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HARPER, NUMBERS AND TAX THIEVES

God loves the poor but he helps the rich. – Yiddish proverb

Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER AND TAX THIEVES

With the shifty Stephen Harper gang, the numbers seldom add up. This is a peculiarity of a government that touts itself as a great money manager, fiscally responsible and economically solid. When the Conservatives first came into office under Harper, they inherited a surplus budget of $13 billion from the Liberals. With the latest budget, the Harper gang predicts they will move from a $25.9 billion deficit to a surplus of $800 million by 2015. Just in time for the next election. Meanwhile, somewhere along the line, they lost $38.9 billion.

On May 8th, the Harper crew announced that they would allocate $30 million dollars to go after tax cheats who ripped us off for over $29 billion with off shore accounts. But how seriously are we to take Harper’s promise? Clearly not very when we know that this government plans to cut $300 million from the budget of the Canada Revenue Agency as well as eliminate thousands of jobs over the next three years. The numbers just don’t add up.

It’s a shell game a grossly cynical and manipulative regime expects Canadians to buy into. From all appearances, this anti-Democratic Harper government is more interested in protecting the offshore accounts of their tax evading business pals than in doing anything of substance to recapture the funds stolen from Canadians by tax avoidance schemers. In fact, it is even more difficult to give credence to anything Harper has to say regarding tax evaders when, in addition to cutting funding and personnel in the CRA, his government spent $100 million over the past year promoting itself with colourful, misleading, publicly funded Action Plan propaganda ads. Harper, in other words, is more willing to spend over three times the amount on himself than he is to the recovery of unpaid, hidden offshore taxes, money that, if recovered, would pay off the national debt. Calling those scofflaws “tax evaders” or “tax cheats” is almost too gentle and close to misleading: they are, in reality, lowlife thieves stealing money that belongs to Canada and Canadians. That this government appears not to be as eager to pursue them as diligently some might wish could lead to suspicions that Harper and gang, with their pro-business bias, sympathizes with those malefactors who apparently share the sentiments voiced by another infamous scofflaw, tax evader Leona Helmsley: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Nice. No doubt accurate as well.

That we have individuals in government who apparently subscribe to that notion is all too obvious. They sit in the senate and the House, write laws that benefit a few and punish the rest, and ceaselessly repeat, “less taxes” and/or “less government” while padding expenses and making false housing claims. By “less taxes”, of course, they mean a full, publicly funded twenty-course meal for the “contributors of society, the wealth creators, the deserving people,” at the table and a jagged piece of bone stripped of all meat for the “little people” at their feet.

Even so, even with everything rigged in their favour, for the wealthy elite, this is not enough. When it comes to tax thieves, Harper nods, makes the appropriate sympathetic noises, and offers a few promises. But it is all sham. Very little will be accomplished towards closing the offshore accounts of the most egregious offenders and prosecuting them for the tax thieves they are. For some, presumably the contributing deserving rich, the “real” wealth creators as they would have us “little people” believe of them, there is no such thing as having too much. Harper and gang appear to agree. Perhaps that’s what they mean when they say “less government”. How much different from the United States. There, at least, Helmsley went to jail. The victim of too much government.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SENATE AND THE SWEET LIFE

Over the years, whenever a senate opening came along, I occasionally wrote to various prime ministers offering my services to be a member of the senate. When I made the offer, I also made a pledge that, for that money, I would be honest and show up for work every day, even on weekends. I never did receive a response and was never certain whether it was my offer to appear on weekends or to be honest which kept me from the senate. I was convinced I fit the bill.

