There is a destiny that makes us brothers, none goes his way alone. /All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own. – Edwin Markham
The Conservatives want to lay off civil servants when it’s the uncivil servants we should get rid of. – Irene Peter
Frank A. Pelaschuk
When a group of political scoundrels in power run out of ideas, if they ever had any in the first place, they inevitably resort to playing the cards they know best and rely on most: they pander to the worst in us, to our bigotry, fears, and greed measuring us all against their own standards of conduct which, all too often, are low, venal, amoral and completely without honour. Stephen Harper and his gang are such a group. And while they may appear to be off the mark in their assessment of Canadians and those who vote, they are not that far off: the Conservatives won their present majority with the support of 40% of those voting.
That there are still those willing to vote for them, that the core base of thirty to forty percent appears untouchable and unteachable is, while baffling, a clear indication that the Conservatives really do know their supporters.
WHY DO YOU VOTE AS YOU DO?
But what is it that moves that base? What persuades them, time and again, to vote for a group as vile as this? It certainly cannot be intelligence; how could any thinking person possibly swallow the Conservative myth of them as masterful economic wizards? Maybe it’s Harper’s skill as a great, STRONG PROUD FREE leader that earns him his votes. But that, too, is a myth, the slogan more an Americanism than any Canadian reality. We have seen too much of his posturing, tie off, shirt opened at the neck, swaggering across the stage before a pliant gaggle of supporters and talking big and evoking images of ISIS coming for us while wagging his finger at the rest of the world for not doing enough. We have Harper and Jason Kenney in Iraq for a photo-op, Harper, statesmanlike apparently at the front peering through binoculars, the great leader overseeing his men and women, and we have both on a ship harassed by a Russian ship and jet during their visit to the Ukraine. But that, too, is mythmaking, both Harper and Kenney attempting to inflate themselves as worthy, heroic figures by inflating the dangers (which were non-existent according to the military; such harassment is apparently routine and engaged by all nations; a thumping of chests and load roars). I find it impossible to imagine Harper as mighty warrior; all I have is an image of him cowering in a broom closet on Parliament Hill on a murderous October day last year.
But are strutting and bombast enough to justify voting for him? While I have no doubt of the courage of those men and women who serve us, how proud and how assured can they be of their own futures when they see how this government has mistreated veterans, especially our disabled veterans, with clawbacks of disability pensions, with closures of nine veterans offices across the country, with unspent (“lapsed” in Harperese) $1.1 billion designated for veterans but returned to the public treasury, and with its shabby treatment of surviving family members? How confident can our men and women really be in a government that talks big (STRONG PROUD FREE) yet stints on equipment forcing them to work with gear that is old and inadequate and more handicap than benefit for modern warfare? Now we know Harper is always talking about cutting taxes and saving money and by God it appears to work, he gets those votes, but, do voters really want to save money off the backs of our military personnel and veterans? We have a navy with three of four second-hand submarines finally operational after twenty years of breakdowns and failures. We have a navy with over half of the ships in for repairs or upgrades and an announcement by Kenney of a plan to retrofit a commercial ship to serve temporarily as a naval supply ship because the one on order has been delayed, once again, with a cost of $55 million ballooning to $78 million. We have an air force with creaky jets about to be retired and supply planes so old that spare parts can only be bought on eBay. It’s true the Conservatives have ordered two more C-17 military transport planes and have had delivered two helicopters but all at twice the cost other nations paid. Worse, the two helicopters, according to experts, are underpowered for the duties they are expected to perform rendering them all but useless (does any of this cause you to pause and question the Conservative myth of sound fiscal Conservative management?). STRONG PROUD FREE. It’s sloganeering and empty rhetoric and does not reflect well on Canada; Harper is the emperor without clothes reproving the world for not doing enough while our own contributions in the way of money and materiel remain woefully inadequate at best with one aerial refuelling plane, two surveillance planes, six war planes, sixty-nine military trainers in Iraq and six hundred personnel in Kuwait. It’s even more offensive when the Minister of Defence, Jason Kenney, lies, as he is prone to do, when he justifies Canada’s extension of the war by claiming, as he has done, that Canada and the USA are the only nations with precision bombing capability.
