In early July of 2013, I decided to try and get some answers out of Canadian politicians on two key issues: Canada’s role in spying, as well as Canada’s response to the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima. In the course of my inquiries I contacted a number of officials, ranging from my MLA, all the way up to the prime minister’s office.
What follows is an overview of the responses I received.
Bruce Stanton, MP Simcoe North / Conservative Party
I asked Bruce about spying, both US and Canadian. It took him more than a month and a half to respond. When he did respond, the majority of his message was a regurgitated list of acts that CSEC (Canada’s NSA) apparently follows. He then stated that America is our ally, and that we have strong trade and political relationships. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Bruce is contradicted by John Adams, head of CSEC, from 2005-2012, who states that greater parliamentary involvement is required. He is also contradicted by recent evidence of industrial espionage, in Brazil, performed by Canada. He neglected to address Canada’s involvement in the Five Eyes security network. He did not at all factor in the ongoing, massive news releases regarding the invasive spying performed by the Americans. He didn’t mention how the NSA has spied on United Nations gatherings, nor G20 gatherings. He absolutely ignores the volumes of whistleblower information that seemed to show major misdoings. As further information is released (by Snowden/Greenwald) on Canada’s International and Domestic spying, his comments will look even more ridiculous.
Update: Given many of the recent spying revelations, I sent an email to Bruce Stanton, to see if he wanted to clarify his rapidly eroding position. To date he has been entirely unresponsive.
Kellie Leitch, MP Simcoe—Grey / Conservative Party
I asked Kellie about spying, initially. My first email was ignored. I sent a second one, and was then asked for my contact information, which I provided. I was then told that my questions were being looked into. One month elapsed with no information provided. I emailed again, receiving an email apology for the delay, and was then called by one of Kellie’s assistants. She told me that their responses were delayed due to the cabinet shuffle.
It became fairly evident to me that I was not going to get any good answers on spying, so I shifted the nature my inquiry to focus on Fukushima. I received absolutely no answers whatsoever, on anything. Kellie broke off all contact, and I received no further emails, nor calls, regarding spying, nor Fukushima. I mistakenly believed that as an MP and a cabinet minister, she had some responsibilities to constituents, and Canadians, generally. Apparently not.
I brought it to her attention that Canada buys some of its Government networking equipment from the National Security Agency (you know, the guys who are guilty of spying on, more or less, every person on the face of the planet.) It does not seem to bother her that it is almost a surety that our Government networks are most likely completely accessible to American spies. This makes total sense, actually, given Canada’s involvement in the Five Eyes spying network.
Thomas Mulcair, MP Outremont / New Democratic Party
I contacted the NDP, regarding Fukushima. I received an automated message assuring me that my email had been received, but that I should not expect a quick response. Weeks later, hearing nothing, I emailed again. I did finally get a response. I was forwarded a letter sent by the NDP to the minister of finance, which was somewhat related to my questions. By somewhat, I mean that it contained the word “Fukushima.” None of my questions were addressed, and on the whole, the response was rather patronizing.
To summarize the NDP position: they are currently monitoring the situation. They will “urge the conservatives to rethink their budget decisions and put the safety of Canadians first.”
As a final attempt to get more information on the NDP stance, I reviewed their web site for further content. Their lack of a search function hindered this, but thankfully, Google is able to perform searches by domain. The following link speaks for itself, regarding the NDP’s commitment to the Fukushima crisis.
Elizabeth May, MP Saanich—Gulf Islands / Green Party
I contacted the leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, regarding Fukushima. To be honest I expected to receive a warm welcome from these guys. They are, after all, the party that cares about and tries to protect the environment.
I took away a number of things from my discussion with Elizabeth’s office. Firstly, it was suggested that I be patient with Kellie, that her recent appointment to cabinet was probably keeping her quite busy. I thought it rather odd that a Green Party spokesperson was making excuses for a conservative MP. Secondly, it was suggested that the Green Party is under-funded, and that they have a difficult time keeping up with correspondence. The third suggestion I got was to visit the Greenpeace site. The fourth suggestion was to file a freedom of information act request, to uncover some of the Fukushima information I was after, but it was noted that “the process takes time.”
I recently reviewed the Green Party web site, and I saw very little mention of Fukushima. For such a pressing issue, one so related to what the Green Party purports to stand for, it’s a dubious finding.
Update: It appears as though the Green Party has taken some action on this issue, apparently sending a letter to John Baird and Rona Ambrose, on the 26th of August. In this letter, some of my concerns are voiced.
Although the links to the actual letters are missing (404), it at least appears as though some constructive messages are being sent. By my view, it is a step in the right direction. That said, if you search for “Fukushima” on the Green Party web site, you will find very few items released in 2013. This appears to be a “one off”, and no pattern of diligent focus on this issue can be detected. It is sporadic at best, and insufficient given the gravity of the issue.
Update 2: On January 30th, 2014, Elizabeth emailed me, clarifying her position on Fukushima. For the second time, she pointed me to the letter she had sent to Minister Baird in August 2013, seven months ago. I take this to mean that this is the last action taken by the Green Party regarding Fukushima. I have asked for clarification on any responses from Mr. Baird but to date I have not heard back.
Justin Trudeau, MP Papineau / Liberal Party
Justin was my last hope. He’s portrayed as a very accessible, open, free thinking person. I think I believed too much of the hype when I penned my letter to him, mistakenly believing I could get a good reaction from him where all others had failed. I was, unfortunately, wrong. Although his response was the most well written and lengthy response received, in the end, it came down to this:
“We will continue to monitor all news that comes out of Japan and continue to monitor the effects here at home.”
I took a look at the Liberal web site to get further information on any actions they may have taken. Take a look for yourself. Go to the following web site, and put in the word “Fukushima”: http://www.liberal.ca/?s=%20&submit=Search
Prime Minister’s Office
Throughout my correspondence, I cc’d the prime ministers office on a number of emails. They were fully up to speed on my inquiries on spying, and on Fukushima. I wrote tens of pages of letters, and in that whole time, I received nothing of substance from the PMO. At the very end, when I called attention to the fact that no Conservative had responded AT ALL (given Kellie’s cowardice), they finally responded. Here’s what they said:
“I would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Thank you for sharing your concerns with the Prime Minister. You may be assured that your comments have been carefully reviewed by our office.”
I should also note that the PMO referred me to the nuclearsafety.gc.ca web site. I visited this site, and noted that the FAQ section was missing key answers, answers to questions like “Is there a health risk to Canadians from Fukushima?” and “What is Health Canada doing to monitor the health risks (effects) of the radiation leak in Japan?” If you clicked on those questions, you got a “Page Missing” error, the famous 404. I brought this to their attention.
I recently went back to see what they’d added. Guess what?
THEY DELETED THE ENTIRE SECTION.
Instead of answering the questions or improving their FAQ, they deleted it outright. Months ago, I would have found this highly surprising. Today, I do not.
In summary, we’re in big trouble here, folks. By their own words, these people are not seriously looking after our interests.
With regards to spying, Canada is a full fledged member of the surveillance state, a central participant in the greatest invasion of privacy in the history of the world. They make no apologies for it. Sovereignty? National security? These things are concepts of the past.
Fukushima? They’re passive. They’re “monitoring the situation.” They’re all concerned, but inexplicably unable to take a real stand and force the issue. They tune out the chorus of scientists that are screaming for a better response. As the problem worsens, these jokers sit, idly. What is it going to take for Canada to respond properly to this disaster? We tout ourselves as global leaders, and we were, at one point! What happened to those days?
Going forward, I’m not sure what to suggest. I’d like to say “let’s get rid of the conservatives”, but I am not at all convinced anyone else would be any better! I’d like to say “Let’s support the Greens!”, but they are as passive as everyone else. I’d like to say “Let’s look to Canada’s newest, shiniest politician, Justin Trudeau”, but he had his chance, and he blew it. So did Mulcair.
All that considered, here’s the best I can come up with:
Enjoy what time you have left in this pseudo democracy. Take a trip to the west coast of Canada, and enjoy it while you still can. Have a drink. Smoke a joint. Spend time with your family and friends. Try not to think too hard about the fact that the captains of our ship are steering us straight into the rocks… because at this point, I’m not sure there is a damned thing we can do about it.
Actually, scratch ALL that. It’s WEAK. It’s un-Canadian. We cannot afford to leave the futures of our children, and their children, in the hands of these incompetents, these shoulder shrugging hacks. Our leaders choose to remain idle. We, the citizens of Canada, must not.
CALL YOUR MP.
EMAIL YOUR MP.
CALL THE PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE.
HARASS A JOURNALIST INTO COVERING THE STORY.
SHARE THIS ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER, AND EVERYWHERE ELSE.
VOTE THEM OUT.
GET NEW PEOPLE INTO OFFICE.
Don’t take no for an answer. Push. Probe. Write. This is our country, and our future. If we do not act now, we may very well lose everything. Mass surveillance by Canada? Shoulder shrugging in the face of a nuclear disaster? NO.
Help me fight. Fight, while you still can.