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Monthly Archives: April 2013


Frank A. Pelaschuk

On April 29, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney flanked by Kellie Leitch, Human Resources Parliamentary Secretary and obnoxious CBC Power and Politics regular, announced changes to the outrageous and deeply flawed Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). While it is dropping the contentious 15% wage differential rule that allowed Canadian firms to hire foreign workers at a wage rate of 15% less than Canadian workers, it’s the backpedaling and revisionist maneuverings of Kenney and Leitch that most offends. As noted in previous entries (Workers And Harper’s Shame; Harper: The Worker’s Enemy), the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) as touted by this regime was meant to quickly meet the demands of of business for high skilled workers. As further noted, that didn’t happen, instead companies such as Tim Horton and Burger King, skirted the rules to hire foreign workers in the place of Canadian workers for jobs that, while respectable, hardly require specialized skills.

Said Kenney at the news conference announcing the change, “We are concerned about examples of the program not being used as intended.” No fooling! He continued to say, “Canadians must always have the first crack at available jobs in our economy.”

Words are easy and from the minister’s mouth, cheap and empty. The “concern” expressed by Kenney stretches credulity coming as it does only at the heels of public outrage when news leaked out that RBC employees, Canadian workers by the way, were training TFW to do their jobs for outsourcing. Also stretching credulity is the pretence that this government could not have foreseen the abuses that would ensue. Who, with a modicum of intelligence, could really believe that? Kenney’s statement, however, does indicate the mindset of Harper and his gang: Big Businesses is always honourable, always trustworthy, would never circumvent the rules, and would never, never do anything that was questionable or illegal cross their collective greedy hearts and hope to die.

Of course, that kind of blind faith is nonsensical wishful magical thinking based on pro-business, free enterprise ideology that has absolutely no basis in reality. No business worth its salt would ignore the opportunity to hire workers at cut-rate wages especially if that opportunity appears to be government sanctioned as the TFWP clearly was. Harper and gang know this. Their interest is not the welfare of workers, but of Big Business. And we know that.

 While I detest Harper and gang, while I believe them untrustworthy, malign and vicious, I would not say that they are, by and large, unintelligent, but I do believe more than a few wilfully ignorant, naturally ignorant and/or, several come to mind, downright stupid. Neither Kenney nor Leitch approach that as far as I can determine. Which suggests to me that the above statement by Kenney was disingenuous at best. The TFW program, as initiated by this government, made it all but a certainty that abuses would occur, that jobs would be outsourced, Canadian workers displaced, and wages deflated. Harper and gang had, in effect, given Corporate Canada the green light to exploit foreign workers with the goal of undermining Canadian workers, especially Canadian union workers.

When I wrote the entry, Workers and Harper’s Shame (April 12, 2013), I suggested Harper’s gang would make changes. I also stated the changes would be window dressing. Unfortunately, it appears I and others who predicted the same, are right; the changes have been announced but, as yet, the government clearly has in place no plan to oversee, investigate and punish those who circumvent the rules.

 You’ve got to love free enterprisers.


Today, in releasing the spring audit, Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, revealed that 3.1 billion of the anti-terrorist fund was unaccounted for. Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, commented on it basically saying we had nothing to worry about, that this was  merely an accounting issue. Really?

It is fitting, and interesting, that the President of the Treasury Board should speak on this because he most certainly could account for $50 million of the unaccounted for money. During the G8 & G20 conferences, it was Tony Clement who set aside that amount to create a slush fund for his riding. We know some of that went to a fake lake and a gazebo. For all we know, this government might have allowed similar diversions in other areas. If so, Canadians deserve a full accounting from this regime, a government that has managed to hoodwink voters into believing that, when it comes to taxpayer monies, they know what they are doing. Really?

The Auditor General further revealed that there were other major concerns and, from what was released, it is evident that Harper and gang haven’t as firm a grip on the budget and finances as they would have us believe. For one, Search and Rescue is in critical need of upgrading. If you’re on the East Coast just don’t ask for help after 4:00 pm. Of the taxes owed to the government, $29 billion is uncollected. Last year, over $2 billion was “forgiven” by this government. Well isn’t that nice. As well, Michael Ferguson revealed that $295 million was in overpayments to employment insurance. This from the government that has a grasp of our finances? Oh, really.

That this bit of joy came out on the day taxes are due must certainly give taxpayers reason to pause, reflect, and store until next election. Hopefully they’ll remember to vote Harper and gang out of office – for good.  



 Frank A. Pelaschuk

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it. – Thomas Cooper

Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous. – William Proxmire


The best gauge of the measure of an individual is to give him power and then wait. By now, most Canadians have a clear picture of Harper and of his view of Democracy, of government, and of those who oppose him. It is not a pretty picture. For a man Democratically elected, it is apparent that he considers Democracy only a tool to be used and perverted for his own ends. Since his ascension to power, he has not been shy in demonstrating that. He has tested and abused our Parliamentary system time and again and when cited for contempt of Parliament, shrugged it off as casually as dogs shed fleas. It meant nothing to him then and means nothing to him now. Harper looks in a mirror and imagines he sees a general.

But what kind of leader is Harper? We have witnessed how he and his henchmen attack the unemployed and marginalized. We have watched as he and gang stifled debate, muzzled civil servants, masked legislation in massive omnibus bills, prorogued Parliament to avoid facing questions, and refused to give to the public the true costs of many of his pet projects. Why, no leader at all. He’s just a common thug, a lowlife schoolyard bully.

The perversion of power, cronyism and patronage, allegations of election overspending, of illegal corporate donations, a forged government document, padded expenses, intimidation, the vicious destruction of Helena Guergis, the throwing of aides under buses, and resignations have become the hallmarks of Harper’s reign of error. Most insidious and disturbing are allegations of the Conservative Party employing robocalls to further subvert the election process. Even as this is written, this government is preparing to redraw the electoral boundaries. If you don’t know what gerrymandering is, you’ll soon learn. Don’t be surprised, you’ve been warned. There is absolutely nothing Harper will not do to keep the Conservatives in power. That should frighten you.

A leader who does not hear, who does not listen, who does not bend is unworthy of respect and will not receive it. Sadly, Harper has no interest in earning respect; he prefers the respect of power or, more accurately, the effect of fear. As a consequence, he has no interest in listening to others let alone in reaching consensus. He and his gang have the majority and they know more and better than anyone else. Those who disagree are dismissed and ridiculed when not smeared and having to defend themselves when their patriotism is questioned or their histories distorted by Conservative hacks employing cut and paste sound bites with the delicacy of a butcher. Such is the corrupting influence of power.

Even so, even knowing this, Harper will never cease to amaze. While he has long established himself as the most secretive and shifty of government leaders, it must still surprise and gall some that he compounds his disgrace with shameless cronyism and patronage appointments. As the King of Hypocrisy, he is nonpareil. We saw that when he loaded the senate. Last week, we were treated to another example, but how many noticed?


