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Is Canada's gun lobby calling the shots?

Conservative Party members from Manitoba will be pushing their party to “recognize the legitimacy of private ownership of firearms” and to “resist any domestic or international pressure to the contrary” at this weekend's policy convention.

You read that right. And it looks like the Conservative government has already been listening.

Recently, Ottawa balked at signing a United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. Canadians are familiar with Stephen Harper’s blustery approach to foreign policy and his dislike of the UN. But this is a treaty meant to regulate the trade of global arms and keep weapons shipments away from extremists. Even the United States supports the treaty. 

Recent research showed that around 80% of Canadians want Canada to be a global leader on humanitarian issues. So why are the Conservatives balking?

Well, it appears Canada’s National Firearms Association is calling the shots on this critical international humanitarian issue. 

It makes you wonder what other red meat they’ll throw to their base.

Thou Doth Protest

With all the bad news coming out of Ottawa these days, Conservatives must have been looking forward to a weekend getaway in Calgary at their party's policy convention.

But even Conservative Mecca yields some headaches when you're knee-deep in a scandal that just won't go away.

Here's a flavour of different protests in and around the convention, including one from within the Conservative ranks.


[<a href="//storify.com/PressProgress/h" target="_blank">View the story "Thou Doth Protest #CPC13" on Storify</a>]

Photo: @kevinjbosch

And the anti-union campaign begins

No media past this point

Just as registration for the Conservative Party convention opened on Thursday, the push to undermine bargaining rights kicked into gear.

A pamphlet making the rounds calls on delegates to get behind a slew of proposals that are variations on one theme: undermining bargaining rights. It echoes the same statements heard from Tories in the House of Commons, where the government has turned to a backbencher to press for amendments to the Labour Code that would make it harder for workers to form a new union  and much easier to decertify an existing one.

The pitch, in Parliament and in the pamphlet, casts the whole issue as a matter of choice and transparency  or, in the words of one proposal up for debate on the convention floor, “mandatory union membership and forced financial contributions as a condition of employment limit the economic freedom of Canadians and stifle economic growth.”

Translation: we don’t want employees to be able to bargain with employers on an even footing, and we don’t want unions to promote fair wages, decent working conditions and public services that benefit all citizens. The war with unions is, indeed, on.

Speaking of transparency, it's too bad reporters can’t walk around freely to talk to delegates at the Conservative convention.

And if you're looking for what's to come this weekend, check out the pamphlet itself:

Anti-union pamphlet

Photo: habeeb_abu-futtaim_photography. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

Income splitting: little relief for those who need it

There's a policy proposal up for debate at the Conservative Party convention to make income splitting for married and common-law couples official party policy. It likely won't be contentious - and that's too bad.

The Harper government has already pledged that once it balances the federal budget, parents with children under 18 would be allowed to split up to $50,000 of income with their partner. This means that some additional income could be declared for tax purposes by the spouse in the lower tax bracket, reducing the overall taxes paid by the couple.

The idea is usually pitched as a panacea for everyday families, but the largest share would go to high-income families where one partner is in the top tax bracket and the other has no earned income. The Conservative approach to income splitting would provide no benefit at all to single-parent families – even though more than a quarter (28%) of all children live in families headed by a single parent. The same holds true for families where both partners work and have incomes below $43,561.

In other words, income-splitting provides zero relief to families with children who are most in need, including those who live in poverty. Rather, what it does is transfer more of the tax burden onto single-parent families and lower- and middle-income families. It promises to exacerbate – not reduce – existing income and gender inequality.

It will also hamstring future federal governments to invest in critical social programs. Maybe that's really the point.

Photo: mike52ad. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

The "Old Duff" fundraising for the Conservative Party

The daily revelations coming out about Mike Duffy and the Senate scandal are riveting. They can distract, though, from the underlying problem with Canada’s upper chamber.

One of the defining features of the modern Senate is that, for decades, the government of the day has appointed party fundraisers, organizers and former staffers, tapped to do party work on the public dime.

That’s exactly why Stephen Harper appointed Duffy to the Senate in December 2008. Fast-forward to today, and the Prime Minister is desperate to cut him loose.

That’s difficult to do – and we’ve got the video that shows why.

Back on September 2, 2010, the Conservative Party sent an email blast to supporters. In it, there’s a special video message from the “Old Duff” asking for money to prepare for a looming federal election to stop the “weak, reckless” coalition.

The Conservative Party’s fundraising department even set up a special email address for the senator (mikeduffy@conservative.ca), further blurring the line between Senate and party business.

Check out the fundraising pitch: