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THE DEMAGOGUE AND THE VOTER AS IGNORAMUS: HARPER’S DIRTY POLITICAL WAR OF DIVISION AND FEAR

There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear. –Jawaharlal Nehru

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance. – Socrates

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The narrative regarding the NDP has largely been that it is a tax-and-spend party, a party greedily picking our wallets and reckless with our dollars. It is not true, of course, an invention promulgated largely by opposition Conservative and Liberal parties and their friends in the corporate and media worlds, a lie as infantile and dishonest as the Conservative myth of themselves as the best fiscal managers of the public purse since the dawn of man. To hear them tell it, it’s bred in the bone, as inherently impossible for Conservatives to mess up, as it is a divine certainty the NDP will drive the economy to the ground transforming Canada, as some have said, ” into another Greece”. It’s spurious fearmongering, of course, the socialist as bogeyman, as predictable as Harper’s daily alarmist rhetoric of terrorist hordes targeting Canada and pounding at our doors.

When things go right, it is always because of the smart things Harper and gang do or not do: “wise planning”; “prudent spending”; “tax cuts encourage investment”; “trimming public service fat”; “there’s only one taxpayer” whatever the hell that last means. Not surprisingly, when things do go awry, and they do and have, Harper MPs scurry into dank nooks in the way of cockroaches eyes rolling and panic-stricken mumbling old, tired refrains: “a mess inherited from previous Liberal mismanagement “; “market forces beyond our control”; “unforeseen world events”; “a minor self-correction”; “yadayadayada” leaving it for the big boys to enlarge on the spin, one of whom is Michelle Rempel, a bobblehead extraordinaire, whose frequent appearances on CBC’s Power and Politics (just try and stop her), always leaves one drained, so fraught with malice, shrillness, boorishness, and imperiousness as she makes up facts and offers diversions with the conviction of a conman shouting down anyone doubting his claims.

THE WIZARD AS BIGOT

For them, everything, everything, it seems, boils down to dollars and cents and their belief that the most important weapon one need possess is power: the greater the power, the greater the ability to exploit fear, inflict pain and to control. Harper has wielded this weapon, the power of his majority, effectively and relentlessly against public servants, critics, opposition members, and even the public. The manner of the pain has been extreme and vicious for some segments of society and is indicative of what is really bred to the Harper Conservative bone. It is more than their inflated imaginings of their fiscal adroitness and their smug arrogance that makes them so unpalatable; there is their zealotry, their willingness to distort, their ease with corruption, their eager mean-spiritedness, their pitiful delusions, their embrace of dishonesty, their penchant for scapegoating the weak and poor and their fomenting of religious and racial intolerance. There is almost nothing they will not do to forward their agenda and no weapon is too foul to not be used. Only the most contemptible would be drawn to such as these and many are.

And they, of course, are members of the Conservative base, unshakable, unreachable and unteachable. They unquestioningly swallow the swill and embrace the myths casting their votes accordingly and as thoughtlessly as the Conservative majority spin facts, engage in dirty tricks (the dirtier, the better), and slip dubious legislations into massive omnibus bills without debate with hopes of escaping detection. None of this troubles either side of the Conservative coin; both feed off the poisons each exude, the Conservative base a black hole swallowing everything except knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment and the Harper gang feeding it everything but knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment fanning the flames of ignorance, fear, and intolerance, waging war against the Muslim community and opposition parties with straw man arguments that have nothing to do with facts or reality. The base doesn’t need the facts or reality, they readily and easily accept the Conservative justifications of C-51, which grants our intelligence agencies greater powers to spy on Canadians with little oversight by suggesting the laws in place are not enough. It’s not true of course; no truer than the Conservative suggestion that opposing the bill makes one somehow unpatriotic, probably sympathetic to the terrorist cause. The Conservative base never questions. So the Harper gang ratchets the level of hysteria with evocations of ISIL inflating Canada’s contributions in Iraq and their own as triumphal leaders towering above all others among our allies passing legislation that jurists, scholars and leaders have condemned as heavy-handed, unnecessary, abusive, and an attack on fundamental civil liberties. No matter, the Conservatives are blind and deaf to appeals to reason, to fair play and to justice. They know the audience to whom they appeal, their base base. From them there is no blowback when there is speculation Harper and gang will ban the niqab in public service. Indeed, there is only resounding approval from this segment of the easily frightened, stupid and self-interested when Harper wages war against Zunera Ishaq, one of two Muslim women, who have obeyed all steps to obtain Canadian citizenship but have resisted the demand they be unveiled during the swearing in ceremony which the courts have said is their right. Why is the gang so afraid of this one woman? And why is Harper so eager to expend so much energy, time, and money against her? The Conservatives claim that the niqab symbolizes the subjugation of women. That’s a pretext, an excuse. How can it be when the “subjugated” wear the symbol voluntarily? I can understand him wanting to win an election, but I cannot his methods, one of which is the promise to set up a snitch line to report those who engage in “barbaric cultural practices”, i.e. Muslims again. That is a red herring. Amanda Alvaro of Narrative P.R., in her appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics called the move a “barbaric political practice”. She’s absolutely right. This is simply targeting a segment of society. We already have laws against such things. And, if you must have a Tip Line, why not one for the murdered and missing women or for battered women? This is nothing but posturing with one goal, to capture the Quebec vote in particular by capitalizing on the racial and religious intolerance of the ignorant and fearful. Where will it end? How far is Harper willing to go? Recently, alarms were set off when Bill C-24 was used to strip a terrorist with dual citizenship of his Canadian citizenship. What is going on in Canada with this gang of thugs? This is abusive and extreme, discriminatory and dangerous. We have a government that is behaving in the fashion of nation states we condemn. It not only foists on other nations a person they may not want because of the risks involved, it also has the potential to deny an accused basic civil rights. Will he have access to the evidence against him? Will he have the opportunity to fight back in the courts? How much will we tolerate when it comes to breaches of civil rights for a little security? When Harper speculates of taking away the citizenship of those born here accused of “serious” crimes or of behaviour that his government finds intolerable, there is, again, even more serious reasons for alarm. Making one stateless is against all codes of decency and international law. It is cruel. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “everyone has a right to a nationality” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”. That is exactly what Harper is proposing in in one instance of a Canadian born accused of being a terrorist. Now some may say these are bad people, they’ve lost their rights when they did what they did. But who is it that decides what is serious? How can we be assured due process has taken place? We can’t. Should a prime minister make up laws just to rid himself of those he does not like? What will be the cutoff point? If murder, people smuggling, and pedophilia merit the loss of one’s nationality as Harper suggests, what will be added to the list? Under C-51, will environmentalists blocking the shipment of oil be labelled economic terrorists? Will this be sufficient ground to strip a Canadian of his citizenship? I say Harper is scum. Could that, one day, earn me the loss of my birthright? No one knows how far the Conservatives will go but we have a good idea having been witness to their many abuses of the Parliamentary system including relentless efforts to slip laws into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection. There are some who will say that can’t happen here. They are wrong and there is history to prove that. Under the pretext of security in the first and second wars, Japanese, Italians, Ukrainians, Germans, unionists and pacifists, and others, Canadian born as well as foreign born, have been interned as security risks for no other reason than for being members of certain nationalities and for their activities as unionists and pacifists. When asked about public servants not being allowed to wear niqabs, Pierre Poilievre of the so-called Fair Elections Act would not answer. No surprise from that source. But the silence pretty well informs: it’s not good news.

This is politicking at its vilest; it is corrupt, a sinking into a sewer of dishonesty, deceit, posturing, fear, bigotry and religious intolerance. As an election ploy, it may just work. Harper does know his people.

If it does work, Canadians will be the ultimate losers for Conservatives will rightly view it as a validation of their methods. When we succumb to fear, surrendering our freedoms to bullying, to lies, and to the despicable messages of hate, we are all diminished in some way and all left even less secure. Who will be the next target?

It could be you.

THE WIZARD OF SHAM

But we are further diminished when we also allow only economic policy to govern our acts; we lose too much when everything has a price and a cost.

Can we justly claim moral superiority when we keep electing panderers, liars, and whores who seek to buy our votes and to terrify us with sabre rattling excesses while at the same time signing deals with murderers and dictators with appalling records for human rights violations? Well, for Harper, it is easy. On September 25, 2015, when questioned about his billion-dollar arms trade deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the globe’s most egregious violators of human rights, he argued other nations were also bidding for the contract and that, while human rights were important, if would make no sense to lose Canadian jobs over this issue. Why not? What right has Canada to point fingers when we not only stand with butchers, but enable them by our silence and with our deals? To observers following Harper’s campaign of division and derision, it is clear that his moral compass is extremely equivocal if not non-existent. Human rights are okay but they don’t buy votes.

Harper’s grandstanding, his attempts to portray himself in the forefront in the war against ISIL and as the only Canadian leader capable of keeping Canada safe is laughable not only because of his ridiculously bombastic triumphalism, all sound, no bite, but also because too many of us hold the image of him cowering in broom closet when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered last October. It’s not Harper’s fault; but still, to watch on the hustings flanked by adoring supporters swaggering across the stage and trying to look tough, I am unconvinced. I see a wannabe tough guy, an arrogant bully who picks on the weak or those easy targets about which he keeps warning us: Muslims and those niqab wearing women.

But Harper is no world leader to be admired. It is largely because of him Canada’s standing on the global stage has been tarnished.

In 2010, Canada, at that time more concerned with domestic policy, lost it’s bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council, losing the support of the middle east for it’s unquestioning support of Israel, for it’s casual attitude towards Southeast Asia, for cutting aid to African nations on ideological grounds and for failure to work towards solutions on carbon emissions. Making it worse, Harper has adopted a puzzling attitude of hostility towards the UN, not only bashing the world body, but often voting against it, even pulling out of a UN anti-drought convention leading to speculation that it had more to do with its own stand regarding Climate Change which was, at that time, it doesn’t exist, it was a myth, something like their fiscal acumen. Too, as the Ottawa Citizen reported, the European Union and some Canadian allies in September 2013 asked Canada to sign the Arms Trade Treaty meant to stem the flow of illegal weapons for which it had earlier voted along with 153 other countries. “More than two years later, Canada remains one of the few countries – and the only NATO member –not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty” (Ottawa Citizen, Lee Berthiaume, October 2, 2015)!

As well, Canada, with the US and Ukraine, voted against a UN resolution brought forward by Russia to fight against “the glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (Huffington Post, Nov. 26, 2014) offering as excuse that it was “counterproductive”. Canada had also boycotted the World Conference Against Racism. None of this should surprise anyone especially in light of the type of campaign the Conservatives are running. This is the same gang that, while still offering aid to certain African nations, refuses to allow the aid to be parceled out to charities offering family planning resources. For Conservatives, consigning victims of rape, including child brides, to a life of impoverishment, misery, and possible death, is preferable to offering safe abortions. Ask a Conservative; I’ll bet most would claim to hold Christian values. If so, charity and generosity must not be among them. Under Harper, Canadian-owned mines accused of human rights violations in Latin America numbering in the hundreds, have been protected by this government actively undermining efforts to hold them to account. Is this what the Conservative base supports? Seems so. If that’s not enough, how about this: Canada, an exporter of asbestos, has opposed its inclusion among products to be banned on a UN treaty called the Rotterdam Convention. We can’t use it here because of its link to cancer so we ship it to Asia. Is that enough to persuade Conservatives pinheads to reconsider for whom they vote? Not likely. If victims of rape will not move them, nothing will.

For one who imagines himself worthy of a place on the world stage (we can all recall his finger-wagging hectoring of world leaders for their poor economic performances), this is contemptible, nasty stuff. How can one uphold and support those mining companies responsible for criminal acts that have, in some instances, even resulted in allegations of murder? How can he justify voting against condemning racism or the glorification of Nazism? Why is he reluctant to sign a treating combating the shipment and trade of illegal guns? Well, if you’re Harper, it’s easy. He has turned Canada into a less inviting place rejecting victims of persecution and murder, not only from the severely troubled war zones of the globe but also from so-called “safe” countries for no other reason than we do business with them. As a result, the Roma, who are victims of persecution in Hungary, are not welcomed. And while Canadians all claim to be moved by the plight of those millions fleeing conflict in Syria, Harper’s own heart is as steel, not only reluctant to accept Syrians fleeing for their lives, but only those we “prioritise” as belonging to religious minorities, i.e., Christians. Sunni Muslims need not apply. There’s that terrorism issue, you see, Muslims can’t be trusted. Especially those wearing niqabs.

So who is the true threat here? Is it really Zunera Ishaq or is it the Harper government, which targets a young Syrian because she is a Muslim? Why has she become the symbol of all the things Harper and gang would have us fear? Why have they expended so much time, energy and money on this one individual? Racism is foul but it is particularly foul when our leaders not only engage in it but also appear to encourage it from those who elect them.

This is the government that has recklessly attempted to pass laws that have failed and been overturned by our courts. Instead of doing the right, the decent thing, instead of seeking to create laws that will be passed, laws that actually do protect every segment of society, the Harper gang keeps making up new bad laws. When the courts overturn the laws, he works on the public to turn opinion against them accusing the courts and justices of being “activists”. Harper has persistently used and abused the law, but he has never respected it.

Doubt it?

Think of this. When Harper made his move to get rid of the Long Gun registry, Quebec wanted the data kept until they could appeal the destruction of the records. It didn’t happen. Harper and gang ignored the court and had the RCMP destroy the data. The information commissioner ordered an investigation. So what did Harper do? He changed the law to retroactively protect the government and RCMP from prosecution for criminal acts. “The government also back-dated the changes to when the original bill to kill the gun registry was tabled in Parliament, months before it actually passed into law, wiping out ‘any request, complaint, investigation, application, judicial review appeal or other proceeding’ related to the final six months of the registry’s legal existence” (Bruce Cheadle, the Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015). Just think of that. Harper not only changed the law, he rolled back time, altered history, and rejigged events in the same way he hopes to rig future elections. The records were not only destroyed, they never even existed and no crime was committed. This is Harper’s universe. Vote for him and we’ll have more of that. Remember, his was the first government in Canadian history to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament. He not only acted as if nothing had happened, so did the 39% who voted and re-elected him finally giving him the majority he so wanted.

We’re better than this. So we tell ourselves boasting about our moral superiority over America and other parts of the world. Some may wish it were so or even believe it to be true. It isn’t. These are anti-democratic monsters and yet we re-elect them again and again. What will it take to get rid of them? They hold themselves above the law, above Parliament and above those who vote for them. Will there be no end to their miserable world, their intolerance, secrecy, deceit, and hypocrisy.

THE WIZARD OF HYPOCRISY

But, even if human rights were not part of the equation, we must then ask how good are the deals for Canada and Canadians. Why was the arms deal with Saudi Arabia contingent on secrecy? In fact, why does Harper shroud so much of what he does in secrecy? That’s what roaches and muggers do, lurk in corners, waiting.

We have had the secretive Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) that certainly appears less a result of Harper and gang working in the interests of Canada than of Harper’s eagerness to ink a deal with one of the largest markets in the world, a market that does not consider human rights a priority. Not only was the deal made in secret, it locks Canada in for 31 years requiring a one year notification period before either side can pull out. It also allows China extraordinary powers to trump Canadian laws if Chinese companies can prove they were forced to act under rules different from local businesses or investors. Is that really good for Canada? Isn’t that a surrender of sovereignty?

During the September 17 Globe and Mail debate, Harper suggested that the Conservatives were close to sealing the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) hinting that “the auto sector has concerns, as do others… I’m not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in”. That sends a pretty clear signal Harper may be willing to sacrifice some sectors to ink what will be a very, very lucrative deal both politically and financially with the election just around the corner. Such a deal would doubtless bolster Harper’s image as a trade negotiator among those who stand to benefit and may be enough to persuade the undecided to cast their votes for him. It may even help him win an election. But some leaders, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, for example, worry 26,000 jobs from the auto-parts industry will be lost. If one accepts his numbers and add them to those already lost in the auto sector, this will boost the number to a total of 64,000 jobs from one sector. As well, rumours have been that dairy farmers will lose though the Conservatives deny it. If the rumours are true, Harper is willing to ink a deal that will allow American dairy products into Canada without any reciprocity for Canadian dairy producers. That would be the price of trade Harper might say. With a deal this big, there is a real likelihood of health and safety standards being compromised, of well-paying jobs going south, of full-time jobs becoming part-time, of more lower wage jobs, and of more workers joining the ranks of the impoverished. It’s just business, I guess.

Yet, if decency and integrity play little to no role in the Harper regime, shame plays even less. Using taxpayer dollars, Harper and gang have spent $750 million on ads promoting themselves. Where is the same public outrage that toppled Bev Oda for a $16 glass orange juice? Or where is the outrage when military equipment purchases are almost always delayed, well over budget, and, when delivered, as with our Cyclone helicopters, unable to perform the jobs for which they were designed because underpowered or, as with the F-35 fighter jets, the most expensive planes ever built, are not suited for air combat and even less suited for the Canadian Arctic and for the Maritimes because of its single engine? To continue with the purchase of F-35s will needlessly cost lives. Trudeau says he will scrap the F-35s for other jets and Harper says that it can’t be done without incurring penalties. Not true, says the US government.

Harper says he is foursquare behind our Military forces. We have paid for those dramatic, stirring, triumphal, self-congratulatory ads saying that is so, an armed soldier running across a barren, snow-covered field, a thundering helicopter framed against an red evening sky, all the gung-ho stuff you expect to see from American military ads. But it’s mostly nonsense and sham. The reality is Canada operates like a third world nation the way it treats our armed forces with most of its fleet in dry dock, others stripped for parts, with planes due for retirement and parts for helicopters purchased on eBay. Yeah, right, this is the leader that really stands behind his troops. Far behind. We saw how much he cares by the way he treated out veterans. Can the gang really be trusted with our money when they purchase military equipment at twice the cost paid by other nations? Well, Harper says so; just ask him. But you don’t have to ask him. Every day we are treated to ads of their financial wizardry.

And, as if to underscore the point, Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay and the Canadian Revenue Agency have sought to save thousands, yes, thousands, by targeting charities perceived as left-wing advocates while ignoring the billions in off-shore accounts set up by wealthy tax cheats with the aid of skilled accounting firms. With Harper and gang at the helm, it’s best to cheat big if you’re going to cheat.

As with the way of all bullies, the Harper gang finds it easier to go after the small and weak. Who knows, among those wealthy offshore cheats might be a Conservative supporter or two. What are friends for, right?

So the next time you hear Harper and gang warn you of the dangers of voting for the NDP or Liberals, remind them of their own follies. Do not swallow the swill. We do have choices and they do not just include the Conservatives and the Liberals. If it is the economy that will decide your vote, as Harper and gang believe, then, even in this, the NDP has a better record than either the Conservatives and the Liberals. Check for yourself (www.progressive-economics.ca/2011/04/29/fiscal-record-of-canadian-political-parties/).

THE WIZARD OF INDIFFERENCE

Recently, British Columbian Conservative MP James Moore, while not running for office this time, was campaigning on behalf of the Conservative party in Port Coquitlam. On the 35th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run, and with Lauren Harper at his side, Moore announced that, if re-elected, the Harper government would match any private donation up to a total of $35 million. Now that might strike one as a good, decent, even Canadian thing to do in memory of one of Canada’s heroes. It is and it isn’t. Moore said the Fox family approved of this hijacking of the Terry Fox campaign by the Stephen Harper gang campaign. That wasn’t quite true. Not only was it distasteful in that it politicized what should have been a non-partisan charity, it was distasteful because the announcement was little more than emotional blackmail, tugging at Canadian heartstrings and appealing to our generosity while wielding a threat: vote for Conservatives or the Terry Fox Foundation suffers. That is brutish behaviour something akin to “Your money or your life”. From this gang, anything goes. It’s disturbing. It’s indecent. It’s the Conservative way.

And we can see that in the way they handle certain scandals that have plagued their regime. I will not comment further on the Senate scandal, Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. Canadians are familiar with the story. But I would like to remind them again of other matters that clearly demonstrate Harper’s Conservatives steadfast tolerance for questionable behaviour including lapses of judgment, ethics and morality.

We are all familiar of how Bev Oda fell from grace because she charged on the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. The outrage was less that she twice made false claims and was forced to repay them or that she forged a government document that resulted in denying a charity public funds simply because that charity, KAIROS, disagreed with Harper’s stand regarding Palestine. Harper continued to support her until the outrage over the $16 drink became too much. Too bad it took so little to enrage the public. The message for politicians: if you want to get away with stealing from the public purse best go big, voters don’t sweat the small stuff.

The thing is, Harper appears to have a very high tolerance for such transgressions as we have seen with Shelly Glover fighting Elections Canada over expense claims and later caught at a fundraising event attended by those who would gain from the decisions of her ministry. The same for Leona Aglukkaq. Glover’s retiring. Aglukkaq – well it seems impossible to get rid of that level of breathtaking incompetence.

Christian Paridis is also retiring. He too was tolerated for such things as violating the Conflict of Interest Act for giving preferential treatment to former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his company. Paradis was also in trouble for attending a hunting trip with a lobbyist seeking public funding for an arena. He denied any lobbying took place. Yeah, he did deny that and we are to believe him. As well, Paradis was investigated for his role into the transfer of federal offices from another city to his own riding. You get the picture. No backlash from Harper. He doesn’t mind lapses of ethics, not if you’re the right person. Yet this man Paradis with apparent very loose ethics is allowed to retire unscathed doubtless to step into some corporate board where his knowledge of the government process and ethical scruples will be much appreciated. One wants to weep.

And then we have making a comeback the best MP Labrador has ever had, according to Harper that great judge of character. The ex-MP, the best MP Labrador ever had, was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate donations for his 2011 campaign. If you’re a Conservative, ethical lapses and bad behaviour are easily forgiven and of apparent little import if you’re the one they want. Well, almost all. Even for Harper, candidate Jerry Bance, small businessman caught on camera by CBC’s Marketplace urinating in a client’s cup while the client was in the next room was too much. Here was a man running for office yet too lazy to walk to a washroom down a corridor. So Bance was out. As was John Crosby’s son, Ches Crosby, who was not allowed to run in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon because he took part in a skit in which Harper was made light hearted target. No sense of humour, those Tories.

Well, perhaps they do have some. We mustn’t forget Jason Kenney, Tweedledee and Tweedledum rolled into one. This is the guy who can’t help himself it seems. He has made so many blunders he should be made a backbencher for eternity. He wasn’t above using the government letterhead to fundraise for his party. In another fundraising scam, he attempted to link Justin Trudeau to terrorism because of his visit to a Montreal mosque declared by the US military to be a recruiting centre for Al-Qaeda. Kenney of course held back that Trudeau’s visit took place before the news was known and made public. This was no accident but a deliberate smear. No blowback from Harper or the public. And what of Kenney the propagandist liar who, on international woman’s day earlier this year, tweeted photos we were to take as evidence of ISIL’s brutality (as if we needed more), one depicting a child bride, hands bound, with an older man, presumably her “husband”, and another of many women in chains. Here, again, Kenney proved himself unreliable at best, a liar at worst, for failing to disclose the child-bride photo was fake, the chained women part of a re-enactment of an ancient historical event. And then we have Kenney, liar again, offering as reason for Canada’s extension of the war in Iraq the explanation that Canada and the USA were the only ally nations participating with the capability of precision bombing. That would have been risible were the matter not so serious. Kenney is a fabricator. Or else he just enjoys playing the role of buffoon: “God that Kenney, did you hear him? What a card!” Well, I’m no fan of comedians and certainly no fan of Kenney’s. And I certainly don’t find funny, any more than did Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi when Kenney said, “it seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it” after Nenshi registered his “disgust” over the Conservative efforts to fan public intolerance over the niqab issue. The mayor is right, it is “unbelievably dangerous stuff”.

For those wanting a more comprehensive list of the things that should sink this band of scum but likely won’t, I suggest readers copy this offering by David Beers and the staff of The Tyee: http://www.thetyee.ca/Documents/2015/09/24/Harper%20ebook%20final.pdf.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Harper would have us all be afraid. I agree; we should be. But it is not the terrorist out there that frightens me but the one with the title of prime minister. He has disgraced his office, made a mockery of Parliament, and abused our electoral process.

He tells us this is not the time to make a change in government. If not now, then when? He tells us Trudeau is not ready to lead and that Thomas Mulcair will be the ruin of this nation. Who can believe this man when he lies about his accomplishments and trades on fear and racial and religious intolerance? Does the economy matter? Of course it does, but not at any price. Ideas matter too, as do ethics, honesty and personal integrity. I see none of that from any member of the Conservative party and certainly none from Harper.

What I do see in Harper and his gang is meanness and spite, pettiness and arrogance, cowardice and betrayal, despair and misery, and the powerful walking on the weak. It is not just their offensiveness that is troubling, though there is an abundance of nasty in that bunch. It is their arrogance, the certitude of their inerrancy in the positions they adopt their commitment to be blind and deaf to those they do not like that is so galling.

Opposing Harper and gang should not make one the enemy. It is either them or us without any shading and they are always, always, right

We need better. It begins with tossing Harper and his thugs into the ashcan of history. All we should retain of him is memory so that we never tolerate his like again.

***

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

THE SCUM ALSO RISES: STEPHEN HARPER, PARANOIA AND THE DEGRADATION OF POLITICS

 

There are some politicians who, if their constituents were cannibals, would promise them missionaries for dinner. – H.L. Mencken

When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him whose? – Don Marquis

Fill the seats of justice with good men, but not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is. – Sir Thomas Talfourd

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

BOTTOM FEEDERS

There must have been a time when individuals entered politics with the goal of contributing to society, of making a meaningful contribution towards change and enlightenment: a better world for all if you will. The gratification, apparently, was derived from working in the service of others. That must have been once upon a time long, long ago in a far, distant land. Service to others. The politicians of today, hearing that, must laugh all the way to the bank. How touchingly naïve.

That is not to say every politico was honest, wasn’t self-serving, wasn’t greedy or hypocritical “in the good old days”; some of them could quite easily keep up with those politicians of today in chicanery, corruption and knavery. It just seems, and perhaps that’s all it is, a chimera of memory, that governing parties were not as shamelessly openly corrupt as those we have today nor were they as many. I cannot recall the days when almost every member of a governing party was as fiercely partisan, as wilfully ignorant, as indifferent to openness, integrity, truth, as deaf to and contemptuous of the voices of the people and the opposition and as hostile to Democracy as this Harper regime. Does anyone even remember the good ones, Stanley Knowles, Tommy Douglas, even hapless fumbler Robert Standfield, a good, decent man as far as I know even if a Conservative? Does anyone even care that there are very few like them today? We still have Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent, but they have, to all intents, left the political scene. Do they recognize their old parties? Would they be welcomed and warmly embraced or would they be quietly endured with impatient politeness and then hustled out the door?

Oh, yes, yes, there were knaves, there always is, but there was a time of courtesy, respect, and decorum in the House, a time when the Speaker commanded respect because it was believed by all sides that he or she could be trusted and impartial. Now we have a Speaker whose word and decisions cannot be trusted because he has shown himself untrustworthy and biased as when he sat on two letters from the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for two weeks instead of informing the House, as he was duty bound, requesting that Shelly Glover and James Bezan be suspended from performing their duties until they made a full and accurate accounting of their expenses. There was a time when opposition members could frame questions from the top of their head and government members would respond in like fashion with no more than reference notes and with civility and a certain degree of frankness; today, questions and answers are scripted, the answers from the governing side never varying regardless of the question thrown at them. Asked the price of widgets, Harper, one of his oily ministers or some officious parliamentary secretary will stand up and say, “Glad you asked that. We reject your premise but will have a committee look into it.” If an opposition member were to immediately follow up with, “Is you mother a whore”, the response would be, without even a hint of a smile, “Glad you asked that. We reject your premise but will have a committee look into it.” Think I’m exaggerating? Watch Question Period when Parliament is in session. These are leaders of our nation. These are the folks we entrust to pass laws. Is this what we vote for?

This is not governance but a Punch and Judy show, a contemptible display of parties scoring points and settling scores on one side and a party clinging to power on the other convinced it is answerable to no one.

Thanks to Harper and his pea-brained gang, the days of questions and real answers are gone forever. Mean and petty, as small and ignoble as any group can possibly be, Harper and his crew have tossed aside the protocols of parliamentary dignity, transparency and inclusivity: obfuscation, circularity, outright lying, and sneering dismissals to any question posed are the order of the day. Opposition members are no longer viewed as legitimate representatives of the public; they are ignored, excluded, shut out of almost every important decision that, in previous regimes, would have had the governing party seeking and welcoming their input if only as a protective measure: everyone could be blamed. Not so with Harper and his hooligans.

SO, HOW BAD IS IT?

Last year, in an event honouring the contributions of volunteers across the country, one that most sane people would believe a non-partisan event, the ever-small Harper and his gang “uninvited” members of the opposition previously included because members of their community were being honoured for their work. Now that is small.

In January of this year, Harper traveled to Israel with a large entourage in tow, many at taxpayers’ expense. Touted as a business junket, it was also a photo-op for Harper where he loudly declared his friendship for the Jewish State. In the past, it was common for members from all parties to be invited. Well, Harper’s one of a kind when it comes to petty partisanship behaviour. No NDP or Liberal members were invited. Too, needy Conservative Mark Adler (remember the “million dollar” shot with Harper and Israeli leaders he was denied?), co-host of an Israeli charity event, barred Liberal MP Irwin Cotler from attending it. Cotler was there on another matter on his own dime; he is widely respected in the Jewish community and renowned as an expert on international law and human rights. Yet Adler, in a fashion typical of the Tory regime, could not resist in publicly humiliating a man simply because he was a Liberal MP. This is small stuff, extremely petty and mean but it paints a significant and disturbing picture of Harper and his sorry gang that is ugly, blindly partisan, and certainly not representative of a respectful, tolerant government.

