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Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler

Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler.

Yves Engler

Writer and Political Activist

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims to take “strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations, whether popular or not.” But, even the most ardent Conservative supporters must wonder what principled position is behind the recent government-sponsored arms deal with Saudi Arabia that will send over $10 billion worth of Light Armoured Vehicles to one of the most anti-woman and repressive countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by a monarchy that’s been in power for more than seven decades. The House of Saud has outlawed labour unions and stifled independent media. With the Qur’an ostensibly acting as its constitution, over a million Christians (mostly foreign workers) in Saudi Arabia are banned from owning Bibles or attending church while the Shia Muslim minority face significant state-sanctioned discrimination.

Outside its borders, the Saudi royal family uses its immense wealth to promote and fund many of the most reactionary, anti-women social forces in the world. They aggressively opposed the “Arab Spring” democracy movement through their significant control of Arab media, funding of authoritarian political movements and by deploying 1,000 troops to support the 200-year monarchy in neighbouring Bahrain.

The Conservatives have ignored these abuses, staying quiet when the regime killed “Arab Spring” protesters and intervened in Bahrain. Worse still, the Harper government’s hostility towards Iran and backing of last July’s military takeover in Egypt partly reflects their pro-Saudi orientation. In a stark example of Ottawa trying to ingratiate itself with that country’s monarchy, Foreign Minister John Baird recently dubbed the body of water between Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states the “Arabian Gulf” rather than the widely accepted Persian Gulf.

Ottawa hasn’t hidden its affinity for the Saudi royal family. Baird praised a deceased prince for “dedicat[ing] his life to the security and prosperity of the people of Saudi Arabia” and another as “a man of great achievement who dedicated his life to the well-being of its people.”

I am very bullish on where the Canadian-Saudi Arabian relationship is going,” Ed Fast told the Saudi Gazette in August. On his second trip to the country in less than a year, Canada’s International Trade Minister boasted about the two countries’ “common cause on many issues.”

Fast is not the only minister who has made the pilgrimage. Conservative ministers John Baird, Lawrence Cannon, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Gerry Ritz, Peter Van Loan, and Stockwell Day (twice) have all visited Riyadh to meet the king or different Saudi princes.

These trips have spurred various business accords and an upsurge in business relations. SNC Lavalin alone has won Saudi contracts worth $1 billion in the last two years.

As a result of one of the ministerial visits, the RCMP plan to train Saudi Arabia’s police in “investigative techniques.” The Conservatives have also developed military relations with the Saudis. In January 2010, HMCS Fredericton participated in a mobile refueling exercise with a Saudi military vessel and, in another first, Saudi pilots began training in Alberta and Saskatchewan with NATO’s Flying Training in Canada in 2011.

The recently announced arms deal will see General Dynamics Land Systems Canada deliver Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi military. Canada’s biggest ever arms export agreement, it’s reportedly worth $10-13 billion over 14 years.

The LAV sale is facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which has seen its role as this country’s arms middleman greatly expanded in recent years. The Conservative government has okayed and underwritten this deal even though Saudi troops used Canadian built LAVs when they rolled into Bahrain to put down pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.

This sale and the Conservatives’ ties to the Saudi monarchy demonstrate exactly what principles Harper supports: misogyny, military repression, monarchy over democracy and commercial expediency, especially when it comes to the profits of a U.S.-owned branch plant arms dealer.

Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler

Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler.

Yves Engler

Writer and Political Activist

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims to take “strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations, whether popular or not.” But, even the most ardent Conservative supporters must wonder what principled position is behind the recent government-sponsored arms deal with Saudi Arabia that will send over $10 billion worth of Light Armoured Vehicles to one of the most anti-woman and repressive countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by a monarchy that’s been in power for more than seven decades. The House of Saud has outlawed labour unions and stifled independent media. With the Qur’an ostensibly acting as its constitution, over a million Christians (mostly foreign workers) in Saudi Arabia are banned from owning Bibles or attending church while the Shia Muslim minority face significant state-sanctioned discrimination.

Outside its borders, the Saudi royal family uses its immense wealth to promote and fund many of the most reactionary, anti-women social forces in the world. They aggressively opposed the “Arab Spring” democracy movement through their significant control of Arab media, funding of authoritarian political movements and by deploying 1,000 troops to support the 200-year monarchy in neighbouring Bahrain.

