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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: THE MORAL FLEXIBILITY OF HYPOCRITES

Trust not him with your secrets who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers. – Johan Kasper Lavater

Tyrants have not yet discovered any chains that can fetter the mind. – Charles Caleb Colton

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

GOLLY GEE LOOK AT ME; I’M A LEADER

Stephen Harper still rides high in the polls largely as a result of Conservative mythmaking, dishonest use of public funds to promote the Conservative story under the guise of informing the public and the skilful employment of populist rhetoric that panders to the worst in us whipping us into a frenzy of Islamophobia and hysteria at the risk of abandoning any pretence towards safeguarding civil and individual liberties.

Too, it doesn’t help that his target audience, largely apolitical and uninvolved, is often too lazy and too willing to trust a government that in its shameless perversity admonishes other nations for failure to honour and promote the loftiest goals of democracy while undermining it at home with its anti-terrorism legislation. There is more at stake than an attack against civil rights. Indeed, there is a threat to democracy as Harper seeks to turn Canada into a Corporatocracy willing to rub shoulders and do trade with tyrants and their murderous regimes.

Harper is the unrepentant hypocrite who refuses to allow Canadian journalists to record him with Cuban socialist leader, Raúl Castro, and yet giddily fawns over the pro-business prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, and signs a deal to ship uranium to a country once considered a rogue state for many reasons, one of which was for breaking a 1956 pledge to use Canadian uranium for “peaceful purposes”. What assurances did Harper obtain from Modi and what is Canada’s liability if Modi reneges on the promise of using the uranium solely for energy production? There was a time when Modi was persona non grata in much of the western world, including Canada, because of allegations of his involvement, directly or indirectly, in the murders of Muslims when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Too, as prime minister, there are still lingering suspicions that he has little interest in protecting religious minorities who often fall victim in violence, including murder.

While I do not object to trade, I believe Harper should be more circumspect with whom he deals and calls friend. Pandering for the east-Indian vote and on behalf of the interests of corporate friends should not come at any cost with Canada keeping silent to the abuses against Indian minorities. Yet, unless I’ve missed it, I’ve heard nothing on that score from Harper. That disturbs me and it disturbs me even more so knowing of Harper handing over land worth $30 million to erect a monument to the victims of Communism. I see red and a thuggish hypocrite in a suit, a miserable cretin who clearly believes the victims of murderous pro-business dictators are somehow less worthy and somehow different from those of communist states (unless, as with China, he manages to overcome his squeamishness enough to score huge trade deals; then he just takes the money and keeps mum). He’s probably right of course the victims of capitalist dictator states are different. They are likely feminists, unionists, environmentalists, mothers supportive of family planning, and Socialists, fighting against the Western exploiters of workers and land and we all know what Harper thinks of family planning, unionists, environmentalists, and “Communists”.

Still, if Canadians haven’t wakened to the awful reality of Harper by now, it is doubtful they ever will in the near future. Even if Harper loses the next election, and I doubt the Conservatives will, it appears the public will only opt for change that is insignificant. In that eventuality, voters will turn to the Liberal party, which, in reality, is not all that different from the Harper Conservatives (they support the war in Iraq and C-51, the anti-terrorist bill with promises to amend it at a later date. Yeah, right.). Unlike Harper, the liberal leader is young, well meaning and charismatic. Unfortunately, like Harper, he thus far offers little in the way that is new and hopeful. It will be the same old same old, the Conservatives, if turfed, turfed for doing exactly, only better, what the Liberals were doing when they were booted out of office.

Sadly, it will not, however, be the NDP that gains unless the unexpected happens, the public waking up and/or the Conservatives running a clean election (Oops, too late on that front). The New Democratic Party, with Thomas Mulcair as leader, has proven itself a party of ideas, vision, ability, and intelligence as has Mulcair who possesses, if not the charisma of Trudeau, the skill and maturity of experience Trudeau lacks. But for a self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and materialistic and shallow disinterested public, none of this will likely matter. Voters will likely stick to the tried-and-dishonest, preferring the false promises of Harper, who lies, misleads, and picks the public wallet with the same ease, glibness and skill of the tainted snake-oil salesman spending $7.7 million for Tory ads masking as government information bulletins. We can expect to see lots of ads, ads promoting the Conservative balanced budget, childcare benefit increases, income splitting and, of course, its wars on crime and terrorism. Too, there will be lots of ads showing off our Canadian Forces, heroic images of men and women in battle, rappelling down ropes, parachuting, fighting drug smugglers on the high seas, protecting the north against the Russians, “proud to go where many are not” as one ad has it while another says “fight fear, fight chaos, fight distress”. This laughable last from a government that has been stoking the flames of fear, chaos and distress even as it attempts to inflate its own image on the world stage with Harper’s strutting, hectoring bombast and Canada’s contribution of six fighter jets and a few hundred special forces to train Iraqi and Ukrainian troops. The message is clear: Harper will save us all if not the world. “Proud to go where many are not”. Catchy hyperbole if nothing else.

