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Monthly Archives: September 2016

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: THE REAL DEAL OR BEST-DRESSED PHONY

Callous greed grows pious very fast. – Lillian Hellman

I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double cross that bridge when he comes to it.” — Oscar Levant

Frank Pelaschuk

While Trudeau was on the campaign trail he was very much like Donald Trump promising whatever he believed the audience before him at the time wanted to hear. The voters lapped it up. Almost a year into his mandate, he has kept a few of them going so far with one promise as to seem to be washing his hands of his role as Prime Minister of Canada.

The promises he did keep were easy because most Canadians supported them: welcoming over thirty thousand Syrian refugees; bringing back the long-form census; raising taxes on those making over two hundred thousand and lowering taxes for the those in the middle class; following through with the promise to set up an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; allowing government scientists to speak; forming a committee to look into electoral reform; pulling Canada out of bombing missions against ISIS; and, because so patently unfair, prejudicial, offensive, and often ignored, the punitive Conservative mandatory victim levy which placed a greater burden on poor offenders than on those with money. These were good promises when made and good promises when kept. But they were also easy promises because so widely embraced.

But it’s the other promises, the big promises, the promises not kept, easy to make when one has no intention of keeping them or not on the public radar thus easily ignored or unnoticed when quietly dropped, that must be reckoned with. How faithful has he been to honouring those promises, the promises of more honesty, openness, and transparency?

Well, not very.

What is certain is this: On the big promises, the ones that really matter, Human Rights, climate change, the anti-terrorism bill, the disability pension for our vets, Trudeau has failed. He misled, lied and fudged offering examples aplenty of clear failures and a willingness to equivocate, to make excuses, to justify and to blame. While we are seeing many younger faces, we are subjected to the same-old same-old that caused the Liberals so much difficulty and left them in the political wilderness for almost ten years. Yes, many new and younger faces but all pros, already, at playing the game. We saw it then from the Liberals and we see it now from the Liberals: the shameless hubris and belief of entitlement. That it happened so quickly and so easily, this slippage into bad habits and behaviour is almost shocking. Almost. Watch Trudeau closely. When he walks, it is not confidence one notices but swagger, the strut of arrogance and smugness: Here I am, look at me.

It is not enough to look at him; one must see him, really see him.

MONEY FOR THE TAKING

Early in the Liberal mandate we saw signs of equivocation when it came to transparency and honesty. That was when the newly appointed Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould attended a fundraiser put on by a prominent law firm. She said that she attended as a Member of Parliament not as justice minister. That’s splitting hairs and they are not, they cannot be, mutually exclusive. That, notwithstanding Trudeau’s approval, was a clear breach of conflict of interest guidelines. It didn’t bother the justice minister and it didn’t bother Trudeau who merely shrugged it off. It bothered me. It should you.

We have a Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, who attended a climate conference in Paris who had no difficulty in claiming expenses for a professional photographer that cost Canadians over $6K. Press from around the world covered the event; even so, McKenna needed her own private photographer. Why? Because she could and on the public dime?

We have the health minister, Jane Philpott who several times attempted to stiff the public with expense claims, which, upon coming to light, were repaid. First it was $3700 for luxury limousines (she quibbled over the word “luxury”). Then she charged $520 for a pass to Air Canada executive lounges. And then $202 for a suitcase and $178 for a Nexus pass. I suspect she will keep on trying until she gets it right and no one notices or no longer cares.

We have Chrystia Freeland, International Trade Minister, who cancelled a government plane that was to take her home to make a detour on another plane to LA for an appearance on a TV show. That cost taxpayers almost $20K. While campaigning, she charged Canadians $500 for her grooming. A few years ago, Freeland wrote a book on plutocrats. Now she acts like one, another on the public dime.

And then we have the cost of relocating 49 government staffers for $1.1 million. Two staffers to the PMO cost a total of $220K for relocation expenses including “discretionary” costs. Both of the staffers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford are personal friends with Trudeau. While both repaid some money, saying they did not feel comfortable with some of the claims to which they were entitled (if so, why make the claims and why the discomfort only when the expenses became public?). Trudeau’s attitude regarding these claims was one of justification and fingerpointing. They were allowed to make the claims and they were simply following the rules set up by Harper’s government. Besides, others did the same in the past. That was Trudeau’s response. That is the kind of response I expect of a man who has issues with ethics (for himself and his), a man all too willing to resort to legalese to justify questionable behaviour. If I can, why shouldn’t I? And why not for as much as I can and as often as I can?

THE BIG PROMISES NOT KEPT

During the Harper years, the Temporary Foreign Workers Program enraged Canadians when it was revealed that the government allowed foreign workers to be paid 15% less than Canadian workers, that 200 workers from China were granted permission to work a mine up north while Canadian miners were turned away because they couldn’t speak Mandarin, and that RBC had Canadian workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be exported overseas. The Liberals appeared incensed and the NDP really were. The Harper gang, bowing to public pressure, made changes promising to scale back the cap of low-income workers from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. Once in office as prime minister however, Trudeau ignored the Harper cap and kept the level of foreign workers to 20 per cent. In other words, Trudeau, as did Harper, is working with business. As if Canadian workers do not have enough to worry about than having the added burden of their own government working with Big Business to suppress their wages. That disturbs me deeply. It should you as well.

Remember veterans? Remember how Trudeau, riding the wave of support for better treatment of our vets, promised to reopen the nine offices closed by Harper and to return the life-long disability for vets and do away with the one-time lump sum payment? Well, the government has opened some offices and may open all though that is still unclear. What is not unclear, however, is how badly the Liberals betrayed vets with disabilities as a result of their service. Instead of reinstating the life long disability pension, the Trudeau welshers have simply increased the amount of the one-time lump sum payment. Once again veterans have experienced the bitter sting of betrayal by their own government. Liberals and their staffers pillage the coffers with outrageous expense claims and sorrowfully nickel and dime military men and women. Nice.

