If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. – Voltaire
The aim is not more goods for people to buy, but more opportunities for them to live. – Lewis Mumford
Can our elected politicians be trusted? I do trust them to make and break many grand promises but not with much else; I do not expect perfection of them, but I do expect them to possess the honesty, integrity and the ability to experience shame, as I would expect of my family, my friends and myself. People do make mistakes but making easy promises and breaking them easily and often are not mistakes any more than is lying routinely and with the ease of a con man. Making excuses for every misstep, blaming others for every blunder, and denying our own failings suggest a failure if not lack of character. I prefer to judge and trust a man by what he does rather than what he says and I would hope they the same of me. We see too little of that from our politicians and we still see it in the detritus from the previous Conservative government running for the party leadership most notably from those who continue to pander to the vilest instincts under the guise of Canadian values and security as espoused by the likes of the odious Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney the former minister of public. These are the people who would buy our vote by exploiting our fears and, in the process, encouraging the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance. The cost is too high. They will likely not win the leadership, but they will have infected the political landscape with a rot that will only spread as time goes by. That is probably the best we can expect for some time from that quarter: divisiveness, scapegoating, the scraping of the barrel rather than any hope of elevation and enlightenment. Leitch and Blaney and all of their ilk are bottom feeders best left in the filthy swamp that is their natural habitat.
But times have changed; we have a new, Liberal government with a new, young, charismatic leader and a slew of young, fresh cabinet ministers all swept into office by voters eager for change and eager to believe. We’ve seen this picture before, too many times, change that wasn’t change at all, the same old same old: the revolving door made for two parties only and a vast number of voters left unrepresented in the cold.
Better? Can these mostly new faces be trusted? Are they honest? Have they kept to their promises of openness and transparency? Do these Liberals really stand apart from the Conservatives or are they just as so many of us believe of politicians: little better than those con artists who will woo and dine and win your heart only to break it once they have gained what they want from you?
It is clear that voters can be bought. We swallowed holus bolus all the promises, many of them so excessive and extensive as to stretch the credulity of those calmer folks who have witnessed it all before and stood by the sidelines sadly shaking their heads knowing of the headaches and disappointments that would eventually befall those silly addle heads moved by gleaming surface and hollow hope offered by Trudeau and the Liberals. And if a few of the sceptical fretted wondering if they were doing the right thing, the doubts didn’t last, they allowed themselves to be charmed and bought and gladly gave the Liberals what they wanted. Anything was better than the Harper gang they were told and told themselves.
We live in hope and high expectation and are all too easily swayed by the same tired lines. Things really will be different this time we tell ourselves. And they, the politicians tell us that too. Sunny days, sunny ways are coming. We believe in them because we want to believe in them. But what makes them special, different, more believable better than any other politician. Their youth? The grandeur or extravagance of their promises?
I look at this new bunch and see what I expected but hoped not to see. I didn’t expect to see it as quickly as I did but I see it nevertheless.
We can be bought easily, cheaply and just as easily betrayed. The Conservatives and now the Liberals have demonstrated that time after time. But what of them? Can politicians be as easily and cheaply bought?
Of course they’ll say not. No, not a one of them is for sale. And I’ll believe them as much as I believe in the tooth fairy or that Kevin O’Leary cares about the homeless almost as much as he does about M-O-N-E-Y. I know this: when anyone, especially a politician, justifies a questionable act by claiming, “it’s allowed” and “others have done the same”, I know I’m in the presence of a man or woman I can not trust. In fact, I see a scoundrel. These are people who rely too much on legalese, what they can legally do and get away with seeming not to possess enough in the way of judgement and character to even ask themselves a simple question: Because I can, should I? These are opportunists, the self-enrichers who seek every avenue and seize every opportunity to find benefit in their every deed and word. I do not like such people. I prefer the honest thief; we both know what he is and what our roles are.