GIVE ME YOUR MONEY AND I’LL GIVE YOU MORE LIES

It’s all about the vote, the main chance, the “what’s in it for me” attitude. Ideological blindness and selfishness will not easily embrace, let alone demand, integrity, honesty, decency of our politicians; such sentiments, while noble, belong to another era and evidently have no place in today’s world. It’s much easier and more appealing to embrace ignorance, intolerance and fearmongering than having to actually think: hysteria and bigotry wins. Add to that mix the Conservative lie of sound fiscal management…. well, stupidity wins…by a landslide. This is false advertising and a form of theft; it may be legal, but it’s wrong. Canadians who have been ripped off by good ole’ Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are also having their pockets picked by Stephen Harper and his gang. Yet not a peep from those who believe civil servants are overpaid and underworked.

But God help you if you’re a single parent or the sole, low-income earner.

So then, whose fault is it really? A corrupt government that attempts to rig elections, that spreads the lies, that appropriates for itself tax dollars for propaganda purposes and resorts to bribery of an indifferent, sleeping populace easily distracted and satisfied with cheap, shiny promises while the wealthy, Harper’s business friends and cronies, benefit even more thanks to the largesse of Conservatives depleting the public purse on their behalf for their votes and the promise of job creation? Job creation? So, where are the jobs? For Harper, there is no greater demonstration of love for such folk than cutting taxes, cutting services and sacrificing union workers while also working with Big Business to suppress Canadian wages with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. And, if you have an offshore account, even better for you. He loves you so much that he believes you should be able to swim in our money in your offshore accounts without having to worry about the taxman coming after you. He has cut 3,000 jobs from the Canada Revenue agency: there’s no one to chase you, the money you stole from the Canadian purse is all yours! But, not to fret, he is going after those nuisance left-wing charities none of you like. The Fraser Institute is safe as are others of its ilk. The million or two he saves by taking on these leftie charities that promote family planning and affordable daycare and shelter for the homeless will be enough to appease the wingnut Conservatives. The best thing of all is that Harper will then offer taxpayer-funded ads telling us all how he has saved our dollars!

So, as Harper regales us with tales of money saved and dire warnings of terrorists targeting Canada and Canadians and of murderers on every street and of laws too lax favouring criminals (by criminals he doesn’t mean those wealthy friends of with offshore accounts or MPs and Senators stiffing taxpayers with bogus expense claims), he also reaches out with both hands, one offering shiny bribes in the way of tax cuts, more jails, longer jail time, and, fingers crossed, the assurances that he, only he and his Conservatives can save us. And the other outstretched hand? Why, it’s picking the public purse; someone has to pay for those Conservative/government ads and it ain’t going to be the Conservative Party.

Are there really that many stupid voters? Is there not a brain in those who support Harper? Does not one of them remember or care that when Harper became prime minister he inherited a surplus of $13 plus billion? Recently Joe Oliver announced that they would have a balanced budget. Where has the money come from, the money suddenly available and thrown about as carelessly and lavishly as champagne at a bacchanal? Remember, just weeks ago, Harper could not even find money for our veterans. Not only has he promised a balanced budget, Harper’s minister has mandated that all future budgets be balanced by law unless during times of war or natural disaster. It’s a gimmick that, if enforced, would severely hamstring future governments. It’s all show and yet some of you out there will buy it. To you I ask this: What the hell’s wrong with you? Where does the money come from? Well, not from corporations paying their fair share. We all talk about wanting honest governance, MPs with integrity and an idea of what ethics mean. We all want improved Healthcare, better roads. None of us believe children should go hungry or be denied a good education. Yet no one wants to pay. I agree, make governments more efficient. A good start is by electing honest politicians who actually do believe we are all part of society and that we must all share the joys as well as the pain and that pandering to special interests are a thing of the past. No. The Harper gang doesn’t care for that sop nor do those who vote for them.

