All posts tagged Koch Brothers

Ontario election: OK, that didn’t really work … can we get back to being New Democrats now?

Ontario’s victorious Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne last summer. Below: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

Well! That didn’t work out quite as well as we’d hoped, did it? Can we get back to being New Democrats now?

I speak, of course, of the results of last night’s Ontario provincial election – in which it seems to me from my vantage point out here on the Great Plains that there are lessons in the vote for New Democrats in the west and the New Democrats in Ottawa too.

I realize that the great Canadian tradition of punditry is for the pundit to spin his or her favoured party’s electoral defeat as really being a victory.

We’ll be seeing lots of that this morning, I expect, as Conservative partisans at the National Post, Sun News Network and like outfits explain why Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals’ decisive defeat last night of Tim Hudak’s Tea Party Conservatives, through the medium of an an NDP budget, really means Ontarians want more conservative government, and, what’s more, that it’s actually good news for Stephen Harper’s Reform Party Government in Ottawa.

Both those propositions are mostly baloney, of course, but that won’t stop them from being trotted out by the very same people who just days ago were warning Ontarians not to fail to elect Mr. Hudak’s destructive, dishonest, economically ignorant, anti-worker, fundamentally un-Canadian party just because it made up factoids, got caught lying about them, used the Koch Brothers’ economist to cook the numbers, and planned to start off by destroying 100,000 jobs. Naturally, they’ll also blame unions – as if union members shouldn’t have a right to vote.

Indeed, Mr. Hudak’s program was so egregiously bad that even the members of the Globe and Mail’s Tory-to-the-bone editorial board were set to endorse Ms. Wynne’s Liberals until someone in the Roy Thomson Room at corporate headquarters picked up the good, grey telephone and gave them their marching orders.

Of course, conservative pundits out here in the west, and that’s pretty well all of them, will be telling you the Ontario election is good news for Alberta because companies will move here now since this province is so well run. Don’t believe that either. We’re rich because we won the oil lottery. And we don’t want to share.

Not being a real paid pundit, though, I’m going to break with tradition and say that the Ontario New Democrats, the party I not-so-secretly lean toward, could have done a heck of a lot better last night if they’d only acted like New Democrats instead of pretending to be conservatives.

Agreed, last night wasn’t a rout for the NDP. They hung on to most of their voters, and shuffled the deck chairs to hold the same number of seats. Unlike Mr. Hudak, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath won’t have to resign in ignominy. As Tom Walkom of the Toronto Star put it, they’re merely back to Square One.

Still, surely they could have done better if they’d paid attention to the evidence that what the people of Ontario wanted was … a New Democratic Party government.

I’ve been thinking for months that the Ontario New Democrats really had a chance to win this one. After all, enough people in Ontario are genuinely progressive, plus it’s been long enough for them to forget the NDP government led by Bob Rae, and he’s a Liberal nowadays anyway. Polls suggested Ontario voters recognized the Liberals richly deserved to be punished for their myriad sins of the recent past. And Ontarians were smart enough to recognize that 11 years in power is too long for any party – Alberta! Ah-hem!

But they were obviously pretty hesitant to use the sadistic wreckers of the unprogressive Ontario Progressive Conservatives to punish the Liberals because they recognized that, like the Harper Government in Ottawa, it held democratic institutions in contempt and has been infected with the extremist virus that has taken control of the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line.

The phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” springs to mind for using a party like Mr. Hudak’s to punish a party like Ms. Wynne’s. In other words, Ontario voters weren’t fools.

All the New Democrats really had to do to have a chance to win the government of Ontario, it’s said here, was act like New Democrats. For some reason, alas, Ms. Horwath decided to take another road, and by now we all know how that worked out.

So Ms. Horwath and her caucus voted down the budget that included a lot of what New Democrat voters pray for – infrastructure spending, public transit, pension improvements. This brought down the Liberal government, setting up last night’s less-than-optimum outcome from the NDP perspective.

