Frances Russell

  • Pallister and balanced-budget law go back to 1993

    Provincial Conservative Leader Brian Pallister and Manitoba's balanced-budget law -- the law that requires a provincial referendum to raise taxes -- go back a long way, to 1993. In June 1993, almost two years before then-premier Gary Filmon's government introduced Canada's first balanced-budget law, Pallister, then simply the Progressive Conservative MLA for Portage la Prairie, wrote the right-leaning Fraser Institute to ask whether the U.S. had balanced-budget laws and if they were effective.
  • Harperites undermine democracy

    Canadian democracy is under threat from its own government. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper are running an effective dictatorship. They believe they are quite within their rights to muzzle Parliament, gag civil servants, use taxpayer money for blatant political self-promotion, stand accused of trying to subvert a federal election and hand over much of Canada's magnificent natural heritage to the multinational oil and gas lobby.
  • Alberta-B.C. dust-up forces Harper to rethink ideology

    Ideologues always get tripped up by their ideology. Just look at Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Now that B.C. and Alberta are on the warpath, are you still on the side of provincial rights and the dubious doctrine of federal-provincial watertight compartments, Mr. Prime Minister?
  • Repeating a sorry legacy

    Helen Forsey, daughter of Canada's pre-eminent parliamentary scholar, the late senator Eugene Forsey, sees a parallel between the Harper Conservatives' 450-page omnibus budget bill and the St. Laurent Liberals' conduct during the infamous 1956 pipeline debate. Both demonstrated the government's scorn for Parliament -- the foundation of our democracy. "The art of parliamentary bullying has recently reached new heights," she writes in her new book, Eugene Forsey - Canada's Maverick Sage. "Outrageous behaviour has increasingly become the norm, with Parliament being treated as a mere showcase, parliamentary debate as window-dressing."
  • Neo-con policies drive financial inequality

    For at least three Conservative MPs, anything that smacks of creating greater financial equality should either be "smashed," is "far-left economic thinking" or "dirty bathwater." Here's former Conservative cabinet minister Monte Solberg writing in his blog recently: "For 40 years 'progressives' called the shots in Canada and their influence affected and infected everything... Anyway, that whole way of thinking must be smashed and (Finance Minister Jim) Flaherty has made a start on it but only a start."
  • 'Province-worshippers' doom real Canada

    Canada will never fulfil Prime Minister Stephen Harper's dream of it becoming an "energy superpower." Superpowers are coherent states capable of national policy making. They're not governed by a toxic combination of provincial autonomists and federal decentralists. Frightened by the fury unleashed in Alberta over the original National Energy Program in the early 1980s, successive federal and provincial governments of all political stripes have avoided even putting the words national and energy together in one sentence.
  • Tory politics exclusive, not inclusive

    222Today, the care and feeding of "the base" means kicking everyone else out the dance hall's door. "Narrowcasting" is the term used by American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives to describe how they win elections by tending to the base above all else.
  • It's a 'disease,' the studies agree

    Canada appears poised to rerun the bitterly divisive East versus West resource wars of the 1980s. But a leading economist argues they can be avoided. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the "rip and run" exploitation of Alberta's oilsands is killing Canada's manufacturing sector by driving up the value of the dollar. He isn't against extracting and exporting the bitumen but he wants the environmental cost factored into the international price.
  • Play's the thing to catch conscience of Parliament

    It's time for opposition brinksmanship in Ottawa; time for real drama to highlight Parliament's degradation. For inspiration, the opposition could look to a seminal event in the Manitoba legislature in November 1996. Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan routinely uses the word "orderly" as an adjective to modify "Parliament." Here he is on Valentine's Day: "Our effort is to ensure that Parliament is run in an orderly, productive and hard-working fashion with ample debate." On March 15: "We will conclude this hard-working, productive and orderly week in Parliament." On April 26: "Canadians want to see a productive, hard-working and orderly Parliament."
  • Alberta profits little from 'American way'

    When he was Alberta premier Peter Lougheed created the Heritage Fund to safeguard Alberta's non-renewable resource wealth for present and future generations. It hasn't quite turned out that way. Since 1987, the fund has become something of a political football, sometimes used on vote-buying schemes at election time but mostly kept in a holding pattern while the government left royalty rates low for fear of antagonizing the big multinational oil companies.
  • The birth of a banana republic

    In most parliamentary democracies, the government answers to Parliament. In Canada, Parliament answers to the government. Many trace Parliament's decline back to 1969, when then-Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau declared MPs became "nobodies" once they were "50 yards from Parliament Hill."
  • Alberta vote is a gift for Harper

    222Redford's solid win (61 of the 87 legislature seats and 44 per cent of the popular vote) closes Alberta's 107-year history of being an outlier -- a province different from all the others. Redford's reference to putting up walls or building bridges was a not-so-subtle criticism not just of Danielle Smith's libertarian Wildrose party, but the federal Conservatives as well.
  • PMs from Calgary opposites

    Canada has had two Conservative prime ministers from Calgary. One is determined to undo the other's legacy. Richard Bedford Bennett created three pivotal national institutions during his one term as prime minister from 1930 to 1935. In the midst of the Great Depression, he established the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Harper undoing Canada

