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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.

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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.

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