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Monthly Archives: January 2014

STEPHEN HARPER’S PURSUIT OF IGNORANCE

“All too often, we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” – Stephen Harper

“Tyrants have not yet discovered any chains that can fetter the mind. – Charles Caleb Colton

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER’S SEARCH FOR LOVE

No doubt, when he visited Israel for a week this month with his entourage of 208, the trip of a number of them funded by taxpayers, Harper must have thought he had indeed entered the promised land. He was not only warmly welcomed, embraced and loved upon arrival, he was embraced and loved even more lavishly when he spoke in the Israeli Knesset offering his unequivocal, stentorian support of the Jewish state. He lapped it all up, of course, in hopes, perhaps even believing, that this event and his reception might be sufficient to cause those at home to forget the Senate and other scandals. For a week at least, Harper could imagine himself a leader and take comfort in the knowledge he was widely loved – too bad it wasn’t by those at home.

The putative purpose of the trip was to promote commercial interests, which tie in neatly with Harper’s economic agenda, as well as peace and security. From the outset, however, it was clear the trip had more to do with the political fortunes of the conservative party than in improving Canada’s standing in the Middle East as honest broker. And while the trip did show Harper at his best and most shrill in his support of Israel, it was also most telling of his narrowness of vision and of the smallness and pettiness of his nature. Those who support his fixation on the economic agenda will be favourably disposed to Harper and believe the trip to have achieved some measure of success. Others will not be so generously inclined. This is a man, after all, who could not extend a gracious hand towards Canadians in the Arab community by including them in the entourage. And though this was ostensibly a trip to promote Canadian interests, the man who leads this nation is so small, so petty, so partisan, he could not bring himself to include members of the opposition parties; it was the folks who matter most to the fortunes of the conservatives, community and business cronies and friends with deep wallets who were invited as well as family members and conservative MPs and senators. It would be nice to know for how many, and for whom, taxpayers paid the tab and at what cost.

In reality, the trip to Israel was just another way for Harper to cut-and-run again from all his troubles; he had little doubt that his strong support of Israel would earn him glorious public adulation from the Jewish community; perhaps it would be enough to silence his critics or woo back those wavering supporters. It was also the perfect photo-op but not to be discussed, suggested, or even hinted at until conservative Mark Adler inadvertently blew it when, denied a chance to have his picture taken with Harper and other Jewish dignitaries at the Wailing Wall, he was recorded crassly grumbling, “It’s an election…this is a million dollar shot.” Hubris and ambition writ large. “It’s an election”…that about sums the totality of the true meaning of that sojourn for Harper and his gang. Later, Adler would say the media didn’t get the joke. Maybe not, but his voters did.

While many have justly praised Harper for his strong support of Israel, many others were puzzled and as justly disturbed by his failure to voice his own government’s concerns regarding Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian land. According to our own Department of Foreign Affairs, Development and Trade, Canada sides with the UN in condemning the settlements. Even so, while in Israel, Harper had remained largely silent on this issue. As in so many other occasions, he had missed an opportunity to demonstrate not just leadership, but near statesmanship. But he’s a midget with a rather grandiose image of himself and his achievements. Instead, he barked, hectored, and wagged a finger brushing off opportunities to openly declare Canada’s position on the illegal settlements. Though he didn’t say it, the suggestion of criticism from others bordered on anti-Semitism. Said he to a question regarding the settlements: “Any attempt to have me, while present in the Middle East, single out the state of Israel for criticism, I will not do.” Why not? How deep and sincere is the friendship that cannot withstand scrutiny and criticism especially when scrutiny and criticism are called for?

But if Harper was hoping for an end to his troubles, with his Israeli trip and the six weeks away from Parliament for the winter break, how he must have suffered, perhaps disturbed to the point of nausea, upon learning about Mark Adler’s simple and single-minded goal of seizing the moment for a photo-op. Surely Harper could have done better. Did he, even if only for a trice, ever reconsider the size of the contingent and its makeup of friends, families, supporters, and moneyed backers? Did he even, if only for a trice, have doubts of the propriety of such a large, partisan gathering? Had he thought and reflected, even if only for a trice, he might have won some over had he displayed a bit, just a bit, of generosity and inclusiveness rather than adhering to shoddy partisan showiness aimed at garnering support at home with his tough talk and apparent trade gains? Generosity from such as Harper and his crew is such a rare commodity that it might have gone a long way towards redeeming the image so many have of him as niggardly, petty, and mean-spirited. But that is not Harper’s nature.

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE ETHICALLY CHALLENGED

Perhaps Harper had a hint that not all would be as hoped for even before he departed with his crew of conservative supporters, toadies, and freeloaders with news of Shelly Glover’s latest foray into challenging ethical boundaries. This is not new territory for Glover. She is the recently minted minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages who, along with James Bezan, had refused to submit a full and accurate account of expenses for the 2011 election campaign which led, Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, to recommend to Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House, in May of 2013, that both MPs be suspended until they filed the completed forms.  Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House, in a partisan move that has, of late, the appearances of becoming routine, sat on it for two weeks allowing both MPs to file applications in the Manitoba Queen’s Bench seeking to have the decision set aside. Eventually Glover filed a report that satisfied Elections Canada. The amount of overspending disputed by Glover was $2,267. Shortly thereafter, she was promoted to her present position. Nice.