The Conservatives have ignored these abuses, staying quiet when the regime killed “Arab Spring” protesters and intervened in Bahrain. Worse still, the Harper government’s hostility towards Iran and backing of last July’s military takeover in Egypt partly reflects their pro-Saudi orientation. In a stark example of Ottawa trying to ingratiate itself with that country’s monarchy, Foreign Minister John Baird recently dubbed the body of water between Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states the “Arabian Gulf” rather than the widely accepted Persian Gulf.

Ottawa hasn’t hidden its affinity for the Saudi royal family. Baird praised a deceased prince for “dedicat[ing] his life to the security and prosperity of the people of Saudi Arabia” and another as “a man of great achievement who dedicated his life to the well-being of its people.”

I am very bullish on where the Canadian-Saudi Arabian relationship is going,” Ed Fast told the Saudi Gazette in August. On his second trip to the country in less than a year, Canada’s International Trade Minister boasted about the two countries’ “common cause on many issues.”

Fast is not the only minister who has made the pilgrimage. Conservative ministers John Baird, Lawrence Cannon, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Gerry Ritz, Peter Van Loan, and Stockwell Day (twice) have all visited Riyadh to meet the king or different Saudi princes.

These trips have spurred various business accords and an upsurge in business relations. SNC Lavalin alone has won Saudi contracts worth $1 billion in the last two years.

As a result of one of the ministerial visits, the RCMP plan to train Saudi Arabia’s police in “investigative techniques.” The Conservatives have also developed military relations with the Saudis. In January 2010, HMCS Fredericton participated in a mobile refueling exercise with a Saudi military vessel and, in another first, Saudi pilots began training in Alberta and Saskatchewan with NATO’s Flying Training in Canada in 2011.

The recently announced arms deal will see General Dynamics Land Systems Canada deliver Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi military. Canada’s biggest ever arms export agreement, it’s reportedly worth $10-13 billion over 14 years.

The LAV sale is facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which has seen its role as this country’s arms middleman greatly expanded in recent years. The Conservative government has okayed and underwritten this deal even though Saudi troops used Canadian built LAVs when they rolled into Bahrain to put down pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.

This sale and the Conservatives’ ties to the Saudi monarchy demonstrate exactly what principles Harper supports: misogyny, military repression, monarchy over democracy and commercial expediency, especially when it comes to the profits of a U.S.-owned branch plant arms dealer.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Pimping the Empire, Progressive-Style

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Pimping the Empire, Progressive-Style.

Supporting the central state to protect your favored cartels is simply pimping for the Empire.

The central illusion of both Left (so-called Progressives) and Right (so-called conservatives) is that the Central State’s essentially unlimited powers can be narrowly directed to further their agenda.

(I say “so-called” because the “Progressives” are not actually progressive, and the “Conservatives” are not actually conservative. Those labels are Orwellian double-speak, designed to mask the disastrous consequences of each ideology’s actual policies.)

Let’s begin by stipulating that ideology, any ideology, is an intellectual and emotional shortcut that offers believers ready-made explanations, goals, narratives and enemies without any difficult, time-consuming analysis, study or skeptical inquiry. This is the ultimate appeal of ideology: accepting the ideology relieves the believer of the burdens of analysis, skeptical inquiry, uncertainty/doubt and responsibility: all the answers, goals and narratives are prepackaged and mashed together for easy consumption.

This is one of the core messages of Erich Fromm’s classic exploration of ideology and authoritarianism, Escape from Freedom.

And what is the essential foundation of authoritarianism? A central state. This is not coincidental.

What few grasp is the teleology of the centralized state: by its very nature (i.e. as a consequence of its essentially unlimited powers), the central state is genetically programmed to become an authoritarian state devoted to self-preservation and the extension of its reach and power.

The central illusion of Progressives is that an all-powerful central state will not become a self-serving expansive empire, but will be content to wield its vast powers to protect its favored cartels/monopolies and distribute money skimmed from the citizenry to Progressive constituencies such as public unions, healthcare and education.

This is an absurd fantasy. Once you give a central state essentially unlimited power to stripmine income and wealth from its citizens, create and/or borrow essentially unlimited sums of money, protect private (and politically powerful) cartels from competition and project military, financial and diplomatic power around the globe, the state will pursue Authoritarianism and Empire as a consequence of possessing those powers.