When Harper’s regime introduced Bill C-51, it was loudly condemned by almost every sector including the NDP, jurists, lawyers, scholars, activists and concerned citizens. The BC Civil Liberties Association points out the bill expands the definition of “terrorism”, it gives security agencies too much discretion, it “criminalizes speech acts that have no connection to acts of violence”, it will allow sharing of personal information with agencies having nothing to do with security (BCCLA, March 11, 2015). The Liberals supported the bill on the whole but expressed some concerns regarding certain aspects. But, in power, they are doing absolutely nothing. Well, not quite accurate. They are consulting with Canadians online. But the information offered and the questions asked are insufficient for uninformed respondents to give any other outcome but one that is skewed and likely to satisfy the Liberals, i.e., allow the bill to remain almost as Harper’s Conservatives envisioned it.

Should we be concerned that Canadians are asked to have input on the bill when experts in security and the law have denounced it? What does Joe or Jane Average know that those in the field don not? It’s insane. Trudeau and his government want lull Canadians into believing they are offering meaningful input and that they will be listened to. Not so. This is Trudeau’s away of absolving himself when the bill eventually creates real problems and it will. It’s not me, he can aver, it’s the citizens who made the final decision. He is a coward and certainly no leader.

Trudeau did promise to consult. And he has ad nauseam on almost everything one can imagine even when the public likely has little to no knowledge and experience regarding the issue at hand. That’s not governance, that’s abdication of responsibility.

But if Trudeau has proven himself shifty regarding some of his promises, he has also demonstrated he is as hypocritical as any other politician. He had, while campaigning, declared his desire to regain Canada’s seat on the UN Security Council. To that end, he made clear that Human Rights were a priority of his government. Well, that was an absolute load of rubbish, which he proved with his government’s signature completing the trade deal initiated by the Conservative government allowing for the export of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. He not only went against UN but also Canadian regulations regarding international trade with Human Rights abusing nations. Saudi Arabia is among the world’s worst offenders.

When the Canadian Streit Group allowed for shipment of LAVs to Libya from its facilities in the Mideast, breaching an international embargo, the Liberal response from Global Affairs was that the vehicles, while manufactured in Canada, were shipped from the United Emirates “which is outside of Canada’s export-control jurisdiction” (The Globe and Mail, Steven Chase, April 5, 2016). Legalese again. Cowardly and dishonest. But when money is at stake, the Liberals are quite willing to place Human Rights at the back of the line for consideration “at another time”.

And then we have the environment.

Trudeau’s commitment to the environment and climate change seems about as steadfast as his commitment to Human Rights as demonstrated by his willingness to trade with rogue abusers such as Saudi Arabia and China.

Not only did Trudeau approve permits for the go-ahead of the Site C dam in northern British Columbia, he has also given the green light to the Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal off the BC coast at the mouth of the Skeena River. Yes, it will create jobs and will certainly go over big with Christy Clark the premier of British Columbia who grants private meetings to special interests provided they hold in their hands $10K, $20K, $30K and whose Liberal government will be facing an election during 2017. But, if the project creates jobs and helps another Liberal government get re-elected, it will also be a vast emitter of carbon waste thus seriously undermining Trudeau’s much vaunted commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The project, which will be operated by natural gas rather than electricity, will pose a huge risk for the salmon habitat and industries in the area.

Nothing like friends helping friends, eh.

There are folks out there who love Trudeau. Well, he’s personable, why not? The thing is, his behaviour and his acts suggest he’s a phoney. He’s bogus. Oh, yes, he’ll keep his undertakings on the small things but, when it comes to the big prize, getting re-elected, gaining power and keeping it, when it comes to entitlements and getting away with what one can, well, Trudeau is your man all the way. The Liberals, the profligate Liberals are back. And we are lapping it all up, the handsome prince mixing with the gushing public who are only interested in snapping selfies with his arm around them. They have met the prince and he has touched them. They do not think; they react. They stare at him with mouths gaping and lips drooling but, I suspect, failing to notice he has no clothes, that there is no there there. He is straw and air. Oh, it’s a beautiful chimera but reach out to touch it and – poof – it’s all air. Nothing.

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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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LIBERALS VS CONSERVATIVES: THE THINGS ONE SEES IN THE POLITICAL ZOO

We’re born princes and the civilizing process turns us into frogs. – Eric Berne

Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age. – Albert Einstein

 Frank Pelaschuk

WEASELS

Stephen Harper appealed to certain types. He was sly, closed, petty, vindictive and all too willing to exploit the worst in us. He was a prime minister possessive of a narrow, exclusive vision; when he spoke of creating wealth and jobs few appeared to understand that he meant creating wealth for special interests groups and that when he spoke of jobs his primary concerns seemed to be in working with Big Business in suppressing wages of Canadian workers through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. His message was one, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, and his efforts of building the economy focused solely on one industry while neglecting manufacturing and other sectors of society. As PM, for at least half of his time in office, he blamed the Liberals for all the things that went wrong, the global market collapse of 2008 for one, and was shameless in hectoring world leaders for not having their collective houses in order. Over time, taking personal credit for the health of our banking system while neglecting to admit to his role in attempting to dismantle the very regulations that made the system healthy, his crowing and badgering grew tiresome, even to Canadians. When Canada began to suffer it’s own economic slump some global leaders must have experienced a grim feeling of schadenfreude. Controlling, incapable of ceding ground or admitting to ever being wrong, he was a pygmy in many ways seeming to imagine himself a giant among men but when it came to generosity of spirit he was graceless and lacking proving himself cowardly several times when he prorogued Parliament rather than answer questions regarding his budgets. He blamed the Liberals for the stagnant economy and not his own preoccupations regarding Alberta oil and certainly not his own ineptitude. He inherited a huge surplus from the Liberals and quickly squandered it creating a deficit of $158 billion while spreading the myth that he and the Conservative squad were the greatest money managers since history began.