Now these people, such as shameless premier Christy Clark, will meet with anyone clutching $5, $10, $20, $30K in their hot hands and swear with eyes crossed that they are not and cannot be bought. That may be true. I don’t know. How can I know when almost all of these meetings are unannounced, are secret, private and often exclusive? We just have to take them at their word. But why should we? When they break promises as easily as they dip into the public till, how can one trust them when it comes to access for pay? We can’t, of course, and we shouldn’t.
When Jody Wilson-Raybould, our justice minister for god sakes, makes the ludicrous assertion that she had attended a fundraising event put on by lawyers not as a justice minister but as an MP, what are we to make of that? The roles of MP and minister are inextricably linked there is no separation. She, backed by Justin Trudeau, then asserted that the conflicts of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, that she was cleared. What a crock. In a letter, the commissioner stated, public office holders “including ministers and parliamentary secretaries,” are allowed “to personally solicit funds if the activity does not place them in a conflict of interest” (Vancouver Sun, Peter O’Neil, April 13, ’16). She has also stated that unless regulations are put into law, she can not enforce them. Bardish Chagger, government House Leader and, I suspect, minister of the newly created department of circular thinking, says legislation is not necessary because there are already rules holding them accountable. Say what? If a private meeting between a justice minister and a babble of lawyers doesn’t make for conflict of interest or, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest, what does? Can the justice minister reasonably expect the public to believe that these lawyers were quite willing to accept that only the MP was in attendance but not the minister of justice? It stretches credulity and cannot be believed by anyone but a dolt.
And then we have other Liberals, newcomers seeming born to the role of skimming from the public trough. We have environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna’s stiffing taxpayers $17K for photographers for 15 events including $6,600 for a private photographer as she attended a Paris climate summit where news photographers were aplenty and free. And who can forget health minister Jane Philpott’s several forays into charging and reimbursing taxpayers for unseemly claims. I guess she hopes to get it right which will be the day no one will notice. But these are pikers next to Chrystia Freeland who thought nothing of cancelling a government jet waiting to take her home from a business trip to Manila so that she could make a side trip to LA for an appearance on a talk show with Bill Maher. But if she went big, she was not above going low as well. While campaigning, she charged us $500 for her grooming. Now I can hear some screaming this is small stuff. Well, Eve Adams got into a lot of hot water over the same issue. Nickels and dimes add to dollars. One man’s meat is another man’s poison I guess.
But what is acceptable behaviour? Surely not access for pay. It seems the Liberals, provincially as well as federally, disagree. We have the Globe and Mail (Globe & Mail, Robert Fife and Steven Chase, Oct. 19, ’16) reporting that Bill Morneau was at a fundraiser at $1500 a plate attended by business executives at a private waterfront mansion of Fred George, a one time mining bigwig turned land developer. Those in attendance, numbering “about 15”, included Jim Spatz, chairman and chief executive of Southwest Properties. Spatz, as the article points out, is the partner of Fred George, host of the party, and was recently appointed to the board of Halifax Port authority “on the advice of federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison, the Liberals’ power broker for Nova Scotia.” Nothing fishy going on? The finance minister at the private home of a partner to a government appointee attended by like-minded individuals? Now CTV news has reported that Morneau has taken in part in several such meetings and is due to attend a gathering at a private home sponsored by an executive of Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs licensed to lobby Morneau’s department. If these are all innocent fundraising tea parties, why the secrecy? Again, we have to take these people at their word that everything is above board. Well, I don’t have to and I don’t.
Said Trudeau in his mandate letters: “Government and its information should be open by default.” On CBC television and radio, I have heard some journalists say that the sums are too small to influence anyone. Come again? We have a hint of what it takes to gain access but how much does it take to buy influence? If the Globe and Mail number of attendees is accurate, that’s $22,500. Is that enough to buy influence? What if it happens ten times with the same number of people? And if the attendees of other events have the same interests and goals and if the numbers in attendance were larger, 50, 100, 200 well, that’s $75, $150K, $300K… How small is too small? It doesn’t wash. When should the public begin to worry? People will smash a car window for a loony. Imagine what a politician will do for a vote. No one, no one, forks over thousands of dollars simply for the pleasure of being able to boast about sitting with premier Christy Clark or finance minister Bill Morneau and chatting about the weather and smelling lettuce. Bill Morneau is from the business world and no doubt knows almost everyone who counts on major corporate boards. As finance minister, when he talks, they likely pay attention. When they offer money for access, I have no doubt it is his turn to listen.