Do you want better for everyone? If you voted for Harper or intend to do so again, clearly not. Under Harper’s governance, Canada has racked up seven successive deficits to a staggering sum. Since 2007 – 2008, the Harper years, the national debt has grown by $650 billion for a total of $1.8 trillion. So much for the myth of the Master Economist. So, how will Harper balance his budget this year? One way, of course, is to overestimate the costs of governance and claim a surplus for money unspent. That’s an old trick one that the public surely must have picked up on by now. Another way is for Harper to sell Canada’s GM shares that came from propping up the auto company to the tune $13.7 billion in taxpayer funding during the 2008 meltdown. The Harper gang recently sold the shares for a return of $10.2 billion. That’s a loss of $3.5 billion. Sound fiscal management? Does this really seem like a man who knows what he’s doing? Finance minister Oliver says the funds from the GM sale will not be needed to help him balance the budget as the numbers were already in place before that. Does anyone really, really, really believe him? If so, why didn’t Harper sell the shares earlier and balance the budget before this?

This is the government that has laid off thousands of public servants, restricted their pay raise and yet accepted for themselves a pay raise of 2.3%. Now wages of MPs and Senators are tied in to settlements reached by private sector companies. It is the secretive, controversial Board of Internal Economy, made up of MPs, which oversees House of Commons administration. The Board of Internal Economy can refuse or accept the wage increase. Not surprising it recommended the wage increase for MPs, an increase that is almost five times that of public servants! Even less surprising, not one of the pigs at the trough rejected the recommendation. But where is the public, those loudmouth Conservatives always whinging about public waste? Where is the rage? Not a peep. Probably too busy planning how to spend the windfall coming their way or, if among the less fortunate, a single parent and low income earner, too busy juggling two or more jobs. Families of children under six will receive an additional $60 for a total of $160 as of January 1st of this year while those with children ages 6 to 17 will receive a new benefit of $60 a month per child. However, the $60 increases will be held back until July 1 when all families will receive a retroactive payment of $420 per child, just three months before the October 19 election. Perhaps this gives a clue to the public silence regarding MP pay raises and the silence regarding the shabby treatment of public servants, workers who really keep governments working. Apparently, as long as families with kids get their share, they couldn’t care less about politicians picking their pockets and treating civil servants like trash. Pigs don’t care what the farmer does as long as they get their share.

But what about those childcare benefits? Who really gains? Well, Harper if he has his way, and he will, and those families who really don’t need it. Recently, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report saying that over half of the money Ottawa will spend towards child care will go to families with little or no child-care costs. That’s Harper for you, always there to help those who already have. Over the years, costs for child benefits rose as follows: 2006 – $600 million; 2013 – $3.3 billion; 2015 – $7.7 billion. Under Harper, 51% of the benefits will go to families who have no childcare costs. Those with children over 13 years of age “will receive nearly eight times the amount they spend on caring for their offspring” (Tom Parry, CBC News, March 31, 2015).

WHAT JOB CUTS?

That families who really don’t need this money will receive these breaks largely at the expense service and public servant job losses apparently troubles them and the Harper gang not at all. Harper knows everyone hates public servants (“deadwood” to Tony Clement who, in 2010, dipped in the trough for a $50 million slush fund for his riding) – until they need them. So families with teenagers will earn money for children who incur no costs while those from poorer families unable to afford daycare will continue to be left out of the equation. Nothing changes for single-parent families, for the poor, the homeless, or the mentally ill. They are short-changed. Again.

Nothing illustrates the inequality more vividly than Harper’s slightly altered income-splitting program that Parliamentary Budget Officer, Jean-Denis Frechette, says will cost Canadians $2.2 billion federally and $1.7 billion provincially. Of that money, those who already have, high- and middle-income earners, that’s about 15%, will get the lion’s share and the rest, 85% of households, very little while those at the bottom of the income scale will experience “near zero” benefit, about 1/6th of those in the upper bracket. The wealthy will get an additional $2000. But it’s unlikely this will negatively impact Harper and gang this upcoming election.

