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DECEIT & MALIGNANCY IN THE PMO: STEPHEN HARPER’S RELENTLESS CAMPAIGNING ON THE PUBLIC DIME

No other factor in history, not even religion, has produced so many wars as has the clash of national egotisms sanctified by the name of patriotism. – Preserved Smith

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. – Richard Arlington

I should like to be able to love my country and to love justice. – Albert Camus

Frank A. Pelaschuk

In a world of politics, when it seems no man, no group, in a civilized society can sink any lower, Harper and his gang always manage to prove me wrong. There is something depraved about the happy nonchalance with which they whittle away at Canadian democracy as they transform it into a Corporatocracy, a meretricious form of governance that works on behalf of business interests and always at the expense of citizens, particularly against the marginalized, the mentally ill, and the working poor, the single parent holding down several jobs while struggling to keep the family together. The extent of the Harper gang’s animus and the notable glee with which they savage unionists and public servants, critics, foes and opponents is unsettling, not just because it happens but because the attacks are so frequent, arbitrary, and malicious with so few apparently noticing or caring.

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

Harper’s 2006 electoral victory that resulted in a minority government was an achievement not all that unique. As had other politicians in the past, he successfully exploited public outrage over Liberal corruption and failed promises offering smug, loud undertakings of his own: less government, less taxes and more jobs. He and his regime would be deaf to “special interest” groups, be more transparent, more open, more honest, and more inclusive. But the allure of Power, of Big Business, especially Big Oil, and the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs and Big Money, had immediately proved too much: special interests won and transparency, openness, honesty, and inclusivity went out the window. Harper has pinned almost everything on the Conservative myth of economic mastery and on the huge tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline project, which would extend from Hardisty, Alberta to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. Here was a base of voters that would have little trouble supporting him and his party. After all, Alberta was rich in oil, jobs were aplenty and this was the birthplace of CRAP (an amalgam of Conservatives/Reform/Alliance Parties), which morphed into what it is today: mean, ugly, partisan, corrupt, and anti-democratic. All Harper had to do was promote Big Oil and tax cuts and play to fears of Big Government by getting rid of the Long Gun Registry (even though the majority of Canadians supported it), and ignore statistical evidence regarding crime, again playing to our fears with promises of more prisons and more jailed for longer periods. And if there were abuses, the mentally ill, the not so dangerous untreated and confined for years in solitary, well, who cared, certainly not Conservatives. The money rolled into the Conservative coffers; happy days were here again. Two years later, the Great Collapse of 2008 threatened the economies of the world but Canada remained relatively secure and stable. We had survived relatively intact. But the quiet, steady, unexciting Canadian modesty of the past was precisely that, a thing of the past with Harper at the helm. There he was, gloating loudly, pointing and wagging fingers, reminding the world of Canada’s economic strength and shrewdness and taking for himself all the credit for the achievements of a solid banking system put in place by previous, mostly Liberal, governments. Harper was no wallflower, nor was he shy in telling others how to get their houses in order and he certainly wasn’t shy in spreading the lie of how he and his Conservatives had saved Canada, perhaps even the world, from the brink of disaster. It was an unpleasant spectacle revealing Harper and his gang for what they really were, parochial, petty, hectoring, taking credit they had not earned and for years reminding Canadians it was the Liberals, always the Liberals, when things went wrong. Harper and his gang were wizards, faultless and nonpareil. Unfortunately, too many Canadians bought the myth: Harper was and is the economic wizard, a leader among men if you don’t mind him telling you so himself. But suddenly he was more; with Canada’s involvement in the war in Iraq against ISIS, he was a warrior/leader unlike any Canada had ever elected before, the man who would lead the world to salvation against ISIS the greatest threat to mankind since history began. Well, with oil prices tumbling, the gloating’s stopped and the Great Economic Wizard doesn’t look so great today after turning an inherited $13 billion dollar surplus into a massive $159 billion deficit. The collapse of oil prices was bad enough but Obama’s rejection of XL over environmental concerns was another shattering blow, the “radicals” in the environmental movement had won. So, for most, the good times are all gone if they ever were. Harper and his oily crew will tell us about the million net jobs created but how many of us feel the effects of all the good times coming our way? A million jobs? The flim-flam man’s at it again twisting facts and figures with a brave display of of bloviating braggadocio. According to him, we were the envy of the world and he let the world know it. Are we now? Times are suddenly tough but it’s not Harper’s fault, the gods are conspiring against him. He can’t blame the Liberals any more so it’s ISIS, the failure of other governments to respond to market forces, environmentalists and climatologists wreaking economic havoc with their lies and false-science quackery. Never mind that he pinned his hopes on one sector and neglected other provinces and the manufacturing sectors. Harper was, is, blameless. Just ask him.

Even so, neglecting infrastructures, cutting healthcare transfer payments and unloading unemployment burdens to the provinces, cutting services, closing down offices, and offering bonuses to bureaucrats who, in a reign of terror, oversaw the loss of 37,000 public servants jobs, a reign of terror that continues to this day, Harper is able to claim a small surplus and to find scads of money to bribe his core base of supporters with shiny baubles. Well, it’s worked before, why not now? He’s the Great Economic Wizard and there are plenty who prefer to believe in magic and snake oil.

And that is exactly what Harper is counting on. So the programs roll and there he is pushing for voluntary increases to CPP contributions, something he not all that long ago railed against and has absolutely no intention of seeing through. There is the increase to childcare benefits that began January 1st but will not begin to pay out until July 1st, mere months before the election, with a big, fat, retroactive cheque of $420 per child to remind those who receive them to whom they owe this largesse. And, of course, we have the income splitting, that wonderful program that helps those who already have, the top 15% who will garner about 49% of the benefits. But what of the single income family, the single parent holding down two or three jobs and struggling to keep the family together? What does income splitting mean for them? Nothing. A big, fat zero. No two thousand dollar tax break for them. Too bad, how sad, perhaps next time. Meanwhile, don’t forget, Harper’s your man.

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

While how Harper came to be elected may not be unique, what is unique is the nastiness of his governance and of those around him. We are all familiar with Harper’s boasting of how his was the only economic vision that would create jobs and witnessed first hand how he, and then employment minister Jason Kenney, conspired with Big Business to undermine Canadian workers with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that allowed foreign workers to be paid 15% below Canadian workers. That stopped when the public learned of it. Then we had RBC workers training foreign workers to do their jobs, which were then shipped overseas. That, too, changed when the public learned of it. But Conservatives and Big Business kept on trying. Foreign workers replaced Canadian workers in low-income jobs (they don’t complain, i.e., stand up for themselves, like Canadian workers). That is how anti-union Harper and Big Business work together to create jobs for Canadians: suppress wages, maximize profits. Never mind that the jobs are part-time, minimum wage, a life-long trap of drudgery, misery and fading hope. Harper and gang are not just anti-union, they are anti-worker preferring to keep low-income earners on the margins and are apparently content that a preponderance of jobs are part-time. Theirs is a vile worldview whereby the greedy, the powerful, and the brutal are rewarded while the real creators of wealth, the men and women who do the hard work and heavy lifting are punished, forced to do more and accept less.

And if the Conservatives are petty, vindictive and just plain mean, they are also puerile. Just watch them during Question Period in the House and judge for yourself. You will be treated to a dismal show of Conservatives exhibiting all the traits of what it takes to be a member of the Conservative Party, Harper’s gang in particular: arrogance, stupidity, pettiness, vanity, vindictiveness, deceitfulness, ignorance, bigotry, shamelessness. Their wilful refusal to answer questions put to them, their fingerpointing with responses unrelated to questions posed, their disregard for truth, their dismissal of the input of others, their absolute certitude they have all the answers, their abusive use of their majority, has made a mockery of the Parliamentary system. I have yet to see sparks of decency, of shame, of integrity from any member of the Harper gang. They govern as drunken lords and masters rather than as leaders worthy of respect and trust. They know more than all the scientists, scholars, legal and social experts combined. Contemptuous of everyone, they listen to no one, barbarians locked into a narrow vision that allows for no dissent. Experts are to be mistrusted, scientists to be muzzled, advice disregarded. Critics are dismissed, maligned, ridiculed, mocked and crushed. As for the public? Distract them, buy them off, offer cheap, shiny trinkets, the voter is that stupid. The Harper gang know their supporters.

Conservatives leave nothing to chance. As a consequence, they rig the game, surreptitiously changing rules, slipping and burying legislation into omnibus bills in hopes opposing players and spectators will not notice. Such moves are designed to deny members of the opposition and the public they serve opportunity to even learn of new legislation or of campaign electoral breaches by the governing party until too late. Too, such changes allow, indeed, almost guarantee, for political interference by the government, especially if the government is made up of present members of the Conservative party. Ethics and integrity are of no concern for this bunch of Conservative pond scum. So, when one sees a Conservative ad attacking Justin Trudeau, there should be no surprise to learn the ad is lifted almost verbatim from an NDP Manitoba ad during the 2011 campaign. It is this, Harper’s relentless campaigning without an election writ yet dropped and his willingness to spend lavish millions of newfound monies, your taxpayer dollars, that most clearly reveals the utter contempt he holds for Parliament, opposition members and, more particularly, the public. His only concern is to satisfy his hard-core base of supporters, those 30 to 40 percent of the voters who never tire of his mealy slop. Daily, we see our tax dollars spent on advertisements (to the tune of $13.5 million during hockey playoff season) that do not inform but rather promote the Conservative budget and its promises of income splitting and childcare benefit increases that have yet to be approved by parliament. By now, most Canadians have doubtless seen the partisan, tax-funded ads in which smarmy Pierre Poilievre appears talking to “shoppers” promoting Harper and the increased childcare benefits or standing in the halls of Parliament regaling us with the heart-warming story of his “Auntie” Kathy caring for him after school, we are not being informed but rather reminded, several times, that it is due to Harper that we owe all this largesse. But these are just promises. “Pending parliamentary approval”. That’s what we see at the bottom of these partisan ads, which, for politics generally, marks a new low in skirting elections laws but, for the Conservatives, is just another day at the office of dirty tricks. Imagine your banker drawing money directly from your account to pay for ads telling you how much he is saving you and doing for you. Would you accept that? I think not. Yet, there is Harper, spending your money to tell you what a great job he’s doing. And the election has yet to be called. We have entered the era of American-style campaigning. It never ends. And the winner is invariably the side that gets the most money in return for political favours. That is the huge downside of fixed election dates and first-past-the post.

But it is not a downside, of course, when you have a party as wealthy as the Conservative Party and which is made up of scoundrels, liars, opportunists, and the coldly calculating. It is not blood that gives them life, unless sucking it from others, nor conscience that directs them, but the allure of power, what power does, how it can be wielded, who can be made to bend and submit. We see it almost daily, Harper’s contempt of Parliament, his absences from the House during question period or, when present, by his dismissive refusal to answer questions honestly, often with diversionary responses having nothing to do with the matter at hand. It is all about control and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than the Conservatives refusal to appear in televised debates with the major networks, CBC News, ICI, Radio-Canada Télé, CTV News, and Global News which, in the past, have joined forces to offer leadership debates for maximum public exposure. Harper has opted to form a partnership with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine YouTube, and Rogers/Maclean’s. In turning the others down, calling them a “cabal”, Kory Tenecyke, Conservative spokesman, and former head man of the defunct Sun Media owned by Separatist Pierre Karl Peladeau, for whom Harper and gang could do no wrong, says the traditional outlet excludes other formats. What a crock! This is about control and about a government running scared. Personally, I would prefer the other leaders go with the “Consortium”. If Harper doesn’t show, place an empty podium reminding Canadians of Harper’s refusal to join the debate with the best chance of being viewed by more Canadians. The leaders could say something like this: “I would like to know what the Prime Minister thinks, but wait, I can’t know, he refused to be here.” As it is, the NDP has accepted Harper’s terms of when, where, how and what the topics will be. That is a mistake. Mulcair has ceded to Harper what was never his in the first place.

But, if Harper loves control, and we know he does, we also know he is not much for accepting responsibility. We have seen too often how he prefers to cut and run, to blame others, to smear and belittle opponents and to question the patriotism of his harshest critics.

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

Not that long ago, Harper, the great general, our Dear Leader, went to Iraq. We know he’s a great leader because we’ve seen the ads, sombre music, thunderous sound of helicopters, tanks, jeeps, speed boats, men and women in camouflage, “Going where few dare to go” and making “the world a safer place”. These are war images, Harper at his vile best fomenting fear and evoking images of barbarians at the gate. Now don’t get me wrong. I support the military and I believe the men and women as brave and fine as any. But the fact is, Harper’s acts do not match the rhetoric. We can all recall how he treated our disabled veterans. The military operates with out-dated equipment, boats in repair, submarines inoperable, tired ships due to be retired in five years. Yes, our military men and women are all that we would wish and more, but they are handicapped by a government that has cut, cut and cut some more. For God sakes Halifax navy mechanics had to shop on eBay for parts for one of two supply ships! Is this really a military might that will save the world? Is Harper really the leader you want as commander?

Yet there he was in Iraq, with members from 24Seven, which masks as a government “news” channel over “exclusives” but which is, in reality, a front for his own personal tax-funded advertising team (it’s easy to see why the Conservative Party has a huge reserve for campaigning; it gets to spend public money until the writ is dropped). The Iraq visit was a photo-op, nothing more. We were treated to images of Harper at the front, peering through binoculars. But we also saw images, the faces of Canadian Special Forces members. That’s a no-no. Soldiers and their families could have been placed at risk. Harper, with this vainglorious stunt, broke his own rule. While the mainstream media honoured the restriction, Harper couldn’t resist the poster shot of himself with brave men and women. Yeah, a real leader is Harper.

When confronted by this, Harper said he and his tax funded advertising team had been cleared and given permission to do this. Not so, according to the military brass: the Conservatives had neither sought nor received clearance to show faces. Well this is an election year. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Harper and gang are liars who will do anything to win including placing at risk those already in harm’s way.

When he did speak to the troops stationed in Iraq, presumably giving them the comfort of his magnificence presence, leadership and words, Harper said, “That’s why, as the national anthem says, you stand on guard, alongside a wide coalition of the international community, to comfort and defend the innocents in this part of the world and to make sure this threat does not despoil our home and native land” (CBC News, May 3, 2015). That’s a rather unique view of our anthem but, gosh, how American is that? You could almost love the big lug for that, if you didn’t know that he was again reminding Canadians, with his penchant for hyperbolic assurances, that he, mighty warrior, having proven himself on the world stage as a leader among men and women and the bravest and grandest of the allied forces leaders, he, he alone with his Conservative Party, is the only leader capable of bringing ISIS to it’s knees. If you haven’t heard it by now, ISIS is the most evil force man has ever known and the greatest threat to humankind, especially Canada. As a consequence, he has rammed through the anti-terrorist bill, C-51, a bill that jurists, legal scholars, activists and the NDP have condemned as overkill and unnecessary posing a real threat to civil liberties. Think not? As the bill stands, Conservative denials notwithstanding, C-51 grants greater powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) without real oversight. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), already underfunded and understaffed will simply not be able to do an adequate job of protecting Canadians from abuses. Too, all information on Canadian citizens can be shared not only with other Canadian agencies but also with allies. Those making accusations against others will be granted protection by the cloak of anonymity. The accused will not be able to face his accuser. Even peaceful protest could conceivably be targeted. Activists blocking transportation of oil, for example, could be charged with economic terrorism. That is not the way a free society operates. C-51, itself is an act of terrorism against Canadian citizens.

It is unfortunate that Trudeau’s Liberals opted to support this bill.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

The less informed Canadians are, the greater the comfort experienced by Harper’s Conservatives. They do not opt for light, for generosity, for kindness, nor do they offer hope or wisdom. They prefer to wallow in the filth of their kind of politics, the politics of darkness and cowardice: cheap shots and foul blows; fear, hate, rage, envy, dishonesty, pettiness, bribery, and vindictiveness are the tools in their vile arsenal of dirty tricks, and they deploy them happily and shamelessly.

They plot. They do not inform but will tell us they do. They derive no comfort in our knowing. Instead, they suppress. Or they create the mythology of themselves that no one can believe except the truly credulous and the easily bought and these, the easily bought, believe in nothing but what’s in it for themselves; they are the enablers of a corrupt regime, this regime, bloodsuckers that take and contribute nothing towards making for a better society; they not only allow for bad government, they make for corrupt governance: as long as they get their slice, they’ll ignore the Harper gang’s corrosive effects on the institutions that have made this country better than it is today. For the enablers, only today matters, tomorrow is a long, long way off.