You can’t cede unlimited, highly concentrated powers to the central state and then expect the state not to fulfill its teleogical imperative to protect and extend its powers. The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to view any citizen that seeks to limit its expansion of power as an enemy to be suppressed, imprisoned or marginalized.

The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to protecting its powers by cloaking all the important inner workings of the state behind a veil of secrecy, and pursuing and punishing any whistleblowers who reveal the corrupt, self-serving workings of the state.

The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to view any other nation or alliance as a potential threat, and thus the state will pursue any and all means to distrupt or counter those potential threats.

The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to create and distribute propaganda to mask its self-serving nature and its perpetual agenda of extending its powers, lest some threat arise that limits those powers.

Democracy and a central state with unlimited powers are teleologically incompatible.

Progressives worship the central state and cede it essentially unlimited powers because they want that state to be powerful enough to impose their agenda on others and reward their constituencies.

But it doesn’t work that way. Once you cede unlimited, highly concentrated power to the central state, you get an authoritarian empire that is driven to protect itself from any threat at all costs–including democracy, though the state may maintain a facade of carefully managed “democracy” as part of its propaganda machinery.

You cannot have a state with essentially unlimited power and not end up with cartel-capitalism. So-called Progressives defend their favored cartel-fiefdoms of healthcare and education (and the “conservative” banking and defense cartels, too, to insure banks fund their campaigns and to protect their political flank with a “strong on defense” carte blanche to the National Security cartels), yet these cartels are busy bankrupting the nation and destroying the very programs Progressives claim to hold dear.

You can’t have it both ways, Progressives: if you support a central state with essentially unlimited power to protect and fund your constituent cartels, you end up with self-liquidating cartel-capitalism, a state bent on protecting itself from the uncertainties/risks of democracy and a global Empire that is teleologically driven to expand its reach and power by any and all means available.

Once you choose to cede essentially unlimited powers to the central state, all decisions after that are made in service of the state. The idea that the state can be limited to helping the needy is illusory.

The only legitimate duties of the state are limited: 1) protect the commons from destruction and exploitation; 2) protect the citizenry from exploitation or oppression by those with superior power or resources; 3) maintain transparency in all governance and 4) maintain a system of sound money.

The so-called Progressives will learn what the teleology of the state means in the real world when the state comes after them. Once you cede unlimited power to the central state, any attempt to limit that power marks you as an enemy.

War at Home: Covert action against U.S. activists.

Supporting the central state to protect your favored cartels and protect your political power over the state’s tax revenues is simply pimping for the Empire. You can call it “progressive,” but it’s still pimping for the Empire.

Climate change activists disrupt Stephen Harper event – Politics – CBC News

Climate change activists disrupt Stephen Harper event – Politics – CBC News.

Activists disrupt Harper event

Activists disrupt Harper event 4:37

Activists disrupt Harper event RAW

Activists disrupt Harper event RAW 0:42

Two climate change activists managed to sneak up behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday just as he was getting ready to start a question and answer session at the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Sean Devlin and Shireen Soofi succeeded in getting past the prime minister’s security detail and onto the stage where Harper was sitting to protest his government’s climate change policies.

Devlin stood behind Harper holding a sign that read “Climate Justice Now.”

Soofi held up a sign saying “The Conservatives Take Climate Change Seriously,” with the sentence crossed out.

She was standing between the prime minister and Iain Black, the president of the board of trade, who was introducing Harper when the activists took the stage.

Both men kept their cool as the pair were escorted off the stage by security.

“I’d like to take a minute and have some folks removed from the stage,” Black said while the prime minister reached for a sip of water.

“It wouldn’t be B.C. without it,” Harper joked.

The crowd of business leaders applauded Harper as security removed the activists from the room.

Former prime minister Kim Campbell was also in attendance, along with Industry Minister James Moore and a handful of Conservative MPs from the region.

Anti-Harper protester behind disruption

The two activists had the help of Brigette DePape, who immediately issued a press release following the security breach bragging about the pair’s exploits.

DePape was fired as a Senate page in 2011 after walking onto the Senate floor carrying a “Stop Harper!” sign during the speech from the throne to protest against Harper’s policies.

“This morning two people directly intervened in a high-security question and answer session with Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” the release said.

“The group managed to make their way past police undetected and into the secured Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.”

Reached by telephone following the disruption, DePape said she was proud of the protest.

DePape told CBC News “it was very empowering” for the activists to get that close to the prime minister.