These are just a few examples of many of the degree of disrespect Harper holds for those who oppose him. It is also a clear demonstration of the fear and cowardice of a governing power that, even with its majority, must feel compelled to pulverize and humiliate opposition parties who are presently incapable of even posing a threat to their reign of error. This is an example of raw power abused. The message is clear: those who oppose Harper and gang are subject to the full fury of their thuggery; they include personal ad hominem attacks which may end with your reputation smeared, your integrity questioned, your credentials dismissed and trashed and your patriotism challenged. Too often, we have heard members of this odious group label others “radical”, “stooge” “hack”; these are almost gentle lashings compared to what Pat Stogran, Linda Keen, Richard Colvin, Kevin Page, Marc Mayrand, and even one of their own, Helena Guergis, have been subjected. My sympathy for Guergis, I must admit, is muted somewhat; until she found herself out with Harper, she was just as nasty as the worst on the Conservative team.

And we saw how vicious and careless when, with disregard for facts, they chose to publicly single out Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin after the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that Justice Marc Nadon, Harper’s choice for a seat in the highest court of the land, did not meet the requirements for the position. Ignoring many warnings from experts informing Harper that Nadon failed to meet the necessary requirements, Harper nevertheless persisted in pushing for Nadon. Furious with the outcome, Harper and MacKay responded as any worthy bully or child might: both threw a public tantrum and opted to impugn the integrity of Chief Justice McLachlin and the Court. It’s worth noting that Harper had appointed five of the eight judges presently sitting in the Court. He hopes to add another. Harper’s hostility for the Court has been longstanding and overt. It is too “liberal”, tends to favour criminals, it is an “activist” court, i.e., has an anti-Conservative bias. Well, that’s what he would have us believe. It was clear he wants to stack the Supreme Court with likeminded individuals. Apparently, with the Nadon decision, the judges were swayed more by the sanctity of the law than loyalty to an ideology or to the man who gave them the job. That’s as it should be.

This is not the first time things did not go Harper’s way. The government lost the decision when it sought the opinion of the Supreme Court as to whether it could unilaterally change how senators were elected, set term limits which would openly politicize them, or abolish the Senate outright. Instead of picking up their toys and licking their wounds, as any adult would, Harper and MacKay chose to attack the Court and the Chief Justice whom they apparently view as emblematic of all the things they believe wrong with an independent Court: it is not Harper Conservative enough! As far as Harper and gang are concerned, the high court, in failing to reach a decision with which Harper agreed, was a biased Court, which favoured criminals and, I would suspect, dissenters who are probably terrorists or riffraff in the Conservative world. Another shining example of the “if you ain’t for us, you’re against us” mentality that fuels this miserable gang.

But unhappiness with the decision was not enough for Harper; that impish rascal just could not stop his bullying ways. He proceeded to charge that Chief Justice McLachlin had improperly approached him in July of 2013. Clearly, we are meant to take from this the suggestion that Chief Justice McLachlin had been opposed to the Justice Nadon appointment from the onset simply because he was Harper’s choice. In making the accusation, he was also suggesting that he, he alone, had attempted to preserve the sanctity of the Supreme Court by rejecting the advances made by her. It was an extraordinary charge clearly meant to inflame public prejudice against the Court with its suggestion of bias and political interference. As if that wasn’t cheap and low enough, Harper and MacKay deliberately left out information in the charming tale clearly intent on misleading the public. Their version was made of half-truths, which makes it untrue. Key elements were missing. For one, the parliamentary committee looking into the selection of candidates for the Supreme Court had been the ones who approached McLachlin for advice on vetting the candidates. That is normal, in fact, is expected. She did, however, admit to warning the Harper gang of potential eligibility issues. As did other experts. But McLachlin had issued that warning months before the issue was brought to court and at least a month before Harper’s choice of Nadon was named. Harper, as defender of the people from the law, became Bozo the Clown shot down in flames.

Evidently, these folks can’t help themselves; charge and attack and the truth be damned. For both Harper and Peter MacKay, this must be a new low of countless lows. This is gutter politics and a far cry from the political interference suggested by Harper and MacKay. To no one’s surprise, but everyone’s dismay, neither McKay nor Harper bothered to clear the air with the facts or the timeline. Certainly there was no apology from either bottom feeder. Crude, rude, and unacceptable.

This is extremely vile behaviour from a governing party towards the highest court in the land. It is serious, malignant – deliberate. Evidently Harper believes that attacking the high court might enhance his reputation among his followers who still believe man walked with dinosaurs and that the world is six thousand years old. For the troglodytes, such behaviour may be acceptable and expected, but it will likely garner little sympathy from the public at large. I know whom I trust in this tawdry tale.

THEY NEVER GIVE UP

Naturally, it doesn’t end there with these two. Last week, the Harper crew appointed Federal Court of Appeal Justice Rober Mainville to Quebec’s highest court with MacKay saying he would be “welcome at the Supreme Court”. Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati, who had successfully challenged the Nadon appointment, is again challenging the Harper appointment saying the Constitution clearly states judges on the Quebec court must be appointed by the Quebec bar. Other critics believe this just another Harper/MacKay end run to avoid appointing a qualified Quebec judge. If so, what does Harper fear from Quebec justices? “What had they done to upset Harper,” asked panel member Martin Patriquin in his appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics. Are Quebec judges considered too progressive for Harper’s Conservatives? Or is this retaliation against a province that did not elect enough Conservatives? Either way, petty.

But what should frighten and truly offend the public at large, especially if it believes the courts should be above the political fray, is not so much Harper’s blatant disregard for the sanctity of the Supreme Court, but his willingness to publicly declare his desire to politicize the judiciary to achieve desired outcomes. If the five Harper appointees to the Supreme Court might have ever harboured sympathy for some of his policies in the past, they might have little reason for feeling such now. Harper and MacKay have demonstrated the extent they are willing to embellish, omit and distort to achieve their goals. Their behaviour is discreditable, reprehensible, and just plain dishonest.

But that is not unusual behaviour from these two. MacKay had years ago proved he was untrustworthy when he betrayed David Orchard and the Progressives in the Progressive Conservatives by joining forces with the Alliance Party and Stephen Harper in 2003. To this day, despite proving himself nasty, untruthful, and incompetent in every post he has been offered, MacKay continues to hold a key position in the Harper gang solely because of his role in the formation of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party of today, CRAP in other words. For his part, MacKay is quite willing to capitalize on this. He’s incompetent, not stupid. Well…

Look at how he and Harper, having set their sights on the F -35 jets, lied and obfuscated during the 2011 election campaign about the true costs of the jets. They claimed the jets would only cost $9 billion. Experts were sceptical. When Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page questioned the numbers and requested to see the documentation, he was not only stonewalled at every turn, Harper and his rat pack began to wage a vicious campaign against him smearing his name, questioning his credentials, character and integrity. Does this sound familiar? When Page’s term ran out, he was not kept on and the public was no closer to the truth. We now know the jets will cost at least $45 billion though some have pegged the number closer to $126 billion. Canadians don’t really know what the final number will be; that is unacceptable. The Harper gang has lied and smeared their way to victory apparently untroubled that taxpayers will be left to pay a hefty bill of unknown size because of its unwillingness to admit to mistakes, to being wrong, or to even conceding that the planes may not be what we need.

Even today, with the release of a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled One Dead Pilot, which suggests that the F-35 single-engine jets are not only costly, but also dangerous and unreliable, because it denies pilots the possibility of a backup engine should anything go wrong, Harper and gang are unmoved and determined to go through with the deal. Michael Byers, UBC political scientist, author of the report, as quoted in the National Post by Josh Visser, June 9th, notes, “…a second engine is the only thing that can prevent a crash. The issue is especially important for Canada, which has the longest coastline in the world and vast Arctic territories.” Regardless of cost, lack of transparency, and closed bidding, it appears Harper is set to go ahead with the purchase, playing loose with the lives of pilots. Well, can we claim to be surprised? We know how much they respect our vets and public servants; why should they behave any differently towards those who will fly those planes? A final decision appears to be near. Regardless of what it is, we know they can’t be trusted.

THE FAMILY CIRCUS

Sometimes one gets the uneasy feeling that the so-called Fair Elections Act, as with so many of their efforts, so clearly botched, had been introduced solely for the perverse joy the Harper Conservatives experience in observing the response from poking the contemptuous Conservative finger into the collective eye of both public and critics. It has passed third reading and will soon become law the loud chorus of opposition ignored and dismissed. The heedless contempt and faux surprise exhibited by Pierre Poilievre, that viciously partisan Minister of Democratic Reform and Harper’s go-to man when it comes to dirty fighting, and the smug self-congratulatory hypocritical huzzahs that greeted the outcome from that quarter, was overt and painful to observe; these are despotic personalities taking sadistic delight in the despair of the howling voices railing against the bill’s inherent unfairness many consider a direct assault on Democracy. The outcome was no more in doubt than Poilievre’s dismissal of all such concerns as alarmist fear-mongering. He has resolutely campaigned to pass the bill as is with only token consultation or consideration of advice from opposition members as is customary and he pointedly ignored all other voices including experts in constitutional Democracy. Cherry picking “facts” that suited his purpose, Poilievre, often quoting and misquoting from a report by Harry Neufeld, past Chief Electoral Officer for British Columbia, suggested the changes were essential to stop voter fraud. In that claim was also the suggestion that voter fraud was widespread and perpetrated by a certain segment of society. When asked for proof of fraud, he could offer none because there was none. In fact, the only fraud perpetrated has been by Conservatives, how they reported on the bill and the methods employed to bolster support including their deliberate misreading of the Neufeld report. Can anyone who saw it forget Conservative Brad Butt’s contemptible little charade in the House? He regaled a spellbound Conservative audience (surely no one else was duped) with a tale of witnessing with his own two beady eyes opposition campaign workers scooping up voter information cards discarded by recipients which were then used by other opposition supporters passing themselves off as those voters named on the card. He had no answer for why he did not report it then. Later, in the House, he admitted he had lied, it hadn’t happened. Now, that is fraud. And, of course, we all recall how the Conservative Party paid $52000 for its role in the 2006 “in-out” campaign scheme for exceeding election expenses. And we mustn’t forget bulldog Conservative Dean del Mastro, that loudmouth thug who, along with Pierre Poilievre, waged a vicious smear campaign against Elections Canada and Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer, for having the nerve to investigate the Conservatives for allegations of voter suppression. Del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now faces several charges for election fraud during his 2008 campaign. These are not nice people.

So what is it about C-23 that has so many experts and ordinary citizens troubled? Simply by getting rid of as ID the Voter Information Cards we all receive in the mail, some estimate that 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised with the passage of this bill. Others have pegged the number to be as high as 500,000. One is too many. Those are large numbers and these will include our native peoples, seniors, students, transient workers, the poor, the homeless, the disabled, and the mentally ill. In other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. That is no accident.

But C-23 doesn’t stop there. The Commissioner for Canada Elections, the investigative body of Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, has been moved to the Department of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. There is a difference and it is significant. With Harper at the helm, the potential for political interference is not a possibility but a certainty. Poilievre, without his trusty sidekick, evidently has a few more scores to settle with Elections Canada.

Bill C-23 also considerably weakens the powers of Elections Canada to investigate election fraud, enforce regulations, and denies it the right to compel witnesses to testify. Too, those under investigation must be informed that they are being investigated. As well, their permission must be sought before such investigations can be made public. In other words, Harper and gang have determined that the public has no right to know when the rules are broken or by whom unless the offenders volunteer the information. There is absolutely no incentive for those who are naturally dishonest to be honest during election campaigns because the likelihood of discovery and punishment is almost nil. And while Elections Canada can inform people when and where to vote, it can no longer encourage them to vote. Again this targets large segments of society, the same folks victimized by the changes to vouching rules.

The Conservatives did retreat on some items. They tried to bypass spending limits by exempting telemarketing calls to anyone who donated more than $20 in the previous five years. This was a loophole that would benefit the richest party (guess which one) with the most number of donors by increasing the amount it is allowed to spend without having to claim it as an expense. As well, they retreated on the matter of incumbents determining who the polling station supervisor would be. Had this been allowed to stand, one can imagine that all disputes brought before the incumbent’s choice could only have one result.

The Conservatives, never shy about rigging the game in their favour, have now, in fact, entrenched bad behaviour into law with C-23. No doubt, with their past experiences and proclivities the party will take full advantage of these limitations.

Who can honestly claim to be surprised? All too often Harper and his crew have demonstrated that, when it comes to abuses of Democracy and unseemly behaviour, they couldn’t care less what we may think. It is not enough to win the game, they have to rig it and they have.

It’s not just the fixing of the game or the meanness of the Conservatives that offends, though I do detest them for that; it’s the smallness of their characters, the limitations of their vision, the selfishness of their goals, the blindness of their ideology, the aridness of their souls. If they use the word inclusive, wanting us to believe that is what they are and what they wish to be, they will stumble over it, perhaps even mask a smile with a hand. It’s a word they drag out for election campaigns or when attempting to convince us that what we might believe of them isn’t true. That they stumble always diminishes the message; it is foreign to them, the word difficult to get the tongue around. Besides, they don’t mean it. They see too many enemies in every dissenting sign and give the impression of believing the poor and helpless lesser beings. Workers employed at menial jobs are to be exploited, diminished, kept in their place; it’s good for business; those who dare speak out, those ungrateful sods, those who actually might believe they deserve more and better find their jobs auctioned off to foreign workers who are less likely to demand more and better than their Canadian counterparts whom they replace. Canadian workers are sacrificed to a life of drudgery as opportunities in trade schools and further education are closed to them. The have-nots have even less and the haves much, much more. Big Business, aided and abetted by an anti-union, anti-worker government, no longer need train workers, they can be found elsewhere. And that’s the problem and the threat facing low-income earners: a lifetime of nowhere and nothingness. For that, they can thank the likes of Jason Kenney and the Harper gang and those profiteering exploiters in the service industries.

To hear the lords and masters of industry, Canadian workers act too Canadian. I recall, I don’t remember where, reading that employers love foreign workers because they don’t act Canadian. By that was meant they worked harder, work longer hours, kept their mouths shut, didn’t make waves, didn’t complain, and didn’t dare believe that they deserved more and better. In other words, foreign workers are pliable, flexible, submissive and exploitable. If not, if they dare get uppity, there is always the threat of shipping them home. For the foreign worker, and he is not the enemy, the choice is stark: slavery in Canada or in their homeland Though employers and the Harper gang will deny it, all this is in aid of suppressing wages of low-income earners and even of those in the trades. Speak out there are others willing to step in. Of course, it’s not necessary to speak out in some instances. Not if you are Canadian. Many of us may remember the episode of RBC workers training foreign workers to take their jobs overseas. And we all know of Sandy Nelson and Shaunna Jennison-Yung, the two long-time service workers in a Weyburn Saskatchewan restaurant, who were fired due to “restructuring” and replaced by the very workers they had trained. Restructuring. That’s jargon, employers taking advantage of a government program to exploit foreign workers at the cost of Canadian jobs to maximize profits. With business, loyalty is apparently a one-way street.

And, as always happens when these things occur, business and the Harper stooges loudly condemn the abuses and promise a harsh response. And, as always, nothing happens. Jason Kenney (notable for using government letterheads to fundraise for the Conservative Party, for which he received a warning slap on the wrist), Minister of Employment and Social Development, a vocal supporter of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, a true free enterpriser, has so far, failed to take any significant action against the exploiters. It’s business as usual.

The lords and loudmouths of free enterprise, and that includes every member of Harper and his gang, always demand more of others than from themselves and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program appears to be one of the results, Canadian workers sacrificed on the altar of profit.

Originally created to help business find skilled workers not found among Canadian workers, it has been expanded and degraded to include even low skill, low paying, jobs. Employers love it. But its abuses and excesses are well documented. The program must be ended. Now.

Jason Kenney and the Harper gang have a lot to answer for. This regime has not just abandoned the Canadian worker it has betrayed him. It is also betrayed those foreign workers who have done nothing wrong except seek better lives for themselves and their loved ones. A free market mentality that encourages the exploitation and degradation of workers around the globe, feeding off their fears and desperation at any cost, including putting lives and limbs at risk, is a product of a bygone era and must be exterminated.

SO WHY IS NO ONE LAUGHING?

How troubled should Canadians be with a government that talks obsessively of jobs and the economy and yet seems as obsessed with spying on Canadians? What do they fear? What are they looking for? We know that they have little tolerance for those who step on their toes, but do they really believe the Supreme Court is their enemy or that those vocal opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are threats. Does the Harper crew, notwithstanding its majority, fear the electorate so much and doubt its own platform that it feels compelled to pass new bills that rig elections in their favour? Is every differing voice the voice of the enemy, someone out to get them? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes.

On June 13th of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada gave Harper another reason to whine and smear. On a criminal matter appearing before it, the court had rendered a unanimous verdict on internet spying saying that police cannot get information on internet users from service providers without first obtaining a warrant. This is extremely significant because it places in jeopardy Bill C-13, the “cyberbullying” bill, introduced last November by Peter MacKay. The Court agreed that everyone had a reasonable expectation of privacy and the right to not fall victim of unreasonable search and seizure.

The bill, which critics do say does address the issue of cyberbullying in the first few pages, appears to go much further than its stated goals and seems more interested in gaining access to user information from service providers without warrants and protecting those providers from repercussions when they voluntarily hand over information to law enforcement agents. This bill allows Harper to share data collected on Canadians with the US and, presumably, any country it deems friendly. This is clearly about more than sexual predators though the Harper and MacKay would have us believe otherwise. It’s about looking for enemies, real and imagined in every charity, political organization and individual expressing a hostile thought regarding Harper and his prolonged war against the citizenry and democratic principles.

This is not new for Harper. In the past, Vic Toews, another of their ilk and one time justice and public safety minister, attempted something similar. As today, there were howls of outrage and Toews, good Conservative that he was, opted for the smear of vitriol over a dab of peacemaking honey by charging all critics of siding with pornographers. Nice. He now sits as a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba.

Opposition members and legal experts have said C-13 will not pass as is and that it should be split into two: an anti-bullying bill and what, an all purpose spying bill? Of course, what could the Harper gang do but ignore the recommendations. It made sense. Besides, doing as the critics suggested might deny Harper the opportunity of another excuse to malign the Supreme Court. The new Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, appointed without consultation by Harper and protested by the opposition because they believed him not to have the “detachment” necessary for the job, i.e., he might be biased towards the Harper gang, surprised everyone, no doubt Harper most of all, when he agreed the bill should be split in two. In an appearance before a Conservative dominated committee, he warned that law agencies would be given too broad a power to investigate Canadians on mere suspicion and that C-13 gave immunity to providers who spied on users and voluntarily gave data to law enforcement. The Conservative members of the committee, not surprisingly, turned on him, their own appointee, as they are wont to do with anyone who doesn’t behave as they wish.

Will the recent Supreme Court decision cause MacKay and the rest of the gang to reconsider the bill? Don’t count on it. This was another defeat for Harper and gang and it is very unlikely he will be in an accommodating mood. Poor baby Harper. Like all spoiled children, he will likely keep on trying until he either beats the Supreme Court Justices into submission or the public decides it’s had enough of him.

SO WHAT ARE THEY DRINKING?

Yes, they are stubborn folk those Harper louts full of the certitude of their righteous virtue, superior vision and the sanctity of their goals. What reason is there to heed the voices of others when they, the Conservatives, are whole and perfect in thought, word and deed?

Then we have Chris Alexander to help us rethink that. Not too long ago, he, along with Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Kellie Leitch and the nasty Poilievre, was part of a cadre of Conservative bobbleheads appearing on various news programs reciting the Harper message of the day. They weren’t much then and they aren’t much now, all promoted and confirming the Peter Principle. Alexander is the citizen and immigration minister. In the past, he gave the impression of amiability, the least offensive of Rempel, Bergen, Leitch, but, with his elevation to minister, all that is gone. He has become angry and shrill and altogether unpleasant. I never did like the scripted Conservative messages he offered, the obfuscations and outright lies, but now I find him as offensive as the rest though, I must admit, Poilievre still beats him and the rest but only by a hair.