During Harper’s years in office, we have witnessed his regime’s attacks against climatologists and environmentalists. Their credentials are often questioned and reputation impugned. Environmental activists are dismissed as “radicals”. But the Harper gang have also gone after the government’s own scientists, particularly those doing research on climate and fisheries and oceans. Government scientists work in fear and dare not speak; those who do are fired or threatened with job loss. In recent weeks, a few have taken to the streets demanding an end to the muzzling of scientists by Harper. The scientists speaking out were few; they know the price of doing so. What we saw in these public events were those representing them, the union and unionists. In the past six years, 2,000 scientists have lost their jobs. Research funding has been cut. Scientists believe they have a right to speak out; after all, Canadians pay for the research. Harper and his gang believe otherwise as do some journalists using the false argument that the government owns the results of research. That is true, but it is not a question of ownership, of scientists seeking to profit from the research. Rather, it is the belief of scientists that, since the public pays for it, the public has the right to know when research results demonstrate a real impact on Canadians. This is not about ownership but about the right of Canadians to know. There is only one reason the Harper gang would not wish the results of scientific research be made public: the possible negative impact it may have on Big Business, especially the big polluters in Big Oil and Big Mining. While Harper and those special interest groups who have his attention may wish it otherwise and seems determined to have it so, government scientists work at the behest and on behalf of Canadians not for profiteering Big Business. At least, that’s the theory. But Harper and gang and their business friends clearly know something we don’t. And they wish to keep it that way.

Those who pollute are protected. Those who lay waste to the land, who poison our water are seldom held accountable. This is a pro-business government more concerned with the health and welfare of Big Business, especially the tar sands, than with the health and welfare of Canadians and the land we inhabit. As a result, Canadians find themselves blindsided by a government in the pockets of special interests groups willing to intimidate, silence and fire scientists daring to speak out. For Conservatives, it is true: Knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

We have an election coming on. You know it with the endless Harper tax-funded ads and the lavish promises of tax cuts and more money in our pockets. But there is nothing about infrastructure, improvements to healthcare, aid for the homeless, for the elderly, or help for the young. We have the Duffy trial and a report on the Senate by the Auditor General Michael Ferguson to be made public on June 9. The report, a government document, has already suffered leaks, and was released to the Senate June 4. This dovetailed neatly with the leaks of the previous weeks and with the story Robert Fife of CTV “broke” during the week of May 24 to May 30 regarding the expenses of the Auditor General’s office and which prompted Ferguson to defend his office and to confirm that 30 Senators would be named and ten referred to the RCMP for investigation. It appears, over a period of four years, the Auditor General’s office spent $107,110 for its 640 employees in its four offices across the country. The employees were taken out to dinner, had pizza and, this of particular note to Fife and others, spent $23,000 at an entertainment centre for “team building”. That’s about $41.83 per year per employee. Quel Scandale! This kind of team building is common practice in large organizations and hardly merits attention especially in light of the fact that all this is non-news; anyone wishing to can find the information on the government website. The timing of the Fife story, a week before the AG Report was to be released, was curious and its intent unmistakable. Fife is deservedly a well-respected journalist; it is not his integrity I question. I am, however, curious as to who put the bug in his ear. This is information easily obtained on the government website, though, it is true, the expenses are not outlined in the detail offered by Fife. Fergusons numbers regarding Senators who may have overstepped the mark were confirmed on June 4. Thirty senators have been named, nine to be referred to the RCMP. The nine to be referred are two sitting members, Liberal Colin Kenny and Conservative member Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu and seven retired members, Liberals Sharon Carstairs, Rod Zimmer, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin, and Bill Rompkey and Conservatives Donald Oliver and Gerry St. Germain. Folks may recall that Conservative Senator Boisvenu, a Harper appointee, was a very strong supporter of Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda. On the report’s release, he has resigned from the Conservative caucus. Of the twenty-one remaining Senators with questionable expense claims are three holding key positions in the Senate including leading the charge to clean up the Red Chamber. They are two Harper appointees, Leo Housakos, Senate Speaker, Claude Carignan, government leader and Liberal Opposition Leader, James Cowan. They were also responsible for the appointment of ex-Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie as independent arbitrator regarding disputes regarding Senate expenses. Because of the roles they play and because of the possibility of perceptions of conflict-of-interest, the three must, in all decency, step down. As of yet, they have not done so. Two have stated they will appeal to Binnie. Again, without impugning the integrity of the ex-Supreme Court Justice, this should raise concerns on the matter of conflict of interest regarding these three Senators who offered Binnie that position.

What has come out, the leaks, the attempts to smear the Auditor General’s office and Ferguson himself just a week before the report was released should raise concerns. But of more concern is that something is very rotten to the core in the Red Chamber. Experts say the NDP promise to abolish the Senate is empty because it can’t be done. Why not? Surely we can reform the Senate at least and not by going for elected senators which could lead to a secondary body shutting down a government simply because they don’t like the Prime Minister or the government in power. This would lead to American-style gridlock. We do not need that.

But, surely, something can be done. We have a government in power that has with a few changes to the Elections Act found a way to rig elections by simply disenfranchising voters and with a few strokes of the pen, inserted in an omnibus budget bill, C-59, a way to actually rewrite history and alter time! They’ve done this before. Slipped into C-59 is legislation that retroactively changes the Access To Information Act (AIA). The change, in effect, blocks anyone seeking information regarding the RCMP’s destruction of the Long Gun Registry records that could lead to criminal charges. An unnamed individual sought information on the registry and made an application for Access of Information (AOI). Canada’s Commissioner of Information, Susanne Legault agreed to the request and told the RCMP not to destroy records pertaining to other provinces and to hand the material over to the individual making the request (Quebec had sought to keep the records and took the matter to court; they lost the case not too long ago). The RCMP ignored Legault’s request, destroying the records even before the destruction of the registry received royal assent and even before the results of the Quebec case were released. In other words, those charged with enforcing the law and protecting us were, in fact, breaking laws and working against us. The change to C-59 not only protects the RCMP for breaking the law but, in effect erases history making legal what was illegal yesterday. It is as if nothing had happened, as if no registry existed. History is erased and rewritten without a hint of shame from those Conservative members in the House. It’s insane, immoral and absolute corrupt. Would you actually welcome these people into your home? Would you not feel tainted in doing so? Legault, in a devastating critique, suggests that this move by Harper not only breaks the law but also sets a dangerous precedent that will allow future governments to cover up almost any crime retroactively! Harper and gang’s response to this when the news came out? The RCMP was “following the will of Parliament”.

Now there are several things happening that should concern Canadians. First, Harper and gang and the RCMP totally disregarded a watchdog agency of the government. This is not the first time. Everyone recalls how they went after Kevin Page, the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer. And we all now how Pierre Poilievre, the snake, along with convicted election fraudster Dean del Mastro, attempt to daily smear Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada in the House. This is vile stuff by vile people but not new stuff and no longer surprising. Public servants looking after the public interest have routinely become targets of the Harper gang who evidently find this approach much easier to do than the right, moral, ethical thing.

Harper claims that the RCMP followed the “will of Parliament” is not false, but it is a lie. With forty percent of the vote, Harper has gained a majority number of seats. In destroying the Long Gun Registry, it is to these voices he listened. A vast majority of Canadians opposed the destruction of the registry. Harper went ahead with it anyway because he had his core base of supporters. Again, the majority of voters were outgunned by the tyranny of a special interest minority. The Senate must go, or changes made. But how or when is for another debate. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party must be stomped into the ashcan of history come next election.

Until then, Harper and his gang will promise anything to get elected. They did that in the past and got elected. But what has Canada gained except broken promises, a corrupt, secretive, mean-spirited, anti-democratic group of folks who would hold us hostage to our fears, ignorance and bigotry. They wave the flag and talk of terrorists pounding at our gates. But these are the folks who have accomplished nothing worthwhile in nearly ten years in office. Their successes are in inflicting misery by targeting public servants, low-income earners, single parent families, the poor and marginalized. These are the folks that wage war against scientists, environmentalists and would stifle and end debate, criticism, and knowledge. They do not believe in, nor do they wish for a knowledgeable voter.

Look around you. Think about what you see and what you have. Has Harper and his gang really given you the life they promised?

Look around you, look at Harper, really look at him, look at those who surround and protect him, really look at them. Can you really place trust in them and their promises once again? With the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, five years in the making, Justice Murray Sinclair, speaking before an audience of Aboriginal leaders, church representatives, politicians and reporters asked for a national inquiry to investigate murdered and missing indigenous women. As one, the audience rose to its feet and offered a standing ovation of support. But one member sat stoically in his chair, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. As before, the Harper regime remains steadfast in its refusal to meet such a request. They still don’t practice sociology. How hollow must the Harper apology of a few years ago ring today for those families and friends of the murdered and missing.

And then think of Bill C-51. Ask yourself this: Whom should I really fear? Who is the real terrorist?

I know. And so do you.

***

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: DEMAGOGUES AND HYPOCRITES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.          

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller

 

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. – Albert Einstein

Frank A. Pelaschuk

DO SHEEP BLEAT? THE PUBLIC SURRENDERS

Stephen Harper and his loathsome gang would feel right at home in a third world dictatorship. It is not just that they lie at every turn, keep secrets from the very people who pay their wages and, almost from the first, have set out to muzzle the press. It is that they are truly anti-democratic. When they talk of democracy, I shudder, for they have waged a brutal war against it, one of doublespeak and pernicious manipulation. Their version is not mine.

Secretive, dishonest, paranoiac, petty, vindictive, and vicious, they have, not all that quietly, poisoned politics with suspicion, false accusations, name calling, scapegoating, vote rigging, and not very subtle attacks against the poorest among us while favouring the wealthy. They have struck out at our public institutions, including the Supreme Court, in an effort to politicize and corrupt them. As if that were not enough, they wage a war on citizens vilifying critics and questioning their patriotism. In Parliament, they refuse to answer questions, evade, dance around, mocking the questions, the questioners and even parliament itself with a cheery, breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt not only for opposition members but for the public itself. Absolutely ruthless and utterly without shame, they have made a mockery of civility dismissing ethics, integrity and simple decency as mere hindrances to their goals. They are devoid of compassion when it comes to the down and out, the weak and ill and yet fret daily for the well-being of corporations and wealthy supporters; there’s no percentage in fretting for the poor, no votes to be gained there. But, oh, they can make a grand spectacle of it when it suits their purpose and can be exploited for the tough on crime and terrorism agendas: the funerals of murdered soldiers and police officers. They are bottom feeders; there is no misery they will not milk to their advantage.

When it comes to investigating murdered aboriginal women, however, Harper can only muster “we don’t practice sociology”.

The Conservative heart is cold, very cold and empty. When it weeps, it only weeps for itself; it’s easier to blame others. Remember Dean del Mastro and Paul Calandra shedding loud crocodile tears in the House, the first, at that time, facing charges of election fraud (for which he was convicted) and the second when convicted by the court of public opinion for acts of outrageous buffoonery? Tears, real tears, yes – of whinging self-pity.

We saw much of that played out over the years with Harper. Whenever something went wrong or critics went after him, the fault was always placed at the door of someone else, staffers, scientists, the “lickspittle media”, but mostly the Liberal governments of past years. Almost ten years in office, they are still blaming them as did Harper recently when it was revealed that his regime has spent $700 thousand fighting a class action suit by six veterans wanting to reverse the government’s changes to military lifetime disability pensions that, in effect, reduce what the vets are entitled. It’s the Liberals that started this. It’s tiresome and doesn’t absolve them of their evasions, obfuscations, and vicious and open undermining of democracy and erosion of public trust. It’s easy to blame the Liberals, they have a lot to answer for, but it’s the Conservatives who have turned the screws: ask any vet. Surely, when they hear Harper utter “democracy” they, too, must tremble and wonder what’s coming next.

That there are only a few outraged voices heard rather than a whole nation is astounding. Are we really that frightened of our government? Are we that gullible that we swallow holus-bolus their fictions? Have we really become a nation of sheep, a nation that doesn’t question, that doesn’t challenge, that quietly appears to accept that propaganda, lies, threats, and corruption does not warrant closer scrutiny. It seems Harper believes so. I think he’s right. If not, where’s the outrage?

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMAGOGUES

For years, if not decades, we have been fed the line that Conservatives are, and always have been, the best at handling fiscal matters. There is absolutely no evidence to support that Conservative myth. When Harper first became prime minister, he had inherited a huge surplus and has squandered it on vanity projects, self-promotion, and tax cuts for the wealthy while allowing our infrastructure to crumble to a state of near utter ruin. We can all remember Harper sneering and sternly wagging his admonitory finger at the rest of the world urging it to get its house in order during the last great economic slump of 2007-8. Harrumphing loudly, he took credit to which he was not entitled: our banking system was the best in the world, our government the strongest and most stable and all, all, because of him, his superb, wise, skilful management of the economy. He’s been wagging his finger ever since, strutting and hectoring like some tin pot despot. It’s a lie, of course, and we see the truth of it all around us in the loss of jobs and the struggling oil industry on which Harper has placed all his hopes while ignoring the manufacturing sector in the rest of the country. Has he talked to the Canadian workers tossed on the street following the merger of Tim Hortons and Burger King, a merger that was loudly supported and hailed by industry minister James Moore? How about those Canadian workers replaced by foreign workers as business, abetted by his regime, manipulate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to supress wages? How about the single parent left out in the cold while those who don’t need it gain and additional $2000 thanks to his income splitting tax break. Has he talked to these people?

Harper and gang are not just mythologers, they are revisionists creating history as they would have it not as Canadians have lived and suffered it. We see that every day in the TV propaganda ads that Canadians pay for, the wondrous achievements of Harper and his gang. Does he really believe all Canadians have forgotten those ads touting the creation of non-existent jobs by non-existent programs? To watch these ads, one would be hard pressed to believe the straits we are in today. Everything is roses. Tell that to the battered, weary, work-worn, desperate single parent holding down two minimum wage jobs or the fifty year old suddenly out of work after thirty years on the job. The roses go to the wealthy, the bric-a-brac to those at the bottom. For such as these, the world is looking pretty bleak. As for the world, especially the US with its surging economy under Obama, there must be some sense of schadenfreude. If so, who can blame the Americans?

Even as troubling, if not more so, is the fear mongering the Harper gang has taken to indulging: the world is a dangerous place, “jihadists” are everywhere and they are all gunning for Canadians. So there is Harper, still swaggering, defiant now, wagging his finger at the world and thumbing his nose at terrorism and warning Canadians that they, they alone, the heroic, triumphalist Harper and gang, who, with their purity of heart, with their strength, courage and wisdom, are the only one’s able, willing and capable of not only saving us but also, perhaps, all of mankind, from the forces of darkness. That, too, is mythologizing. Some among us, however, buy it, the sheep bleating, frozen by fear and will-o’-the-wisps bogeymen when Harper and his gang howl. That’s not to say terrorism and terrorists aren’t there. But exaggerating the risks, amping the fears, pandering to our prejudices and fears, not informing Canadians about what our troops are really doing or what the cost of involvement is is simply amoral and irresponsible. Yes, we all want security. Unfortunately, there can never be security for a nation of sheep governed by wolves.