One way they will get the balanced budget has been through job cuts of public sector workers. But is this what we want or need? I guess so if you plan to vote the Harper in again. In 2008, twenty-three Canadian consumers of Maple Leaf products died as a result of Listeriosis. The Harper government had cut services to many governmental agencies including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Of that tragedy, the agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz quipped, “This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts.” Nice. Since that terrible event, the Harper gang have made claims to improving the system. Really? The Conservatives boast of having hired more food inspectors. So what, if true? In 2012, four years after Maple Leaf, the Alberta plant owned by XL Foods, sent out meat tainted with E. coli and were not notified by CFIA for two weeks. In fact, it was American border agents who caught the tainted meat, which, up to that time, resulted in the largest recall of bad meat in Canadian history. Just recently, a BC meat processing plant, Meadow Valley Meats, was charged with 11 counts of selling meat unfit for human consumption and covering it up in 2011. The company pleaded guilty of one count of selling meat with E. coli. It received a fine. It should have been closed. In December of last year, 31,000 pounds of meat shipped by the Cargill plant in Calgary for Walmart was recalled. According to CBC News James Cudmore (Dec. 14, 2014), it was not CFIA that discovered the tainted me but an obscure federally run public health program, FoodNet Canada. Hiring more “food inspectors” do nothing to enhance product safety when this government deregulates food processing so that the role of food inspector has become diminished to that of rubber-stamper for in-house testing by food producers.

On March 31 of this year, Canadian Food Inspectors have spoken up saying that the government promise to improve food inspections is a fiction; the reverse has happened. They also claim that meat shipped to American is getting preferential treatment over that of meat for Canadian consumers. In fact, the government has rolled back any improvements (very few) that did take place after 2008 with job cuts and by increasing the workload of food inspections. This is not news. This government has worked at undermining the CFIA and Health Canada for years going so far as to fire staff daring to voice their concerns. This government continues to lie about the problems with CFIA and, it appears, the public simply doesn’t care or get it: the Harper gang worries less about public consumer health than they do about the health of Corporate Canada. Where is the rage? How many more will die before Canadians wake up and consign this filthy gang to the trash can of history? Ritz is still the minister of agriculture and is the minister overseeing the sale of the Canada Wheat Board, which, to some, has an estimated value of a billion dollars, and yet a 51% share is being sold to G3 a venture of food company Bunge Ltd., an American company, and Global Grain Group a Saudi company. That’s an interesting choice considering that Canada’s oil is ethical (as opposed to Saudi oil) but the Saudi consortium can own over half of the resources, resources that were paid for by Canadian famers, for $250 million. Yeah, once again Harper and gang betray the interests of Canadians for that of corporate bargain hunters.

IT’S NOT BETRAYAL; I HAVE THE MAJORITY

Harper’s regime betrays at every turn, not just in the way he changes laws and rams them through with his majority and not just by his many efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills and subvert the electoral process, but also by his attempts to undermine our institutions, in particular the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a government that has no hesitation in pushing the boundaries by creating legislation that is bound to fail when challenged in the Supreme Court. This is no accident by stupid people. These people are not just mean and with an agenda they are also anti-democratic. They have made a mockery of Parliament by refusing to answer questions put to them by opposition members and they have gone out of their way to whip public sentiment against Canada’s highest court and the justice system in general by creating legislation doomed to fail. This allows them to then suggest these failures are proof of an activist, Anti-Conservative Court. That is not true, of course, but to those who support the Harper agenda and who have a tendency to point fingers and blame, who prefer punishment over seeking solutions, the invidious lie is enough, they know, just know, in their gut, that Harper and gang are right, that crime is rampant, murderers are on every street, and guns, only guns and godly Conservatives will save them. So the Conservatives deliberately overreach, hoping some legislation sticks and those that don’t will be attributed to the Supreme Court’s activism. As a result of such deliberate mishandling of legislation, of ignoring experts and opposition members, Harper lost another of many decisions to the courts. This time it was a rejection of his mandatory minimum sentencing for illegal possession of guns. He lost when his government attempted to deny assisted suicides. He lost when the high Court found prostitution laws unconstitutional and ordered him to come up with new legislation. He lost when he attempted to appoint Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court. As a result of that verdict, Harper, Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, and the gang engaged in a smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin with the charge of political interference. These are not nice people but it appears with every loss to the Supreme Court the Conservative base willingly swallows the Harper gang’s poisonous lies regarding activist courts.

