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JASON KENNEY’S DANGEROUS GAME

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

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.– Nikita Khrushchev

Frank A. Pelaschuk

What does it take to be a politician? Evidently not much these days. It probably helps if you are confident, glib, articulate, convincing, and ruthless. Honesty, integrity, decency, the ability to experience shame, judging from those who hold office, are clearly not required nor, it seems, is a particularly intelligent electorate.

Those seeking political office must have a thick skin to accompany the essentials of running because, should those essentials trip them up, they must be nimble enough and convincing enough to defend themselves without appearing to do so; to act otherwise undermines credibility. The essentials of any successful political life require the willingness and ability to lie with ease and without qualm. Of course, with lying, one must also be able to wear several faces, all of them hypocritical and not be too wedded to such foolish high-minded notions that voters alwaysknow best, are wise and good. They don’t and aren’t. A good politician reminds himself of this fact many times and sometimes even allows himself to go further but neverpublicly: he’ll tell himself voters are largely stupid and can be easily manipulated provided he, the politician, sound as if he believes every word he is saying. He doesn’t have to but it helps. Essential as well is the ability and willingness to exploit and manipulate others; this requires a certain ruthlessness and mean-spiritedness which must be used sparingly but, when necessary, without hesitation. No good politician should be wedded to promises, party platforms or to such lofty airy-fairy things as morality or integrity both of which, while occasionally an asset, more often than not prove hindrances to the truly important goal: getting elected and keep on getting elected. It’s best for the politician to be adroit thereby allowing him or her to easily switch sides loving what your opposition hated and hating what your opposition loved (that’s where the several faces can be particularly useful). It certainly helps to come across as a sympathetic, sincere and interested individual even as the voter bores the politico with his latest health issue, worries about crime in the neighbourhood and high number of illegal dark-skinned foreigners sneaking into the country; tell them what they want to hear, works every time! A politician must never be afraid to admit to being wrong or say he is sorry. Trudeau must be the sorriest Prime Minister of any nation and, while it was endearing at first, it has become wearisome and smacks of insincerity. Regardless of the occasion, the politician must be able to look the voterin the eye and speak with the utmost genuineness without sounding earnest whether lying or not; if he can’t work up the charisma factor all that easily, it also helps to come across as the slightly nerdy shy “aw shucks” head-down-shoe-scuffing-the-ground type of guy or gal who everyone thinks is cute as hell and someone they would want to marry their son or daughter and even consider voting for.

There is, of course, another type for whom some fall: The Snake Oil huckster. He is the smooth, grinning, brash, fast-talking, looks-you-in-the-eye type who can convince you that Sunday is for dancing and sin, Friday nights for praying for world peace, and that children never lie before he takes his leave of you – once you’ve paid for the snake oil and then find your wallet picked after he’s out the door.

Jason Kenney is that type of politico, a huckster who will do and has done anything to win including joining forces with kamikaze party leadership aspirants (those candidates who withdraw midway a campaign and throws support to another), one of whom paid a hefty fine for taking the part while Kenney, unsurprisingly, denies knowing anything about it though some involved in the matter say otherwise. Just one day after the Alberta election commissioner announced that he was still under investigation for several other questionable practices during the 2017 leadership campaign to head the United Conservative Party, Kenney, clearly unhappy, has none to subtly suggested that no department including the commissioner’s was immune from budgetary cuts. The message could not be any more clear nor our sense of his character.

Anyone who has followed his career over the years knows that he is a sincerely ambitious politico with the gift for gab, bafflegab and gas in equal measure who lies with absolute shameless ease, has rather fluid ethical standards and absolutely no loyalty to anything but that which furthers his personal agenda.

No one should have been surprised when he rolled back the NDP minimum wage from $15 to $14. You see, he’s had practice in undermining Canadian workers while in the role of employment and social development minister in the Harper government. While both proclaimed their primary concern was the creation and protection of Canadian jobs, Kenney, as the minister in charge of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), you know, the program that encouraged, actually encouraged, Canadian companies to hire foreign workers at 15% below what Canadian workers were paid. We all recall the RBC episode where Canadian workers trained foreign workers who then returned to their countries of origin taking with them the very jobs Canadian workers, now unemployed, had trained them to do. Good for business. Good for foreign workers. Not so good for Canadian workers. This is the kind of man Jason Kenney is. He cannot be trusted to be on your side unless you are Big Business or unless you can be used as a wedge to his advantage. It was the Harper regime, of which Kenney was a member, that campaigned on a racial and religious agenda targeting the so-called Barbaric Cultural Practices of Muslims. So, it is not surprising that members of his United Conservative Party campaign team included those with homophobic, anti-Muslim, views. Two of them, Caylan Ford, who had been recruited by Kenney, and Eva Kiryakos, resigned while incumbent Mark Smith with a rather peculiar take on homosexuality stayed on and won which says a lot about those who support the Kenney’s UCP.

