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Monthly Archives: October 2013

IS STEPHEN HARPER A LIAR?

Most ignorance is invincible ignorance: we don’t know because we don’t want to know. – Aldous Huxley

And here, poor fool, with all my lore/I stand no wiser than before. – Johann W. von Goethe

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

Last Thursday, October 24, Harper, in a rare appearance in the House in over 160 days, gave his strongest performance in months. It took place two days after Mike Duffy lobbed a few grenades at Harper while speaking in the Senate defending himself in hopes of avoiding a two-year suspension without pay. Harper was firm, pugnacious, and oh, so, so, self-congratulatory in his responses to questions by the opposition wanting to know if he had, indeed, ordered Mike Duffy to repay his expenses as Duffy had claimed. “Darn right I told him he should repay his expenses,” replied Harper. Solid, no nonsense, unequivocal. But no answer to the underlying question prompted by Duffy’s remarks: Had he been in the same room when the Duffy/Wright deal was made?

Nevertheless, members of his caucus that day must have felt a lifting of their hearts, a soaring in their spirits. Harper was back. In fact, so enthused were the members, and so forthright and eager Harper, that all leaped to their feet many times in Question Period, Harper responding forcefully and enthusiastically if not always satisfactorily. No matter, his Conservative gang clearly loved it all each appearing to out-leap and out-applaud the others as if, by such ardent public display of support, loyalty and love, hoping to garner public support or, more cynically, to forestall being thrown under the bus by Dear Leader for lack of enthusiasm.

Without doubt, they felt good, you could see it writ on their faces. But that glorious sensation was illusory, fleeting, another chimera of many in a regime of smoke, mirrors and thunderous white noise.

The following day, Harper and his party were exactly where they were before the spring/summer break, floundering, evading, fingerpointing and responding with scripted non-answers. It has been a shameful display by a majority governing party. The extended break had done nothing to improve matters, the Senate scandal had not gone away; it was cheap, loud, performance art and gong show. Is this how a leader of a Democratic nation behaves? Is this how Conservative Democracy works? Talking points, scripted bobbleheads, repeated phrases, lifelike dolls fingerpointing, mouths flapping and saying – well, saying nothing but yet, clearly, somehow, signifying the adoption of a new tack: Harper’s Conservatives had suddenly suffered a fervid, dizzying conversion; they were high, high on ethics and ethical behaviour. Villainous wrongdoers would be severely punished and Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Nigel Wright were, without doubt, villainous wrongdoers. Never mind that Wright was gone; he was the chief villain, the architect of all this mess; it was all his fault. Yeah, right.

While I have little to no sympathy for Nigel Wright or the three senators, I have even less for Harper and his gang of thugs who appointed the three to the Senate, apparently less for their merits as contributors to society than for what they could bring to the Conservative Party. Brazeau’s inclusion was likely the result of the potent symbolism he offered: young, intelligent, brash – and First Nations member. Duffy’s and Wallin’s inclusion was, without doubt, a result of their recognisability as respected and trusted members of the media and the promised ability to raise funds as Conservative shills. They were loved (and loved being loved) because they offered something that could be used, traded upon: the native gave them a certain cachet and the fundraisers? Well, they raised a lot of money, didn’t they? Yet, for the three, one can almost work up sympathy. Almost. When suddenly no longer loved, troublesome liabilities now, they were not only thrown under that massive, brutal Tory blue bus, they were to be made an example for all others: cross Harper, this, too, could be your fate. For these three, there would be the public damning, shaming and punishment; a Harper sanctioned lynch mob. Still, there would be a hint of decorum, a suggestion of fair play; the three were allowed to speak in their own defence in the Red Chamber and they did so, Duffy twice. Had cameras been allowed, the scene would almost certainly have closely resembled the Stalinist show trials between 1936 and 1938. Yes, yes, Harper and gang were going for the jugular, no more playing nice; these three would pay, and severely, and Conservatives, when done, could finally wash their hands of them for good while loudly proclaiming their virtue as defenders of ethics in politics. They were the good guys, white hats and tall in the saddle once again. That was the scenario they likely imagined. The party faithful would be happy and the soft supporters? Well, put on a good show, they’ll swallow anything.

The problem is: Would people really buy this? Is Harper and gang right? Is the world filled with simpletons? Well, forty per cent at one time. Enough to elect this gang of vicious thugs.

Unfortunately, for Harper and gang, when Duffy spoke October 22, Conservatives in the Senate and the House must have felt as if they’d been mugged. Regardless of the merits of Duffy’s defence, the sad spectacle says a lot about the character of this government. It is desperately wanting and severely challenged in matters of ethics and integrity. That’s been obvious to many, but this speech was just another nail. Canadians should be worried by now and do something; the foxes are in the henhouse and have been for some time.

In 2006, Harper announced that he would reform the Senate. Well, we saw how that worked out. Over half the Senators are Harper patronage appointees. During his latest foray in the Senate, Duffy posed the rhetorical question: Are we independent Senators or PMO puppets? He knows the answer to that. We all do. The days of a truly independent body had passed some time before the virulently partisan Harper entered the scene, but it is Harper who drove the final killing stake through its heart. The days of a truly independent Senate, if they ever were, were now well and truly dead.

WHICH TRUTH? WHOSE TRUTH?

Do you remember how it went? Did you care then?

When Duffy announced to the world that he and his wife had decided to repay the housing claims to which he was not entitled, Harper and Poilievre and all the rest of the thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of him. He had done the “honourable thing”, they had said. When that proved false, when we learned that it had been Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright who had paid off Duffy’s debts with a cheque, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of the Conservative thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of Wright. He had done the right, honourable thing, they said, Pierre Poilievre even going so far as to declare Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing”! Duffy was suddenly toast. The man who had shone in the Conservative glow, who basked in the limelight and hammed it up as “hard hitting” journalist with puffball questions for Harper during faux “townhall meetings”, was suddenly, and sadly, pariah. Oh, that must have hurt.