While much of Canada sat transfixed before their television sets as the RCMP announced the arrests of two terrorist suspects accused of planning to derail Via Rail, some sceptics found the timing extremely suspicious. In the wake of the Boston bombings, images still hauntingly fresh, Harper and regime had decided to reintroduce the anti-terrorist bill, S-7, for debate, a bill they had ignored for years. The arrests, coming at the heels of the Boston tragedy and just before debate of S-7, left little doubt about the outcome of the bill, especially since the Liberals would support it. Again, when questioned about possible human rights violations, Harper, Toews and the rest of the thugs merely shrugged. Who cares?

While this was happening (April 22, 2013), few noticed that CSIS, our security agency, was missing from the televised event. Apparently, it hadn’t been invited. That was strange, for surely this was a security matter. Eventually word leaked out that the government had, that day, quietly announced the transfer of the agency’s head, Richard Fadden, to the Department of National Defence effective May 13. As well, amidst all the government hoopla surrounding the arrests, few noticed the appointment of lobbyist Deborah Grey to the agency’s watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) joining her old buddy heading it, Chuck Strahl, another Conservative hack appointment. The NDP, while praising her previous life in government, opposes her appointment citing her lack of experience in security and in Canadian and International law. No matter, it appears to be a done deal. No consultation. No advance notification.

Deborah Grey’s claims to fame are several. She was loud, brash, and confrontational, which is apparently an endearing trait if you are of the right: people often erroneously confuse loud, brash and confrontational with being a straight shooter. She became the first Reform member ever to be elected MP (winning a 1989 by-election). She often boasted that she would never buy into the MP pension plan while loudly ridiculing those who did. Later, she changed her mind leading former Prime Minister Joe Clark to label her “the high priestess of hypocrisy”. But, never mind, she was a straight shooter otherwise. Interestingly (or ominously), Stephen Harper had been, at one time, her legislative assistant.

The Reform Party eventually morphed into the Alliance Party and it was as members of the Alliance that Grey and Chuck Strahl eventually led a revolt, which allowed Harper to unseat Stockwell Day as leader of the party. Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives had problems of their own in looking for a new leader, which led one of the candidates, David Orchard, a progressive, to offer his support to the frontrunner, Peter MacKay, both reaching “a gentleman’s agreement” according to Orchard. MacKay, now leader of the Progressive Conservatives, in a move that would have made Quisling proud, then betrayed David Orchard and the progressives by merging with the Reform/Alliance to form with what we are now saddled: CRAP (Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party). Harper, clearly repaying a debt, rewarded MacKay with his present position as Minister of National Defence. Well, we all know how that has turned out. Yet Harper, for all his many egregious faults, and they are egregious, can sometimes be loyal to friends. That sometimes leads to reward, thus the patronage appointments of Strahl and Grey to SIRC. Cronyism? No doubt. Worrisome? You bet. But, just as important is this: How much trust should we place in the Conservative Party of today emerging, as it has, from the dung heap of hypocrisy and betrayal?


“Joe…was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything.” – John Ciardi

Now we have a minister of natural resources as nasty and ignorant as they come. No, it’s not Vic Toews. His name is Joe Oliver. Except for Harper, there is probably no more a vocal supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline in the federal government. Where he distinguishes himself from Harper is this: he is refreshingly open with his quick temper and nasty disposition, two characteristics, along with the willingness to be bellicose, rude, loud, abusive, arrogant, oppressive, picayune, and ignorant, requisite, I suspect, for admission to Harper’s inner circle. As unlikable and as untrustworthy as Harper is, even he compares favourably when judged against them. Oliver can always be relied upon to rile people if riling is what you want. Over a year ago, when speaking of opponents of the pipeline, he accused them of being “radicals” and suggested they were stooges for, and funded by, foreign interests. That he had no evidence did not matter. What did was the innuendo, the smear. Some of it, false or not, will always stick.

Recently, Oliver spoke in Washington presenting the government’s case for the sale of Canadian oil (and Canadian jobs, according to some). Before the carefully screened audience, he seized the opportunity to slam James Hansen a highly regarded scientist accusing the climatologist of crying wolf and exaggerating environmental concerns. Not only was his language abusive and offensive, his hostile tone suggested a personal motivation, revealing another trait characteristic of Harper and gang: no truth or fact will be accepted or tolerated that does not coincide with theirs. For this group, ignorance and the Big Lie is preferable to differing opinions, to ideas, to science.

What was it about Hansen that had set off Oliver? Evidently it was statements regarding the development of the oil sands, such as the following as quoted by Paul Koring (The Globe and Mail, April 24, 2013): “there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 (parts per million), a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control”. Oliver’s response was typical of him: “It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in facts.” Oliver went on to say that Hansen “should be ashamed”. Even worse, for this minister, was the fact that Hansen was (gasp!) “an activist!” As if that bit of knowledge should be sufficient to sink Hansen’s reputation. This from a minister of a government that is anti-science, anti-knowledge, anti-openness and anti-Democratic only recently and with great reluctance publicly coming around to the position that global warming might be a possibility (if only to get the critics off its back). That Global warming has been, for some time, considered an accepted fact by the majority of scientists clearly matters not a jot to Joe Oliver or Harper et al. Instead, he prefers to rely on the discredited “science” of deniers of global warming. It that respect, he reminds one of those pathetic smokers who, in spite of the overwhelming preponderance of evidence on the dangers of smoking, embrace the one study that says, “the evidence is not yet there” so they can continue to smoke themselves to death. It’s foolish, self-deluding, and dangerous. One can almost admire Oliver’s passion. It would be more effective, however, if that passion was matched by credible facts, credible emotion and a modicum of intelligence rather than cheap noisy political pro-business ideological grandstanding.

Unfortunately, however, Vic Toews and Joe Oliver (brothers-in-bile) are emblematic of what is wrong with this regime. But so are the likes of the oleaginous, evasive, Pierre Poilievre, the Harper mouthpiece who speaks much and says little whenever he appears on CBC’s Power and Politics. In that respect, Poilievre is much like all of the few bubbleheads allowed to speak on behalf, always in defence, of this regime. Dean del Mastro, that bombastic windbag who was such a staunch defender of the Harper gang when the robocalls scandal broke out, was another such voice until he, too, suddenly fell silent, sidelined by troubles of his own concerning questionable overspending during the last election.


But it is Harper, Minister of All, who sets the tone and direction of this government. Not only has patronage and cronyism exploded during his tenure in office, but, more ominously, so has his mania for the muzzling of public servants, scientists, and MP backbenchers. Now, as if that wasn’t troubling enough, recent revelations suggest that Harper has made the move to politicize, and muzzle, the RCMP (though I wonder if that hadn’t already occurred when it was busy rounding up unionists as communist suspects during the 20s and 30s) by attempting to deny MPs access to senior members of the force. We have learned that Commissioner Bob Paulson had sent emails to senior officers instructing them not to meet with MPs without prior approval from him and the minister of public safety, Vic Toews, the same Toews who notoriously and vilely tarred all critics of his online spy bill, Bill C-30, with this egregiously offensive charge: “either you stand with us or you stand with the pedophiles.” This is not a mindset unique to the Minister of Terror or to Harper, Minister of All, but appears throughout the Conservative cabinet of cretins.

With a government as clearly anti-Democratic as this one, we should be worried. What next? Well, we’ve just learned that the press has been denied access to interview Omar Khadr, the boy soldier who went to Guantanamo at 15 for war crimes and now sits in Millhaven at the age of 26. While it appears that the warden gave permission for the interview, Harper and Toews, that vile minister of terror, evidently torpedoed the visit. What do they fear? Khadr was a boy when he was taken and charged with a war crime for killing an American soldier. But he was under the influence of his fanatical father and doubtlessly believed he was fighting a “just” war. He has been imprisoned for eleven years. Isn’t that enough? At the least, let his story be told.

When the press and the public is denied access to information, when public servants are silenced, when our police have lost their independence to government interference, when our MPs are denied access to information, and when our citizens are routinely attacked simply for speaking out, can we really claim that Harper is all that much different from those cheap, tin pot dictators that occasionally pop up in Latin America?

Look at Harper and his gang. Examine them closely. Look again.

And then think about these words by Benjamin Franklin: “They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”



Frank A. Pelaschuk

On the day Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal party, it appeared there was little that could divert the attention of the public and the press. For members of CRAP (Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party), this was worrisome. He was getting all the attention and most of it favourable. Then, on the following Monday, April 15th, there occurred in Boston the murderous bombings that claimed three lives and over 170 wounded. Harper and his gang must have said a prayer of thanks for this gift.

Of course, it is not a gift Harper and gang would have wished or sought. No one would. But it was there and of all the things one can say about Harper and crew, none would be the accusation of shame, shyness or of failing to seize the opportunity. It was there, and because it was there, ripe for exploitation. That’s what any good politico would do. Just business.

As a consequence, the tremendously cruel tragedy could not be wasted. Not only was Trudeau ousted from the headlines and robbed of the chance to bask for any length in the publicity of his great achievement, Harper and gang saw this as an opportunity to deflate the Trudeau juggernaut even more and they would do so with the characteristic meanness and pettiness that is the Conservative trademark.

The bombings occurred on Monday afternoon during Question Period. It was also Justin Trudeau’s first appearance as Liberal leader in the House. When asked to comment on the event after QP, Trudeau said, “Well, I think we have to be very, very careful about politicizing troubling news immediately” (Aaron Wherry, Maclean’s, April 17th). About two hours after the Boston bombings, in responding to a question by Peter Mansbridge of CBC, he stated, “ We have to look at the root causes. Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, okay, where do those tensions come from?” There was something in those two comments that Harper and thugs did not like. Immediately they were out for blood apparently sensing something in Trudeau’s words that made him vulnerable. That others, even supposedly astute political observers, felt the same is puzzling.

Trudeau was as shaken and unprepared for what happened that day as most of us. When he did speak, unlike most of those in the media, it was thoughtfully, sympathetically and, I thought, considering the hysteria surrounding the event, emblematic of what Canadians like to believe of themselves: a call for a reasoned response. At that time, he did not, could not, have had all the facts. Nor did Harper or the rest of us. Because he did not, Trudeau was asking us for calmness and to not rush to judgment. Yes, the bombings were acts of terrorism. But, none of us, when he spoke, knew if these were the acts of mad individuals or a plot by criminals or an organized effort by political or religious zealots. There was nothing unreasonable with Trudeau’s response. That Harper and members of CRAP would make it so, is. Harper’s response was crass and cheap and hard to accept as anything but pure, partisan, political opportunism. He should be ashamed but he is shameless as well as cheap and petty.

Immediately Harper and gang took Trudeau’s comments and set about to differentiate themselves from him. They were the seasoned veterans best able to deal with terrorism and all emergencies whereas Trudeau was inexperienced and callow somehow untrustworthy. Apparently, what really upset Harper, Toews and the rest of the thugs was the fact that Justin Trudeau was not elbowing everybody aside so that he could match the Harperites in indignation, outrage and sheer offensiveness. Evidently, if you were measured, calm and thoughtful, rather than screaming loudly for blood, anyone’s blood, you were someone to be mistrusted, weak, and perhaps even sympathetic to “the enemy”. They’ve done that before. Remember Vic Toews during the online spying bill debates, such as they were, Bill C-30, when he said, “you either stand with us or with the child pornographer”? Typical of Harper and gang. Following Trudeau’s comments, they must have had an “Ah ha!” moment believing they had the young Liberal leader. But did they? Do they? Only the dullest of Harper supporters could really believe that.

What struck me most about the Mansbridge/Trudeau interview was the surprise I experienced. I had, as so many, dismissed Trudeau as lightweight and shallow. He may yet prove himself that. But on that day with Mansbridge, Trudeau came across as thoughtful, sincere, and not at all interested in scoring cheap political points with attempts to frighten the population of by whipping up a frenzy of blame against the usual suspects. In fact, when I consider his comments against Harper’s attack ads, I find reinforced my long-held belief that Harper and gang will politicize anything and everything and that, for that gang, no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile not to exploit. They are shameless.

But the horrific bombings provided Harper another opportunity to exploit. Here was the chance to show nervous, on-edge Americans and Canadians that his government was serious about countering terrorism. Before the week was over, he had announced that there would be a debate on an anti-terrorism bill, Bill S-7.

Now this bill has a strange history. It was first introduced by the Liberals in 2001 and set aside in 2007. In October 2012, Harper and gang announced they would reintroduce S-7 but again it had been set aside only to be resurrected with Harper’s announcement that debate would be on Monday and Tuesday (April 22, 23). The timing is interesting and, again, reveals the mindset of this regime. The Liberals were scheduled to introduce a motion at that time to allow MPs from all parties the right to speak on any issue they wished without the constraint of party or leadership. This came about, as we know, because of a near revolt by Conservative backbenchers unhappy that Harper would not allow them to open debate on the contentious issue of abortion, which they oppose and the majority of Canadians support. Harper wanted none of that and denied his party members the opportunity to speak. The Liberals decided to take up their cause. Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader, would have us believe that the move to bump the Liberal motion has nothing to do with trying to discredit Trudeau but everything to do with terrorism! Perhaps, but the timing is peculiar given the number of years Bill S-7 sat in limbo.