    Stephen Harper's Conservatives dislike Canada. They reject much of what the rest of the world values and praises about us -- our respect for cultural, linguistic and racial diversity; our sense of social responsibility towards one another; our support for collective as well as individual rights; our history of common institutions and programs specifically designed to buffer citizens, regions and provinces from the vagaries of uncontrolled market forces; our honoured international role as a moderate middle power and the originator of international peacekeeping. For proof of the low esteem in which our current government regards Canadians and their country, look no further than Thursday's federal budget, the first where the Conservatives could fly their true colours thanks to the "strong, stable, majority Conservative government" frequently bragged about by the prime minister.
  • Perils of Senate reform

    If Canadians think federal-provincial wrangling is divisive and unproductive, wait until they experience routine parliamentary gridlock between the House of Commons and an elected and empowered Senate. "Of all the bills being pushed forward by this government, C-7, the Senate election bill, is likely to be the most dangerous. Yet almost nobody is talking about it," former Liberal leader and intergovernmental affairs minister Stéphane Dion says.
  • NDP turns page on turning other cheek

    ‘My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.” Those were the late NDP leader Jack Layton's last words to Canadians before his death on Aug. 22, 2011. They galvanized his party, moved many Canadians to tears and earned him a lasting place in Canada's political pantheon.
  • Polarization, pessimism on the rise

    The third of Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of physics -- that every action has an equal and opposite reaction -- may apply to contemporary Canadian politics. Frank Graves, founder and president of Ekos Research and one of the country's leading applied social researchers, thinks the sudden triumph of an explicitly right-of-centre Conservative Party is the reason for the equally sudden surge into second place of an explicitly centre-left New Democratic Party.
  • Harper wages 'wars'

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper's hostility toward Elections Canada is long-standing and visceral. As Elections Canada starts its investigation into harassing and misleading phone calls in the 2011 election, it's uncertain how confident Canadians can be the Conservatives will co-operate or that Elections Canada can proceed without consequence. As head of the right-wing National Citizens' Coalition, Harper fought Elections Canada all the way to the Supreme Court over the ban on unlimited third-party election advertising and lost. From today's vantage point, that court case has an eerie if not prophetic title -- Harper vs. Elections Canada.
  • Conservatives doth protest too much

    An astonishingly small total of 5,184 votes in 12 of Canada's 308 federal ridings made the difference between Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "strong, stable, majority Conservative government" of 166 seats and his third round of minority government. That's 5,184 votes out of a total of 14.59 million ballots cast.
  • Enbridge pipeline bad for the economy

    The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will deliver an inflationary oil price "shock" to Canadians of US$2 to $3 per barrel "every year for 30 years," a B.C. economist predicts. Robyn Allan, former president of the Insurance Corp. of B.C. and senior economist for B.C. Central Credit Union, cites studies by Alberta Energy and the University of Calgary that predict Enbridge will trigger even higher domestic oil prices -- ranging between $8 to $10 per barrel respectively. She has taught money, public finance and economics at the university level.
  • Harper driven by libertarian ideology, not reality

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quoted in the Globe and Mail on July 10, 2009, as saying, "You know, there's two schools in economics on this. One is that there are some good taxes and the other is that there are no good taxes. I'm in the latter category. I don't believe that any taxes are good taxes." Four days later, on July 13, 2009, Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson responded: "Only libertarian anarchists believe that all taxes are bad, and that society can get along without them... Presumably, there lurks inside the prime minister an anger about much of contemporary society that has been built by taxpayers' money, an anger contained by the political reality that the prime minister can't do much about this state of affairs."
  • Fired environmentalist sees conspiracy

    A B.C. environmentalist claims in a sworn affidavit the Harper government labelled him and his organization, ForestEthics, an "enemy of the government of Canada" and an "enemy of the people of Canada" and threatened to pull the charitable status of its funder, the Tides Canada Foundation, because of ForestEthics' opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project exporting tarsands oil to China. Tides Canada is a major social-policy and environmental organization tackling poverty, climate change and social justice issues. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is a former board member.
  • Canada exports jobs along with its oil

    Canada is an emerging energy superpower that's the most attractive investment opportunity in the world, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a London business audience in July 2006. Today, Canada's dependence on Middle Eastern oil is growing. It is now as large, proportionately, as the Americans' dependence.
  • Harper creating 13 kinds of citizens

    At last, it's out in the open for all to see. The Harper Conservatives are not just abandoning the national government's leadership role in medicare and social policy. They are ending its constitutional responsibility to promote a common Canadian citizenship by ensuring "reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable rates of taxation."
  • Manitoba loses under equalization change

    Manitoba loses $200 million while Alberta gains $800 million annually under the new federal-provincial cost-sharing agreement federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty unveiled to his provincial counterparts in Victoria, B.C., last week. That's because Ottawa is moving to per-capita funding for its share of provincial health costs but keeping the cap on equalization transfers to "have-not" provinces, Manitoba Finance Minister Stan Struthers says.

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