No comment from PMO

Despite the security breach, the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment publicly.

Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for the prime minister, told CBC News in an email, “we don’t comment on security-related matters.”​

Following the event, the president of the board of trade Vancouver Board of Trade was asked by reporters how the protesters got on stage.

“I would defer that to the Prime Minister’s Office,” Black said.

The head of the board said that when high-profile guests are invited to speak, security is handled by a number of agencies, from the Vancouver police to the RCMP.

Both protesters were initially detained by Vancouver police, but were later released.​

Vancouver police told CBC News that no charges have been laid against the protesters, but that could change.

“We will be working with the protection detail of the RCMP at the event to determine if charges are going to be laid,” the police said.

The RCMP said it was reviewing the incident and would take “appropriate action,” but referred questions on charges to Vancouver police.

Harper ‘shrugged it off’

Black said he wasn’t shaken by the event and that he took his cue from the prime minister.

“I didn’t really get rattled by it. First of all, it happened very quickly. We all saw how quickly it was handled. I took the lead from the prime minister’s response, to be honest.”

“He didn’t seem rattled. He’s got full confidence in the team around him and that showed. He kind of shrugged it off, and there was no reason for me to do anything else,” Black said.

Richard Zussman, who was at the event reporting for CBC News, said in a post on Twitter that the activists “looked to be dressed as wait staff.”

DePape, in her press release, hinted that other events may be disrupted.

“These actions are taking place as part of a global movement of groups of who are directly confronting the fossil fuel industry, from First Nations legal challenges and blockading projects on their territories, to other forms of non-violent direct action.”

Harper did not take any questions from the media.

The Ring of Fire’s Future Is Now a Burning Question | Sunny Freeman

The Ring of Fire’s Future Is Now a Burning Question | Sunny Freeman.

Mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources’ decision to halt work on the largest project in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire region has aroused a sudden interest in the lumbering development.

The opposition at Queen’s Park pounced to lay blame on the province for the squandered opportunity.

Financial analysts scurried to advise clients on what it means for their shares. And usually blasé news outlets called on pundits to discuss whether the loss of the U.S. mining giant was a death knell for the much-hyped but little-understood development.

The biggest player in the Ring of Fire, a 5,000 square kilometre tract of land in Ontario’s Far North that is said to hold a potential $50 billion in mineral deposits, announced late Wednesday it is halting work on its $3.3 billion chromite project indefinitely, blaming, for the most part, an “uncertain timeline.”

If Cliffs’ decision to stop development is the death of that high stakes mining discovery, it was anything but a sudden one.

This past summer, I was one of just two reporters covering a historic three-day meeting of the Matawa First Nations, a group that represents many of the communities that are affected by Ring of Fire development. As part of my reporting for HuffPost’s Staking Claim series, I’ve spoken to the major players in the First Nations community, in government and from the mining companies involved.

They all saw this coming. And none are panicking that the Ring of Fire has been extinguished.

Any insider could see the signs: the many stalls, delays and conflicts between miners and First Nations; miners and government; and government and First Nations.

Just about the only thing the players have agreed upon is the need to “get it right.” The problem is no one has agreed on what that means.

Cliffs has been telegraphing its frustration with the development process every time I have spoken with execs over the past year. It has warned, with growing severity, that it might be “forced” to pull out of the Black Thor chromite project if it doesn’t see better progress. It said so in June, when it halted its Environmental Assessment over a number of uncertainties, and it said so even louder in September when the province denied it the rightto build a road on land held by a rival miner.

For the debt-strapped company struggling with funding expansion in an era of low metal prices, the choice to stop work in the Ring of Fire was simple math. Patricia Perisco of Cliffs explained that projects compete internally for funding and Black Thor was a tough sell.

The U.S. mining giant has called the region unprecedented both in the opportunity to open a new mining region and in the scale of the challenges the company faced.

When Ontario announced earlier this month its idea for a loosely formed development corporation to bring the players together, it was too late. Cliffs didn’t even hold an initial meeting on the topic — it wanted out. And yet, it hasn’t ruled out getting back in, either. The company will continue to talk with First Nations and government (whom it will no doubt lobby for its preferred transportation route).

Cliffs may be ready to re-enter the region by the time Matawa and Ontario finally reach agreement on a number of preliminary issues, which could still be years away.