Then, of course, another godsend, this on April 22, the day the anti-terrorism bill was to be debated. The RCMP announced the arrest of two suspected terrorists believed to be plotting a major offensive against Via rail or Amtrak in Canada. The Harper gang must have fallen on their knees in gratitude no doubt convinced by now that God was, indeed, on their side.

Certainly the timing of the arrests on the day Bill S-7 was to be debated could not have been more fortuitous. Coincidence? Perhaps. First we had the Boston bombings knocking Trudeau from the headlines at what should have been his greatest moment. What better time to move ahead with the bill. The clincher to the argument was the Canadian arrests. Harper could now show Canadians were under threat. He and gang could now boast that this was proof that they were on top of things, that his was the only government prepared and capable of protecting Canadians. That the bill means risking human rights violations is of little apparent concern to Harper and gang. In the past, when in opposition, it was. But, in those days, as we now see, it was all political posturing.

As for critics of the anti-terrorist bill, critics because they believe the bill too broad, too inclusive and certainly subject to abuse, they will, of course, be labelled as “soft on terrorists”. That is the way of Stephen Harper, Vic Toews, Peter Van Loan, Pierre Poilievre, Lisa Raitt, Rob Nicholson, John Baird, Tony Clement and mouthpieces Candice Bergen, Kellie Leitch et al. A nasty, bullying group and certainly not shy when it comes to stealing from the public purse for partisan cheap shots. Those Conservative anti-Trudeau flyers? Paid for by the public.

Irritated yet? How much before you become angry? Harper is an anti-Democratic bully and thug. It’s time to stand up to him.

If you are not with Harper, if you disagree, if you question, if you speak out, you are the enemy. Wear it as a badge of honour. It is.


Frank A. Pelaschuk

“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

What does it mean when a party attempts to rebrand itself? The NDP did that over the weekend (April 12-14) making a few changes to the preamble of its constitution. In doing so, the NDP has set out to distance itself from its Socialist roots. For those lifelong supporters, some of it must have hurt. They had been told, more or less, that the ideas they had brought to the party and the ideas they had fought for were now old and tired. Or course there is denial that that is so. Said Mulcair of the changes, “it’s a way of communicating the modernization of the party.” He further stated that it was not a move to the centre but a way of  “bringing the centre to the party” (Citizen, April 15, 2013). That is one way of looking at it. It’s also a crock.

For good or ill, the NDP has, from its CCF days, been a distinct voice. It has never governed the country, but its influence has been enormous and we are a better nation for it. However, over the years, something has happened to the party. There were some working from the inside that were not content that the NDP be relegated to the sidelines while Conservatives and Liberals often stole and took credit for their ideas. Perhaps most galling was the thought that the public might actually believe the party was “fringe” (i.e., unelectable as a governing party). So, today, we have a slightly different NDP. Having reached official opposition status, having smelled power without tasting it, it is heady stuff indeed and leaves the party and its supporters wanting more. In fact, they want it all. Therein lies the problem for the “government in waiting”. So close to achieving its goals, perhaps forgetting or simply in denial that the present NDP success was largely the success of one man, the late, much loved Jack Layton, NDPers appear to actually believe they will form the next government. In initiating the changes, they will claim they are continuing the work of Layton. I do not doubt they believe that. But why should it necessitate turning its back on its Socialist roots? Must ideas and ideals play second fiddle to the more ambitious goal of winning?

 Socialism is neither a dirty word nor a dirty idea. Free market lovers like Harper and his thugs will tell you otherwise throwing up a trail of fairy dust lies that are meant to confuse and frighten. They will tell you that Socialism is to be feared, that it is Communism, that it is godless, that it advocates murder through abortion, that it will lead to dictatorship, that it’s anti-market, that it means confiscation of property and the privatization of everything, that it will lead to the end to individualism, that it cares more for criminals and pedophiles than victims, and that it leads to laziness and welfare bums living high off the State. Too many of us are buying it. It’s nonsense, a big lie. Of course, those Harper free enterprisers would have us ignore those corporate welfare bums to whom they are so beholden, those leeches with their ceaseless demands for lower taxes, increased tax deferments, and even more gifts of public funding even as they hypocritically demand that governments not interfere in the market. They would have us ignore that those same bums demand, and get, public funds to set up business and hire workers with the implicit threat of pulling stakes if they don’t get their way. And the likes of Harper and gang would have us ignore that in times of crisis, as in 2008, those corporate blackmailers, those unpunished pieces of garbage who created the crisis in the first place and ruined the lives of millions, would have the public bail them out with billions of taxpayer monies in the full, smug certainty of knowing that they are “too big to fail.” Yet calls for regulation is labelled “Socialistic” and “Communistic”.

Still, the suckers vote for Harper and gang, swallowing the bilge that they are superb money managers, that they know what’s good for the country. Capitalism is the answer; what’s good for Business is good for Canada. Tell that to Canadian workers displaced by foreign temps or whose jobs are outsourced by CEOs who make millions off the backs of cheap labour and Canadian taxpayers. All of this happening with the help of Harper and thugs.

So why do voters keep buying that old Conservative line when the gap between the wealthy and the poor keeps widening, when the wages of workers has the same purchasing power of the 70s? For such as those, the words of Irene Peter would appear to fit: “Ignorance is no excuse — it’s the real thing.” The thing is, for those willing to listen and understand and be persuaded, ignorance is not necessarily a permanent state. It is, alas, for others, those individuals who refuse to listen or will not be persuaded, preferring the blindness of darkness to the wisdom of light: that’s stupidity and for stupidity there is no remedy. So why is it that even the NDP seems bent on buying, if even only a little, into the myth of Harper Conservatism. Well, it could be it helps win votes.

It is not that the NDP is jumping whole hog into the swill. Rather, it’s tepidly inching its way into the barrel. It is not totally denouncing its Socialist roots, its simply muting its voice, as if ashamed. Mulcair and the NDP have bought into the lie that Socialism is a bugaboo word and, in doing so, have all but guaranteed they will never be the governing party of Canada. How can any party be taken seriously when it turns its back on its own pioneer people and their core beliefs? Mulcair says nothing has changed, that the NDP is, at the core, the same party. But how can that be? How can the party still be a party of conscience and principle when it has decided those beliefs and values of the past are not quite good enough for today’s politics?

The changes to the NDP constitution preamble may seem harmless and insignificant. They have been initiated to soften the NDP image, to make the party appear less threatening, less “radical”, more “business friendly”. It may work in today’s world, appealing only to the young or the ignorant, the know-nothings, the kind of people who haven’t a clue and swallow everything that the likes of Harper have to offer. Ignoring evidence and science, Harper appeals to the basest instincts in us preying on our fears and ignorance when it comes to crime and panders to the worst in us when he attacks the unemployed, the mentally ill, and refugee claimants as abusers of Canadian generosity. And it may work for those who turn on a dime to a famous name and a younger more attractive package. For the bubble-headed know-nothings, it’s glitz and noise that’s important, not what the package has to offer or to say. Appealing to such may be good for votes but not much else. Those voters are thoughtless and reckless and cannot be relied upon. The NDP would do better to seek the thoughtful constituent, the voter who wants to be informed, who is willing to try something new provided he is given enough reason to do so. Appealing to the lowest in us may get you elected, but don’t we already have enough of that with Harper and anti-Democratic crowd.

