What can I know? What ought I do? What may I hope? – Immanuel Kant
“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” – Robert F. Kennedy
Frank A. Pelaschuk
Justin Trudeau and the Liberals must be congratulated for an effective campaign that gave them their majority. I would also like to congratulate those whom I suspect were Liberal fronts advocating strategic voting. Not only did they frighten folks into voting for second choice, they managed to convince folks to get rid of outstanding individuals who served their communities and Canada extremely well, individuals such as Megan Leslie, Peter Stoffer, Jack Harris, Andrew Cash, Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar. Lastly, I’d like to congratulate the voter who listened to the polls, heard the strategic voting advocates and stampeded to the Liberal side. There was no need for the split vote; the Harper gang would likely have been finished anyhow. But what can one do with a nation of sheep?
Even so, I am ecstatic that the Harper gang is gone, though I would have preferred their annihilation. But I am unhappy at the price paid by so many good people from the NDP. I would have been fine with a Liberal minority with the NDP holding the balance of power. That is what I expected. I did not expect the NDP to govern, but I also did not expect so many to abandon them because of fear or because they bought a package with prettier wrapping believing it was new.
Harper and his gang were a destructive, nasty force. We all watched, a few of us horrified as he raised the spectre of terrorism in every corner of our country exploiting the worst in us with his politics of division, his fomenting of racial and religious intolerance. A few of the Harper gang are gone, the incomparably incompetent Leona Aglukkaq, the nasty Chris Alexander, the inarticulate Joe Oliver, but the worst of them, the insecure bully Stephen Harper, the oleaginous Pierre Poilievre, the shrill Michelle Rempel, the inveterate tweeter and conflater Jason Kenney continue to hold office, sewer rats still plaguing the House.
Now I will be accused of sour grapes. I will not deny there may be some of that in what I feel. But I will also attempt to be fair, certainly a lot fairer than the Harper gang ever were.
I do not doubt Justin Trudeau’s good intentions. And I have no reason, yet, to doubt his integrity. But he is the leader of the Liberal party, the party that was booted out of office for its many acts of corruption, most notably the sponsorship scandal. Some will say that was long ago and far away, times have changed and so has the party. Well, has it?
For over 140 years, the Liberal and the Conservative parties have governed the country: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals, a revolving door that allows for no other but the two parties that have, for many years, given notice of the belief that they, they alone, as if by Divine Right, are entitled to govern this nation. Evidently, the voters feel the same for time and again they, too, have refused admittance to any other option but the Liberals and Conservatives though once, from 2011 to the present, allowing the opposition the faintest taste of power by granting the NDP status as Official Opposition. For voters, it is too much a stretch to conceive that the NDP or the Greens, however well-meaning the folk, however progressive their platforms, are capable of providing good governance even though, provincially, the NDP has had better records as stewards of public funds than either the Liberals or Conservatives. It doesn’t matter; facts don’t interest these voters; they would sooner swallow the poison myths and idiotic lies and surrender to the fears offered by those who pander to their ignorance and intolerance and their fears.
What are particularly troublesome were revelations a week before the election regarding the co-chair of the Liberal national campaign, Dan Gagnier. He wrote to TransCanada Corporation advising the company on how to lobby the new government, presumably Liberal. He was also working for TransCanada. Initially, Trudeau and the Liberals defended him, saying he did not break any rules. Then, 24 hours later, he resigned after he and Trudeau sat down and had a talk. Trudeau was now saying Gagneir “had acted in an inappropriate way”. Then Trudeau and the Liberals began to boast about how quickly they had handled the problem. Really? Well, some will shrug it off and say it’s a small thing. Not to me. You’re either clean or your not. If you fudge on the small, what will you do on the large things? Even before winning, the Liberals were acting like winners, and in doing so, engaging in questionable behaviour. The move Gagnier made was not innocent. Trudeau and the Liberals knew of his role with TransCanada but claimed the work he did for the party was kept apart from his role with TransCanada. We have Trudeau’s word on that. Unsurprising though dismayingly, no one cares, probably relying on that moral equivalency argument: the Conservatives have done worse for ten years. I hope I am wrong, but the Gagnier business, plotting how to lobby a government before it has even been elected reveals a troubling arrogance and a worrisome harbinger of things to come. I cannot shake the sponsorship scandal from my thoughts.
The evidence is clear: for many, strategic voting played a role. But was it necessary? It is likely that enough people were pissed with the Conservatives that they would have lost without folks running scared from the NDP. Nevertheless, the wafflers were evidently persuaded and their own fears took over. In previous posts, I have said that those voting for Stephen Harper and gang had turned off their thinking caps. The same is true of those who moved en mass to the Liberals. If ethics matter, surely they would have paused and reconsidered when the Gagnier story came out. They did not. The herd mentality is alive and well.
Can we hope for better from Trudeau? How, when they are not all that different from the Conservatives in what they support? The Liberals supported the war in Iraq against ISIS and then backed the Conservative extension of the war. The NDP opposed military intervention, let alone extending the war. The Liberals supported the Harper gang’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, almost universally condemned by citizens, scholars, jurists and activists as anti-democratic, dangerous and a real threat to human rights. As well, Trudeau and the Liberals supported the Harper gang in passing Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act with it’s despicable and very explicit tarring of certain segments of society i.e., the Muslim community. We already have laws for both terrorism and violence against women but Harper and Trudeau preferred to appeal to the worst in us. In his victory speech as prime minister designate, he regaled the audience with the story of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab handing her daughter to him. He quoted her saying, “She said she’s voting for us because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life and that her government will protect those rights” If that really happened, she went to the wrong person and the wrong party for solace. It was the NDP and the Green parties that voted against C-51 and S-7.
