This is the text of an e-mail I sent today to the Liberal Party of Canada. I will post their reply, if any.
- As a lifelong, but now former, Liberal I was embarrassed for the LPC yesterday to read in the former CanWest paper, the Montreal Gazette, a report on how far prime minister Harper has gone to gag the public service to advance Harper's personal agenda. Here are a few excerpts:
"The Harper government has tightened the muzzle on federal scientists, going so far as to control when and what they can say about floods at the end of the last ice age.
Natural Resources Canada scientists were told this spring they need “pre-approval” from Minister Christian Paradis’ office to speak with national and international journalists. Their “media lines” also need ministerial approval, say documents obtained by Postmedia News through access-to-information legislation.
The documents say the “new” rules went into force in March and reveal how they apply to not only to contentious issues including the oilsands, but benign subjects such as floods that occurred 13,000 years ago.
They also give a glimpse of how Canadians are being cut off from scientists whose work is financed by taxpayers, critics say, and is often of significant public interest — be it about fish stocks, genetically modified crops or mercury pollution in the Athabasca River.
“It’s Orwellian,” says Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at University of Victoria. The public, he says, has a right to know what federal scientists are discovering and learning.
Orwellian indeed and it's been going on almost since Harper took over and installed political commissars in the PMO to regulate and filter communications between the public and the public and armed services. Let me be blunt. This is despotism.
Chalmers Johnson, in his book Nemesis, the Last Days of the American Republic, offers an insightful discussion of the importance of access to government information to the health of democracy:
"James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution, considered the people's access to information the basic right upon which all other rights depend.
"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it," Madison later wrote, "is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
"...federal appellate judge Damon Keith wrote in his 2003 ruling against the Bush policy of holding hundreds of deportation hearings in secret, 'Democracies die behind closed doors... When government begins closing doors it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.'"
Judge Keith is totally right. The information that Harper denies the public is not his. It is ours. It belongs to the people of Canada. These are the people that we once believed an Opposition was to serve, to protect.
Again from The Gazette:
“Departmental officials speaking on behalf of the department are to consult the minister’s office in preparing responses,” Joanisse says. “While this may have been misinterpreted as being a new policy, it has been in place for years.”
The documents show several communications managers, policy advisers, political staff and senior officials were involved drafting and vetting “media lines.”
And Harper gets away with it thanks to a haplessly impotent opposition leader. When did the Liberal Party sink this low? If Ignatieff can't figure out that his job is to defend Canadian democracy against the excesses of Stephen Harper, you Liberals had better spell it out for him. And, by the way, screw arts funding.
As you can probably tell by the variation in fonts, etc., much of this e-mail has been copied over from my blog. Our country will face many enormous challenges this century and while I, blessedly, won't be around to confront them, my children and theirs certainly will. Their future is being written today, indelibly, and a good part of that is being written by our federal government. Looking on what passes for the Official Opposition today is more than discouraging. It's depressing.