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GAMING THE SYSTEM AND OTHER MISDEEDS: THE GREAT LIBERAL BETRAYAL

Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises; for never intending to go beyond promises, it costs nothing. – Edmund Burke

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. – William Shakespeare

The fawning, sneaking, and flattering hypocrite, that will do or be anything, for his own advantage. –Edward Stillingfleet

Frank Pelaschuk

THE SELF(IE)-LOVER                                  

He strides effortlessly across the global stage equally at ease with royalty, world leaders and the hoi polloi clamouring around him. He smiles freely, a dazzling beacon, clasping hands with both of his suggesting warmth, sincerity, a depth of feeling that cannot be denied whether greeting the shakers and movers or the humble smitten citizen. He is generous and gracious with his time, not only with the media but also with the public, willing to pause with the minions and pose with them as they take selfies of themselves with this truly charming Canadian darling; occasionally, even more ingratiatingly, he will take the iPhone from them and snap the selfies himself. It’s endlessly entertaining and endlessly flattering for those who get to stand next to this great man, a moment that will be relived and recounted for the rest of their days and passed on to generations to come. And the images captured will be splashed on Facebook as validation of the moment when they, too, however humble, have been blessed, however briefly, by the touch of greatness. By such easy gestures, fans and votes can be won for life.

The wunderkind knows it, recognizes he’s blessed, that he’s destiny’s child; you can see it in his bearing, in the tilt of his head, the awareness of all awed eyes turned on him taking in his every move and every ear attentive to every utterance whether explaining quantum physics to reporters or performing pushups and a one-handed plank at the Invictus Games or doing the peacock pose on a table. Is there nothing Trudeau can’t do? No false modesty; it would be unbecoming and unnecessary. His youth, energy, intelligence, and family, the children adorable and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, almost as telegenic and popular as he, are embellishments adding to the charm.

But to what does this add? Not much, really.

Glad-handers and grandstanding are not unusual in politics. It’s well and good that young Justin stands in Parliament, as he did Wednesday, May 18, apologizing for Canada turning away the Komagata Maru loaded with Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus seeking to emigrate to Canada in 1914. It looks and sounds good and offers solace to those wanting to believe Trudeau really does care and is prepared to do things differently. But such gestures, fine as they are and even if sincere and well intended, are just gestures. It allows Trudeau to look good and will offer some solace to those feeling the need for such gestures. It will be another positive added to his CV, purely symbolic and going a way to assuage the guilt some might needlessly experience. Unfortunately, on that very same day, by his own foolish actions, all the goodwill Trudeau may have garnered from those with reservations might have been washed away by an unpleasant and incredible Parliamentary fiasco unheard of in recent Canadian memory and it is this episode that I suspect is truly reflective of the man and is as telling of him as the aloofness, duplicity, and controlling manner was of Conservative Stephen Harper.