So how much are Canadians willing to surrender in the way of privacy, civil rights, humaneness, and justice in exchange for a little security? Harper came into power largely because of a promise of positive change, of a more open and transparent government. He has not only failed miserably, he has actively worked to making his regime more closed, more secretive, and our citizens less informed, more frightened and, thus, more malleable. He ran on the get-tough-on-crime agenda, more jails, more prisoners, more time. It worked with the voters. Pandering to the worst in us always seems to work. Ignoring facts, statistics and experts (the way Harper operates, he and his gang are the only experts), the Harper gang plan to introduce new legislation to take away the possibility of parole for those sentenced to life in prison. They say it’s only “for the most serious of crimes”. We already have laws in place for that but, hey, that doesn’t matter with these troglodytes. Those who still pose a danger, contrary to what the Harper gang would have us believe are not automatically granted parole after serving twenty-five years. Crime rates are down, that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that that doesn’t help Harper; he prefers us to be frightened, so he and the public safety minister, Steven Blaney, and the rest of the bobbleheaded gang ignore facts, work on our fears and inflate the terrors of crime, the lowest it’s been since the ‘70s. Most crimes of murders happen between family and friends, the killers known to the victims. These are the people least likely to reoffend. In fact, in a recent interview on CBC with Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison watchdog, Canadians learned recidivism rates of those on parole is extremely low. He pointed out that 99% of those granted day or full parole last year did not reoffend and of those granted full parole, 97% did not reoffend. Harper, however, refuses to let the facts get in the way of his version of the truth; it simply doesn’t help his cause, which is to notch up the fear level, prey on public ignorance, and draw the vote to this “law and order” gang. Without any shame, Harper and the gang have given up on rehabilitation. Lock them up and throw away the keys. One size fits all. How in God’s name did prolonged isolation help the deeply troubled teenager Ashley Smith who finally strangled herself while guards watched? That might satisfy the blood lust of many, but such policies are madness and will lead to an even more dangerous society. Take away hope, fuel the anger; is that what we really want? Harper’s get-tough-on-crime legislation will likely only increase the possibility of violence, mayhem and death – within prisons and on the outside. Punishment without the possibility of redemption and with the removal of hope? If this goes through Canadians may have real reason to fear. There is something contemptible in fighting an election on the blood of the dead and the tears and rage of the families left behind. Instead of offering hope, instead of working towards a better, more humane society, Harper prefers to feed on the carcass of despair.

HARPER’S LUCKY WAR

While getting tough on crime will help garner votes, there is something else for which Harper must go to bed every night with prayers of gratitude. ISIL and the war against ISIL. There is nothing like a war to rally citizens except, perhaps, engaging in a war with a few good Canadian men and women as casualties to ramp up the rage and support of those at home. We have had the fallen soldiers, killed shortly after Harper had announced Canadian troops were joining coalition forces in Iraq in the war against ISIL Sadly for Harper, try as he did to evoke the image of terrorism striking on home ground, he could not quite get the traction he sought from their deaths. Many Canadians remain unconvinced those separate acts were as linked to terrorism as they were to mental and societal ills.

Nevertheless, on the eve of an election that has yet to be announced, the war against ISIL is a godsend for Harper as he campaigns across the nation whipping up fear and xenophobia. Not only can they sound tough on crime and terror, they can prove it with the passage of new, tougher sanctions that will infringe on privacy rights, make it easier for CSIS to spy on Canadians, share information, and arrest and detain. Harper’s almost a new man, full of energy and excitement as he gleefully rubs his hands together pandering, pandering and pandering some more, ratcheting the militaristic rhetoric and the jingoistic fervour and pulling out at every opportunity his new favourite word, or variations of the same, the word that must surely chill the blood of all Canadians: Jihadist.

Jihadists are pounding at the doors! That will be the Conservative theme throughout the election campaign. It’s not enough the new legislation will affect almost every Canadian with increased surveillance and tighter controls on what we say and how. He must harangue and terrify and tighten even more the noose on civil liberties.

How much are we willing to surrender for peace of mind?

Harper is betting a lot.

He plays on our fears and adds to our nightmares. We saw how quickly he raised the spectre of terrorism when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo were murdered even before he knew the facts. He has played that card ever since. It will work as long as the timid stay on their knees. The jihadi are at the door!

Last September 30th, when asked what the role would be of the 69 troops sent to Iraq, Harper said: “If I could just use the terminology in English, it is quite precise. It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.” Recently, we learned Canadian troops were shot at and they shot back. When asked by the opposition if this was not an expansion of their role, “mission creep”, the defence minister, Rob Nicholson said, “You can’t advise and assist without accompanying”. So, which is it? Is Canada working towards another prolonged and costly engagement? This is a legitimate concern. Has Harper misled Canadians? Is this, in fact, “mission creep”? The firefight was not isolated; Canadians were involved in two other incidents since then. Clearly this is more than an “advisory” role. Curiously, of the coalition partners in Iraq, Canada has been the only nation thus far to be involved directly in combat. When questioned about this, the Harper gang respond thusly: If our soldiers are shot at, they will shoot back. Right. No one disagrees with that. But the question is this: If they are to “advise and to assist” why are they at the front lines with all likelihood of being in harm’s way if and when the enemy strikes? When pressed on this by Thomas Mulcair, the opposition leader, Harper and the gang respond with bafflegab, obfuscation and revisionist rhetoric. Even when it comes to the costs of this engagement, Canadians are denied the right to know the figures. Why? When you foot the bill, don’t you think you have the right to see it? Harper’s is not a democratic response from a democratic government. That’s the response of a government hiding something from us.

Even more invidious is Harper’s response to questions regarding the Iraq situation. Not only do he and the gang mislead Canadians with accusations the opposition members do not support our troops, there is in the charge the rotten stench of something even more sinister: the suggestion that Mulcair, the NDP, Trudeau and the Liberals, are somehow unpatriotic, untrustworthy, a threat to this nation. This has happened before. Pat Stogran, during his term as Veterans Ombudsman, smeared by the Harper gang. As was Kevin Page, the one-time Parliamentary Budget Officer, his integrity and credentials maligned simply because he, like Stogran, was doing his job. To raise questions, to ask what the government is concealing from Canadians, is to risk having one’s patriotism questioned. That is vile; it is low but not new for a government made up of men and women who apparently only thrive in the sewer of innuendo and smears.

But this is puzzling: Why is the Canadian public so silent on this?

But what can one say of Harper as a leader of a nation when he even refuses to sit with his provincial counterparts when they meet. He has ignored them since 2009. This week they were in Ottawa, within walking distance. Still, Harper ignored them. Is this really a leader of a nation when he will not meet with the first ministers of the provinces? This is not about being above the fray. This is hubris, vanity and contempt. This is shallow and signifies less a leader than a small-minded midget; when and if Harper becomes a man, he might one day leave his broom closet and meet with them.

But am I being unfair, unduly harsh? It could be he is too busy passing laws that allow CSIS even more power to spy on Canadians and curtail legitimate comment. As we have learned, millions of downloads by Canadians are tracked daily by CSE (Communications Security Establishment); the government would have us believe this is to help protect Canadian networks and systems from threats. Maybe he’s busy with that, protecting Canadians by creating new ways to spy on them.

How far is Harper willing to go? How long before we say “Enough!”

THE RAT IS A McCARTHYITE

We have observed the Harper gang in action the past few elections as they bent and broke rules to subvert the electoral process. The Conservative Party has paid a $52,000 fine for the “in-out” scam in a plea bargain deal that spared four upper level members from prosecution. Michael Sona was sentenced to jail, evidently the only one involved in the robocalls scandal. Yeah, right. We have Dean del Mastro, mentioned above, found guilty of election fraud. We have the oily Pierre Poilievre, the minster of democratic reform revising the Elections Act to limit investigations of election fraud and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Surely straight from Orwell, the Act has been renamed the Fair Elections Act (if interested in a more comprehensive list, refer to my Jan. 7, 2014 post).

For a time, I thought it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong.

We have the return of Mark Adler with his slimy Bill C-520. Adler evidently shares a worldview with Joseph McCarthy that foul Republican Senator who gave a name to an era of blacklisting and witchhunting during the infamous Red Scare. You might have heard of it.

Now, for those who aren’t aware, Mark Adler is a fool. He’s not the only fool in the Conservative gang (anyone recall Brad Butt?), but he is a dangerous fool. Last year, when Harper flew to Israel with a group of Conservatives, including business cronies, Adler first caught my attention when he was recorded whining about not being allowed to have his picture taken with Harper at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Whinged he, “It’s the election! This is the million-dollar shot.” Now one could laugh at that and dismiss it as a little man seeking attention. That would be true. However, more seriously, Adler is also the individual who barred Liberal Irwin Cotler, an internationally respected advocate of Human Rights, from attending an event in Israel co-hosted by Adler and an Israeli charity during that visit. Did I mention that Cotler is a Liberal? The snub was more than partisan; it was a petty, mean-spirited act by a very, very, very small, mean-spirited man.

The bill Adler proposes is despicable. It goes against all decency and is certainly an attack on democracy and the right of free association. It is an attempt to introduce the era of the witchhunt and to stigmatize and punish our parliamentary watchdogs, senior staff and their employees. The bill would force the agencies to publish the political backgrounds of employees. Moreover, this would be retroactive. Once passed into law, all employees would be required to publish their political activities. Presumably, refusal would lead to dismissal. Naturally, those seeking employment with the watchdogs would be required to disclose their past political activities. The jobs will no longer be based on merit but on which party one supported, joined, or worked for. Presumably, all Conservative’s applying for government jobs will get them while all supporters of other parties will not. Again, straight from Orwell, the bill is called, Non-Partisan Offices of Agents of Parliament Act. It’s anything but and will certainly lead to partisan hiring and create a real chill among those looking for work in the innocent belief the government has no right to look into their past political backgrounds. This is not harmless. This is vile stuff. If anyone has ever seen old clips of Joe McCarthy, Martin Dies and HUAC (House of UnAmerican Activities Committee) etc. in action, pounding on tables and screaming at those called before them to name names and to answer the question, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” they will certainly have had a clear sense of the hysteria and terror of the time. Thousands of public servants, teachers, scientists, artists, and just ordinary workers and housewives lost their jobs and friends because of past political associations, which were legal at the time, or for simply refusing to answer the question in the belief the government had no right to even ask it. Many, ostracized by families, friends and co-workers, committed suicide.

What is the real intent of such a bill? Where does it end? Loyalty oaths just to get a job? Party faithful rewarded and others shovelled out? How would you feel if your boss asked you whom you voted for? Would you tell him? If your job was on the line, what then?

Is that the period to which we wish to return, discourse and debate stifled, fellow citizens spied upon, dissent quashed? That’s McCarthyism. And Harper supports this contemptible bill. This is vile, vile stuff. What kind of folks are these? Who next?

There are few more vile than political rats hiding behind patriotism and standing on corpses to score cheap political points.

Yes, when Harper speaks of democracy, I do shudder. He has chipped away at it since the very first when, in his first demonstration of cowardice, he prorogued parliament rather than face the opposition. Now he has this war and he hopes we will swallow the lies, succumb to our fears, and vote for him next election.

Yes, yes, it would be safe to say I am afraid. But not of the terrorists that Harper and his gang want us to fear, but of those same demagogues who prey upon those fears and prejudices and who would stomp the jackboot on our necks. Orwell had it right: this is the face of the future.

Even as I began writing this post, Harper introduced the proposed new anti-terrorism legislation. He did not have the decency, or the courage, to debate it with the opposition nor did he even bring it up in the House. He chose instead to announce it in Richmond Hill, Ontario before a partisan crowd made up mostly of police according to reports. And there was Harper, once again strong, forceful, (Oh, what a man! What a leader!) dismissing critics and again questioning the patriotism of the opposition. Where’s the oversight? Not to worry. Trust us. So now it’s easier to arrest and detain, to spy on Canadians and to block Internet access. There’s jail time for “Advocacy For Terrorism”. But what does that mean, what are the definitions. Don’t worry. Trust us.

Does writing this post put me in the Harper crosshairs? Am I suspect because I have declared my contempt for him? Am I an enemy supporter because I trust absolutely nothing about him? Does my call that we stop Harper next election make me dangerous? While some of the legislation may seem fine on the surface, who will watch the spies as Stephen Maher asked (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 31, ’15)? That’s a question we should all ask.

Demagoguery must be exterminated and the demagogues thrown in the ashcan of history. Governing by fear, by appealing to emotions and to ignorance is not governance but despotism. The next time you vote, remember Harper’s dismal failure with the economy. Remember his treatment of the vets. Remember all the lies and smear jobs inflicted on public servants and citizens who spoke out not only in their own defence, but yours as well. Remember the cronyism and illegal expense claims, the subversion of the electoral process, the rigging of future elections, the spying on Canadians, the fear mongering.

I don’t hate Harper or his gang. I just hate every vile act they have done.

Today, the enemy is someone else; tomorrow, it may be your turn.

Remaining on the sidelines will not serve you. Silence will not save you.

Speak! Your voice will be heard. You are not alone.

***

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

***

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

THE HARPER GANG: VILE ACTS BY VILE BODIES

Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? – Maurice Freehill

It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for any public office. – H.L. Mencken

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE: THE MINISTER FROM 1984

The government’s recent backtracking on the vicious, mislabelled Fair Elections Act offers little comfort for opponents of Bill C-23. After months of stonewalling and fighting tooth-and-nail to keep it as it was, “perfect” in Pierre Poilievre’s twisted Orwellian world, the calculatingly partisan Minister of Democratic Reform announced on Friday, April 25, the government would be willing to consider amendments. On the surface, that sounded good. The Ottawa Citizen in its April 28th editorial (A Better Fair Elections Act) was quick to praise the Harper crew saying, “the government wisely responded to criticism…” and “The ability to change to one’s mind is a sign of maturity and the government should get credit for it,” Why? What have I missed that the editors of the Citizen did not? To my mind, the Citizen was far too quick and far generous in its praise as well as far too forgiving of Poilievre and the rest of the gang who, in bringing forth this Bill in the first place, revealed themselves yet again as uncooperative, arrogant, intractable, untruthful, inane, loutish, incompetent, buffoonish, asinine, slanderous, and anti-democratic. Harper and his gang do not possess enough respect and decency for Parliament, Parliamentarians and the public to even offer pretence of a show of courtesy by consulting with the opposition regarding proposed changes to the Elections Act. That is extremely worrisome when one considers how expansive and significant the proposed changes are to the fundamental right of Canadians to vote; if allowed to stand as is, Bill C-23 would not only affect all voters, many of them negatively, it would also rig the game and entrench, simply by making it easier to do so, widespread cheating, not by voters, as Harper would have us believe, but by political parties, especially those with money.

But Poilievre, that partisan weasel, could not even bring himself to do from the start what was right and decent and honest. For almost three months, Poilievre, backed by the Harper gang, refused to consult with or listen to, the voices of opposition to his party’s updating of the Elections Act. For almost three months Poilievre, on behalf of his government, ignored the warnings and pleas of citizens, scholars, lawyers, and past and present Chief Electoral Officers that the Bill was bad and badly needed fixing if not scrapping altogether. This is the same government that for almost three months extensively and selectively quoted (and misquoted) from a report by Harry Neufeld, former B.C. Chief Electoral Officer, to bolster support for its allegations of voter fraud. According to Neufeld, the Tories were less than truthful in their interpretation of his report, cherry picking items out of context to frame their arguments. As Neufeld pointed out, there was no issue of voter fraud but, rather, concerns of Elections workers poorly trained to perform their duties properly. Poilievre and others in the Tory ranks, most notably Brad Butt ignored all this ploughing ahead with their game plan while they continued to misrepresent the report by Harry Neufeld. In fact, the only fraud perpetrated has not been by voters but by Harper’s gang. Not only did they misrepresent Harry Neufeld’s report, there was Conservative Brad Butt who stood in the House testifying before the cameras how he had witnessed with his own two beady eyes opposition campaign workers scooping up Voter Information cards discarded by apartment dwellers which were then turned over to others who would pass themselves off as the voters named on the cards. Butt, confirming the aptness of his name, even did a little bit of bad acting, demonstrating how the cards were discarded and picked up. The thing is, Brad Butt finally ‘fessed up: it never happened; was all a big, fat lie.