When Harper was asked in the House what he knew of the deal, he claimed to know nothing and went so far as to state that no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. It was a matter between Duffy and Wright and no one else, he said. He also said there were no documents. Months later, when the RCMP revealed that there had been others in the know, Irving Gerstein, who controlled party funds and was apparently prepared to help Duffy out when he believed the debt to be $32, 000, David van Hemmen, Nigel Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management in the PMO, Harper played dodge ball evading questions in the House, claiming Wright had accepted responsibility for the matter and had done the honourable thing: he had resigned. As for documents, well, they were there and one involved another cheque, which, until Duffy’s revelations October 28, no one knew about except for the parties involved. Still, Harper, until last week, had maintained the deal a private matter between Duffy and Wright. But that wasn’t true, it never was. The question is, did Harper know? Evidently not, if we are to believe him.

When Brazeau and Duffy, October 22, and Wallin, October 23, defended themselves in the Senate, it was clear from Duffy’s impassioned defence that he was placing Harper in the know, Harper had been there when the deal was made, “just the three of us” (Duffy, Wright & Harper), and that he, Harper, had ordered Duffy to repay the money and take the deal. Harper’s vigorous and proud, “Darn right I told him he should repay the expenses” “sort of” supports what Duffy says without actually placing Harper in the room.

But, if Harper wasn’t there, and he says he wasn’t, and, as we now know four others knew, were there others? In June, Harper said no one else knew. But last week he did allow that “a few” others had known about the deal. That was a small change but extremely significant. It had gone from no one to a few knowing. So, had Harper lied at the beginning? Or did he really not know? Harper and his bobblehead parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, were now back to the scripted lines in the House, “Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” That was Harper. For Calandra, the script went something like this, “The prime minister has answered the question. Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” Oh, how wearisome the script.

On October 28, Mike Duffy took the opportunity to address the Senate again as his judges, jury and executioners prepared to debate his penalty, if any. This time, there was even more astounding news from Duffy even as the Senate Conservative sought to lessen the damage they had inflicted on themselves with this move to suspend the three. Arthur Hamilton, long-time lawyer for the Conservative party, a hardball troubleshooter often called to handle high profile incendiary events involving Conservatives (the Helena Guergis debacle for one, the robocalls scandal for another), had written a $13, 560 cheque to Duffy’s lawyer paying off Duffy’s fees with Conservative funds. There is documented evidence of the cheque. So, how many people did know? What constitutes “a few” as acknowledged by Harper? Some figures go as high as 13. If so, going from none to thirteen appears to be more than a minor discrepancy. Was Harper lying, mistaken, or just wilfully out of the loop on this, as well?

Too, Conservatives had previously denied that they had a secret Conservative fund run from the PMO for discretionary purposes. That was in the past. But that changed with Duffy’s speech in the Senate and with Harper’s recent admission that it did, in fact, exist. Had he lied then or simply been mistaken?

It was from this discretionary fund that Duffy’s lawyer was paid. When questioned about why the Conservative party would pay the fees for Duffy’s lawyer, especially if Duffy had breached the rules, pocketing money to which he was not entitled, Harper’s response was that it was standard practice for the Conservative party to help members from time-to-time. Which begs the question: If Duffy had defrauded taxpayers with illegal claims as Harper keeps on saying, why bail him out? Harper’s story makes little sense. He keeps shifting ground. At what point was Harper, if ever, telling the truth? Was it then or is it today?

In some ways, Nigel Wright seems to be a genuine victim of all this. This was a party loyalist, remember, a front rank soldier. Once word came out that he had written a cheque to pay Duffy’s debt, it was evident he was finished even though, two days later, a spokesman had said Harper still held confidence in him. There was no talk of resignation. On May 19, Wright announced his resignation from the PMO, which Harper had “reluctantly accepted”. Once again, Wright had proven himself a good soldier and, once again he was lavishly praised for doing the right, honourable thing.

Today, however, things are much different for the loyalist and one-time confidant of Harper. Looking back, his vision must be of a deceitful and bleak landscape: the only loyalty was his own.

In an appearance on a radio talk show, October 28th, Harper did another turnabout. Wright had not resigned as we had been led to believe. He had been fired! If Wright had been badly wounded when ruthlessly thrown under the bus, Harper, standing in the House the next day, made certain that he was dead meat as far as Conservatives and the public were concerned. In what must be the final indignity to this one-time much admired member of the PMO, Harper and his thugs left little doubt what Wright meant to them. Wright, said Harper, had been “The one person responsible for the deception.” Had they surrounded him and plunged daggers into his body in a public forum, it could not have been more brutal or more painful. Ruthless, shameless and appallingly cold.

What must Nigel Wright think of all this? What does he feel? What can those sitting around Harper think, what can they believe, who can they trust? Certainly they know that they are one misstep away from political and very public annihilation.

How is it possible that anyone can continue to place trust in this man who is leader of our nation? Petty, brutal, vindictive, evasive, deceitful, ready to sacrifice anyone, he is no leader I respect, let alone admire or trust. He and his party have governed in a manner that has been, time and again, revealed as the most ethically challenged in the history of Canada. It’s not all about money, folks. Mike Duffy says it has lost its moral compass, as if this were a recent thing. He is wrong. That happened long, long before this scandal broke out, probably on the very day Harper experienced the first real taste of power and succumbed to its corruptive allure.

Yes, yes, Harper is high on ethics – today. But even here, he appears rather easy on that score. Some stay, some go but these only when they become liabilities. We need simply remember Shelly Glover who the chief electoral officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, had recommended be suspended for refusing to file a full report of her 2011 campaign expenses. She finally agreed to do so only upon learning she was to be promoted with a cabinet position. And we have Christian Paradis, the lacklustre underperforming MP from Quebec who has been investigated more than once for ethical lapses with allegations of political interference and of providing favourable treatment to contractors seeking government business. He too holds Harper’s enduring confidence (at least until the next election) as well as a cabinet post. We have, as ugly as they come, vicious, oleaginous, union-busting Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, who, in 2010 during the G8 and G20 conferences set aside a slush fund of $50 million for his riding and whose department has apparently misplaced $3.1 billion. We have loudmouth, now silent, Dean Del Mastro, once Harper’s parliamentary secretary, facing charges relating to the 2008 election campaign. We have Bev Oda, who forged, or whose office staff had forged, a government document and was twice made to repay padded expense claims before being finally toppled by a $16 orange drink. We have Peter Penashue, declared by Harper to be the best ever Labrador MP, forced to resign for accepting corporate donations for his campaign. Best ever from Labrador? Clearly the voters didn’t agree with Harper when the by-election was held. We had Vic Toews who accused opponents to his online spying bill of “siding with pedophiles.” And we had Joe Oliver smearing environmentalists as “radicals” and impugning the reputation of a widely respected environmentalist who pointed to the risks of going ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline deal.

With Harper and gang, anything goes; the moral compass is rather fluid if it exists at all. If he likes you, or needs you, you are golden, in like Flint; if, however, you prove a liability, well, it’s under that brutal Conservative bus for you. Wright, Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau have merely joined Michael Sona, Helena Guergis, and all the other battered sacrificed. Clearly, working for Harper and the Conservatives is an occupational hazard.

Perhaps, in his own peculiar way, Harper has decided to set an example for public servants who have endured massive cutbacks and much maligning from the cretinous Clement. Harper has taken on the role of all three monkeys for himself: all hands clapped over eyes, ears and mouth and all at once.

Harper would have you believe he knew nothing. He would have you believe that everyone around him had conspired to deceive him. That makes him incredibly incompetent or incredibly stupid. Take your pick.

It is highly likely Nigel Wright can provide many of the answers. He knew Harper well and, after this, knows him better now. One wonders how much longer he is willing to play the good soldier. He owes Harper absolutely nothing now.

Is Stephen Harper a liar?

What do you think?

***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

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SEE HARPER RUN, RUN, HARPER, RUN

The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man. – Roy L. Smith

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them. – Aristotle

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE THINGS MIKE DUFFY SAID

On October 21, the day before the Senate was to vote on the suspension without pay of Harper appointees to the Senate, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy came out swinging with his lawyer, Donald Bayne, doing the damage. On the second day, October 22, it would be Duffy, speaking in the Senate, who would drop the bomb.

It was clear, if what Bayne was saying was true, the PMO’s office certainly knew more than Harper admitted to and certainly casts doubt on Harper’s credibility which has already been stretched pretty thin as it is. Duffy, according to Bayne, had met all the residency requirements and had even approached the government Senate leader at the time, Marjory LeBreton, who had informed him that he could claim his home in PEI as his primary residence and thus place a claim for his secondary residence in Ottawa. Duffy then asked the PMO about his living expenses and was informed, by Wright, he met them and was further informed that other senators had similar arrangements.

According to Bayne, Duffy, previously informed he had followed all the rules, had then, at the time of the scandal outbreak been pressured to repay the money he had claimed for housing for four years once it became clear that he was now a liability to the Conservatives and their core base of supports. The deal was made for Wright to ink a cheque for $90,000. For Duffy, according to Bayne, it was play along or pay the consequences. Apparently, Duffy played along his reputation easier to shrug off than a seat on the Senate. Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, overseeing the Deloitte audit of Duffy, also played along changing the report to whitewash Duffy’s image, which, with the promise of repayment, allowed LeBreton to declare the matter closed. At that time, the public was led to believe Duffy had repaid the money from his own wallet. When asked by Mulcair in the House what he knew, Harper claimed not to know of the deal. He also stated no one else in the PMO knew. We now know that was false. Much later it was revealed by an RCMP document that senator Irving Gertstein, was prepared to pay from a party fund he controlled when he believed the amount owed to be about $32,000. We also learned others knew, including David van Hemmen, Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management for the PMO. Did Harper know? He says not. Knowing his reputation as a control freak, it stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper would not know of the deal. But he denied knowing and there it stands.

Bayne spoke at length in a truly extraordinary meeting with news reporters. While he asserted that the PMO’s office had resorted to blackmail in dealing with his client, he appeared to be resorting to the same tactic with Harper and gang, saying he had much more than the three emails he read from during the event and would not hesitate to use them.

If Duffy, through his lawyer, is to be believed, then it certainly exposes Harper to risk of charges of either lying in the House last spring about others in the PMO knowing or of having been deceived by his staff regarding the Duffy/Wright deal. Either way, Harper needs to explain himself.

An hour and a half following that media event, there was an even more disheartening display, this by Harper (who had failed to appear in the House on the first day of the Fall session) and his parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, who appears to offer a prime example of the Peter Principle whereby individuals rise to their level of incompetence.

After evading opposition questions in the House for over 160 days, Harper finally made an appearance and, in a sickening display of hubris, again displayed not only his utter disregard for the opposition, but also his contempt for Parliament, the Democratic process, and for the voters of this country when he was asked what he knew of the Duffy/Wright deal. Harper’s response was telling and appalling. Several times, to repeated questions, his non-response was repeated almost word-for-word to each question posed. Said he, with variants to the script: “Mr. Wright has accepted full responsibility for his decision in these matters. The position of the government as I’ve said repeatedly is that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the rules regarding expenditure, not just the letter but the spirit of those rules, and if they don’t respect those rules they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable.”

A non-answer. Nothing. It is true that Harper did attempt to deflect attention to the new trade deal with Europe; a deal everyone says will be his legacy. Perhaps, but I suspect his legacy will lie elsewhere and it will lie tarnished in the trash bin of history where it justly belongs. If there was ever a shine to Harper’s regime, I must have missed it, blinded by the sheen of an out-dated, shabby and mean-spirited amalgam of Conservative/Reform/Alliance politics.

Then it was Paul Calandra’s turn. He’s the new parliamentary secretary to Harper. Not wishing to be outdone in sticking to a script, Calandra responded to similar questions using almost identical words about what the PMO knew by saying and iterating that Harper had already answered the question and then went on to quote the party line about the economy and jobs. Then, in response to a variant of the same question, what did the PMO know? He veered into a mind-blowing off-the-cuff tangent proceeding to give a befuddling and impressive if lengthy non-response response stating absolutely nothing, which caused Charlie Angus to accurately remark, “Now, that was bizarre.” Clearly, Paul Calandra is well-suited for the role of bobblehead, one of those doll-like figures which play so prominently in the Conservative Party the roster of which include such figures as Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierre Poilievre, all now promoted for, no doubt, diligently following the party line. Evidently, Harper has also become a member of the club, at least, for that day. Unfortunately for Calandra, the string controlling the message must have snapped producing that silly performance from him. It was entertaining if nothing else. In any case, Harper’s non-responses followed by the mimicry of Calandra are disturbing, disheartening and disgusting and do little to enhance the image of either.

Yet, anyone could have a bad day. But when bad behaviour is repeated, you know there’s more to it than that. The next day, Oct. 22, when Thomas Mulcair asked Harper if he regretted anything in his own actions, Harper did the same as the previous day, answering with the same response of the day before in almost identical language. It was confirmed. He was a flesh and blood talking doll, a BOBBLEHEAD! Not a flesh and blood man, not a prime minister, just a talking shell of something resembling life. It was the same with Calandra, bobbing his head, saying what he had said the day before: a true bobblehead. What made it worse, even more offensive, was that when asked a question that only Harper could know the true answer, it was the bobblehead who responded without the insane performance of the previous day with standard non-answers saying, as he had the day before, that Harper had answered the questions, that they would focus on the economy and jobs.

The script is wearying, especially when it appears every member of Harper’s gang has learned it and employs it for the umpteenth time and at every opportunity in attempts to divert public attention away from the Senate to the “greatest” trade deal in the history of Canada if not the world.

But, if those performances did not rile anyone, perhaps what happened that evening did, when, under privilege of the Senate, Duffy spoke in defense of himself and, in doing so, lobbed a grenade that doubtless woke the nation, even if only momentarily, and possibly signalled the beginning of the end for Harper and his Conservative thugs.

Not only does Duffy say that Harper had ordered him to repay the money, he also suggests that Harper was in the room with Wright and himself when he did so. If that is true, then Harper lied in the House on May 5, when Mulcair asked him if anyone else knew of the deal. The deal was between Duffy and Wright, Harper had said. Duffy then spoke of the new chief of staff, Ray Novak, at that time senior aide to Harper, and Marjory LeBreton, calling him at home in PEI, ordering him to resign or appear before an ethics committee with the likelihood of being expelled from the Senate. We have heard Harper’s version. This is Duffy’s. Who can we believe, if either?

THE THINGS PAMELA WALLIN SAID

Perhaps Pamela Wallin can shed a little light and she did, like Duffy, speaking in the Senate under privilege levelling the basic same charge against Harper as Duffy and employing almost the same arguments. For Wallin, particular targets were Marjory LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen who, she states, had “orchestrated” leaked documents apparently because they “could not abide” her criticism of their leadership and the praise she had earned from Harper! “These were targeted leaks,” she said, “many of them incorrect, designed to cast my conduct in the worst possible light. They were personal and vindictive –and violated all the rules of this place.” She also claimed, as did Duffy, that LeBreton and Ray Novak, had called her claiming to speak on behalf of Harper, demanding she resign from the Senate. She further claimed they came to an agreement whereby she would recuse herself from caucus, not resign but, “less than 10 minutes later, Senator LeBreton broke the deal and publicly declared that I had resigned.” Does anyone look good in this? Immediately following Wallin’s speech, LeBreton spoke under privilege of the chamber refuting Wallin’s claims as baseless. Who can we believe?

What we are witnessing has moved beyond tragedy to farce. It has become a spectacle with performers who, on one side have appeared to have sold their reputations, now tattered, for the price of joining an elite club and those on the other side willing to exploit at any cost the influence and prestige of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and the potent symbolism at the time of a controversial young Patrick Brazeau, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples which had assisted the Conservatives during the 2006 election. The performances have brought disrepute on all offering a show that is shabby, shameful, and enduring. Harper and his crew could as easily play the roles of comic mimes for the white noise of denials that spews from their mouths say nothing and mean nothing providing only a constant din that is far from comic and leaves nothing to the imagination about them as representatives of a Democracy. It is not good.

PROVE YOU’RE STUPID; VOTE FOR CONSERVATIVES – AGAIN!

That Harper and his crew are still able to garner support is astounding to me and clear evidence that there are some in society who will support liars, thieves, dishonest ideas, unethical behaviour, anyone and anything, in short, for promises of shiny trinkets, of easy cures, and quick fixes as offered in the throne speech along with the announcement of a tentative major trade deal with Europe, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Harper believes he knows his people and I fear he may be right. He believes that little matters to voters other than cutting fees for paper bills, ending bundling by communications giants, reducing roaming fees and passing laws forcing governments to balance budgets in normal times which he does not define and which is laughably untenable. The world is fluid and little can be certain and even less controlled. But it is not on those few baubles that Harper pins his hope. Rather, it appears, he has placed them on CETA with its promises of 80 thousand jobs and infusion of $12 billion into the economy. But even here, critics say, Harper has misjudged, exaggerated the expectations.

The figures, they claim, are from a joint study between Canada and Europe based on a computer model that is five years old. A lot has happened since 2008. Can the numbers be believed? According to Harper they can, for these are the figures he relies on. But a 2011 European study suggests otherwise, that the figures might be closer to one third to one half of those estimated from the 2008 study. Further, the numbers of that 2008 study were arrived at before the economic crisis shattered the global economy and before negotiations had even begun. In other words, the numbers just don’t stand up. Harper and thugs would have you believe otherwise. However, knowing how well this government is with figures, I will trust the critics. I remember too well how Conservatives turned a huge surplus left by the Liberals to a record Conservative deficit. And I still haven’t heard a reasonable explanation from Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, an account of what has happened to the missing $3.1 billion. Nor have I heard how government cutbacks in the Canada Revenue Agency will resolve the issue of recovering over $29 billion from offshore accounts of tax evaders. In fact, do we even know, can we be assured, this government is pursuing those wealthy individual and corporate tax fraudster scofflaws?

How can we trust a leader and his crew that runs, evades, obfuscates and just outright lies about almost everything we should know and have a right to know, but which they don’t want us to know (which is almost everything). How can we trust a leader, if Duffy and Wallin are to be believed, who lied about what he knew and how much he knew? As for Harper’s numbers regarding this new deal, they strike me as wishful thinking plucked from air. As for job creation, critics suspect that the reverse can be expected, that the result in job losses will be anywhere from 30,000 to 150,000. If Harper is so confident of this deal, why are Canadians not able to have access to the details? It may well be a good deal, but it could also be a chimera, smoke and noise and not to be trusted.

But for Harper and his gang, Duffy’s speech, Wallin’s speech and even Brazeau’s speech, in the Senate, it is all bad news that not even this promised trade deal can ameliorate. The Senate scandal is there, it will stick, and Duffy’s and Wallin’s version, if true, if accepted, will likely spell the end to this highly secretive, vindictive, mean, and dismal regime.

Unfortunately for Democracy, there are still voters who will not experience shame or despair, those voters who are quite willing and are even eager to be bought for mere pennies a day or with large, shiny, but ultimately empty promises. Harper and gang know this and those on the sideline who disapprove can only gape in astonishment that none of them, the bribers or the takers, experience anything closely resembling shame. Those people, the bribers and takers, do not value themselves, so why should they value others, why should they value the Democratic process? For them, rules, ethics, integrity are all hindrances; they don’t matter, they never have, they never will. It’s all about the main chance: What’s in if for me?

I would hope the tactics employed by Harper and thugs would not work and certainly not as often as they have. Unfortunately knowing Canadian voters I cannot help but wonder: how is it possible that so many, so often, can be so dangerously indifferent and so outrageously stupid?

With the Duffy bombshell, followed by Wallin’s, it is just possible that some of those voters will wake up.

But I will not hold my breath. I will hope for better, but I will not expect better. Too many voters think with their wallets. And even more simply do not think.

Vote for Harper; get more of the same. Prove you really are stupid – again.

***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

STEPHEN HARPER: WOLF AMONG SHEEP

A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. – Bertrand de Jouvenel

The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal…is the ultimate indignity of the democratic process. – Adlai Stevenson

Frank A. Pelaschuk

MASTER OF ALL

Power and hubris can make even the best-intentioned government mean and corrupt. But what can one say of the Harper regime which has been motivated only by a narrow economic vision that does not include the greater good and which, I strongly suspect, had long before attaining its majority, already been mean and well on its way to plotting against those whom it believed had aggrieved them, i.e., everyone who stood against it?

Well, nothing good really.

To this observer, it has long been clear that Harper and gang actually believe they are servants to no one and masters to all. They feel no need to explain, justify or excuse, it is enough that they have the elected majority. We are to trust them and take them at their word that they are capable and know what they are doing. I believe the last can be taken at faith; they know exactly what they are doing. That their methods of smears, lies, innuendo, secrecy and cronyism apparently doesn’t trouble their base of core supporters nor those others, the soft-supporters, those what’s-in-it-for-me types who can easily be swayed by glitzy ads and promises of savings of pennies a day in tax cuts, those envious anti-unionists who are less interested in pulling themselves up than in dragging others down, those public servant haters who doubtless cheer every time they read that Harper and his gang have cut more public service jobs, says all you need to know about them. False promises, lies, fables and myths trouble no one in that crowd and Harper and gang know this. They also know a segment of voters are simpletons and they prove it time and time again each election swallowing the same promises, trembling to the same fear mongering, and voting for the same villains. Those are the ones that Harper and gang work at and once they’ve hooked them what follows doesn’t matter; come next election those voters will have forgotten or moved on replaced by another batch of simpletons who will buy the same bullshit and vote as they always do: for the pretty, shiny promises.

Arrogant beyond tolerance, Harper and gang are unhesitatingly free with admonitions accompanied by much finger-wagging to the rest of the world, loudly crowing of their successes and punching up far above its weight that is prideful, ridiculous and offensive and especially galling when one considers that much of Canada’s good reputation which they claim as their own successes have little to do with them but with the infrastructures created by previous Liberal governments. Theirs is a pride that has little justification unless one believes winning a majority of seats with only 40 per cent of the vote, skirting the rules of democracy with in-out scams, misleading and misdirecting voters with robocalls, accepting illegal corporate donations, not filling out proper expense claims for Elections Canada, and turning a massive surplus left by Paul Martin and the Liberals into a massive deficit, can be deemed sources for pride.

THE HARPER BRAND: WHINERS & BRAGGADOCIO

This is a government rife with decay. It is mean and spiteful. Stephen Harper has not only turned a blind eye to all that is wrong, he has encouraged and abetted all of it. In that sense, his branding of his term in office as Harper’s Government is absolutely accurate. It truly is Harper’s government. It is made up of a gang of folk who pad expenses, who smear opponents, who subvert the electoral process. It is made of a gang of folk who are thugs, roaming bullies and petty liars who respect neither the voters nor Democracy or the electoral process. Stand against them; you become the enemy, a troublemaker, unpatriotic. It is certainly not my kind of government and I suspect not one the majority of Canadians would recognize as theirs. Harper and gang are lowlifes in suits.

This is a group of MPs and supporters who are so small, so petty, so vindictive that they actually try to portray themselves as victims, who when confronted by charges of abuses in the Senate and the House and of their offices, cry about being treated harshly and unfairly. Senator Pamela Wallin is one such whiner, repaying claims to which she was not entitled and crying “foul” charging she was treated “unfairly.” Not a tear, though, for the public whom she ripped off. These are the same people who would have you believe that crime is on the rise and more prisoners are needed and that those claiming refugee status are all trying to take advantage of Canadian generosity and that all Roma are thieves. They would have you believe those on welfare are all potential fraudsters, that poverty is a crime, and that the old and sickly are just leeching off the system. Well, we know better, don’t we? Or we should.

Why do they believe that? Why do they hate the meanest and poorest among us so much? Could it be that Harper and his gang, small, mean, and vicious, know themselves and judge all others accordingly? Could it be they are afraid, fear those who believe that good fortune should be shared, that generosity is ennobling, that kindness has a human face? Do they fear the poor; wonder if the day will come when anger turns to fury? It could be they simply do not understand and do not trust those who are not always on the make and looking for the main chance. Perhaps that could explain why Harper and his gang mock, punish and sneer. They are afraid of losing what they have. And what they have, and what they want, and what they appear to need is POWER.

These are the type who weep copious tears at thoughts of unfairness and pain, not the unfairness and pain afflicting others but the unfairness and pain they imagine has been done to themselves by others, as Dean Del Mastro displayed when he, a month or so back, stood before the House and, choking back tears, whined about how unfairly he was treated, and cried about how long was the investigative process into his campaign expenses. Now that charges have been laid, Del Mastro no doubt weeps even more tears, more loudly while still denying wrongdoing.

But those protestations of unfairness, of wanting swift resolution, are not credible when Conservative MPs facing allegations of impropriety and the Conservative Party and Harper and gang fight tooth and nail to delay, impede and interfere by any means possible with the investigative process. Yes, they want fairness, but not today, and certainly not for them. Elections Canada Commissioner Yves Côté wants Parliament to change the rules so that they can compel witnesses to testify in their investigations into campaign irregularities. That is unlikely to happen even though it is true Harper had long ago promised to reform Elections Canada. But we know that with the recent problems plaguing his Conservative regime and with his appointment of Pierre Poilievre, once Parliamentary Secretary bobble head loudmouth now Minister of State for Democratic Reform, that positive reforms are extremely unlikely. Anti-unionist Poilievre is the man whose potty-mouth antics in the House and his glib, smarmy attacks against Elections Canada have earned him a reputation and a following that would shame most with a modicum of self-respect. But not this crowd; not those who support them.

Poilievre and Dean Del Mastro both voted against supporting Elections Canada during its investigations of the robocalls and “in-out” scandals, Poilievre going so far as to accuse the body of bias in going after Conservatives. Evidently it doesn’t occur to either to consider this: Perhaps if Conservatives were more honest….Better to ask a penguin to fly.

The thing is, the bullies, the liars, the cheats whine like children and, like children, resort to finger pointing rather than owning up. Only mature grownups seem able to accept responsibility.

Under Harper, too many of his Conservatives have been and continue to be under investigation for far too many campaign irregularities to hope for Elections Canada reform. In fact, this regime has consistently and persistently poked the eye of Elections Canada or gone out of their way to ignore it as Harper did when the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, requested that MP Shelly Glover be suspended until she filled out proper documents for the 2011 campaign. Instead of complying, Glover, former frequent Conservative spokesperson and another frequent bobble head guest on Power and Politics, sought to fight it in court only giving up when she clearly understood she was about to be promoted to the position of minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. She remains a bobble head with a title and, like all her ilk, remains shamelessly unrepentant. Hers is the Leona Helmsley approach: rules are for the little people. But she is not alone with that attitude in the Conservative party. The speaker of the House, Conservative Andrew Scheer, sat on the request and Harper ignored it when it finally came out, and Shelly Glover, as we know, was rewarded with a promotion. These people possess the morality of druggies: anything goes. And anything does.

THE VINDICTIVENESS OF MEDIOCRITY

Christian Paradis is our new international Development Minister. That he still holds a position in Harper’s cabinet should trouble voters. That he does is not surprising, for he is one of a very few MPs from Quebec. The thing is, Paradis has, in the past demonstrated he is capable of serious ethical lapses. In the past he has faced allegations of helping lobbyist and former MP Rahim Jaffer meet with government officials; he has been investigated for his role in the relocation of an Employment Insurance claims office to his riding; and he was known to have spent a weekend with former NHL team owner and lawyer, Marcel Aubut, who, at the time was lobbying the government for public funding for an arena. Paradis claims there was no business talk, no lobbying; we have to take him at his word. Yeah, we do.

Paradis, this mediocrity in office, has recently announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain abortions. That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages.

Here is a government so ideologically driven that it will prolong, exacerbate, and consign victims, including child victims, in war-ravaged countries to even greater hardship, misery, poverty, despair, perhaps even death, simply because they, these hypocritical, self-righteous, dishonest moralists believe that their values, including their anti-abortion stand, should be jammed down the throats of the impoverished and hapless rape victims of war and forced marriages.

This is the government that is so corrupted by its own vicious vision and version of morality that it actually appears to believe itself somehow purer and better than those victims, who simply want a choice offered to most citizens around the world, the right to abort the product of a rape. While this stand will doubtless appeal to the Conservative base at home, those safe, smug, self-righteous anti-abortionists at home, those individuals who do not have to share the fate of those unfortunates over there, this move is so viciously cynical that, by not addressing this issue at home lest he lose his soft, pro-choice supporters, Harper demonstrates the truly cold-blooded nature of his make up: he will do anything, anything, to have it all ways so that he can keep what he has regardless of how many lives are further destroyed. They’re not Canadian lives so, who cares? It’s business as usual, and if there are a few ministers suffering from ethical lapses, so what? We’ve got our majority. In a few months, the voters will forget if they even cared in the first place and we’ll help them forget with a few new shiny promises. That’s the Conservative way.

Cold, very cold, Harper and his people are as brutal as they come.

HARPER, THE MONEY MANAGING MYTH AND TAX DODGING SCAMS

Some polls have shown that credulous Canadians still believe Harper and his gang are better money managers than the liberals or the NDP. Harper and the gang even tell them so. And it’s probably true…with their own money. Recent revelations have shown that Harper appointees Carolyn Stewart Olsen and several other Conservative senators have joined the ranks of those under investigation for making expense claims to which they are not entitled. For those who need reminding, Olsen is the same senator who was on the committee investigating the expense claims of Liberal Mac Harb and Harper appointees Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Patrick Brazeau. Olsen was also the senator who, along with David Tkachuk, was responsible for doctoring the Deloitte report on Mike Duffy offering for public consumption a more palatable whitewashed version. Yes, Conservatives are better money managers, just not so much with taxpayer monies. Which leads me to ask the president of the Treasury Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle: Have you found the missing $3.1 billion yet? And any word on why auditors found the Defence Department’s books out by $1.5 billion?

Too, we have revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay blaming bureaucrats for cutbacks in the CRA unit to fight organized crime. This is extremely interesting in light of recent CBC reporting on those working on the dark side, including Canadian tax lawyers and accountants who devote their lives to advising wealthy Canadian individuals and corporations how to set up tax avoidance schemes off shore. It is estimated that wealthy individuals and corporations routinely avoid paying taxes with off shore accounts to the tune of $29 plus billion, which would go a long way to eliminating the deficit created by Harper and gang. But if anyone really believes Harper is seriously interested in recovering these monies by vigorously pursuing those scumbag scofflaws, he must be smoking something. Harper and his gang have done very little, if not next to nothing, to seek out those wealthy tax evaders bleeding the system. Cutting services is not the way to do it. Instead of paying their fair share, these criminal freeloading scum force Canadian taxpayers to bear the burden and Harper and gang have, thus far, allowed this to happen, have cut services to ensure it will continue to happen. If this were a bank robbery, Harper would be the inside man sending the security guards home and then giving the “all-clear” signal.

With Conservative Ministers, Findlay a prime example of cowardly irresponsibility, the buck of blame always stops at the feet of underlings. So, while this government treats all those collecting UE as if they are fraudsters, it gives the green light to the real thieves, those slimy tax-evading Tory cronies to keep on doing what they’ve always been doing. And those wealthy individual and corporate thieves will because they know Harper and his misbegotten gang will not be pursuing those scofflaws: there are too many Tory friends in that crowd. It’s easier and more satisfying for these bullies to go after the small, helpless fry, the poor and needy, while Harper continues to watch over our tax dollars with massive layoffs in the public service, with cuts to taxes for his business friends, and continued support for the likes of Treasury President Tony Clement of the missing $3.1 billion while the self-absorbed sleeping public benignly watches on no doubt prepared to re-elect them next time.

Perhaps what will really warm the heart of those who buy into the Harper myth is this: while billions of taxpayer money goes missing, Harper is going to punish those “bad” guys and gals in prison even more: He is not only going to increase jail time, he is going to cut their wages which amount to about five or six dollars a day by one-third! This is money that prisoners use to buy toiletry, cigarettes, confections, etc. This will save, perhaps, one or two million a year. In the grand scheme of life, this is a paltry sum against the billions being ripped off by the influential. Of course, the savings might be lost when enraged prisoners respond perhaps in prison riots or, when released, by acts of rage directed against society. The Harper move is small, petty, and vindictive. It is of no real benefit to anyone. It is inhumane, obscene and dangerous. Keep on beating a dog, even the most docile will eventually bite back. Contrary to what the many ignorant believe, prisons are not hotels. If you really believe they are, volunteer to join the crowd there. This vicious and small-minded move by this vicious, small-minded Harper gang belongs to a bygone era; it is doomed to fail and it will be society that will unfortunately pay the price.

HARPER, THE VETERAN BULLY

And, while it is clear Harper has no soft spot for those who oppose him (they are all “the enemy”), nor for those collecting welfare, for the homeless and the elderly, it is also clear he has not much love for veterans, especially those with disabilities. One would believe that in these folks, Harper would have his constituency. If so, if once a fact, he squandered that support in a series of baffling moves that revealed him as a man not to be trusted; disloyal, if you will, to people of whom loyalty was not only expected but demanded. Not only did Harper turn on them, he did it in the most brutal way and, in doing so, brought dishonour to himself and worse, cheapened Canada’s reputation by making it a bully.

First, he clawed back the disability pensions of veterans in 2006 and fought with them every step of the way to the cost of $750 million dollars to taxpayers before settling for over $889 million this year. Even more egregious, is that this government whined about paying the legal files. None of the costs of over $1.5 billion, a needless, pointless, unjust waste of taxpayer money, would have been incurred in the first place if Harper hadn’t made this insane move. Another proven example of how well Harper’s gang handles taxpayer money.

But there is more from this government. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has announced a plan to review the New Veterans Charter. The Canadian veterans ombudsman has tabled a report stating that severely disabled and incapacitated veterans will lose their charter benefits when they turn 65. As if they haven’t suffered enough, that means disabled veterans, injured during service and not having built up a military pension, will be forced to endure even severer hardship with those benefits suddenly gone. That is how Harper rewards those who put everything on the line for a nation he claims to love. That hardship is to be their lot, that their suffering is to be made worse, is of no concern to Harper and his vicious gang. But Harper is still not done. This is the government that, rather than dole out disability payments in manageable amounts to veteran’s until the end of life or until recovery, insisted in paying them out in one lump sum to a maximum of $250,000 even though those affected did not want this knowing that it was a bad idea and that individuals, even with the best will and ability in the world, often aren’t capable of doing things in their best interests with that much given to them in one go.

This government is not about helping pensioners or about doing the right thing, honourable thing. It’s about saving pennies at the expense of those who gave so much for this nation.

To demonstrate the level of meanness, of pettiness, as if we need any more examples, one needs only know about a deceased veteran, Cpl. Jacque Larocque, 40. He had suffered two previous heart attacks but had been misdiagnosed by military doctors as suffering heartburn. The soldier’s widow, Joan Larocque, wanted acknowledgment that the military doctors had erred. She wasn’t after money. Peter MacKay, at that time Defence Minister, supported the widow writing he confirmed his belief her husband’s death was “attributable to military service”. But that was overruled by the defence department under the new Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson in a written statement to the widow. MacKay’s previous support of her fight was considered “invalid”. When CTV contacted Nicholson’s office, he responded with an email within hours stating the exact opposite. In other words, he repudiated his own letter to the widow and now supported Peter MacKay’s initial stand, but this only after it made the news. The military Board of Inquiry had initially attributed no fault to the military service. However a military panel ruled otherwise. Harper and thugs are appealing the panel’s decision, no doubt worried about the costs of similar findings down the road should this be allowed to stand. It’s amazing how bad publicity can actually move this mean-spirited crew to (maybe) do the right thing. We will have to wait and see how this all turns out.

But Harper and gang have not finished with disabled veterans. They are planning to shut down nine Veterans’ Affairs offices across Canada for efficiencies and economic reasons. Unfortunately, this is certainly not something the veterans want or need. In fact, this appears to be an act of aggression fraught with hostility towards them. Now, many of them have over the years needed and developed personal relationships with experienced people who heard them out and knew their stories and understood how to work with them. All that support and trust will suddenly end for many veterans. For the personal contact, some will have to travel long distances to meet with strangers who may not know their stories or their needs. Too bad, says Harper’s gang. Julian Fantino dismisses those concerns saying veterans will receive better service. He says veterans can call by phone, go on the Internet, or drive to the nearest Services Canada outlet to have all their concerns met. You can see by this how much Harper and gang really respect those men and women. For many of this good people, it is the loss of the relationships that will hurt the most when these closures take effect. For some, face-to-face sessions are crucial and, not wishing to dismiss Service Canada employees, no doubt overburdened themselves by Harper cutbacks, how many of them are trained to deal with the needs of disabled veterans?

Cold, very, very cold.

HARPER: A MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES

Harper fancies himself a significant world leader. I suspect, each time he looks in the mirror, he sees a great leader. He is not great. He is not even a leader. He is a man who cuts and runs, who blows with the slightest breeze.

He has announced that he will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka next month because of concerns of Sri Lanka’s “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards.” Notice how strong he is on Human Rights when there is little to no financial costs to Canada. But the hypocrite is not such a staunch defender of such rights when the potential for gain is huge. He suffers no such compunction when it comes to China and its many egregious violations of Human Rights. In fact, given Harper’s sudden conversion to concern for Human Rights, it’s fair to ask why he attended the Francophonie summit in the Congo last year with one of the most brutal and repressive regimes ever?

Harper wants it all ways, but his moral outrage is laughable and evidently of the pocketbook variety: Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money. Being around that type should make one want to immediately bathe. There is something unclean about this double standard particularly since it appears to stem from his preoccupation with economic and corporate matters. Not everything should be reducible to economic interests.

But then, we have CSEC, the super secret Communications Security Establishment Canada (couldn’t they come up with a more unwieldy name?). This was a body created to oversee national security interests. But Brazil’s charge that CSEC has engaged in industrial espionage appears to suggest that it has broadened its mandate to national economic and commercial interests. Some may claim this is legitimate because other countries do this. Because this is Harper’s regime, and because Harper and gang are apparently focused only on economic issues, this should not be surprising news. Yet it is. Has Harper transformed this security agency into an espionage tool working for corporate interests? I don’t know, but I would not doubt it. If true, while spying in foreign countries and on their own citizens, this spy agency can now not only catch us doing what it doesn’t like, it can also pass on to the corporate masters what our views are on oil and mining domestically and abroad and even, perhaps, expand to informing grocery chains the types of products we wish to see on the shelves. The best of all worlds.

Surprisingly, the spy agency, apparently still growing and feeling pretty sensitive, responded saying that everything it does is legal, that it doesn’t spy on Canadians because it’s against the law. Well, a lot of things are against the law and they still happen.

Yeah, Harper really does have our interests in hand.

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