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    Stephen Harper Should Stay Silent If He Wants Andrew Scheer To Win

    Stephen Harper is back.Canada's 22nd prime minister re-entered the political arena last week after appearing in a fundraising video on behalf of the Conservative Party.In the video, Harper declared that "Andrew Scheer stands for a better way forward. He and I both know that it's time for you to get ahead. This is only possible with a government that lives within its means, with a government that protects the services Canadians rely on every step of the way. We don't have that government in Canada right now." The election is only a few weeks away now, and Canada is at a turning point. We need to make Andrew Scheer the next Prime Minister of Canada, but we need your help to do it. Click here to contribute to our election fund: -- Conservative Party (@CPC_HQ) August 29, 2019Later in his spiel, Harper solicits viewers to donate to Conservative coffers, all to ensure that his young protege becomes the "next prime minister of Canada."The decision to cast Harper as part of the Conservative Party's re-election efforts is a risky one.After all, Harper's return to the federal political sphere has been utilized to spur on campaign donations not just by the Conservatives, but by the fundraisers within the Liberal Party. The Grits seem to take any chance they can to fear monger the evils of the Harper era to increase their financial contributions. Not enough time has passed to allow for a nostalgic view of Harper’s tenure in government.As such, Liberal strategists are practically salivating at the mouth, what with these added resources to link Andrew Scheer with his controversial predecessor. Prepare to hear a lot more of those ads declaring that Scheer is nothing more than "Stephen Harper with a smile."As if Scheer hasn't had a challenging enough time defining himself in the minds of voters -- especially when matched up against the outsized personalities of Doug Ford and Jason Kenney. The unpopularity of the Ford government in particular has forced Scheer to disassociate himself from his provincial counterpart in voter-rich Ontario. Now, with Stephen Harper's return into the political fray after consulting behind the scenes, Scheer will face a further round of negative comparisons with yet another of his conservative peers. This leaves him at a serious disadvantage.Particularly as his chief rival, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has grown up before the very eyes of the Canadian public. Trudeau, for all his faults, is by and large a known quantity, and his four years as prime minister provide him a level of familiarity and visibility that Scheer can only dream of.Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with Harper's endorsement for Scheer as Canada's next prime minister. Back in 2015, former Liberal Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin both stumped for Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail. But, strategically, Harper's appearance will do little to draw non-partisan voters back to the Conservative fold. He remains far too polarizing of a figure.Unlike the two former Liberal Prime Ministers, not enough time has passed to allow for a nostalgic view of Harper's tenure in government. Perhaps it never really will.Harper's government, like all governments, had its achievements. Politically, the Conservative Party under his leadership prospered, securing victory in three consecutive elections. And in regards to policy, Harper can take comfort in the Liberal's embrace of his free-trade legacy, what with the Trudeau government's defence of the free-trade agreements his own government began negotiations over.Yet in spite of these accomplishments, Harper's tenure in government is one tainted by cynicism and negativity.One need only recall the Harper government's racist dog-whistling over the proposed barbaric cultural practices hotline. Or its intensely secretive nature, as witnessed through its muzzling of government scientists. Or its corrosive and hyper-partisan tone when attacking any and every opponent, real or imagined. After all, the dark shadow of Harper’s legacy stubbornly persists within the mindset of voters.So, why has Harper returned?Perhaps it's because he's never gotten over his electoral defeat at the hands of Justin Trudeau. A man whose progressive policies, and family name, instills loathing within Harper. Harper made that much clear after he penned his scathing critique of Pierre Trudeau, just days after the former prime minister's death back in 2000. As columnist and pundit Gerry Nicholls has written, "To lose to Justin Trudeau would be devastating to Stephen Harper on a real personal level." With this in mind, it's really not difficult to imagine Harper spending the past four years plotting his revenge against the Liberal dauphin, all while listening to Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" on repeat.Unfortunately for Harper, he is no longer in a position to exact his vengeance from among the leadership of the Conservative Party, despite his musings to the contrary. So, instead, he is seeking to defeat Justin Trudeau from the sidelines, through the Tory fundraising machine.It's just as well.Few Canadian leaders have been successful enough to regain the prime ministership after an electoral defeat. RELATED * Harper Makes Case For Scheer In Conservative Fundraising Pitch * Scheer Tries To Clarify Tory Stance On Abortion But Sows More Confusion * Liberals Undecided If Trudeau Will Be In 1st Leaders’ Debate In 1878, John A. Macdonald returned from the political wilderness to reclaim his government from the Liberal clutches of Alexander Mackenzie. And in 1935, the government of R.B. Bennett was similarly defeated by a resurgent William Lyon Mackenzie King, who himself was bested five years prior. Finally, Pierre Trudeau swept aside Joe Clark's minority government in 1980, after only the briefest stint in political retirement. Stephen Harper simply does not have the stature of these men to conduct a similar political revival.It's ironic that even Harper's criticism of the Trudeau government seems only likely to aid Liberal re-election efforts. After all, the dark shadow of Harper's legacy stubbornly persists within the mindset of voters and only serves to taint Andrew Scheer's rather benign image. If Stephen Harper was really interested in ensuring Liberal defeat, he'd be better off staying silent.Have an opinion you'd like to share on HuffPost Canada? You can find more information here on how to pitch and contact us.Earlier on HuffPost:


