achieved a majority in the House of Commons, he would wield near absolute power in his tyrannical approach to governing.
M. Chrétien won a (false) majority government on three occasions with only 40 per cent of voter support, and Mr. Harper has the same opportunity under our discriminatory, unrepresentative electoral system. I very much hope that, collectively, you can prevent him from doing so.
Former Public Servant
Government of Canada