Such leadership, coupled with the despoliation of the military as well as of other government agencies, cuts to jobs and services, the beggaring of Peter to pay Paul to achieve a perception of capability and fiscal soundness, of strength and success, of balance and fairness is hardly indicative of responsible, efficient and/or wise governance.
It’s is not our underfunded and poorly equipped men and women, nor their courage and loyalty that must be doubted but the leadership of their government which places them in harm’s way often to score cheap political points and to win elections while it lies about its intent, exaggerates its contributions, lectures its allies and attacks its own citizens with Bill C-51, the Conservative’s own act of terrorism, which threatens to create a police like state with its lack of oversight. Now the Conservatives deny this pointing out that SIRC (Security Intelligence Review Committee) will provide all the necessary oversight. That’s rich coming from a government as secretive and slyly deceitful as this one with it’s relentless efforts to escape scrutiny by slipping legislation into omnibus bills having nothing to do with the main thrust of the bill itself. Besides being short-staffed and underfunded, the powers to oversee CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Services) have been severely limited by C-51; CSIS members will be allowed to break laws and violate charter rights and to do so with impunity thanks to “disruption warrants” set in place by C-51 which allows CSIS to take illegal actions to ‘”disrupt” a threat if they can get a judicial warrant to do so” (iPolitics, Amanda Connolly, Jan. 30, 2015).
WHAT IS A PROMISE IN THE MOUTH OF CONSERVATIVES? MOSTLY EMPTY WORDS BUT, WHEN HONOURED, A REWARD TO FRIENDS AND REVENGE AGAINST ENEMIES
When he first campaigned for his run as Prime Minister, Harper had promised a clean, honest, open and transparent government. But those were just promises. Immediately upon election, he quickly and brutally rejected them; evidently such goals are unworkable especially for such as those not prone to respecting or living by such. But, still, the question must be: Given that he broke these promises, how was it possible that he and his gang could be elected again and again by the same folk who demanded open and honest governance in the first place?
Well, for some folks, a clean, honest, open and transparent government is of less interest than a government that can promise and deliver on shiny promises: harsher punishment for the bad guys (unless you are Conservative), less taxes and more for the good guys. What does it matter to these thoughtless, clueless, narcissistic jerks that healthcare suffers, roads crumble and overpasses crush cruising vehicles passing below. All that matters is the personal gain – today; a tax cut here, another there. For such as these, tomorrow is another day and far off and votes are easily sold and cheaply purchased. The promise of a shiny bauble is enough to turn off the brain and quash any moral qualms. Harper understands the hand out and greasy greedy palm. He counts on that. He really believes we are that stupid and that greedy. He and his gang are, in many ways, merely a reflection of those who support them; unlike them, he and the gang recognize this and exploit it. Alas, he’s right – of some of us. We are dolts and we are greedy. He has given us opportunity to prove it time and time again and we do so willingly.
So when Conservative MPs appeared in droves July 20 alerting the public that that was the day everyone with children would be receiving Christmas in July in the way of fat, lump sum retroactive cheques of $420 per child, no one could honestly claim to be surprised. Lest there was any doubt to whom the families should be grateful, there was Pierre Poilievre, the most odious and partisan member of the Harper cabinet, leading the pack, not only pushing the Universal Childcare Benefit increases in TV ads but also at some public mall before the media wearing a Conservative golf shirt breaching good taste while shamelessly offering a public endorsement of the Conservative Party’s efforts to win another election by outright bribery.
In the old days, it used to be beer that did the trick.
Unfortunately, what oily Poilievre and the other Conservative lowlifes neglect to mention is that this largesse is not quite as it seems. For one thing, the Christmas gifts of July are taxable. Too, the Conservatives are just giving back to those families what was theirs (as well as ours) in the first place. Too, they ignore, and hope we are too thoughtless to notice, that while the sudden riches will surely help some in desperate need, the poor will still not do as well as wealthy two income families who will earn an additional $2000 a year for no other reason than that they already have more. Of the money earned from income splitting, 15 % of those will be high-income beneficiaries: they will take 49% of that money while 85% of the population will receive the remaining 51%. But, if you are a single parent holding down two or three jobs, if you are a one-income family, if you are poor and homeless, young and helpless or old and helpless, none of the benefits will flow to you.
