Saturday, July 02, 2011
This is my last entry using Thingamablog as my blogging platform. While I've appreciated the client-based customization that Thingamablog offers, it lacks the power and features of a program like WordPress.
This site will live on as an archive. My new blog - powered by WordPress - can now be found here. Ciao!
Sunday, June 26, 2011
More ruminations on 21st century learning and the concept of change
As usual in the distributed learning (DL) world, the month of June is absurdly hectic. Students who’ve enjoyed the right to create their own learning schedules realize, at the end, that no right exists without a corresponding responsibility. And now - as their asynchronous bliss meets the realities of graduation, post-secondary timetables and the rigours of employment - their panic must become my panic!
In any case, I am returning to my blog with a multitude of ideas for the summer. The one topic that continues to dominate my thoughts is “21st century learning”. In my last blog entry, I discussed the bait and switch nature of this latest educational bandwagon. The Minister of Education and his underlings are baiting us with golden visions of individualized learning, where students can follow their own pursuits and passions and be forever unshackled from the factory-like uniformity that supposedly characterizes (and impedes) our modern education system.
My response is one of deep suspicion. In my opinion, the vision they propose is extremely unrealistic. The amount of time and resources it would require is almost immeasurable, and will certainly not be available to a branch of government that the Minister has said will only receive “incremental funding” in the near future.1 Instead of personalized learning, I fear we will instead be switched to something less savoury: correspondence courses within brick and mortar institutions.
There are others (like here and here) who see an even more insidious game afoot. For them, this 21st century bait and switch is actually a Trojan Horse. Hidden inside the promises of “creativity and innovation”, “[t]ailored learning” and “[a]daptability” 2 are the banal realities of 19th century power politics: the breaking of unions; the end of work-hour, seniority and autonomy provisions; and the centralized control of professional development. Recent talks between BCPSEA and the ministry have focused upon the apparently inflexible nature of the current teachers’ contract, and how it’s an obstacle to 21st century learning. Indeed, in a recent government presentation to the BCTF, the rather cryptic nature of government objectives has led to a real fear by teachers that 21st century learning is simply code for breaking the BCTF and imposing a Wisconsin-style work environment. Nobody really knows what the government objectives mean in concrete, policy-manual terms, but here are a few objectives that can spark your imagination:
- We want the right teachers placed in the right positions. Qualified and suitable teachers – in best “fit” placements - lead to better learning
- We want to ensure that school districts are able to make human resource decisions that are effective and efficient
- We want to align professional development with teacher performance evaluations and school district policy requirements.
In the end, I am not entirely sure if the worst-case scenario is any different from the bargaining objectives of past Socred, NDP and Liberal governments. Perhaps the BCTF is ramping up the concern in anticipation of the upcoming strike vote. Nevertheless, I’ll follow the old adage and “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. My apprehension about 21st century learning, not surprisingly, remains strong.
Another curious development related to the
21st century learning bandwagon is the colonization of the word
“change”. As a person trained in political philosophy and the politics
of language, I'm fascinated by the politicization of the word. Perhaps
"change" is destined to become politicized any time there are great
struggles between groups seeking to preserve and those seeking to change
the status quo, or between groups who have competing visions of the
future. In the context of BC’s education system, “change” has become weaponized.
In other words, it has become a unit of rhetorical armament that is
deployed at the first sign of dissent. What do you mean you oppose
these policies? Why are you scared of change? Clearly you are an
obstacle to 21st century realities! If you’re a skeptic like me,
you’ve doubtlessly encountered this
response many times. Those who ask tough questions about policy shifts
(such as the underlying assumptions, the actual costs, and the positive
policies that may be discarded) are often cast as “resistors” to change.
We are dinosaurs who care only for ourselves, and not “the kids”. [In
education, appealing to "the kids" is like both sides in the Crusades
appealing to God.]
Notice what’s going on. “Change” does not imply that the intended alterations are positive. Change is simply difference or an adjustment of position. It’s not a straight line of progress from the Dark Ages to the Age of Enlightenment. It could be meandering. It could ultimately bring us back to the starting point. It says nothing of the merit of that adjustment. In short, "change" means nothing.