But there he is today in a video suggesting that if Trudeau were reelected, he’d be willing to lead the charge to the road of separation. That he would raise separation as a tool in an attempt to blackmail Canadians into voting for Andrew Scheer and the federal Conservatives says all you need know about Kenney and his professed love of country: anything goes. He is an extremely adept campaigner and now, as premier of Alberta, has set himself the goal of working towards Trudeau’s ouster by any means though I suspect not all Albertans would support the threat to pull out of the confederation. Such a move could well provide him with a victory that was pyrrhic. For those who find Doug Ford and Donald Trump appealing, Kenney is a shoe-in and talk of separation is the stunt of one who thinks too highly of himself; if he were a twin, he would go at it 24/7.

This is a man who, while campaigning in 2016, photoshopped an image in which he appeared. He removed the background and replaced it with an image of an adoring crowd behind him. He loves working with images almost as much as he loves his gas. He’s the same man who, in 2015, during International Women’s Day, tweeted support for the war against ISIS with the inclusion of two photos, one purportedly of a bound, weeping child bride and her adult husband and another of black clad women in chains. Of course, as with many things with Kenney, they were bogus and he knew it. The first picture had been widely discredited as fake and the other was a reenactment of an event dating back many centuries. For Kenney, it’s the impact of the message; truth is immaterial if it doesn’t help his cause.

To give him his due, he is ever resourceful. In the past, he had used his ministerial letterhead to fundraise for Harper’s Conservative party, a no-no, and once, in a fundraising letter, he sought to suggest Justin Trudeau held a sympathetic soft-spot for terrorist when visiting the Montreal Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque identified by American intelligence as a recruitment centre for Al-Quadi terrorists. While it was true that the U.S. Military considered the mosque a threat and that Trudeau had visited it, Kenney wilfully omitted two important items. When Trudeau had visited the mosque, it had not, at the time, been considered a threat by American intelligence and Kenney himself had taken some heat for visiting an Ontario Islamic centre facing the same accusations of terrorist recruitment. Jason Kenney knew exactly what he was doing and what to ignore. It was malign and typical of him. While I have no affection for Trudeau, I have even less for conservatives and for malicious liars and Kenney is that.

His efforts to reawaken the East-West divide with separatist talk is shameless and unconscionable. It’s a dangerous ploy and serves no one’s interest other than Jason Kenney’s and appeals to none but the simpletons in the conservative base who do form a significant number. No one, especially a leader of a party and of a province, can honestly claim to love his country yet hint at walking away unless Trudeau loses the election this fall. Liars can. Dishonest people can. Manipulators can. Jason Kenney can.

Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Donald Trump have won the support of voters largely by preying on their fears, their superstitions, their ignorance and their stupidity by enforcing and legitimizing their belief of victimhood with assurances that their fears are real and that they are, indeed, under siege by dark skinned peoples with strange clothes, strange customs and unholy religions with sinister plans.

This is vile stuff and dangerous. This is Kenney. And this is the conservative worldview.

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

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. —  Benjamin Franklin

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STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: VOTERS, THE SORRY EXCUSES AND THE ALBERTA DANCE

 Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation. – Henry A. Kissinger

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges when there are no rivers. – Nikita Kruschev

Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians. – Muhammad Iqbal

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

Over the years, even recently, I have heard excuses for why some do not, will not, vote. “I’m not into politics.” “I don’t know enough about politics.” “I don’t know who to vote for.” “They’re all the same.” “They’re all a bunch of crooks.” “They all tell you one thing and do another.” “I don’t know if I can trust them.” “My vote doesn’t count.” “My vote is wasted.” “Them” and “they”, of course, are the politicians and their parties.

The excuses confound me, for I have known some of those making them. With exceptions, none are stupid nor are they shirkers. Yet, when it comes to doing their civic duty, they are precisely that: lazy, stupid, irresponsible.