Maybe just like generals are famously said to do, the NDP’s strategists were fighting the last war. Ontarians obviously decided that they’d rather have NDP policies than the NDP name with Conservative policies. Under the circumstances, it’s pretty hard not to agree with them.

Of course the knock against Liberals – entirely justified by history – is that they blink left and turn right. So we’ll see if Ms. Wynne keeps her promise and passes the budget the NDP helped defeat. And then there are the next couple of budgets after that, when Ontario will have to confront its $12.5-billion deficit.

And, yeah, the Liberals obviously persuaded quite a few NDP voters to change their votes by saying the Hudak Cons were scary. But they were scary! That’s the problem with the first-past-the-post system, which we’re probably stuck with, because if Canada adopted proportional representation we’d have progressive governments forever.

As for the so-called Conservatives, there’s a lesson for them here too – but they’re likely too far gone to take it. So many Canadians have had enough of their evil market-fundamentalist theology that they need to go back to being the kind of conservatives that actually conserve stuff worth keeping. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

For their part, Ontario’s Liberals need to recognize they got re-elected because voters wanted the policies they said they’d deliver. As a matter of fact, we’ve just watched this movie out here in Alberta, and it didn’t have a happy ending for the lead character.

Folks here were richly sick of the Progressive Conservatives in 2012, and rightly so, but they didn’t really want to elect a party that at the time sounded a lot like Mr. Hudak’s Conservatives. So they participated in the weird Alberta custom of joining the PCs for $5 and helping the governing party choose its leader, picking the apparently most progressive candidate of the lot. In addition, many progressive Albertans voted PC, instead of their traditional parties, because they were afraid of the only likely alternative.

It all turned out to be a dirty trick, though, and after two years with Alison Redford at the helm, this time it looks like they will be less susceptible to taking the same bait again.

We’ll see about that, I guess, but the advice from the Prairies to Ms. Wynne is to do what Ms. Redford should have done and govern like the progressive leader that electors voted for, not a Tim Hudak-Stephen Harper clone with delusions of grandeur.

But whatever the future holds, congratulations to Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals tonight. They certainly deserve it!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Who gets muzzled next by unconstitutional Redford Government laws? Environmentalists?

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, in motorcycle sidecar, gives the order to go after a pesky trade unionist’s blog. But look out! Alison Redford’s Alberta Thought Police may already have their eyes on you! Actual Redford cabinet ministers may not appear exactly as illustrated. Then again, new uniforms for cabinet and caucus may already be on order.

Now that the Redford Government’s unconstitutional attack on free collective bargaining and free speech is in full swing, we have to ask ourselves who’s next?

Environmentalists?

Quite possibly.

I mean, who else would they like to shut up right now as much as they want to muzzle those pesky public sector unions – which are always noisily defending public services Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s government would really prefer to privatize?

Environmentalists, after all, have a similar habit of arguing against pipelines to all points of the compass and minimal controls on the expensive-to-implement environmental protections hated by petroleum companies run by the Koch Brothers and other generous donors to “conservative” causes of their ilk!

But legislation like Alberta Bills 45 and 46 are part of a broader pattern elsewhere in Canada and throughout the increasingly undemocratic nations of the industrialized West to criminalize dissent of any kind.

Why do you think the Redford Government also recently proposed to throw elected Alberta mayors and municipal councillors in jail if they didn’t immediately or at any point knuckle under to the government’s planned approach to regional government?

If you think this government, having added the offence of Thoughtcrime to the books, is going to stop at just one, it is said here you are hopelessly naïve. Anyone who protests anything to do with the various Alberta and federal Petroleum Parties’ agenda of austerity (meaning forced poverty and redistribution of wealth upward) or the swift and thoughtless resource exploitation is at risk of falling victim to laws like we saw passed Wednesday and yesterday in the Legislature.

