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FORD, SCHEER AND CONSERVATIVES: NUT BARS OR FRUIT CAKES?

There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of “little guy” or “silent majority” rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves. – Christopher Hitchens

Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan. But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism, too, is less racist than is populism. A patriot will not exclude a person of another nationality from the community where they have lived side by side and whom he has known for many years, but a populist will always remain suspicious of someone who does not seem to belong to his tribe. – John Lukas

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Doug Ford and his shrill sidekick, Lisa Macleod, in fact, the whole gang of Ontario MPP neanderthals and their federal and provincial counterparts, seem to be following the path loved by certain types of politicos of the day: parochial, dishonest, mean-spirited, ignorant, craven, self-serving, hypocritical, abusive, lying, media-hating, science-denying, thought-aversive, punitive, vindictive, petty, dogmatic, autocratic, and fossilized.
Ideas, if they have any, are so immured in locked minds that not a hint of light is discernible as if a requirement that not a ray be allowed to penetrate — ever. They swept into office and immediately set to work dismantling every liberal piece of legislation put in place by the Kathleen Wynne government; it doesn’t matter if the ideas were good, bad or indifferent, they took office in the way of thugs swinging metal bars and bats bent on the destruction of anything they don’t like, don’t understand and don’t support. Doug and his gang don’t like much, understand even less and support only that which plays to the worst instincts held by their supporters: that they are victims of Big Government and Liberal elites; that asylum-seekers are not only to be feared but receive preferential treatment over “legitimate” border crossers and Canadian-born citizens; that those on low income deserve even less and should get off their butts. They whine, really whine, about the decline of our infrastructures: failing roads and overpasses; the state of our education; and they whine, really whine about the shortage of doctors, hospital closures, the interminable wait times in emergency rooms while whining, screaming, that taxes are too, too, TOO, high. The Progressive (now talk about misnomers!) Conservatives have made an art out of playing on stupidity and fear encouraging the concept of victimhood and finger-pointing: it’s not them, it’s them. So they target opponents as liberals and socialistic elites but, if pressed as to what they mean by either, will often prove themselves ignorant on both or offer the usual bromides: soft on crime, tax-and-spend, pro-refugee, anti-life baby-killers. Everyone apparently needs his or her bogeyman. For Ford supporters, indeed for conservatives across the country it appears, the bogeyman is often new or reworked ideas progressives call progressive and conservatives find suspect, frightening, and foreign: too much emphasis on feminism and gender equality; too much tolerance of niqab-, turban-wearing newcomers; climate change isn’t proven; those on welfare are bums. And what about that Middle Eastern family next door who recently moved into the neighbourhood. Are they legal? Are they economic refugees? Are they asylum seekers? How do we know they’re not terrorists? Why don’t they dress like Canadians? Why are we allowing so many into our country? Grab the cell phone and record their movements. It’s that damn Trudeau’s fault; he just threw open the doors to anyone especially those Muslims.
Racism has always played a role in Canada, a fact we consistently ignore and too often deny, but the increasing tide of hostility towards newcomers appears to be the legacy of Stephen Harper’s last campaign (remember Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander and the Snitch Line) and with the rise of populists as reflected by Trump and Trump-lite Ford fanning the flames of suspicion and intolerance with unproven claims of crisis at the border to Liberal assurances that that is not the case. Fomenting fear is an unproductive distraction; it does nothing to solve the problem of refugee claimants if there is a problem. The Trudeau liberals certainly could have done a better job regarding refugees but making life more difficult for those already having a hard go of it is not a solution and is unworthy of a nation that often boasts of being one of the most welcoming and tolerant on earth. Recent polls suggest that is no longer true if it ever was. Behaviour by politicians exploiting and exacerbating reasonable concerns regarding asylum seekers along with recent videos of fearful, bigoted Canadians harassing identifiable minorities should be enough to safely put that myth of smug moral superiority to rest once-and-for-all.
As is often the way of small, mean people with an even smaller vision, provincial conservatives, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister and Doug Ford, as do their federal counterparts, almost always believe it necessary to point fingers and blame others whether merited or not for any failures in society especially if those blamed are liberals just booted from office. So, for them, as with Trump, the media, perceived by conservatives as a cabal of liberal elites, becomes the target because one thing liars and sewer rats detest is light of any kind: facts are often a hindrance to their worldview therefore unwanted and unnecessary to the cause. For them, as with all of a despotic nature, an informed, educated populace is a dangerous populace; best keep the ignorant ignorant; so, to that end, stoke the flames of fear, warn citizens against the invasion of asylum seekers and economic refugees and the extreme likelihood of terrorists slipping into the country; tell them at every opportunity they’ve been lied to by a press made up of elites passing on FAKE NEWS not wanting you to know that the government is corrupt, is out to take away your rights, and is stealing all your hard earned money to help those foreigners get into the country, get more than you, and take your jobs: in short, you are the victim of a vast conspiracy of bleeding heart liberal-socialists. Of course, the ignorant lap it up for it confirms what they have always known but never been able to articulate: thank God for Trump and Fox News in the US and for Scheer and Ford and Rempel and Macleod and The Rebel Media at home who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is or, at least, tell us what we want to hear regardless of how crazy. And crazy it is.
Conservative supporters are much like the smokers of my day who refused to except the thousand science studies proving cigarettes cause cancer preferring instead to embrace, gasping for breath all the while, the single tobacco-sponsored study refuting all such claims: cigarettes are safe. Today, it’s Climate Change; it’s not happening, even if it is, it’s not man-made and any government intervention is nothing more than a TAX GRAB. It’s twisted, but that’s how ideologues win support: facts are unimportant; just give folks what they want to hear: You’re not the problem; you’re a victim.
For Ford, as with his federal counterpart, Stephen Harper, now longer in office and making mischief elsewhere, it is not enough to twist, ignore and/or make up facts, it is not enough to demonize journalists and the press, it is far better to muzzle it and what better way to suppress the media than to use taxpayer dollars to create your own propaganda organ and call it “Ontario News Now”. Now you can not only get true fake news with fake “journalists”, you can get it 24/7. And guess whose paying for it, Sucker. The very person whose money Ford says he wants to save.
Yeah, he wants to save your money. So he cancels Kathleen Wynne’s carbon program and allocates $30 million to fight the federal government on the imposition of a tax on provinces that do not come up with a carbon price program of their own. Ontario and the other provinces will likely lose the case but they don’t care because their real concern is demonstrating to their supporters that they are fighting on their behalf with a federal government of elites out to screw them. Conservative supporters will lap it up, run to the Ontario government website and click on Ontario News Now for the “real” truth and walk away deeply content in having once again confirmed what they already know: conservatives are the only ones capable of telling the truth and the truth is they are victims of an insidious liberal government conspiracy. But you will never hear that from the liberal media.
Kathleen Wynne, the wicked witch may be gone but everything she and her government have put in place has not only been bad, it has been DISASTROUS. Now that’s bad.
So, if Wynne’s carbon plan, as well as Trudeau’s, was disastrous, terrible, bordering on CALAMITOUS, what else has she put in place that could be as bad, maybe even worse?
Perhaps the basic income pilot project that was to be tested over three years. Now that’s pretty bad because, well, not to be too churlish about it or to make too fine a point, it’s a program that’s reaching into my wallet, taking my hard earned dollars, to help a bunch of poor, low income people whom I don’t know and could care less about. Why? I’m not responsible for their miserable lives. And the Ontario conservatives agree with me. Hell, they even broke their campaign promise to see the program to the end and are cutting a planned three per cent increase to social assistance by half. Why? Because, Lisa Macleod says, it’s a “disincentive” to work.
The program started near the end of last year. Yet less than a year into the three year test period, certainly not enough time to make an informed decision as to its effectiveness, but enough time to attack the poor and desperate simply because conservatives have a propensity to meanness and for categorizing the poor as shiftless or not trying hard enough, it’s been cut. The program involved 4000 low income people in various Ontario communities; it was one of the largest test projects of its kind eliciting world wide interest. It didn’t and doesn’t matter to Ford and gang. Singles received up to $16, 989 a year while couples received $24,027. If they had a job, the government would clawback 50% of every dollar earned. Did the project work? Lisa Macleod claimed it was failing recipients from becoming “independent contributors to the economy”. How could she make that determination when the project was axed before it became fully functional? One thing is certain: Ford and gang where not interested in knowing if the program worked. It was gone as far as they are concerned. What was at play here was just pure partisan political malice directed against a liberal Wynne government program with only the very poor taking the bullet.
This was not just the act of an unkind group of people; it was the act of nasty people.
I have in my long life met many conservatives with whom I have had disagreements but who were and are kind and generous and open to ideas and truth. Sadly, in my opinion, they are too few. Too many are like Trump and his followers and like Maxime Bernier, Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford, Lisa Macleod and their supporters. They are too shrill, too angry, too invested in their own interests and peeves to be concerned in yours or mine. Harper was a petty individual with a despot’s heart. Ford and thugs are the same.
In a few weeks time, municipal elections are to take place. Last week, just hours before cutoff time for candidates to put their name forward, Ford, unilaterally, in a truly anti-democratic and vindictive move, went after Toronto and the incumbent mayor declaring he would cut the number of council members to half its size. There was no consultation.
It was a petty act by a petty man wrapped in a big body with a pea brain.
The world is harsh enough for far too many with little to no resources. No one, least of all these, need the added burden of cruel, spiteful, selfish, tight-fisted political mercenaries targeting them. What Ford and gang are doing is not fiscally responsible, not being tough on waste, and certainly doing nothing to solve very serious problems. It’s just a cruel slapdash way of governance that allows the petty and mean to crow about acting and then clapping their hands dismissively as they ignore the pain and bewilderment of the poor and disadvantaged disposed as easily as one does trash.
Truth is not a plaything. Truth may be played with, it may be used and abused and deployed for unholy and selfish ends by the unscrupulous and vile. Truth is a light towards justice. If we want both, it is up to us to be vigilant and protective of both. We must not blindly accept anyone’s truth as gospel nor should we be foolishly closed to any truth or idea because it is not ours. An open mind is called for. When presented a story, a fact, it is best to study what we hear, see and feel before we embrace it wholly. Denying what we don’t like doesn’t make something any less true than embracing what we like makes it more true.
I am no more a fan of Trudeau than I was of Harper or Scheer. He is dishonest and untrustworthy and I believe his feminism a prop and his public displays of empathy fulsome and too full of self-regard…is the public taking notice? Nor was I a fan of Wynne’s governance though I did like her personally. The Ontario liberals were incompetent and too many of their actions suggested not all members were as honest as I would have liked. But I never thought of Wynne as mean or vindictive or full of herself.
I cannot say the same of Ford, Macleod, and the rest in his gang. They are not people I trust. When he ran for office, Ford offered no platform, gave no information. He would cut taxes but not tell us how or what would be sacrificed. In office, he has dismantled programs and legislation for no other reason than Wynne’s liberals were behind them. He has even cut the Wynne school sex education program reverting to one from twenty years ago and which educators say is outdated. Going back and erasing the work of the previous government is not a plan nor governance when nothing is offered to replace what has been destroyed. Ford’s is the thinking of those behind the government Phoenix payroll debacle. Get rid of the old; we’ll worry about the new later. We can see where he may be heading. If you are poor, alone, in need of assistance, God help you. Ford and his kind will not.