For its part, the Ontario government, which stands to gain billions in royalties from the potential development, moved swiftly to assure would-be investors the province is still open for business and that the potential in the Ring of Fire is alive.

But it has been anything but swift when it comes to action. More than a decade after discovering riches in the frozen muskeg of the north, no one has been able to penetrate either the earth or ill-defined regulatory walls.

Opposition parties that have for years blamed the government for mismanaging and underestimating the importance of the project used Cliffs’ announcement as an “I told you so” moment.

The government’s nonchalant attitude about the potential loss of the biggest player in the region belies the fact that the piece of the royalty pie it has to divvy up with First Nations just shrunk substantially. There may still be some 20 other miners in the region, but Cliffs’ decision is like Wal-Mart pulling out of a major retail development: it doesn’t mean the project won’t go ahead but it puts the onus on a number of independent boutiques whose pocketbooks are considerably smaller.

As for the people who will be most directly affected by the project, the First Nations communities surrounding the area, they are neither surprised nor fazed by Cliffs’ decision.In fact, they welcome it. They’ve been on this land since time immemorial, have been the victims of development for centuries, and are in no rush for a snap decision or quick resolution.

The people of the Matawa First Nations are ambivalent about the Ring of Fire. They have deep concerns about the impact a new mining region will have on their pristine land, on the animals and fish on which they rely and on their way of life which involves a deep connection to the land.

In Webequie, the fly-in reserve some 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay that is closest to the Ring of Fire, animals are already fleeing from exploration activities to its east.

There is a tempered enthusiasm toward the jobs, roads and prosperity they’ve been promised, but they’re also jaded following years of broken promises. One young man in Webequie beginning a heavy equipment training program with the possibility of a Ring of Fire job had already trained as a firefighter, land staker and diamond driller with the promise of a steady income. He is still unemployed, like 70 per cent of the reserve.

Matawa’s CEO David Paul Achneepineskum said this week the setback will give First Nations more time to assess the environmental impacts of the development as well as prepare their people for the opportunities it may present.

The tribal council’s chief negotiator Bob Rae made it clear in a tweet that he’s hellbent on pursuing a fair deal “to end (a) cycle of poverty for First Nations,” even with the biggest player gone.

Still, with pressure from Cliffs removed as an impetus to reach a deal quickly, negotiations with the province risk losing focus and dragging on longer.

While no one denies that Cliffs’ move is a game changer, the looming question is whether it’s a game ender.

The First Nations, government and industry players I spoke with answer with a resounding “no.” But industry-watcher and Native legal rights expert Bill Gallagher says their stances are either spin or delusion. The Ring of Fire, he says, is in the “project death zone” and “the biggest missed opportunity on Ontario’s road to resources in a generation.”

Fault will inevitably be assigned: was it that First Nations were “anti-development”? Was the province too slow or too unorganized to act? Or did the miner misjudge how quickly they could put a shovel in the ground?

Any attempt to analyze what went wrong, and whether it can be put right, must go far beyond those surface level questions.

It is a wake-up call that should be answered not with dwelling on what went awry, but instead determining, once and for all, what it actually means to “get it right” in the Ring of Fire.

 

Budget office to investigate Flaherty’s $7.1B surprise – Politics – CBC News

Budget office to investigate Flaherty’s $7.1B surprise – Politics – CBC News.

The Parliamentary Budget Office says it will investigate how the Finance department found more than $7 billion in savings for the last fiscal year.The Parliamentary Budget Office says it will investigate how the Finance department found more than $7 billion in savings for the last fiscal year. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The surprising revelation last week that Ottawa is almost $7 billion ahead of schedule for eliminating the deficit is attracting the scrutiny of the budget watchdog.

The No. 2 man in the Parliamentary Budget Office says officials have asked the Finance Department for clarification.

“We’ll look at it because it will affect our own numbers, and try and figure out what the source of it is,” says Mostafa Askari.

“There’s a part we still don’t understand … as to why departments spent less than what they were expected to … and why they (Finance) didn’t see it in March,” when the budget was tabled.

In a report last week, the government pegged the deficit for the 2012-13 fiscal year at $18.9 billion, rather than the $25.9 billion estimated in the March budget.

The lion’s share of the difference — about $4.9 billion — came from lower program spending, including on the public service.

Askari said one pressing question is whether the savings were largely a one-time occurrence or will flow through to future years.