On Tuesday, May 17, Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc made a move to strip opposition members of any ability to play the traditional role of opposition including delaying by various means the passage of any bill they may oppose. The move, Government Business No. 6 or simply Motion 6, sounds innocent enough but is without doubt one of the most dangerous and direct attacks against Canadian democracy. Trudeau’s Liberals sought to wrest decisions made by the Speaker that could forever alter how Parliament works. Harper began the anti-democratic initiatives in earnest long ago but, unlike the Liberals, only a few months in office, had never quite dared to commit to such a dangerous move that would absolutely immobilize the opposition. Government ministers and Parliamentary secretaries would now have the power to introduce, extend and/or adjourn debate, which would be considered immediately adopted on their say so only. The Speaker has been effectively sidelined and opposition members seriously limited in putting forth motions, such as happened Monday, May 16, when the NDP engineered a snap vote catching the Liberals flat-footed and scrambling. Motion 6, clearly a retaliatory response, would no longer allow such things to happen to future governments; government members would call all the shots. Then, on Wednesday, May 18, following the apology for the Komagata Maru incident, LeBlance moved to cut off debate on the physician-assisted dying bill, C-14. Members of the NDP party mingled on the floor of the House, hoping to delay the vote by preventing Conservative opposition whip Gordon Brown from taking his seat before the vote began. Incensed by this, Trudeau left his seat, forced his way through the NDP pack (some reports had him muttering, “Get out of my fucking way”), and grabbed Brown by the arm inadvertently slamming an elbow into the chest of NDP member Ruth Ellen Brosseau. He led Brown back to his seat and then, for some reason returned and went to the NDP side out of camera range evidently to apologize to the NDP member who had left the chamber shaken. Trudeau, in going back to his seat was confronted by Thomas Mulcair enraged that his member, accidently or not, had been struck by Trudeau. Nathan Cullen stepped between the two members and that was it, cooler heads prevailing. The time allocated vote for the physician-assisted dying bill, C-14, took place without Brosseau. Her vote would not have altered the outcome but that is not the point. Trudeau’s manhandling of Brown and the accidental blow to Brosseau and his foul language, if accurately reported, are revelatory reminiscent of childish rock stars who misbehave with the arrogance of the privileged. And Trudeau clearly believes himself among the privileged. Watch him in the House during question Period as he responds to questions he does not like; he is smug, dismissive and imperious. This is a man used to having his way on stage at all times, the sneer for foes, the excessive oozing charm for those he wishes to woo, the public out there. Unfortunately for him, he lost his cool May 18 and the public was treated to the ugly side of him with the stripping away of the apparently very thin veneer of civility and bonhomie. This was the narcissistic bully in action and convincing enough to demonstrate the Harper gang did not have a monopoly on offensive and anti-democratic behaviour. The damage is there but for how long and how much is really up to Trudeau though I suspect it will not be long lasting or significant. That the Conservatives and NDP milked it for all that it was worth is not surprising but that, too, was childish. Trudeau, wrong as he was, clearly had no intent or desire to elbow Brosseau. Public response was not surprising. For many, it was much ado about nothing. Among the imbecilic, Trudeau’s rating went even higher; he can do no wrong, anything is acceptable and forgivable. It should not be. Some have blamed the NDP for what happened, saying it was their impedance of Gordon Brown in hopes of delaying passage of C-14 that precipitated Trudeau’s rash act. There may be some truth to that. So what? It does nothing to absolve Trudeau. He should not have lost his temper. He should not have crossed the floor and grabbed Brown by the arm. You do not lay hands on other members of parliament. The opposition job is to act in the best interests of Canadians and if the government hamstrings it unfairly, then it is incumbent on the opposition to seek ways to do their job with the use of any reasonable tactic. It was childish yes, but Trudeau’s behaviour is at issue here. His was not the act of an adult, let alone an adult leading a nation, but of a spoiled individual used to having his way and who, when thwarted, responded in the only way he knew how: a display of temper. Trudeau supporters evidently see things less objectively just as Harper’s did when he abused his majority. In their responses to bad behaviour, even egregiously bad behaviour, supporters on both sides are not that much different being just as blind and stupid as most are who refuse to acknowledge the faults of those they love that they would condemn in those they do not. It’s a wilful blindness that does credit to no one. It cannot be defended nor should it be.

Now, Trudeau has apologized again and again for his actions admitting they were intolerable. Let us accept that. But let us also remember that brief crack in the façade allowing insight into his character that most have never seen before. That said, we should not lose sight of Motion 6. That should alarm every Canadian of every stripe. Harper showed the way when he slipped legislation into endless omnibus bills and created the so-called Fair Elections Act and when he curtailed debate time-and-time- again. Motion 6 virtually strips the opposition of all power to perform their duty. To their credit, May 19, the day after the Komagata Maru apology and the brouhaha, LeBlance announced the Liberals have withdrawn Motion 6. That was a good and right move. However, the Liberals did not grant more time for debate on the assisted dying bill, which the opposition and even some Liberal members find inadequate and contrary to the intent of the Supreme Court ruling. The Liberals insist the bill must be passed before the June 6 deadline imposed by the court. Unfortunately the genie is now loosed. Motion 6 is there for another time perhaps by this government or another; it will be used by someone sometime. It is not a good sign for the future and offers us another glimpse of Trudeau that is neither glorious nor good. The Trudeau the public saw May 18 was not the Trudeau they voted for October 19, 2015.

But if the episode was astonishing and ugly, its impact appears to have the same effect of titillating entertainment. It’s about style over substance and by god that Trudeau has plenty of style even playing the bad boy.