But, if the Liberals won big because of the strategic voting gambit, it is also true the NDP lost big as well. A large part of that misfortune was of the NDP’s own making. The shift to the centre did not go down well with the old guard. That shift has been going on for years and many have spoke out against it. But it was even harder for some to hear Mulcair’s promise to balance the budget not just the first year in office but for three more years following. It wasn’t the balanced budget, many old guard members opposed, for the NDP has a good record in that area, it was the guarantee of doing so which was hard to swallow. It was a foolish commitment that did not allow for unforeseen events that could make the fulfillment impossible. And it was pandering to soft-core Conservative supporters. Too, the NDP was harmed by Mulcair’s flat-out statement that he would abolish the Senate. Well, most experts agree that it can’t be done. These were missteps that certainly did not help the NDP.
And then there was the issue of the niqab. Mulcair strongly defended the courts ruling regarding the right of Zunera Ishaq to wear a niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony. Mulcair and the NDP made the right decision but, with time, it proved to be a costly one with the loss of voter support, especially in Quebec. It is not enough to talk about beliefs and principles; one must be prepared to act upon them and defend them if called upon to do so. Mulcair did exactly that. The niqab was a shamefully divisive issue and we can thank Harper and his gang for that. What is astounding is that Harper and 98 others of this vile gang were re-elected. What does that say of the voters who were not troubled by this fomenting of racial and religious hatred? Outsiders must be shaking their heads wondering: What has happened to Canada? Zunera Ishaq was and is no terrorist and posed nor poses no threat yet the Conservatives waged war on her; she was a Muslim woman merely exercising her rights. Unfortunately, too many were persuaded by the Harper gang. Bigotry and hatred evidently did not matter and so many of that filthy gang, having been re-elected, will sit as vile reminders of the discredit with which they have tainted their roles as MPs. There is nothing honourable in what they did; if I write about any of them, I will never refer to them as that Honourable Member of Parliament; they are not entitled. If they are disgraceful reminders of what was vile in the Harper gang, that they are still polluting the air of Parliament Hill, the shame must also be borne by those who voted for their return. Of course, none of them, the Conservatives and those who voted for them, are capable of shame. That requires decency.
Even more shameful is that Thomas Mulcair and his NDP members were penalized because they stood up and defended the law and the rights of those two women to wear what they wanted. Harper suggested that Zunera Ishaq did not represent Canadian values. Neither does he nor all those who supported his stand. How many politicians put themselves and their party on the line for simply standing up for what they believed was right? Very few. For that, Mulcair deserves our praise.
We are entering another era of Liberal governance. Canadians have opted not only for the same old: they have opted for the same old with a majority. We all saw how Harper abused his huge mandate wielding it as a bludgeon to not only subdue his opponents but also to inform all others that he preferred force over persuasion, fear over co-operation, intimidation over accommodation. I hope Trudeau is more generous than Harper ever was and does not squander his majority by refusing to include opposition members and seeking their input and advice when proposing new legislation. I hope omnibus bills are things of the past. I hope he never invokes closure and that he allows for healthy debates of all his proposed legislation. He has committed to democratic reform. I hope he sticks to that and that we do see some form of proportional representation. If he goes through with that, he will rise highly in my estimation. I do not really expect he will. How many people would get rid of a system that has worked so well to their advantage and replace it for one that may cost them dearly? If Trudeau listens, hears, acts and does away with the pettiness that has been the hallmark of the Harper years, then he will have easily proved himself a better prime minister than Harper, perhaps even one of the best. Trudeau has a solid majority; he is articulate, intelligent and confident. He has the goodwill of the voters behind him and presents a reassuring possibility. I do not know if what he offers will be real change or not. If he wields his majority as a club to ram through legislation, if he resorts to omnibus bills to slip in legislation with hopes of escaping detection, he will have failed and proven himself no better than the gang Canadians have just turfed.
I see in Trudeau a young, charismatic man full of potential saying all the things we like to hear about ourselves. That does not interest me. What does is what he does.
I know what we are not: we are not as good as we say we are. We are not as good as we pretend to be. We are not as tolerant as we imagine. The niqab issue is proof of that. We can be better and we will be if Trudeau puts an end to secrecy; if he governs with openness and integrity; if he honours his promises; if he brings an end to the scapegoating of the poor, of public servants, of scientists, of environmentalists, and of the courts; if he respects all citizens and works for the interests of all rather than the privileged few and, most importantly, if he believes honesty and decency are worthy adjuncts to governance, not to be dismissed or trotted out occasionally but embraced and nurtured.
Canadians have placed their trust in Trudeau. I hope he respects that and respects them. One way of demonstrating that respect is to scrap Bills C-51 and S-7.
It is not enough to spout platitudes. He must follow through with his promises. I will be looking to see if he honours his pledge for democratic reform. It’s easy to make promises. Let’s see if he keeps them.
The voters did their part. It’s up to him to do his.
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