So I’m not kidding when I say that when the Redford Government made it illegal on Wednesday for any Albertan to argue that civil servants and health care workers should sometimes strike, even if such a strike happens to be against the law, they’ll be thinking of ways to muzzle environmentalists and shut down all forms of public protest next.

Maybe they’ll introduce a northern version of U.S. “food libel” laws, which make it easy for processed food corporations in 13 states to sue critics for “libeling” their unhealthy products through the exercise of free expression, say by suggesting that inspection standards at a certain meat processing plant may not be up to snuff or that there might be dangers for consumers in the consumption of genetically modified food, too much salt or too much sugar.

The Wikipedia notes that many of these laws – like garden-variety defamation laws in Canada – place the burden of proof on the defendant, not on the deep-pocketed corporation claiming to have been wronged or inconvenienced.

Or perhaps the Redford Government will try to make it possible for pipeline companies to sue individual British Columbians who speak up against the environmental dangers of running a pipeline from northern Alberta to the B.C. coast – dangers that, of course, the Alberta and federal governments pretend don’t even exist.

Undoubtedly the thought of making it a crime, say punishable by a fine of $500 a day to utter the words “global warming” aloud, sets their dark little neoliberal hearts aflutter.

Or perhaps they’ll pass a western Canadian version of the now-defeated Charest Government’s Bill 78 last year, which criminalized constitutionally protected protest in the guise of suppressing vandalism. Throw in some huge Spanish-style fines and CCTV cameras in kitchen aids stores and you can lock down most forms of democratic dissent pretty tightly.

Or maybe our government will make it illegal for land owners and property rights advocates to claim they’re not being properly compensated or allege there may be health threats from corporations who want to build electrical power lines or drill gas wells on their property.

Preposterous? Many of us might have thought so before Wednesday night and the wee hours of yesterday morning, when the Alberta government moved to gag bloggers, journalists and ordinary citizens who might be tempted to suggest an illegal strike might be the only way for public employees to resolve a situation – say, unsafe conditions in a new provincial jail that management ignored and refused to correct. (Not that anything like that would ever happen in Alberta!)

Up to now, efforts by conservative politicians and their media echo chamber to silence their environmental opposition has focused on hysterical accusations that the environmentalists’ campaigns are funded by green foreign devils.

As an aside, I must say it beats the hell outta me why it’s OK for a federal environment minister to declare jihad on foreign environmentalists and suggest they have no business intervening in Canadian affairs by buying ads arguing against pipelines, but it’s just fine for the same Conservative government to spend $24 million of our money in the United States intervening in American affairs by buying advertising in favour of pipelines.

Go figure, eh? Maybe it’s because they take free speech a little more seriously south of the Medicine Line than we do here in Alberta and you’ve got to play by local rules.

I’m sure a “free speech advocate” like the Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant would be happy to explain the ethical underpinnings of this puzzlement.

Regardless, getting back to the matter at hand, now that Ms. Redford’s regime has imposed one unconstitutional limit on free speech they find inconvenient, don’t count on it that her brain trust won’t try the same stunt again … with you.

When they do, just remember where you heard it first!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Ahoy there, matey! Talk about maritime disasters! Trapped on a CAPP-sized banana boat with Ezra Levant!

The captain of the the MV Zuiderdam tells Michael Coren, right, to fetch him a cup of Starbucks. Sun News Network tour group hosts may not appear exactly as illustrated. But you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty good likeness! Below: a sample of unethical oil.

Call me Ishmael!

Would you pay $8,679, or even $2,952, to be trapped for nine days aboard a boat, even a very large boat, with Ezra Levant, Michael Coren, Brian Lilley and a host of other sorry reruns from the Sun News Network commentariat, not to mention the communications vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers?

This is a serious question, people! And if you answered yes to it, then perhaps © Ezra Levant’s Freedom Cruise next August is for you. Anchors aweigh!