VETERANS BETRAYED AND OTHER BROKEN PROMISES

But they are clever these Liberals. They have clearly learned from the Harper crew doing just enough, sometimes even well, to allow diehard sceptics in a weak moment to concede they have done not a bad job.

Oh, he did well with the Syrian refugee crises and a few other things, mostly symbolic as his apology for the Komagata Maru incident but it’s in the big things that he fails. He has brought back the long form census. He has ended Canada’s bombing mission against ISIS. He has removed the muzzles from government scientists. He has created an advisory board of prominent citizens to recommend nominees to the Senate based on merit. These are good moves, no denying. But it’s the broken promises that really matter.

Where, for example, is the $3 billion over the next four years for better home and palliative care services? What have the Liberals done to reform the Access of Information Act to make information “open by default” as promised? When the Canadian Press sought the release of notes on moves to reform the Act, much of the material had been redacted. So much for openness.

For veterans, especially those with disabilities inflicted during the performance of their duties, the Liberal betrayal must be particularly bitter and painful. Left feeling bruised and abused by the Conservative party to whom they were naturally allied politically, the veterans saw in the campaigning pandering Trudeau the real possibility of a turnaround for them. Though he is young, they believed Trudeau smart and one who recognized and truly respected the contributions made by our military men and women particularly those who returned home broken in body and spirit. The veterans clearly believed the promise he would commit to them as those men and women committed to Canada. They bought the persona they saw before them, who could not, Trudeau standing before them, right palm tapping left breast, expression oozing sincerity. They knew he would reopen the nine veterans offices closed down by Harper because he said he would. They knew he would re-instate life-long disability pensions with an allocation of $300 million annually for support programs for the military because he said he would. They wanted to believe him; they wanted to give him a chance to prove himself. He did. They are still waiting for the offices to open. He did not re-instate the life-long disability pensions. Instead, he simply increased the one-time lump sum disability payment that Harper had put in place. Most galling of all is the Trudeau gang’s resumption of a BC Court of Appeals case to deny Afghan war veterans benefits for injured soldiers. How that betrayal must hurt! “The plaintiffs have argued in court that the government has a sacred obligation to its injured soldiers and that the lump-sum payment wounded veterans receive under the New Veterans Charter — as opposed to the pension that was previously offered to veterans before 2006 — is inadequate compensation, as they receive less money over the course of a lifetime” (John Paul Tasker, CBC News May 17, 2016). The government view is that no special obligation is owed to the vets. That is an extraordinary commentary from a regime promising more and better led by a man with a fondness for embracing everyone and tapping his right fingers over his heart as if to emphasis the depth of his empathy. Now, I realize, he’s just trying to determine where it is or wondering were he might have left his pen.

Trudeau is not a bad man but he is certainly no more admirable than Harper and there was nothing about Harper that I admired.

Trudeau fails when he justifies with excuses the Saudi light-armoured vehicle deal: the deal can’t be broken; it was a done deal by Harper; the Liberal’s were locked in; the world will punish us for breaking this deal. Trudeau fails himself as well as his supporters by such antics, revealing himself as a man of hollow convictions who is only eager to do the right thing – next time. Human rights? Oh, they matter, but not today, not when it can cost the loss of a $15 billion deal and 3,000 Canadian jobs. All that faux sincerity when he dwells upon human rights, the plight of our soldiers – it’s a joke, it’s phony. Trudeau is a showboat who finds it easier to follow through with the easy.

Trudeau fails, too, with bill C-267, the Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials bill by then Liberal Irwin Cotler. Referred to as Magnisky’s law for a Russian lawyer murdered in prison for exposing tax fraud by Russian officials, the bill, unanimously passed in 2015 was meant to tighten sanctions against Russia for abuses against its own citizens. The Conservatives under Harper, however, were in no rush to pass legislation to begin sanctions and did nothing. Now, with Trudeau in office, the Conservatives are eager for the Liberals to impose the act and made a motion to impose sanctions on Russia. How the tables have turned. Trudeau however, now in power, is less interested in acting despite his electioneering to do so. Trudeau wants to “re-engage” with Russia. In other words, when it comes to doing the right, the decent, the moral, the ethical thing, Trudeau and the gang are again quite willing to close their eyes and plug their noses in order to do the pragmatic thing: do business with Russia. Stephane Dion, foreign minister, disappoints because he apparently has opted to move wholeheartedly into the dark side of political wheeling and dealing by offering excuses as he did with the Saudi Arabia arms deal that the Special Economic Measures Act does not allow Canada to place sanctions on Russian individual or entities. That’s a crock and is surely not Dion’s finest moment. Human rights is a honey if it don’t cost money.