Yet to the “change agents” who view dissenters as obstacles rather than valued interlocutors, their change is necessarily good. They've captured a neutral term and armed it with a more powerful meaning - goodness - that no one wants to oppose.
But this is nonsense. If I oppose your “change”, it’s because I believe your proposal is flawed. Just because you invoke “change” does not mean I concede its superiority. I believe my own position, which may or may not be the status quo, is better than yours. Amongst other things, I believe my position is better because it more accurately aligns itself with human nature, actual financing and/or the nature of institutions. And it offers less BS.
In the end, teachers ought to be very wary of “change”, whether it’s change for the sake of change, change that merely advances a person’s career, or – in the worst case situation – change that masks a partisan, non-consensual agenda. Above all else, don’t let others define their change as necessarily good change. If you do, and the BCTF is right about the government’s desire for less union protection, then those who demand honesty and clarity will be the first to go.
1. Abbott, George. “Opening Remarks”, Digital Learning Spring Conference: Personalized Learning for the 21st Century. April 18, 2011.
2. Premier’s Technology Council. A
Vision for 21st Century Education. (http://www.gov.bc.ca/premier/attachments/PTC_vision%20for_education.pdf)
Dec. 2010. Accessed 25 June 2011.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Personalized Learning? Unlikely...
The latest buzz-phrase in education is “personalized learning”. Like so many other education bandwagons, it has enjoyed a surge in popularity in university education programs, the provincial Ministry of Education, and recent education conferences. In December of 2010, the BC Ministry of Education and the Premier’s Technology Council [PTC] published its Vision for 21st Century Education, a vision “rooted in personalized learning” and our “knowledge-based society”. Recently, LearnNowBC held its 2011 conference, entitled Personalized Learning for the 21st Century.
So what exactly is “personalized learning”? According to the PTC manifesto, it means that education is individualized to the needs of each student. Because content is constantly evolving, the PTC asserts, instruction “should more consistently focus on the skills required to find and use relevant content rather than on the delivery of pre-determined content.” Over time, students will “increasingly access and engage with their own content, at their own pace of learning and take an increasing role in charting a path best suited to those talents, interests and abilities.” With the help of technology, and greater maturity, students “will, with the assistance of teachers and parents, take on more responsibility for choosing their educational path. The student would still have to achieve learning outcomes but focused on the student’s particular interests.”
So here it is. Another major bandwagon that's going to create a lot of changes in BC. Or will it?
Suffice to say, I remain deeply skeptical of this move into “21st century learning”. After 18 years in education, I have seen a lot of education fads come and go. Many have been riddled with faults, based upon theories of human nature that are well-meaning but have little basis in reality. The ultra-permissiveness of Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage comes to mind, as does the impracticality of portfolio assessment. Other bandwagons may have merit, but die because they require a level of commitment that is hard to find. In my district, for example, much was made of AVID, but it died a slow and miserable death within a few years of its introduction. AVID’s commitment to helping students enter post-secondary education clashed with the anti-intellectualism that was (and is) rampant in my school district. Most of our kids don’t go to university, so why bother? More importantly, AVID requires a huge investment in resources and timetabling. However, most people with power seemed to want the resources to go elsewhere – to the next shiny new panacea. Our current flavour du jour, “professional learning communities,” is also fading as its novelty declines.
To be sure, some bandwagons persist. The “I” or “incomplete” policy is one of the more unfortunate elements that has survived from the “Year 2000” era. It’s added a layer of complexity for teachers and non-accountability for students, and has done nothing but harden cynicism. Students who are unwilling to do the work the first time are now entitled to an “I” plan that will allow them to make up the work – or “learning objectives” – at a later date. Of course, those unwilling to do the work the first time rarely do the work at a later date. But “plans for success” are nevertheless developed, discussed, implemented and measured.
So, will “personalized learning” fade away, or will it persist? To be truthful, I really don’t know, and I have no feeling or intuition regarding its future. It seems like a very flaky concept (see below), but the recent BCPSEA discussions with the Ministry of Education over this very issue make it seem like the government appears serious. The fact that tweeting by the participants in these discussions was banned also makes me wonder.
So let’s say “personalized learning” is indeed a serious contender. What can we make of it? My belief is that there’s a serious "bait and switch" effort underway. [Perhaps this is more circumstantial evidence of the seriousness of the initiative.] The bait is the promise of an education tailored to the specific needs of each student. Wow! This seems fantastic! What incredible service! But then you have to wonder about its practicality. How is a high school teacher with 200 students going to help each and every student create a personalized learning plan, replete with - in the words of the PTC initiative - “an ‘integrated’, ‘project- based’ or ‘problem-based’ approach to learning”? When will the teacher have time to create 200 separate projects and problems on an ongoing basis? What about counseling students as they choose “their educational path”? How is the teacher then going to monitor each student, providing instruction and advice for each step of the problem or project? And, finally, how will he or she provide timely and individualized assessment?
Only non-educators could think this is practical. Every teacher, however, will tell you the same thing. It’s utter madness. An unremitting fantasy. Total cock ‘n bull. There is simply not enough time in the day to personalize the learning for each student. It will never happen.
So what’s going to happen instead? Well, this is where it gets hazy, but I think this is where we'll see the switch part of the bait and switch. It will look something like this: pre-packaged programs where students work at their own pace. In other words, students will get correspondence courses, built by distributed learning (DL) teachers or institutions like Open School. I've been told it's about to happen in some districts; in the nebulously labeled “blended model”, pre-packaged content will be offered to students within regular schools. Depending on the district, students will complete these courses on their own time, or in an “X” or designated “distance ed" block, with or without access to an actual teacher. Content from DL teachers will be appropriated and shared throughout certain districts, or students will receive the canned packages that we all know and love from Open School. I’ve heard that some district administrators like this model because it earns their district full funding per block, rather than the less-than-full funding currently received by DL schools. [There's also a concern that the blended model might encourage schools to override the recent court ruling against the BC government and increase the number of students taught, er, ... guided... by each teacher.]
The result, if my prognosis is correct, will take us to a place far different than the world of “personalized learning”. This so-called blended model is, in fact, the epitome of “pre-determined content”. Nothing will be personalized. You’ll do the same Foundations of Mathematics 11 course and the same Social Studies 8 course as everyone else. If you’re lucky, you might get a teacher who can modify an assignment or two, but, more than likely, your courses will be more standardized than ever. Talk about bait and switch.
But there are more problems. As a teacher currently working in the DL world, I can tell you that “working at your own pace” is not for everyone. In fact, I don’t think it’s for most people. It only really works for those who are highly self-motivated and/or those with a strong support network. It’s also a very lonely way to learn. Working at your own pace, in an asynchronous manner, makes it less likely that you'll find people with whom you can collaborate. Indeed, in my asynchronous DL school, we have largely given up on the interactive Elluminate vClass program because it’s a synchronous tool; it only works well when a large number of students are available at the same time and working on the same part of the course. In our asynchronous, “anytime, anywhere” environment, it’s a largely irrelevant technology. Finally, these blended courses will likely be housed in some form of electronic Learning Management System, like Moodle, Blackboard or D2L. Any desire to change or modify a course will require time as well as the skills necessary to work with the LMS. At that point, educators in regular schools will find out what I learned years ago: distributed learning, if done properly, takes an incredible amount of time, effort and training. It’s no cheaper (again, if done properly) than traditional “brick and mortar” education.
So, in the coming months, the question is clear: what does the government really mean by personalized learning? I think we need to prepare ourselves for a huge disconnect between rhetoric and reality.
Friday, May 13, 2011
The Decline of the American Empire
A popular media topic these days is the cultural, economic and political decline of the American Empire. It’s reflected in a large number of books, blogs and mainstream news stories. My former professor, Morris Berman, writes a popular blog, Dark Ages America, almost singularly devoted to the theme.
Perhaps you’re skeptical? Well, if you remain doubtful, I’ve come across a number of recent examples of this decline, including two from that increasingly important barometer (and archive) of American culture, YouTube. Let’s proceed with the evidence…
Exhibit #1: In the land of torts, Gloria Allred has risen above the pack and become a well-known trial lawyer and media manipulator. She’s also lost her mind. Witness the following press conference captured on YouTube, and consider the utterly inappropriate content given the two young girls who are flanking her.