Now I had made those overtures after I became aware that there were a few senators who appeared less than interested in the job making only the minimum required appearances and no more to keep their seats and collect their salaries. Well, I was willing to do more. And, as we have recently learned with the release of the audit on several senators, Liberal Mac Harb, Conservative Mike Duffy and Conservative appointee, now Independent, Patrick Brazeau, not all are all that honest when it comes to making housing and travel claims. The report on Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin is pending. Had I been appointed, the public would have received a bonus: an honest person. I couldn’t lose, I thought. My offers were rejected. Hell, they weren’t even acknowledged. Or course, I now realize that I was a bit more than naïve. Whereas I had thought appointments were for public service (okay, full disclosure: I admit to having done very little towards public service) and that judgement, honesty, integrity and ethics were musts (these I believe I do possess; ask me, I’ll tell you), it turned out what was really wanted were stooge rubber stampers willing to support the policies of the governments of the day. Just as well I didn’t get a seat. I’d find it difficult to endure the stench of so much corruption.

The report of the independent audit of the senators released on May 9th had determined that the two conservatives and one liberal senator had made false housing and travel claims. Mike Duffy had already repaid $90 thousand for false housing claims and then, apparently tipped off by Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, chair of the committee investigating the four, repaid an additional one thousand plus for claiming per diems while vacationing in Florida for twelve days. For that, Duffy blames a young staffer. That’s what Conservatives do; they point fingers and plead ignorance. As a result of the audit, Brazeau has to repay over $48 thousand and Harb over $51 thousand. It is worth noting that, of the four senators investigated, three were Harper appointees.

Mike Duffy is an interesting case. He claimed that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Is that really credible in light of the fact that he has paid back over $91 thousand dollars? But there is another issue that should concern Canadians. Is repayment sufficient punishment? Is it even punishment? Good ol’ Duff, as he likes to refer to himself, made the claim that the expense form was confusing. Really? This from the mouth of a once respected journalist, who stated with that folksy charm he likes to adopt, “Canadians know I am an honest man…”. Well, good ol’ Duff, I don’t know that.

When the audit was released, it immediately became plain that there would be no further punishment for those offenders even though some senators, the auditors, and the public believe the RCMP should be called in to look at the books of those four members. Perhaps that should extend to all senators and publicly elected MPs as well. Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, stating that the rules would be tightened up seems to confirm that no further action will be contemplated against the three. Harper, in the House, supported LeBreton stating his government would not pursue the matter because the rules were “confusing”! This, as you will note, is a particularly generous line from the prime minister, the same Stephen Harper who, not all that long ago, offered no such lenient extension towards those collecting UI when he passed legislation allowing authorities to barge into their homes for no other reason then the belief that they may be fraudsters. If the rules were that befuddling, why not seek clarification?

But, as for those three who actually did rip off Canadian taxpayers to the tune of $190 thousand, it is a mystery why Harper is taking such a soft approach. Well, it might not be that much of a mystery after all, not with Harper and his gang. If the issue is to be put aside once and for all, one thing is certain: the RCMP must be called in to investigate those three. And if charged they must face trial and if found guilty they should be removed from the senate, lose their pensions and serve time in jail. If jail is good enough for Helmsley, it’s good enough for them.

THE NATIONAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY

Three years ago, the Harper conservatives announced they would cancel the long form census replacing it with the voluntary National Household Survey. To many, the move made no sense. There would be problems they predicted. But Harper’s is not a government that listens. Instead, typically of bullies, Harper rammed the deal through and the results are less than stellar.

In the past, the mandatory long form survey went to one in five households. Because the form was mandatory and because 94% of those receiving the forms complied in filling them out, the results were extremely accurate. The same cannot be said of the voluntary National Household Survey released May 8th, which went to more people, close to 30% of the households, and yet were filled by only 68% of those receiving it. In some areas, the compliance rate was far below that of the average, the sampling in some areas so small that whole communities across the country were dropped from the survey. The results cannot be trusted. This is not a good outcome, made even worse because Harper had been warned and refused to listen. This is not the first time Harper and gang have turned a deaf ear to the voices of reason. They pulled out of Kyoto because they still believe that climate change is still unproven. We have the minister of resources Joe Olivier maligning scientists and environmentalists for their criticisms of the XL Keystone pipeline, and we appear to have some folks in the Conservative party who still believe that man walked side-by-side with dinosaurs three thousand years ago when the earth was formed in seven days by a supreme being.