So why did he do that? Clearly it was to strengthen Poilievre’s suggestions of widespread voter fraud, which, so far, he has failed to support with numbers or evidence. Again, with this band of scoundrels, this is not surprising; in fact, it is predictable. Lying and misrepresentation appears to be the norm with these vile Conservative bodies, as routine as their habit of smearing those who oppose them. Look at how they treated Neufeld and his report. But, if unsurprising, if predictable, what should concern Canadians is that Poilievre, with the assist of loutish blowhard Dean del Mastro, himself now facing four charges for breaching the Elections Act, had, from the days when the robocalls began to be investigated, embarked in what appears to be a vindictive, vicious, personal vendetta against Elections Canada and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. Of CEO Mayrand and his criticisms of Bill C-23, particularly regarding the move of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the Department of Public Prosecutor, Poilievre had this to say in a recent appearance before a House of Commons committee defending his “Fair” Elections Act: “It is no surprise the CEO would like to remain in charge of the commissioner. He is fighting to retrain his power, making some incredible claims, and inventing some novel legal principles to do it” (Annie Bergeron-Oliver, iPolitics, April 8, 2014). He also went on to assert that Mayrand wanted a bigger budget and less accountability. In early March of this year, Poilievre had challenged Mayrand’s impartiality, accusing him of “wearing a team jersey”. These are incredible accusations for a sitting Member of Parliament, especially the Minister of Democratic Reform, to level against a member of a government agency charged with the role of government watchdog on behalf of the public. This is how one vile Minister of the Crown represents Canadians; he smears the reputations of others with impunity, without shame and without evidence. On what basis did Poilievre make these charges? None but pure bile and utter gall. What made it even more offensive was that Poilievre could not even disguise his contempt for Mayrand, Elections Canada and the public. He made it abundantly clear in the House that it did not matter what its advice, Elections Canada was answerable to Poilievre, not Poilievre to them. That is true; he is Mayrand’s boss, but this is no way to treat a public servant who has done no more than his job in looking after the best interests of Canadians. It is also true that Elections Canada and Poilievre both work for Canadians; when one body is charged with looking after my interest while another his political interests, I know whom I trust. The attack against Mayrand was deeply offensive, mean-spirited, and personal and appeared meant to attack his credibility and integrity. That is low, even for this particularly partisan and nasty member of Harper’s team. Unfortunately, such abuses are not unusual or unexpected from any member of Harper’s thuggish gang.

But if stonewalling, smearing others, and adopting that cloak of omniscient perfectibility for months were not bad enough, the conservatives in finally agreeing to concessions, could not even work up a pretence to generosity or fairness: the opposition would have only three days, from April 28 to April 30, to study and debate the amendments (numbers of which vary from 250 to 300) before the final vote May 1st. Three days. The government-loaded committee will determine the final look of the Bill, which, at its best, will have allowed opposition members of the committee only a cursory examination. Even as I write this, May 2, 2014, there has yet to be a result; apparently the deadline has shifted. Even if extended by a few days, the time-line to do a fair and complete assessment is still far too brief for that many proposed amendments. But this is Poilievre and the Harper gang at their sleazy worst. Democracy takes another beating.

As for credit for finally agreeing to some amendments regardless of how many or how substantial, if substantial? They will get none from me. Leave that to the Conservative Postmedia group. Rather, they deserve no credit but rather annihilation at the polls. They have made a mockery by rigging the game.

Doubtless, the Harper gang will agree to some suggestions by the opposition, perhaps make minor tweaks in others and, in still others, appear to be giving ground while still preserving what they desire. It will not be their integrity though, in truth, there was little of that to preserve. And whatever changes they do agree to, if any, from the opposition, they will no doubt loudly proclaim themselves true champions for democracy, the Party that listens. Of course, it will be a lie but the Conservatives do know their audience. Most don’t care, most are asleep, most will swallow any lie if repeated often enough.

HOLY MOLEY, AREN’T WE GOOD?

We know some of the changes the Conservatives are willing to make. The Voter Information Card is still gone. Vouching of a sort will be allowed, though those vouching and those being vouched for will be required to sign an oath with the person doing the vouching having also to offer proof of address. As the NDP critic Craig Scott suggests, this will still disenfranchise the homeless who have no address and are unlikely to find another to vouch for him, who does. It could also affect First Nations people, seniors, and students.

But the muzzling of the CEO remains in place, even though Poilievre claims he or she can say whatever they wish in interviews, releases or comments. However, he refuses to accommodate the opposition by putting it in ink. It stands as Poilievre initially outlined it: the CEO and Elections Canada cannot put out ads encouraging Canadians to vote. What is it that Harper and the gang fear? Who do they wish to exclude? Well, we know don’t we, those folks least likely to vote for them.

One good move is the elimination of the section that exempted from campaign expenses certain fundraising calls to donors who gave at least $20 in past years. Too, it extends to three years from one how long robocall companies must keep certain records. These are good moves. They have removed the right of incumbents to pick polling station supervisors. That is another good change, which will reduce the risk of biased outcomes should a dispute during voting or vote counts occur. However, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which was the investigative body of Elections Canada, will still be moved from Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the Department of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. One can anticipate, particularly with this government, plenty of opportunity for political interference and abuse by the governing party. That’s not good. As well, the Harper gang still refuses to allow the Commissioner to compel witnesses to testify thereby greatly reducing the risk of those breaching the Elections Act being caught or punished. With little to no risk of punishment, candidates and political parties will feel emboldened to cheat. This, plus moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the DPP, appears likely to benefit some and not others. Members of governing regimes suspected of cheating might not be investigated as readily or as rigorously as those from opposition parties. With this Harper gang, that is almost a guaranteed certainty.

Too, it is unconscionable that parties will not have to provide documentation for electoral expenses. The Conservative Party, the richest political party in Canada, will clearly be the beneficiary of this missed opportunity for the Harper gang to do the right thing. As well, ant this too is unconscionable, Poilievre has in place another move to restrict the independence of Elections Canada: Elections Canada must now seek the approval of the Treasury Board before hiring staff or advisors. Just think of that. That’s the same Treasury Board whose president is Tony Clement most notable for his anti-unionism stance and for the 50 million dollar slush fund that went into his riding during the G-8 and G-20 Conferences in 2010.

Regardless of how Harper and gang spin it, and they have, this is a government that has not wavered in it’s idée fixe of perverting democracy for its own end of obtaining power, clinging to power and wielding power like a bludgeon as they have repeatedly with their majority. The final result of the Fair Elections Act may satisfy some; for most, it will just be window dressing to distract from the subversion of the electoral process. We must not forget there will be 30 new electoral ridings in place for the next election and they will have achieved the Conservative desired goal of skewing the election results. That is the intent and usually the outcome of gerrymandering. It is expected that, based on the outcome of the last election, the Conservatives will gain at least 22 more seats.

Amazingly, and I have commented on all this before, the Canadian public seems barely interested. Harper is still seen as the best leader on issues regarding the economy and jobs. The scandals, his poor judgements, his deceitfulness regarding the costs of the F-35 jets, his bungled handling of the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy affair, the numerous prorogations of Parliament, the scandals of padding expense claims by MPs, his penchant for limiting debate on his many omnibus bills, his refusal to listen, his refusal to admit to mistakes, his smearing of opponents, the ease and willingness with which he throws aides and friends under buses, appear not to affect his standing at all. The public, by and large, either too stupid, too self-interested, or simply too apathetic, is not interested in holding him or his party accountable. Ethics, integrity, truth, honesty, a sense of shame, can be made the least of concerns for the public for the price of a few dollars saved in shiny promises. Harper and his gang know this; they have relied on this. As long as Harper offers voters cheap, shiny promises and plays on cheap, irrational fears and picks on easy targets, he knows they can be cheaply bought. One cannot but fear how much Harper and his thugs will be allowed to get away with before the public wakes up and finally says it’s had enough. The Fair Elections Act, as it stood as Poilievre first envisioned it, threatened to entrench the very behaviour that led Elections Canada to investigate the robocalls scandals, the false expense claims made by members of the Conservative Party, the attempts to subvert the electoral process. Perhaps the amendments finally settled on will be enough and good enough to spare Canadians that, but they cannot be enough to let Harper off the hook: Poilievre could, and should, have simply consulted with others before starting down this dirty road.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: FOREIGN WORKERS AND THE EXPLOITERS

I would like to briefly touch upon the scandals surrounding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). I believe it wrong as it is; it is unfair to Canadian workers and should be scrapped. This is Jason Kenney’s baby and he must carry the can for this. Businesses have abused a program that was meant to fill skilled job vacancies but somewhere along the way has shifted to offering jobs for fast food chains and other low income positions that guarantee foreign workers 40 hours work week while putting more and more Canadians, who are not given such guarantees, on the unemployment lines. Some unions claim that even today, the government has made secret deals with 230 companies to exempt them from paying foreign workers what they pay Canadians. This in spite of the public outrage last year upon learning foreign workers were allowed to be paid at 15% below what Canadians were. If true, this government’s efforts to help increase the profit margins of their business cronies by the displacement of Canadian workers, must be met with the severest of punishments: total destruction at the polls. Some of those who hire foreign workers claim that they work harder are less demanding, and more reliable. That is code for more pliant, more accommodating and more fearful; if there are abuses, these workers are least likely to complain. Perhaps if workers were paid more, were assured of full-time employment without split shifts, and assured they would still have their jobs after 14 and 28 years of loyal service, there might be less reason for Canadian workers to move on. Unfortunately, for businesses, loyalty is apparently a one-way street. When a government, especially one as pro-business as this regime, makes it easy for companies to abuse Canadian and foreign workers without any real penalty, it is hardly surprising they do so. It is presently estimated that there are over 600 thousand temporary foreign workers. They are not all highly skilled workers I am willing to bet. This is sheer exploitation and must be stopped. I do not believe Canadians are lazy, useless, and too proud to take low income jobs; I do believe they are too proud to allow themselves to be treated as menials or forced into a life time of servitude as part-time workers, undeserving of even a full-time job and a wage that allows them to pay rent and feed their families and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Harper and his gang have abandoned Canadian workers sacrificing them on the altar of profit. Instead of investing in Canadians by setting up training and apprentice programs, this government encourages businesses to hire from outside. This leads to exploitation and depressed wages in the low-level, low-income fields.

There is clearly something wrong with the TFWP. Companies get away with abusing workers and the program and Jason Kenney and the Harper gang continue to vow that those who do so will pay a price. What price? Nothing appears to happen. Employers still abuse workers while Harper and this sleazy gang sing praises to themselves extolling their virtues as money managers and (part-time) job creators.

Part-time jobs are not careers. Depressed wages are not roads to satisfaction or to a better life. But this is the future of many honest, hardworking Canadians. And for this, the Harper gang is mostly to blame.

It’s not the foreign workers who are at fault. No, those at fault are the dishonest, any-thing-for-a-fast-buck exploiters and a government that bends the rules that allows for that exploitation. If the offenders involved were not governments or well-known restaurant chains but individuals named Bullneck Machinegun Alfonso or Lenny the Weasel they might be investigated for racketeering.

Canadians don’t want to work? That’s a lie. Big business knows that and so does this Harper regime. As for those caught abusing the system: boycott.

Scrap this program. In order to do that, we might first have to scrap Harper and his gang of vile anti-democratic bodies.

***

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

THE HARPER THUGS, THE McCARTHYITE AND THE LIAR

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. – George Jean Nathan

The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality. – Dante Aligheiri

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them—the apathy of human beings. – Helen Keller

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE McCARTHYITE

Just when one might begin to believe that the Harper gang could not sink deeper into the morass of slime, along comes Conservative Mark Adler to prove otherwise. Adler, some may recall, was a member in Harper’s entourage on the trip to Israel who was recorded whining about not being allowed to join Stephen Harper and other dignitaries at the Western Wall so that he could be photographed. “It’s an election…This is a million dollar shot.” He is also the same Adler who denied Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, an internationally known human rights lawyer and activist, entry into an event he, Adler, had co-hosted with an Israeli charity. Cotler was not party of the Harper entourage (Liberals and NDP were not invited), but he was in Israel at the time. The Jewish community was not impressed with Adler, but then, who could be? That bit of notoriety, however, evidently gave Adler an appetite for making more news and the opportunity to demonstrate even more clearly what a nasty tool he really is.

His latest attention-seeking foray provides additional ammunition of why the Harper gang is so dangerous to Canada, Canadians and Canadian democracy. Adler, it appears, has determined that some public servants may not be loyal enough to suit him. As a consequence, he is at work on a private member’s bill that has set its sights on the past political activities of civil servants, more specifically those working for our Canadian Parliamentary watchdogs. These include: Auditor General of Canada; Chief Electoral Officer; Official Language Commissioner; Privacy Commissioner; Information Commissioner; Senate Ethics Officer; Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; Lobbying Commissioner, and; Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (the list from The Ottawa Citizen, March 6, 2014). This move is a wholly partisan attack against civil servants. Worse, it is poisonous, a clear attempt to intimidate, browbeat, and subjugate. He is suggesting that any investigation of alleged Conservative wrongdoing by any of these agencies is likely politically motivated: public servants are out to get Conservatives. We’ve heard that whine before. Conservatives are not only bullies, they are cry babies.

Immediately upon learning of his member’s bill, I was reminded of another group from another era, fat-faced witch hunting thugs spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy, screaming and jabbing stubby fingers, spittle flying, into the faces of Americans while television cameras, rolling, captured the ritual of public shaming. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?”

Often, they were assured that, if they confessed and/or named others, they could return to their lives of normalcy. Many, frightened, facing loss of jobs and livelihood, the ending of careers, of friendships and families, broke down, confessed and named names even though many, many of them had done nothing wrong, were loyal Americans and had not been members of the Communist Party even when it was legal to be so. It didn’t save them. Men and women, soldiers, educators, scientists, writers, actors, directors and on and on were named, almost always without evidence, as communists in a pamphlet called Red Channels. That was the era of the communist witch hunt that began in the 1930s and culminated in the 1950s with a period of true darkness, of hysteria, of paranoia, suspicion, intimidation, self-abnegation, imposed loyalty oaths, and naming names. That was the period of McCarthyism, a period of heightened frenzy when men and women, in public and private lives, suddenly found themselves blacklisted, careers, livelihoods, friendships and families destroyed.

Many like Philip Loeb, an actor, committed suicide. Larry Parks, an up and coming actor, begged not to be forced to name others, but did so after prolonged abuse; his career was destroyed. Many Hollywood writers never worked again those who did were forced to write scripts under pseudonyms for a fraction of what they had previously earned though Hollywood moguls, American politicians and major news and television networks denied the blacklist existed. Some were haunted for life overcome by guilt for naming others. Some did stand up against the committees, refusing to answer questions put to them and questioning the right of the inquisitors to do so. Pete Seeger was one. He was blacklisted for decades. Playwright Lillian Hellman was another; she had been a communist, but refused to apologize and denounce others saying, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions…” Scores defiantly went to jail. Some fled to Europe. In 1965, a blacklisted screenwriter, Millard Lampell in accepting an Emmy was the first to publicly speak of what all of America denied, saying simply as he took the award: “I think I ought to mention I was blacklisted for ten years” (from Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky).

What Adler is proposing is the return to that political era of terror. To even suggest such makes him beneath contempt. He is not even a man; he is a chigger. What’s next? Loyalty oaths to the Conservative Party and public shaming? Hopefully, before we get that far, Mark Adler and his like-minded ilk will suffer the same ignominious fate as McCarthy and those filthy inquisitors he wishes to emulate.

This is the sewer in which the Harper gang, or one member at least, now intends to wallow as it investigates public servants. I can see the weasel Adler heading a committee, jabbing his stubby fingers into the faces of public servants screaming, spittle flying, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the NDP (Liberal, Green) Party?”

THE HARPER GANG

I should not be surprised. And yet I am. For this is not the first of such behaviour from the slimy Conservative nest. We have witnessed them engage in vile smear campaigns against such critics as Pat Stogran, past Veterans Ombudsman, and against Linda Keen, past president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. We have witnessed Joe Oliver assail environmentalists as “radicals” and “stooges”, and have heard ordinary Canadians who opposed the Conservative on-line spying omnibus bill accused of “being on the side of pedophiles.” Too, PMO staffers have been compelled to sign lifelong non-disclosure agreements that will silence them from ever discussing their time working for the PMO. Remember, this muzzling is for life.

This is not the free, open society Harper promised. This is Harper’s crew wearing jackboots. This must stop. Turning a blind eye will not save you or me. Reread those words by George Orwell with which I began this post. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever.”

You think it can’t happen here? It can and it has. There was a time when we had our own interment camps. They not only housed German and Italian prisoners of war but also loyal Canadian and immigrant unionist activists, conscientious objectors, as well as Canadian citizens of Japanese, Italian, German, and Ukrainian extraction targeted by the RCMP. Mark Adler’s private member’s bill should terrify you.

Alarmist? Perhaps. But staying silent should not be an option for those who believe in Canada and democracy.

What does it take to stir you into saying you’ve had enough, you don’t like what the Harper thugs are doing?

Apparently, that this regime is closed, secretive, abusive, and undeniably shameless in its partisan lust for power, is not enough to rouse you to make your voices heard. What of the fact that Conservatives have set out to ensure that the game is rigged in their favour come the next election? In the past, the Conservative Party has paid fines for violating the Elections Act and individual Conservatives have abused and ignored the rules, all this in aid of subverting the electoral process. Canadians have endured the Conservative “in-out” scams during elections, which allowed the Conservative Party to play a shell game that, illegally, made it possible to spend more during elections. We have had Conservative MPs who have refused to submit full expense claims to Elections Canada. One was Shelly Glover, promoted to minister of Canadian Heritage and Official languages. She was also caught attending a fundraising event in her riding where those in attendance were players in the arts and cultural community representing organizations which stood to gain from funding from her department. This is not mere pushing of the boundaries, but an outright violation of the rules.

Clearly Harper’s Conservatives do not care about “rules” any more than they do about integrity, honesty, democracy, or open government. We have had Conservative Bev Oda finally forced to leave because of questionable expense claims (made more than once). Conservative Peter Penashue resigned because of illegally accepting money from corporate donors while campaigning. This kind of election irregularity is not rare, certainly not rare for this regime; in fact, it appears to be standard practice for Harper’s Conservatives what with the robocalls misdirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, campaign workers posing as Elections Canada officials and charges laid against Conservative Deal del Mastro.

We know about these violations not because this thuggish Harper government was open, transparent and honest (as it had promised to be long ago; but then, that was long ago), but because these abuses were made public by our election watchdogs, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

But those, apparently, were the good old days. Those days of public accountability and public awareness are about to come to a screeching end. Unless we do something to stop the Harper gang, corruption and rigged elections will become an accepted fact of life as will the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Canadian voters, students, seniors, those unemployed with no fixed address, and the marginalized; in other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. This, along with redrawing electoral boundaries for 30 additional ridings, with a gerrymandered result all but guaranteed to garner another 22 seats for Conservatives, will almost certainly result in the return of this scummy crew with a voter support of even far less than what they had when elected last time, a little more than 39%.

One of the things Election Canada sought was the ability to compel witnesses to testify regarding knowledge of wrongdoing. That will not happen. In fact, Harper and his crew have set out to do the reverse. They have set out to severely weaken, if not eradicate, the investigative powers of Elections Canada altogether. Harper’s gang, with oily Poilievre, the vote-rigging architect of Bill C-23 taking the lead as the misnamed Minister of Democratic Reform, has moved the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which investigates fraud and reports to Parliament, from Elections Canada to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. This, too, should profoundly disturb Canadian citizens. There is a very real possibility, especially with Harper and his thugs at the helm, of government interference of the worst partisan kind that will ultimately cripple investigations and deny citizens the right to be informed. Harper and his gang could conceivably stop any investigation of alleged election fraud involving Conservatives while, of course, encouraging investigations of alleged fraud by members of the opposition parties. Think not? Think again.

Changes to the Elections Act means that the Canadian public need no longer be informed of investigations. For that to happen, the Commissioner of Canada Elections must first inform the object of an investigation he or she is being investigated. Then, in order to make it public, the Commissioner must ask the subject of investigation for permission to do so. How do you think that will turn out? True, penalties have been increased, even with threat of jail time. But those threats are meaningless when the risks of discovery and punishment are at near zero, when there is almost no likelihood of prosecution or of the public learning of the breaches to the Act. Pretty sweet, isn’t it, if you are a cheat? And we know this is a government with more than its share of cheats.

But, if you are a Conservative, especially an ethically challenged Conservative, you will love the new Act. Bill C-23 will no longer hold parties accountable for how party databases are used “without party permission.” That’s legalese (i.e., weasel words) for allowing party leaders to plead ignorance when their data is used to break the rules (and they will be). “Do what you have to, just don’t tell me!” Thus, if there is a repeat of the “Pierre Poutine” debacle, well, too bad, tough luck, sorry. Canadians will never know. Too, the Act will allow incumbents to appoint polling station supervisors during elections to handle disputes (presumably disagreements over vote counts and the voter fraud which Tories claim is rampant, etc.). Yeah, right. This is the Fair Elections Act. Designed by a committee of Conservative snakes. Poilievre claims that other candidates or their representatives can reject the polling station supervisor for another during disputes. Well, not likely. Volunteers helping to oversee the vote count are not likely to know this bit and, even if they did, might be hesitant to make waves especially if young and new to the game; these are usually volunteers, good citizens helping out because they believe in our system, not die-hard advocates or zealots. The thing is, why is that partisan provision there in the first place? As well, and this too should warm those stony, unethical Conservative hearts, Bill C-23 will also allow parties to fundraise from past donors while campaigning without having to count their telephone marketing costs as election campaign expenses. Elections Canada will have no way of knowing if what the parties report will be accurate or not because of systemic loopholes. This, of course, will help the richest parties. Can you guess which one? Too, while the revised Act allows for compliance audits, Elections Canada is barred from producing “documents proving that its financial statements are on the up and up” (The Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 2014)

Not worried yet? If not, why not?

Harper and his thugs have attempted to convince us that voter election fraud is widespread. Yet they have given no numbers to support that claim. However, because they say it is, and because they have the majority, the Bill passed in the House of Commons. There has been no public consultation, no listening to the opposition, just the ham-fisted ramming through of the Bill. The voter information cards and vouching (someone confirming you are who you and the card say you are) will no longer be accepted as sufficient for ID purposes at the polls. Tens of thousands will be denied the right to vote and they will include members of the student, aboriginal, senior, transient, and homeless communities.

It should, by now, be obvious to even the most ardent supporter of the Conservatives that this Bill is a blatant attempt to rig the electoral process with a desired outcome. That is a corruption of the electoral process. The game has been rigged, the unscrupulous and their supporters will feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity — and they will. Thanks to Harper and his gang, changes to the Act will ensure that cheating and corruption will become an entrenched, accepted fact of our electoral process.

Still don’t believe it? You still believe Harper and his gang good, honest, honourable folks?

THE LIAR

A few days ago, the NDP had tried to open up more debate on the Poilievre so-called  Fair Elections Act. Harper, with his majority, denied that option. The NDP also moved to have Brad Butt, Conservative MP cited for contempt of Parliament for misleading Parliament. Again, with their majority, the Harper thugs put an end to that.

So why is this important?

Well, for several reasons. Brad Butt is a Conservative MP who stood up in Parliament on February 6th and told a story of what he had seen. He even went through some of the motions of what he had witnessed from miming citizens in an apartment building throwing away voter information cards and campaign workers retrieving them. The story had the effect of bolstering Conservative claims of voter fraud. Remember, Butt said he saw this. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to others who would then be vouched for at polling stations (presumably by supporters of the opposition parties, never, never Conservative workers cross their stony hearts and crooked fingers). Brad Butt claimed, twice, to having personally witnessed the cards being discarded and picked up. So he said.

Two and a half weeks later, however, he recanted the story. He said he had “misspoke”.

But even that was not true. Regardless of the Conservative spin, Butt did not misspeak. He outright lied. He lied in Parliament; he lied to Canadians. Remember, he said he had seen this himself. Even so, the Conservative majority denied the NDP bid to look into the claims of Brad Butt, the self-confessed liar. Instead, they circled the wagon and protected the liar. This is the Conservative version of truth and transparency. For them, this passes for democracy. Lie about something, retract and suffer no consequences. In fact, Stephen Harper stood up in the House and said that Butt was to be “commended” for “voluntarily” disclosing what he did not have to disclose. In other words, he was saying that, thanks to Brad Butt, the liar, the public has learned that Brad Butt, the liar, had lied.

Are we in Alice in Wonderland? That is the Harper gang’s twisted version of morality. How can we accept anything Harper offers when it comes to matters touching upon ethics, integrity and honesty? This is the same man who, in the House last year, claimed to have looked at Pamela Wallin’s expense claims and said of them, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” We know how that turned out. Too, when acknowledging Nigel Wright had written a cheque to pay of Mike Duffy’s debt, Harper claimed that his then Chief of Staff had done an “honourable thing.” Snake oil salesman Poilievre went one better. Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing,” he said. So now we have an idea of what Conservatives consider honourable. Do wrong, deny, apologize when found out, move on. What is honourable about “owning up” to wrongdoing that should not have taken place in the first place? Or owning up because you have been caught lying? Or owning up because you fear you might be caught? Brad Butt is no hero. He is a liar; he said so. Harper and gang are no heroes; they back liars, they are liars. They lie, deny, move on.

There is nothing “honourable” about these people. They deserve all of my contempt and they have it.

The behaviour of Brad Butt and Harper’s response to it, clearly demonstrates the incredible disrespect Conservatives hold for Democracy and Canadians. If Butt had a shred of shame, an iota of decency, a jot of respect for the parliamentary system and himself, he would resign. It’s not going to happen.

And what can one say of Mark Adler, the narcissistic, pretentious, witch hunter who would emulate Joseph McCarthy? What he proposes is too vile too contemplate; it is contemptible, moronic and dangerous.

Lies, distortions, and the narcissism of self-certainty have led this Harper gang of jackals to the nadir of the cesspool. They have corrupted our electoral system. Far too many of us have been silent for far too long. They cannot be trusted with our democracy.

They have set out to rig the game. In doing so, they have betrayed Canadians.

And they have the nerve to point fingers elsewhere.

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND JUSTIN TRUDEAU: TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE AT WAR

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

    Agreed to have a battle;

For Tweedledum said Tweedledee

    Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,

    As black as a tar-barrel;

Which frightened both the heroes so,

    They quite forgot their quarrel

                        – Lewis Carroll

I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others. – Thomas Jefferson

Our inequality materializes our upper classes, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class. – Mathew Arnold

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE SLAUGHTER

For some, Justin Trudeau’s sudden and totally surprising decision to expel the 32 liberal senators from the federal liberal caucus at the end of January, following months after his announcement that MPs would post expense travel and hospitality claims, was the clearest evidence to them that he had the true makings of a leader: he could keep a secret, make decisions, and act upon them in a ruthless fashion. Others are not so sure. It was true the move took almost everyone by surprise, not only because of its brutal suddenness, but also because of its sweeping implication of indictment, judgement and verdict: none of the senators affected, most of them liberal loyalists to the core, were consulted, and all were treated with equal shabbiness without regard to stature, status, and quality. Repudiated by Trudeau and the liberal party, tainted, Trudeau’s denials withstanding, apparently for drinking from the same public well poisoned by conservative Harper appointees Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and liberal Mac Harb, the senators were no longer welcome. Stunned, bloodied, tarred and abandoned by their own, still calling themselves liberals, they must have wondered what had hit them.

What was the message intended in that massive expulsion? Was it a George W. Bush moment, Trudeau saying, “I’m the decider” and flexing his muscles lest there be any doubt? Or was the move, as Trudeau suggests, the first step towards eliminating partisanship and returning the chamber to the days of sober second thought. Don’t bet on it. Some have offered that the move was merely a pre-emptive strike, in anticipation of the senate report to be released by the auditor general, Michael Ferguson, Trudeau’s desperate effort to dissociate himself and the liberal party from the seemingly endless Senate scandal in expectation that revelations would show that skimming from the public trough is not merely the purview of the three Harper appointees and the lone liberal prodigal. I would bet on that. Almost certainly, even if inadvertently, the move has effectively stigmatized the reputations of all liberal senators in the eyes of the public. What does Trudeau know or anticipate? It was neither right nor just but it was dam clever. The ball was thrown in Harper’s court. The buzz was immediate: “bombshell’ (National Post), “tactical masterstroke” (The Province). Trudeau was indeed the decider, the boss, the man in control. To Andrew Coyne, Trudeau “is the liberal party” (National Post, February 23, 2014). Some claimed it to be the most significant change to the senate since its inception. Bold it was; Trudeau had achieved the buzz he craved and needed; he had proven himself one tough bastard. Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP, the only party that has consistently sought the abolition of the Senate, had apparently been caught flatfooted. The gadflies, those lovers of eye candy over substance, were in love with Trudeau all over again, only more so; his ratings soared. He had done something exceptional; they just didn’t know what or its significance, but it looked and sounded good.

THE SPIN

Smearing and sacrificing others for one’s own ambition is not new in politics. Harper has made an art of such behaviour throwing scores of individuals under buses, some deserving, some not: if you’re not for them, you’re the enemy. Trudeau has not reached that stage; nevertheless, in aping Harper in the manner with which he dispatched the senators, he demonstrated that liberals and conservatives are both sides of the same coin, each as self-serving and as single-minded in the pursuit of raw power as the other: get in the way, you’re toast. If it’s legal, if it’s effective, if it’s headlines and boosts one’s image, anything goes. This is war; there are always casualties.

From the day he decided to run and was elected liberal leader, it has always been Trudeau’s party. While there had been a few naysayers within and without, liberal fortunes almost immediately reached new, dizzying heights: few had doubts this was the new saviour of the Party even though it appeared he had little to offer except charm, youth and inexperience; for the public, this apparently is enough. Few had doubts those soft Tory supporters, disenchanted with the Harper gang, would eventually drift back to the liberal fold. Thus the cult of personality, with the name of another Trudeau, had been reborn. Still, there were those niggling, irritating, doubters, the pragmatists who wanted only to know what he offered that was new and different, what were his party’s policies, what new ideas he brought, and where he stands on certain issues: abortion, assisted suicide, proportional representation, unions, public servants, healthcare, power sharing between federal and provincial governments?

Policies? Ideas? Well, they can wait. Enjoy the moment, let the world love him.

For liberals, any glimmer of appearing to be open, transparent, and honest, is seized upon and brandished with the smugness of righteousness. When that glimmer happens to be from Trudeau, that sparkling darling of the media and the public, as when he “reported” on himself for a “mistake” in claiming $840 to which he was not entitled, the liberals went into paroxysm of self-congratulatory ecstasy. He had put himself on the line, revealed that he, too, was capable of weakness, of making mistakes, was close to being just like them; it was risky; what if others saw him as just another politico taking the high road only because he was about to be caught or exposed. Not to worry; the risk paid off, Trudeau was a hero, a virtuous, self-effacing young man in the dirty world of politics. He was willing to suffer the slings for admitting to making expense claims he should not have made. Oh, how everyone loved this, especially the liberals; what further proof of integrity was needed?

But how had this happened in the first place? As reported by CBC’s Leslie MacKinnon, these were “errors” “inadvertently” made when he used “one of his parliamentary travel points to pay for a trip to a paid speaking engagement in 2012…” The mistake was “due to a ‘human error’ by his staff”. How could that be when Trudeau had, in June of 2013, stated unequivocally he had not used parliamentary resources for his public speaking events? As Mulcair pointed out, in that same CBC report, “he’s stolen a page from Stephen Harper’s playbook – deny, deny, deny – until you get caught and then you apologize” (CBC, Leslie MacKinnon, Jan. 16, 2014). Errors. Inadvertence. We’ve heard it all before from Harper and his crew time and again when caught in a lie or breaking the rules: “it’s an opposition smear campaign”; “it never happened”;  “I made a mistake”; “someone on my staff messed up”. No one owns anything, least of all his or her own wrongs.

I have never held any hope for better from Harper and have not been disappointed. There was just something about him I have never liked and it had more to do than with him being a conservative, intransigent and relentlessly partisan, though these were and are more than reasons enough for me to detest him; it was the folks with whom he surrounded himself, Pierre Poilievre the architect of the odious so-called Fair Elections Act meant to rig votes and disenfranchise tens of thousands to the advantage of the conservatives, and Dean del Mastro, Shelly Glover, Vic Toews, Rob Nicholson, Peter MacKay, Joe Oliver, Rob Nicholson, and on and on. Vicious, partisan, self-serving, mean-spirited and, more than a few, truly ethically challenged.