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

Almost everything is our lives is affected by politics and yet too many fail to see it; they drift through life expecting others to bear the burden and responsibility of making decisions that impacts them in almost every way. It seems their priorities are skewed the narcissism of self-regard, the shallowness and emptiness of glitz, glamour and gossip of more importance than health care, education, prison reform, and their own government’s perversion of democracy. They would be screaming from the rooftops if Stephen Harper passed a law what music they must listen to or that the long gun registry be reintroduced and yet remain silent when he rams through anti-terrorist bill, C-51, that has the potential to criminalize their behaviour in the way of a thoughtless comment or for visiting a web site that Harper and gang deemed a threat to Canada. It is not as if they are absolutely blinkered and numb, they do follow the web and see those horrific ISIL images of beheadings and mass slaughter and, even if below the din of their own inner world, they do hear Harper and the gang go on and on about the terrorist threat to Canada. Perhaps dimly, with half a mind, they accept what they hear and embrace the fear that Harper wishes us to experience, but they do so uncritically perhaps considering the threat remote or just part of the white noise that surrounds them. Is the threat real? Is bill C-51 really necessary? Don’t we already have anti-terrorist legislation in place and aren’t they more than sufficient? These are questions they should ponder but they don’t. They exist in a vacuum. Nothing touches them.

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

If not, why not? Every citizen has a duty to hold those elected accountable. That means knowing who they are, what they stand for, what they promise and what promises they have kept and broken. As a citizen, we have a duty to protect, not just our country, but ourselves and all our fellow citizens from harm and from the abuses of a government corrupted by the corrosive allure of power and a desire to pander to special market interests. In order to do that, we have a duty to inform ourselves. When Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime, the US placed an embargo on Cuba that isolated the tiny nation until recently when Obama finally threw open the doors. Castro was denounced as a Marxist-Leninist tyrant. Yet, for all its poverty, thanks to the American embargo, Cuba has a world-class healthcare system and a literacy rate of 99%. Tyrants do not support education or an informed population. With the recent thawing of American-Cuban relations, Harper, a staunch vocal opponent of Communism appeared particularly loath to be photographed with Cuban president Raul Castro during the recent Summit of the Americas. That was odd but not surprising of a man who will trade with any murderous despot and gladly shake his hand. This is important. Harper talks a good game but what he believes of Cuba and Communism doesn’t square with what he does at home. Like any good despot, he, too, does not believe in an informed public. We have a regime that keeps information from its citizens, that has changed electoral laws to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, that engages in the politics of fear and bigotry, that spreads the myth of itself as sound fiscal managers that has, nevertheless, stripped Canada of a surplus plunging it into a massive deficit, and yet has managed to convince 40% of the population that it is the Conservatives who are best able to save the country from debt, terror, and error. How is that possible? Well, we have a population of folks unwilling to inform themselves of the harm the Harper regime is really doing to this country and a government all too eager to keep them ignorant. For me, Harper’s anti-communist cant must be taken with a grain of salt. The hypocrite will work with anyone if money and trade is at stake.

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

If not, why not? What do the various parties offer, promise and follow through on. What about your elected representative? Is he or she all about the main chance or do they demonstrate by their deeds the extent of their belief in the words they tend to spout when electioneering? Words like democracy, openness, transparency, honesty, integrity, truth, duty, civility, honour, and decency. Are the men and women we look at capable of experiencing shame? If not, I would not trust them. How about you? And for those who voted for Harper and gang my question is this: How could you knowing that this regime is shameless in its partisanship, pettiness, mean-spiritedness, and secrecy.

We have all heard Harper and gang utter the words democracy, transparency, duty, openness as noble sentiments all too often when running for office and, all too often, have witnessed them twist the meanings, betraying their intent, denying them their place, degrading them with sneers, and then booting them aside when elected. Harper lends no credence to the words and their fine sentiments when he utters them; for him, they are useful niceties when it suits him but mostly act as hindrances to his goals. For those not knowing for whom to vote (again, why not?), I say look out for the panderers, the snake oil salesmen and wizards who proclaim themselves the one and only with magical cure-alls and who make easy promises – to be kept after they are elected. That is Harper and gang. Beware of the man and party that offer bribes: income splitting that helps the rich and big fat child benefit cheques a few months before election day; they believe you pliable, easily and cheaply bought and, in the end, will treat you exactly how they see you: of no further interest until next election for they know you can always be bought with trinkets and cheap promises. No man, no party, should win your vote for what they promise you but rather for what they do that is in the best interest of you and every member of our society including the poorest and meanest of us all. That leaves out Harper. He’s a bully who treats all those on welfare as potential fraudsters. He is more interested in corporate welfare than the welfare of Canadians. But you would know that if you took the time to inform yourself.