But, even more troublesome for Harper, and certainly for voters and taxpayers, is the matter of a little fundraiser in Glover’s Winnipeg riding reported by CTV News January 17th of this year. This was held at a private house party attended by Glover and supporters and members of the arts and cultural community who stood to benefit from any favourable decisions she made towards funding their various organizations. Glover’s presence made it a clear breach of conflict-of-interest rules, i.e. a breach of ethics. Glover, apparently surprised and unhappy to see the news team at the doorway, is overheard uttering a surprised, high-pitched whine, “What are they doing here?” offering by way of explanation, sounding much like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she’d only stopped by “briefly”. Outside, Glover told CTV News that the gathering was of long-time Tory friends, though the invitation obtained by CTV clearly shows the invitation was specific to members of the arts/cultural community. The next day, clearly hoping to repair any damage she may have incurred, Glover notified CTV News that she had returned the money raised during the event and had told her riding association to never do anything similar again. She also admitted that some in attendance did deal with her office and that she had, perhaps in hopes of forestalling criticism, written to the Ethics Commissioner of a possible (?) breach of ethics. Shelly Glover had been caught. While she may not agree, it is fortunate that CTV News was there that night. Even though the sum raised was paltry (estimated at $1700), the clear breach of ethics is far from trivial. People who attempt to cheat on the small cannot be, nor should be, trusted with the big things. And Glover has attempted such twice. Which is something the minister of economic development for the north, Leona Aglukkaq, might think about. Again, it was CTV News in a January 28, 2014 article reporting that she was in attendance at a fundraiser held in her honour. As CTV pointed out, those in attendance stand to gain from the decision her ministry makes. In fact, one of the attendees was “Nellie Cournoyea, the former premier of the Northwest Territories and now the chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, which received more than $200,000 in funding from Aglukkaq’s department.” She too claims she had done nothing wrong, yet, learning that that CTV News had staked out the hotel where the event was held; she sneaked in through a side entrance.

Perhaps this is the new normal, and another unsurprising low, for the conservatives in Harper’s gang. The only concern I have is how many such illegal fundraising events went unnoticed and unreported.

The truth is, the Tory list of such breaches is long and offensive. Ranging from allegations of resorting to robocalls to subvert the electoral process, to smearing opponents, to Senate scandal and fraudulent expense claims, to stonewalling Kevin Page, the previous Parliamentary Officer, regarding the costs of the F-35s, to stonewalling the present PBO, Jean-Denis Frechette, about the true costs of the savage cuts to the civil service, including the loss of 19,000 jobs, to false claims for spa treatments (that’s conservative MP Eve Adams), to allegations of accepting illegal corporate donations (conservative ex-MP Peter Penashue), to a forged government document and claim for a $16 orange juice (if you guessed ex-MP Bev Oda, buy yourself that same drink), to allegations leading to charges yet to be proven of exceeding election spending and donation limits as well as filing false claims (that’s conservative Dean del Mastro), to…well, you get the picture.

For far too many conservatives, ethics and integrity, honesty and truth, transparency and openness are foreign, perhaps even indecent, concepts. Certainly they have little interest in practicing what they demanded of others when in opposition.

But what can we say of even the best of them in the conservative group, and they are very few, about whom there has not been a whiff of suspicion of scandal or wrongdoing, a man widely and highly regarded by all sides of the House, Chuck Strahl?

His recent resignation as head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) just weeks after it was disclosed that, while still on the payroll of the federal government as head of SIRC, he had, in December of 2013, registered as a lobbyist for Enbridge with the B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. One of his duties in SIRC was to oversee CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which routinely spies on Canadians and critics of this government including those activist environmentalists whom conservative Joe Oliver labeled “radicals”. CSIS also solicits “friendly” foreign spy agencies to do so on their behalf (they return the favour by doing the same for other countries). Here was Chuck Strahl, Mr. Clean, legally collecting salaries from a Federal Government agency meant to oversee an agency, which may keep tabs on the critics of the very pipeline company he lobbies for. Smacks of conflict-of-interest to me. The law, however, allows for those holding public office to lobby governments provided they are outside of the Federal Government. It may be legal, ethically it’s dubious. It stinks. It may meet the letter of the law, but does it meet the spirit of the law of the lobbyists’ own code of conduct?

In resigning, Strahl maintained he had done nothing wrong. He’s right. Nevertheless, for some, myself included, there is more demanded than merely doing what one is “legally” permitted. There is the smell test. Strahl should have known better, he should have behaved better. In politics, perception can be everything.

As for the resignation, well, it was a little late and only after a public outcry. From Strahl, I actually expected more; I liked the man. But I should have known better.

Even so, I don’t believe he’s mean. Unlike Harper and the rest of the gang.

STEPHEN HARPER LOOKS FOR WAR – AND FINDS IT

To find out how mean, one has only to look at Chris Alexander, former parliamentary secretary and still bobblehead promoted to Citizen and Immigration. Canada has set out on the dubious path of reducing the amount of health care available to refugee claimants from so-called “safe” countries. These are nations which Harper and gang have deemed to have no record of human rights violations and, because “democratic”, to be unlikely to produce genuine refugees. This is an arbitrary and cruel decision shortsighted, wrong-headed and totally without merit. One needs only look towards Hungary and the Roma experience in which the Roma, a minority, have been routinely persecuted, beaten, and murdered. Those asylum seekers from Hungary and other countries with similar questionable track records when it comes to treating their minorities will now be fast tracked, declared bogus and deported because of the built in bias associated with the label “safe”. The numbers will not be large, but sufficient to feed the ignorance and fear of bigotry of those who oppose immigration. Instead of appealing to the best in the majority of us, Harper and his gang pander to the worse in the least of us, the fear and ignorance that allows for scapegoating and justifies the denial of health care unless their refugee claims are accepted, the denial of a fair hearing, the denial of protection merely because it has been decided no nation with whom Canada trades can possibly commit wrong against its own people: they are democratic countries, they are friends, they are us only not quite as good, just and fair as we Canadians. There cannot be refugees from “safe” countries; they must be bogus, out to bleed dry the generous good will of the Canadian people. This is what Harper means by “economic diplomacy”. This blind adherence to an economic ideology is cruel, unfair and unworkable. While refugees are waiting for the process to carry out, will we really deny treatment to those who need it?