There is nothing wrong with the NDP or any party reaching out in hopes of attracting more supporters. What is wrong is a party that sells itself short to do so. It is dishonest and disrespectful of members. It also does little to respect those thoughtful supporters it hopes to gain. Instead of distancing itself from its Socialist roots, the party should embrace and celebrate it and set about educating the public about what it means to be a New Democrat and a Socialist.

It’s a mug’s game to pretend to be what you are not. It only works for the ignorant and uninformed or truly stupid. This “do-anything-to-win” attitude belongs to the likes of Harper and his fellow snake oil salesmen. For him and his gang, no dirty trick is too dirty, too low, or too vile not to be used. A day after Justin Trudeau was elected as Liberal leader we were treated to an example of this with attack ads on the young man. One of the ads was simply silly and reveals a Conservative party that is unimaginative and desperate. But the other was far, far more serious because the ad was a complete and utter lie of the same vile tripe used against Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. It was from an old file depicting a young Justin Trudeau speaking on something his father had said. It was offensive and it was an absolute distortion. And it was deliberate. But that is how Harper and his gang of knaves work. He believes in the market and he is convinced that voters are really, really stupid. Thus far, on the last, the voters have proven him right.

Eventually, the electorate will have enough of Harper and gang and will throw them into the garbage bin of history where they belong. But where will the NDP end?

Why would anyone now vote for it? Moving to the centre may earn it more votes, but it is a diminished party, a party that has compromised itself. It appears the NDP no longer wishes to stand fast with its old supporters. For years, the NDP accomplished much without getting elected. No doubt it could accomplish more if it became the governing party. But what price should it pay for that end? For years, the NDP had drifted more and more to the right. For this writer, it has become increasingly more difficult to vote for it. Now, it is almost impossible. Holding one’s nose is hardly satisfactory.


Frank A. Pelaschuk

With the fallout from the kerfuffle of RBC story, in which businesses took advantage of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), we have Gordon King of RBC apologizing for outsourcing jobs and promising to find jobs for those affected by the process and we have Harper promising to look into the matter and initiate reform.

In the RBC apology, signed by CEO Gord Nixon, there is this: “While we are compliant with the regulations, the debate has been about something else.” That statement, in its way, says it all in a nutshell. Too many companies, politicians and individuals hide behind legalese. If it’s legal, it’s allowable. You get that in the first part of that statement. It’s the “something else” in the second part that should grab us. What most enrages Canadians, or really any decent thinking person the world over, is not that Big Business makes a profit, that’s why they do what they do, but that it demands that profits be ever greater by whatever means and whatever cost.

It began with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, those freewheeling, free enterprise anti-union misanthropic ideologues who turned their backs on the workingmen and women and embraced Big Business as the answer to all good and holy things. Unfortunately, all the good and holy things were not to extend to us, not directly, that is. The belief, of course, was that what benefitted those on top would eventually trickle down to those on the bottom. Well, piss does the same thing. But here we are with Harper and gang and one-note Tim Hudak in Ontario selling us the same message. You’d think we’d wake up by now. Are we really that dumb? Well Harper seems to know something about at least 40% of voters.

When Thatcher and Reagan went after unions, Thatcher firing striking miners and Reagan air traffic controllers, Big Business was ecstatic and clearly felt emboldened to do the same. From then on, union member or not, workers have been under fire, business more determined than ever to maximize those profits at the expense of those same workers, many of them unionists, who have made those corporations the successes they are. As a consequence, aided by governments, they have set about to destroy unions and the morale of workers in general and have largely succeeded, particularly in some American states. One of the methods employed is the use of temporary foreign workers. These imports, trained by the very workers they are replacing, after months or a year or so in Canada, then return home taking the jobs with them to train workers in their home country. Because they are contracted to an outsourcing company, they often return to Canada (or the US), are trained in other jobs and, after a few months or a year or so, return home taking more jobs with them. The cycle is repeated time and again. These workers possess no greater skills than Canadians but, when working in Canada can be paid 15% less and when sent back home, according to a report by Kathy Tomlinson of CBC News do these jobs for 80% less than when working in Canada. The outsourcing company, iGate, makes a tidy profit and, more importantly has a pool of indentured workers to call upon. It turns out that those in that pool wishing to quit and stay in Canada, or members of their families, are forced to pay $6000 for breaching the contract, a prohibitive sum for them in their own country. It’s legal. But should it be allowable?

The “something else” referred to in the RBC letter is really about doing the “right” thing, the moral, ethical thing. It cannot, must not, be about maximizing profits on the backs of workers. It is not enough for corporations to wash their collective hands and claim they have followed the rules. We no longer live in feudal world but that is where Big Business, using outsourcing companies and abettor governments, including Harper’s, would take us. It has to stop.

Harper promises to reform TFWP. Let’s not forget that it was his government that made changes to the program. Because of those changes, temporary foreign workers (of no greater specialized skills than Canadian workers) now occupy 29% of the new jobs in Canada. Because of these changes, 338,000 temporary workers have jobs over Canadians. What incentive does a business have to seek qualified Canadian workers when a temporary foreign worker is allowed by Harper to work at rate 15% below that of a Canadian? Harper and crew were apparently untroubled by this until, pardon the expression, the shit hit the fan with the RBC fiasco a few days ago.

Harper and gang may tell you that there is no reason why a company would risk its reputation by committing a crime or mistreating its employees or outsourcing jobs to another country. They are being disingenuous at best. I can think of millions if not billions of reasons and they are all green. Businesses possess no soul, know no ethics, and know no loyalty. True, when they are caught in wrongdoing, there are usually some consequences, but they are often very little and usually handled by an apology and/or a fine. It is time that governments stop undermining their own workers. There is nothing wrong with good wages. Workers spend money. When they have it. They pay taxes. When they have a job. The Harper government has allowed these abuses to take place. Harper did not just let it happen, he made it happen.

Because of the latest flap, there is little doubt Harper will make changes. But you can bet, whatever he does, it will be window dressing. He doesn’t care for working stiffs. He listens to Big Business. And he knows you, that special group for whom he’ll always be the one. He knows that, come next election, he will promise you whatever you want to hear. He will throw you a bone here or there and that will be enough because he knows you. He might sing a Beatles tune and he’ll play on your fears and ignorance. He’ll blame others, never accept responsibility, and only take credit. He knows you. For you, he’s the only one. As for the rest, we can only hope that, this time, there are more of us than you.