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

That’s a lazy response and again calls for self-education. While I admit to having utter contempt for Stephen Harper and his gang, I suspect if one looks hard, there may be one or two Conservatives who have proven themselves decent, honourable and even pleasant. I don’t know who they are. Frankly, I’m not looking, I don’t care for Conservatives in positions of power. I would not however say that of Stephen Harper, Peter MacKay, the oily Pierre Poilievre, Steven Blaney, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Shelly Glover, Leona Aglukkaq, liar Brad Butt, Mark Adler, Michelle Rempel, Candace Bergen, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, fictionalizer Jason Kenney, well, you get the drift, most of these actually are the same in my view: partisan, mean-spirited and very, very unpleasant. If you think not, look at how they have gone after Omar Khadr, at the age of fifteen dragged off to war in Afghanistan by his father, charged with killing an American combat medic, tortured, held in the notorious Guantanamo prison. He has spent thirteen years in prison for a crime to which he confessed, under torture of sleep deprivation, waterboarding and who knows what other horrors. For the Harper gang, he is not a human being but a symbol of fear, a symbol of the “evildoers”, the face of terrorism itself. It is nonsense. It is vengeful and just plain wrong. They likely have never read William Blake: For mercy has a human heart/Pity a human face…No, not all politicians are the same. While the Liberals support Harper’s incursion into Iraq against ISIL and his expansion of the war and the level of involvement Canadian troops will play, the NDP has stood in opposition. You may not agree with their stand, but at least you know where they stand.

THEY’RE ALL A BUNCH OF CROOKS.
Not all. But enough in the past for the outraged public to turf out the Liberals for their role in the sponsorship scandal nine years ago. The Conservative replacement in 2006, under Stephen Harper is even worse, if that’s possible. It’s one thing to be corrupt, venal and to steal money, it’s another thing to bring Parliament to disrepute, to appoint a Speaker of the House who is not impartial, to abuse your offices for partisan purposes, to deny opposition members the right to be heard, and to undermine the foundations of democracy by questioning the patriotism of critics and targeting the civil liberties of citizens. Harper and gang have done all this. But they, too, have had members who have used the public coffers as their personal bank accounts with bogus expense claims. Too many Conservative Party members appear to have low thresholds when it comes to the question of ethics. We have Harper appointees, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy facing allegations of abusing expense claims. Duffy is presently facing the courts. We have renewed allegations of Senators David Tkatchuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, on behalf of the PMO, whitewashing the Deliotte audit on good ole’ Duffy to burnish his image. I wrote about this several times since June of 2013, so it’s not new news even though some are acting as if it is. We have Bev Oda, gone now, caught for padding expense claims, not once, but twice. Peter Penashue, called by Harper, the best MP from Labrador ever for illegal accepting corporate donations while campaigning. Just recently, Reginald Bowers, official agent for the former Labrador Cabinet minister faces three charges for breaching the Elections Act during the 2011 election. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan initially refusing to submit full and proper audit reports for their campaigns facing allegations of exceeding their entitled amounts and Shelly Glover (again) and Susan Aglukkaq at fundraising events attended by those standing to gain from decisions made by their ministries. We have Mike Sona, a young Conservative staffer; found guilty and serving time for his involvement in the robocalls scandal. We have loudmouth Dean del Mastro, who (along with oily Pierre Poilievre) impugned the integrity of the Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand for his investigations into the robocalls scandal in “in-out” scam for which the Conservative Party paid a $52,000 fine. Del Mastro, himself found guilty of election fraud in the 2008 election and waiting to be sentenced.

But, if not all crooks, the Conservatives are certainly duplicitous in the integrity front by being party to omnibus bills in which legislation is slipped in with hopes of no one noticing. In the past the gang attempted to slip in online spying legislation, which led to howls of protest and Vic Toews, then minister of public safety, to accuse critics of siding with pornographers! In the latest budget bill we see another example of this type of dubious manoeuvring, the Harper gang bypassing labour laws to impose legislation that greatly erodes public servant sick leave and disability plans. This is a government that is not only anti-union, anti-public servant, but also abusive of thousands of hard working men and women whom Tony Clement referred to as “deadwood”. Clement, president of the Treasury, is most noteworthy for creating a $50 million slush fund during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits and for losing $3 billion of taxpayers’ money. Public servants are deadwood. This from a member of a government that works about 100 days on behalf of corporate interests and spends the rest of the time working to get re-elected by spending taxpayers’ monies, in the millions, informing us what a good job they are doing. Tell a lie often enough even they begin to believe it. We have Poilievre, laughably placed as minister of democratic reform, rigging the Elections Act that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. So, while not all crooks, those in the Conservatives are certainly not above dishonesty, talking out of both sides of their mouths, of resorting to dirty tricks (no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile to not be used), of low-down chicanery, and pillaging the public purse for partisan purposes. While there are many other examples of the extent of their lack of integrity and looseness with the truth, two examples stand out and both have to do with Harper’s Economic Action Plan. A few years ago, over $21 million was spent advertising job-creating programs that were non-existent. During this year’s hockey play-off season, Harper is spending over $13.5 million touting, well, you guessed it, his job creation plan for young people, the disabled, immigrants and illiterate adults. That, too, is a hoax. On May 7, 2015, we have learned that $97 million allotted to help them has been mostly unspent. Youth has not been helped by this funding program any more than have the disabled, immigrant and the illiterate. The Conservatives call this sound management. Others call it juggling the books. No, they are not all crooks, just dishonest in ways that, if not criminal, are certainly deceptive and unethical and worthy of brutal reprisal with an election defeat come next election.