Apparently yes. Let’s look at our veterans and how Harper treats them.

In previous posts, I have written about Harper’s systematic attacks against war veterans. In the October 9th post of last year, I wrote the following but with spelling corrected:

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 these 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?

On January 28th, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino was to meet with several veterans regarding the closures of eight Veterans Affairs Offices slated for this week (one has already closed). Aware he might be late, he cancelled the meeting sending, three MPs in his stead. Then, just before they were to hold a late evening news conference, Fantino made an appearance. By then the veterans were clearly, and rightly, offended, if not downright irritated, by Fantino’s cavalier treatment of them and let him know in no uncertain terms. Apparently insulted when one of the vets had the temerity to upbraid him with a scolding finger for his spectacularly bad performance, Fantino left the room. If he was attempting to win friends, he failed miserably. In fact, his response to their concerns was much as it was last October, and just as bluntly cold. “The decision has been made. We have found alternate accommodations that we feel will adequately address veterans and their needs” (National Post, January 28th, 2014).

Fantino further reiterated the government position the veterans could seek assistance from any of the 600 services Canada offices across the country, they could go online or phone for assistance. Most Canadians, except conservatives MPs it appears, would recognize immediately that there is a problem with all three scenarios and poses definite challenges for suffering vets, especially those afflicted with severe physical and mental disabilities including PTSD. What would the training be for those working at Service Canada? Are veterans seeking and needing immediately and urgent attention expected to wait in line with other users seeking other services at these centres? How will that work? If vets resort to the telephone, how long are they expected to wait on hold when telephoning? What is an acceptable wait time for a person who is contemplating suicide or perhaps who may pose a threat to others? Ten minutes? Thirty? Forty-five minutes? Of course, vets could always use a computer. The fact that many of them may be too old to learn the skills, may be too damaged to use one even if they had the skills, or simply have no desire to use one, preferring, perhaps, to speak to a live, breathing professional, might pose a problem. One vet, at the news conference admitted to computer illiteracy. That was just one individual. He was the same vet who also regaled his audience with a story of contacting a Service Canada centre and being told he could expect to meet with someone in about 48 hours. He then asked what he should do if he was outside with a rope around his neck. There was a lengthy silence at the other end of the line. Finally the Service Canada representative gave the answer: “Call 911.” Now there’s a solution.

And what was the response to all this by the Harper gang? The vets, they suggested, were just dupes of the Public Service Alliance of Canada trying to preserve their jobs. That’s the Harper line; it’s an old one and it smacks of brutal condescension: the vets are too old, too feeble, too troublesome, too stupid, to have the ability to act, think, and fight on their own.

But no one’s laughing except, perhaps, those brutish conservatives who know, just know, they’ll have that balanced budget with even a huge surplus by 2015, just in time for the next election with promises of big, shiny goodies and more tax cuts. When that happens, all this will be forgotten. So they hope; so they believe.

Just think of this: In the last two months, at least eight desperate veterans committed suicide. How many more will be sacrificed to Harper’s agenda?

This is Harper’s great economic strategy. Sacrificing thousands of public service jobs, cutting services across the board, scapegoating veterans, unionists, immigrants and those on welfare. He has silenced our scientists, and the Department of Fisheries has closed seven research libraries across the country to centralize and digitalize materials containing what some have called the most comprehensive collections of data on fisheries and aquatic and nautical sciences. Unfortunately, some scientists expect much of this material to end in the scrap heap. An unidentified prominent research scientist, as reported in the The Tyee, said, “All that intellectual capital is now gone. It’s like a book burning. It’s the destruction of our cultural heritage.  It just makes us poorer as a nation,” (Andrew Nikforuk, December 9th, 2013, The Tyee). This is a move that seems clearly aimed at stifling any research that might conflict with the government’s own agenda regarding economic growth and development. This is a government so intent on achieving its goals of economic growth, balanced budget and tax cuts at all costs and any costs, that it is quite willing to have all of Canada race from the world of light to the darkness of ignorance and barbarism. Anything and anyone can, and will, be sacrificed. As if Canadians, particularly the vets, haven’t sacrificed, and tolerated, enough.

ONE STEPHEN HARPER QUOTE EVERYONE SHOULD KEEP IN MIND

If you can believe Harper in anything, perhaps it might be those words with which I began this post and which bears repeating: “All too often, we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.”

Let’s take him at his word on this.

Harper is no hero. He is a small, petty, fixated individual with limited to no vision. A government without heart is just an insensate machine; it swallows people whole, grinds them to nothingness and then spits them out.

Remember the veterans next election. Remember the indignities and abuses they endured under Harper’s vicious governance.

Remember also those others who have had the rug pulled from under them by Harper and his gang. Think of those whom you may know who have fallen on hard times, who have lost their jobs and are now collecting unemployment checks and are now all looked upon as potential fraudsters. Think of all the homeless who may have died from hunger, cold, illness or from simple indifference and lack of care on our mean streets.

It is not all Harper’s fault, of course not. But he has made it worse. He has made it easier, acceptable, almost de rigueur, for conservative supporters to become just plain mean.

***

To the memory of the great Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014) – Now there was a man.

***

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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HOW STEPHEN HARPER AND ROB FORD CAME TO WRITE MY BLOG

France fell because there was corruption without indignation. – Romain Rolland

Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life. The hair-raising revelations of skulduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations. – Charles Francis Adams

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHY THIS BLOG

When I started this blog last March, I had no idea where it was going or if it was going. After ten months, I have some idea of its intent, but I have no clear notion of who is reading, if anyone. I write because I believe these things matter, perhaps not what I am saying, but what I write about. They matter to me, and they should you, not because I say so, or some personality you admire says so. For good or ill, politics and the men and women you and I put into office, shape our lives and affect what we do and how we do it; those we elect can work for us and if we are fortunate in our choices, can accomplish great things for the nation at large. The obverse is also true; they can just as easily turn against us if we are too timid in our choices, if we blindly accept all that they offer, or are simply disinterested, taking on the role of mere bystander who doesn’t even vote. Let the others do our lifting while we sleep. But, if and when we waken, it may, by then, of course, be too late.

As citizens, we have a duty to be engaged; it is not enough to vote for the candidate with the brightest smile, the most perfect hair or who makes the shiniest, if ultimately emptiest, of promises and often at the expense of others; we have had too much of that and it hasn’t worked well for us. It is up to us to make sure we are informed, that we know for what our representatives and their parties stand. Too, we must decide what it is we expect of governments and our leaders; we must chose wisely, hope that our elected bodies possess a vision, belief, and love for this nation that is broader and more humane than those of us who elect them. There are already too many elected, who are just like us: venal, sly, glib, easily bought, dishonest, hypocritical, deceitful, power hungry, vain, petty, vindictive, and simply just downright stupid. We need better people than ourselves, dreamers and doers, individuals who know it’s not enough to make promises that will never be kept, who serve no special interests save that of the nation and all its citizenry. The mere possession of the label of MP or the title of one’s ministry does not entitle any politician to my respect; what does is dignified behaviour, integrity, ethics, courage, wisdom, decency, a sense of shame, honour, passion, compassion, the ability to know right from wrong and to opt for right over wrong, openness and transparency, truthfulness and honesty, and a global view in which even the least worthy among us deserves and receives more and better than the back of the hand. With Harper and his crew, I have seen little, if any, of what I demand of my government. Voices of dissent that question and demand better of our leaders are not a threat to a civil, tolerant society but signs of a just, thriving community. Indeed, those voices should be welcomed and encouraged; that is how we grow into a civilized world.

It is not all about tax cuts, balanced budgets and jobs, almost always at the expense of public service jobs, of our healthcare, infrastructure, and support systems (the ice storm affecting the east coast and Toronto are just a hint of what’s in store when our hospitals, government resources, highways, overpasses and water all fail at once); a government that ignores the needs of the lowest, meanest, and poorest of us is a government of which to be wary for it is impoverished: scapegoating is just a step away and we already have that with Harper and his gang who appear to suspect all those on welfare and collecting EI of being potential fraudsters and all critics as enemies. Nor is a vibrant, healthy democracy all about what seems to preoccupy far too many of us these days: What’s in it for me? That view is odiously narrow, reflective of a self-absorbed vacuum, narcissism without shame or limits; it diminishes one’s life and it diminishes one’s self. Such an individual could as easily live in a darkened closet for all the concerns he has for the world out there.

We need better than what we presently have. That is not to say that there are no very capable representatives to be found in all political parties: they are not the toadies, the Party-or-Nothing hacks but, rather, are their own persons, individuals who respect their leaders, their parties, their voters, and themselves enough to stand alone if they feel they must on issues of ethics and principles but always for the greater good rather than the parochial. For the Harper regime in particular, it is almost impossible for an MP to oppose his leader without suffering severely for doing so. It is no more a sign of weakness to listen to the minority than it is a sign of strength to ignore the voices of the majority. Wisdom is always called for; it may occasionally lead to justice as long as partisanship is left at the door.

Still, all the above doesn’t explain why I began this exercise. Nor the fact that when I first took notice of Harper when he became leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, I sensed in him a man who was petty, vindictive, evasive and anti-democratic. I wish it were not so, but I believe history has borne this out. But even that wasn’t enough to convince me to take up the hazards of posting a blog.

No, what convinced me to join the world of white noise, so to speak, was not the incredible mismanagement of Harper’s governance, but the evidence that, in spite of corporate favouritism, of acting as shills for oil companies, of corruption, all the scapegoating, all the devious omnibus bills in which legislation is sneaked into law without public consultation and consent (he does have the majority and does not hesitate to use it as a hammer), he still manages to garner a high approval rating from his core base of supporters. It is an astounding feat, perhaps not as astounding and incomprehensible as that by Rob Ford, but astounding nevertheless for its durability.

Here are individuals who have made a mockery of democracy. Harper who ignored the wishes of the majority of Canadians with the destruction of the Long Gun Registry, who was cited for contempt of parliament and blissfully solidified that contempt at almost every turn as his Conservatives paid fines for their role in the robocalls scandals and with their attempts to subvert the electoral process by misdirecting voters to non-existence polls. And there is Ford, that clueless, happy-go-lucky, crack smoking, serial liar and daily apologizer, a proud associate of criminals, an ignoramus and buffoon, and laughing stock to the world who, somehow, manages to hold the support of an astounding forty per cent of Toronto voters. How is that possible? Are people insane, stupid, asleep, indifferent, dense, thick, uncaring, moronic? Do ethics and integrity and sense of shame account for nothing?

The answer appears to be a resounding: Yes.

I have repeatedly said we need better than we have. Not just better politicians, but better voters.

Where is the shame? We have seen clips of ecstatic people posing beside Ford as if he was a rock star and they had won the lottery. We have heard them vow to vote for him come next election, claiming, “He’s just like us” and “He tells it as it is.” The first may well be true, he is like them and that’s not good, but the last is darkly laughable: he lies, is proven a liar, apologizes, and repeats the cycle of lying, being proven a liar and apologizing. Are those “fans” (can they really be “voters”) blind, deaf and dumb? Is this their hero, this vulgarian, this mountain of flesh, ignorance and hubris? Evidently. Little wonder some of us are revolted and filled with a little more than fear. These are the barbarians leading the charge and they threaten to bring us all done. None of this is cute or harmless or acceptable. Those who insist that Ford’s crack use, public drunkenness, his urinating in a public park, and his criminal friends are private matters having nothing to do with his public life must live in another world: Ford’s crude escapades exposes the man in all his inanity, shallowness and unfitness for office; his public and private personae are one and the same. One only had to watch the thuggish behaviour of Rob Ford and his brother in the municipal chamber as council voted to strip him of some of his powers to know that something is clearly wrong. This is not mere arrogance, indifference or stupidity on the part of Rob Ford; it is pure intimidation in the form of thuggery. If Ford is unrepentant and indifferent, it is because he knows the public is indifferent to all his crassness, hectoring, and insanity. It’s all about them: What’s in it for me? He is as impervious to shame as his voters. To adopt these loudmouth cruds as one of their own is no charming feat to crow about. And yet, they could be on to something; to put it crudely, Ford and his supporters are apparently constructed of only two moving parts, mouths and assholes and both interchangeable. There appears to be no brain.

I know that is offensive and very harsh. But I have had enough of politicians like the Ford brothers who almost make Harper and his gang look good. Almost. But all of them are shamelessly and heedlessly reckless with the reputation of their offices and with the trust they have squandered and abused. They are deaf and unseeing except to their own greed, ambitions and desires, too concerned with obtaining power and clinging to it, too preoccupied with satisfying the demands of their friends and their own hidden agendas; if they ever did, they no longer work for the interests of all members of society but choose, rather, to pander to those core supporters and special interests, those who can buy and be bought for very little. They are aware that those wavering on the fringes can always be lured with flashy gewgaws and promises of tax cuts. Each, in his own way, Harper and the Fords, has the same toxic, debilitating effect on our democracy. Eventually, those who once truly believed in the integrity of the electoral process simply tune out, exhausted and beyond caring surrendering to the fate they believe inevitable. That has to end. Perhaps that is why I continue to write; I haven’t reached yet that point.

ONE MAN’S POISON

While I do appreciate support, if silence can be construed as such, I have not embarked on this business to win the approval of readers who happen to agree with what I say. I write in hopes of reaching those folks who continue to support Harper and the Fords who offer governance of only the most loathsome kind, appealing only to the narrowest of interests almost guaranteed to appease and please their core base of supporters: tax cuts, guns, abortion, crime. It is these folks who help win them elections, the facts be damned.

Yet, while I believe I do not write to win approval, I feel I must address the concerns of one reader who clearly does not much care for what I have to say or how I say it. His name is Evan Treit.

Last October 9th, 2013, I posted an article, entitled, STEPHN HARPER: WOLF AMONG SHEEP. In response, Mr. Treit posted his own comments on October 12th (evantreit.blogspot.ca/), a momentous event of which I was completely unaware until I came across his observations on December 9th, which, while fair comment, puzzled me. He appeared surprised that my blog took a particular stance. He wrote: “An additional cue that points to the political stance of the blog is found in the titles above the paragraphs” and he cites the titles from the post (you can look them up in the archives). I don’t know why cues were needed though they are there in abundance throughout my blog. I hide nothing of my viewpoint regarding Harper and his gang. My postings are devoted to Canadian political commentary, not for the purported objectivity of journalism. There can be no mistaking how I regard Harper and his crew. In fact, I began my first posting, March 28, 2013, with these words: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to democracy.” No individual could reasonably mistake my sentiments. Since I wrote those words, nothing has changed to cause me to regret writing them. I make no claim for objectivity; that said, I have sought to be as accurate and truthful as possible; there is no reason to make up stuff; the reality is bad enough. As for saying something positive about Harper and his gang, well, I will leave that to Mr. Treit and others. This is not a fan club.

Evan Treit also appeared affronted by my usage of the descriptive “bullshit” and by my labelling of some Conservative MPs as “bobbleheads”. Yes, again, that may appear severe, but my intent is to convey in the clearest way possible my disapproval of a government that is secretive, hostile to criticism, that is, itself, crude in its methods of smearing opponents and critics. There is no finesse in how Harper and his thugs govern; they threaten and bully and dismiss all voices that speak out in opposition. “Bullshit” is a mild epithet to describe much of what they do. I can think of many more offensive words. As for calling certain Conservative MPs bobbleheads, what can I say? Anyone watching the various political panels on the news channels will see exactly what I see: government parliamentary secretaries responding to questions on script. Regardless of what question is posed, or the context, the government talking heads, appearing to be barely sentient recorders, will offer, almost word-for-word, the message of the day. The responses to legitimate questions are almost always evasive, off-topic, and ludicrous in the context; they are almost always partisan with cheap shots against the opposition having no connection to the questions posed. If the question were about cheese, they will find a way to point fingers at the opposition parties. The representatives are of a kind: barely animated, heads bobbing or shaking, and, as in the instance of Candice Bergen, eyes seldom blinking. When one political hack is replaced, one barely notices; the faces and genders are different but the behaviour and message is the same. What would you call them if not bobbleheads? Perhaps talking dolls. How about Zombies? I would be curious to learn if Mr. Treit was as offended when, in overseeing the elimination of 19,000 public service jobs, Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, referred to them as “deadwood”. This is the same Tony Clement whose department as mislaid $3.1 billion under his watch and this is the same man who had created a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 conference. Now I find that offensive.

Mr. Treit does not like that I label Harper and his gang bullies, suggesting that I am somewhat of a bully myself. Actually, I can see his point in that regard. If being blunt, sometimes crude, if finger wagging and admitting my dislike for Harper’s conservatives makes me a bully, I must plead guilty. But I have not targeted those collecting EI as potential fraudsters. I haven’t waged war on veterans with disabilities, or clawed back their disability pensions. I haven’t labelled environmentalists “radical” foreign stooges, nor have I smeared Pat Stogran, former veterans ombudsman, and Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission simply because they did what they were supposed to do, which was their jobs. Nor did I attack the reputation of the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. I haven’t lied about the true costs of the F-35 fighter jets or been cited for contempt of Parliament. I haven’t been responsible for rewarding Shelly Glover with a promotion after she, and another MP, refused to give a full accounting of their campaign expense claims until she learned of the promotion. Nor was I the PM who suggested Nigel Wright did the “honourable thing” in paying off Duffy’s illegal expense claims (Pierre Poilievre, one of those bobbleheads, went so far as to state Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing” in paying off the Senate debt).

Mr. Treit further states I offer an inaccurate representation of Harper and the Conservative government. One needs only read what I say and what the objective facts are, to judge for themselves; they are there for anyone to find. Treit found the information provided poor, the words offensive, and the views one-sided. He wrote, “Another reason that I found the information was unreliable was the use of a profane word ‘bullshit…’” That is absurdly laughable. I plead guilty to the offensive words and the one-sided viewpoint, perhaps to even being a bad writer; that does not make for deliberate falseness, unreliability, or inaccuracy as suggested. I would not be surprised if there are mistakes; for that I am truly sorry especially to the parties affected. I have sought to be accurate and hope I have succeeded.

Contrary to Treit’s assertion, I don’t make assumptions that Harper condones doing things that are wrong…his behaviour does that. Still, if off the mark, what Mr. Treit offers is fair comment: he disagrees with what I have written and he says why. Fair enough. He states, “When reading the blog you almost mistake it for a hate letter towards the Harper government.” Clearly we have a different approach to things. I prefer to think of it as an accounting. I despise hypocrisy, dishonesty, pettiness, and meanness: these have been the hallmark of Harper’s governance. Over the years, Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated that no trick is too dirty or too vile to not be employed. Harper doesn’t wear velvet gloves. Neither will I. Harsh criticism seems a fair trade-off to scapegoating and bullying.

While I appreciate Mr. Treit’s comments and thank him for them, I will continue to do as I do. Meanwhile, in the event he missed it the first time, the following may give him a hint as to why Harper and his gang will never make my list of people I respect.

THE OLD: STEPHEN HARPER’S DIRY LAUNDRY LIST REDUX (JUNE 18TH)

1. Harper appointee to the senate, Patrick Brazeau who was order to repay $48 thousand for making false housing claims.

2. Harper appointee to the senate, Pamela Wallin investigated for questionable travel claims. She has repaid over $38 thousand and issued an apology. The investigation is ongoing and expected to be completed and released during the summer break.

3. Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, investigated for making illegal housing claims. He promised to pay back money and evidently presented a cheque for $90 thousand. The world was led to believe the cheque came from Duffy’s funds or from a loan obtained from a bank. It didn’t.

4. The Deloitte report on Duffy is released but Conservative senators David Tkachuk, then chair of the internal economy committee, and Carolyn Stewart Olsen have scrubbed it of its harshest criticisms of Duffy.

5. With Duffy’s promise, Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, declared the Duffy file closed leaving the impression that senators investigated for defrauding taxpayers only have to repay the funds and suffer no other consequences.

6. Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright resigns when it was learned that it was he who repaid Mike Duffy’s debt for the false claims. Later it came out that Conservatives had a secret fund of close to a million. Harper refuses to answer questions about what he knew of Wright/Duffy matter. There is denial that secret Conservative fund was used to pay off Duffy’s debt. When asked, PMO denies having a record of cheque or of the deal made between Duffy and Wright.

7. Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan investigated for campaign expense claims and for not filing a complete campaign report. The Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, recommends in two letters to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, that both be suspended from the House until they file the reports. Andrew Scheer appears to have abused the non-partisan position to sit on the letters allowing Glover and Bezan time to appeal to the court.

8. Conservative Eve Adams is also under investigation for irregularities in expense claims for spa treatments and grooming supplies and failing to file complete the campaign report. She attempted to claim for cupcakes and restaurant tabs even after campaign closed.

9. Conservative Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board which has misplaced $3.1 billion of taxpayer money, announces plans to go after public servants in an effort to clean house and save money.

10. Conservative smear campaign against Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, for fighting against Harper’s claw back of disability pensions of veterans.

11. Conservatives smear and fire Linda Keen, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president, for ordering the Chalk River nuclear reactor shut down for safety reasons and then defying the government order to reopen it before it was safe to do so. With Keen out of the way, the government overturned the commission decision and reopened the facility.

12. Conservatives smeared and threatened with jail time ex-diplomat Richard Colvin if he filed documents of Afghani prisoner abuse before a special investigative committee.

13. Conservatives smeared, kicked out of caucus one of their own; called in RCMP to investigate Helena Guergis for abuses in office.

14. Conservative Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, diverts search and rescue helicopter as personal limousine while at a fishing lodge.

15. Peter MacKay authorizes the use of a military jet for General Walther Natynczyk to meet his family vacationing in the Caribbean. Once news breaks, the general agrees to repay what he should not have accepted in the first place.

16. Conservative Tony Clement, at time of G8 and G20 conferences, creates $50 million slush fund for Huntsville that includes boondoggle of $1 million fake lake and $250 thousand gazebo.

