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HARPER AND THE CORRUPTIVE ALLURE OF POWER

 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

HARPER AND THE REIGN OF ERROR

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?

THE RETURN OF DEB GREY

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 OLIVER: MINISTER OF IGNORANCE

“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.

THE RCMP AND STATE CONTROL

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.”

 

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About Frank A. Pelaschuk

I am the author of two works of fiction reviewed by Brian Porter, author of Lonely Together and The Atlas Proxies. He called the novel, Serpent in the Garden, "A convincing, seductive tale of coming home to the enemy". Of Ambiguities of Love in Six Stories, he wrote, “Moving, intelligent, and thoughtful storytelling." Both works are available on Amazon as soft cover or e-book where the full reviews also appear.

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