When the Harper regime made the decision to kill the long form in favour of the voluntary survey, the justification was privacy concerns. This had been voiced by Tony Clement, the President of the Treasury Board, the same man of the $50 million slush fund boondoggle, the very man whose department has somehow mislaid $3.1 billion of taxpayer money. That claim is a red herring. Information on those who filled the long form census has never been made public. Another claim is that as voiced by Conservative Mike Lake, parliamentary secretary for the minister of industry. On the day of the release of the voluntary National Household Survey, Lake appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics stating anywhere from three to seven times with slight variations the following: Canadians have the right not to be threatened with fines or jail time for not wanting to answer questions regarding their religion, the number of bedrooms they have or how much time they spend with their kids. This is another red herring ludicrous on several levels. No one has ever gone to jail for refusing to fill the long form census. But Conservatives never let the facts interfere with their narrative. All too often, as with this issue, they create a scenario that has no basis in reality in the hope that Canadians are as stupid and fearful as the Harper gang believe. Well, it might work for the paranoid and truly stupid, but one might pause to ask this: If privacy is an issue with the long form census, why isn’t it an issue when Canadians fill out income tax forms? They, too, demand information some Canadians, judging by the number of offshore accounts, clearly do not wish to share.

HARPER, SHIPS AND AN ‘OLD TROTSKYITE’

In March, the Minister of Public Works, Rona Ambrose, and the Minister of Defence (and Ineptitude), Peter MacKay, announced that Irving Shipbuilding would be paid $288 million to design Arctic offshore patrol ships. They did not, however, disclose that the design of a Norwegian ship had already been purchased by Canada for $5 million. Nor did Ambrose or MacKay reveal that the Norwegian ship had been designed and built for $100 million, one third of the cost that we are paying just for the design. This is Harper’s version of sound money management. It is also a very, very disturbing picture of a very, very sweet deal for Irving Shipbuilding if not for Canadian taxpayers.

It was Terry Milewski of CBC who brought these facts to light. The reaction from Harper’s gang was predictable with one of the talking airhead puppets, parliamentary secretary Chris Alexander, hurling out the charge that Milewski was “an old Trotskyite”. Typical. Alexander didn’t bother to deny the story preferring instead to resort to diversion and finger pointing with a charge against Milewski that had nothing to do with the validity of the story. I could care less if Milewski is a Trotskyite, old or otherwise, or if he’s a man from Mars or if he takes marshmallows with beer. Is the story accurate? Gauging from Alexander’s ridiculously simple-minded ad hominem attack, clearly so.

No one who has followed Harper and gang would be surprised by the way Alexander responded. He and the others in the Harper regime apparently believe they are in a war in which every critic or questioner is the enemy and must be treated as suspect. Never answer, never explain, never listen, always attack. They are bullies of the worst sort, vile, dishonest, deceitful and totally devoid of a sense of shame. I’ve said that before, I’ll say it again.

As for Harper and his numbers? They just don’t add up. They didn’t with the F-35s; they don’t with the design costs submitted by Irving Shipbuilding; they fail with the National Household Survey. As money managers Harper and gang went from a surplus of $13 billion to a deficit of $25.9 billion. As money managers they spent $100 million on propaganda while allocating only $30 million to close offshore accounts of tax cheats that, were the money recovered, would not only clear the national debt but leave a surplus of over $3 billion. Perhaps, over time, Harper and gang might find that missing $3.1 billion. But again, they might not. They are cutting back on funds and personnel in the CRA.

Do you still believe Harper and thugs are better stewards of this nation? If so, you must still believe in the tooth fairy and that the world is only three thousand years old. Poor you.

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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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