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

Well, that’s probably true with the Conservatives in particular. Remember, Harper promised to reform the Senate, to be more open and transparent. That got him elected. Well, of the 105 Senators, Harper appointed 59. Right now there are about 17 Senate vacancies. With the Duffy trial and a secret audit report floating around, Harper, burnt with Duffy, Wallin and others (more Conservatives perhaps?) facing serious allegations of questionable expense claims, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, is likely to leave the seats vacant until the next election.

But there are other things Harper has to be worried about. In 2006, he loudly proclaimed his support of Canadian troops during the Afghan war by declaring his was not a government that cut and runs. Well, he did precisely that twice when facing opposition questions regarding his budgets. Rather than answer questions, he shut down Parliament: TWICE and, just this year, held back on the budget delaying it for two months. He is the loud, cowardly lion willing to roar his disapproval of allies for not doing enough in the war effort and the economic front and talking big about his prowess as a fiscal manager. His is the best government on the globe. He is the only leader capable of saving Canada from economic disaster; this inflated bulletin from a guy who inherited a $13 billion surplus and then squandered it with seven deficits in a row that has left Canada with a debt of $159 or so billion. Too, he will modestly have us know that his is the only government that can save Canadians from the jihadist terrorists. This is the guy who oversaw the mistreatment of our veterans with clawbacks to disability pensions, closure of Veterans offices, etc. This is the guy who supports our military so much that he exploits our men and women with photo-ops while in Iraq. He loves and respects them so much that he placed special combat troops and their families in danger by showing their faces on video on the tax funded government “news” channel 24Seven, his personal advertising agency. He did this without approval or consent from the military. Did I mention that we are paying for this? Harper had issued an edict warning journalists not to do what he did. The media have been scrupulous in keeping to this protocol. Not so Harper. Not so Jason Kenney who tweeted the photograph of Sgt. Andrew Doiron for the world to see. Doiron was later killed by friendly fire. While Kenney’s tweet likely had nothing to do with his death, Kenney’s disregard and misuse of the media is not unique. This is the man, and I wrote of his before but it bears repeating, who, in a fund-raising letter suggested Justin Trudeau supported terrorists when he visited the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque in Montreal. The mosque had been cited by American intelligence as a breeding ground for the recruitment of terrorists. This was reported in the New York Times. The thing is, neither Kenney, Harper, nor all other government member who spread the story had the decency to point out that Trudeau’s visit to the mosque was prior to its exposure of having links to al-Qaida. This was no mistake. This was a deliberate attempt to smear an opposition member by questioning his loyalty and linking him as a supporter of terrorists. This was done by a man who wishes to be prime minister one day, a man who has illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for the Conservative Party, the same man who tweeted photos of bound women re-enacting a historical event and tried to pass them off as news photos of captured ISIL slaves. He also tweeted a photo of a child bride, hands bound, in the presence of a much older man. But that too was a fake photo. This is the minister of defence. How trustworthy is this man? How trustworthy is any member of the Harper gang? Not very. Harper makes the rules, he can break them, I guess. But, despite this preponderance of incompetence, dishonesty, perversion of truth, not all politicians are like these vile bodies in the Conservative Party. Despite his youth and inexperience, despite his readiness to woo votes by pandering to our fears by supporting C-51 (with a promise to revisit the bill if elected), Trudeau strikes me as a decent individual. But the truth is, there is not much difference between the Liberal and Conservative economic plans. As for attitude, well, the Conservatives are just plain nasty. Thomas Mulcair may come across as rigid, gruff, a man who does not smile easily. I don’t care. I want a leader who is capable and Mulcair is that man. Set aside your prejudices and watch him during Question Period. He is by far the most effective member in the House we’ve seen in years. In fact, I will say that of almost every member of the NDP caucus.