How much more must Canadians endure of Peter Penashue? Well, he and Harper are hoping a lot more and they’re betting Labradoreans agree.

While celebrating his 49th birthday, and with the folksy admission that he was “partisan”, he was recorded boastfully informing his supporters, and the world, that he was about to let us all in on a little “secret”: he had, he said, delayed for an extensive period (six months), a government project for Newfoundland in order to obtain funding of $85M for work on the Trans-Labrador highway.

No one can doubt his partisanship. He was, after all, another in a line of disgraced members of the Harper gang the most partisan of elected misbegotten cretins Canada has ever suffered in recent years. Nor is it surprising that such abuses were a possibility. Over the years Harper has been pretty open about which ridings get favoured treatment from the federal regime. Anyone guess Conservative? Anyone guess slush fund for Tony Clement’s riding? This isn’t new in politics and, to be fair, not just the purview of Harper’s crew, though, in truth, they are very practiced at this system of political reward and punishment. Quid pro quo if you will. That’s Harper’s version of Democracy; in simple fact it’s a form of coercion and bribery.

While Harper’s assertion that Penashue is the “best ever” MP from Labrador is ridiculous, it is not surprising Harper backs Penashue or that he may be prepared to inject huge amounts of taxpayer monies into the riding, this, after all, is Harper, a leader who is utterly shameless and thinks nothing of wielding his majority abusively. Rather, what is surprising is that Penashue actually vocalized what he had done (or would like us to think he had done), evidently unconcerned that among his supporters people were recording this and that future viewers might be offended by this prideful, likely exaggerated rodomontade. While Penashue offers no evidence that he actually stood up to anyone let alone had the clout to stop anything (including illegal corporate donations to his campaign), he nevertheless made the claim. That should be enough to keep him out of office. But will it, when or if Harper makes a major announcement in Penashue’s riding?

But, if more than mere bragging, which project did Penashue delay? The people in Newfoundland might like to know. What is most important about this episode is not whether or not this disgraced ex-MP actually did what he claims or whether or not he even had the power to do so. Though hardly credible, this story reveals a mindset that is not restricted to Penashue, but rather, to all of Harper’s gang. Penashue is saying, and Harper has shown, that with the majority, the Harper gang can do, will do, and have done what they want (remember the omnibus bills?). Penashue is willing to boast of using and abusing his office to win votes even if at the expense of others in Newfoundland. Does Penashue have the clout? Who knows, but with this episode he is clearly sending a message. Vote for me, you get this. You don’t, I’ll screw you. Nice and very, very stupid from the “best ever” Labradorean MP.


Frank A. Pelaschuk

One of the claims you hear from members of Harper’s gang justifying the import of foreign workers to replace Canadian workers, is that Canadian workers don’t have the requisite skills and training.

Today, everyone’s in a tizzy and the Harper gang is scrambling. Yesterday, news broke that temporary foreign workers with visas have replaced 45 Canadian RBC workers. In defending itself, RBC says that they are not hiring workers but working from a supplier, iGate, an outsourcing firm based in California. That explanation by CEO Gord Nixon is laughable and insulting, hiding as it does behind a technicality. The fact is, 45 workers are affected. When the dam burst, RBC quickly realized it had a publicity nightmare in its greedy corporate hands. It promised to find positions for the 45 workers, if they wanted them.

But RBC was not the only one scrambling. So was the Harper regime suddenly confronted by an onslaught of blame, well deserved if a little late. Cabinet ministers and staffers spent the day falling all over themselves while decrying as “unacceptable” the replacement of skilled Canadian workers with foreigners. But that feigned surprise and mock outrage is about as believable as Harper and gang discovering the milk of human kindness, ethics and shame. It just ain’t going to happen.

The RBC episode is not the only instance of foreign workers taking Canadian jobs. HD Mines, in Tumbler Ridge, BC, was allowed to import 201 Chinese workers to take Canadian jobs after 300 Canadian applicants were found not to have the required skills. Questions, however, were raised with claims that many of the applicants were, indeed, highly skilled with years of experience. As well, there were suggestions the company had not tried hard enough to find skilled Canadian workers preferring to employ Chinese labour for less. What was going on here? Was the issue really about skills and experience or was it, as it appears in almost all such issues, simply about wages?

Well, it depends, Harper and gang might say. They will tell you that there is no percentage for business not to do the right thing, that it doesn’t pay for business to give itself a shiner when it could hurt the bottom line. Unfortunately, past experience shows that argument to be bogus. Why would Big Business do the “right” thing unless, by that, is meant making a profit, when governments, such as Harper’s, make it so easy and alluring to do the wrong thing? It was Harper and gang who made adjustments to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program’s Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) which allowed companies unable to find eligible Canadian workers for highly specialized jobs to pay foreign imports wages 15% below that of Canadian workers. Note that these are for highly specialized skilled jobs. But how many of the 2,400 companies listed for accelerated approval, including MacDonald’s, Tim Hortons, A&W, and Subway, meet that criterion. Harper and gang, with those changes, almost made a certainty that abuses would occur. Not only that, they increased the chances of abuse by turning a deaf ear to those naysayers who suggested that loosening the rules would create difficulties not only for Canadians but also for those temporary foreign workers. If that is not undermining the Canadian worker, what is? Canadians should be enraged and many are. But it’s not enough to be angry. We have to stay angry and use what we remember come next election.

Regardless of how nicely CRAP (i.e., Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party) may package it, corporations are not citizens. They do not have a conscience or a moral compass. In that respect, they are much like the Harper gang. It’s all about the bottom line.

But why is Harper attacking Canadian labour? Why are he and gang allowing Canadian jobs to be sold to foreign workers? This is the government that purports to want to create Canadian jobs yet, in 2012, allowed 338,000 foreign workers to do Canadian jobs. In a country of such high unemployed, are there really that many stupid, lazy, unskilled Canadian workers? Harper’s gang must think so. Or could it simply be that intelligence, skills and ambition are not the issue after all but, rather, government sanctioned union busting and wage cutting? One gets the impression that Harper and gang, with their laissez faire approach to corporate shenanigans are quite content to allow Big Business to feed off the blood, sweat, and backs of foreign workers doing Canadian jobs at the expense of skilled, hardworking Canadian workers.

We saw this a couple of years ago when Caterpillar bought out Progress Rail in London, Ontario. It wasn’t enough for Caterpillar that it was given substantial tax breaks by federal and provincial governments without either making demands that jobs be protected and that Canadian money stay in Canada. When the 465 Caterpillar workers refused the company’s demand that they take a wage cut of 50%, the workers were locked out and then the plant closed, Caterpillar pulling up stakes and moving to the US to Muncie, Indiana, an anti-union state were workers did take the cut. This is Capitalism at its most inglorious, offensive and despicable. Unfortunately for those Ontario workers, the only support they received from either provincial or federal government were sad clucks of sympathy. What was worse was that even from fellow Canadians there was little sympathy, envious anti-unionists in particular deriving, it seemed, a certain schadenfreude over what had happened. Too bad. You brought it on yourself. You should have taken the cuts. Nice.

