International Development Minister Bev Oda has apologized "unreservedly" for letting taxpayers foot the bill for a her stay at the swanky Savoy hotel in London, which included a $16 orange juice. The Harper government says she is reimbursing some of the costs.
The federal budget cuts that led to the cancellation of the Rick MacInnes-Rae show, Dispatches, closed another window on Canada's awareness and understanding of the outside world—seen from an entirely Canadian point of view.
The Harper government is methodically de-funding agencies that talk about issues it wishes to avoid, like its obstructionist attitude towards international climate change efforts, its blind support of Israel, and its negligence of Canada's inequality gap. Instead, it's dumping money into programs designed to boost corporate profits.
Consider the following two frightening, monumentally important statements:
The first is that there is enough nuclear material out in the world to create 100,000 more nuclear bombs, according to the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. That's over and above the tens of thousands that already exist, like guillotine blades hanging over the head of humanity.
The second is that every nation in the world will be vulnerable to extreme weather fluctuations like heat waves, floods, and droughts as a result of climate change. And the only way to stop their inevitable destruction of lives, homes, and communities is to dramatically drop global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Here are two massive problems that demand global solutions involving the attention of all major economies.
It's curious, then, that the Harper government reacts one way to the first problem, and another way to the second.
On the first problem, Mr. Harper seems to be fine with Canada moving ahead on nuclear security issues without raising concern about how major nuclear weapons holders like the United States, Russia, China, France, and the UK intend to reduce their own stockpiles.
While the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington was inspired by US President Barack Obama's grandiose 2009 Prague speech, where he promised that the US would "take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons," the second summit in Seoul last week couched its communiqué in vague language.
What's more, Mr. Obama, in an open mic gaffe, even admitted to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he doesn't have the flexibility to do much on disarmament until after the American election campaign.
As for Russia, it admitted on its foreign ministry's website that it had no new commitments to reduce its own highly enriched uranium use.
Mr. Harper should have taken both of these leaders to task for putting off the important work of global nuclear disarmament in favour of their own domestic political opportunism. He didn't.
Yet, on climate change, his government continues to insist that in order to see real reductions in global emissions, there needs to be a new international agreement that includes all "major emitters," a group that includes many of the same countries—the US, China, and Russia, for example—that own massive nuclear stockpiles.
If getting the big players on board isn't necessary for Canada to act on the nuclear issue, why is it necessary for a climate change agreement?
We'd love to see Mr. Harper stand up and say, "In order to see real reductions in global nuclear weapons stockpiles we need a new international agreement, which includes all major weapons holders"—and follow that up with a frank phone call to Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev outlining what Canada intends to do until that happens.
Or better yet, we'd love to see the government move ahead on big, new commitments to reduce Canada's emissions, as it has moved ahead with nuclear security commitments, without saying it has to wait for the big boys to play along.
The Canadian development community was quick to tear US-based NGO Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video to shreds when it was released through Twitter recently.
In the second half of 2010, after the Harper government had promised to spend billions of dollars to purchase 65 F-35 stealth fighters, Conservative ministers were deployed across the country to sell the jet to Canadians.
In many countries around the world, at different times, striking has carried harsh penalties. Human Rights Watch has complained recently about restrictions in Egypt and Fiji, for example. Other organizations have complained in the past about the right not being upheld in China and Iran.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a chance to spout the usual rhetoric on Iran during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week in Ottawa. He didn't. And for that he should be commended.
Sometimes it seems that the politicos in this town forget that the world is watching them.
Last week's uproar over the government's introduction of a cybercrime bill in the House of Commons is mostly justified.
The response in Canada to the deaths of 10 Peruvian farm workers and one Canadian truck driver in Hampstead, Ont. ranged from deep sympathy for the victims of the horrific crash to safety questions about the van carrying the workers.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Davos speech has been dissected in the press over the hidden Conservative agenda it apparently revealed. As soon as the prime minister mentioned the phrase "major transformations," that was inevitable. But another aspect of his speech went overlooked, one that could be read many ways without proper context.
The Harper Cabinet's control over government communications is already strong and is stretching ever further into disturbing territory.
More than 4,300 groups have registered to speak at hearings that began on Jan. 10 over a proposed pipeline that would pump half a million barrels of petroleum a day from the oil sands to the west coast.
So you're a Parliamentary Press Gallery reporter and you want to get an answer to a simple, innocuous question from a federal department?
On July 21, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced they would release the names, photos and other identifying information of 30 men wanted for deportation from Canada. The ministers linked the men to war crimes or crimes against humanity, although none had been found guilty of such crimes by a criminal court.
In March, the Canadian Press wrote a story about how the government sent out a directive to replace 'Government of Canada' with 'Harper government' in federal communications.