For most Canadians, even his supporters, he was not viewed as a warm or caring individual.

But how much worse, if worse, than Justin Trudeau? Oh, Trudeau looks good, I guess, appeals to more than Harper ever did what with his charm, his reputation as best-dressed world leader, his eager efforts to pose with all and sundry seeking selfies with him. There isn’t a camera that doesn’t like him or he a camera. And is it so bad boosting his “sunny, sunny ways”? Yet, there’s something missing. His is a fuzzier, harder image to grasp; many still embrace him because there is not yet enough there to dislike. It will come.

As opposition leader, he largely supported Harper’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, “with some reservations”, a bill that allows for little oversight of spy agencies, that allows for individuals to be accused anonymously, that allows sharing of information of all Canadians travelling to the US, and that could result in charges of economic terrorism for those staging peaceful protests against pipelines, transportation of oil etc. But why is Trudeau “consulting” with Canadians regarding this Harper initiated bill? It’s all show. C-51 has been universally condemned by jurists, educators, judges, lawyers, and activists and even ignorant lay people as myself as bad law that will be challenged in the courts and almost certain to suffer setbacks; as it stands, C-51 appeals to the frightened, uninformed and bigoted. Consultation with the public is only a feel-good measure allowing them to be heard, to voice their concerns and be likely a large enough segment to convince the Liberals to make little, if any changes. Trudeau can claim he gave Canadians an opportunity to be heard and he listened. No doubt he’ll win a few extra votes simply for doing nothing meaningful with C-51. And I am convinced that that is his strategy with electoral reform; many want a referendum and he appears to be having second thoughts even thought he has gone through with his promise to set up a committee to investigate reforms. If he takes the referendum route, the electoral reform will be defeated unless the Liberals make a concerted effort to educate voters. If he goes through with his pledge to make the last election the last first-past-the-post ever, he will likely opt for his preferred choice: the ranked ballot. PR will not make it, of that I am convinced.

While campaigning, Trudeau promised to make Human Rights a priority. He demonstrated he didn’t mean it. Well, not yet. Contrary to what he would have us believe, it is his government that has finalized the $15 billion Light-Armoured vehicle trade deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes, Saudi Arabia, even though it violates Canada’s own as well as UN laws regarding international trade with those Human Rights abusing nations. Liberals claimed they had no choice, their hands were tied, and it was already a done deal by Harper. Not true. Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, had quietly signed off on the export of LAVs. That was the final seal to the deal. Unlike the Dutch who had banned trade deals with Saudi Arabia, the Liberals use weasel words to justify honouring a contract and in the process make a mockery of their claims for Human Rights as a priority. Breaking a deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation as a trading partner, Trudeau claims. Utter nonsense. In the past, Liberal leader Jean Chretien held no such qualms when he cancelled a helicopter deal brokered by the Conservatives. There were penalties for that, but Chretien did not care. He should have. Human Rights were not at issue then.

Trudeau, no doubt thinking of the 3,000 Canadian jobs and the $15 billion deal has apparently made a commitment to trade regardless of the cost to the victims of those trading partners and, in doing so, has made Canadians complicit to any atrocities that may be inflicted by its trading Human Rights abusing partners. Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money.

The Streit Group, Canadian manufacturers of light armoured vehicles, once called “jeeps” by Trudeau, has a plant in Ontario. Recent revelations have shown that vehicles made in Canada have been shipped to South Sudan and Libya where they were then armed with weapons by the military regimes. The practice is called diversion and it is illegal under international law and has led to UN investigators criticising the deals and some concerned groups to ask the government if the deals have violated sanctions against South Sudan and Libya. The sad fact is the vehicles have been sold with the full knowledge that they would later be retrofitted elsewhere. The manufacturers know it; this government knows it. But not a peep of condemnation. See, hear and speak no evil. Instead, the Liberals claim the vehicles fell out of the purview of Canada once they were shipped from a company’s branch in the United Arab Emirates and are no longer any concern of the Canadian government. That’s legalese, a loophole, a weaselly cop-out, that the Liberals believe absolves the Canadian company and Canada: we make them, ship them to an outside branch and then wash our hands of them watching from the sidelines as they are sold to lawless states. Nothing to do with us.

Equally troubling is Trudeau’s commitment to closer ties with China at apparently any cost. Again, Human Rights is a factor. He appears set to cement trade relations with the Human Rights abuser by entering “discussions” (the Chinese call it “negotiations” a not too subtle difference) around an extradition treaty though, when asked directly, sidestepped the matter except to say that Canada has always had “extremely high standards when it comes to extradition treaties”. At one time, yes, but as far back as 2007 Harper had dropped opposition to the death penalty paving the way for extradition to the US. China executes more individuals than all the nations of the world combined including dissidents, students, educators, artists, as well as economic, underworld and everyday “thugs”. Personally, I have no sympathy for those “free enterprisers” in China who cut costs by adulterating milk and other products with poisonous substances such as melamine. Nor do I have sympathy for fraudsters who rip off consumers and exploit and endanger labourers and then flee to Canada seeking shelter. But I do opposed capital punishment and believe Trudeau must obtain a guarantee from China before he inks anything. Even then, I will oppose the deal because I do not trust the Chinese government It’s not enough to mouth support for Human Rights; Canada must demonstrate its support of them. In the crunch, Trudeau appears all too ready to pick and choose when to take a stand. Not good enough.

