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STEPHEN HARPER, CONSERVATIVES, AND THE QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his political life. – Jeremy Thorpe

Frank A. Pelaschuk

LOVE ME, BELIEVE ME; I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Is Harper a liar or is he someone just as out of touch with his office as he is with the majority of Canadians? Either way, it’s bad for us.

It’s difficult to believe the man when every word he and his misbegotten crew utter promotes an agenda that is self-serving, self-promoting and self-deluding. They are right, always right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, always wrong.

Harper’s Conservatives listen to no one and apparently believe themselves answerable to no one. Why should they be, they have the majority, they can do no wrong. Robocalls, campaign overspending, accepting corporate donations, and directing voters to non-existent polling stations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process during the last two campaigns, are mere blips. No one cares. What matters to Canadians are jobs, the economy, low taxes; if Democracy takes a kicking, if voters are used, misused, abused, if senators and MPs dip into the public purse, who cares, these are small costs for sound economic growth. And, if the economy and jobs and lower taxes aren’t enough to lull voters into acceptance, or if they don’t perform as expected, there’s always fear and bigotry; crime, abuses in immigration and unemployment insurance, the threat of powerful unions, and endless possibilities of terrorist attacks from every quarter are sufficient to divert those simple-minded voters who haven’t a clue, who’d rather talk about hockey, Justin Bieber and Breaking Bad than about the governance that affects their daily lives by politicians who lie, steal and defraud; after all, what can they do, they’re only one person. That’s what Conservatives believe of us. Do you accept that? If so, prove them right. Next election, vote for Harper and gang again and, once again, prove you’re stupid.

What is it with Canadians? Why are so many asleep? Why do so many still put their trust in a man and his crew who has lied to them from the very first even before they took office? And why do so many now, prepared to reject Harper, appear so blindly eager to turn to an untested young man who appears to have it all, looks, wealth, a pleasant personality and a famous name and, yet, so far, has failed to offer any substantial alternative vision for this nation? Surely there’s more we should be seeking, wanting and needing than the superficiality of an attractive but empty package. How about experience, ideas? Why are these considered novelties today, quaint and old-fashioned? Is it image only; are the youth of today that shallow? The Liberals appear to believe so.

But there is another view of voters that is even worse for it is a view that is negative, without hope, cynically devoid of compassion and humanity. It is the view that believes Canadians really do not care about substance, depth, perception, honesty, integrity, ethics, decency, shame or about any of the ongoing Conservative scandals. That is the Conservative vision; it is a bleak and contemptible vision with the sole apparent goal of gaining and holding power for the benefit of self and special interests. Will we continue to allow the schemers, liars, and plain old sons of bitches rip-off artists to have the edge? Are we Canadians okay with that? Clearly Harper and his gang believe so.

Being young is no crime. I hold no brief against Trudeau and I don’t fault him his good fortune. Would that we were all so fortunate. I just believe he is too young, too inexperienced, too, innocent (?) to be what we need at this time. Surely it is time for Canadians to look elsewhere, to take a risk, to try something new. It wouldn’t be that much of a risk, the only challenge called for being that Canadians rid themselves of the hidebound fears and prejudices born of ignorance. Canadians should look at Thomas Mulcair and the NDP and seriously give them a closer look. As a politician, he certainly has the experience and the smarts. And he does have substance; we’ve seen it on display in the House this past year. And the NDP is really not the Party of the CCF. It is certainly not the party I have supported all my life, but it is better than what we have. In fact, for those who really want a change and yet no earthshattering shift, preferring the middle ground, the NDP should be their choice for it is closer to the centre than either the Liberals or Conservatives if centrism is what you seek.

Tories and Whigs have had their way for far too long. Haven’t we had enough? Surely yes. We do not need more of the arrogance, deceit, dishonesty, secrecy, and abuse of power practiced by Harper and his crew of malignant toads. We need leaders, champions of citizens rather than of business, cronies, and entitlement. Mulcair and the NDP could be those agents of change if offered a chance. But the force of timidity is not enough.

In truth, regardless of what happens today or tomorrow, regardless of what we see, hear or know, Harper and his gang will always have their singular version of themselves and their history; the rest of us will simply have to be content with the facts.

The last two elections and the recent senate scandal, particularly the Duffy matter, offer prime examples of Harper Conservatism at play and at its worst. There is no best.

When Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, after much protestations of having done nothing wrong, finally agreed to repay $90 thousand back for false housing and expense claims and the Senate internal Economy Committee received the Deloitte audit report on him, Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader of the Senate, ecstatically claimed, that the matter was closed. As far as the world was led to believe, Duffy had repaid the debt with his own money. Conservatives, including Harper, loudly praised him for doing the “honourable thing.” Evidently they were untroubled that he had acted dishonourably in the first place. There is no hope for such as these.

Almost immediately after the report was released, it turned out that the Deloitte document released for public consumption had been doctored, the harshest criticisms in the original Deloitte report cleaned up and removed. Those who did the whitewashing were Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen members of the Senate’s internal Economy Committee. But that wasn’t all. Another bombshell: good ol’ Mike Duffy hadn’t paid off the debt after all. Nigel Wright, at that time Harper’s chief of staff, wrote the cheque for $90 thousand.

Now, in the House, Harper had denied any knowledge of the Duffy/Wright affair. He did not know of the cheque, there had been no negotiation with the PMO, and no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. So he claimed. As well, the Conservative Party had not been involved. Nevertheless, Harper and his crude brood in the House initially and loudly and proudly praised Nigel Wright for “doing the honourable thing” going so far as to claim that he had done this to spare the taxpayers the burden of the cost of Duffy’s false expense claims! It was a ridiculous assertion completely unbelievable and without merit. As they did with Duffy, Conservatives across the land were now singing the praises of Nigel Wright. They abandoned Duffy. And, when it was his turn, they abandoned Wright. But of course, no one in the PMO knew of the deal. Harper said so and we were to believe him. In fact, according to him, there had been no deal. Wright was doing this on his own, a generous friend helping a friend in need. But, again, we now know that wasn’t true.

The recent release of the court documents by the RCMP tells a different version of what we have been told by Duffy, Wright, Harper and his churlish band of knaves.

We now know that the Conservative Party not only knew of Duffy’s difficulties, it was quite willing to pay the tab in the belief that it was only $32 thousand (though David Tkachuk had notified Duffy in February, a month before the investigation began due to public outrage, that he owed over $90 thousand; is it possible, or even credible, neither Duffy nor Wright notified the Conservative Party before this came out?). When the sum rose to $90 thousand, the party balked; it would not pay Duffy’s debt.

The person who could sign off on the debt for Duffy was Senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada. When the party refused to pay that amount, the obliging Nigel Wright stepped in. He brokered a deal with Duffy in which Duffy was to immediately repay the $90 thousand and not to talk to the media. As well, the Deloitte report would be absent of harsh criticism. Clearly, this deal, as well as that in which the Conservative Party initially considered paying off Duffy’s debt, was meant to be secret. Did Harper know? He said not. In fact, he claimed their had been no negotions. In any event, Canadians should be seriously troubled by these machinations and the secrecy surrounding them. There is no doubt that there was a concerted effort to deceive the public. For this gang, however, that is neither new nor news though it is puzzling why the Conservative Party would be so reticent in disclosing its willingness to help one of its own. But then, it may not be all that puzzling. With Conservatives, one thing is true: once you’re out, you’re out. And Duffy is out.

Now Harper had claimed that no one else in the PMO had known about the Duffy/Wright deal. He was either mistaken or misleading when he made that assertion. Clearly Senator Gerstein became aware of the deal once Wright interjected himself into the affair. But who else knew? According to the RCMP report, three others, and all in the PMO: Benjamin Perrin, the PMO legal advisor, David van Hemmen, executive assistant to Wright, and Chris Woodcock, the PMO director of issues (i.e., troubleshooter of crises). So, once again, we have Harper contradicted. But did he, himself, know of the deal? Well, I know what I think and I know what Harper wants us to believe. He apparently wishes to rely on that political standby of plausible deniability. He did not know. It is likely, in the eventuality that something like this should crop up, he had made it clear that he did not want to know, did not want to be told, and would not be told. Whether or not one believes Harper and those Conservatives, you’ve got to hand it to those endearing cretins, don’t you? They’ve got nerve if nothing of the scruples I would wish in a person.

Plausible deniability. When they resort to this, politicians resemble adult children who push from their mind the fact that they were conceived by their parents having hot, sweaty sex, who refuse to imagine their parents even having sex, who wish to ignore the possibility of their parents still being frisky, and who most certainly don’t want to know that their parents might actually still enjoy it.

The thing is, Harper and gang are not those adult children. They know exactly what they are doing. So do most of us. And we don’t like it.

THE FIVE DOLLS AND PROMOTION

With news of several high profile resignations in the government, including that of LeBreton, who plans to relinquish her position as Government Leader of the Senate and who will no doubt be missed by many of the Liberal media lickspittles, there is speculation regarding a cabinet shuffle and who the winners and losers will be.

Among the contenders expected to move up are Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander, Candice Bergan, Kellie Leitch and the particularly odious Pierre Poilievre who seems peculiarly adept at tossing slime. To those who follow politics, these five are familiar as point persons for Harper’s gang making frequent appearances in all media. They are most notable for being rude, overbearing, dismissive and arrogantly certain of every utterance as they talk over, shout down and point fingers at their opposites in the Liberal and NDP parties who appear with them. Unfortunately, from my many viewings of them on Power and Politics, I am left with the impression that they are more like talking dolls or, at most, barely sentient beings who, in their regular appearances, spout the message of the day apparently downloaded into the microchip that must surely be secreted somewhere into their moulded bodies. I say this because, whenever they make an appearance on Power and Politics, they never deviate from the message, often repeating it word for word each time a question is posed regardless of how it is framed or how often it is asked. I can almost imagine someone waking them in the morning by pulling the string in the middle of their backs. I can see them abruptly sitting up, swaying slight, and saying, “Hello, my name is Michelle (Chris, Kellie, Candice,Pierre) and I am ready for my daily assignment. Hello, my name is…”

Not quite alive, they still manage somehow to work up enough life to occasionally express faux high indignation, to be evasive, to point fingers at others, and to utter many words without saying anything.

When the public was supposed to believe Duffy had paid off his debt with his own money, they glowingly praised Duffy for “doing the honourable thing” and then did the same with Wright when they learned the truth. They can switch that easily from one gear to another without any sign of embarrassment or shame. Just like a talking doll. Watching them, I can almost believe that brains and mouths are interchangeable and regardless of which brain or which mouth, it would all be one.

They, Poilievre more so, are dislikeable bobble heads now and offer every indication of being the same as members of the cabinet. They will take questions and regurgitate the response of the day. When the question is asked another way, they will repeat the message and continue to do so regardless of how the question is framed or how many times. And we’ll continue to go round and round, never getting answers to anything by anyone on anything. The only difference between their appearances in the House from that of Power and Politics is they’ll be standing on their feet.

I’ll be looking for the strings. (edited, July 8, 2013)

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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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