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.