Stephen Harper rapped for wrong reasons

Prime Minister has plenty to answer for, but wild claims about wrecking the environment and destroying libraries aren't among them

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at Conservative party event in Mill Bay on Vancouver Island Jan. 7.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at Conservative party event in Mill Bay on Vancouver Island Jan. 7.

VICTORIA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s latest visit to B.C. was portrayed as these things are today: besieged by protesters, hiding from an ever-vigilant media, cynically campaigning for the 2015 federal election.

TV couldn’t get enough of the two “environmental activists” who dressed as waiters to slip onstage at a business breakfast in Vancouver.

They’re not environmentalists, just all-purpose protesters using the flavour of the month. They are associated with a group calling itself “No One Is Illegal,” a collection of anarchist kooks that wants to do away with national borders, and of course capitalism.

As their now-famous sign said, they want “climate justice now.” Organizer Brigette DePape explained to a co-operative CBC TV host that the recent typhoon in the Philippines that killed thousands of people was caused by global warming, which of course is caused mainly by the Alberta “tar sands.”

I won’t dwell on this routine idiocy, except to say the number of hurricanes that struck North America in 2013 was zero, and that hasn’t happened since 1994. Also, “climate justice” is like “social justice,” in that both require confiscation of earned wealth.

DePape is the former Senate page fired in 2011 for a similar sign stunt. She’s now a professional Harper hater, with support from the U.S.-based Tides Foundation among others.

One of the issues Harper didn’t take questions on was the consolidation of 11 federal fisheries libraries into two, one of them in Sidney, B.C.

This is portrayed as part of Harper’s so-called “war on science,” and has been compared with the Romans burning the library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea defended the cost-cutting measure by pointing out that almost all access to these libraries is now digital, so maintaining 11 duplicated sets of printed reports is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

An anonymous federal scientist fired back on his blog that the head of one of these libraries retired before the contents could even be catalogued, much less completely digitized for online access.

So this material wasn’t even properly organized? Users were supposed to browse until they stumbled on something pertinent?

The ministry reported that the average number of people other than federal fisheries staff who used these libraries averaged between five and 12 per year. That’s for all 11 facilities combined. And if anyone has even one example of information that was available and isn’t now, they should identify it.

Harper’s got plenty to answer for, no question. To take one of many examples, spending our borrowed money on TV ads for a “Canada Job Grant” program that hasn’t even been introduced in Parliament, much less set up, isn’t just wasteful. It’s dishonest and cruelly misleading to the unemployed people the ads pretend to offer help.

CBC reported this week that $2.5 million was spent on this bogus ad campaign before it was pulled off the air a few months ago.

Harper’s visit to B.C. added a couple of scripted events, starting with softball questions at the Vancouver business breakfast. Then he was off to a photo op at the Kinsol trestle on Vancouver Island, where he announced three more years of funding for the Trans-Canada Trail.

I’m as relieved as anyone that Harper is not killing this modest federal project that started in 1992, but this is not news. It was a fake public event to justify the cost of a trip so Harper could address a new Conservative riding association.

And how is the federal deficit after eight years of tight-fisted Conservative rule? We’re only borrowing about $1 billion a month now, down from the Harper government all-time record deficit of $55 billion in 2009.

Some cost cutting is in order all right.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.

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