We all know about Harper’s loud denunciations of the liberals for their lack of openness and transparency when they held power and we know of his avowals to do better if elected. Well we have learned over the years that those were just words, his fingers crossed and his tongue forked. Instead of openness and transparency, we have in Harper and his regime the most secretive, deceitful, vicious, corrupt and anti-democratic government in recent memory. Most shocking is not that he and his conservative crew had early on shown signs of holding the electoral and democratic processes in contempt, but that they have actively and systematically acted on that contempt without any appreciable drop in their core base of support: the “in-out” scam; robocalls, illegal campaign claims, illegal corporate donations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process; had the new Bill, C-23, been in effect, it is doubtful we would have learned of these. But even all that is not enough for the conservatives. Devoid of shame, decency and credibility, in the full, proud awareness of their own vile corruptness and clearly content to spread their poison, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of these hypocritical, anti-democratic monsters, not content with the gerrymandered extra seats they will gain with the redrawn boundaries have, with the recent, offensively misnamed Fair Elections Act, set out to completely rig the game in their favour, striping Elections Canada of the right to investigate campaigning fraud and inform the public.  Still, even that is not enough for them. Having eliminated as acceptable IDs the election information card and vouching, that is, declarations by others that you are who you and the card say you are, in place for decades, conservative Brad Butt, to buttress the justification for doing so, made the claim that he had seen campaign workers pick up voter cards discarded by recipients in an apartment building. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to other people who would then be vouched for at a polling booth. There he was, standing up in the House offering, while miming the actions of those nefarious workers that would have done the Gong Show proud, a vivid description of what he, personally, had witnessed. The implication was clear, based on that one sighting, voter fraud was rampant and he had seen it with his own two crooked eyes. The thing is, it was all a lie. Bogus. A fabrication. An untruth. Fiction. Later, in the House, by his own admission, he stated he had witnessed no such thing. He said he had “misspoke”, he had been “mistaken”. Misspoke! Mistaken! About what he had publicly and loudly claimed to have personally witnessed with his own lying eyes? Butt’s ludicrous but damaging story may have changed but not my opinion of him; to me, he will always be a lying horse’s ass. If it’s not a staffer’s fault, and it usually is with conservatives, it’s a “mistake”. But this was no error. It was a deliberate attempt to deceive and mislead in order to bolster conservative claims of widespread voter fraud as justification for the changes to the Elections Act. Come hell or high water, the conservatives would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, those least likely to vote for them. When asked in the house about the figures regarding voter fraud, Harper could give no concrete answer to the amount saying that Elections Canada, the very body he intends to muzzle and deprive of investigative powers, could give the numbers. The conservatives just know, they have this gut feeling, this thing Stephen Colbert called “truthiness”, that the poor, the elderly, those on the margins are cheats, liars, fraudsters. They never, ever look into their own befouled nest. Bill C-23 will be the real Harper legacy for future generations: it is a template of vileness and corruption to be admired and emulated by like-minded politico scum. Deceitful, dishonest, detestable! For conservatives, all that is beside the point; to them, all that matters is that we believe they are economic wizards. They promise to erase the debt and have a surplus expected to be of about $10 billion just in time for the 2015 election. And they will, off the backs of 19,000 public servant jobs and public service retirees, with closures of Veterans’ offices across the country, by withholding $3.1 billion from the DND (to be paid back later by future generations), by slashing services and ignoring the infrastructure. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Economic wizards? Yes, economic with the truth, economic with the facts, economic in ethics and integrity.

THE SEARCH

On most things, we know where Harper’s conservatives stand and for whom (not you and I). We know they are self-serving, venal and absolutely ruthless; theirs has been a quest for POWER and, having achieved it, keeping it, by any means. We know all critics are viewed, not just with suspicion, but also as enemies. We know Harper’s ambition has been to exterminate the liberal party. There is nothing admirable or noble in any of this though one would not know this by the strength of core conservative support.

But where does Trudeau stand? Where are the liberal ideals, vision, and policy? Referencing Jack Layton more than once, Trudeau talks of hope. Hope is not enough. Where is the beef?

Ask that of any of his supporters. Oh some might speak of his promise to legalize marijuana and the liberal wish to legalize assisted suicide, but most would simply blink before the lights went out. They don’t know because Trudeau himself doesn’t appear to know or, if he does, he’s keeping it to himself. Even his stand on assisted suicide is uncertain; it seems to be the position of liberal members rather than of Trudeau who, according to reports, had left the convention during the vote.

Blinded by the brilliance of his smile, supporters might have also become deaf to the emptiness of his offerings. To quote Gertrude Stein, “There’s no there there.” Stein was referring to her home in Oakland, California, which had been razed and, to all intents, no longer existed for her. I believe Trudeau is a decent man, but that is it: as of yet, there is no there there. Harper and his crew, on the other hand, have lots of substance, but it’s all in the form of meanness, spite, vindictiveness, and self-serving venality. No, nothing admirable about them.

Perhaps, in time, Trudeau will prove there is more to him than I believe; as he stands today, there’s nothing that suggests he should be the next prime minster any more than Harper should be now. I bear no grudge for Trudeau, he seems a likable fellow, but I do not see the maturity and depth one should expect, nay, demand, of a leader. Anyone who goes for a cheap laugh, as he did on a Quebec program with the referencing of the troubles in the Ukraine, with the loss of many lives, tying it to the Russian hockey game at the Olympics, needs to grow up. Now I do not for a moment believe that was callousness on Trudeau’s part. Rather, it was the callowness of youth and inexperience. Of course, Conservative Chris Alexander and other conservatives were quick to leap on their high horses indignantly harrumphing against Trudeau as clear evidence that, in the world of global politics, he would be a lightweight disaster. Maybe. But this comes from members of a government whose “economic diplomacy” allows them to do business with regimes notorious for human rights violations and where child brides are legal. These are the members whose government will not fund organizations that provide safe abortions for war rape victims and forced child brides. That is the obscenity, not Trudeau’s careless attempt at levity.

To his credit, Trudeau publicly apologized and he did so again to the Ukrainian ambassador. But only after much noise from the other parties though liberal MPs staunchly declared he had no reason to apologize. When he did so, they appeared uneasily subdued. But Trudeau did apologize and that should not be diminished. I can’t image Harper or his thugs doing so as easily. Truth, doubt, self-criticism, self-examination. Useful for the children of light but meaningless for Harper and his gang.

THE STAR

Trudeau promises to be different and better. Last summer, he and the liberals proudly declared that they, MPs and senators, would voluntarily post their travel and hospitality expenses and challenged the other parties to do the same. Supporters immediately trumpeted the move as a seismic leap into openness and transparency. The conservatives accepted the challenge but the NDP dismissed it as a stunt insisting that such postings would be meaningless without verification, which would necessitate the involvement of the auditor general. As it stood, the NDP correctly pointed out, the Trudeau “stunt” allowed MPs and senators to cherry pick what would be declared and revealed. On Monday (Feb 24), when the liberals released their expenses for the period from September to December 31, that’s exactly what was revealed: the NDP had it right, the postings were incomplete and did little to inform the public of the true costs of the travel and hospitality claims. Surprisingly, when the conservative senators posted their claims, they had done better than the liberals; they had included the costs of their spouses. The ex-liberal senators did not saying the information included were based on what MPs currently release. Liberals promise to add spousal costs in the future. Different? Better? Certainly meaningless if meant to demonstrate openness and transparency. But what is revealed should give pause to taxpayers. Do we really need the Senate? What does Trudeau think?

Well, Trudeau had a chance to let us know his thinking on many issues last weekend with the liberal party policy convention. Unfortunately, it got off to a rocky start.

Among the stars at the convention was one on whom Trudeau appears to pin much hope, his senior advisor on foreign policy and defence, retired, much decorated, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie considered a shoo-in liberal candidate which may disturb some liberals who took Trudeau at his word when he said that nominations for candidates would be open and free. He was to speak at the convention introduced by retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, another much respected veteran and one-time liberal senator until he and his colleagues were booted from the liberal caucus. Leslie did get to speak but Dallaire did not do the introduction . He was no longer wanted or needed. Shades of Harper. Is this the road to take with one of Canada’s heroes?

But, if Trudeau and Leslie were expecting an easy ride, the conservatives had a surprise for them. The day before the convention began, the government had leaked documents revealing that star Andrew Leslie might prove a problem for the liberals. Taxpayers had funded his move to a new home within the same city and only a few blocks from his first home for a cost of $72,000. Clearly this was no ordinary move, no ordinary bill. Given the Senate scandal and the public’s sudden concern for how their tax dollars was being spent, the conservatives saw their opportunity and took it and pounced; the NDP joined in. Leslie was just another big spending liberal living high on the public trough. Immediately, the liberals were screaming foul and defending their man. ‘“It’s quite clear that this government is ready to be vicious and ruthless with anyone, even with a Canadian hero, that dares disagree with their ideology and their approach,” Trudeau told reporters…’ (CBC, February 18).

Leslie’s move was not illegal. He considers it a “benefit” for his years of service in the military. Perfectly right, he’s entitled to his entitlements would say those more concerned with the niceties of legalese than the naïve niceties of perception. For them, judgement, optics, even the ethics, of claiming such an entitlement for a move of only a few blocks within the same city at such an exorbitant cost to taxpayers, is of little concern. The liberals, however, see this as a concerted conservative smear campaign. Of course it is. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that there is something unseemly about accepting such largesse at taxpayer expense. Seventy-two thousand dollars. Seven years ago, my wife and I moved from Richmond, B.C. to a small town in Ontario east of Ottawa. We hired a reputable trucking company that estimated the total weight of our goods to be slightly over 8000 lbs. The charge for the move, three months storage, for our flight, and final delivery to our new home came to slightly over $13,200. For an additional $1,100, we also shipped our car. Even accounting for inflation, even taking in that Leslie’s belongings may have exceeded the weight of ours and that there may have been costs that we did not incur, it is difficult to imagine how the $72,000 move in the same town can be justified or excused. Yet the liberals did exactly that. Their surprise and indignation, while clearly political posturing, is misplaced and should lead them to look at Andrew Leslie in a new light. This was the new and better? It was a “benefit” to which he was entitled, he claimed. Maybe so. However, because one is entitled to something doesn’t always make it right that he take it. The hypocrisy all round, from the conservative leak to the sputtering liberal outrage, is breathtaking and unseemly. Everyone seems to be in on the take. What’s in it for me? With what can I get away? One needs only look at the behaviour of conservatives Bev Oda and Peter Penashue, both gone, of Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Deal del Mastro and the three Harper Senate appointees. Offensive as it may be, Leslie’s moving claim was legal at the least.

Leslie and the liberals have their supporters. These charge that going after Leslie on this issue is tantamount to going after our military veterans. Give me a break. We know that’s what conservatives do; this is another matter entirely. Canadians should be more concerned about equity rather than defending what is clearly questionable. There is the letter of the law and there is the spirit of the law. Unfortunately, Leslie opted to follow the letter rather than the spirit. And that is a shame. Canadians should be asking themselves this: Why are certain military retirees like Leslie entitled to make outrageous moving claims while hundreds of other military personnel are suddenly thrust into bankruptcy selling homes for tens of thousands of dollars less than their value because of forced transfers? These military men and women have been abandoned by the government, the military and the public. It is this that should elicit howls of outrage rather than a rush of support for Leslie.

THE SCAM

Leslie and the liberals have accused the Tories of going after Leslie for purely partisan reasons because of his role as Liberal advisor to Trudeau. No kidding. From day one, Harper’s gang has demonstrated that no vile, dirty trick is too vile or too dirty not to be used including vote rigging, making it easier for wealthy parties (i.e. the conservative party) to make more telephone calls without claiming them as expenses, and striping Elections Canada of the power to investigate campaign fraud and reporting on them. Harper’s thugs, in effect, have entrenched the right to cheat during elections. So why the (gasp) surprise? Even before the convention was to begin, the Toronto Star had released documents outlining Conservative plans to undermine Trudeau. And they did, with Leslie. That is in their nature. For Tories, smearing opponents is a Pavlovian response; to criticize them is to immediately have them slavering and straining against the chain to get at you. In this instance, reprehensible as the tactic is, vile as their motives may be, which have nothing to do with informing Canadians or saving them money but everything to do with discrediting Leslie, the public has every right to know of these expenses. But, we should also be aware of the source and of the reason why it was made public. No one walks away clean on this.

Yet there is something else about Leslie that is just as telling as his claiming of his entitlements. While speaking at the convention, he had suggested that the conservatives had courted him and he had rejected them. But that wasn’t quite the story. According to the oily anti-democratic minister of democratic reform, Poilievre, it was Leslie who had approached them, which Leslie appears to confirm. Surely Trudeau could not have been happy with this turn. On CBC’s The House with Evan Solomon, Trudeau, while claiming there had been “no active courting” of Leslie, had this to say of Leslie: “He had a range of conversations with different people, different political parties and I’m quite pleased that after reflection…he chose to serve his country through the Liberal Party” (CBC, February 22, 2014). Even with something as straight forward as this, those politicos have to spin: where is the pride in being second choice or in having a star candidate who is clearly shopping for the best deal – for himself? Leslie is no kid; one would think he would know which party most represented his philosophical/political leanings. Apparently not. Perhaps he had difficulty in differentiating between conservative and liberal ideology, which is easy enough considering how much they agree on when it comes to the Keystone XL Pipeline and helping themselves to their entitlements. Of course it could just be as simple as this: Leslie sees the liberals as the sure bet for next election, and he’s a winner. Or so the liberals are betting. Political philosophy? That can wait.

Leslie “chose to serve his country through the Liberal Party” Trudeau said. Leslie was a victim of a smear, Trudeau said, because he “dares disagree with their ideology and their approach,” It’s painfully obvious and sad because so patently untrue. This is to what politics has come, a star candidate willing to palm himself off to the highest bidder and the buyer gilding the lily. If a rookie to politics, Leslie sure acts like a pro: he may not know what he believes but he certainly knows what he wants. Crass opportunism has degraded politics to its present state. It has less to do with serving one’s country than serving one’s self. And that is a shame.

We have seen too much of that from the conservatives, those who cherish no belief but the economic Darwinism of capitalism: What’s in it for me? With the certitude of their own superiority, Harper and crew are not prone to doubt or self-examination, why should they accept such from others? They don’t. The liberals show every sign of following the Harper example and that, too, is a shame.

Hope. Different and better. Nice sentiments. Even rumblings of the rebirth of the Just Society invoked by father Pierre Trudeau. Platitudes and public stupidity appear to be the winning combination conservatives rely upon. It appears the Liberals do as well.

Would Trudeau be a better leader than Harper? I don’t know. I know this: turning a blind eye to the failings of one of your own while zeroing in on the same failings in others is nothing but hypocrisy. Too, demonstrating the ability for ruthlessness is not necessarily a quality of leadership but, rather, a demonstration of power fuelled by fear and the desire to impress. That’s a sign of weakness.

I dislike Harper. I don’t like what he and his crew have done. As a leader, I don’t believe he is fit to lead an outhouse brigade. But then, there I go, wrong again. He does. They govern this nation.

I do believe Trudeau a better person than anyone in Harper’s gang, but how much better do you have to be to eclipse bottom-feeders?

We need a change, a real change. Conservatives and liberals rule as if by divine right; they have been the only parties that have governed since Canada became a nation. We need to change how we vote so that the results are truly fair representation. Though Harper and gang would have us believe otherwise, there is more to governance than “economic diplomacy” and rigging the game. Nor is it enough to turn to Justin Trudeau’s liberals with the same platitudes we heard from Harper; liberals are just a softer image of the same message Harper offers. Surely we have had enough of that.

We could do a lot worse than Mulcair and the NDP. We have done. We still are.

***

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

HOW STEPHEN HARPER AND ROB FORD CAME TO WRITE MY BLOG

France fell because there was corruption without indignation. – Romain Rolland

Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life. The hair-raising revelations of skulduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations. – Charles Francis Adams

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHY THIS BLOG

When I started this blog last March, I had no idea where it was going or if it was going. After ten months, I have some idea of its intent, but I have no clear notion of who is reading, if anyone. I write because I believe these things matter, perhaps not what I am saying, but what I write about. They matter to me, and they should you, not because I say so, or some personality you admire says so. For good or ill, politics and the men and women you and I put into office, shape our lives and affect what we do and how we do it; those we elect can work for us and if we are fortunate in our choices, can accomplish great things for the nation at large. The obverse is also true; they can just as easily turn against us if we are too timid in our choices, if we blindly accept all that they offer, or are simply disinterested, taking on the role of mere bystander who doesn’t even vote. Let the others do our lifting while we sleep. But, if and when we waken, it may, by then, of course, be too late.