I’m thinking I may pass on this particular opportunity myself, although in truth we (the matrimonial we, that is) have been thinking that an Alaska cruise might be a very pleasant way to pass some time as retirement beckons.

Still, I’m not walking across the rickety gangplank of any ship with Messrs. Levant and Coren aboard unless it’s named the Pequod and I am permitted to wear officer’s whites and be in command as we make our stately way through British Columbia’s still-pristine Inside Passage along the route followed by the ill-fated Queen of the North.

Please be calm, people. Everything is under control. The bridge is fully staffed with capable officers such as myself. That rainbow sheen you see on the water is just a slight residue of WD-40 from a passing fish boat, the almost entirely harmless residuum of a quart of completely ethical oil. Coren, fetch me a cup of the finest Starbucks from the Atrium and Ocean Bar below! And be right smart about it, man!

Where was I? Oh yes… © Ezra Levant’s Freedom Cruise. Readers who regularly follow this blog will think I am just making this up out of a malicious and spiteful sense of mischief, but I assure you this is not the case.

Indeed, we must admire the Sun News Network, even as its viewers run screaming for the exits – or more to the point, search the sofa for the TV remote with rising desperation – for industriously coming up with new ways to try to make money.

And thus we have © Ezra Levant’s Freedom Cruise drifting past the site of the unlamented Ripple Rock, eliminated by the Dominion Government in history’s largest non-nuclear blast on April 5, 1958, something that no private company … oh, never mind.

You have to admit, the characteristic optimism of the typical free marketeer is inspiring!

Indeed, should the voyage of the MV Zuiderdam fail to deliver the anticipated return on investment – although that is hard to imagine when passengers will have the opportunity to dine with a different Sun personality every night, go to private cocktail receptions with their favourite SNN personalities and attend seminars with Q&A sessions – Sun News can always hit up the CRTC or its maritime equivalent for a compensatory taxpayer subsidy.

And if things really don’t work out, the Sun News Network’s commentators will have been eased into new careers as cruise ship social facilitators. Not many sinking, as it were, companies would do that for their employees.

Each seminar will examine a fascinating question:

  • Could Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau derail our beloved Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2015? (Quelle horreur, l’horreur à double!)
  • Will environmental activists shut down Canada’s key industry? (Spelling the doom of Ethical Oil.)
  • What happened to Alberta and are conservative ideas safe anywhere in Canada? (Yes! At least aboard the MV Zuiderdam whilst she remains in Canadian waters!)
  • Is the U.S. now a liberal country? (Not while the Koch Brothers live and breathe!)

Passengers will also have the opportunity to hear from Pamela Geller, director of both the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Stop Islamization of America (SIOA).

We’re sorry to report that left-wingers in the guise of Stop the Alphabetization of Everything (SAOE), a group that I made up just now as if I were writing a cruise brochure for © Ezra Levant’s Freedom Cruise, are continually trying to bully and erode the free speech rights of people like this Great American Patriot of the Year (GAPOY).

Now hear this! Now hear this! Rainbow-coloured periscope to port! Take the helm, Mr. Queequeg! Hard to Starbuck, I mean to starboard! That is all! That is all!

Also aboard will be Janet Annesley Vice-President of Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), who will presumably be speaking about the threat posed by crazy environmentalists who could be lurking almost anywhere in rainbow-coloured submarines with plans to CAPP-size Canada’s ethical oil!

Readers will also be relieved to learn, as I was, that notwithstanding their mutual presence on this cruise, no business connection exists between the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Ezra Levant.

Moreover, the MV Zuiderdam is operated by the Holland America line and has never been used to ship unethical Chiquita bananas or burn unethical Bunker C.

Still, anyone who can survive nine days on board a boat with the crew of the Sun News Network without developing a really serious drinking problem deserves the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Then again, anyone who is of a mind to do any such thing probably already has one!