This is the real state of politics. We have a government now doing what it opposed in opposition and an opposition now opposing what it supported while a government. It’s a topsy-turvy world. One needs a strong stomach to even say Conservative or Liberal, easier to simply say hypocrite.

GAMING THE SYSTEM

Then we have the CBC reporting on the shenanigans of the CRA and tax cheats, the CRA granting amnesty to fraudsters provided they pay what they owe Canadians and keep their mouths shut about the deal. We have allegations of the accountancy firm KPMG helping tax cheats set up shell companies in the Isle of Man and executives meeting secretly at the exclusive Rideau Club with bureaucrats from the CRA, a clear conflict of interest. It has been estimated that $7 to $9 billion a year is lost through tax schemes. Shortly after the CBC story caught traction, the CRA proudly announced the recovery of $1.5 billion. Nice, but peanuts to what Canadians have lost and will continue to lose. What about the billions stolen from Canadian coffers? What about the peculiar reluctance of revenue minister Diane Lebouthillier to punish the tax cheats and the companies helping them defraud the government? These are fraudsters and should be punished with severe financial penalties and jail time. Unfortunately, not a word on that front from either the CRA or Lebouthillier.

Clearly, it does pay to be wealthy. Unfortunately, it’s our government helping them cheat us and it’s the rest of us paying the price.

In the not too distant past, we had the Conservatives rigging the game with the misnamed Fair Elections Act. At that time the bill was simply rammed through with little to no discussion. Certainly no referendum. Trudeau promised to amend parts of the Act. No action thus far.

He also promised to bring an end to first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting. Towards that end his minister of democratic reform Maryam Monsef and government house leader Dominic LeBlanc set up a rigged committee that consists of six Liberals, three Conservatives, one NDP and two MPs not allowed to vote, one from the Bloc Québécois and Elizabeth May of the Green party. With absolute lack of shame, the Liberals have stacked the deck not to reflect the proportion of the vote but the number of seats won! They used the very system they wish to end in order to rig the committee and the outcome. This is Trudeau gaming the system to ensure that, if there is a change (which many suspect the Liberals do not want), it will reflect the change that Trudeau’s Liberals desire: the ranked ballot system which strongly favours the party of the centre which is what the Liberals are perceived as being. In truth, such a system would likely ensure governance by Liberals or Conservatives forever. The committee is a sham. Maryam Monsef gave the game away when she said that the solution must not be complex. In other words, proportional representation will not be an option because it is unfamiliar thereby deemed too difficult to understand though the majority of democratic countries have a form of PR. She is really saying Canadians are too stupid to understand what the rest of the democratic world does. She also suggested on CBC’s Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton that it was pointless to hold a referendum because many eligible voters don’t vote. Say what? Isn’t that what we wish to change? She also went on to suggest a referendum was undemocratic and that Twitter offered a more accurate reflection of the public will. Twitter for god sake. And that is the voice of reason?

Monsef is less than truthful when she says the committee will represent the wishes of Canadians. It will reflect the wishes of the Liberal party, that’s true. Having won his majority with 39% of the vote, Trudeau stacks the deck with 60% of the seats. Neat. Shameless. Dictatorial.

Monsef, though a newcomer acts very much like a Liberal pro from the old school: rigging the game and manipulating the outcome and offering the empty blandishments. The same old same old.

When Trudeau campaigned, he talked about civility and change and making Canada a better place than it was under Harper. Mostly he talked about the middle class, raising taxes for the wealthy and cutting them for the middle class. I don’t recall him much speaking about combatting poverty, of doing more for the young and elderly, of ending homelessness. It was all about sunny ways but for whom? Certainly not those on the bottom rung.