Well, who cares? Certainly not Harper and thugs, certainly not the greedy and mean who really believe the poor deserve to be poor and they, those who already have, really deserve to get even more. While the hungry homeless poor and ill, while the hard working single parent worry about feeding themselves and their loved ones, the greedy worry that they didn’t get enough in tax breaks, in bonuses for having children, and simply for being better than the riffraff for whom they scarce give a thought except as folk to be feared when encountered on the street. Perhaps a coin thrown at them as they scurry away is enough to assuage the conscience if not erase the fear.
We will always have liars, knaves and thieves; but there is something wrong with us that we not only elect them, but we elect them again and again and often for the same promises made time and again and broken time and again. Remember Harper’s promises to clean up, to be honest, open, transparent, to put an end to corruption and patronage? On June 18 and 19 of this year, Stephen Harper made 98 appointments to various government departments including 40 judicial appointments. He has done this before with 59 Senate seats going to Conservatives (Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Patrick Brazeau most notable among them) and before that 111 pals since 2006 given jobs in various government departments. All were Conservative loyalists including two failed candidates. With this latest round, patronage appointees got key jobs with the immigration and refugee board, the CBC (probably with the goal of seeing to it’s demise), the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the National Capital Commission. The five appointees to the NCC are particularly disturbing because they were put in place just in time to vote on the status of the anti-communist monument in Ottawa which many Canadians oppose because of its proposed location which is donated government land originally set aside to house additional judicial buildings. The government strongly supports the monument and it’s ideological message making the claim that the cost is only $5 million (and, for $1,000, the chance to add your name as a donor) much of it in private donations. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s a lie, in fact. The government contributed $2 million and, of course, donated land worth $30 million! While I have nothing against some kind of memorial (located elsewhere) to all victims of all “-isms”, I do oppose this monument because it appears to exclude victims of other tyrannical and economic systems with the implicit suggestion that some forms of totalitarianism and murder are more acceptable than others. It is likely the victims of such did not and do not fully appreciate the finer distinctions of such a view as they are led to slaughter. Yet, for Harper and gang, their support of the monument seems crucial. I suspect it has less to do with victims of communism than with the support of the ideology of free enterprise and currying the vote of Canadians of Ukrainian and Polish extraction. The real issue is this: In spite of his loud denunciation of patronage appointments while he was leader of the opposition, Harper has made cronyism as much a part of Conservative values as attempting to subvert the electoral process.
A CONSERVATIVE IS A HYPOCRITE OFFERING CURE-ALLS WITH SNAKE OIL
But if Harper can’t do enough for his friends, and if Poilievre can’t do enough to help his Conservative Party’s fortunes by rejigging the Elections Act to disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult for the Chief Electoral Officer to investigate election fraud, and if adding 30 gerrymandered ridings aren’t enough to win the next election, there are still a few things they can do to improve their fortunes at the polls.
They can deliver a surplus. And they have, so they told us, but, oops, looks as if they miscalculated according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). Harper and the finance minister, the dithering Joe Oliver who, as environment minister labelled all environmentalists “radicals”, were proud to announce that their government had achieved a modest surplus. This happy news allowed them the opportunity to announce even “better” news. The long promised income splitting initiative would be introduced (albeit in a more modest form) allowing families with two incomes to claim an additional $2000 in tax breaks. Very good news for the wealthy but not so good for the struggling single low-income family. Too bad, how sad. But the rich, at least are richer for it. But there was even more great news; parents would see increases to universal childcare benefits, which would take effect January 1, 2015, but held in trust until July 20, 2015, so that everyone would receive a nice fat cheque just months before the election. On that day, the treasury became poorer by $3 billion dollars and millions richer by hundreds with a return of their own money, which will then, damn! be taxable again. Oh, it was good, good, FANTASTIC news for all the mothers and fathers but again not so good for the poor, the homeless, the lost and ill. Too bad, how sad. But it was good, good, FANTASTIC NEWS, until that PBO went and spoiled it all saying that there would be no surplus, that, in fact, there would be a deficit of $1 billion. Not good news for Conservatives, the greatest financial wizards since the dawn of mankind. Wizards of spin and lies anyway. They still claim there is nothing to worry about; the surplus will be there. Well, it’s clear enough: they all believe their own myth.