17. Conservatives spend close to one billion for security for the G8 and G20 conferences. Over a thousand arrested, less than two dozen charged, and only a handful found guilty.

18. Conservative Jason Kenney, who with pious glee leaked letter of Trudeau’s speaking fee (see above), uses government letterheads to fundraise for Conservatives.

19. Conservative Bev Oda or a staff member forges signed government document that approved funding for a charity Kairos by inserting the word “not” to deny the funding because the Conservatives disagreed of its views on Israel. When questioned on this, the Conservative response from Jason Kenney was this, “The CBC lies all the time. What media are you with?” (Globe and Mail, 2011, 2012).

20. Bev Oda pads expenses twice and is twice forced to repay. She charges for $16 orange juice, which results in much hooing and booing. Resigns because of public outcry.

21. Disgraced integrity czar, Harper appointee Christiane Quimet given $500,000 severance pay after signing agreement not to reveal details of package. She was investigated for failing to perform her mandate when, of 228 allegations of public service wrongdoing reprisals against whistleblowers, she only looked into seven and found zero problems. She was also accused of haranguing her staff.

22. Peter Penashue forced to resign for 2011 campaign irregularities. Harper calls him the best ever MP from Labrador. Voters didn’t think so in the subsequent by-election.

23. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay lie about the true costs of F-35s during last election campaign and begin war against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer who suggests $9 billion figure they offer is much, much lower than the estimated real costs of about $45 billion.

24. Vic Toews accuses critics of his online spying bill “of siding with pedophiles.”

25. Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, ridicules environmentalists and slams them as radicals and of being stooges of foreign environmental groups.

26. Joe Oliver, again, in a move typical of Conservatives attacks world-renowned scientist, James Hansen, for his critical stand opposing the Keystone XL pipeline questioning his reputation.

27. Harper announces he will spend $30 million dollars to go after tax evaders who owe $29 billion while he spends $100 million propagandizing for the Conservatives with taxpayer monies. More for propaganda than for chasing the tax cheats whom, if pursued, caught and made to pay, could pay off the national debt.

28. Conservative Party under investigation for robocalls and voter suppression.

29. Conservative Dean Del Mastro goes underground for 18 months while being investigated for campaign overspending and attempts to cover it up. He was the vicious Conservative attack dog and defender of the party during the robocall scandals who, while under the protection of the House had little problem in smearing his opponents with innuendo. He has re-emerged recently and, in the House, crocodile tears for himself while, it is alleged, tarring another person while under the protection of the House.

30. Harper cited for contempt of Parliament 2011.

31. Harper prorogues Parliament 2009 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

32. Harper prorogues Parliament 2006 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

33. – ?

Unfortunately, since then, there have been a few more added to the list.

THE MORE SINCE JUNE 18TH

33 – Neither the federal or provincial Conservatives, disavow their friend Toronto mayor, liar, crack user, associate of felons, world class buffoon and serious threat to municipal democracy, Rob Ford, for fear of offending the so-called Ford Nation who helped the Harper gang get their majority. Federal minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, close to tears, even comes to Ford’s defence, nearly coming to blows with fellow conservative, Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development), who clearly had enough of Ford and had the cheek to suggest he resign.

34 – Dean del Mastro (see #29) quits Tory caucus September 2013, facing four charges for Elections Act violations. His former official agent, Richard McCarthy, was also charged. Tears for himself in the House probably real.

35 – James Moore (Industry Minister), as quoted by John Blanchard, Canada.com, December 16, 2013, said the following, “We’ve never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier. Certainly, we want to make sure that kids go to schools full-bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” Callous, do you think? His comments are likely accurate reflections of Harper’s conservatives and supporters. It may well be true we are wealthier as a nation, but even truer for those at the top whom the conservatives clearly favour. The question then is this: Why do so many feel impoverished, abandoned, live in poverty, die on the streets? When the media picked up his comments, Moore claimed they were taken out of context. Yeah, right.

36 – Harper seeks to avoid answering questions about what he knew of the Wright/Duffy deal and the Senate scandal in general. He extended the summer break hoping the issue would die down. It didn’t help.

37 – The RCMP releases emails from PMO in November of 2013 revealing that more knew about the deal than Harper had acknowledged leaping from two (Duffy and Wright) to over a dozen. While Corporal Greg Horton states there is no evidence of Harper’s involvement, lingering doubts remain because of one email sent by Nigel Wright to Benjamin Perrin, one time Special Advisor and Legal Counsel to the PM, in which is stated regarding the Duffy/Wright deal, “We are good to go from the PM…” (item #36 (u) from documents released by Corporal Greg Horton).

38 – The day before parliament takes its Christmas break, Canada Post announces plans to stop all house-to-house mail delivery within the next five years. Harper gang cuts-and-runs for the umpteenth time without taking questions.

39 – Hill staffers are forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement binding for life. Failure to adhere to the agreement will lead to immediate termination and loss of severance pay. What happened to Harper’s loud promise to protect whistle-blowers and to preside over open, transparent governance?

40 – When liberal Sen. Céline Hervieux-Payette attempted to have Sen. Irving Gerstein removed as Chairman of the Senate’s banking committee, Gerstein ruled the motion was out of order. Nice. This is the man alleged to have interfered in the Mike Duffy audit and apparently was willing to pony up $32 thousand to cover Duffy’s debt but balked at $90 thousand; in other words, Nigel Wright gets pilloried for doing the wrong thing at $90 thousand but not bagman Gerstein who was allegedly willing to commit a breach of ethics when the price was only $32,000. This is the same Gerstein who refused to call Michael Runia, a senior partner in Deloitte and the Conservative Party auditor, to appear before the Senate investigation committee looking into the Duffy/Wright affair. This is the same Gerstein who, at the party convention, publicly boasted of being the Tory bagman.