***

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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POLITICIANS, PROLES, AND POPULISM: HYPOCRISY AND DEGENERACY AT THE POLLS

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. – Noël Coward

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

Frank Pelaschuk

I’ve never met a hypocrite who wasn’t a liar but I have met liars who were not hypocrites. What does it take to be a politician? Some may say it requires a tough hide, a willingness to serve, a belief that you have something to offer, perhaps some kind of “vision”; youth and good looks will certainly help for both offer the promise of something “fresh”, “new”. All of these may be true. Unfortunately, too many of our politicians are less interested in serving than in helping themselves. I am not simply talking about self-enrichment in the way of padded expense accounts though we have seen plenty of that but rather of serving special interests in the hopes that rewards will be forthcoming once out of office. We have seen plenty of that, as well, ex-politicians walking into corporate boardrooms willing to trade on the knowledge and contacts gleaned. Too, as well as possessing the zealot’s ambition and an almost unrealistic and all too often undeserved self-regard for oneself, it is likely many of them hold a deep level of contempt for voters. A newcomer, particularly the naïf who really does believe that politics is about serving others, about working towards a better society, is not likely to survive unless quickly proving himself flexible embracing the two, make that three, most important tools of politics, especially if one is not overly endowed with beauty, glibness, and a spouse of equal measure: shamelessness, the ability to lie with facility and the ability to seamlessly play the role of hypocrite (one may often find it necessary to quickly switch positions mid sentence). It is these three qualities that will allow him to survive and provide plenty of justification for the contempt he holds for voters: they will not notice or, if they do, care. Youth and looks may help extend one’s term but they will not be enough for long-term survival in the filthy world of politics; one must be adept and willing and able to change one’s position, course and beliefs immediately if not sooner and to revise one’s narrative without any hint of blush. If may be better not to believe in anything other than the belief one should have another drink; neither belief nor honesty is requisite. A moral compass combined with a pesky conscience is political death and will only prove a hindrance at best with few positive benefits except a reputation for being a “stand up” individual in some circles and a “sucker” in others. When ethics is raised, which should be rarely if ever, it should only be in reference to the failings of others and seldom if ever to elevate oneself as morally superior unless confident of one’s own superiority; in that event, strike fast, hard and without mercy. Destroy the opposition even if in bed with them; he, she or they are the enemy, but also be aware: hypocrisy is a two-edged sword which, when skilfully exposed, can redound to haunt one. Chances are, however, the accomplished politician can tread the landmines without fear especially if owed a lot of favours: he can lie, curry favour, pander to the worst in us and still be assured of re-election thus offering clear demonstration that contempt for the public, especially the voting public, is justified: voters are that stupid.

WHAT IS MY POSITION TODAY?

When Rona Ambrose as Conservative interim leader announced her picks of Denis Lebel for deputy leader and Andrew Scheer for Opposition House leader, she said, “Denis and Andrew bring not only a wealth of intelligence and parliamentary experience, but they bring the right tone, in helping build a strong, vigorous and respectful Opposition” (CBC News Nov. 18, 2015). Now that sounds good from a shining light in the Harper cabinet which over the years relentlessly demonstrated its contempt for strong, vigorous and respectful opposition invoking closure and ramming through legislation with the might of their majority. With little effort and no embarrassment, Ambrose thus demonstrated the utility of another useful tool: a faulty and selective memory.