PROVE YOU’RE STUPID, VOTE CONSERVATIVE – AGAIN
Even with the bad news, they still might win the next election. Harper and gang have another card to play. There is the terror card. Now we all know about ISIS, we’ve all seen or heard about those brutal mass murders and beheadings of foreign journalists and workers and civilians. And everyone knows about those two disturbed individuals last October who, in separate incidents, struck out and killed military personnel. The first to die was Warrant Office Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Quebec parking lot and the second, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo shot dead on parliament hill. While these were acts of murderous lone wolves, these were not acts of terrorism linked to ISIS even though many, particularly the Conservatives, have attempted to make the link. But the dead soldiers and Canada’s entry into the war against ISIS was enough for Harper and gang to exploit. Murdered soldiers always help in fomenting fear by raising the spectre of bloodthirsty savages pounding on the doors. The deaths were all the justification Harper and gang needed to enact Bill C-51 and win the support of the Liberals.
Now, for those who don’t know, if that’s possible, C-51 is an anti-terrorist bill. It grants CSIS more power to search, seize and arrest almost anyone they decide to target. Even the RCMP opposes this bill because of the sweeping powers granted CSIS, which may hamper their own security efforts domestically and overseas. As of this writing, two groups plan to challenge the bill saying that it infringes on the charter rights of citizens. As reported in the Ottawa Citizen (July 22, 2015), ‘”Bill C-51 is a grave threat to our rights in Canada. It will lead to censorship and a massive chill on free expression, and enables a potentially widespread abuse of power” CJFE (Canadian Journalists for Free Expression) executive director Tom Henheffer said in a news release.” In the same article, “Sukanya Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Bill C-51 ‘creates broad and dangerous new powers, without commensurate accountability, and this can result in serious mistakes.'”
Just think of that. Environmentalists could be charged as economic terrorists under this act should they take a notion to block shipments of oil. Critics of the Harper gang could, conceivably, come under scrutiny simply for writing negative commentary regarding them or for defending someone the Conservatives or CSIS has determined may be a terrorist. This is no joke. The dangers are real. This bill could be the making of a police state.
There is an election coming on. People must think seriously about what they want from a government. If it’s only about less taxes and getting benefits, put out a sign that says, “I can be bought”. You are worth nothing and do not interest me except as a curiosity.
If the secrecy, lies and rigging of the Election Act, if Conservative robocalls and efforts to subvert the electoral process with “in-out” scams for which the Conservative Party paid a $52,000 fine, if Harper’s appointment of the recently deceased Arthur Porter as head of SIRC and alleged to have had inappropriate business and international dealings including fraud in awarding of a hospital construction project and money laundering, if allegations of illegal lobbying activity by Bruce Carson a former senior advisor to Harper, if the resignation of Bev Oda for false expense claims and the resignation of Peter Penashue for accepting corporate donations during an election campaign, if slipping questionable laws secretly into omnibus bills in hopes of avoiding discovery, if refusing to answer questions in the House, if squandering money on partisan ads, if squandering money on military equipment by paying twice the value, if watching Dean del Mastro walking in chains for election fraud, if witnessing Michael Sona, a young Conservative staffer and scapegoat being sent to jail, if learning of Harper appointees Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau abusing expense privileges, if taking all credit for the economic good but blaming “outside” influences for the bad, if blaming “activist” courts for overturning ad hoc punitive and unfair laws, if smearing Supreme Court Justices, if bribery with your own money, if questionable fundraising events by the likes of Shelly Glover and Susan Aglukkaq with those who stood to gain by their decisions in attendance, if taking office with a $13 billion surplus and squandering it to a deficit of hundreds of billions with seven, going on eight, deficits in a row, if the imbecility of BC Conservative backbencher Wai Young who claimed that not only was Jesus Christ on the side of the Conservatives but also that CSIS “knew or heard” about the bomb on Air India thirty years ago and could have prevented it if allowed to share information had C-51 been in place, if government ministers ordering bureaucrats to come up with three terrorism related stories a week, and if any other innumerable depredations by the Harper gang are not enough to stop you from voting Conservative again, then nothing I or anyone say will persuade you, you have a brain that thinks with the stolidity and morality of stone.
It’s one thing to be stupid, but to insist on proving it again and again borders on lunacy.
Do yourself a favour: Don’t vote for the same old same old. Try something new. Take a chance.
There is no risk to getting rid of a bad, corrupt, secretive and anti-democratic government.
But there is real danger in not doing so.
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.
They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin