Stephen Harper is “the most vindictive politician I’ve ever met”

Michael Harris UniforMichael Harris addresses the Unifor Regional Council, November 22, 2014.

Notes from Michael’s talk:

I have been fighting a war against Stephen Harper for three years as a guerrilla journalist. Stephen Harper has cheated in each of the three elections that he’s run since he’s won power.

1/ The In and Out Scandal — In 2006 there was a financial scam going on called the “In and Out Scandal”. It may have won the election. What it actually amounted to was the Conservatives were able to spend a million extra dollars in the last week of the campaign, when it was crucial. And that was a close election decided by less than 7,000 votes. The Tories fought the charge of violating election spending rules. Four senior officers of the Conservative party faced criminal charges in 2011. One of those charged, Senator Irving Gerstein, was not yet a senator but he was a senior Conservative. So while charged and under investigation by Elections Canada, Harper appointed Gerstein to the Senate. He did that to give him [Gerstein] cover. There was a plea bargain on the charge so that the personal charges against those four officers were dropped and the Party had to pay a fine of more than $200,000.

2/ Dean Del Mastro scandal — In 2008, the cheating continued on exactly the same issue which was spending more than they were allowed to spend. This time it was Dean Del Mastro. He was the person who was going to check out the ethics of other people on robocalls. Dean wrote himself a $21,000 cheque and got himself elected in Peterborough. Now he’s convicted on four counts of fraud and he’s gone. While he was under investigation, Harper kept him as his Parliamentary secretary, which shows you what kind of ethical standard is being set here.

3/ Peter Panashue scandal — Panashue, Labrador MP, also spent $30,000 more than he was supposed to, and had to resign from cabinet.

4/ 2011 robocalls scandal — remains the great unsolved crime of our politics. One person has been convicted. Michael Sona was 22 when this happened. Robocalls were made in 230 ridings, but we get a low-level 22 year old operative in Peterborough as the only person who pays the price. And the witnesses against him were all supplied by the Conservative Party. But you would never have known that it you watched the trial because Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative Party lawyer, didn’t appear as a witness, which almost makes it a travesty of justice, since Arthur Hamilton not only produced all the witnesses, he also gave them their stories and worked with them in actual interviews with investigators from Elections Canada. He sat in on the interviews and offered prompting to people who were offering details that they had read about in the newspapers. Michael Sona said to me yesterday “I could have gotten a lighter sentence if I had shown remorse at the sentencing, but I didn’t do this and I’m not going to admit to it.”

It’s going to take the same effort to fight back against these people who lied, cheated, stole elections, cancelled other people’s rights, and in the process crushed a lot of people.

5/ Harper hides in the closet – Harper hid in the closet during the so-called “terrorist” attack on Parliament Hill. A week later he ordered Putin out of the Ukraine. That’s a little less than a warrior PM. He apologized to his caucus for hiding in the closet.

6/ Harper creates climate of fear for charities — In some quarters, some Canadians have become scared rabbits under Harper’s stewardship. Some very famous people who agreed to an interview with me for the book, some independently wealthy people who had nothing to fear – such as losing a job. One very important artist who had a lot of important things to say, called after the interview and asked that the interview be withdrawn because he had represented several charities for years. He was worried that if he criticized the government, these charities would lose their charitable status. If he backed down, others would also start caving in.

7/ Harper tries to intimidate Canadian diplomat — Tried to intimidate diplomat Richard Colvin into not revealing detailed information about the Afghan detainee situation. When Harris interviewed Colvin, he worried that I might be a CSIS agent and asked me to remove the battery from my cellphone. He believed that he was being followed by a CSIS agent (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). This kind of fear is new.

8/ Tory MP Michael Chong resigns after being subjected to Harper intimidation – Harris went to Fergus Ontario to speak to Michael Chong who quit Harper’s cabinet. Clearly a man of integrity, he was Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. One day on his way to a caucus meeting, his deputy stopped him in the hall to say that something big was coming down the pike. The PM was going to make a major announcement about Chong’s department. Harper had decided to confer nation status on Quebec. Chong was not involved in this decision nor was cabinet. It was an unconstitutional edict by Harper who sees himself as a presidential figure. Harper advised Chong to go along with the decision. Chong told Harper his decision was unconstitutional and resigned. Chong was too afraid to release details of his meeting with Harper for fear of future ramifications in his life.