As citizens, we have a duty to be engaged; it is not enough to vote for the candidate with the brightest smile, the most perfect hair or who makes the shiniest, if ultimately emptiest, of promises and often at the expense of others; we have had too much of that and it hasn’t worked well for us. It is up to us to make sure we are informed, that we know for what our representatives and their parties stand. Too, we must decide what it is we expect of governments and our leaders; we must chose wisely, hope that our elected bodies possess a vision, belief, and love for this nation that is broader and more humane than those of us who elect them. There are already too many elected, who are just like us: venal, sly, glib, easily bought, dishonest, hypocritical, deceitful, power hungry, vain, petty, vindictive, and simply just downright stupid. We need better people than ourselves, dreamers and doers, individuals who know it’s not enough to make promises that will never be kept, who serve no special interests save that of the nation and all its citizenry. The mere possession of the label of MP or the title of one’s ministry does not entitle any politician to my respect; what does is dignified behaviour, integrity, ethics, courage, wisdom, decency, a sense of shame, honour, passion, compassion, the ability to know right from wrong and to opt for right over wrong, openness and transparency, truthfulness and honesty, and a global view in which even the least worthy among us deserves and receives more and better than the back of the hand. With Harper and his crew, I have seen little, if any, of what I demand of my government. Voices of dissent that question and demand better of our leaders are not a threat to a civil, tolerant society but signs of a just, thriving community. Indeed, those voices should be welcomed and encouraged; that is how we grow into a civilized world.

It is not all about tax cuts, balanced budgets and jobs, almost always at the expense of public service jobs, of our healthcare, infrastructure, and support systems (the ice storm affecting the east coast and Toronto are just a hint of what’s in store when our hospitals, government resources, highways, overpasses and water all fail at once); a government that ignores the needs of the lowest, meanest, and poorest of us is a government of which to be wary for it is impoverished: scapegoating is just a step away and we already have that with Harper and his gang who appear to suspect all those on welfare and collecting EI of being potential fraudsters and all critics as enemies. Nor is a vibrant, healthy democracy all about what seems to preoccupy far too many of us these days: What’s in it for me? That view is odiously narrow, reflective of a self-absorbed vacuum, narcissism without shame or limits; it diminishes one’s life and it diminishes one’s self. Such an individual could as easily live in a darkened closet for all the concerns he has for the world out there.

We need better than what we presently have. That is not to say that there are no very capable representatives to be found in all political parties: they are not the toadies, the Party-or-Nothing hacks but, rather, are their own persons, individuals who respect their leaders, their parties, their voters, and themselves enough to stand alone if they feel they must on issues of ethics and principles but always for the greater good rather than the parochial. For the Harper regime in particular, it is almost impossible for an MP to oppose his leader without suffering severely for doing so. It is no more a sign of weakness to listen to the minority than it is a sign of strength to ignore the voices of the majority. Wisdom is always called for; it may occasionally lead to justice as long as partisanship is left at the door.

Still, all the above doesn’t explain why I began this exercise. Nor the fact that when I first took notice of Harper when he became leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, I sensed in him a man who was petty, vindictive, evasive and anti-democratic. I wish it were not so, but I believe history has borne this out. But even that wasn’t enough to convince me to take up the hazards of posting a blog.

No, what convinced me to join the world of white noise, so to speak, was not the incredible mismanagement of Harper’s governance, but the evidence that, in spite of corporate favouritism, of acting as shills for oil companies, of corruption, all the scapegoating, all the devious omnibus bills in which legislation is sneaked into law without public consultation and consent (he does have the majority and does not hesitate to use it as a hammer), he still manages to garner a high approval rating from his core base of supporters. It is an astounding feat, perhaps not as astounding and incomprehensible as that by Rob Ford, but astounding nevertheless for its durability.

Here are individuals who have made a mockery of democracy. Harper who ignored the wishes of the majority of Canadians with the destruction of the Long Gun Registry, who was cited for contempt of parliament and blissfully solidified that contempt at almost every turn as his Conservatives paid fines for their role in the robocalls scandals and with their attempts to subvert the electoral process by misdirecting voters to non-existence polls. And there is Ford, that clueless, happy-go-lucky, crack smoking, serial liar and daily apologizer, a proud associate of criminals, an ignoramus and buffoon, and laughing stock to the world who, somehow, manages to hold the support of an astounding forty per cent of Toronto voters. How is that possible? Are people insane, stupid, asleep, indifferent, dense, thick, uncaring, moronic? Do ethics and integrity and sense of shame account for nothing?

The answer appears to be a resounding: Yes.

I have repeatedly said we need better than we have. Not just better politicians, but better voters.

Where is the shame? We have seen clips of ecstatic people posing beside Ford as if he was a rock star and they had won the lottery. We have heard them vow to vote for him come next election, claiming, “He’s just like us” and “He tells it as it is.” The first may well be true, he is like them and that’s not good, but the last is darkly laughable: he lies, is proven a liar, apologizes, and repeats the cycle of lying, being proven a liar and apologizing. Are those “fans” (can they really be “voters”) blind, deaf and dumb? Is this their hero, this vulgarian, this mountain of flesh, ignorance and hubris? Evidently. Little wonder some of us are revolted and filled with a little more than fear. These are the barbarians leading the charge and they threaten to bring us all done. None of this is cute or harmless or acceptable. Those who insist that Ford’s crack use, public drunkenness, his urinating in a public park, and his criminal friends are private matters having nothing to do with his public life must live in another world: Ford’s crude escapades exposes the man in all his inanity, shallowness and unfitness for office; his public and private personae are one and the same. One only had to watch the thuggish behaviour of Rob Ford and his brother in the municipal chamber as council voted to strip him of some of his powers to know that something is clearly wrong. This is not mere arrogance, indifference or stupidity on the part of Rob Ford; it is pure intimidation in the form of thuggery. If Ford is unrepentant and indifferent, it is because he knows the public is indifferent to all his crassness, hectoring, and insanity. It’s all about them: What’s in it for me? He is as impervious to shame as his voters. To adopt these loudmouth cruds as one of their own is no charming feat to crow about. And yet, they could be on to something; to put it crudely, Ford and his supporters are apparently constructed of only two moving parts, mouths and assholes and both interchangeable. There appears to be no brain.

I know that is offensive and very harsh. But I have had enough of politicians like the Ford brothers who almost make Harper and his gang look good. Almost. But all of them are shamelessly and heedlessly reckless with the reputation of their offices and with the trust they have squandered and abused. They are deaf and unseeing except to their own greed, ambitions and desires, too concerned with obtaining power and clinging to it, too preoccupied with satisfying the demands of their friends and their own hidden agendas; if they ever did, they no longer work for the interests of all members of society but choose, rather, to pander to those core supporters and special interests, those who can buy and be bought for very little. They are aware that those wavering on the fringes can always be lured with flashy gewgaws and promises of tax cuts. Each, in his own way, Harper and the Fords, has the same toxic, debilitating effect on our democracy. Eventually, those who once truly believed in the integrity of the electoral process simply tune out, exhausted and beyond caring surrendering to the fate they believe inevitable. That has to end. Perhaps that is why I continue to write; I haven’t reached yet that point.

ONE MAN’S POISON

While I do appreciate support, if silence can be construed as such, I have not embarked on this business to win the approval of readers who happen to agree with what I say. I write in hopes of reaching those folks who continue to support Harper and the Fords who offer governance of only the most loathsome kind, appealing only to the narrowest of interests almost guaranteed to appease and please their core base of supporters: tax cuts, guns, abortion, crime. It is these folks who help win them elections, the facts be damned.

Yet, while I believe I do not write to win approval, I feel I must address the concerns of one reader who clearly does not much care for what I have to say or how I say it. His name is Evan Treit.

Last October 9th, 2013, I posted an article, entitled, STEPHN HARPER: WOLF AMONG SHEEP. In response, Mr. Treit posted his own comments on October 12th (evantreit.blogspot.ca/), a momentous event of which I was completely unaware until I came across his observations on December 9th, which, while fair comment, puzzled me. He appeared surprised that my blog took a particular stance. He wrote: “An additional cue that points to the political stance of the blog is found in the titles above the paragraphs” and he cites the titles from the post (you can look them up in the archives). I don’t know why cues were needed though they are there in abundance throughout my blog. I hide nothing of my viewpoint regarding Harper and his gang. My postings are devoted to Canadian political commentary, not for the purported objectivity of journalism. There can be no mistaking how I regard Harper and his crew. In fact, I began my first posting, March 28, 2013, with these words: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to democracy.” No individual could reasonably mistake my sentiments. Since I wrote those words, nothing has changed to cause me to regret writing them. I make no claim for objectivity; that said, I have sought to be as accurate and truthful as possible; there is no reason to make up stuff; the reality is bad enough. As for saying something positive about Harper and his gang, well, I will leave that to Mr. Treit and others. This is not a fan club.

Evan Treit also appeared affronted by my usage of the descriptive “bullshit” and by my labelling of some Conservative MPs as “bobbleheads”. Yes, again, that may appear severe, but my intent is to convey in the clearest way possible my disapproval of a government that is secretive, hostile to criticism, that is, itself, crude in its methods of smearing opponents and critics. There is no finesse in how Harper and his thugs govern; they threaten and bully and dismiss all voices that speak out in opposition. “Bullshit” is a mild epithet to describe much of what they do. I can think of many more offensive words. As for calling certain Conservative MPs bobbleheads, what can I say? Anyone watching the various political panels on the news channels will see exactly what I see: government parliamentary secretaries responding to questions on script. Regardless of what question is posed, or the context, the government talking heads, appearing to be barely sentient recorders, will offer, almost word-for-word, the message of the day. The responses to legitimate questions are almost always evasive, off-topic, and ludicrous in the context; they are almost always partisan with cheap shots against the opposition having no connection to the questions posed. If the question were about cheese, they will find a way to point fingers at the opposition parties. The representatives are of a kind: barely animated, heads bobbing or shaking, and, as in the instance of Candice Bergen, eyes seldom blinking. When one political hack is replaced, one barely notices; the faces and genders are different but the behaviour and message is the same. What would you call them if not bobbleheads? Perhaps talking dolls. How about Zombies? I would be curious to learn if Mr. Treit was as offended when, in overseeing the elimination of 19,000 public service jobs, Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, referred to them as “deadwood”. This is the same Tony Clement whose department as mislaid $3.1 billion under his watch and this is the same man who had created a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 conference. Now I find that offensive.

Mr. Treit does not like that I label Harper and his gang bullies, suggesting that I am somewhat of a bully myself. Actually, I can see his point in that regard. If being blunt, sometimes crude, if finger wagging and admitting my dislike for Harper’s conservatives makes me a bully, I must plead guilty. But I have not targeted those collecting EI as potential fraudsters. I haven’t waged war on veterans with disabilities, or clawed back their disability pensions. I haven’t labelled environmentalists “radical” foreign stooges, nor have I smeared Pat Stogran, former veterans ombudsman, and Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission simply because they did what they were supposed to do, which was their jobs. Nor did I attack the reputation of the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. I haven’t lied about the true costs of the F-35 fighter jets or been cited for contempt of Parliament. I haven’t been responsible for rewarding Shelly Glover with a promotion after she, and another MP, refused to give a full accounting of their campaign expense claims until she learned of the promotion. Nor was I the PM who suggested Nigel Wright did the “honourable thing” in paying off Duffy’s illegal expense claims (Pierre Poilievre, one of those bobbleheads, went so far as to state Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing” in paying off the Senate debt).

Mr. Treit further states I offer an inaccurate representation of Harper and the Conservative government. One needs only read what I say and what the objective facts are, to judge for themselves; they are there for anyone to find. Treit found the information provided poor, the words offensive, and the views one-sided. He wrote, “Another reason that I found the information was unreliable was the use of a profane word ‘bullshit…’” That is absurdly laughable. I plead guilty to the offensive words and the one-sided viewpoint, perhaps to even being a bad writer; that does not make for deliberate falseness, unreliability, or inaccuracy as suggested. I would not be surprised if there are mistakes; for that I am truly sorry especially to the parties affected. I have sought to be accurate and hope I have succeeded.

Contrary to Treit’s assertion, I don’t make assumptions that Harper condones doing things that are wrong…his behaviour does that. Still, if off the mark, what Mr. Treit offers is fair comment: he disagrees with what I have written and he says why. Fair enough. He states, “When reading the blog you almost mistake it for a hate letter towards the Harper government.” Clearly we have a different approach to things. I prefer to think of it as an accounting. I despise hypocrisy, dishonesty, pettiness, and meanness: these have been the hallmark of Harper’s governance. Over the years, Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated that no trick is too dirty or too vile to not be employed. Harper doesn’t wear velvet gloves. Neither will I. Harsh criticism seems a fair trade-off to scapegoating and bullying.

While I appreciate Mr. Treit’s comments and thank him for them, I will continue to do as I do. Meanwhile, in the event he missed it the first time, the following may give him a hint as to why Harper and his gang will never make my list of people I respect.

THE OLD: STEPHEN HARPER’S DIRY LAUNDRY LIST REDUX (JUNE 18TH)

1. Harper appointee to the senate, Patrick Brazeau who was order to repay $48 thousand for making false housing claims.

2. Harper appointee to the senate, Pamela Wallin investigated for questionable travel claims. She has repaid over $38 thousand and issued an apology. The investigation is ongoing and expected to be completed and released during the summer break.

3. Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, investigated for making illegal housing claims. He promised to pay back money and evidently presented a cheque for $90 thousand. The world was led to believe the cheque came from Duffy’s funds or from a loan obtained from a bank. It didn’t.

4. The Deloitte report on Duffy is released but Conservative senators David Tkachuk, then chair of the internal economy committee, and Carolyn Stewart Olsen have scrubbed it of its harshest criticisms of Duffy.

5. With Duffy’s promise, Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, declared the Duffy file closed leaving the impression that senators investigated for defrauding taxpayers only have to repay the funds and suffer no other consequences.

6. Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright resigns when it was learned that it was he who repaid Mike Duffy’s debt for the false claims. Later it came out that Conservatives had a secret fund of close to a million. Harper refuses to answer questions about what he knew of Wright/Duffy matter. There is denial that secret Conservative fund was used to pay off Duffy’s debt. When asked, PMO denies having a record of cheque or of the deal made between Duffy and Wright.

7. Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan investigated for campaign expense claims and for not filing a complete campaign report. The Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, recommends in two letters to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, that both be suspended from the House until they file the reports. Andrew Scheer appears to have abused the non-partisan position to sit on the letters allowing Glover and Bezan time to appeal to the court.

8. Conservative Eve Adams is also under investigation for irregularities in expense claims for spa treatments and grooming supplies and failing to file complete the campaign report. She attempted to claim for cupcakes and restaurant tabs even after campaign closed.

9. Conservative Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board which has misplaced $3.1 billion of taxpayer money, announces plans to go after public servants in an effort to clean house and save money.

10. Conservative smear campaign against Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, for fighting against Harper’s claw back of disability pensions of veterans.

11. Conservatives smear and fire Linda Keen, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president, for ordering the Chalk River nuclear reactor shut down for safety reasons and then defying the government order to reopen it before it was safe to do so. With Keen out of the way, the government overturned the commission decision and reopened the facility.

12. Conservatives smeared and threatened with jail time ex-diplomat Richard Colvin if he filed documents of Afghani prisoner abuse before a special investigative committee.

13. Conservatives smeared, kicked out of caucus one of their own; called in RCMP to investigate Helena Guergis for abuses in office.

14. Conservative Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, diverts search and rescue helicopter as personal limousine while at a fishing lodge.

15. Peter MacKay authorizes the use of a military jet for General Walther Natynczyk to meet his family vacationing in the Caribbean. Once news breaks, the general agrees to repay what he should not have accepted in the first place.

16. Conservative Tony Clement, at time of G8 and G20 conferences, creates $50 million slush fund for Huntsville that includes boondoggle of $1 million fake lake and $250 thousand gazebo.

17. Conservatives spend close to one billion for security for the G8 and G20 conferences. Over a thousand arrested, less than two dozen charged, and only a handful found guilty.

18. Conservative Jason Kenney, who with pious glee leaked letter of Trudeau’s speaking fee (see above), uses government letterheads to fundraise for Conservatives.

19. Conservative Bev Oda or a staff member forges signed government document that approved funding for a charity Kairos by inserting the word “not” to deny the funding because the Conservatives disagreed of its views on Israel. When questioned on this, the Conservative response from Jason Kenney was this, “The CBC lies all the time. What media are you with?” (Globe and Mail, 2011, 2012).