Recently, there was a small kerfuffle because the PMO was looking for ways to assist the other half of the star pair, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau. Now Canadians already help pay for one staffer and two nannies. No one should begrudge that. Nor do we begrudge the fact that she may need help when she does attend some affair that may tenuously be linked to her husband’s role as prime minister. I have no doubt she is “swamped” with requests for appearances for many worthwhile causes. If she opens a museum the government has paid for, if she speaks to students on the role of the wife of a prime minister, let Canadians pay for that. If she attends a charity event, let the Liberal party pay for that for it would likely be the real beneficiary in publicity of such an appearance. At the risk of appearing churlish, I was not impressed by her SOS. “I need help. I need a team to help serve people,” she had put out. I am a mother, my husband is prime minister. Poor little rich girl, thanks for reminding us. I am not opposed to her getting the help she needs but I might have been more sympathetic if I had heard from her husband less about tax breaks for the middle class and more about helping the single parent holding down two minimum-wage jobs. There was nothing for them. Nada, zilch. Too, I might have been favourably disposed towards helping her if, instead of appearing on the cover of Vogue with Justin, both were photographed eating a meal with homeless individuals or families or even just embracing one while dressed in their expensive togs. As it is, I will save my sympathies for those who live mean lives on mean streets. Poor Sophie, I don’t mean to be dismissive of your plight. I’m sorry, but my heart just doesn’t bleed for you. I know there are many who do want to help you. I just wish they felt as much sympathy for those who have much less than you, those hard-scrabble toilers who struggle just to survive, who really do understand what it is to be swamped by life and misery.

THE BIG LETDOWN

I have no doubt that Justin Trudeau regrets what happened May 18 with his grabbing of Gordon Brown and accidental striking of Brosseau. For a flash we saw the ugly side. For some, it was entertainment. For others, not so much.

We have witnessed the past few months a government ready to turn its back on many of its promises and just as eager as Harper’s ever was to use its majority as a club. We have seen a shift from openness to secrecy, of Liberal ministers placing themselves in conflict of interest positions by attending fund-raising events with those with the potential to benefit from the decisions made by their ministries. We have seen the broken promises and witnessed again the bullying of our veterans by the government and a nation that owes them so much. We have seen the shameless attempt by this government to strip the opposition members of any power to perform their duties in the interests of Canadians. We have observed how this government has increased the wealth of the middle class while doing absolutely nothing for the poorest amongst us. We have watched as this government has operated with breathtaking arrogance and watched a prime minister so narcissistic he believes nothing will stick: broken promises, manhandling members of parliament, ministers placing themselves in conflict of interest positions and ministers working to jettison or rig, either is a possibility, electoral reform.

This regime has increasingly shown itself willing to betrayal itself and its supporters who, perhaps naively, really held the profoundest of hopes that things would, indeed, get better, that this government, this Trudeau Liberal government, would really be all that it seemed to promise.

It is not too late for Trudeau. He does not have to turn his back on those folks who really trust and believe in him. Just keep to the promises. Do revisit the physician assisted dying bill. Do go through with electoral reform and go with the system that truly, accurately, reflects the will of the voter. You cannot lose by doing what is right.

If the goal is as it has been for all previous governments one of grabbing power and clinging to it, of self-enrichment and helping friends, of retribution rather than rehabilitation, of punishing the poor and weak, the Liberals should continue as they have. They may believe they have won, the polls and the results may say they have won, but their loss will be greater than their gains. There is more honour in standing tall in defeat knowing one has done his utmost to do what was right and honourable. May each broken promise cynically offered rest as a stone on your heart and each kept promise with the weight of a feather.

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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

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About Frank A. Pelaschuk

I am the author of two works of fiction reviewed by Brian Porter, author of Lonely Together and The Atlas Proxies. He called the novel, Serpent in the Garden, "A convincing, seductive tale of coming home to the enemy". Of Ambiguities of Love in Six Stories, he wrote, “Moving, intelligent, and thoughtful storytelling." Both works are available on Amazon as soft cover or e-book where the full reviews also appear.

4 responses

  1. Pamela Mac Neil

    Of course you’re right on everything you’ve so succinctly outlined Frank. After reading all of the points you’ve made, a picture emerges and it is for me a very disturbing one. Something interesting happened this week in the Ontario legisature They voted AGAINST the BDS approval motion. There were letters written to each legislator and protests. Each stressed that supporting this BDS motion, was a violation of our freedom of speech under the Charter of Rights and Freedom. which means supporting it is unconstitutional. Justin Trudeau The Prime Minister of Canada voted to approve the BDS motion. He voted for an unconstitutional motion that violates our freedom of speech. There are a number of issues like the green lighting of the Saudi deal, that make his ethics questionable , but for me the approving of the BDS motion along with the betrayal of our Vets are the 2 issues more then anything that. are a revelation into his character. Both decisions involve suffering to vulnerable people. the approving of the BDS motion supports the continued Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people and the betrayal of the Vets especially the resuming of the BC court of appeal to deny Afghan war Vets benefits for injured soldiers involves continued suffering.

    Let me repeat that, the Government of Canada wants to deny Afghan war Vets benefits to injured soldiers.Injured war vets who have put their lives on line, may actually be denied benefits and that is okay with our Prime Minister. Prime Minister Trudeau, who has never put anything on the line, let alone his life. The lawyer for the vets should read out loud and in full PM Bordens speech to the Canadian soldiers, shortly before they fought at Vimy Ridge. He/She should read it to everyone in that courtroom, so they will understand that Borden did not say that Canadians and there government have an obligation to our vets, he said we have a “Sacred Obligation” to our veterans. The key word is “Sacred.”

    I disagree with you on one point Frank. When you say “it is not too late for Trudeau.” I think it is. The reason I say that, is he has already shown in his decision making at this early stage and I think will continue to show, that the rights of human beings mean nothing to him, including Canadians rights. He has crossed a moral line. Robertson Davies once said “Canada is not a country you love, it is a country you worry about.” Right about now I’d agree with him.

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    • Amen to everything you said, Pamela, very true and very disconcerting. When I wrote “it is not too late for Trudeau” I think that was the Pollyanna side speaking in a moment of wishful thinking. I do think he has revealed himself and it’s not pleasant; your choice of Robertson Davis quote is on the mark. Trudeau could alter course, but it seems unlikely as long as he continues to draw the support he does from those bubble-headed devotees who spend so much time to vilifying critics in the way they have the recipient of the so-called “elbowgate” affair, Ruth Ellen Brousseau, for getting in the way of Trudeau’s elbow. Regarding BDS, I can’t help but recall how the Conservative withdrew funding for KAIROS after thirty years, simply because it was critical of Harper’s unbalanced and far from neutral support of Israeli depredations against the Palestinian people as you point out. Always enjoy hearing from you, Pamela, and hope others out there will also offer input.

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      • A question that has been on my mind lately Frank is I wonder why Trudeau wanted to be Prime Minister? It sounds a bit strange I know, but almost all of the really important issues he’s made decisions on, don’t serve Canadians. He is serving other interest groups. He’s throwing a few crumbs our way, but where it really counts we are excluded and discounted. He’s travelling to Japan in the hopes of doing business. What’s with the constant focus on business deals. We did not give him the mandate to be travelling the globe doing “trade” deals. The “trade deals we have on the table, the CETA and the TPP not only do not benefit Canadians, but in fact threaten our sovereignty. So yes, I would like to ask him directly, Why did you want to be our Prime Minister?

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      • Good question. I have written to PMO on a few occasions though not to ask this specific question. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Koch brothers and of the money they are other mega wealthy individuals have contributed towards the right. The brothers have also donated to the Fraser Institute (not Walker as I originally stated), a right-wing think tank receiving tax breaks (under Harper, unlike the CCPA and other charities perceived as “left”, never audited). It wouldn’t surprise me if other think tanks received similar funding from them or others of that ilk. I bring this up because I’m reading Jane Mayer’s excellent and very troubling “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right”. I think the answer rests there, with Big Money, Big Business and Big Politics. Too many of us aren’t paying attention. The Occupy movement seemed promising but I foresee at time in the future when they do wake up and say they’ve had enough. It could get messy but I doubt I’ll be around when it happens. Thanks for this. Write to Trudeau, let me know what happens.

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