Harper’s conflicting funding priorities: praise vs. crisis

Julian Wolfe
May 30th, 2014

The Harper government is being praised for its extra $3.5 billion investment in international maternal health but a UN report finds aboriginal communities are in a state of crisis. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Harper government has dedicated an extra $4 million in advertising veterans programs that they can’t be bothered to fund – leading to the wife of a veteran with PTSD’s plea, “we’re nothing to you.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper exceeded expectations pledging an extra $3.5 billion to his maternal, newborn and child health initiative – activists had only asked for $3.25 billion.

“We need to finish what we started and sustain global momentum to 2015 and beyond,” Harper said in a statement. “This is a moral imperative to saving the lives of vulnerable women and children in some of the poorest countries around the world when it is in our power to do so.”

This pledge and commitment has led to praise from philanthropist Melinda Gates, who told Harper, “Under your leadership, and with the support of many people in this room, Canada has earned a global reputation for driving the agenda when it comes to women and children.”

This praise and generosity, however, has overshadowed the ongoing crisis in Canada’s aboriginal communities, one that would shatter the global reputation for driving the agenda when it comes to women and children.

“It is difficult to reconcile Canada’s well-developed legal framework and general prosperity with the human rights problems faced by indigenous peoples in Canada that have reached crisis proportions in many respects,” James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, wrote in a recent UN report.

To this day we still watch the poor conditions the aboriginal peoples live through and the federal government’s reluctance to honouring treaty obligations, leading to the IdleNoMore movement.

“What needs to be done is aboriginal people have a say in resolving the problem, and not just receiving funding from the government,” Anaya said in a phone interview on CTV’s Power Play. “If it’s within their territory where they live, they have to have a substantial say. Just as with other property holders, and more so because they have self-governance powers, that say needs to have sway.”

In addition, the Conservative government has been reluctant to get to the bottom of missing and murdered aboriginal women, which have provoked calls for a national inquiry – one the Conservatives will not entertain.

Canada’s veterans have been the target of cuts recently, and those with special conditions feel betrayed by the Harper government’s reversal of specialized services and benefits. These brave men and women put their lives on the line for our country, and while $2.1 billion can be found for a Day of Honour and Conservative photo-op on May 9, along with the millions that will be allocated toward future military celebrations, like the War of 1812, Canada’s veterans must deal with less. These brave men and women put their lives on the line to defend our country and where is their country when they need it the most?

When Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino couldn’t be bothered to speak with a group of veterans that wanted him to listen, an anti-Conservative outcry took place. His reputation, nor the Harper Government’s reputation will benefit from a $4 million ad campaign to “correct misinformation” coming squarely off the backs of the veterans who lost vital and deserved services to this government’s judgement of priorities.

For months, Jenny Migneault, spouse of a veteran diagnosed with PTSD chased Fantino who continuously ignored her, even to the eyes of the media – only to claim he was unaware of her in a statement later on. As he and his staffers left a House of Commons hearing yesterday, Migneault shouted, “Mr. Fantino, I’m just a vet’s spouse. You’re forgetting us, once more. We’re nothing to you.”

Migneault told CTV reporters she was “offended that a man like that is supposed to be the one who is so proud about my husband’s service? C’mon, that’s a joke.”

“What about us? The spouses, the caregivers, the ones who live 24 hours a day with their heroes,” Migneault said. “Nothing for us? We have no training whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Fantino defended his advertising budget increase saying, “We are faced with the bantering that goes back and forth about what is or isn’t (covered); what facts and non-facts are; and also the fear mongering.”

Liberal critic Frank Valeriote responded, “I’m wondering how you can justify for us your department spending more on advertising — a $4-million increase in advertising — and less on the actual programs themselves.”

When it comes to painting a rosy picture for the cameras abroad, the Conservatives have money to spend. When it comes to deceitful programs designed to spread propaganda and misinformation to the electorate, the Conservatives have the money to spend. However, when it comes to aiding Canadians, “we’re nothing to you.”

Harper can basque in the praise he received during his maternal health summit but the issues facing aboriginal communities and Canada’s veterans are just two of many issues that will serve as an anchor on his persona. What do you think of Harper’s spending priorities?

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