Exhibit #2: American presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee [Note: On May 16, Huckabee withdrew from the presidential race.] thinks American teachers are too biased, so he's created his own company called learnourhistory.com. Here is the website's introduction:
Welcome to Learn Our History, where kids discover history through entertaining animated videos! I co-founded this company to give children a fun, fresh way to learn about America’s rich past and most influential people.
Many of our schools and teachers today haven't found ways to make history for kids fun. Instead, they’re teaching with political bias that distorts facts for the sake of political correctness. As a result, our national pride and patriotism are in jeopardy.
That's what makes Learn Our History different. Your kids will love to learn American history as they watch our nation's stories come to life right before their eyes! All the while, they’ll build a strong sense of national pride and appreciation for America.
Now, watch one his company's "inspiring"
video promos on Ronald Reagan:
Not surprisingly, comments have been turned off for the YouTube site. As an educator, my only question is this: Do I use Huckabee’s site first to teach irony, or do I move immediately to the topic of propaganda?
Exhibit #3: On a more serious note, Andy Kroll, a well-known writer for Mother Jones magazine, has written a chilling article on the hollowing out of the American middle class. He documents the jobless and unequal recovery now being touted by the Democrats - minus the jobless and unequal part, of course – and the critical role that labour unions used to play as the foundation of the modern middle class. Here are two excerpts:
... On April 19th , McDonald’s launched its first-ever national hiring day, signing up 62,000 new workers at stores throughout the country. For some context, that’s more jobs created by one company in a single day than the net job creation of the entire U.S. economy in 2009. And if that boggles the mind, consider how many workers applied to local McDonald’s franchises that day and left empty-handed: 938,000 of them. With a 6.2 percent acceptance rate in its spring hiring blitz, McDonald’s was more selective than the Princeton, Stanford, or Yale University admission offices....
…Bargaining-table clout is crucial for unions, since it directly affects the wages their members take home every month. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers pocket on average $200 more per week than their non-union counterparts, a 28 percent difference. The benefits of union representation are even greater for women and people of color: women in unions make 34 percent more than their non-unionized counterparts, and Latino workers nearly 51 percent more.
In other words, at precisely the moment when middle-class workers need strong bargaining rights so they can fight to preserve a living wage in a barbell economy, unions around the country face the grim prospect of losing those rights….
Do I take any comfort in this decline of a superpower? Do I display Schadenfreude, the pleasure of witnessing the discomfort of others?
But of course, it’s self-defeating and just plain ‘ol bad karma. As a Canadian, I know that America’s decline almost certainly means our decline. But it’s like a car wreck. Terrible. Awful. Irresistible.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Some Random Thoughts on the Federal Election
- The pollsters were more accurate than I thought. I'm used to the NDP getting a surge of support during a campaign, only to have it disappear on election night. However, the collapse of the BQ and the Liberals was so substantial that the NDP filled the vacuum. I guess somebody had to take the seats.
- The hatchet job on Ignatieff that the Conservatives undertook since he assumed the Liberal mantle finally bore fruit last night. A more thorough effort of vilification and ad hominem attacks I cannot remember in federal politics. [Stéphane Dion was just a warm-up.] It's been an appalling display by Harper's Tories, but perfectly consistent, of course, with the anti-democratic spirit shown by a party that was held in contempt of Parliament.
- There continues to be talk about a merger between the federal NDP and Liberals, though most Liberals are apparently against it. If I were a Liberal, I'd be against it too. After four years of an extremist Conservative majority and/or four years of an inexperienced NDP opposition, I think the Liberals will be in a good position to absorb disaffected voters... in spite of themselves, their arrogance and their debt. I predict a big Liberal comeback in 2015.
- Much was made last night by the corporate media of a certain NDP candidate winning her seat while vacationing in Las Vegas, and ignoring the demands of an election campaign. Of course, much the same can be said of many Conservative candidates in BC who were largely absent from public meetings, debates and even media interviews. In a couple of ridings, the nomination process for the Conservative candidate appeared rigged. But that didn't stop these Tories from winning large majorities last night. At the very least, it proves my "goat theory" about Fraser Valley ridings: the Conservatives can run a goat and still win. They did, and they did.
- In the end, the only really important story was that the Conservatives won a majority. Time will tell if the hard-right social conservatives in the party have the power that many fear, and if Harper is part of that group.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Tea Party Contradictions
One of the most fascinating examples of the absurdity of US politics has been the Tea Party movement. Populated largely by angry and frightened working class and middle class (white) Americans, the movement proves that contradictions are rarely a barrier to political action.
At the core of the problem is a series of demands by the Tea Party that have little to do with the interests of its members: less government regulation, lower taxes (especially for the upper class and corporations), and cutbacks to social programs like Medicare. These interests do coincide with the upper class and corporate sector, but not with Americans living from cheque to cheque, and from housing payment to housing payment.
It gets worse when you consider that deregulation and upper-class tax cuts are at the core of the economic meltdown in the United States. But the Tea Party is undaunted: the solution to our problems is to reintroduce the policies that caused the problems in the first place. This sounds like Santayana's definition of fanaticism.
Why isn't the Tea Party an angry mob of left-wing populists? Why aren't they demanding an end to monied interests and corporate lobbyists? Part of the answer is that the corporate and upper-class funding for the Tea Party has been partially hidden. Yet repeated, high-quality exposés of Tea party financiers like the Koch Brothers have started to shed light on the self-interest that compromises the rationale of the Tea Party. Nevertheless, the Tea Party continues on, revelling in its political power within the Republican Party and apparently oblivious to its corporate benefactors. I suppose part of the answer to the TP's self-cancelling populism can be found in an economic and political maelstrom that obliges its victims to seek an easy scapegoat; you go with what you know. And, in the United States, what they know are the centuries-old platitudes about the dangers of government and taxes, platitudes eagerly reinforced by Fox News.
Humour may be the best retort, as
exemplified by Barack
Obama's evisceration of Donald Trump. In response to the
contradictions of the Tea Party, two excellent American cartoonists, Cole
Bennett and Steve
Greenberg, have provided many biting political cartoons:
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
More anti-Conservative links!
Making the rounds is a humourous attack on Stephen Harper and the Conservatives (but mostly Stephen Harper); it's the aptly-named website shitharperdid.ca. It covers some of the same ground as my own list, but it does add a few new whoppers. The art work and slide show format are things I can't compete with! :-)
Another interesting story examines the "corporate income tax cut = productivity" myth that I've been talking about. A Globe and Mail analysis found that, lo and behold, corporate income tax cuts in the last decade have not led to the land of milk and honey.
The key passage is the following:
[A]n analysis of Statistics Canada figures by The Globe and Mail reveals that the rate of investment in machinery and equipment has declined in lockstep with falling corporate tax rates over the past decade. At the same time, the analysis shows, businesses have added $83-billion to their cash reserves since the onset of the recession in 2008.
This conclusion isn't new, of course. Many sources, including corporate entities like the TD Bank, have examined the disconnect between open-ended tax cuts and investment. Nevertheless, the neo-liberals keep holding onto the theory - such is the power of self-interest in trickle-down economics.