If the latter, analysts say, Ottawa may be able to balance the budget next year, one year earlier than the 2015 target, a boon for the Harper Conservatives heading into an election year.

Election promises

The Conservatives have promised to introduce income splitting for tax purposes once the budget is balanced, a measure likely to boost the party’s chances in the scheduled 2015 election.

hi-flaherty-006935352-852 

“But at what cost to Canadians?” says NDP finance critic Peggy Nash.

“This is exactly why the PBO was created and it goes to the heart of accountability for the government. What are the programs and services that have been affected? They won’t say.”

Nash says she believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued orders to get the budget balanced as quickly as possible to load his campaign platform with goodies, noting that in this month’s throne speech, the government pledged more restraint.

Liberal critic Scott Brison says the government’s continuing job cuts are a “fatwa” on the public service — politically driven, and not about helping the economy.

When Flaherty was asked why departments hadn’t spent their approved limits, he joked: “I think I’m scaring them all.”

Underestimating surpluses?

Some critics speculate Flaherty may have been borrowing the tactics of a famous predecessor, Liberal Paul Martin, who set a low bar to look all the better when good numbers arrived.

In Martin’s case, the sizes of surpluses were underestimated, a practice Harper and Flaherty have criticized and pledged to end.

But former PBO Kevin Page, who has quarrelled with Flaherty in the past, said he doesn’t believe the minister is deliberately under-promising on the fiscal numbers.

Page said during the Martin restraint years in the 1990s, officials cut capital expenditures, such as maintenance and upgrades of equipment, but that proved a false economy in the long run. The move only delayed spending to later years and often increased costs.

“I’d worry about the prime minister and finance minister saying there’s too much money in the system, just put the squeeze to it, we don’t care how, because we’re not going to the election in 2015 with some kind of deficit,” he said.

That is becoming increasingly unlikely given the new deficit level, says Scotiabank senior economist Mary Webb, who specializes in federal and provincial finances.

She says the current, lower starting point of $18.9 billion means Flaherty can do much better than the $18.7-billion level he was supposed to get to this fiscal year, which runs to March, making the final leap to balance 2014-2015 possible.

Webb notes that in the March budget, Ottawa forecast the deficit shrinking by $12 billion between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years.

“Let’s take an optimistic scenario and say the deficit is down to $10 billion after this year, then the question is can they cut $10 billion in one year. Well they were going to, so why not?”

For that to happen, all would need to go well for the government, she said. And Flaherty himself has noted Ottawa is facing additional costs this year as a result of the Lac-Megantic train derailment and Alberta flooding.

But the minister has also included a sizable $3-billion cushion for “risk” in his projections, so Ottawa is that much closer each year than it is reporting.

Webb says the federal government typically “outperforms its deficit target,” so although unlikely, she says there may be another Flaherty surprise down the road.

 

Tory anti-environment advocacy protects corporate, not public, interests | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Tory anti-environment advocacy protects corporate, not public, interests | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com. (source)

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Telegraph screed supports Cameron’s contempt for green policies at our expense

Cuadrilla fracking site at Balcombe

Cuadrilla has doubled the height of its security fences and installed razor wire at its Balcombe site. Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images

Yesterday Jacob Rees-Mogg, member of parliament for North East Somerset, wrote an article in the Telegraph claiming that the fundamental cause of the UK’s “high energy prices” is “climate changealarmism.” His piece coincided with Prime Minister David Cameron‘sannouncement that to tackle rocketing gas and electricity bills he would “roll back” green levies on energy bills and subject Britain’s “Big Six” energy giants to a “competition test.”

Even the Tory’s own lead environmentalist MP, Zac Goldsmith, was appalled. “In 2010, leaders fought to prove they were the greenest”, he said. “Three years on, they’re desperately blaming their own policies on the other. Muppets.”

But Rees-Mogg’s piece illustrates the insidious nature of the anti-environment economic ideology that has been so influential in the Tory party, and that has derailed the potential for meaningful environmental policy. Energy companies have announced prices rises against the background of government regulation and “green taxes”, he writes, because concern over climate change has led to unjustifiable opposition to coal and fracking:

“In the 2010s it is not the price of bread that is falsely and unnecessarily inflated by obstinate politicians but that of energy. There are cheap sources of energy either available or possible but there is a reluctance to use them. Coal is plentiful and provides the least expensive electricity per megawatt, while fracking may provide a boon of shale gas.”