It is not just in the appearances of ethical failure that disturbs me, though, in truth, that should be more than sufficient for any citizens. It’s the excuses: it’s legal; others have done the same; I made a mistake; my assistant did it. These are the words of chiselers and cowards. Even if true, the excuses must not be used as justifications for one’s own acts but a call to do something about another’s and for making changes.
WHO REALLY REALLY LOVES YA, BABY
More than once I have stated that I believed Harper and his gang were often working more for the health and welfare of Big Business than of Canadians. We saw evidence of that more than once by how they handled the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, when Chinese workers were allowed to work in mines in northern British Columbia while our own were turned away and when his regime worked with business to allow foreign workers in low-income jobs to be paid 15% less than Canadians and when RBC had its own workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be shipped overseas. The TFWP under Harper was more about working hand in hand with business in the suppression of Canadian wages and union busting than in fulfilling a need. Once the public got whiff of these scandals, and the Conservative role was scandalous, Harper and gang pledged to reduce the number of foreign workers companies could employ from 20% of the workforce to 10%. The Liberals appeared to be on side but now, in power, apparently have had second thoughts; instead of tightening the program, they have decided to let things stand. This was to allow fisheries in the east to hire more workers. Well, one can understand that, after all, the Liberals won every seat in the east coast and one good turn deserves another. Right?
But how do workers feel about the program or about Bombardier Inc. receiving $1 billion from Quebec and a possibility of $1 billion from the Canadian government especially in light of news that the company has announced a 7500 job cut but will hire 3700 in “low-cost countries”? That is, jobs for workers overseas. That’s Capitalism for you, Big Business claiming they want less government interference, let business do what it knows best…which seems to be extending it’s greedy collective hands into the public purse whenever things get tough.
So, are we better off with Trudeau or did we buy a bill of rotten goods?
Maybe Canadians should ask our veterans. The Liberals saw an opportunity when Harper and gang time and time again screwed those very people who were likely the staunchest of Conservative allies. Trudeau promised to reinstate the lifelong disability pensions and to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Conservatives. We have yet to see the final outcome of the second promise but we do know that the Liberals turned their back on the first. They reneged on reinstating the lifelong disability pensions opting, instead, to add to the lump-sum payment and to the sting with another betrayal by a country for which they have given so much.
This is a government that talks big and looks good when it “consults” on almost every topic under the sun and even produces results on the things with which most Canadians do not disagree. Unfortunately, as I have suggested in previous posts, this regime seems prepared to let die one of its major promises: that the last election was the last ever first-past-the-post election.
During an interview for Le Devoir, Trudeau said that the voters appeared satisfied with the present regime (Liberals) and that there was no pressing need to act on electoral reform. Said he on the week of Oct 17, “they (voters) have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling.” How things have changed. Now that is nerve, hubris and hypocrisy. Harper had won his majority with just slightly over 39% of the vote. While campaigning, perhaps out of sheer exuberance, Trudeau had promised loudly and often that there would be electoral reform. Surely he must have believed the present system of FPTP was unfair and too many voters unrepresented. Now, a year later, having won with the nearly identical popular vote of just over 39% and with even a greater number of seats than Harper ever had, Trudeau, after the formation of an electoral reform committee, has suddenly become convinced that the public is well served under our present system.