Talk about maritime disasters!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

In 2011, Fraser Institute continued to take Koch Brothers donations and file tax returns claiming no political activity

Michael Walker, right, President of the Fraser Institute Foundation and former director of the Fraser Institute, looks at a copy of the Edmonton Sun with a well-known columnist from that newspaper. The great public intellectuals of the Canadian right may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Consistent Fraser Institute donors Charles and David Koch.

In 2011, the market-fundamentalist Fraser Institute continued to accept substantial funding from the U.S.-based Koch Brothers, the far-right New York billionaires who have helped bankroll the extremist American Tea Party.

A U.S. tax filing for a foundation controlled by Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”) and his brother David show the organization, which specializes in funding extreme-right-wing advocacy groups, donated $150,000 to the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute in 2011.

The “charitable” Fraser Institute is a Vancouver-based “think tank” that produces a steady stream of shoddy and ideologically motivated “research” designed to advance market fundamentalist political goals.

These “Fraser Facts” – information that is not quite true, but “truthy” enough to persuade a casual reader the group’s market-fundamentalist nostrums might hold water – are frequently uncritically reported by Canadian mainstream media in its familiar role as willing stooges for Fraser propaganda.

A typical Fraser Fact was the report released by the group this month that found Hong Kong, controlled by the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China, to rate higher on its “Index of Human Freedom” than Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by the sound of it, agrees with this assessment – although even the dutifully right-wing National Post seemed to find this particular factoid a trifle farfetched.

The latest donation from the Charles Koch Foundation means the Fraser Institute is now known to have received well over half a million dollars from the extremist U.S. billionaires since 2007.

In addition to Koch family donations, and perhaps more seriously, in its 2011 Canadian tax filings, both the Fraser Institute and its foundation, both of which have been granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency, continued to claim to have engaged in zero political activity throughout the year. (To read this claim, use the CRA’s search tool and look for “Fraser Institute.”)

The Fraser Institute has made the same claim in every Canadian tax filing since 2000, despite CRA rules that state unequivocally “a registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities.”

The CRA defines partisan political activities as anything that “involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for office,” actions it would be fair to say are undertaken continuously by the Fraser Institute.

In addition, the CRA defines political activities very broadly as anything that “explicitly communicates to the public that the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country should be retained (if the retention of the law, policy or decision is being reconsidered by a government), opposed, or changed…” The CRA even defines as political activities as “attempts to sway public opinion on social issues.”

By this definition, as has been argued here before, essentially 100 per cent of the Fraser Institute’s activities meet the CRA’s test for political activity, well in excess of the 12 per cent limit imposed by Canadian tax legislation for such charities.

Perhaps, given the dubious quality and ideological purpose of its research, it should come as no surprise that the Fraser Institute reports year after year that it engages in no political activity when it manifestly does the opposite.

Nevertheless, it should deeply concern law-abiding and tax-paying Canadians regardless of their political views that the CRA turns a blind eye to these misleading claims by this group in official filings to the Government of Canada while launching spurious investigations of other charities because the Harper Government disagrees with their purposes.

Canadians should also note the foreign sources of Fraser Institute funding at a time that various far-right AstroTurf groups and politicians in Mr. Harper’s party assail the same environmental charities now under the CRA’s microscope for accepting donations from abroad.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Today’s anniversary of a year of Tory rule in Ottawa: it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Contemplating the thought of three more years of Stephen Harper. Below: Mr. Harper himself.

Tory times, as the old saying goes, are terrible times. So it should surprise no one that as we mark the first anniversary of Stephen Harper’s majority victory today, the country is increasingly polarized, students are in the streets of Quebec where separatism is again rearing its head, and mean-spirited pink slips are being handed out right and left to public employees accompanied by the pitiless rah-rahs of the Online Tory Rage Machine, parts of which apparently operate out of the United States.