He is wrong on both counts – laughably so. A number of recent scientific studies in major journals such as FuelEnergy, the International Journal of Coal Geology – to name just a few – have projected that a peak in world coal production is only a few years away, followed by production declines and spiraling prices.

As for fracking, its capacity to provide cheap shale gas has beenquestioned by leading independent experts who point to steep production declines at wells, along with overinflated industry reserve estimates that have led to a “bubble” that could burst in the next five years.

At the core of Rees-Mogg’s obfuscation on energy is an ideology that paints corporations as the key to prosperity for all:

“As the Government has made the price higher so the energy companies put a margin on top. High prices are almost expected.”

But this is also false. The fundamental cause of the high energy prices consistently dampening prospects for economic growth is the peak and plateauing of cheap conventional oil production since around 2005, which has ramped up oil prices and compelled a deepening dependence on increasingly expensive unconventional sources like tar sands, oil shale and shale gas. This is not particularly controversial – even Shell’s CEO has warned that shale gas will not reduce prices, and evidence submitted to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that shale gas “will not be a panacea for bringing down gas and electricity bills” as costs will be “50% to 100% higher than in the US.”

Rees-Mogg then flirts unabashedly with climate denialism, arguing that the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on the climate “remains much debated”, and that climate models are inaccurate because it was “computer modelling” that led to the 2008 global banking collapse of 2008. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that climate models are completely different from the quantitative models that justified the reckless debt-expansion behind the global financial crisis, the former are only inaccurate in being too conservative – whereas the latter wererigged by financiers to maximise profits at taxpayer’s expense.

Rees-Mogg’s other case for inaction is that we are not responsible for climate change. Britain emits only “2 per cent” of the world’s CO2. What he ignores here is that the UK is still in the top ten of global emitters – and that if every country decided on inaction because it only contributes by itself a small percentage of emissions, then what we have is a recipe for abject failure.

Rees-Mogg would have us believe he is motivated by the plight of the poor, whom he says are “most particularly” punished as a “matter of choice not of necessity…. This can be stopped by ending the environmentalist obsession and delivering cheap energy.” But one might be forgiven for concluding that his real concern is corporate profiteering. The solution to high energy prices, he says, is “to free the market” – the same “free” market that led to the 2008 crash, the Eurozone crisis, and so on – “not to control prices which will simply reduce supply.”

This is hardly surprising. Rees-Mogg is a founding partner at Somerset Capital Management (SCM), a global asset management fund where hecurrently works as a macro specialist while also being an MP. Among its many investments, SCM specialises in emerging markets, including in the energy industry. Its largest holdings include oil majors such as the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) – which for instance is spearheading multibillion dollar deals to access the North American shale gas market – and Russia’s OJSC Rosneft Oil Company.

According to its interim report published in March this year, the fund pulled out of some energy projects on the basis of declining rates of profitability “due to the rising cost of production”, but viewed CNOOC’s recent ventures to exploit US fracking as “favourable.” In other markets such as India, China and Brazil, economic prospects were mixed as “both domestic consumption and exports put in lacklustre performances.” The overall assessment was uncertain, with the report noting that emerging market economies are “cooling”, and that “The market has periodic rallies but these show no real conviction.”

While Rees-Mogg’s firm profits from fracking abroad, Rees-Mogg himself uses his own parliamentary privilege to advocate fracking at home, while promoting a kind of free market extremism. In a speech last month during a Private Member’s Bill proposing amendments to the Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Act 1981, Rees-Mogg reportedly urged for greater deregulation to permit British companies to explore the potential for off-shore and deep sea resources:

“That’s what this is really about: exploring these resources that could add to the wealth not only of the nation but of the globe at large; because as we’ve seen the emergence of the new economies – China, India, Brazil and of Russia – so we have seen demand for resources grow extraordinarily.”

“I would urge the Bill to have a more deregulatory ambition within it”, he added.

“It’s obviously wise to extend it purely for metals to include gas and to include liquids, because there may be all sorts of exciting things at the depths of the sea. There may be endless supplies of gas, there may be oils spurting out as if Saudi Arabia is on the seabed.”

Ironically, these are precisely the sorts of policies that could indirectly benefit corporate players like Somerset Capital Management, its holdings, and its clients in emerging markets and beyond. Indeed, SCM’s own indifference to environmental challenges is plainly stated on its website, where it declares:

“… we makes [sic] no claim to using environmental, social and governance concerns as tenets of ethics in the fashioning of investment returns.”

That might be all quite acceptable in its own context, but when this cavalier attitude becomes evident in public advocacy by our so-called political representatives, it’s time to start asking questions about the extent to which politics is being hijacked in the name of unaccountable corporate power.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

 

Spy watchdog to investigate CSIS visit to Hamilton man’s home – Latest Hamilton news – CBC Hamilton

Spy watchdog to investigate CSIS visit to Hamilton man’s home – Latest Hamilton news – CBC Hamilton. (source)

The watchdog agency that oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) says it will review the complaint of a Hamilton man who alleges agents visited his house to “intimidate” him.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the five-person board of political appointees that examines CSIS’s operations, has tapped chair Chuck Strahl to investigate the claim put by longtime activist Ken Stone.

In July, Stone made a formal complaint to SIRC about a Jan. 25 visit by CSIS agents to his Mountain home.

Ken StoneHamilton activist Ken Stone said CSIS agents paid him a visit at his home on Jan. 25, two weeks after an op-ed he wrote criticizing the prime minister’s approach on Iran was published in the Hamilton Spectator. (Courtesy of Ken Stone)

​Stone, long a vocal labour and anti-racism advocate, said the agents asked him about an op-ed he wrote titled “Harper is wrong in demonizing Iran” that was published in the Jan. 11 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

In his letter to SIRC, the 67-year-old alleges that the visit was intended “to intimidate me and members of my family from lawfully exercising our Charter rights to freedom of expression and association” and, counter to CSIS’s mandate, did not address a meaningful security threat.

The visit, he wrote, “caused me and my family a considerable amount of anxiety.” He has asked for a formal apology from CSIS as well as statement from SIRC demanding that CSIS “cease and desist from home and workplace visits to residents of Canada that are designed to intimidate residents of Canada from exercising their Charter rights.”

Last week, Stone received a letter stating that SIRC will hold hearings into the case, but a date for the proceedings has not been set.

Stone said he plans to attend the hearings in Ottawa, and will retain a lawyer to help him make his case.

Both ‘pleased’ and ‘disappointed’

Stone said he’s pleased the committee has chosen to take on his case, but he is doubtful that the process will yield the answers he seeks.

“On the one hand, I’m pleased that they have taken up the complaint because they had the discretion not to take up the complaint. The fact that they chose to take it up is a good sign,” he said.

However, Stone said he’s “disappointed” that Strahl, a former Conservative MP and federal cabinet minister, has been assigned to investigate the case.

“He’s a Conservative Party hack and I don’t expect a lot of sympathy from him.”

That Strahl and his fellow SIRC members are political appointees “shows a fundamental problem with oversight over CSIS,” Stone added.

Committee members, he said, would put their jobs at risk if they slammed the government’s policies, and neither CSIS nor Parliament are required to adopt SIRC’s recommendations.

Contacted by CBC Hamilton on Thursday, SIRC said it would not be able to respond to Stone’s criticism. But in an interview with CBC Hamilton in March, SIRC senior counsel Sylvie Roussel defended the committee’s integrity.

“We have a process and we follow that process,” she said, noting that panel members “take their role very seriously.”

‘Canadians deserve better’

Jean Paul Duval, a spokesman with Public Safety Canada, said the ministry does not comment on specific cases.

However, in an email statement to CBC Hamilton, defended SIRC’s review process.

“SIRC is at arm’s length from the Government and provides independent review that CSIS activities comply with law and Ministerial Direction,” he wrote.

When Stone first went public about the CSIS visit in the winter, he initially said he would not go through with making a complaint to SIRC, figuring it would be futile exercise. He later decided he wanted to his grievance on record, regardless of the outcome.

On Thursday, Stone said he hopes the government will eventually adopt an civilian oversight body — akin to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission — that is independent and not led by political appointees.

“All in all, it’s not a satisfactory oversight process,” Stone said. “Canadians deserve better.”

 

Why Liberals Should be Outraged that the IRS Targeted Conservatives | Zero Hedge

Why Liberals Should be Outraged that the IRS Targeted Conservatives | Zero Hedge.

 

Farage Unleashed: “You Are Common Criminals” | Zero Hedge

Farage Unleashed: “You Are Common Criminals” | Zero Hedge.

 

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