Now Trudeau may well have been simply musing aloud to gauge public response to this. Regardless, it is a cynical move and does him no credit for it was he, on his own, not the clamour of the public, who made this significant promise that “We intend to keep.” Well, politicians lie all the time and Trudeau is apparently no exception. Yet his behaviour suggests he would prefer to have us believe him unique among the breed. He’s not. If anything, he has revealed himself as just another sleazy politico out for the main chance. On electoral reform, he mouths the appropriate things: he wants to “judge” the peoples’ opinion, i.e., consult more with the public before letting finally allowing to wither on the vine that for which he had little appetite in the first place.
That is the old and new Liberal hat of entitlement. Things are right with the world and why should he, of all people, tinker with it? To be fair, he hasn’t quite ruled it out though I expect he will or, if not, go with his preferred choice which will have the same effect: the ranked ballot.
On this issue, I did hold out some hope but not much. I did hope he would surprise me in a pleasant way by actually shooting for real electoral reform that was truly proportionately representative. I no longer hope for that from him. Why should he commit to the remaining 60+% of the voters when, like Harper, he won the love and his massive majority with just 39+%?
But, of course, Trudeau and gang have betrayed us even more significantly than in revealing themselves willing to push ethical boundaries and breaking promises as easily and quickly as Liberals did in the past. And that is in the areas of Human Rights and the question of Canadian sovereignty.
As did Harper, Trudeau seems to have made signing on to trade deals an important if not essential cornerstone of his mandate. That’s too bad because he appears too eager to sign the deals at the expense of Human Rights. In fact, he has turned his back on Human Rights, which he had declared to be his priority while campaigning.
Not only has he signed off on the light-armoured vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the worlds most repressive regimes regarding Human Rights, he lied about it saying he couldn’t get out of it, that Harper had made it a done deal, that trading nations would not respect Canada if it broke the contract. They were phony excuses and lies, the deal actually “done” when Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion signed off on the export documents. To do this deal, Harper and Trudeau were quite willing to ignore UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with oppressive regimes. It’s easy to understand, $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are no small thing. But then again, neither are Human Rights. But, while Trudeau made an exception this time, he did promise Human Rights would be a priority next time. Reminds me of St. Augustine’s prayer when he was young, “Lord, make me chaste—but not yet!” And, of course, there’s no blood on our hands. No, no blood…. let’s keep telling ourselves that.
But if Trudeau has failed Canadians in so many ways, including protecting Canadians against the depredations began by the Harper regime with C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, he seems prepared not only to betray Canadians by freely exchanging information on all Canadians who may travel to the States or overseas, he has proven himself equally willing to betray Canadians and Canadian sovereignty on the altar of Capitalism and to fulfill Harper’s goal of turning Canada’s democracy into a corporatocracy.
As I write this, Wallonia, an area of Belgium, with a third of the population, appears to have agreed to sign off on CETA (Eu-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) after a few days as the lone hold out. Evidently, the left in Europe had problems with the deal seven years in the making. And so they should and so should Canadians and all citizens of the signatory nations. The deal, cited by Chrystia Freeland as the “gold standard” of trade deals, is precisely that: a gold plated deal for Big Business but not so golden when it comes to ensuring that the legislative powers of signature states will be able to pass laws effective enough to protect citizens against the depredations of polluters, chemical companies, agribusinesses, and Big Pharma. Under NAFTA, ushered in by the Mulroney government, Canada has become the most sued member as a result of a clause that allows corporations to sue governments. Any business believing its “right” to maximize profits has been negatively impacted by laws meant to protect citizens can challenge the law and sue the government. Canadian and American laws, the right to protect citizens from corporate abuses, take second and third place to that of corporate rights under NAFTA; Big Business are more powerful and have more rights than governments and consumers. Sovereignty has taken a brutal hit and citizens betrayed by the very people and governments that are supposed to protect and look after their interests. CETA, lobbied and supported by Harper with Trudeau eager to sign off on the deal, offers more, if not worse, of the same. While the deal