Here in Edmonton and presumably anywhere else in Canada “law-abiding gun owners” can buy an inexpensive Russian SKS assault rifle, complete with a bayonet and an unlimited supply of dirt-cheap full-metal-jacketed 7.62 mm ammunition, all without the nuisance of having to register any of it. A great gun for gopher hunting, they say, and one supposes the bayonet is particularly useful in that regard.

Indeed, you may need your SKS to hunt gophers if you want to eat before your pension kicks in, which pretty soon won’t be until you’re a couple years closer to 70 thanks to Mr. Harper’s neo-Con need to save money for military hardware at the expense of the elderly while fostering a sense of economic crisis.

If squirrels and gophers just won’t do the trick, maybe you can wander up to Banff or Jasper and pick off an elk or a big-horn sheep – by the sound of it there won’t be nearly as many Park Service employees watching out for you as there used to be.

Of course, the survival of any wildlife may be in doubt thanks to the parlous state of the natural environment, with environmental regulations being gutted right and left so that industrial development can proceed at the lunatic pace demanded by the foreign companies we’re selling out to as quickly as possible. And why not? It’s our grandchildren, not some Chinese or Middle Eastern corporate boss’s, who are going to have to clean up the mess!

We haven’t yet got a dead zone like the one around Chernobyl, back in the former USSR where they make all those lovely SKSes for export, but give it a couple more years.

Of course, you’d better be careful about speaking out about any of this, especially if you take some foreign money to run your environmental charity’s mimeograph machine, or the Canada Revenue Agency will come down on you like the proverbial ton of kiln-baked bricks.

Mind you, these rules only apply to people and organizations on Mr. Harper’s lengthy and Nixonian enemies list. Apparently it’s quite OK for the notorious U.S.-based Koch Brothers to shovel tens of thousands of dollars into the coffers of the market fundamentalist Fraser Institute, which enjoys “charitable” status in Canada and the friendship of the government.

Now, among the Fraser Institute’s and the Koch Boys’ shared dislikes is free collective bargaining. No worries there, the Harper government hates it too, and intervenes in labour negotiations on the side of the employer any chance it gets – just say Air Canada, or Canada Post.

But if you’re an employer and dealing with uppity Canadian employees is still getting you down, thanks to the Tories you’re now allowed to hire “temporary foreign workers” and pay them indentured-slave wages Canadians won’t work for. This is said to be popular with companies that bankroll the Conservatives.

Did I forget anything? I mean, other than Mr. Harper’s plan to slowly choke off federal funding for uniform public health care programs across the country? Without consulting the provinces, of course.

Don’t worry about it. You may not need health care anyway if you eat some listeria-laden luncheon meat unchecked by a federal food inspector, which you likely wouldn’t have heard about because the CBC has closed another station.

Meanwhile, we Canadians may not be able to afford park workers or equal access to health care, but, by God, we’re still going to get those F-35s, the stealth fighter-bomber that isn’t stealthy if it has to carry enough gas to intercept a bomber from Russia and that costs a million dollars to repaint – which you have to do every time you change the oil or put in a new spark plug, or whatever you do to routinely service a $100-million-plus aircraft with the aerodynamics of one of those kiln-baked bricks. Plus, of course, you can’t see out of it and the radios don’t work.

Speaking of the armed services, it looks as if we’ll now be spending a few more billions – and God knows how many more gallons of Canadian blood – fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan for … some reason. Maybe ensuring that adequate supplies of heroin produced by President Hamid Karzai’s family make it to Vancouver, where Mr. Harper would like to close down the Insite supervised injection site.

Did I miss anything, I mean, other than the fact Jason Kenney, Mr. Harper’s minister of immigration and citizenship, has taken a break from turning away qualified immigrants to celebrate the anniversary by inviting disgraced newspaper tycoon Conrad Black into the country after the man first impolitely renounced his citizenship and was then convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice in the democracy next door.

Yeah, well, it’s only been a year. Conservative government: It just doesn’t get any better than this!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.