20. Bev Oda pads expenses twice and is twice forced to repay. She charges for $16 orange juice, which results in much hooing and booing. Resigns because of public outcry.

21. Disgraced integrity czar, Harper appointee Christiane Quimet given $500,000 severance pay after signing agreement not to reveal details of package. She was investigated for failing to perform her mandate when, of 228 allegations of public service wrongdoing reprisals against whistleblowers, she only looked into seven and found zero problems. She was also accused of haranguing her staff.

22. Peter Penashue forced to resign for 2011 campaign irregularities. Harper calls him the best ever MP from Labrador. Voters didn’t think so in the subsequent by-election.

23. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay lie about the true costs of F-35s during last election campaign and begin war against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer who suggests $9 billion figure they offer is much, much lower than the estimated real costs of about $45 billion.

24. Vic Toews accuses critics of his online spying bill “of siding with pedophiles.”

25. Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, ridicules environmentalists and slams them as radicals and of being stooges of foreign environmental groups.

26. Joe Oliver, again, in a move typical of Conservatives attacks world-renowned scientist, James Hansen, for his critical stand opposing the Keystone XL pipeline questioning his reputation.

27. Harper announces he will spend $30 million dollars to go after tax evaders who owe $29 billion while he spends $100 million propagandizing for the Conservatives with taxpayer monies. More for propaganda than for chasing the tax cheats whom, if pursued, caught and made to pay, could pay off the national debt.

28. Conservative Party under investigation for robocalls and voter suppression.

29. Conservative Dean Del Mastro goes underground for 18 months while being investigated for campaign overspending and attempts to cover it up. He was the vicious Conservative attack dog and defender of the party during the robocall scandals who, while under the protection of the House had little problem in smearing his opponents with innuendo. He has re-emerged recently and, in the House, crocodile tears for himself while, it is alleged, tarring another person while under the protection of the House.

30. Harper cited for contempt of Parliament 2011.

31. Harper prorogues Parliament 2009 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

32. Harper prorogues Parliament 2006 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

33. – ?

Unfortunately, since then, there have been a few more added to the list.

THE MORE SINCE JUNE 18TH

33 – Neither the federal or provincial Conservatives, disavow their friend Toronto mayor, liar, crack user, associate of felons, world class buffoon and serious threat to municipal democracy, Rob Ford, for fear of offending the so-called Ford Nation who helped the Harper gang get their majority. Federal minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, close to tears, even comes to Ford’s defence, nearly coming to blows with fellow conservative, Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development), who clearly had enough of Ford and had the cheek to suggest he resign.

34 – Dean del Mastro (see #29) quits Tory caucus September 2013, facing four charges for Elections Act violations. His former official agent, Richard McCarthy, was also charged. Tears for himself in the House probably real.

35 – James Moore (Industry Minister), as quoted by John Blanchard, Canada.com, December 16, 2013, said the following, “We’ve never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier. Certainly, we want to make sure that kids go to schools full-bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” Callous, do you think? His comments are likely accurate reflections of Harper’s conservatives and supporters. It may well be true we are wealthier as a nation, but even truer for those at the top whom the conservatives clearly favour. The question then is this: Why do so many feel impoverished, abandoned, live in poverty, die on the streets? When the media picked up his comments, Moore claimed they were taken out of context. Yeah, right.

36 – Harper seeks to avoid answering questions about what he knew of the Wright/Duffy deal and the Senate scandal in general. He extended the summer break hoping the issue would die down. It didn’t help.

37 – The RCMP releases emails from PMO in November of 2013 revealing that more knew about the deal than Harper had acknowledged leaping from two (Duffy and Wright) to over a dozen. While Corporal Greg Horton states there is no evidence of Harper’s involvement, lingering doubts remain because of one email sent by Nigel Wright to Benjamin Perrin, one time Special Advisor and Legal Counsel to the PM, in which is stated regarding the Duffy/Wright deal, “We are good to go from the PM…” (item #36 (u) from documents released by Corporal Greg Horton).

38 – The day before parliament takes its Christmas break, Canada Post announces plans to stop all house-to-house mail delivery within the next five years. Harper gang cuts-and-runs for the umpteenth time without taking questions.

39 – Hill staffers are forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement binding for life. Failure to adhere to the agreement will lead to immediate termination and loss of severance pay. What happened to Harper’s loud promise to protect whistle-blowers and to preside over open, transparent governance?

40 – When liberal Sen. Céline Hervieux-Payette attempted to have Sen. Irving Gerstein removed as Chairman of the Senate’s banking committee, Gerstein ruled the motion was out of order. Nice. This is the man alleged to have interfered in the Mike Duffy audit and apparently was willing to pony up $32 thousand to cover Duffy’s debt but balked at $90 thousand; in other words, Nigel Wright gets pilloried for doing the wrong thing at $90 thousand but not bagman Gerstein who was allegedly willing to commit a breach of ethics when the price was only $32,000. This is the same Gerstein who refused to call Michael Runia, a senior partner in Deloitte and the Conservative Party auditor, to appear before the Senate investigation committee looking into the Duffy/Wright affair. This is the same Gerstein who, at the party convention, publicly boasted of being the Tory bagman.

41 – Conservative Rob Anders, in trouble more than once for overt displays of ignorance, of which he has abundance, was at it again. He’s not only the man who was filmed snoozing in the House, he’s the same individual who opposed Nelson Mandela’s honorary Canadian citizenship in 2001 calling him a terrorist and, at the death of the great leader and opponent of apartheid, could not even work up the decency to display a little generosity, still calling Mandela a terrorist. One wonders what he would have said of the abolitionists to slavery or the Civil Rights movement.

42 – In early November, the government announced the planned closure of nine veterans’ affairs offices across the country. In the last week of November, and the first week of December, Canadians learned of the tragic suicide of four soldiers. It should not have happened. While there is no direct evidence linking the deaths to the closures, one cannot help but wonder how the veterans reacted to this latest attack by Harper’s gang. First it was clawing back disability pensions. Then it was firing veterans before retirement to prevent them from collecting disability payments. Now this. In response to protests, the government suggested the vets suffering from PTSD could always call Service Canada.

43 – During the 2010 G8, G20 conferences held in Toronto, Canada not only knew, but allowed, America’s NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on world leaders. If Harper and his gang allow this, what do you think they’ll do to their “enemies”, i.e., anyone critical of this motley crew? Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson and the head of CSEC (the Communications Security Establishment Canada) do not deny the spying takes place but attempted to weasel out this mess (perhaps with tongue in cheek) by saying this government does spy on Canadians on Canadian soil because they are not legally allowed to do so. And MPs and Senators are not legally entitled to make false expense claims either. That Harper would surrender Canadian sovereignty to foreigners, even if friends, is indicative of his respect for Canada, Canadians and Democracy; that’s the behaviour of tin pot tyrants. Canadians should be worried.

44 – Ottawa Citizen reports that CSE (Communications Security Establishment Canada) “‘incidentally spies’ on Canadians, but wants to reassure the public it protects the privacy of that information (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 7, 2014).

45- Harper regime announces plans to make “economic diplomacy” a top priority. They have already allowing CSEC to spy on foreign companies on behalf of Canadian businesses. That means, of course, human rights will take a backseat. This is not the first time that Harper’s gang have shown a willingness to work with anyone or any country regardless of how vile, when it comes to economic interests. Christian Paradis, this monument to mediocrity, had not too long ago announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain an abortion. As I stated in a previous post, “That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages” (October 9th, 2013).

46 – Last year, word was released that the Canada Revenue Agency was set to lay off 3000 auditors. The agency head at the time denied it. Now it has been confirmed that the government plans to get rid of 3100 auditors. Who benefits from these cuts when it is estimated that tax cheats are defrauding Canadians of anywhere from $9 to $20 billion a year? Well we know CRA workers certainly don’t. That means scofflaws, cheats, and thieves, will be allowed to continue to steal from Canadians. Many corporate friends of the Harper conservatives hold those offshore accounts. But, not to worry. Harper’s got our backs. The minister of national revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay has vowed to increase staff to go after government-funded charities. In other words, Harper and gang will go after charities that adopt a stand with which they don’t agree. This is not new or surprising. When Bev Oda was in office as International Co-Operation Minister, she or one of her staff members, allegedly forged a government document in which a listed charity, KAIROS, a faith-based organization previously designated to receive federal funds, was suddenly denied those funds with the insertion of “Not” in the recommendation by her own department that the organization be funded. Oda was reprimanded for misleading the house. KAIROS had the temerity to speak out against Harper’s stand against the Palestinians. These are not charities like the United Way or Heart and Stroke, and certainly not the right wing think tanks like the Fraser and CD Howe and Fraser Institutes, but those that offer perspectives on social, economic and environmental issues from a perspective critical of the Harper thug regime. This is another clear demonstration of the petty, vindictive nature of Harper and his gang. While their tax cheating friends steal billions from Canadians, the Harper thugs will go after the small fry, those unfortunate enough to make the “enemies” list.

47 – Even more appalling, as reported by the CBC in November 2013, the present chief of the Royal Canadian Mint, Jim Love and one time advisor to the federal Finance Department, a conservative appointee and close friend of Jim Flaherty (and large contributor to two campaigns) apparently helped run an offshore tax avoidance scheme in his capacity as a lawyer.

48 – Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, Harper appointee as head of the Security Intelligence Review, which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, registers as a lobbyist for pipeline with B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. Even if legally permitted, the optics of working for a private energy company, while on the government payroll, should concern every Canadian.

49 – The Harper gang revealed that there would be a sizable surplus by the time the next election in 2015. On the surface, that is good news. Unfortunately, this is a familiar shell game: governments inflate the deficit figures, cut public service jobs and services, suddenly discover, just in time for an election, that they have not only balanced the budget but also accrued a huge surplus proving, to no one’s surprise, that the conservatives, once again are the best money managers since the creation of God.

If none of this doesn’t wake you up, doesn’t enrage you, then nothing will.

I write about these things not just to be read by people who agree with me, but to leave people thinking about governance, politicians and their role in making it work for the best of all. Don’t blame me, blame Stephen Harper. As the comic Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it.” It is not just the poor who are impoverished, but also the leadership of this nation; when there is no vision, no wisdom, no humanity, there is no government, just a big stick. This is my humble response to it.

Complacency is a deadly disease. It’s time to wake up, look around and take part. There is more to us than just our narrow world. It is not a badge of honour to proudly declare, “I have never voted.” Nor is it okay to use the excuse, “I’m only one vote. My vote doesn’t count.” One vote can make a majority. That doesn’t mean the majority is always wise or good or right; but it does mean you had a chance to make a statement.

People have died for that privilege.

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER: THE PAPER LION

To the surprise of no one, Harper has announced that he would approach the Governor General to prorogue parliament until October. This is mere formality. The GG will go along with whatever Harper seeks and Harper will do as he has done all too frequently in the past: thumb his nose at the democratic process. To some, the sleeping, the brain dead or Tory supporters, who make up both camps, this will be acceptable. A few folks will be incensed, a few will speak out and the rest will shrug, claiming it’s no big deal; it’s been done before.

That is true. Unfortunately, when Harper invokes it, suspicions are naturally aroused. This is the man who, when faced with tough questions regarding budgets, omnibus bills and scandals, resorts to prorogation of Parliament as a matter of routine in the hopes that, with time, out of sight, sound and opposition fury, the public will forget. It’s worked before.

When he finally got his majority, clearly relying on public apathy, a short attention span as well as playing on fears, ignorance and resorting to outright lies, Harper did not hesitate to prove himself the anti-Democrat he is wielding his majority in the way of bullies wielding a club. He not only sneaked in legislation through massive omnibus bills, he satisfied the thirst of his base by scapegoating the poor and helpless, criminalizing those collecting EI, stigmatizing the mentally ill, ignoring supporters of the long-gun registry, and smearing all critics, seeking neither to accommodate nor to consult. Why should he, he has the majority and, as are most bullies, not shy of publicly revealing his petty and vindictive side; as the elected victor, he was typically ungracious, the lout who would never let his enemies forget that he was now the man. And who are his enemies? Why everyone who disagrees with him and his gang.

It’s the same old same old with Harper and his mob, an anti-democratic regime led by a bullying coward who, when riding high in the polls believes himself invincible and imagines himself master of all he surveys. At such moments, in the euphoria of public- and self-love, Harper is king and certainly, in all the world, no finer man to be found. But that is all will-o’-the-wisp, Tory fancy and utter rot; that is not the real man. The real man is the bully who throws his weight around at such moments and in others, in times of crises (robocalls and Senate scandals), thinks nothing of throwing loyalists under buses while he cuts and runs shutting down Parliament as if it were his own personal playhouse. That pending legislation withers and dies because of this means nothing to him. He can always push the reset button. Meanwhile, away from the House, he avoids answering opposition questions and sets his own storyline and plots with his despicable crew how to woo the public once again with the same old refrain of “jobs and the growth” without even a nod towards ethics, integrity, and Democracy. These are side issues and, for Harper and crew, have nothing to do with running a nation.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said of him, “He likes the power but he doesn’t like to govern.” Ain’t that the truth.

But, if Harper is gutless, he is also shameless. When he announced prorogation of Parliament, he was up north enjoying his annual pilgrimage of tokenism. That he made the announcement while away from the capital is typical of him; almost all major announcements are made away from Ottawa where questions are few, limited and all too unsatisfactorily answered (after all, these affairs are meant to be photo ops and the churlish liberal media lickspittle spoilsports appear maliciously intent on marring these good-news love-ins with real issues regarding Senate scandals and prosaic day-to-day governance).

As well as announcing prorogation, Harper reaffirmed his intent to lead the Tories during the next election. Whether he goes or not is immaterial, his replacement will certainly be equally odious having emerged from the same vile swamp that has nurtured Stephen Harper’s corrupted version of Democracy and governance of misrule. Among the contenders are James Moore (past Cultural Minister who appears to dislike culture), Jason Kenney (past Immigration Minister who illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for the Tories), Tony Clement (president of the Treasury, of the $50 million slush fund and missing $3.1 billion) and the least likely to succeed, sciolist Joe Oliver (and just one of the many ideological Cliff Clavens who make up Harper’s cabinet) who apparently knows more about science, climate, oil and pollution than any disagreeable scientist in the universe who dares challenge this regime.

During the brief five week spring session, Harper made five appearances in the House. One appearance a week. By the time the House will have reconvened in October, over five months will have passed and Harper’s appearances in the House will remain at five.

Is this a way to govern? Whose interests are served by prorogation, by refusing to answer questions, by denying the public the right to hold Harper and his miscreant rabble accountable? Certainly not the public’s. It is of no consequence that others have imposed prorogation of Parliament. What is of consequence is that Harper has all too often resorted to the easy out. In doing so, he has made a mockery of the Democratic process. He really believes that the public will forget and forgive his Party’s numerous attempts to subvert Democracy, that it was he who appointed Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin. and that it was he who broke his word on Senate reform and appointed over half of the senators now sitting.

As a leader of a nation, Stephen Harper is an abysmal failure. He and his party have no great vision. In fact, they have no vision at all. Instead, they appear to be infused with hubris for which there is no basis unless the arrogance and smugness of his majority are rated virtues. Power is all that matters but in the hands of a weak, frightened person, that power can be dangerous. Harper is such a person. He is weak; we see it in how he uses and abuses his majority. And he is frightened. We know this, too, by how he regards all opposition with suspicion and fear. Those who oppose him are seen as the enemy. And because he is weak and frightened, Harper and his crew are willing to pander to the worst in us because they actually believe that all of us are like them: venal, petty, self-interested. Many of us are, but not all.

Harper and his gang are quick to point to the motes in the eyes of others, but find intolerable the thought that they may be similarly afflicted. They are good and perfect and I have no doubt they truly believe that. Perhaps that is why they are so afraid of facing questions and challenges. Harper and his gang have no interest in serving the interests of the nation nor of all its people. They would, however, happily sell themselves to special interests and they have. They equate Capitalism with Democracy. In truth, Democracy doesn’t much interest them any more than the plight of the homeless. Money does. Power does.

Prorogation may be a legitimate tool in governance. However, when Harper resorts to it, it is just another abuse of power by a weak, frightened man.

He and his party have no business leading this country. And, right now, they aren’t.

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