When one looks at the behaviour of Conservatives, tainted with corruption, abusive of taxpayer money, and parsimonious with the truth while generous to their business cronies and themselves (MPs gave themselves a raise five times that allowed public servants), I can almost sympathize with those who feel no desire to vote. Almost. You don’t like what’s happening, you can change it. Vote. But you change nothing going with the same old same old. It is not enough to go back and forth between the Conservative and Liberal Parties. Nothing changes that way. It becomes a rigged game.

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

This is something I have heard far too many times and it’s often said of the NDP. My response, of course, would be, “How can you know unless you give them a chance? What do you do when the party you vote for lets you down?” “Well, I know them both. Then I vote the other party (Conservative or Liberal), I don’t know the NDP. ” Now, when I hear that, I want to pull my eyeballs out; it’s bad enough hearing stupidity without having to look at it as well.

I LIKE THE NDP, I LIKE WHAT THEY SAY AND PROMISE, BUT THEY ARE SOCIALISTS AND I’M NOT CERTAIN I’M COMFORTABLE WITH THAT.

So, then I ask, “What does socialist mean for you?” “Umh, ah, well, it’s hard for me to define but they are, umm, against business and are, umm, soft on crime.” I think I’ve heard that phrase before. Resisting the urge to shake them, I ask, “Where do you learn this stuff?” “Well, umm, Harper believes life should mean life and our laws are too lenient, we have, killers walking our streets and the jails are like hotels.” Well, I worked briefly in a BC prison in the early 80s. It was no hotel. And, contrary to what Harper and gang would have us believe, crime rates are down to the levels of the early 70s. Building more jails, depriving prisoners of programs preparing them for a life outside, and offering punishment without the hope of parole, without the belief that even bad people can be redeemed, will not make for a safer society. The dangers will, in fact, be greater. Prisoners who have had parole denied and programs cut will be ill prepared for a life of freedom. They will also be angry.

When I hear such inane comments, I bring up this quote by Frank Hague, “You hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. Every time I hear these words, I say to myself, ‘That man is a Red, that man is a Communist!’ You never hear a real American talk like that.” Usually the other person doesn’t even blink! It appears these people seem to agree with Hague that civil rights and a free press are socialistic values! Call me Frank the Red, but I’ll accept that.

WELL, I MIGHT CONSIDER VOTING BUT MY VOTE WILL NOT COUNT.

“Why not?” I ask. “Well, it would be wasted, the Conservatives or the Liberals always win so it doesn’t matter if I vote. ” Now, I admit, I’m an impatient fellow and this last used to make me believe I was on the verge of an apocalyptic fit with my head about to explode. After counting to one, I often ask, if I’m still capable in the face of such breathtaking ignorance, “But, if all of you who say they want to vote for the NDP actually voted NDP, don’t you think your vote would count? Isn’t this just an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don’t do such and such because it makes no difference?” “No, because the Conservatives or Liberals always win. My vote would still be wasted.” Arrgh! If they do vote, it’s often a choice of “the lesser of two evils.” So, they’ve bought the argument: the lesser of two evils. Or they have bought the other one, which is no argument but simple fearmongering: “Don’t split the vote. Voting NDP is the same as throwing away your vote. Vote Liberal.”

Is this ignorance or the real thing – stupidity? In a free society, this is dangerous. These folks have been told something by others they believe more knowledgeable and they accept it as fact; they do not consider the motives of the party passing on the information, they do not examine the information, they do not question it, and they do not doubt it. Political parties know that and prey on it and none more effectively than the Harper Conservatives. They feed us the lies in the full knowledge that most of us will just open our maws without even considering whether it’s digestible or even safe.

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

Yet, and yet, sometimes, rarely, but sometimes nevertheless, something happens. For some reason, closed minds open and open mouths close. They listen; refuse to ingest the swill offered them for decades. Something has happened. They will ask themselves why must I do what we have always done. Why must I fear what I don’t know simply because someone tells me I should? Maybe what happens is less an embracing of something new than a resounding rejection of the same old same old. Nevertheless, the embracing of the new and unknown is still a change, a move, a signal of life and hope and defiance. It might only last for one four-year dance, the new dance partner only loved because the old flame, another in a long line from the same family, has betrayed and angered you. Now, the interest in the new dance partner might be short lived. It is also true that as the dance continues you might learn some new steps and like what you discover. You may not be ready for another forty-year affair but you may be interested enough for another dance, at least. Perhaps this is the real thing. And if your are disappointed, well, it will be easier to find a new dance partner, maybe even from the old familiar, but chastened family with whom you danced for so many years. Meanwhile, you may realize that the bad, dangerous individual you are partnered with was just the product of vicious gossip, envy and fearmongering by your previous partner, the one who betrayed you and lied to you, the one who offered you empty promises only in return for the favours you offered when he or she wanted to take them.