does replace the dispute mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement with a permanent investment court system, the changes are window dressing with an end result that offers, for all practical purposes, little to no change. It allows, as it did with the old ISDS clause for three arbiters: one from the investor, one from the defending nation and one appointed by agreement of the parties involved all drawn from a panel of fifteen agreed upon by Europe and Canada, five of whom are from parties of countries not involved in the deal. The benefits, if any, are procedural, rather than substantive and in one direction only; General Bullmoose, Al Capp’s caricature of the greedy, ruthless, tyrannical capitalist not only lives, he has won, and he thrives. The thing is, though the changes are subtle, the effect is not: the mechanisms protecting the interests of corporations are still in place: laws can be mandated to accommodate foreign businesses. That is likely catastrophic news for Canadians in general and for those in the agricultural sector in particular. If it is such a good deal, why haven’t Freeland and her boss offered assurances that sovereignty has not been compromised? Let us see the details before finalization. This is what the Conservatives were prepared to sign off on and this is what the Liberals are eager to see to its completion. Can anyone be surprised that these deals are conducted in secrecy and the public often staggered and embittered when they finally are made privy to the details and fully understand the extent of betrayal and what they, as a nation, have given away? But, by then of course, it’s too late! Knowing that, it is easy to understand why those working on such deals, like Freeland and her counterparts in Europe, refuse to address the details regarding corporate regulation and Canada’s right to protect itself and its citizens preferring to quickly move on to other topics, the magnitude of the deal, for example, while loudly braying that “this is the best deal in the history of mankind”.
It’s only when finally inked that Canadian and European citizens will fully realize the extent of their betrayal. I admire Wallonia and its people not only for the stand they have taken but also for withstanding as long as they have what must have been enormous and unrelenting pressure from the 27 other signatories to the deal. Bullies win far too often and far to many of us stand on the sidelines wringing our hands doing nothing. If CETA goes through, and it seems it will, the only winners will be Big Business and those politicians who have sold us out. And that is exactly what they have done. They have responded to the bell ringing of their corporate masters, shameless lackeys out for the main chance. Once they leave office or are booted out, they will, and have, be free to walk into corporate boardrooms in droves welcomed with open arms and sporting huge grins; they, at least, got theirs.
As we have seen with his shocking betrayal of the promise to make Human Rights a priority, Trudeau has revealed an almost childish eagerness to pander and trade with anyone including China, another outrageous and aggressive abuser of Human Rights. Trudeau appears to be a younger, smarmier version of Harper with the same gluttonous appetite to sign trade deals at any cost. Regardless of what happens with CETA, we then come to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement including Canada, the USA, and 10 other pacific states. The Americans loudly touted TPP as a “Made in America” deal. That alone should alarm all would-be signatories. Guess who the Americans believe will come out the winner? If you said Canada, go to the outhouse.
So, what has changed?
When a prime minister seems prepared, even eager, to sign away Canadian sovereignty, when he can only offer excuses and justifications for the questionable behaviours of his ministers and staff, when he can dismiss disabled vets as easily and readily as he has, I question his judgement and integrity. This is the same man who, while MP thought nothing of charging a $20K speaking fee to a financially troubled charity for seniors. He promised to reimburse the charity and all other fees for similar public speaking events between 2008 and 2012. You see, he explained, he wanted to make it all right in the same way Jane Philpott does. Too bad both had to be reminded by news reports and public exposure before suffering from the malady of making things right.
Everyone loves Trudeau. Lately, however, a few have, literally, turned their backs on him, perhaps regretting their votes. Too bad, too late. Maybe he is a nice, sweet fellow but I too often see a smug, strutting camera-loving well-dressed phony who welshes on the big promises and believes Human Rights are a priority—just not yet, later, after the next big deal unless another, something better comes along…. It is truly sad for he is extremely capable and could accomplish great things.
But he’s a Liberal. Get it while you can, as much as you can, however you can.
Just don’t get caught.
The world hates losers.
No doubt about it, the Liberals and the era of entitlement are back; the party is on.
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