This is where Harper and gang have taken us. Busting unions, cutting wages, corporate tax breaks, jobs and businesses shutting down, jobs exported, workers imported, corporations moving on. Harper and thugs are more interested in the health and welfare of Big Business than in the health and welfare of ordinary Canadians. They have demonstrated that time and again. For Big Business, it’s about cutting labour costs and maximizing profits. It may be legal; it’s certainly not nice.

Which finally brings me to Margaret Thatcher who died yesterday. Of her, Stephen Harper said she gave “wise, gracious counsel.” He has learned well from her and from Ronald Reagan, her twin sibling in spirit. For the working stiff, they were not nice people. In fact, they were the enemy. Both are gone and, by this writer, neither respected, loved nor missed.


Frank A. Pelaschuk

Something stinks in Labrador.

With serious allegations of election overspending and acceptance of corporate donations facing him, after months of denial, Peter Penashue finally resigned as MP on March 14. Prior to that, he had been warned by Elections Canada to correct his expenses or be precluded from sitting in the House. The writing was on the wall. He and the Conservatives repaid over $40K to the federal Receiver General signing off on the revised expense records at the very last moment, just 10 days before he resigned. As a consequence, he escaped facing penalties. That he delayed so long, that he paid only at the last moment, suggests a man and a party who not only believed he might get away with it, but that he and they really had little respect for Elections Canada, the rules and for those who elected him.

Politics is a cynical game and sometimes dirty. Unfortunately, far too many who play the game do so with little respect for the process and for the electorate. But none, in recent years, have been more abusive or disrespectful than Harper and his gang.

It was only when Penashue finally tendered is resignation that Canadians learned he, Harper and the gang, had, four days before, already launched his re-election campaign. That is cynicism at its worst. It demonstrates complete disrespect, not only for the voters of Labrador, but also for the citizens of Canada. Any individual with an ounce of pride and under such a cloud, who forced to repay money and to step down, would not only have acknowledged responsibility and blame, he would have apologized and stayed resigned. Not Penashue. Not Harper and gang. Instead, and most puzzling, declaring him the best MP “ever,” Harper and gang threw their full weight of support behind this man who discredited his office and himself. Shamelessly, without the by-election writ yet dropped, Harper and gang and Penashue went into full advertising mode. Not only that, neither Penashue nor Harper and members of CRAP (i.e., Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party) even considered the possibility of him undergoing a nomination process whereby Conservative members in Labrador could determine for themselves whether or not they wanted him representing them in their riding; he was going to run and that was it.

The fix was in; it stank then and it stinks now.

When CBC reporter Peter Cowan recently attempted to question Penashue, the ex MP refused to respond to the questions preferring instead to embark on a tirade against Cowan and the CBC. Voicing his unhappiness with the reporter and CBC, accusing them of treating him unfairly (!), Penashue then went on to suggest that a CBC reporter was working in the Liberal campaign against him. You can see where that was going. Naturally, Peter Cowan denied bias and that a CBC colleague was working for the Liberals. With Penashue, the denial meant nothing. It is true that a one-time employee of CBC, retired for two years, is working for the Liberal campaign. What Penashue neglected to share was that a retired CBC employee had also worked on his last campaign. The exchange between Penashue and Peter Cowan was interesting on several levels. One of them is that Penashue spoke more in this one episode than he did during all his time as MP. Another is that Penashue employed a tactic that has long been mainstay of CRAP and their department of dirty tricks. Play the victim, defend the indefensible, employ diversion and evasion, make baseless accusations, tell partial truths, and resort to innuendo, distortion and outright lying.

What is difficult to understand about this fiasco is why Harper would hitch himself to the discredited Penashue in the first place rather than simply casting him adrift, or throwing him under the bus, as he apparently finds easy to do with some (do the names Michael Sona and Helena Guergis ring any bells?). As it stands, Penashue is the Conservative candidate of choice, but one wonders, with the Liberals surging in his riding, if he will suddenly be left to his own devices receiving from Harper and gang only tokens of support. If Justin Trudeau becomes leader of the federal Liberal party as expected, it should not surprise anyone if Harper and gang wash their hands of him still proclaiming him the best MP Labrador ever had.

Now supporters have claimed that Penashue has “fallen on his sword.” There is in that claim a suggestion of self-sacrificing nobility, a suggestion that he did something honourable, that he took full responsibility for the debacle that resulted in his resignation. In fact, the likes of Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Poilievre and others of CRAP have even said that. That is Conservative revisionism at its best. It is also a crock!  If Penashue has offered a full mea culpa, most of us must have been sleeping. Outed, he has yet to publicly take full ownership of what happened. As a result, he does not deserve sympathy nor votes.What emerges from this tawdry episode is very disturbing. Harper and gang apparently have a very clear picture of Labradoreans and it is not flattering. Evidently they do not believe Labradoreans are concerned with honesty or with ethics or with candidates possessing even a modicum of shame.

Let’s hope that Labradoreans prove them wrong.


Over the years, Harper and gang have stated more than once that tax evaders would be at the top of the agenda. They said the same in their latest budget. They must have had their fingers crossed. While they talk tough, a recent release of millions of leaked documents has revealed that 130,000 global tax evaders, among them 450 Canadians, have ripped off governments for trillions of dollars. Even as the news made the headlines for 15 minutes, even as Finance Minister James Flaherty vowed to go after them, Canadians were informed that the Canada Revenue Agency was in the process of laying off 3000 workers. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s nice to know that Harper’s wealthy friends don’t have to worry. But it’s not so nice if you’re collecting EI. He has already decided you’re dishonest.

This should enrage Canadians. They should be screaming from the rooftops. Instead, there is silence. You and I are being ripped off by people who know how to use and abuse the system. And Harper and gang are doing nothing to stop them, are in fact, abetting them. That should enrage you for more than 15 minutes.


Frank A. Pelaschuk

What is it about the Harper Conservatives? Why is it that they appear to never question themselves or to suffer doubts? Are they not interested in what the world thinks? Or even their own people? Do they not hear the incipient groaning moans of rebellion or the slight tearing sound of Harper’s carefully woven image slowly unravelling? The tear is barely noticeable. But it’s there. And people are beginning to take notice.

Last week, Canadians were treated to the spectacle of a short-lived revolt by Conservative backbenchers wishing to reopen the abortion debate through the back door. Harper wanted none of that. On March 26, MPs Mark Warawa and Leon Benoit stood up in the House and asked the Speaker Andrew Scheer to rule that their rights to speak on certain topics were being violated by their party leadership when their names were removed from a list of speakers and they were prevented from speaking in the House prior to Question Period. Later, the dissidents emerged from a caucus meeting, all smiles but clearly reined in. All was well and Dear Leader Harper was in control again. But for how long?