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    Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, Porter hit with $45K in fines for violating new passenger protections

    WestJet, Air Canada, Air Transat and Porter Airlines have been hit with fines totalling $45,000 for failing to properly display notices about passenger rights at various Canadian airports.The fines are the first monetary penalties the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has doled out to airlines for violating the new federal Air Passenger Protection Regulations, the first phase of which took effect on July 15.  According to the regulations, airlines operating flights to or from a Canadian airport must display a notice at check-in, self-service kiosks and boarding gates, informing passengers that if they're denied boarding, or their luggage is lost or damaged, they may be entitled to compensation.Inconvenienced travellers can receive up to $2,400 for being denied boarding and up to $2,100 for luggage mishaps.The CTA issued its fines on Aug. 27. WestJet received the biggest penalty: $17,500 for seven infractions where the airline failed to post the passenger rights notice at airports in Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City.Air Canada was hit with a $12,500 fine for five infractions at the same airports.Air Transat and Porter both face $7,500 in fines for three infractions each at two different Canadian airports. The CTA charged each airline $2,500 per infraction - much less than the $25,000 maximum under the regulations. 'How hard is it?'Consumer advocate John Lawford said the fines seem low, but the CTA did the right thing by taking action. "How hard is it to put a notice up that says, 'You have rights under the new airline passenger regulations?'" said Lawford, who is executive director of the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre."Telling people they have rights is the first step before people can vindicate their rights."Lawford said he's not surprised by the spate of violations because some airlines have made it clear they oppose the new regulations. "I imagine CTA has other evidence that they're not following the regulations as well and this is a shot across the bow," he said of the fines.Before the rules took effect, Lawford suggested that some airlines might try to defy them while a legal battle to quash the regulations is before the court. In June, 17 applicants - including Air Canada, Porter Airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) - argued in a Federal Court of Appeal filing that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations are "invalid" because they violate international agreements. WestJet and Air Transat aren't named in the filing, but they are both IATA members.The CTA and Canada's attorney general claim the legal challenge is "ill-founded" and are trying to get it dismissed. Airlines respondDespite the court challenge, each of Canada's major airlines told CBC News in July that they will comply with the new air passenger regulations.Although they currently face fines for violations, WestJet, Air Canada, Air Transat and Porter each stressed to CBC on Wednesday that they are making every effort to abide by the rules.Air Canada pointed out that complying with all the intricacies of the new rules isn't as simple as it may seem. The CTA is rolling them out in two phases, and the first phase, now in effect, covers a number of passenger issues including luggage, denied boarding, tarmac delays and communicating flight changes. "We had to review and adjust more than 400 individual items and procedures across our entire system in order to comply with the requirements," Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email. "With new rules of such complexity, there are always questions of interpretation, so we are reviewing the CTA's decision."Air Transat also said it's reviewing its "alleged" violations. "Upon completion of this evaluation, Air Transat will put in place all necessary corrective actions if needed," spokesperson Odette Trottier said in an email.WestJet said it's taking action now. "We are working diligently through each individual airport community in order to ensure that WestJet can be compliant," wrote chief operations officer, Jeff Martin in an email. Porter called the violations "minor communication issues" and said that it immediately corrected the problem.The CTA declined to comment on the fines except to say in an email that "the penalties speak for themselves."The first caseThis isn't the first time an airline has faced CTA scrutiny since the regulations took effect. Last month, the agency announced that it had launched an inquiry after a pair of honeymooners from Edmonton showed up at the gate for a WestJet flight only to learn they had been rebooked on a later flight without any notice.The couple argues they were denied boarding and are entitled to much more compensation than what WestJet offered them: $125 each in travel vouchers. The CTA is currently investigating whether the airline's decision in this case violates the regulations. A WestJet spokesperson told CBC last month that the airline is co-operating with the CTA and declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.


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