41 – Conservative Rob Anders, in trouble more than once for overt displays of ignorance, of which he has abundance, was at it again. He’s not only the man who was filmed snoozing in the House, he’s the same individual who opposed Nelson Mandela’s honorary Canadian citizenship in 2001 calling him a terrorist and, at the death of the great leader and opponent of apartheid, could not even work up the decency to display a little generosity, still calling Mandela a terrorist. One wonders what he would have said of the abolitionists to slavery or the Civil Rights movement.

42 – In early November, the government announced the planned closure of nine veterans’ affairs offices across the country. In the last week of November, and the first week of December, Canadians learned of the tragic suicide of four soldiers. It should not have happened. While there is no direct evidence linking the deaths to the closures, one cannot help but wonder how the veterans reacted to this latest attack by Harper’s gang. First it was clawing back disability pensions. Then it was firing veterans before retirement to prevent them from collecting disability payments. Now this. In response to protests, the government suggested the vets suffering from PTSD could always call Service Canada.

43 – During the 2010 G8, G20 conferences held in Toronto, Canada not only knew, but allowed, America’s NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on world leaders. If Harper and his gang allow this, what do you think they’ll do to their “enemies”, i.e., anyone critical of this motley crew? Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson and the head of CSEC (the Communications Security Establishment Canada) do not deny the spying takes place but attempted to weasel out this mess (perhaps with tongue in cheek) by saying this government does spy on Canadians on Canadian soil because they are not legally allowed to do so. And MPs and Senators are not legally entitled to make false expense claims either. That Harper would surrender Canadian sovereignty to foreigners, even if friends, is indicative of his respect for Canada, Canadians and Democracy; that’s the behaviour of tin pot tyrants. Canadians should be worried.

44 – Ottawa Citizen reports that CSE (Communications Security Establishment Canada) “‘incidentally spies’ on Canadians, but wants to reassure the public it protects the privacy of that information (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 7, 2014).

45- Harper regime announces plans to make “economic diplomacy” a top priority. They have already allowing CSEC to spy on foreign companies on behalf of Canadian businesses. That means, of course, human rights will take a backseat. This is not the first time that Harper’s gang have shown a willingness to work with anyone or any country regardless of how vile, when it comes to economic interests. Christian Paradis, this monument to mediocrity, had not too long ago announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain an abortion. As I stated in a previous post, “That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages” (October 9th, 2013).

46 – Last year, word was released that the Canada Revenue Agency was set to lay off 3000 auditors. The agency head at the time denied it. Now it has been confirmed that the government plans to get rid of 3100 auditors. Who benefits from these cuts when it is estimated that tax cheats are defrauding Canadians of anywhere from $9 to $20 billion a year? Well we know CRA workers certainly don’t. That means scofflaws, cheats, and thieves, will be allowed to continue to steal from Canadians. Many corporate friends of the Harper conservatives hold those offshore accounts. But, not to worry. Harper’s got our backs. The minister of national revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay has vowed to increase staff to go after government-funded charities. In other words, Harper and gang will go after charities that adopt a stand with which they don’t agree. This is not new or surprising. When Bev Oda was in office as International Co-Operation Minister, she or one of her staff members, allegedly forged a government document in which a listed charity, KAIROS, a faith-based organization previously designated to receive federal funds, was suddenly denied those funds with the insertion of “Not” in the recommendation by her own department that the organization be funded. Oda was reprimanded for misleading the house. KAIROS had the temerity to speak out against Harper’s stand against the Palestinians. These are not charities like the United Way or Heart and Stroke, and certainly not the right wing think tanks like the Fraser and CD Howe and Fraser Institutes, but those that offer perspectives on social, economic and environmental issues from a perspective critical of the Harper thug regime. This is another clear demonstration of the petty, vindictive nature of Harper and his gang. While their tax cheating friends steal billions from Canadians, the Harper thugs will go after the small fry, those unfortunate enough to make the “enemies” list.

47 – Even more appalling, as reported by the CBC in November 2013, the present chief of the Royal Canadian Mint, Jim Love and one time advisor to the federal Finance Department, a conservative appointee and close friend of Jim Flaherty (and large contributor to two campaigns) apparently helped run an offshore tax avoidance scheme in his capacity as a lawyer.

48 – Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, Harper appointee as head of the Security Intelligence Review, which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, registers as a lobbyist for pipeline with B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. Even if legally permitted, the optics of working for a private energy company, while on the government payroll, should concern every Canadian.

49 – The Harper gang revealed that there would be a sizable surplus by the time the next election in 2015. On the surface, that is good news. Unfortunately, this is a familiar shell game: governments inflate the deficit figures, cut public service jobs and services, suddenly discover, just in time for an election, that they have not only balanced the budget but also accrued a huge surplus proving, to no one’s surprise, that the conservatives, once again are the best money managers since the creation of God.

If none of this doesn’t wake you up, doesn’t enrage you, then nothing will.

I write about these things not just to be read by people who agree with me, but to leave people thinking about governance, politicians and their role in making it work for the best of all. Don’t blame me, blame Stephen Harper. As the comic Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it.” It is not just the poor who are impoverished, but also the leadership of this nation; when there is no vision, no wisdom, no humanity, there is no government, just a big stick. This is my humble response to it.

Complacency is a deadly disease. It’s time to wake up, look around and take part. There is more to us than just our narrow world. It is not a badge of honour to proudly declare, “I have never voted.” Nor is it okay to use the excuse, “I’m only one vote. My vote doesn’t count.” One vote can make a majority. That doesn’t mean the majority is always wise or good or right; but it does mean you had a chance to make a statement.

People have died for that privilege.

***

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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