One of the interesting by-products of the current electoral debate is that the Liberals are leading the charge to raise the tax, even though they were the ones who started it under Chretien and Martin.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Sun Media Brings Fox News to Canada
This is almost hilarious. It must be the
most absurd media promo I've ever seen - as if it's a parody made by the
people at The Colbert Report or The Onion. Unfortunately, these yahoos
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Why I Would Never Vote for Harper's Conservatives: A List
Sometimes you need a list to keep yourself organized, or at least to remember all the things you don’t want to forget. With this in mind, I’ve decided to create a list of all the reasons why I would never vote for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Prorogation: The cynicism of Stephen Harper was never more apparent when he used prorogation to avoid a non-confidence vote in 2008. [http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/547336]
- The Coalition Redux: Harper must be staggeringly contemptuous of Canadians to decry a possible Liberal-led coalition when he championed a Conservative-led coalition in 2004. [http://news.sympatico.ctv.ca/canada/text_of_harpers_2004_letter_with_ndp_bloc/d270517f]
- Inequality: Harper’s tax cuts (following the Chretien and Martin Liberals) have, as usual, benefited the richest in our country, and have led to a growing gap between the richest 20% and everyone else. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/the-economists/were-ignoring-inequality-at-our-peril/article1820187/] [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/the-rich-really-are-getting-richer/article1819803/]
- Tax Cuts and Productivity: In the last decade, corporate tax cuts have been promoted as a means to improve productivity. The result? Canada’s productivity is actually worse, and the lost revenue has gone elsewhere, presumably to amplify corporate profits and shareholder dividends, boost mergers and acquisitions, and increase CEO bonuses. (See # 3 above.) [http://www.td.com/economics/special/ab0610_productivity.pdf] [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/the-economists/five-reasons-to-say-no-to-more-corporate-tax-cuts/article1886449]
- Unemployment and the Middling Economic Recovery: While much has been made about Canada's economic superiority relative to the United States, the truth is that our economic performance is ambiguous at best. The biggest problem is unemployment. The rate sits at 7.8% (as of March 2010), and hasn't moved much in the last two years. In the meantime, most new jobs are temporary and those on EI insurance are staying longer than usual. (See # 3 above.) The stimulus program that we see on thousands of signs still has not addressed our municipal infrastructure deficit, and GDP growth is decidedly mediocre compared to most other developed countries. To be sure, we continue to benefit from Asian demand for our resources, and from the relatively strict regulations of the banking industry instituted by the Liberals, but neither can be claimed as victories by the Conservatives. [http://www.hrmguide.net/canada/jobmarket/canadian-unemployment.htm] [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/not-exactly-an-economic-gold-medal/article1962041/]
- The F-35 Fiasco: Who in their right mind would support a multi-billion dollar contract that is not subject to a competitive bid process? And which favours an extremely expensive single-engine aircraft for a country that has always needed a two-engine aircraft for patrolling the Arctic? [http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2011/03/10/354228/canada-f-35-cost-estimate-soars-66-report.htm]
- Senate Appointments: For a man who (rightly) derided the Liberal’s abuse of Senate appointments, and who has said repeatedly he would not appoint senators, Harper’s never-ending Senate appointments are "obscene". [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/article729200.ece]
- Speaking of the Senate, what about Harper's ill-conceived scheme to allow Senate elections? On the face of it, elections sound very democratic. However, there is no talk about redistributing the seat allocation, which is heavily skewed against western Canada (and most particularly British Columbia). Therefore, merely promoting elections would be a disaster for the West. [http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2006/12/13/harper-senators.html]
- Bill C-393: One of the most egregious failures in the last Parliament involved a bill that would send generic Canadian drugs to Africa to combat diseases like AIDS and TB. The bill passed in the House of Commons (with the support of 26 Tories), but was blocked by a Conservative majority in the Canadian Senate (see #6 above). The ridiculuousness of appointed senators subverting a democratically-supported bill in the House was matched by the sad confirmation that poor people mattered less to the Tories than Canada’s major pharmaceutical companies. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/gerald-caplan/how-can-conservative-senators-look-at-themselves-in-the-mirror/article1967459]
Research and Development Fiasco:
The Conservative's Research and Development Tax Credit program has
been a disaster, with billions being wasted on questionable recipients
and consultant’s fees. And even the “government’s own studies have
found the program generates almost no economic benefits”. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/flawed-rd-scheme-costs-taxpayers-billions/article1939418]
- Corruption and Arrogance: This last one requires a list all of its own. In the last six months, the Tories have been wracked with never-ending revelations of corrupt officials and arrogant politicians. They make the Liberals appear almost benign. Almost.
a. The “in and out” financing scheme skirted the rules about national spending; the Tories used local money for national campaigning, and now four Conservatives (including two senators) have been charged under Election Canada rules. Even two former Tory MP’s have spoken out about the chicanery. [http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Tory+scheme+violated+Elections+Appeal+Court/4368357/story.htm] [http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/mobile/former-tory-mps-speak-out-against-conservative-in-and-out-scheme-117368283.htm]
b. Bev Oda thought that politically-inspired alteration of documents, and avoiding responsibility for the alteration, were just fine. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/speaker-rebukes-bev-oda-over-document-in-kairos-case/article1903110]
c. When the Tory government refused to disclose the full cost of its crime bill legislation, even though it was directed to by a Parliamentary Committee, the Speaker of the House was compelled to find the government in contempt of Parliament. As Speaker Milliken said, “This is a serious matter that goes to the heart of the House’s undoubted role in holding the government to account." [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/speakers-contempt-rulings-add-ammunition-to-election-minded-opposition/article1935375]
d. Jason Kenney’s office used the official government letterhead for partisan fundraising purposes. [http://www.canada.com/news/Jason+Kenney+apologizes+staffer+quits+over+fundraising+letter/4380193/story.htm]
e. The Government of Canada is now the “Harper Government”. [http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/948436--tories-rebrand-government-of-canada-as-harper-government]
f. The newly appointed Vice-President of the CRTC has no telecommunications experience, but is tied closely to the upper echelons of the Conservative Party of Canada. [http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2011/03/23/pol-crtc-pentefountas.htm]
g. As diplomat Richard Colvin discovered, honesty regarding Canada’s role in Afghanistan will only gain you enemies in the Conservative government. [http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/728906--richard-colvin-portrait-of-a-whistleblower]
I’m sure there are other things to remember.
Do you have any suggestions?
- Here's one suggested by John G.: The Chinook helicopter sole-source purchase price has gone up 70% since the initial announcement in 2006. [http://www.asdnews.com/news/31415/Canada_s_auditor_general_blasts_military_helicopter_purchase.htm]
- Here's a second one suggested by Dave G.: In November 2010, Conservative senators called a snap vote while Liberal senators were absent, and defeated a climate change bill passed by the democratically elected (and therefore legitimate) House of Commons. [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/tory-senators-kill-climate-bill-passed-by-house/article1802519
- Here's another one from John G.: Apparently the Tories have so many resources that they can vet everyone attending their (closed) rallies. A young woman was ejected from a Harper rally when she was discovered to have a picture of her and Michael Ignatieff on her Facebook page. [http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/decision2011/2011/04/04/17873761.html]
- My friend Dan S. had a number of things I forgot. Dan's summary is so thorough that here it is in its entirety...
Add to the list of scandals the mess with Bruce Carson. Apparently Harper didn't know he had 5 criminal convictions. He thought he only had a couple. So it is okay to let a convicted criminal into the PM's office, but only if he's only got a couple of convictions.But let's go back to the first days of "the Harper Government." This was a party coming in on a platform of openness and accountability and what was one of the first things they did? They appointed an un-elected person (Fortier) to cabinet. Where's the accountability in that? Harper cut back on the media's access to him. Where's the openness in that? He bribed David Emerson to jump from the Liberals just weeks after the election with the offer of a cabinet position. Where's the accountability in that? More recently, he eliminated the long form census and in the process eliminated data that can and should be used as the basis for policy decisions. Where's the accountability in that? Let's not forget his maximum five question rule for the media and his dodging their questions about why an open government would limit the number of questions the media can ask. Open? Accountable? I don't think so.Let's move on to the fact that they are running a scare campaign trying to tell Canadians that Liberal are a tax and spend party that will drive us deeper into debt. Do Canadians honestly forget that the Liberals left with a balanced budget and Harper turned that into a massive deficit and ballooned our debt? And what do we have to show for it? Nothing of substance.I could go on all day. These guys provide more ammunition than FOX News give Jon Stewart.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Now that the federal Conservatives have fallen after a litany of ethical and legal transgressions, it looks like they are using the bogeyman of a coalition against their opponents. This 2004 letter is all you need for a response:
September 9, 2004
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson,
C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A1
As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government's program.
We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.
Your attention to this matter is appreciated.
Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Gilles Duceppe, M.P.
Leader of the Bloc Quebecois
Jack Layton, M.P.
Leader of the New Democratic Party