That might have been what happened in Alberta on May 5th, when Albertans woke up and grew up and tossed aside their lying, cheating, abusive and arrogant partner of over four decades. Perhaps it was simple anger rather than Albertans embracing Rachel Notley and the NDP. But if she does her job, and does it well and with integrity, she may last for a few dances. I hope so. It took a long time, too long, and perhaps it had something to do with newcomers from other provinces who have lived under NDP governments, but it was clear Albertans wanted a change. Those who may have thought differently just a few months ago clearly no longer bought the message of the wasted vote, of votes not counting, of blood-thirsty socialists ready to pillage the till and slaughter all capitalists. They proved that they could do and try something different and wake up in the morning and not hear the sound of frightened capital fleeing the province.

My vote doesn’t count. Of course it doesn’t if you don’t vote. One vote makes a majority. My vote doesn’t count. Is this how one lives, never doing something because it goes unrewarded, unnoticed? Then why get out of bed? You might stumble and end a quadriplegic. Why cross the street? A truck might mow you down. Why dream and hope, marry and have families? In the end, we’re all dead so why bother? Yet we go on in spite of our defeats, failures and fears. The Alberta vote has shown the way. There is nothing to fear. Take that step.

If you believe you will wake up tomorrow, why can’t you believe your vote will count?

 ***

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

DOES ANYONE HEAR ME

Frank A. Pelaschuk

What is it about the Harper Conservatives? Why is it that they appear to never question themselves or to suffer doubts? Are they not interested in what the world thinks? Or even their own people? Do they not hear the incipient groaning moans of rebellion or the slight tearing sound of Harper’s carefully woven image slowly unravelling? The tear is barely noticeable. But it’s there. And people are beginning to take notice.

Last week, Canadians were treated to the spectacle of a short-lived revolt by Conservative backbenchers wishing to reopen the abortion debate through the back door. Harper wanted none of that. On March 26, MPs Mark Warawa and Leon Benoit stood up in the House and asked the Speaker Andrew Scheer to rule that their rights to speak on certain topics were being violated by their party leadership when their names were removed from a list of speakers and they were prevented from speaking in the House prior to Question Period. Later, the dissidents emerged from a caucus meeting, all smiles but clearly reined in. All was well and Dear Leader Harper was in control again. But for how long?

The mini-revolt was not the only blow to Harper’s image within a week. On the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and a month before they were to meet, Harper announced Canada’s withdrawal from the UN convention of scientists to fight drought in Africa. He also stopped Canadian funding, about $350,000. Canada had signed on to this UN effort in 1994 and is the only nation of 194 signatories to withdraw its support. One of the rationales offered was that it was a cost-cutting move which would save taxpayers $350,000! That’s slightly above the cost of travel expenses claimed by senator Pamela Wallin over the past few years. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a paltry sum and amounts to a miniscule fraction of what Harper and gang spend in self-promoting propaganda with its Action Plan campaign. This move is cruel window dressing; it will have no real effect on the economy and will appeal only to those who believe “charity begins at home,” and that Canada is already far too generous and free with taxpayer monies. But for those living in drought plagued nations, every lost dollar for anti-drought research is a matter of life and death; the withdrawal of any money for such an effort is catastrophic, not only for those dying from the effects of drought but also to Canada’s image. Because the sum involved is so insignificant when compared to other sums we spend, we look foolish, mean and niggardly. We are a relatively rich nation and yet Harper is willing to declare to the world that we have neither the heart nor the willingness to contribute towards finding the solution to end drought. That is one cold heart.

The anti-drought convention is a UN initiative. That may be the problem. For some reason, Harper has it in for the world body. He doesn’t like it and will poke it in the eye in every possible way. That the consequences of his acts have resulted in a tarnishing of Canada’s reputation as a good and humane nation, that such actions could result in death for some, is apparently of no concern to him and his gang. Their concern is to appeal to their base of supporters, those folks who believe the best charity is no charity and that all victims are masters of their own misfortune. They elected Harper and gang and gave him power. He intends to keep it and will do so by heeding to the worst in them.

Another blow to his image, this too self-inflicted, is equally puzzling.