The mini-revolt was not the only blow to Harper’s image within a week. On the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and a month before they were to meet, Harper announced Canada’s withdrawal from the UN convention of scientists to fight drought in Africa. He also stopped Canadian funding, about $350,000. Canada had signed on to this UN effort in 1994 and is the only nation of 194 signatories to withdraw its support. One of the rationales offered was that it was a cost-cutting move which would save taxpayers $350,000! That’s slightly above the cost of travel expenses claimed by senator Pamela Wallin over the past few years. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a paltry sum and amounts to a miniscule fraction of what Harper and gang spend in self-promoting propaganda with its Action Plan campaign. This move is cruel window dressing; it will have no real effect on the economy and will appeal only to those who believe “charity begins at home,” and that Canada is already far too generous and free with taxpayer monies. But for those living in drought plagued nations, every lost dollar for anti-drought research is a matter of life and death; the withdrawal of any money for such an effort is catastrophic, not only for those dying from the effects of drought but also to Canada’s image. Because the sum involved is so insignificant when compared to other sums we spend, we look foolish, mean and niggardly. We are a relatively rich nation and yet Harper is willing to declare to the world that we have neither the heart nor the willingness to contribute towards finding the solution to end drought. That is one cold heart.

The anti-drought convention is a UN initiative. That may be the problem. For some reason, Harper has it in for the world body. He doesn’t like it and will poke it in the eye in every possible way. That the consequences of his acts have resulted in a tarnishing of Canada’s reputation as a good and humane nation, that such actions could result in death for some, is apparently of no concern to him and his gang. Their concern is to appeal to their base of supporters, those folks who believe the best charity is no charity and that all victims are masters of their own misfortune. They elected Harper and gang and gave him power. He intends to keep it and will do so by heeding to the worst in them.

Another blow to his image, this too self-inflicted, is equally puzzling.

Recently, seven young people wishing to draw national attention to aboriginal issues completed an arduous and dangerous 1600km trip. The journey began from a James Bay Cree community on January 15 and ended on Parliament Hill March 25. They had hoped to meet with Stephen Harper at the end of their journey. Unfortunately, it was disappointment, rather than Harper, which greeted the young trekkers. Harper had more important issues to deal with and they involved international matters calling for diplomacy, cooperation and lots and lots of cameras. He and his wife were in Toronto greeting two “ambassadors” from China. That the ambassadors were Panda bears on loan to Canada speaks volumes and sheds more light on a man that is not only unflattering but all too revealing. With a backhanded slap of contempt, Harper opted for cute and cuddly over courageous, tired, foot-sore, message-bearing, young aboriginal people. It was a photo-op to good to resist and Harper didn’t. The world noticed but, if he was hoping that Canadian love for animals would translate into something more positive, a further softening of his public image, he clearly miscalculated. Another thread snapped in that carefully crafted image. Canadians and the world saw him for what he is: aloof, disrespectful, uncaring, ungenerous, mean, small, and getting meaner and smaller every day.

His refusal to acknowledge the young people, to hear them out and to convey to them, and to the rest of us, that their efforts actually meant something to him will no doubt leave a lasting impression on them. Perhaps, still smarting from the Idle No More movement, or of the belief that his issuance of a public apology in 2008 on behalf of Canada for the brutal failures of residential schools was sufficient, Harper just could not bring himself to break away from what was important to him: the careful crafting of his image. You can never go wrong having your photo taken with pandas. But Harper might have done better meeting with those young people.


Within a day of each other, Conservative Ralph Klein, and New Democrat Peter Kormos died. In both, we can see almost identical personalities, but men of absolutely different characters. Both were popular figures in politics, though, of Kormos, it can be said he was the more solitary and sadder figure in his private life though, it is true, it was Ralph Klein who, in the end, suffered the cruellest of fates when diagnosed with a lung illness and dementia.

Both were larger than life and absolutely fearless in their worldview. And both, it can safely be said, were principled but in different ways. Klein, it appears was more flexible when it came to personal beliefs, preferring, in some ways, to let those whom he represented, to lead. Both were populists, for good and ill, and both served their constituents well and were so easy to be around that voters felt they could call them by their first names. Klein was often referred to as King Ralph, a title both sincerely affectionate and ironically meant.

Of the two, Ralph Klein subscribed to a darker view of humankind than did Kormos as attested by his declaration regarding easterners moving to the east: “Any person with an honest desire to work and an honest desire to contribute to society is welcome, but people who come to rob banks, mug seniors & snatch purses are not welcome.” As if such elements did not exist in Alberta but were eastern imports. Those who supported him loved this. They saw him as a man “who told it like it is.” On the surface, that declaration may sound reasonable. Unfortunately, the sentiment reeks of suspicion and judgement creating an unpleasant image by tarring with a rather large brush a segment of society.

“He’s a straight shooter,” is the consensus regarding both men. Perhaps Klein was, but most of his targets were easy not to like for they are the targets and scapegoats of like-minded people the world over, those naysayers who always look for those less fortunate and weaker than themselves. Perhaps it makes them feel better to know that, as low and mean as their lives are, there are others worse off, the “leeches” of society: the unemployed, the homeless, the mentally ill. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it just makes you feel so damn good to be the one giving the shit-kicking rather than taking it. These are the kind of people who love the cruelty of American Idol when the self-deluding, truly untalented perform on stage to be subjected to loud mockery and ridicule. It doesn’t concern the viewers that these folk are often there at the encouragement of friends and family who should have known better and cared more: what better sport than to be among the mockers, to witness the fall of others no matter how weak and defenceless. I don’t know if Ralph Klein was a mean man; I think not. But he should have known better. He fed off that kind of thinking and he used it publicly as when he threw money at a panhandler telling him to get a job, and became much loved as a result by those who saw vindication of themselves in that act, saw that they were not of that ilk, that they were indeed contributors, “hardworking independent men and women who didn’t whine, who succeeded on their own, who neither sought nor took help from others.” That the “self-made man” is largely a figure of myth troubled neither Klein nor those who really want to believe they were that person: “I work, I contribute; those who don’t are bums.”

Kormos was a different type of populist. He, too, had strong opinions and he was equally colourful, but there was less judgement and meanness in how he looked upon others. He stuck to his socialist beliefs and appeared to have little patience with those pragmatists who were more concerned with getting re-elected than in doing the right thing. Why couldn’t you do both, he likely thought.

Both men will be missed. They were cut of the same cloth yet worlds apart. Of both, it has been said, “we shall not see their like again.”

Perhaps. But I do believe, of the two, we need more like Peter Kormos.

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