Not a good week for Harper government

This past week was not a good one for Stephen Harper’s government, but it was far worse for Canadians who take their citizenship and rights seriously and for seniors and “baby boomers” with lower-than-average incomes.
The week began with revelations that the Harper government has hit new heights, or should I say depths, of dishonesty.
Desperate to prop up the struggling new conservative Sun TV news network (which drew a peak of just 38,000 viewers on Dec. 28), political officials in Immigration minister Jason Kenney’s office came up with a scheme to lure in viewers.
Kenney’s political staff decided to hold a special citizenship and immigration ceremony at the Ottawa headquarters of Sun TV, which would have exclusive rights to broadcast the ceremony.
A “Harper government-Sun TV” joint production if you will.
The event in question went ahead as an official government event and was paid for by taxpayers. It was supposed to feature several new Canadians taking an oath and being sworn in as new citizens in celebration of Citizenship Day.
At least, that is what the Sun TV hosts said was happening as people raised their right hands began to recite an oath.
The only problem? The participants weren’t new Canadians and it was not a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens. Rather, they were federal bureaucrats posing as new Canadians and “reaffirming” their already permanent citizenship.
When confronted with the story last week, Kenney refused to apologize and instead blamed the non-partisan civil servants for the poor judgment. He refused to take responsibility even though Sun TV knew the new Canadians were really old Canadians—and Immigration staffers to boot.
“Let’s do it. We can fake the oath,” was what one Sun TV editor wrote in an e-mail to Kenney’s political advisors.
The advisors agreed and ordered the non-partisan civil service to carry out the event on the official orders of the minister.
The other part of the bad news for Stephen Harper this week was that thousands of Canadians, including many Conservative MPs, rebelled against his plan to raise the qualifying age for Old Age Security (OAS) from 65 to 67.
It was just two weeks ago that Mr. Harper went to Switzerland to announce “major reforms” to Canada’s pension and retirement system.
This ill-advised move—to announce a plan affecting millions of Canadians first to a room of bankers in a foreign country—appears to be backfiring rather spectacularly.
The problem seemed to stem from a few things if the feedback I’ve heard is any indication. First, Harper didn’t campaign on cutting our retirement benefits and pensions.
Even raising the age for qualifying is seen as a cut by most people, who would have appreciated learning of this during the last campaign–or any campaign for that matter.
Second, many believed that foreign bankers shouldn’t be the first to hear of the plan. Maybe the Canadians who are going to actually going be affected should have been?
And third, since OAS goes only to the poorest of seniors who need it because CPP can’t cover their basic needs (i.e., food, shelter, and clothing), it seems like maybe that would be the worst place to start cutting.
It appears to many, myself obviously included, that the Harper government simply has its priorities wrong as it spends $30 billion on their F-35s and another $19 billion for their unpopular prisons agenda, but tell us they can’t spare $540 a month for Canada’s poorest seniors.
All in all, this past week saw Harper’s crew graduate from making fake lakes to making fake Canadians and disclosing that they plan to cut programs to our poorest seniors without any notice or any clear reason.
While I think most will agree it was a bad week for the Harper Conservatives, they also would agree it was a worse week for Canadians who take our citizenship and rights seriously or can’t afford to retire in dignity.

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