PIGS, HOGS, SWINE—TAKE YOUR PICK

Trudeau promised better and kinder and of course people believed him. It’s true, he did accomplish a few things Canadians easily support: he kept his promise on Syrian refugees; he did create an inquiry commission into the missing and murdered indigenous women file; he brought back the long-form census; he cut taxes for the middle class and raised them for those making over $200K; he created a task force to look into electoral reform but, unfortunately, while he kept to his promise to consult with Canadians, he has overdone it; there comes a time when a prime minister must lead, must rely on experts in the military, legal and almost every other area of governance rather than on currying favour by consulting with those who may know nothing of a subject. It’s the big promises that are often the hardest to keep. And in the biggest and hardest, Human Rights and trade, Trudeau has not fared well at all. As for the poor, the meanest among us, I have heard nary a word from him. While eager to help the middle class, he has done nothing from what I can see for the single parent holding two or more jobs.

He was going to be fair, open, and transparent and has failed in all three though, it is true, he does seem to be eager to be seen as transparent. Not so with the NDP. During the Harper reign of error, the highly secretive and partisan Conservative and Liberal dominated board of internal economy had determined the satellite offices created by the NDP (offices set up in ridings without NDP representatives using parliamentary staffers as pooled resources working out of town in Quebec) were illegal. The BOIE had changed the rules, which, a year from then would revert to what they were, for the sole purpose it seems of bankrupting the NDP. The BOIE demanded the NDP pay back $2.75 million with allegations of improperly using government resources for partisan purposes, something staffers of all parties presumably do. The NDP, believing they have done nothing wrong, attempted to reach a settlement with the Liberals without going to court. Justin Trudeau vetoed the effort so the matter is headed for the courts. Said Dominic LeBlance then Liberal House Leader, “It is the NDP who decided to begin frivolous judicial proceedings and subsequently asked for settlement negotiations. We have always been of the view that the NDP misused public funds and should therefore reimburse taxpayers” (Joan Bryden, Canadian Press, March 11, 2016). If the NDP is guilty of misusing public funds as the highly secretive and questionable board of internal economy maintain in this particular instance, than so are the Liberals and Conservatives for doing the same. But they, a vile cabal of self-interested pigs will, to no one’s surprise, have none of that. As Harper had proven himself a vindictive bully in the past, Trudeau appears as ready and willing to take on the same role. If the NDP has done wrong, they must, of course pay; but so must the Conservatives and Liberals.

Troubling as this is, this image of a leader bent on bankrupting a party for purely partisan purposes, a sure sign of a smallness in the man, there are other issues of equal concern and they, too, have to do with money.

Following a platitude-laden speech at the UN September 20, 2016, Trudeau answered questions from reporters. Good so far. However, when asked about relocation expense claims by two senior members of his staff and personal friends, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, for a total of $220K, his response was this: We were just following rules set up by the previous government. What! That’s his response? After hearing the same from Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and MPs from all parties regarding expense claims, campaign expenses, haven’t we had enough of these lame excuses? When asked for the names of the two, Trudeau kept mute. Why? As taxpayers footing the bills, haven’t Canadians the right to know who may or may not be abusing the system? The Globe and Mail (September 21, 2016), reports that someone in Global Affairs charged $119,825 for moving. In total, the government spent $1.1 million in relocation costs for 47 (I’ve seen another figure of 49) individuals. As well, communications staff from all departments have run up a tab of $2.3 million in overtime during the first seven months of his governance. This is the new, different? From what? When Liberal prize candidate Andrew Leslie retired from the military, he charged $72K to move just a few blocks; Canadians were justly enraged. The above relocation costs should enrage them as well. For the Liberals, ho hum, we didn’t make the rules. But, even as I write this, both Telford and Butts, have offered to pay back about a third of what they claimed with offers of apologies. That’s how it works in politics. Do everything you can to get what you can; if caught, pay back some, say “Sorry”.

Trudeau’s response from the UN is what we have heard too many times from the Conservatives. It is inadequate. Just because one is allowed to make these extremely generous claims, should one milk it dry without a detailed public accounting? If we pay for it, surely we are entitled to know exactly for what we paid. This is not only pushing the envelope, it smacks of grabbing all you can when you can Otherwise what are we to his smacks not only of pushing the envelope but also of seizing the opportunity to feather one’s nest. It’s contemptible. As was Trudeau’s response. Legalese. The rules allow this. While I am on this, was it really necessary for taxpayers to foot the bill for seven staffers who accompanied him?

Nine years ago, my wife and I moved to Ontario from British Columbia. We hired a reputable moving company for our belongings including our vehicle and purchased plane tickets for less than $15K. Even accounting for inflation, and hotel accommodations, real estate fees and other allowances for government compensation, it is difficult to believe the costs of moving can be justified without crossing one’s fingers.

I should not be but I continue to be astounded by such behaviour. Is there no shame?

Clearly not. Until you’re exposed.

The Liberals were turfed out of office largely because of corruption and their sense of entitlement. Well, it appears that happy, sunny attitude is back. We saw to what extent early in their governance.

Our Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, supported by Trudeau, saw nothing wrong in attending a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers. What possible conflict of interest? Right.

We have Health Minister Jane Philpott continually pushing the envelope with questionable expense claims charging Canadians $3700 for luxury limousines, she paid that back. Then it came out she charged $520 for a pass to Air Canada executive lounges. Paid that back, too. Then it was $202 for a suitcase and $178 for a Nexus pass to allow for speedier passage across the border. She agreed to repay that as well. She did quibble over whether the Lexus she rented was a luxury vehicle. Chintzy. Keep on trying until you get it right and don’t get caught, I guess.

We have Environment Minister Catherine McKenna charging Canadians $6K+ to hire a professional photographer during the Climate summit in Paris. Media covered the event. She could have bought a few flattering photos from the press for mere dollars.