9/ Harper curses MP Bill Casey for speaking the truth, Casey resigns – Harris spoke with Bill Casey, the most popular Tory MP in the Maritimes. He has decided to seek the Liberal nomination in the next federal election. Casey was the first person to come face to face with Harper’s dark side. The Atlantic Accord was negotiated, and gave Atlantic Canada two options: stay with the old deal if the numbers worked better on offshore development or get the new deal if the numbers worked better that way. The deal and was negotiated in good faith. Harper brought it back to Ottawa and changed it unilaterally. Casey looked at the legislation, which was part of a budget, and asked Harper about the change in the Atlantic agreement. Casey even took the agreement to the Justice Department to get their opinion. They confirmed that Harper had tampered with a negotiated agreement. Casey was advised to toe the line and vote for the budget. Casey took the Justice Department opinion to Harper, and put it on Harper’s desk. Harper swept it off his desk and said, “Bill, the fucking words mean what I say they mean….You know your fucking problem, you’ve never been with the program.” Casey phoned his wife, told her what had happened and she told him not to vote for it. The next day he was kicked out of caucus. Casey decided to run as an Independent. Harper parachuted a person from the Justice Department into Casey’s riding, who accused Casey of stealing money from the electoral district association. And brought in the RCMP. And had him investigated while the election is going on. Bill Casey won the election.

10/ Harper ruthlessly cuts funds to Nova Scotia to get back at Casey — Shortly into his term, Casey got a call from the mayor of Truro asking Casey to come to his office ASAP. The infrastructure payments which Truro needed had been cut. When they called the PM’s Office (PMO) to find out what had happened, the mayors were told to ask their MP Casey why the funds were cut — “You didn’t vote for the right party.” That’s the sort of ruthlessness that we’re dealing with.

11/ Harper’s anti-union Bill 377 – Bill 377 should have you very, very alarmed. It was fraudulently brought in as a private member’s bill. It was really a backdoor government anti-union bill fully supported by Harper. One union leader called it the “worst pile of bullshit” he had ever seen in his life. Bill 377 is not about union accountability, as its name would imply. It’s about punishing unions, making it harder to run a union and giving the impression that unions do not already have financial accountability. Harper wants to make war on the unions just as he has made war on other groups of people.

12/ Senate returns emended Bill 377 to House, Harper reintroduces 377 unchanged — When Bill 377 went to the Senate, Liberal Senator Hugh Segal said it was unconstitutional. He emended the bill and sent it back to the House. When Segal retired and subsequently died, Harper reintroduced the unemended Bill 377.

13/ Harper cuts CBC funding — This is what Harper said about the CBC: “First we bring them to their knees. Then we restructure them.”

14/ Harper cuts funding to Canada’s veterans — The Harper government has behaved in a horrible fashion towards Canada’s veterans. Minister Julian Fantino has been a no-show to scheduled meetings. He blamed the veterans for the tone of the meetings with him. He disrespected veterans when he was asked to reconsider closing the VA centres. The government cut $226,000,000 from the VA budget. They took $3.8 million and closed 9 VA centres across the country. A veteran in Thunder Bay was told to go to the closest VA centre to him, which happened to be in Winnipeg, an 8-hour drive away. Wounded veterans were entitled to a $31,000 per year pension. The average payout now is $26,000. They don’t even recognize PTSD as a war-related condition.

By his actions, Harper is building the coalition that’s going to defeat him.

15/ Head of StatsCan resigns over Minister Tony Clement’s lies — Munir Sheikh, head of Statists Canada, read in the newspaper that he was advising Minister Tony Clement to get rid of the long form census and replace it with a shorter form. Sheikh went to the Clerk of the Privy Council to request that Clement stop telling lies about him publicly. Stats Canada employees wrongly believed that Sheikh was a Harper plant put in there to destroy Stats Canada. So he was faced with an inter-departmental revolution. He went to Clement himself who apologized and said it would never happen again. The very next day the same story appeared in the Vancouver Sun. Sheikh went to the PMO to complain. The PMO said “So you want to go out and call the Minister a liar do you? Don’t you realize that getting rid of the long form is our ticket to a majority government?” Sheikh resigned.

16/ The F35 scandal – a $10 billion dollar lie. — Harper stood up in the House and said “We have a contract for 65 of these planes. They’ll cost $15.7 billion.” He had the real number in his possession when he said this – a number which Kevin Page challenged the Tories on. Instead of admitting Page was right and they were wrong, the Tories drove Page out of office.

17/ The Linda Keen scandal — Keen, the Nuclear Commissioner, was fired for standing up for her scientific advice. She tried to sue Harper and found out you can’t do that in Canada. She wasted $100,000 of her own money to be told that Harper has absolute privilege.

When I took up this project and started bumping heads with the most vindictive politician I’ve ever met, someone who I think is ruthless to the bottom, and I think a rogue Prime Minister as well, I remember saying to myself, “You know, you might have bitten off more than you can chew here.”

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