Bill C-24, Alexander’s baby, would strip away the citizenship of dual nationals accused of membership to an outlawed organization or “convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences.” Rocco Galati, that Constitutional gnat to Harper, has moved to challenge the bill. What did Alexander do? He did what Harper Conservatives always do: began to smear Galati on CBC’s Power and Politics, June 10, saying, Galati “…also defended, a senior member, the patriarch of the Khadr family, who was a senior member of al-Qaeda.” The inference was clear: because Galati defended someone the Harper gang (and perhaps most Canadians) did not like, the lawyer was suspect as well. We’ve seen this before.

That’s nasty enough. The proposed bill is even worse and its effect is so far-reaching, it could affect all Canadians and those applying for citizenship. Any Canadian citizen, Canadian born or not, can now be arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship. Those seeking to become citizens will have a more difficult time of it and the cost to apply will triple. Immigration officers will replace judges with the power to revoke citizenship. Too, those threatened with revocation of citizenship will no longer have the right to an oral hearing before a judge. In fact, there need not be a formal hearing. As well, the ability to appeal a revocation has been removed. Residency requirements will be increased; time already spent in Canada before the application for residency is made will not be counted. This is not the behaviour of a sane, civil, democratic government. Instead, it’s a clear signal of a government deeply, deeply, troubled. The Harper regime trusts no one, is fearful of everyone and suffers no qualms in abusing the rights of all it deems unsuitable and undeserving of Canada’s generosity. I though Alexander was better than that. Clearly I was wrong. The bill is as morally bankrupt and flawed as Harper and his gang.

Doubtless Alexander’s comments of Galati are reflective of a regime still furious and smarting by the judgement Galati had won that cost Harper Nadon. During a June 11th appearance on CBC’s As It Happens, Alexander, perhaps feeling embattled by the aggressive questioning by Carol Off about Syrian refugees and how many of the them, government sponsored, had arrived in Canada, appeared to have lost his cool when pressed about the number. He abruptly hung up claiming he had to get back to the House for Question Period. Later, he would whine that As It Happens had been “unfair” and “unprofessional” in not explaining why he had hung up. They had, but Alexander’s response of shoot first and blame others rather than own up to the fact that his poor showing gave the impression of a minister behaving evasively to tough, legitimate questioning as well as having a meltdown. This, too, is typical of the regime. Harper and gang are quick and eager to ride roughshod over others when it suits them and are even quicker and more eager to whine about unfair treatment and a biased media when challenged. Another example of the if you ain’t for them, you must be against them mentality. With a mindset like that, Canadians have every reason to be suspicious of bills C-13, C-23, and C-24 and the Harper agenda. These are the kinds of legislation a paranoiac might propose. Certainly, if passed, these bills could imperil many of the rights, including assembly, fair comment, and criticism, Canadians take for granted. This relentless erosion of Democracy is the kind of behaviour one would expect from a third world dictatorship. For how much longer will Canadians remain silent before they let it be known they’ve had enough? Poor Harper. Poor baby Alexander.

With this gang, perhaps like this article, it never ends. We have Peter MacKay, again, this time proposing new anti-prostitution laws that prostitutes, lawyers, police and almost everyone else agrees are punitive and very likely to put street workers at even greater risk including risk of death. Based on the so-called “Nordic Model”, Bill C-36 targets and criminalizes buyers primarily and prostitutes who solicit trade anywhere underage children might be “reasonably” expected to be. Come on. When’s the last time you saw prostitutes soliciting before a school or in a mall? The bill is ridiculous in its expectations, unworkable and inherently wrong. The Tory majority will ram the bill through and, as they have so often, ignore legal experts, critics, opposition members, and those very workers they claim to seek to protect. And, as have other bills, almost all inadequately vetted by legal experts, if even vetted, C-36 will meet a similar fate when brought before the courts. It will be tossed offering Harper another opportunity to claim he was mugged by an “activist” court.

Recently, we had Harper announcing Canada’s gift of $3.5 billion to promote the health and care of mothers and children of the less developed world. Maybe this is what Harper would have as his legacy as he prepares to leave office, if not before the next election, surely shortly after.

But even this worthwhile goal, helping the impoverished in other areas achieve a better, healthier life, he cannot help but taint in his own inimitable way. The exact nature of the funding was not made clear and critics were quick to note that there appears to be no room for family planning when it is estimated that over 47,000 women die because of unsafe abortions. For Harper, ideology trumps the lives of the impoverished. Canada’s gift is great publicity as a caring nation, but it’s marred by Harper’s inserting of his own anti-abortion stance. And while it may enhance Harper’s image abroad, and Canada’s by extension, how will this impress the folks at home, when some First Nations communities haven’t had potable water for decades, yes, decades, where suicides rates among natives are at unconscionable levels, and where most of the homes are poorly insulated and have no running water. What about the homeless and ill on our streets? By all means, those folks in less developed areas must be helped and we should do what we can and must. But it must not be just about photo-ops and positive publicity on the world stage and certainly not at the expense of those at home.

But at that summit in Toronto, Harper also addressed another issue. In this he expressed his befuddlement that people in the developed world still refuse to get vaccinated. Said he, and with a straight face, “It’s hard for me not to get very emotional about this because we know, we scientifically know, what vaccinations and immunizations have done for us, personally, in our generation and generations after us. I frankly don’t understand people who are walking away in our society from something that’s proven to work” (CBC, Trinh Theressa Do, May 29th). Did you catch that? Harper said, “scientifically know”.

This is the fellow whose government has muzzled and fired scientists for speaking out. This is the fellow whose government, so obsessed with pushing the Keystone XL pipeline, has denied the possibility of Climate Change. This against the overwhelming evidence that it is real and the threat it poses is real! This is the fellow whose minister of natural resources at the time, Joe Oliver, loudly dismissed and dissed world famous climatologist James Hansen questioning the scientist’s reputation and fairness. Science and Harper? When it suits his purpose, Harper will swing on a dime. Otherwise, he hears no one, listens to no one: the experts are wrong and only Harper and the gang know the answers. And, while I agree with him regarding vaccinations, I had to laugh at his hypocrisy. But it’s not funny that Harper can turn his back on what most of us “scientifically know”: good maternal health care also includes family planning; 47,000 lives should not be tossed aside because world leaders refused to acknowledge abortions are a fact of life in all parts of the world. Why not make them safe? You don’t have to support abortion; just allow women a choice.

Speaking of choice, this evening, June 17, as I write this, the Harper gang announced that the Northern Gateway Project had been approved. No choice for those against it. Unusually for Harper and his gang, not a single Conservative could be found to take questions from the media. Were they hiding? Too, Justin Trudeau pointed out something I had not caught. Harper has always branded his reign of terror and error as “the Harper government” which about says it all about its priorities. It’s never been about Canada or Canadians but about Harper and special interests. All decisions made, and they are always good, wise, and loved by every Canadian citizen, even if rammed down our throats, have been made, Conservatives are quick and proud to inform us, by the “Harper government”. Not this evening. Trudeau noted that it was not the “Harper government” that had approved the Enbridge pipeline deal but the “Canadian Government”. Could it be Harper is worried?

Immediately, all opposition leaders spoke out against the deal and vowed to scrap it if they became the governing party. First Nations spokesman along the route from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, B.C. vowed to defeat the project. There are five court cases pending. Three quarters of British Columbians reject the deal believing the risk too great and the huge tourist industry at risk. And it is. The pipeline would pass through pristine wilderness lands and rugged, treacherous terrain. The effects of ruptured pipes and spillage would be immediate, widespread and long lasting. Over two hundred tankers a year would travel through difficult coastal water channels endangering all marine habitat including polluting the navigable routes of Pacific grey whales, orcas, humpbacks and other marine life accounting for much of the tourism. That a majority of British Columbians and almost all First Nations people are against the deal makes no never mind. This is about Harper’s agenda: jobs, the economy, and, of course, the health and welfare of Corporate interests. In a recent speech, Harper suggested he would not sacrifice one job for the protection of the environment or to stave off climate change. Said he: “It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change. But we seek to deal with it in a way that will protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth, not destroy jobs and growth in our countries. And frankly, every single country in the world, this is their position.

“No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking” (from The Sidney Morning Herald, Crispin Hull, June 12, 2014).

That about says it all about Harper and his gang.

IT IS TIME FOR THE CREAM

What I have outlined is not a picture I have painted. Rather it is Harper’s work. It is vile, ugly and corrupt.

Standing up to Harper and his crew can be a hazardous business; it can leave your reputation in tatters, your patriotism questioned, your privacy invaded, your trust violated.

The Harper gang believe themselves misunderstood. They believe every sceptical voice raised against them is the voice of the enemy. They believe the public ignorant and uniformed. For that, they blame the media, the scholars and scientists, the Supreme Court justices, and you and I if we oppose them. So Harper and gang use loopholes to make it difficult if not impossible to apply successfully to access to information. By the time some do get the information, it is often too late and useless because of the passage of time or because so heavily redacted. Even though this is, in theory, our government and the Harper gang our employees, they act as if we are nuisances and prefer that we remain uninformed and ignorant. Harper and his gang obstruct at every opportunity and, because they are fearful and suspicious, treat us all as threats. And, because they see us as threats, they would spy on us behind bills meant to catch cyberbullies and pedophiles. The Harper gang is afraid of frank, open, and honest discussion. They pass legislation that is hidden, disguised, undiscoverable until too late and condemn those who demand a full accounting of those laws including full disclosure. They are impossible to shame because they know no morality except self-interest, economic interest, and the grasping and keeping of power. The Harper gang appears to speak with one voice with one thought. One looks at them and finds it almost impossible to differentiate one pig from another in a litter wallowing in the filth. They hear no one, listen to no one, accept no advice, least of all from “experts” and “scientists” and “scholars” for whom they hold the utmost contempt unless those same “experts”, “scientists”, and “scholars” just happen to hold the same concerns and narrow values as the Harper Conservatives.

And because it is Harper and his gang, they set up to rig the game and invalidate your vote and silence your voice. They have the majority. Don’t like it? Too bad.

Are these folks really offering you what you voted for? Do they really stand for what you believe and desire? Does honesty, integrity, decency, fairness, justice, humility, kindness, openness, transparency, democracy, dignity mean anything to you? If not, you really do belong with Harper and his thugs.

 ***

BUT SUCH IS THE IRRESISTIBLE NATURE OF TRUTH, THAT ALL IT ASKS AND ALL IT WANTS IS THE LIBERTY OF APPEARING. – Thomas Paine.

 

THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG AND THE APATHETIC CITIZENRY: THE UNDERMINING OF DEMOCRACY

The justification of majority rule in politics is not to be found in its ethical superiority. – Walter Lippmann

Along with responsible newspapers we must have responsible readers. – Arthur Hays Sulzberger

It is well to remember that freedom through the press is the thing that comes first. Most of us probably feel we couldn’t be free without newspapers, and that is the real reason we want newspapers to be free. – Edward R. Murrow

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE, THE ARCHITECT OF PAIN AND RUIN

If anyone has lately seen Pierre Poilievre, the architect of the egregiously mistitled Fair Elections Act, on television news defending his vile handiwork, it can immediately become clear why all Canadians should be deeply troubled for the state of their democracy. His appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, March 27, 2014, immediately following that of Harry Neufeld, former B.C. Chief Electoral Officer and author of the report of his, Neufeld’s, investigation reviewing issues of non-compliance of election rules, ceaselessly cited by Poilievre as justification for reworking the Elections Act, provides the clearest evidence, and just another example of many, of Harper’s extreme lack of judgement. Placing Poilievre at the helm of the Ministry of Democratic Reform makes him the unlikeliest and most unpleasant candidate for the post, particularly in light of the campaign he and another vicious conservative sidekick, Dean del Mastro, now facing four charges for election irregularities, waged war in the House of Commons against Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for their investigations of the Conservative Party’s role in the robocalls scandals and voter suppression. Poilievre, hardly non-partisan, poses the greatest threat to our democracy and to our electoral process. Not many, I suggest, were that surprised by the appointment. As has been demonstrated in the past, Harper is quite willing to poke his finger into the public eye as he did with his appointment of Joe Oliver, former Minister of Natural Resources, another partisan and vile adherent to a political ideology that denies and ridicules not only the opinions of others, but also the facts. It was he, on behalf of the Harper gang, who labelled environmentalists opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline as “radicals” and stooges to foreign environmental groups and who has persistently denied global warming and climate change. Speaking in Washington, DC, last year, he savaged renowned NASA scientist climatologist James Hansen accusing him of “exaggerated rhetoric” for his position regarding development of the Alberta tar sands. Poilievre is of that ilk, only much, much more offensive and dangerous. The Conservative Party must draw these folks as naturally as road kill does carrion.

How is it possible that Bill C-23, a Bill that will alter the electoral system in such a profoundly fundamental way, be even considered without real, meaningful consultation with, or agreement from, the opposition parties, from Elections Canada and past and present Chief Electoral Officers, legal experts, academics, and the public? Imposing one’s will with the brute force of a majority is no way to operate in a democracy. That is not open, honest, transparent governance; that is control.

No one, absolutely no one, other than conservative partisans, agrees that this is a good revision of the Elections Act. This is not just the opposition opposing everything as the Harper thugs would have you believe, it is opposition by almost every segment of society except, sadly, the sleeping, indifferent, parochial, narcissistic public that seems to be reluctant to awaken to the hazard facing it.

The so-called, cruelly misnamed Fair Elections Act is unfair, discriminatory and clearly aimed towards benefitting the party in power. When Robert Fife of CTV’s Question Period asked Poilievre March 30th, 2014, why he hasn’t been listening to the critics, Polievre offered the smile of the cat swallowing the canary, saying, “We are listening.” My impression was that he didn’t believe it and didn’t care if we did or not. When Fife asked him if he would have supported the bill if the opposition had presented it, he replied, remarkably without even a hint of a smirk, “I would”!

I just hope no one hearing that was eating at the time.

To my mind, both Oliver and Poilievre are thoroughly unpleasant individuals and both are perfect emblems of the worst in the Harper regime but they are by no means alone: they are just emblematic of the rot that infuses this group. But Poilievre is even more troublesome because I believe him to be that much glibber, that much smarter, that much more shamelessly partisan; he has his own unique version of the “facts” and the “truth”. I do not know if he is an ideologue; that suggests an individual holding a set of beliefs and principles; he is certainly a partisan and a nasty one at that. Holding the position of power he does, he is about to impose on the public one of the most important changes that threatens to undermine our very democracy and he is about to do so happily and with utter equanimity. This is no exaggeration, no scare mongering. This is a man who refuses to listen to the opposition because, as is Harper, he is uninterested in the opinions of others, righteous in his own certitude; Pierre Poilievre knows best and all the rest are just whiners out to get the Conservative Party. And, because he knows best, and because the world is out to get the conservatives, he will rig the game and he will do so by changing the Elections Act. If successful, what he plans will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. According to some, those who will be disenfranchised are the least likely to vote for the conservatives and the conservatives know this. If true, if that is not fixing the game, nothing is.

But the truly disturbing thing is, Poilievre and the conservatives cannot do this without help. And that is were the public comes in. The conservative thugs obviously believe they can get away with it and the public silence appears to bear that out.

Apathy may be fine for the dead, but it has no place in the life of anyone who believes himself a sentient, living, breathing being. To ignore what Harper and his crew are doing is to be among the narcissistic living dead; it is not enough to simply eat, work, sleep and excrete, take selfies, twitter OMG! or tweet Facebook followers about the latest inanity as if one were the sun around which the earth orbits. Harper and his gang, indeed, too many politicians, rely on such as these as do maggots on a corpse; the egocentric airheads upon whom the Harper gang seem to rely appear to give permission to the likes of Harper and Poilievre and the rest to behave as they do, pulling fast ones in the hope that no one is listening, looking or caring. Self-absorption and self-love, the “what’s in if for me” attitudes, have no value and deserve no place in a vibrant, democratic society and yet, unlike voter fraud, it really is rampant. And it is this, the maggot of apathy, feeding on the body of democracy. It is numbing, distancing, and irresponsible. If this sounds like a lecture, it is; I am sick and tired of people boasting about not voting or whining about their one vote making no difference, or screaming over taxes while whining about hospital wait lines, deteriorating roads, crumbling overpasses as if none of these were linked. No one lives in a vacuum and none should be excused their indifference to their surroundings or insisting that other shoulder their responsibilities while they, these self-lovers, reap the rewards. But even they, the shirking nonentities, cannot sleep forever unaffected. Surely they will wake up, for isn’t democracy more valued, more sacred, than the loss of their favourite “reality” TV show that would almost certainly elicit screaming outrage and savage letter writing campaigns? Surely they are more than dazed, brutish oxen? But, how long will they sleep? Before long, it will be too late, the conservative Harper monsters will have won and fragile democracy reduced to the substantiality and hope of a soap bubble.

THE CONSERVATIVE END RUN ON DEMOCRACY

From day one, Harper and his crew have demonstrated their concerns were more on clinging to power than in offering sound, honest, open, and free governance. They have abused their majority with gross negligence and savage partisanship to promote a brutal laissez-faire Capitalism that is well on its way to creating a new world of “haves” and “have-nots”, those that “deserve” and the rest. That’s you and me, folks.

What the hell is wrong with us? Why are we letting this happen?

In the past, we have had many instances of conservatives skirting the rules. We have had Shelly Glover and James Bezan fighting Elections Canada over their failure to fill full reports regarding their 2011 campaign. We have had Peter Penashue resign for accepting illegal corporate donations during the same campaign. We have had Dean del Mastro facing four charges regarding breaches in the Elections Act for failing to report expenses in the 2008 election and for filing false documents. We have had the Conservative Party paying fines for the robocalls scandal, for workers posing as Elections Canada officials and directing voters to non-existent polling stations. That’s voter suppression. We have had Eve Adams making expense claims for spa treatments while campaigning and, even as I write this, facing allegations of abusing membership information to win a nomination bid in a new riding. Recently Shelly Glover again made the news for questionable ethical behaviour for attending a fundraiser in which the organizations of those in attendance stood the possibility of gaining from decisions made by her department. These are just some of the unethical, illegal, and contemptible abuses of the Elections Act that the conservatives have been caught at. In fact, contrary to what the Harper gang, and Pierre Poilievre in particular, would have us believe, it is not voter fraud with which public needs be concerned, but fraud committed by the Conservative Party, its members, and its supporters.

If Poilievre and the Harper gang succeed, Bill C-23 will not only disenfranchise voters, it will also entrench election fraud.

Almost all experts agree there is neither systematic nor rampant election fraud. In fact, they believe there is no problem of election fraud but, rather, a problem with administration and training of election workers. But, for Poilievre, that is too easy and it doesn’t help his cause. He has to justify the changes to the Elections Act; he offers them, as fixes to a non-existent problem he wants us to believe is real. The critics are wrong. As for rethinking, amending, or even cancelling Bill C-23? Not chance in hell. You just have to trust the Harper thugs.

But how can one? It’s not just how the conservatives have behaved during past campaigns. One needs only harken back to this past February when conservative MP Brad Butt stood in the House of Commons and vividly described, even acting out, what he personally saw, with his own two beady eyes, what happened to voter information cards discarded by tenants in an apartment building. He saw opposition campaign workers pick up the discarded cards with the purpose, he said, of handing them over to others who would then pose as the cardholders to whom those information cards were addressed while others, opposition supporters, of course, vouched that those people were who they said they were.

Naturally, this bolstered Poilievre’s claim voter fraud was a fact, even rampant. The story, however, was an outright fabrication. It was a lie. The only fraud committed, it appears, was the story told by Butt. There is no supporting evidence of widespread voter fraud, Butt’s fiction notwithstanding, nor has Poilievre produced evidence of it though repeatedly asked to do so by reporters. As for Butt the shameless liar? The conservative majority denied opposition moves to have him appear before a House committee to explain why he stood up in the House and gave that ridiculous performance and misled the opposition and the public. They want to know why he lied? But the conservatives don’t want you to know. But why do they worry? The majority of citizens are apparently asleep or indifferent, too busy exploring their navels or fretting about Justin Bieber or frozen into awed silence because they might have had a thought.

But why did Butt and the conservatives feel the necessity of the charade? Was it merely to bolster a claim that had absolutely no merit? It appears so. We do know this, the elimination of the vouching system is no harmless tweak; those who rely on vouching are likely to be those in the transient community, students, seniors, aboriginals, and seniors or those with severe disabilities, including blindness. If you don’t drive, you likely don’t have a driver’s license. If you just moved, your address may not yet be on record. The 39 documents that Poilievre harps on that can be used for ID at the polling stations are not all that easy to come by for many, especially those of no fixed address. Most of us will be unaffected; but does that justify our silence, excuse our indifference. Because we are unaffected, should we stand idly by while others lose their right to vote?

While the merits or not of vouching can be endlessly debated, what cannot be doubted is this government’s determination to ram Bill C-23 through without amendments and without meaningful consultation. Yes, they will pretend to listen, they may have their public hearings, but the Harper thugs will do what they want. That’s not consultation. That’s not even listening. Even if the Harper gang relent on amendments, it is almost a certainty that there will be another cost.

It’s the negative accumulative effect of many aspects of this Bill that makes it exceptionally bad. Eliminating vouching could possibly take away the vote of 120 thousand (Harry Neufeld says the numbers could go as high as 500 thousand!). The Bill also strips the Chief Electoral Officer of the power to investigate instances of election breaches. Nor will he be allowed to inform the public of such examinations without informing those being investigated and obtaining their permission to do so. The cheats have the upper hand. And who have been the cheats? Why the same folks who make the laws. What a surprise. Had this been in place before the last three elections, we might never have known of the conservative attempts to subvert our electoral process. Is that what we want? Is that what we are seeking?

Keep silent. The death of democracy as we have known it is approaching.

Of course, it gets worse, if possible. Elections Canada will no longer be allowed to promote and encourage voters to vote. Just think of that. So who does this affect? Likely the young, the elderly, aboriginal, the transient, the homeless, and the disabled. Nice touch. Again the least likely to vote conservative. As well, the investigative arm of Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, the Commissioner of Canada, has been forced to move to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This is extremely significant and troubling; with this regime, it would almost certainly lead to political interference should there be more instances of conservative voter suppression and election fraud. We will never know of it. That is, if conservatives were involved.

The revised Act would also allow parties to escape accountability for the “misuse” of party databases “used without party permission”. In other words, party bosses could do what Harper and his gang always do: claim they didn’t know and blame others. Too, incumbents will be allowed to name polling station supervisors in their ridings to handle matters of dispute on Election Day. This is another important wrinkle because it introduces another element of partisanship that benefits the winning candidates of the past election. Further, candidates will be allowed to donate more for their campaigns. As well, the act allows campaigning Parties to call past donors (anyone who gave $20) without having to count them as part of the telephone marketing costs of election campaign expenses. This allows the richer parties, again the conservatives, to actually circumvent election-spending limits allowing parties to spend more on phone calls, marketing and advertising. Furthermore, Elections Canada will have no way of gauging the accuracy of the reports presented by the parties because there is no requirement that robo-marketing companies record the numbers they call. So, we just have to trust the richest parties or the ones most likely to cheat.

Bill C-23, as created by Poilievre and his boss, Stephen Harper, not only provides an incentive to cheat, it entrenches cheating. When there is almost no possibility of being discovered, why would not candidates and their powers cheat? Especially if lying, cheating, dishonesty, and lack of integrity doesn’t bother one at all.

Marc Mayrand, in his appearance before a Commons committee, said that his reading of the Neufeld report states that any irregularities in voting had to do with administration missteps by elections officers rather than voter fraud. As reported by the Canadian Press (March 7, 2014), Poilievre, standing in the House of Commons, challenged Marc Mayrand with this response: “This is what page 10 of his (Harry Neufeld’s) own report says: ‘The Supreme Court made it clear that such errors in other circumstances could contribute to a court overturning an election.’ That sounds serious to me.” Serious indeed. But the thing is, it is what Poilievre deliberately omits that is significant when he reads that. What is meant by “such errors”? If voter fraud is meant, why not say so clearly? No, Poilievre does not do that because he cannot. Neufeld’s report clearly estimated that an average of 500 “serious administrative errors” were committed in each of the 308 ridings. He further states, “Serious errors of a type the courts consider irregularities that can contribute to an election being overturned were found to occur in 12 per cent of all election day cases involving voter registration and 42 per cent of cases involving identity vouching”. There were many reasons for the errors, including “complexity, supervision, recruitment (of poll officials), training, updating the list of electors” (Canadian Press, March 7, 2014). Neufeld never claims that there are deliberate attempts to cast illegal votes. In fact, on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon on CBC, Harry Neufeld states categorically that Poilievre, in citing Neufeld’s report, was “selectively picking” and “selectively quoting” what was in the report. Poilievre would have us believe otherwise. But he did not write the report but he sure knows how to abuse it to his advantage. Poilievre apparently prefers to forget the many investigations the conservatives have endured for voter fraud, including illegal spending, illegal expense claims, in-out scams, robocalls, and four charges laid against conservative Dean del Mastro. For Harry Neufeld, voter fraud is akin to an “urban myth”.

Even Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former Chief Electoral Officer, who had originally given Bill C-23 an A minus rating, changed his tune after closer examination, saying to the Commons committee, “This will directly affect the constitutional right to vote for a significant number of Canadians without justification,” and “I have no problem whatever with vouching the way it is structured under the Canada Elections Act at this present time” (Canada.Com, Glen McGregor, March 25, 2014).

THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

It is true; we have a free press. But how free can it be when it is denied the right to do its job, which is to inform the public and protect society by taking on the role of watchdog. An informed society is probably the best protected. Harper, apparently, does not believe that. Or, more likely, he does, and that is what terrifies him. An informed society is a threat to him and his gang.

When was the last time that Harper has stood before a scrum of reporters and answered all questions thrown at him in an environment that has not been heavily controlled, the questions unscripted, the “message” set aside, the “journalists” real? It has been years.

The relationship between Harper and the media has become poisonous. Talking bobbleheads give their relentless messages of the day and hardworking journalists struggle to break through the plastic façade of smiles, faux equanimity, phoney indignation, and the endless litany of denial and fingerpointing. If only they could get a straight, honest, unscripted, answer to even one hard question!

But even this iron curtain of defence against a press is not enough for Harper and his gang. They don’t mind using the media when it’s clear the message is one most Canadians would support, as in Stephen Harper and John Baird’s strong denunciation of Russian incursion into the Crimea. But it’s the other things, the Senate scandals, Harper’s apparent lack of judgement in appointing Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau to the senate, or his recent hiring and firing of Dimitri Soudas, robocalls, the in-out scams and on and on. One can only take so much and besides, does the public really want to hear about this? Who cares? Harper and his gang have had enough so they push back: the press is out to get them. They have a message and by God, the world is going to get it.

So 24 Seven, a video, online, taxpayer funded propaganda organ, is born, initially to provide Canadians with insight into the weekly life of Harper and family and gang. Unfortunately, it morphed into something more, staffers or supporters, posing as journalists asking Harper soft questions before a friendly crowd getting his message out. The viewer is expected to take all this seriously, as “real” news, “real” exclusives. It’s clumsy, heavy-handed, and might be laughable if not so serious. Avoid accountability; create your own Ministry of Propaganda. Truth takes another blow and democracy another cut.

It’s not insignificant. There is a level of distrust, suspicion, and animosity from a government that views knowledge, truth, openness and transparency as things to be feared rather than embraced.

Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated a keen willingness to betray the trust of Canadians. Moreover, it is clear they do not trust Canadians, especially Canadian voters. They point fingers at others in the world and pontificate about democracy. But, to conservatives, democracy is only a nine-letter word. Because it holds so little meaning to them, they are willing to debase and corrupt it to their own ends. With the arrogance of the truly ignoble, Harper has shown a profound lack of judgement in his appointments and his appointees. As a leader, he has, I believe, presided over one of the most arrogant, dirtiest, most corrupt, most secretive, most mean-spirited, most vicious and most anti-democratic regime in the history of Canada. He have conservative Mark Adler working on a bill to force employees of Canadian watchdog agencies to disclose past political activities. This is a free society? Staffers in the PMO must sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. Binding for life! His contempt for Canadians and democracy is writ large in almost everything he does. He appears to detest the thought that Canadians possess knowledge. Apparently, he feels he has reason to.

If Democracy holds no true value for them, there is another word that does, that means more to them, which they hold in higher, if not the highest, esteem. That word is POWER.

Why are Canadians untroubled by all this? Where are their voices of outrage?

When a government fears an informed public, when it fears the truth, when it sneaks legislation into omnibus bills without consultation or debate, when it acts to subvert democracy and the electoral process by “tilting” the field in their favour as Harry Neufeld has suggested with the Fair Elections Act, when it charges that the press is out to get them, it should surprise no one that the end result would eventually be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Canadian must wake up. What Harper, Poilievre and the gang are proposing with Bill C-23 is nothing less than an assault on democracy. We can sit by and do nothing or we can fight back.

I chose to fight. How about you? Even as I am writing these words, there is news that Poilievre may consider amendments to the vouching items. That’s not enough. He and the Harper gang cannot be trusted. Bill C-35 must be thoroughly examined with considerable consultation. It must be amended with the agreement of the opposition parties or, better still, simply scrapped. Despots may rule, but they never really conquer.

Tyranny does not happen overnight. It’s often a slow, incremental process of rights removed and voices silenced while a public looks away.

What will you do when they say to you, “You cannot vote”?

In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up. – Martin Niemoeller

***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

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