And then we have International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland who had been in Manila on government business. Instead of returning home on a booked government plane, she made a detour to appear on a TV show with Bill Maher. That sudden change of plans cost taxpayers close to $20K. She also charged Canadians $500 for grooming while on the campaign trail. When Conservative Eve Adams did the same, she got into trouble. Ah, well, you got to love the hypocrisy of politics.

Doubtless, there are many Canadians who recall Conservative Bev Oda. She had been caught several times making expense claims to which she was not entitled. She, too, had to repay. But the thing that finally forced her out of office was the tab for a $16 glass of orange juice. Evidently the public outcry was too much for the Harper gang. Oda was gone.

There appears to be a lesson to that story. If you are going to steal from the public, go big: Canadians don’t like pikers.

Maybe that’s why, when Mike Duffy was acquitted on all counts, the outrage was rather subdued. He went big and the judge accepted his excuses and that’s enough to absolve all grasping sins: the rules are unclear; the rules allow this; I was told I could do this; my staffer did this; it was an honest mistake; everyone knows me and I am an honest man/woman.

Yes, the Liberals are back and so soon in their mandate quickly proving themselves, with so many Bev Odas of their own, pros among the ethically challenged. And just like Harper, Trudeau will stand by them – until one buys the $16 orange juice. Susan Smith of Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. who is a Liberal pundit appearing regularly on Power and Politics dismisses the issue of costly expense claims as “pedestrian nonsense as opposed to substantive issues” and “junk and crap” dredged up by the opposition who would rather talk about this than the politics of Kellie Leitch or the falling fortunes of the NDP. Maybe Smith considers it small potatoes to charge taxpayers exorbitant, anything-you-can-get-away-with, expense. I don’t.

RODENTS –SEWER RATS

When Kellie Leitch made clear the ugly direction of her Conservative leadership aspirations, Canadians were treated to a glimpse of an outsized ego but one not quite confident enough to trust on her own experiences, talents, and merits to take her to the top. The circumspection seems warranted for, though she does have considerable experience with the Harper government, she is relatively unknown except for her enthusiastic endorsement of the Harper gang’s commitment to create a Barbaric Cultural Practices Snitch Line. At her side, equally enthusiastic, was Chris Alexander. He lost his seat and Leitch kept hers – go figure. Nevertheless, believing she has a winning formula, she has opted for a second kick at the can at trading in ignorance, fear, suspicion, and the collapse of moral character. She sees a scab she’ll pick at it; so it is with fear and ignorance, she’ll work it. She is simply another in a vast sea of Conservative bottom feeders eager to gain the attention and support of the imbecilic and hateful losers who derive a pitiful and grim satisfaction in making others pay for their miserable lot. Nothing is their fault. These are the folk envious of the success of others and embittered by the failures of their own banal lives, folks who prefer to work at pulling down rather than raising up, especially themselves, and for no other reason than the recognition of themselves as losers who will always be losers.

Kellie Leitch has offered them something, as had the Harper Conservatives last election. It didn’t work out to well federally but for the leadership race it might just fit the bill because she believes she knows her family, believes her appeal is what she offers this family of sad sack losers making up the core of the Conservative base: she offers the same sacrificial lamb that the Harper gang offered last election: the immigrant, the newcomer, the foreigner – the Muslim terrorist. Leitch will win some over because these folks are handicapped crippled by fear and suspicion and the certain knowledge and shame of their own weaknesses and cowardice; they possess no dignity because they have never understood the strength and worth of those they hate and fear; they are not worth a second glance except by those opportunists who would exploit them for all the poisons festering within. Leitch is not just one who feeds off the rot; she is the rot.

POSSUMS

But, of the Harper crew, she is not alone. Just days after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals appointed Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, to take on the role of Leader of the Government in the House of Commons as well, the Conservatives, under interim leader Rona Ambrose, appointed Candice Bergen as party House Leader, to replace Andrew Scheer who is running for the Conservative leadership. He is another prize. Bergen’s most notable achievement as member of the Harper Conservatives has been her many appearances on various political programs including CBC’s Power and Politics as Parliamentary Secretary. She, along with many others, including the execrable Leitch and Rempel and the departed Chris Alexander served primarily as functional, near-lifelike appearing wind-up dolls (the dead playing alive) in appearing as their government’s intermediaries. With eyes glued wide open and mouths fixed in permanent grimaces halfway between smiles and sneers these breathing effigies of something human behaved appropriately when asked questions offering what seemed a recorded message of the day transmitted to a chip implanted in relatively small brains: the message was not “I love you” but some variation of the Harper mantra, “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts”. Whatever the message of the day, anything approaching coherence and openness did not play a part. Regardless of the question or its variations, the responses by these (one assumes) living, talking dolls, were unvarying and almost word for word. It was horrific watching Bergen and her confederates; at times I wondered if, at night, these creatures from Stepford were placed at charging stations for reenergizing awaiting the transmission of the next day’s script to that chip within them, somewhere. Evidently, despite the months away and now as opposition member, Bergen hasn’t quite shed her role as living Conservative dummy. On September 15, she appeared on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton. Not only did she make claims that Conservatives have demonstrated an ability to “really get along quite well with opposition members” (!!!!), she also said that her new role was to ensure they hold the “liberals to account, we have to ensure they respect parliament, that they don’t ram things through…”!!! Maybe it was my TV set, but when she uttered those words, I’m certain I saw, through tears induced by laughter, her face redden. In fact, immediately following that, she also appeared to hesitate. Had she suddenly suffered a flashback? Had she, if even briefly, recalled how many times the Harper regime, of which she was a proud, loyal and disdainful member, refused to consult with opposition members regarding legislation? Had she suddenly recalled the many closures of debate by the Conservatives, the ramming through of laws, and the endless efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection? Was there, on that day, from Candice Bergen, a hint of embarrassment, a Conservative robot somehow, miraculously, showing a teensy bit of life and, dare I say it, shame?

Not a bit of it. They are shameless.

JACKASSES

But this gives you a hint of the quality of what we had and have, Leitch, Bergen and all the other erstwhile luminaries: Michelle Rempel (notable for shrill appearances as parliamentary secretary and for what appeared drunken tweets where she wonders if the world was ready for someone like her – the answer is no); Clement (of the $50 million slush fund and deserving infamy for $3 billion missing while he was president of the Treasury); Deepak Obhrai; Brad Trost (who boasts of being right of Attila the Hun); Maxime Bernier (think secret documents, unzipped pants, ex-girlfriend of Hell’s Angels member); Andrew Scheer (ex-Speaker of the House notable for demonstrating his partisanship and indifference to impartiality), each as bad as the other sitting in opposition waiting for the day to offer more of the same some even imagining themselves not only leader of the party but of the country.

Jason Kenney, stalwart of the Harper gang will not be running for the leadership federally. Instead, he is galloping west to rescue Alberta from the socialist horde that has somehow, by some black arts, become the government with Rachel Notley leading the bloodthirsty gang. On September 20, 2016, Jason Kenney, interviewed by Rosemary Barton in celebration of his announced resignation as MP made this utterance “One thing I learned in politics is it’s much easier to tell a simple lie than a complicated truth”! He should know. He has proven that truth has been too complicated for him at times as when he attempted in a fundraising letter to suggest Trudeau was sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted a picture of a child “bride”, hands bound, with her “husband” and another of bound women we were to take as ISIS slaves without informing us the first was fake and the other of an historical re-enactment. This is the fellow who justified Canada’s expanded role in Iraq with the claim that only the US and Canada, of the allies, had precision-bombing capability. When truth threatens, he flees.

Sadly, nothing has really changed even with Kenney’s departure. Different government, the same kind of people: scoundrels, liars, whores. and a few honest folks elected by mistake. Trudeau has been more open, I will grant him that but he has proven himself to have the mettle to be secretive and shifty. All the warmth and fuzzy good feelings? It’s chimera. He seems ready to sign an extradition deal with China. If anything signalled how willing he was to turn his back on Human rights, it was the LAV deal with Saudi Arabia and the justifications he offered for doing so. If he signs the extradition treaty with China, there will be excuses but he he will have sealed the door on Human Rights as a priority so that he can open the door to trade and embrace the torturers and murderers.

***

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

KELLIE LEITCH’S BARBARIC POLITICAL PRACTICES: THE POLITICS OF DIVISION, FEAR, INTOLERANCE, BIGOTRY AND HYPOCRISY

 

America needs fewer men obsessed with erecting fences of hate, suspicion and name calling. – William Arthur Ward

Joe….was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything. – John Ciardi

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. – Jonathan Swift

He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. – George Orwell

Frank Pelaschuk

NEW REGIME, OLD STORY

Having observed politicians for some time, I have not found any reason to hope that Trudeau and gang would fulfill many of the campaign promises of newer and better than the Harper fare Canadians endured for the past decade, they were too many and too lavish. But there are some things that are refreshing and offer signs of hope, the prime minister and his crew showing a willingness to engage with the media, answering questions and offering responses that are not always scripted something that became the crippling hallmark of the Harper regime; it’s clear that Trudeau has confidence in his ministers and trusts them enough to carry the government’s message without coming across as living dolls incapable of independent thought. As well, I do appreciate that the Liberals have made an effort to consult with the public but have my doubts about the necessity of doing so on almost every conceivable item many best left for those who really do know what they are doing.

The support they have garnered is still extremely high. Perhaps that accounts for a few missteps since their massive victory. In less than a year, they have revealed themselves as susceptible to hubris, to a sense of entitlement and to questionable ethics as they have in the past and which their Conservative successors and predecessors have embraced under the Harper banner. Many of the Trudeau cabinet are new to politics but their behaviour in some instances is reminiscent to that of the old politico guard with years of experience revealing, so early into the mandate, troubling signs of rot. There is Jody Wilson-Raybould, just months into her office as justice minister showing a complete failure of understanding or simple disregard for public perception of her attendance of a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers from prestigious firms, the very entities who stand to benefit most from the decisions made by her ministry. For some, myself included, this is a clear example of conflict of interest revealing a justice minister of poor judgement, questionable behaviour and a careless indifference to either. Such fundraisers or other methods, including private access for loot, have become common, accepted practice among politicians such as Kathleen Wynne, Christy Clark and other premiers, ministers and backbenchers. They should not. It does not look good and it’s not good. Wynne, when questioned by the media, acknowledge such and has since made moves to scrap such practices. But how sincere or effective are such displays when some, as Clark, see nothing wrong in holding private meetings with those who can afford it: it’s about privilege and money. We just have to take the word of Christy Clark and her fellow politico hacks that access for money does not mean everything is not on the up and up. I don’t accept that and I cannot believe that. Access for cash is by its very nature corruptive; something is being bought and sold and apparently it’s our politicians.

And then we have politicos, who are pikers, the cheesy nickel-and-dime types who pilfer from the public trough with bogus claims in the belief the amounts too small to earn notice or the public fury. When caught, they will often apologize, claim they had done nothing wrong, that everything they did was allowed under the guidelines and, if the noise becomes too loud for too long, still claiming innocence of wrongdoing, some will offer to reimburse the treasury. Three recently elected Liberals who apparently had no trouble not consulting Canadians regarding the picking of their pockets immediately come to mind. There is Catherine McKenna, environment minister, who charged the pubic well over $6K for photos from a professional photographer to highlight the work she was doing on our behalf while at the Paris climate change conference. Surely that was an unnecessary expense since the media following the event must certainly have been as eager to showcase this new and highly photogenic cabinet member as she was to be photographed. Jane Philpott, health minister, is another who had little difficulty charging Canadians for costly limousine services and for access to Air Canada’s executive lounges across North America and Europe. When the first story broke regarding limousines, Philpott quickly agreed to repay taxpayers though there was some quibbling as to what constitutes a luxury vehicle. Again, when news broke of her signing up for the executive lounge pass, she offered to repay the tab. The question is: Why do these things in the first place? Perhaps it’s the thrill of pushing the envelope in hopes of seeing with what one can get away; if caught, there’s always the public apology for it’s seldom that something ever comes of such abuses. Finally, we have Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, who had been in Manila on government business and had already been booked to return home on a government plane. However, she booked another plane to make an appearance on a TV show with Bill Maher. The cost to taxpayers? Close to $20K. Even if she had committed to government business as she claimed, surely that should have been planned for ahead of time rather than appearing to be a sudden change of plans that the Conservatives were quick to pounce upon as a “vanity” trip to L.A. Too, while she was campaigning to get elected, she charged $500 as grooming expenses to the public. Evidently Freeland and the Liberals and their supporters see nothing wrong in this. Yet, Conservative Eve Adams suffered considerable grief for doing the same in 2013. When you’re as loved as the Liberals anything is allowed it appears.

These are behaviours, however, easily remedied by these very people if they possessed a sense of shame and the desire and integrity to do so. Regulations, detailed and not too complex regarding expenses can be made explicit so that even the most ignorant among them with the comprehension of a preschooler can be made to understand and follow them. Should the rules be broken, punishment should be instant, public and severe; neither apologies nor repayment should be considered sufficient. People who can’t be trusted with the little things certainly can’t be trusted with the big.

These are not deadly blows to the Trudeau gang, but they are telling. I do not like that Trudeau has broken his promise of making human rights a priority by going through with the LAV trade deal with Saudi Arabia. Nor do I like that he is in China signing trade deals without taking a stronger stand and making such deals conditional on China’s own problems with human rights. These are in contravention of Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with nations that violate human rights. These should be more damaging but apparently are not. The broken promises and unethical behaviours suggest a culture of entitlement, a cold disregard and insensitivity for the realities by which most Canadians and citizens of the world live, and an attitude that the suggests because something is not forbidden by law it becomes acceptable and therefore allowable because doable. Offensive and egregious as they are, and to me they are egregious, such attitudes can ultimately be remedied by the voter if not the folks he or she elects: boot the bums out. MPs can be made to act ethically even if reluctantly if the punishment is certain, swift and public. MPs can be made to repay padded expense claims as had Jane Philpott (unfortunately, only when her extravagant ways became public). Rules need to be rewritten so as to remove all possibility of pleading ignorance, of claiming misunderstanding because the guidelines are too difficult to understand. They must be rewritten so that even the stupidest, the sharpest, and the most corrupt can know for a certainty, without exception, the consequences of breaching ethical guidelines. The buck stops with the MPs and not with sacrificial staffers or the use of legalese as a refuge: the rules allow it; the rules were not clear; others have done this in the past; I was told this was allowed. That is the response of the coward, the man or woman who accepts no responsibility for his or her own acts. Those who blame others or who resort to legalese have no right to hold office.

THE SHAMEFUL AND SHAMELESS

I did not vote Liberal. Nor did I vote Conservatives. Both parties have histories of corruption and have ruled as if entitled. Nor do I much admire a party a couple so besotted by cameras and adulation of the public as the Trudeaus. I find their sincerity fulsome and believe it more show than genuine. It may be real; I have just to be convinced. I have never much trusted actors who can put on the sad faces on cue or who express warmth and authenticity by furrowing their brows and tapping their fingertips on their breasts to convince me of their sincerity. I have met a few like that over a long life and none have later proved themselves the real thing.

That said, the one thing I have yet to see from the Liberals, and hope to never see, is the utter debasement of politics as practiced by America’s Donald Trump and Canada’s Conservative party last election when they warred against two women over the niqab and then announced the Conservative plan to create a snitch line so that Canadians could report the BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES OF YOU KNOW WHO! as proudly trumpeted by their own Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander. Astoundingly, only a few paid a price for that debacle, one of them Alexander. Leitch, as we all know by now, and many of the prominent figures of the old Harper gang of mean-spirited, petty, shrill, lying, and hypocritical members still holding office as Official Opposition, are running for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

With Leitch running for office, there is no need to look south at Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton and not so quietly trumpet our own moral superiority. We have our own sewer rats.

When the Conservatives were ousted from power to become official opposition, months after the election, April 21, 2016 in fact, Leitch appeared with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Power and Politics making a big show of penitence for the party decision to create the snitch line and her role in happily making the announcement at the time. As she spoke, she appeared to be struggling to squeeze a few tears. That’s the trend these days, politicians going to the same school learning how to offer their “Sorry’s”, some even going so far as if to offer concrete proof of their rue, dabbing their eyes as if there really were tears or actually shedding and wiping a few drops of the real thing likely induced by onion juice rubbed into their knuckles. That’s all that’s needed they believe; hollow regrets, a few tears, real or faux.

So, almost a year from the snitch line announcement and a few months after her weepy appearance on CBC, we have Kellie Leitch emailing a survey to her constituents asking: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigrants?

Now what Canadian values is she talking about? She doesn’t say. Are they the same Canadian values of the Conservatives who waged war against the poor and sought to disenfranchise them by rigging elections with the misnamed Fair Elections Act. Perhaps it’s the same values exemplified by Harper’s Conservatives as time and again they attempted to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes Canadians wouldn’t notice. Perhaps it’s the Conservative values of smearing Supreme Court Justices the way Harper and Peter MacKay did when their choice for Supreme Court Justice was rejected. Perhaps it’s the same Conservative values that, during the last election, raised the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance as they worked at warring against two niqab-wearing women and evoked images of slathering bloodthirsty Muslim barbarians pounding on our doors. Are her values the same as mine? Yours? Kellie Leitch was a proud, vocal supporter of that gang and that campaign. So, which person is the real Kellie Leitch? The teary-eyed one on April 21 or the one on September 1st so closely resembling the Leitch who so proudly announced the snitch line? Maybe she wasn’t even weeping for her role in the snitch line debacle, after all. Anyone with a jot of self-respect would have walked away from it instantly. She did not. My guess is that she was sorry for the loss the Conservatives sustained October 19, 2015 rather than for role in fomenting racial and religious intolerance. Regardless of how one looks at it, she has proven herself totally unfit as an MP especially one with leadership aspirations. If the Conservatives had any decency, any sense of pride and shame, they would demand she withdraw her candidacy and resign her seat. She contributes nothing to the dialogue. She vows to continue in this vein saying, “In my bid to become the prime minister of Canada, I will be putting forward policies that will make Canada safer, stronger and that will enhance a unified Canadian identity” (CTV News, Sept. 2, 2016). Safer? Stronger? Unified? This is racism, plain and simple, the Leitch emulation of Trump and for no other purpose than to garner votes from the frightened and the racist lowlifes among us. Well, we have more than a glimpse of how far she will go to satisfy her ambition and ego. But what a way to do it!

Vile.

This passes for politics. Swimming in filth and offering nothing, the triumph of the mean, ugly, reckless, ignorant; the ultimate ignominy of Conservative values. Is this the best the Conservatives can offer? Here are some of the other contenders: there’s Maxime Bernier who is best recalled for leaving behind classified documents after a night with his then ex-Hell’s Angels girlfriend; there’s Tony Clement who still hasn’t explained what happened to the missing $3 billion when he was president of the Treasury. He’s also the guy who called public servants deadwood and during the G8 and G20 Summits in 2010 created a $50 million slush fund for his riding. There’s Brad Trost who likes to boast of being to the right of Attila the Hun. There’s Deepak Obrai. Who? Enough said. There’s Michael Chong, a relatively decent chap, I suspect, and relatively unknown. And then we have those yet waiting to declare themselves: shrill hysteric Michelle Rempel who wondered in what appeared to be drunken tweets if the world was ready for someone like her. She’s right; we’re not. We have Andrew Scheer who, as Speaker of the House, abused his role with too many bad decisions including keeping from the House requests by Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan until they submitted full, corrected, campaign expense claims. And, of course, we have the possible entry of Peter MacKay, the man who betrayed to Progressive Conservative Party by joining with Stephan Harper’s Reform party. You get the drift. There is one possible decent candidate in the mix but how many really know Michael Chong.

Unfortunately, one notable member is not running for the leadership. That is Jason Kenney who months ago has announced he would run for the leadership of the Alberta PCs. He also announced he would keep his MP seat, which he has, and continue to collect his pay, which he has, as a lame duck member of parliament until the Alberta Conservative leadership race becomes official. That, too, is another abuse of office and the taxpayers’ wallet. Others have done the same, he says. So what? Does their unethical behaviour absolve his? Evidently he believes so. But Kenney is a man of fluid ethics. In the past he has used government letterheads to fundraise for his party. He has thought nothing of smearing Justin Trudeau with fundraising letters by attempting to suggest he was sympathetic to terrorists because he had visited a mosque in Montreal that, after the visit, had been declared a recruitment centre for al-Qaeda by American intelligence. Nor did Kenney have any qualms of tweeting photographs of women in chains and a young “child-bride” with her hands bound with her “husband” with the clear intent of inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments; he just neglected to inform the public that the first photograph was that of an historical re-enactment and the second a faked document. And it was Kenney who made the false claim that, of the allies, only Canada and the US had the capability of precision bombing to justify Canada’s expanded role in the war against ISIS. No doubt, he will work up a complete set of new fiction to smear his opponents and inflame his supporters as he campaigns in Alberta. Had he stayed, however, he might have given Leitch a run as she plays in the sewer so familiar to every member of the Conservative party.

While no supporter of the Liberals and holding the Conservatives in contempt for their narrow, mean-spirited, pro-corporate parochialism, I prefer the NDP and even the Liberals who at least attempt to offer solutions and ideas that for the lowest and meanest among us offer at least a glimmer of hope. The Conservatives offer none; not ideas, certainly not hope; theirs is a commitment not to citizens but to special interests. It’s about the bottom line, dollars and cents and the myths of free enterprise and trading on fear: lower taxes, the infrastructure will take care of itself; corporate tax breaks are good for the country; tax breaks create jobs; the homeless and poor are to be feared; those collecting welfare are fraudsters, lazy bums; more jail time is the only answer to crime; every foreigner must be viewed with suspicion; every Muslim is a potential terrorist; every aboriginal a drunk; every person of colour suspect. The Liberals were swept into power not by the politics of fear but by offering many of the things that the Conservatives offered but also the possibility of hope and renewal. The Liberals have not fulfilled and likely had not even intended to fulfill all the commitments they made; that is the cynicism that has infected politics. It should not happen.

We, as voters, are too ready to forgive. We should not be. We must demand and expect more from those we elect. The least we can expect is that they be honest, ethical, open. We do not need politicians who will seize every opportunity to enrich themselves simply because they can. Nor do we need the likes of those who foment hatred and fear and target strangers as suspect. As voters, we have a responsibility to know for what we vote. We must educate ourselves and we must question and challenge rather than blindly accept every promise from a politician’s mouth as a promise fulfilled. As voters, we must not fall into the same traps we have always succumbed: that of acceptance and acquiescence. Politics should not be about getting power and then clinging to it by any means. And it should not be about voters asking, “What’s in it for me?” but rather, “What’s in it for us?”

But, as long as we keep electing those who pander to the worst in us, nothing will change.

Just how stupid are we?

***

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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