Canadian aid groups told to keep quiet on policy issues
Aid groups say the federal government is casting a chill over advocacy work that takes positions on policy or political issues – and one claims a senior Conservative aide warned them against such activities.
An official with a mainstream non-governmental aid group said that Keith Fountain, policy director for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, gave a verbal warning that the organization's policy positions were under scrutiny: “Be careful about your advocacy.”
The official did not want to be identified out of concern that it might jeopardize funding for the group's aid projects from the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA.
That's a concern voiced by some other NGO leaders, who said they have received hints the government dislikes their policy advocacy or criticisms of the government policies, but did not want to be identified.
I'm not sure what's worse, that the Conservatives actively threaten and "chill", or that the practice has now become commonplace. Independent thought that deviates from the preferred ideology is suppressed, you see the pattern weaving through so many different files and issues, it is truly alarming. Ignoring the will of the courts, declawing independent oversight, using monetary levers to garner compliance, impugning the integrity of any official or private citizen that challenges any government assumption:
Last week at a conference in Florida, TD Bank CEO Ed Clark said Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't listening to the overwhelming view of Canadian CEOs that tax increases are the best way to reduce a record deficit.
He told the conference that almost every person at a recent meeting of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives said “raise my taxes” to erase it.
The Conservatives then fired off an internal e-mail titled “Millionaire Ignatieff Economic Czar Calls for Higher Taxes.”
It suggested that because Mr. Clark was among senior economic thinkers who met with Mr. Ignatieff last May, the Opposition Leader must secretly share the banker's view.
“We can be pretty sure that in the coming months he will use the statements from his well-heeled economic advisers to justify his plans for massive new tax hikes on working- and middle-class Canadians,” stated the e-mail, adding that Mr. Clark earned $11-million in 2009. “He can afford higher taxes. Can you?”
“ I was shocked to read that Prime Minister Harper has again attacked a private citizen for expressing views on public policy that are perceived to be at odds with his government's agenda. ”
— Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader
A prestigious banker offers an informed opinion, and the response of the government is to label him a Liberal stooge, and further extrapolate that viewpoint into an attack on a political opponent. Just WTF is going on in this country, that this behavior is standard practice? For those paying attention, this is completely akin to the worst tactics of the American neocons.
It is really reprehensible that the Conservatives operate with a Stalinesque flair, using fear and intimidation to stifle fair debate. The Conservatives act like an ideological CULT that sees the rest of the world as enemies that must be destroyed or muted. It is actually scary, and I truly don't think that I'm guilty of hyperbole in conveying a grave concern.
We need to TURF these THUGS at the earliest possible date.