For those who may not recall, Andrew Scheer spent four years as Speaker of the House one of whose roles is to have the government answer questions as well as maintaining order and decorum. In both areas, he failed miserably proving himself far too often partisan, weak, incompetent. During his tenure, the House often offered viewers of Question Period a spectacle of fractious, raucous, and mean-spirited behaviour with members of the government publicly lying in the House, performing charades of events that later proved to be fabricated (remember Brad Butt?), and allowed to go unchallenged histrionic displays of crude evasions by various Conservative members most notably Paul Calandra. Government members of Harper’s regime almost never answered questions posed to them and when they did respond it was with non-answers, non-sequiturs, evasions and/or outright lies none of which were addressed by Scheer. But, if Scheer was a failure in keeping decorum, he was no failure when it came to partisanship. In May of 2013, Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, sent Andrew Scheer the Speaker letters regarding the failures of Shelly Glover and James Bezan to provide completed and corrected campaign claims for the 2011 election. Wrote Mayrand, “The (Canada Elections) Act provides that an elected candidate who fails to provide documents required…may not continue to sit or vote as a member until the corrections have been made.” What did Scheer do? He sat on the letters for two weeks without informing Parliament, as he was required to do. Meanwhile, Glover was promoted, having by now submitted the corrected papers after, like Bezan, refusing to do so. Scheer thwarted elections Canada and, in doing so, abused his office with his show of support for two members who broke election rules and thumbed their noses at the public. To add to the insult, the public has enjoyed, if that is the word, the spectacle of watching this former Speaker of the House, who should know better, wearing a perpetually smarmy smirk heckling other members of the governing party as if he were some immature punk. This is what Ambrose means by “respectful opposition”?

Were it not so serious, it would be fun watching the Conservatives demanding of the Liberals what they themselves refused to offer and watching the Liberals denying what they themselves demanded of the Conservatives. At times, it’s almost difficult to recall which party has formed government until one recalls that, unlike Harper, this prime minister and his wife have never met a camera they didn’t like or let pass any opportunity that allowed them to strut their stuff especially with cameras clicking away as at the Press Gallery Dinner with the beautifully attired Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau performing song and the “two-legged sage” yoga pose as a nod to her husband’s “peacock” pose earlier this year. The media laps it up but who can blame them after the years of being unloved, ignored and, when noticed, noticed only as “media lickspittles”.

Now I can understand voters going for something new. Let’s face it, anything other than the Harper gang just had to be better. And it is, if only marginally. Unfortunately, voters didn’t go for change, they didn’t go for new and they certainly didn’t go for substance. Instead, they opted for the status quo with glamour. True, they went for something that sounded new, looked new, that made big, bold promises but could never work up the courage for something really new and different convincing themselves that Trudeau was the real deal. He was fresh. He is glib, charming, the man to make the difference. Most wanted to see the end of the Harper reign of error. There were the Liberals, of course, but the leader was young, inexperienced and many remembered his old man some with the fondness of time-dimmed memories and others not so fondly. And there was the NDP riding the Orange wave on the memory of Jack Layton. Unfortunately, something happened; only two parties were really in play.

Of course, it didn’t help that the NDP, leading in the polls and wanting so desperately to win, had lost its nerve and sought to play it safe; it opted for the middle road and, in so doing, had turned its back on its own socialist roots. And it certainly didn’t help that Mulcair was less than stellar in the debates and Trudeau, well, Trudeau simply surpassed the expectations of those who thought him immature and weak and unready. He did more than show up in pants. For too many, Mulcair had suddenly transformed to a hairier version of Stephen Harper; but actually, it was much worse – Mulcair had abandoned the old guard stalwarts of the NDP.

CHANGE, REAL CHANGE. WELL, NOT SO FAST.

Looks and youth can carry one for a time, in Trudeau’s case, for some time clearly. But it will eventually come crashing down because the voter who went for the same old same old will eventually tire of it convincing themselves, as they always do, that this time things really will be different buying the old arguments replacing one with the other but never going for the third choice for the same reasons: they can’t defeat__; I want__gone; my heart’s with the NDP but they can’t win. Wet logic.

On the surface, the Liberals seem to be a little more open and to have accomplished more of what they promised than the Conservatives in their best days. But, of the promises kept, the important and meaningful items appeared to have been sidelined or weakened. While campaigning, Trudeau vowed he would attempt to regain a seat on the UN Security Council with human rights as a priority. But, in carrying through with the light-armoured vehicle (LAV) trade deal with Saudi Arabia, he has revealed himself a true politician who not only failed those who believed he really did care about human rights but also his supporters who, incredibly, are still, often angrily, defending the Trudeau betrayal with the party line: it was a done deal, he had no choice. Of course he did but the ninnies will believe what they want because they are ninnies. Human rights would be a priority next deal, Trudeau vowed. That the Saudi deal violates Canada’s own rules regarding trade with nations who violate human rights is of no consequence for Trudeau who offers several excuses not one of them valid and one we already covered: the deal can’t be broken; cancelling the deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation; Canadian jobs would be lost. One would think placing human suffering second place to Canadian jobs and a $15 billion contract would tarnish Canada’s reputation. The thing is, it was Foreign Affairs minister Stéphane Dion who signed off on the export permits not Stephen Harper! According to the department of Global Affairs memo, “there have been no incidents where they (Canadian-made LAVs sold to the Saudi’s in the past) have been used in the perpetration of human-rights violations” (The Globe and Mail, Steven Chase, April 12, 2016). To victims, it likely doesn’t matter whose gun kills them but does that make selling weapons to one of the most brutal regimes morally acceptable? When the Liberals, after opposition hounding, finally did release the Department of Global Affairs report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, something the Conservatives refused to do, the document was heavily redacted (thus breaking Trudeau’s promise of more transparency) but offered enough to inform the public of appalling abuses including mass political executions. This is the Conservative playbook and the Trudeau Liberals signed off on it.

What does it take? Does a nice smile and warm hugs make the abuses disappear from the Canadian psyche or the crimes any less brutal? With Harper, one at least knew where he stood. He didn’t care about issues like this. He should have, Canadians should have, but he didn’t, we didn’t and neither does Trudeau.

But it’s still a shock to watch the Conservatives, now in opposition, with Tony Clement, as foreign critic, demanding the Liberals release the report on Saudi Arabia rights abuses before they complete the deal, something the Conservatives and Clement had absolutely no interest in doing when in government! Tony Clement, probably with leadership aspirations, is the same Clement who, as Treasury President, created a $50 million slush fund, spent $1 billion during the G-8 and G-20 summits for security which led to hundreds falsely detained and few charges, the same Clement who described some public servants as “dead wood”. Said this mountebank, “So don’t take the signal from the last government. If you want to be true to your principles and values, which the Conservative Party under new leadership shares, let’s move forward” (The Huffington Post Canada, Ryan Maloney, January 12, 2016). Not only did he appear to disavow his part in the Harper regime, effectively skewering Harper in the process, he skilfully demonstrated his adeptness in employing the essential tools required for success in politics: complete shamelessness and a profound facility for lying and hypocrisy.

Clement isn’t the only one of that gang so gifted.

Canadians over the past few months have been treated to the spectacle of the likes of Rona Ambrose, Pierre Poilievre, Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Tony Clement, Maxime Bernier etc. speaking of co-operation, respect, and I find myself feeling trapped in a Kafkaesque world: how can these bastards who raised the spectre of fear and relentlessly worked at fomenting racial and religious intolerance still continue to hold office and so shamelessly ignore their own past behaviour?

I’M A LEADER. NO, I’M A LEADER. WRONG. I’M A LEADER.

There was Kellie Leitch standing next to Chris Alexander, gone for good one hopes, talking about a snitch line to encourage the reporting of BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES. Months later, evidently chastened, remorseful, sorry, saddened, rueful, regretful, she appeared on Power and Politics clearly on the verge of faux tears, eyes welling, voice and lips trembling expressing that it had been a “mistake” to have been party to that vile campaign. Now this woman is a professional. She’s not dumb. She knew what she was doing then. Today, running for the Conservative leadership, she has determined that humble pie, especially with tears, might do some good. It was a shameless performance that has by now become familiar whereby celebrities and politicians publicly plead for forgiveness with copious amounts of tears and self-pity. Evidently, as so many politicians seem to be doing of late, Leitch has attended the same school offering the course Remorse, Tears and Forgiveness: The Art of Hypocrisy On The Comeback Trail After Losing An Election. Personally, I’m all for dumping those lying, cheating, stealing, pandering scoundrels into the garbage dump of history where they belong. Fortunately for them, there are always some willing to lap up the tears and forgive.

Then we have self-referential and self-reverential Michelle Rempel, another leadership potential, who, during the Harper years, made herself so obnoxiously present on political panels faithfully mouthing the party line and script. Believing herself leaps and bounds ahead of her colleagues and everyone else, she felt compelled to pass on this information to the world in a series of late-night tweets last October coming across as a hubris-driven rambling soak: “I’m a 35 year old chick. We are not supposed to do these sort of things, you know.” “I mean, I’m too brash, impetuous and abrasive, right?” “I am competent, proven, and ready. Here’s the question – are you ready for someone like me?” Far from being unique, she was just another loud, offensive, Harper loyalist who now, apparently, appears suddenly engaged in presenting the other side of the Conservative coin, the softer, nicer – hypocritical – side to which all politicians eventually succumb. There she was at the Conservative convention, held the same week as the Liberal Convention, ecstatically clinching her fists when her party voted to remove the ban on gay marriage. For her, it seems, this was the clincher that her party had caught up with the times. Rubbish. But where was her voice when the party last election waged war against two Muslim niqab-wearing women and fanned the flames of racial and religious intolerance? Where was her voice or any Conservative voice condemning the Conservative Party attempting to subvert the electoral process during elections with robocalls and changes to the Elections Act? Yeah, the Conservatives are willing to change with the times and are willing to shed the tears and ooze sincerity, but how much saccharine phoniness must we endure from them and the narcissist Rempel who imagines herself leader of the Conservatives and the country and the narcissist Liberal who, to connote sincerity, taps a palm against his heart at every tender opportunity and who actually is the leader of his party and does “govern” this country? Said Rempel of the vote, “Yes, it took us 10 years to get to this point, but I think this is something that is a beacon for people around the world who are looking at equality rights. Canada is a place where we celebrate equality.” Suddenly she and the Conservatives have discovered equality rights. Tell that to the Canadian Muslims, to unionists, to those victim citizens of brutal human rights abuses inflicted on them by Saudi Arabia with whom Harper signed the fifteen billion dollar deal. I don’t recall Rempel voicing objection when Harper announced $3.5 billion in funds for global maternal and child health care while at the same time refusing to fund charities offering family planning. I can understand opposition to abortion but I cannot understand abandoning child brides and victims of war to a life of subjugation, misery and poverty. Nice.

These people are jokes. We have Maxime Bernier, another Conservative leadership entry, a libertarian who supports smaller government and the free market economy (you know, the market version of Darwinisim where those that have get more and those that don’t, well, I guess we just get less) who, as Minister of Foreign Affairs resigned after spending a night with his girlfriend, once affiliated with a Hell’s Angels member, leaving behind highly sensitive documents. Yeah, he’d be good for the country as long as he’s not preoccupied with the real things that make life worth living.

Another possibility for leadership is Jason Kenney though there are rumours he may resign his Federal post for a leadership role in his home province of Alberta. Now some may recall him as the MP who has proven himself rather careless with the use of government letterheads when fundraising and, to put it delicately, proven himself a stranger to truth more often than a man in his position should as when he attempted to suggest Trudeau seemed sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted pictures last year to celebrate International Women’s Day depicting women in chains and a young bride with her ISIS “husband” which the public was to take as proof of ISIS brutality. He just neglected to inform us that the first picture was a ceremonial re-enactment of an ancient historical event and that the second photo was an absolute fake. No one doubts the brutality of ISIS but it serves no cause to embellish or fake reports. But what can one expect from a fellow who also oversaw the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which, until the story came out, allowed Canadian companies to pay foreign workers 15% less than Canadian workers. In other words, Kenney and the Harper gang conspired with big business to undermine Canadian workers. And jobs were lost because of this. But if offensive and untruthful, for some, the Liberals in particular, there appeared in his behaviour a carryover of the racism dogging the last Conservative campaign. I don’t believe racism was at play when Jason heckled defence minister Harjit Sajjan as Sajjan attempted to explain the government’s plans regarding ISIS allegedly saying MPs needed an “English-to-English translation”. Liberals, however, demanded an apology and accused Kenney of racism. Was it? He may not have intended it as such but I have little doubt Kenney meant to be offensive. It’s comes naturally to him apparently.

Recently, Kenney has been all over the Liberals for demonstrating reluctance to denounce the acts of ISIS against the Yazidis as genocide. The reluctance by the Liberals was inexplicable but the Liberals finally agreed: ISIS acts against the Yazidis were indeed genocidal. But there is dispute about that. Vile and brutal as they are, some do not believe that the criterion of genocide has been met. To the victims, it doesn’t matter: death is death. But again, where was Kenney’s voice on human rights when Harper signed the deal with Saudi Arabia? No doubt, Kenney is an excellent politician: when it comes to the tools, lying and hypocrisy, he’s got them down pat and then some. There are facts and then there are Jason Kenney facts.

I’M NEW BUT AM I REALLY DIFFERENT?

It is not necessary to enumerate all the Conservative betrayals, the list would be too long, and I have covered many of them enough to be justly charged with being tiresomely repetitive, but it may still help to remind some that, when they finally did achieve the majority the Conservatives routinely abused the privilege wielding it as a club alienating environmentalists, jurists, educators, scientists, public service workers, unionists, military veterans, and the media while also working to dismantle the electoral process that would and could hamstring Elections Canada while effectively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. Unfortunately, we are seeing signs of similar failings from the Trudeau Liberals and not just with LAV. Motion 6, introduced and just as quickly rescinded last month, a bill some observers have suggested as being even more regressive, vicious and draconian than any put forward by the Harper gang during their worst days, not only gave the Liberals absolute control of the House, it stripped the opposition of any opportunity to do its job. Though rescinded, Motion 6 hovers like an evil spectre that, having been raised once can be made to rise again. The Liberals may be a younger crowd but they play hardball as seriously as any experienced politico thug.

In fact, the Liberals have learned a lot from the Conservatives. They have certainly learned that as long as people still support them, they can get away with anything.

Honesty; transparency; truth. Trudeau’s Liberals, as have the Conservatives, have betrayed all three with the same casualness. We have justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould unapologetically breaching what must surely be conflict of interest guidelines by attending a private fundraiser by lawyers. No matter; who cares except a few lousy journalists, idiot bloggers and concerned citizens?

When the Harper Conservatives became fixated on securing F-35s, Liberal and NDP opposition members were justly harshly critical of his failure to move towards an open bidding process and for his secrecy regarding costs and for his personal attacks against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer at the time. While the Liberals have not quite decided what to do with the F-35s, they have set their sights on purchasing Super Hornet jets labelled an “interim measure” without consultation apparently the matter too urgent to be delayed. While our present force of CF-18s is due for retirement in 2020, there is no evidence provided of the sudden urgency to move now. However, these are the best fighter jets for Canada we are informed. Didn’t the Harper gang say the same regarding F-35s? The F-35s are single engine while the Super Hornets two-engine; if I were a pilot I know what I would prefer. However, recently there was news of trouble with the oxygen supply for the Super Hornets. The Liberals might do well to pull back a little and investigate further with the possibility of looking at other jets. The Conservative secrecy they once decried suddenly seems acceptable. Ah, politics. Give me the honest liar.

Now the Liberals have announced they would return the prison farms considered a very good rehabilitative tool for convicts. The Conservatives, preferring punishment to rehabilitation, had scrapped the program. Bringing back the prison farms is a good move as is the Liberal decision to alter the make up of the electoral reform committee to reflect the proportionality of the vote rather than the number of seats won. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives squeal, “back room deal” between the Liberals and NDP. As good phoney hypocrites they, naturally, chose to ignore their own failures to consult with Canadians and the opposition when they rammed through Bill C-23, the so-called fair elections act, and their many attempts to slip legislation into omnibus bills. Regardless, all that wheeling and whining may prove unnecessary. The Liberals may not go through with the reform or simple ignore the recommendations opting instead for their preferred choice, which will favour them forever, the ranked ballot system.

The Liberals have also kept another promise with the formation of an oversight committee to be watchdog over our spy agencies. That, too, is good. It was also another easy commitment and will silence critics. It will consist of two senators and a maximum of four governing members and the rest from the opposition, one assumes. The committee will have the ability to scrutinize all intelligence and security operations and expected to protect the rights and security of Canadians. There will be some restrictions but even these can be publicly appealed.

The Liberals and eight provincial governments must also be congratulated for having committed to an agreement that, if it goes through, will benefit the young workers of today thirty years from now with expansion of the CPP program. It could be better with more for the poorest and meanest among us but it’s something, a start that hopefully will include those now left out.

But this is no love-in for the Liberals. There are plenty of reasons for Canadians to be unhappy.

Health Canada plans to allow for the sale of irradiated ground meat. A few years back, over twenty consumers died from tainted meat poisoning. The Conservatives followed the tragedy by reducing the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber-stampers of in-house testing by meat producers. Since the deadly outbreak, there have been several massive recalls of tainted meat all of them caught by American food inspectors at the border. Where is Health Canada?

On May 30, 2016, I wrote an email to minister of health, Jane Philpott, with copies to the agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau expressing my outrage and concern regarding irradiation particularly in the area of hygiene and safety. There will be a further erosion of both. Because of irradiation, meat and other products will be deemed “safe” because zapped. Meat and other food producers will feel emboldened to increase productivity at the expense of safety and sanitary procedures. Workers, particularly in kill plants and processing, will become even more careless which will eventually result in meat products becoming laced with fecal matter, piss, puss, snot, blood and other offal matter. But that’s okay. The products may be unpalatable but will be “safe” enough to eat. Just don’t think about what you’re putting into your mouth. The products will be labelled as meat (or garden fresh fruit, lettuce, etc.) but fail to list the other tantalizing ingredients to which consumers may be subjected. Yum, yum, dig in.

But why has Health Canada, as it has over the years, and the Liberal government, as have all governments over the past twenty to thirty years, become more interested in the health of big business rather than the health of consumers. The answer probably lies in the type of people government ministers have on board as advisors and assistants. For example, we do know agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay has employed as chief of staff one Mary Jean McFall whose family, as owners of Burnbrae Farms, is one of Canada’s biggest egg producers in the country. She was also a former member of the Egg Farmers of Ontario Board as well as a recent Liberal Candidate. Does any of this make you pause perhaps wondering what kind of relationship Health Canada may have with other agricultural or pharmaceutical interests? And then we have Bill Morneau, finance minster, who has hired folks from TransCanada. The truth is, this government is riddled with past, present and doubtless future employees of Big Business.

So whose interests are really being served? With the Conservatives, we had no doubt. The question is: How good do the Liberals look to you now?

Still uncertain?

We have minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland who has or is about to sign off on various trade deals. We’ve covered the LAV deal and the despicable Liberal response to it coated with lies and hypocrisy. We also have CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) described by Freeland as a “gold-plated” deal. I guess she likes it. And we have the highly secretive TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) deal that the Americans have called “Made in America”. Gosh, I wonder who they expect to come out the winner? Must Canadians silently believe and accept that their governments will act in the interests of all Canadians? I guess so. Only when the deal is sealed will Canadians get a glimmer of what has been traded, sold, or betrayed with threats of severe sanctions to anyone revealing any part of the deal before then.

With NAFTA, Canadians saw how easily Conservatives surrendered sovereignty to corporations; with TPP we can only expect a further diminishment but this time with the Liberals at the helm. Business interests, i.e. the maximization of profits, supplant Canadian laws meant to protect its citizens. This is better? Is this what Canadians heard when Trudeau talked of more openness, more consultation and more transparency?

Perhaps we should ask our veterans those brave men and women how they feel about this “new”, “better” regime. Abused by the Conservatives and now by the Liberals, veterans must be wondering when the nine veterans offices will be reopened. Too, what happened to the reinstatement of the lifelong disability pension? Gone, the promise sweetened only by an increase to the lump sum payments. Well, better than a lump of coal. Too bad. Suckers! Isn’t it enough to be called a hero?

Is this what our governments have become? Mean-spirited bullies jerking veterans around? Seems so.

Oh, yes, there have been some give by the Liberals, but on the small things.

Look at how the Liberals handled C-14, the physician-assisted legislation he promised to introduce. He kept that promise. That’s good. However, he weakened it so drastically that it satisfies no one except, perhaps, to those shining Christian hypocrites absolutely opposed to assisted suicide regardless of the pleas of those suffering. That’s bad. Trudeau and his justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and health minister Jane Philpott, have arrived at a formula that will allow doctor-assisted suicide only for those near certain death. This does not address the mandate of the Supreme Court and certainly does nothing to comfort most Canadians and especially those not terminally ill suffering unendurable mental anguish and physical pain. Trudeau clearly did not spell out the terms of his proposed legislation to Canadians while he campaigned. He and his crew deliberately misled the public doubtless aware that it expected him to honour the intent of the Supreme Court. He did not. What he did was cruel and manipulative. But it helped win him the vote. For the sufferers, this is no hope, mercy or solution. Instead there is cruelty and mockery in a law that offers very cold comfort indeed.

Only when near death will those suffering from unendurable pain be allowed to receive the care they need. This is no accident. Everyone wins except those who wanted, expected and deserved more from this bill and from this government. The law will be appealed. That is exactly what Trudeau most likely hopes to happen. He can then say to those opposed to assisted dying he stood up for them while offering compassion for the dying. He can also claim he stood up for those wanting such legislation. He can say he stood up to the Senate and that he did his best to limit the effects of assisted dying; he may claim, without justification that everyone wins, those for, against and on the fence. It’s a lie, of course.

The Senate can also boast of doing its best claiming they had fulfilled their mandate, made amendments, which the government, in fulfilling its mandate, could accept or reject in passing the bill. Senators will have thus proved their utility to the public, perhaps even earning some goodwill for their stellar efforts in demonstrating that there may, indeed, be a need for this much-maligned chamber of sober second thought. Trudeau will have been vindicated and credited with creating a “truly” independent Senate and the bill, taken to the Supreme Court will no longer be his responsibility whatever happens. He did his best and whatever, if any, changes the Court makes has nothing to do with him now. He did his level best (is anyone thinking of the Harper gang now?) he can say perhaps going so far as to blame an activist court just as did Harper, an act he, Trudeau, had condemned at the time as wrong, offensive, disrespectful and irresponsible.

Even the Conservatives can draw some comfort perhaps even vindication: See, we warned you of the activist courts.

Everyone will have proven his hypocritical stripe including the voters who apparently care nothing for “real” change preferring instead to swallow the bilge of those they support.

When will it end? When will voters bring an end to lies and hypocrisy and the liars and the hypocrites? Why do we listen to the demagogues who pander to the worst in us and why do we accept the populist rhetoric of voter as victim rather than refusing to be either victim or victimizer? Education, being open to new ideas, listening, really listening and understanding what one sees, hears and does are the tools we need to combat ignorance, fear, wishful thinking, magical thinking, non-thinking. Since Canada became a nation we have heard the same two parties make and break promises and still we go on voting for the same two lying hypocritical groups rather than trying out the third party or even the forth party. When will we awaken to the fact that parties campaigning with fear rather than hope and “real” change, change that actually takes place, wage war against truth? We must stop being afraid. When we hear of terrorists, examine what is really being said and done and look at your fellow citizens and the multitude of examples that give the lie to those haters who would have us make decisions based on fear. When will we shun the demagogue who pushes our emotional buttons because he does not believe us capable of thinking, of reasoning, of discerning the true from the false? When will we stop allowing ourselves to be defined by others and when will we put an end to our own self-doubts about our own worth and humanity and the worth and humanity of our neighbours and those newcomers seeking the comfort and security we claim to provide? We cannot call ourselves a truly good people unless we accept and help the poorest and meanest among us and know we have no right to judge when we do not know their story.

Unfortunately, when I look across the line to America and when I look back on all the elections I fear that what I will see in the future will simply be an ugly mirror of the past. We will not get better. We will not be better. We will keep on saying: This time, it really will be different.

It won’t. Too many refuse to wake up.

I will ask as I have asked many times before: How stupid can people be?

Evidently the pool is limitless.

 ***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER: THE COWARDLY LION

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. – Joseph Schumpeter

Idealists…foolish enough to throw caution to the winds…have advanced mankind and enriched the world. – Emma Goldman

Frank A. Pelaschuk

IS IT THAT TIME ALREADY?

You know Harper’s on the election trail when you see him tieless, checkered shirt unbuttoned at the neck, striding to and fro across a stage, his back to enthralled members of his caucus and playing to a camera and an unseen audience. His face glowing with the exultation of an ecstatic, he enumerates his government’s “achievements” loudly trumpeting that Canada is the envy of the world and Canadians are better off than ever under his leadership.

He’s talking to those whom you would think would know but, of course, he’s aware of the camera, it’s not to them he and his caucus are playing. One thing is certain, he has introduced an Americanism that appears here to stay: campaigning early and in earnest one full year before Canadian’s next go to the polls. That is if he keeps to his own fixed election agenda and doesn’t go sooner than the October 19, 2015 date. With this gang, one never knows; since he introduced the fixed dates, Harper’s never adhered to it. With the Mike Duffy trial now set for April 7, 2015 and the very real possibility of embarrassing revelations, voters might wonder if they can expect more of the same.

Maybe we do know after all.

Regardless of when, from now to the election, we are about to be flooded with even more of the triumphalist rodomontade, bombast, hypocrisy, lies, accusations, mudslinging, and bribery in the forms of taxpayer funded ads, hysterical hyperbolic speeches and shiny promises of tax cuts and a few other incidental baubles for the easily lead and the cheaply bought. Watching Harper work his MPs on the first day of the fall session (September 15, 2014), one cannot doubt his enthusiasm though he gives the impression of anxiety as he spins the Conservative mythology; he believes and wants us to as well: theirs is the best, wisest, and sanest government in the world and they are the best, wisest, and sanest money managers in the history of the mankind and he, Harper, is the best, wisest and sanest leader since time began. Clearly, and we must understand this, only he and his Conservatives can save us from the perils out there. Well, that is in their imaginings. All he really expects and wants of us, and many already have, is to park our minds, put them in neutral and swallow the swill holus-bolus. For some it’s a lot easier than for others.

Today, however, one senses something close to desperation, his declarations urgent, his warnings direr, Harper and his MPs making more appearances in the press though, it is true, Harper prefers to speak to the American press. Apparently he agrees with Senator Marjory LeBreton: the Canadian media is rife with lickspittle elites.

He’s worried, seems less convincing than as one trying to convince. Still, he looks more at ease then he does in that old picture of him wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest, hands on hips, his expression wary, shifty eyes shifted to his right, the smile a sickly grimace as if aware how dismal is his effort to appear one of the hoi polloi, a casual member of the masses. But that was a while back when he first sought to soften his image, to suggest that he was one of us, just regular folk, one who listens, cares. Did it work for you? To some, the transformation was convincing enough; he got his majority with less than 40% of the vote. So why does it seem, with all his claims to great achievement, the act of bonhomie does not come all that easily, that his exhortations appear a bit forced and his expression not all that inviting? Maybe it’s the cameras that intimidate. Whatever it is, there’s something false about it all, too stage crafted to appear natural and casual and convincing. He appears as comfortable as would the Duchess of Windsor mud wrestling before drunken males.

If Harper is running scared, and he should be given his propensity for secrecy, non-disclosure, bullying, ridiculing, smearing, and refusal to share information with Canadians and the opposition members who represent them, it is because he knows, come next election, he has a very good chance of losing to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. He certainly is not running scared because he has second thoughts about his policies or his goals, narrow to the extreme. He should, but he doesn’t nor do his supporters. Conservatives are not much given to second-guessing themselves; they are certainly not much given to reflection, to doubts. They are deaf to the voices of others, oh, no, not their friends, those lords and masters in industry or those generous donors to the Conservative coffers with off-shore accounts, but to the opposition members, the very people we elect to insure our interests are heard, considered and met. The sad fact is, the Harper gang, and that is what they are, thugs in suits, do not much care what we think: they have their majority. They believe their narrow base of core supporters will be enough and it well may be with the creation of thirty new gerrymandered ridings that will almost certainly garner them 22 more seats, provided the apocalypse doesn’t strike first or supporters switch on their brains. That will be a long wait.

SO WHO IS THE NEW(ISH) HOPE?

If Harper loses, and I hope he does and the whole gang are decimated to extinction, I am uncertain we will be better off even so; it will just be the Liberals swapping places and the NDP returning to their usual third place. It’s always been thus: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals. It’s a game chicken voters are too timid to end by trying something daring. Instead of booting both teams off the field and awarding the cup to the third team, Canadian voters would rather stick with the tried and true, the arrogant, cruel, corrupt and corruptible they already know and understand than risk the uncertainty of what they may believe competent and well-intentioned but fear because untested.

Untested. They would be wrong, of course. If any of them took the time to objectively watch the performances of the three parties in the House during Question Period, if they took the time and made the effort to fully appreciate how dismal the state of affairs has become, there is little effort required to discover this, they would know that the NDP is far from untested and, while imperfect in some ways, certainly has less baggage than the other two parties and is better placed to not only offer Canadians what we want but what we need: open, honest, ethical leadership.

It is not Justin Trudeau’s fault that he is young and relatively inexperienced, but it is that he is too eager in his ambitions to bide his time and gain seasoning before going for the leadership of the nation. Nor is it his fault that his name evokes rosy of flower children and Trudeaumania but false memories that gloss over the reality of the War Measures Act enacted by his father. Nor is it his fault that he is handsome and charismatic and draws the attention of the young and thoughtless who prefer celebrity to ideas or a clear vision. And it is not his fault a few of the old, perhaps harkening back to the days when they may have been “progressive’, will declare their vote for a change, something new, without really meaning it in the crunch, opting instead for the same ol’ same ol’. But it is his fault when he plays on these rather than offer Canadians valid reasons why he and his party would make a better choice to lead this nation.

If one watched Question Period in the House, he would note that Trudeau is absent more often than not, too busy raising funds and garnering support for his party. Too, he would note that, when Trudeau does make an appearance, he all too often throws his support to the Conservatives on such contentious issues as the Keystone XL pipeline or the Temporary Foreign Workers Program which allows companies to replace Canadian workers for foreign workers for less; Trudeau would tweak the program which allows for the suppression of wages rather than scrap it altogether as the NDP suggest. Too, without any apparent knowledge of what the full impact will be, Trudeau and the Liberals have thrown their support behind the secretive, costly free trade deal the Conservatives and the Chinese government cooked up over two years before ratifying it on September 9th. That’s when Canadians learned about the deal. What’s worse, the sellout takes effect this October 1st. That is three weeks after Canadian’s learned it was a done deal. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), locks Canada to it for 31 years and, according to experts, gives much to China, very little to Canada. The deal could cost Canadian taxpayers billions should China dispute a regulation any level of government might put in place that might place restrictions on how it conducts its business here. With their investments in the energy field, if they conduct business as they do in China, efforts to clean up the environment, which is already moving at glacial speed, thanks to the Harper gang who don’t believe it’s real, would be moot. FIPA is a Conservative effort conducted behind closed doors, with neither debate nor input from the opposition parties. While the NDP has called to put a stop to the deal before it takes effect, the Liberals have opted to support it without knowing what the full effect will be on Canada, the Canadian economy, and Canadians. If it was such a great deal for Canadians, why the secrecy, why the silence, why no debate? When Harper and gang are silent on a trade deal rather than shouting it from the rooftops, as is their wont, we should be prepared for the worst.

Trudeau seems a nice young man but surely we deserve better than this.

SO, IT WAS AN ELECTION, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

In 2006, Harper promised to usher in a “new era of accountability” if he was elected. He was, the promise broken, and the Conservatives laughing. Oh, that. That was just another election promise; surely Canadians knew that. If not, we quickly learned.

From the very first, Conservatives have openly and defiantly dismissed the concept of transparency when, in December of 2008, he prorogued Parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote when the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois joined forces threatening to defeat the budget. Since then, he has shut down Parliament, i.e., cut and ran, on three other occasions. That is one method of governance. Another is not to meet with Canadian media or to answer questions in the House by those people we elect to ask them. Harper and his gang have turned this form of governance into farce at times resembling performance art worthy of Dadaism if not a monkey house. Harper and his gang have made a mockery, not only of their offices, but also of the parliamentary process and of those who vote for them.

I don’t know about those who support the Conservatives, but I believe in democracy, in the right of citizens to be informed and believe that governments must be held accountable; that includes answering questions put to them in the House. Harper and gang flatly disagree routinely resorting to non-sequiturs, fingerpointing, evasion, diversion, derision, outright lying, and just acting up. And this is the sanest government in the world?

However offensive their antics and stubborn in their refusal to be accountable, it quickly becomes apparent that they are not indifferent stewards of our nation; no, they are too far gone for that. Theirs is the mindset of the corporatocracy; they govern on the behest of corporate interests in the core belief that it is business and money that keeps the world moving and that anything can and should be bought and sold for gain. They have long ago become corrupted by power and by the desire to cling to it. While their ideology may lead them to reject the Darwinism of evolution, they are not averse to passing legislation to make it easier for industry with their distorted free enterprising Darwinism of survival of the fittest. If the Conservatives were absolutely free to do what they would, they would doff their hats and sing in the streets, “Anything Goes”. They have become fixated with creating surpluses, selling off Canadian resources and cutting corporate taxes at the expense of public service jobs, social programs, our infrastructures and the environment. Let the next generation worry about the devastation left in their wake.

They talk about tax cuts, boasting of it how much they have saved consumers while thinking nothing of spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on ads informing us, much of it on Facebook! Really.

While Harper and John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, strut upon the world stage loudly and belligerently trumpeting their support of Israel and Ukraine, condemning Russia’s incursion into the Crimea, and hedge their bets on Iraq, they do so ignoring the screaming voices demanding answers and declaring them all bluster and hot air hoping the public will not notice. Yes, their voices are loud, but the sabres they rattle are very, very small plastic toothpicks indeed.

Talk and noise, while allowing our military resources to suffer greatly. Our men and women are ill equipped with old, out-dated gear. Half of Canada’s Naval ships are either being repaired or sold for scrap. The four used British submarines purchased 20 years ago have never properly performed and have been in constant repair. Canada’s air force C-18 planes are due for retirement in 2020. Unfortunately, the F-35s, upon which the government has set it’s sights while deceiving the public as to the real costs, will not be ready by that date. Remember Harper and MacKay campaigning, feuding with the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, regarding the true costs of those Cadillac of jets? Harper and MacKay boasted the figure was only $9 billion for 65 jets. Page disputed this saying the figures were closer to $45 billion. Harper and gang refused to show him the books, preferring instead to smear Page and his reputation and refusing to renew his contract. To this date, the true costs remain unknown though $45 billion appears to be the number many critics have settled on though some claim a much higher number: $125 billion. Nevertheless, the Conservatives won the vote. But, if that, if the misleading numbers regarding the F-35s doesn’t rile you, this might. Search and rescue has taken a beating; there was a time, I don’t know if it still applies, when someone needing help found himself talking to a call centre in Spain! The Search and Rescue team are saddled with obsolete planes that daily imperil our brave responders. Shockingly, it was recently revealed the Royal Canadian Air Force had to raid the aviation museum in Trenton for parts for its search and rescue planes. Scavenging for parts when the Harper gang spend millions advertising programs that don’t even exist! Lord help us. Lord help those poor folks who must rely on those planes.

Yeah, Harper and gang are the best and wisest money managers in the world; just ask them. They’ll tell you.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Harper’s is a government of loudmouths and blowhards. Harper talks tough, and he is, when it comes to civil servants, to the poor, elderly and young. It’s easy when you’re a coward and a bully and your opponent is defenseless. But he’s not so tough with his corporate friends who don’t pay their fair share, who hide funds offshore, as if they didn’t pay little enough as it is; indeed one gets the impression that the Harper gang plots with their business friends to suppress low income wages by replacing Canadian with foreign workers.

They are monsters of indifference not only when it comes to ethics, transparency, but also in how little respect they hold for voters, opposition members and for the House itself.

This week, Harper was in the United States. He was in New York but not attending the UN Summit on Climate Change (he could not care less). One hundred and twenty-five world leaders were in attendance. President Obama was there. Not Harper. After losing Canada a seat on the UN Security Council, after years of trashing the UN itself, after four years of shunning the opportunity to speak at the Assembly, he was there, finally, to give a speech. An election must be approaching. But he was not there to speak on climate change, terrorism or Canada’s role in Iraq. No, he was there to speak on something totally different, laudable and important: combatting preventable deaths of mothers and children. However, he undermines his own message somewhat with his government’s denial of funding to charities practicing family planning, including abortion for war rape victims and child brides forced into marriages in these war-ravaged, poverty-stricken areas of the world. He further diminishes his message by outlining his solution to preventable deaths of mothers and children by pushing the same message he does at home: Free enterprise. For Harper, everything is reducible to free trade and the free flow of capital. Prosperity and wealthy will naturally follow. He can’t give it a rest. Even doing the right thing, like saving lives, must be monetized.