Recently, seven young people wishing to draw national attention to aboriginal issues completed an arduous and dangerous 1600km trip. The journey began from a James Bay Cree community on January 15 and ended on Parliament Hill March 25. They had hoped to meet with Stephen Harper at the end of their journey. Unfortunately, it was disappointment, rather than Harper, which greeted the young trekkers. Harper had more important issues to deal with and they involved international matters calling for diplomacy, cooperation and lots and lots of cameras. He and his wife were in Toronto greeting two “ambassadors” from China. That the ambassadors were Panda bears on loan to Canada speaks volumes and sheds more light on a man that is not only unflattering but all too revealing. With a backhanded slap of contempt, Harper opted for cute and cuddly over courageous, tired, foot-sore, message-bearing, young aboriginal people. It was a photo-op to good to resist and Harper didn’t. The world noticed but, if he was hoping that Canadian love for animals would translate into something more positive, a further softening of his public image, he clearly miscalculated. Another thread snapped in that carefully crafted image. Canadians and the world saw him for what he is: aloof, disrespectful, uncaring, ungenerous, mean, small, and getting meaner and smaller every day.

His refusal to acknowledge the young people, to hear them out and to convey to them, and to the rest of us, that their efforts actually meant something to him will no doubt leave a lasting impression on them. Perhaps, still smarting from the Idle No More movement, or of the belief that his issuance of a public apology in 2008 on behalf of Canada for the brutal failures of residential schools was sufficient, Harper just could not bring himself to break away from what was important to him: the careful crafting of his image. You can never go wrong having your photo taken with pandas. But Harper might have done better meeting with those young people.

THE LAST OF THEIR KIND

Within a day of each other, Conservative Ralph Klein, and New Democrat Peter Kormos died. In both, we can see almost identical personalities, but men of absolutely different characters. Both were popular figures in politics, though, of Kormos, it can be said he was the more solitary and sadder figure in his private life though, it is true, it was Ralph Klein who, in the end, suffered the cruellest of fates when diagnosed with a lung illness and dementia.

Both were larger than life and absolutely fearless in their worldview. And both, it can safely be said, were principled but in different ways. Klein, it appears was more flexible when it came to personal beliefs, preferring, in some ways, to let those whom he represented, to lead. Both were populists, for good and ill, and both served their constituents well and were so easy to be around that voters felt they could call them by their first names. Klein was often referred to as King Ralph, a title both sincerely affectionate and ironically meant.

Of the two, Ralph Klein subscribed to a darker view of humankind than did Kormos as attested by his declaration regarding easterners moving to the east: “Any person with an honest desire to work and an honest desire to contribute to society is welcome, but people who come to rob banks, mug seniors & snatch purses are not welcome.” As if such elements did not exist in Alberta but were eastern imports. Those who supported him loved this. They saw him as a man “who told it like it is.” On the surface, that declaration may sound reasonable. Unfortunately, the sentiment reeks of suspicion and judgement creating an unpleasant image by tarring with a rather large brush a segment of society.

“He’s a straight shooter,” is the consensus regarding both men. Perhaps Klein was, but most of his targets were easy not to like for they are the targets and scapegoats of like-minded people the world over, those naysayers who always look for those less fortunate and weaker than themselves. Perhaps it makes them feel better to know that, as low and mean as their lives are, there are others worse off, the “leeches” of society: the unemployed, the homeless, the mentally ill. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it just makes you feel so damn good to be the one giving the shit-kicking rather than taking it. These are the kind of people who love the cruelty of American Idol when the self-deluding, truly untalented perform on stage to be subjected to loud mockery and ridicule. It doesn’t concern the viewers that these folk are often there at the encouragement of friends and family who should have known better and cared more: what better sport than to be among the mockers, to witness the fall of others no matter how weak and defenceless. I don’t know if Ralph Klein was a mean man; I think not. But he should have known better. He fed off that kind of thinking and he used it publicly as when he threw money at a panhandler telling him to get a job, and became much loved as a result by those who saw vindication of themselves in that act, saw that they were not of that ilk, that they were indeed contributors, “hardworking independent men and women who didn’t whine, who succeeded on their own, who neither sought nor took help from others.” That the “self-made man” is largely a figure of myth troubled neither Klein nor those who really want to believe they were that person: “I work, I contribute; those who don’t are bums.”

Kormos was a different type of populist. He, too, had strong opinions and he was equally colourful, but there was less judgement and meanness in how he looked upon others. He stuck to his socialist beliefs and appeared to have little patience with those pragmatists who were more concerned with getting re-elected than in doing the right thing. Why couldn’t you do both, he likely thought.

Both men will be missed. They were cut of the same cloth yet worlds apart. Of both, it has been said, “we shall not see their like again.”

Perhaps. But I do believe, of the two, we need more like Peter Kormos.

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