Just prior to that, he attended an event sponsored by Goldman Sachs answering questions by a Wall St. Journalist. It was only then, on foreign soil, before a foreign press, that Canadians learned that Obama had sent Harper a letter requesting more help in combatting ISIL. We already have 69 “advisors” in Iraq whose presence there would be evaluated after 30 days. Harper stated he would consider the request after consulting with his cabinet. There is nothing in that appearance about seeking advice from the opposition or debate or holding a vote. What is very disturbing about this is that Canadians and their representatives did not learn of this first; they had to hear it from foreign journalists on foreign soil. Too, CTV reported on the late evening National News September 25th, the story didn’t quite unfold that way. According to the report, sources from the White House stated it was Harper who approached the President, writing to ask in what way Canada could help. This may appear small, and it is, but, if true, says something about Harper’s character, which would surprise no one following him. By having one of the most important leaders on the world stage turn to him for assistance, Harper inflates his own significance in hopes of convincing Canadians that he is, indeed, a world player. This is typical Harper. As is his making of significant announcements when he is out of the country because he is too cowardly to face his Canadian audience and because he has determined that the Canadian media is out to get him (all that is except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong).

While Harper was in New York, and before his conference in the with the press, Thomas Mulcair, at home, struggled for two days to get answers to legitimate questions: How long would those 69 advisors be in Iraq; when did the 30 day evaluation period begin and when would it end; would Canada be asked to do more; would there be feet on the ground in Iraq? Canadians have every right to know the answers to these questions. Well, not so according to Harper’s Conservatives.

When Mulcair posed these questions in the House, Paul Calandra, either Harper’s immoderately idiotic parliamentary secretary or Harper’s voluntary whipping boy and sacrificial lamb, responded on behalf of the government for the absent Harper. He stood up and read from a script a reply that had nothing to do with the question but would have done Lewis Carroll proud. After several more attempts to get a straight answer to direct questions, Calandra responded in the same ridiculous vein reading from the same sheet of paper. Mulcair, angry now, addressed the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, pointing out he had an obligation to enforce rules and compel government members to respond to questions put to them. When Mulcair once again tried to get an answer from the government side, Calandra again read from the script, prompting an exasperated Mulcair to address the Speaker with this: “Well, Mr. Speaker, that does not speak favourably about your neutrality in this House.” Scheer immediately retaliated by denying Mulcair the final question to which he was entitled, moving on to the third party leader, Justin Trudeau.

All this happened on September 23, before Harper spoke to the American press and before his speech in the UN. That evening, on CBC’s Power and Politics, Conservative James Bezan laughed off the episode with a dismissive and well-worn phrase, “It’s called question period, not answer period”! If that is not contempt for Parliament, nothing is. Pardon my naiveté, but I expect an answer when a Member of Parliament puts a question to the governing party. The next day, Scheer responded to Mulcair’s charge, saying there was nothing he could do, that, if members wanted to change the way things are done, they would have to do it themselves. He could not, he said, direct the question nor direct a response. Then he repeated the same facetious line Bezan had the day before, “That’s why it’s call question period, not answer period”! That Scheer said this with a smirk should have made the blood of all Canadian’s boil. This from the Speaker of the House who is supposed to be neutral. Immediately after Scheer spoke, both Conservative and Liberal members stood up and gave Scheer a standing ovation! To their credit, the NDP kept to their seats.

If it is as Scheer states, if it’s true his hands are tied, then perhaps it is time the Speaker be given more power to ensure that government response are relevant to the questions posed. As it stands, his function is little more than to rise and shout over the bedlam, “Order. Order!” If one of his duties is to impose decorum, he has failed miserably. Since Scheer has become Speaker, all pretence to decorum in the House has vanished. Is he really that weak, that powerless? I think not. I sense that the Conservatives feel emboldened to make Asses of themselves because Scheer has taken the easy route; he simply washed his hands of the matter and Question Period. His neutrality has been questioned in the past as when he sat for two weeks on requests by Elections Canada to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan for not filling out proper expense claims during the 2011 campaign. Both finally did so, Glover when learning she was to be promoted and Bezan with claims to having been “vindicated” after he submitted an accurate report and Elections Canada dropped the matter.

What we are witnessing in the House today is a perversion of democracy, a mockery wherein government members could as easily be baboons for all their antics and their non-responses. For this, I blame Stephen Harper and his gang. It’s not entertaining except, it seems to the Conservative members, who jump up and enthusiastically applaud and thump each other on the back whenever Harper or one of his members opens his or her mouth to offer a non-response or, when someone like Calandra, the sacrificial Fool in the House, likely acting on instruction from Harper’s handlers, retorts with nonsensical innuendo by reading from a script in hopes of smearing the opposition NDP with something so obscure that even most Conservative members don’t know what’s going on. These are apes enamoured by their own idiocy. I am not amused nor should you be. If Question Period in the House does not give members of the public answers to their concerns, it does give them ample opportunity to witness for themselves how completely underserving Harper and his gang are of holding public office. They certainly don’t deserve the pay and the padded expense accounts.

Scheer, too, must be held accountable for much of antics we see in the House. He has lost or surrendered control of the House. He could censure members who refuse to offer responses relevant to the questions put to them by naming them or having them removed. He can do the same when government members evade, obfuscate, lie or ignore the question altogether. As it stands now, he has washed his hands of the whole affair and refuses to accept responsibility. We all are familiar with that story. It’s a spectacle unworthy of those who have the nerve to call themselves Parliamentarians. Something needs to be done; somehow, someway, the Speaker’s role must be enhanced and his partisanship eliminated as much as possible. But members of parliament, too, must change. They are not answerable to their party or their leader but they are to the people.

If the behaviour in Parliament we have been subjected to doesn’t repel you, nothing will; you are indifferent to ethics, to democracy and deserve the contempt of all those who do believe governments must be accountable to those who elect them. When the Speaker of the House simply shrugs his shoulders and repeats a silly statement that is specious and dishonest, you can only despair. Is this what we expect from our leaders? Do we not deserve better?

One can almost forgive Calandra if his was the only act of buffoonery and he was dumb enough to offer himself for the role assigned by Harper; if he was acting under instructions, he should simply have said, “No”. Why would anyone set himself up to be the laughingstock of Canada?

Interestingly, the next day, perhaps realizing that the Calandra show might have gone too far, the Minister of Defence at least made an attempt to appear as if he was answering questions on Canadian troops in Iraq while in fact not doing so. The result is the same and just as bad, just as offensive and yet better than what we witnessed the day before. Today, September 26, even as I am writing this, Paul Calandra, teary-eyed and voice breaking, stood up and apologized to the House.

Too late.

Perhaps it was from the backlash from the public. Perhaps his own fellow Conservatives were embarrassed. Nevertheless, too late.

Shame on Stephen Harper and his government.

Democratically elected, the Harper Conservatives are absolutely the least democratic party in the past few decades. By their very behaviour in the House, they have degraded Parliament and threaten our democracy. They are unworthy of this country, of our support, and of our trust; they have consistently and persistently degraded their positions with the élan of monkeys and the truly stupid, cruel and thoughtless: Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre, Kellie Leitch, Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, Chris Alexander, Brad Butt, Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Leona Aglukkaq, Colin Carrie, Andrew Scheer, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Jason Kenney, John Baird, and, of course, Stephen Harper are the most notable wallowing in that foul swamp.

These are the people you folks want in office?

Even greater shame on you.

Yes, yes, and yes again…they belong in the trashcan of history.

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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.

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

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