MY WAR, YOUR RISK

It should surprise no one that Harper has expanded his war against ISIS with little consultation or debate. That is not unusual; he has little to no room for honest, open dialogue and even less desire to reconsider any of his positions especially those regarding his anti-terrorism bill, C-51. What little debate there was resembled something from the plague years of McCarthyism, committee Conservative hacks Diane Ablonczy, Rick Norlock and LeVar Payne, in a shocking demonstration of ignorance and partisanship, ridiculing witnesses, questioning the integrity of those opposing the bill and running the clock so as to forestall questioning by opposition members on the committee. It was cheap shameless disrespectful theatre by Conservatives without even pretence of fairness, gutter ambush by guttersnipes.

When the Harper Conservatives voted to expand the war against ISIL, they evoked the image of “moral clarity”. That is a bit rich coming from a party that has long ago set aside any pretensions to governing with a moral compass. We have had Conservative members forced to resign over questions of expense claims, Dean del Mastro found guilty of election fraud, Conservative workers sent to jail for the robocalls fiasco and the Conservative party paying a fine for breaking election laws. In truth, morality and ethics are strangers to this gang. Even when it comes to training our troops, they must act in secrecy. In this instance it is justified, perhaps, shame playing less a role than possibility of a public backlash, I suspect. The National Post has reported that Blackwater USA, a highly controversial private security force, mercenaries, has been training our troops in Afghanistan. Blackwater USA, with ties going back to the Bush administration, played a role in the killings of civilians in Iraq in 2007. Of the four charged and found guilty, one received a life sentence and three 30 years each. This linkage of Canadian troops to mercenaries was new to me but not surprising; nothing surprises me with this gang. If the devil were a businessman, Harper would happily consort with him. He’s already dirtied his hands by doing business with despots and murderers. If one is pro-business, it doesn’t matter his crimes, Harper turns a blind eye. He refuses to see. Or to care.

I am disheartened by the public willingness to ignore the dirty tricks, the scandals, the lies, the bad governance, the fomenting of hysteria and intolerance. Where is the public outrage as the Harper gang spreads the poisonous filth of fear and bigotry that borders on Islamophobia? I’m an old man and remember a time when people took an interest. It seems with the Internet and selfies a whole generation has drifted into casual indifference to the world around them. God help them when they wake up.

On March 24, when Harper put forward his proposal to extend the war against ISIS for another year, he did not rule out the possibility of feet on the ground in Syria as well. “Self-defence” he offers as justification. That stretches credulity because untrue; Canada has not been a direct target of ISIS. The Liberals, originally supportive of the war, says it will not support this expansion. The NDP has been opposed all along saying the government has been less than truthful and have no exit strategy. Undeterred, Harper and gang still evoke the images of terror and have no issue with outright lying to make their point.

Take Defence Minister Jason Kenney, for instance. A while back, he used his government’s letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party. He was untrustworthy then. Today, as he continues to defend his government’s role, he continues to prove himself completely untrustworthy as minister, spokesman, or witness, sending out photos of chained women that were, in reality, recreations of historical events or, as the case with one depicting a child bride, hands tied, which was proven to be a fake. He’s the fellow who tweeted Cirillo’s death even before the military learned of it. Critics have referred to these as “missteps”. Generous considering the frequency and eagerness of his use of twitter to inflame public sentiment with such nasty surprises. He is a partisan attention seeker, nothing wrong in that if you like bombast and hot air, but there is when he smears opponents by innuendo as when he forwarded a letter to Sun Media, a shrill Conservative fan base, using his Parliamentary email to suggest Justin Trudeau supported religious extremists by his visiting of a mosque in Montreal in 2011 that the New York Times had claimed in an article to have been linked by the military to al-Qaida. None of the Conservatives who picked up the story, including Harper, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and anyone in the PMO could work up the decency to tell the whole story, that Trudeau had visited the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque a month before the New York Times story ran. Was this just another Jason Kenney misstep? Did no one, not even in the PMO know the mosque was not on the list when Trudeau visited? If not, why are they still in charge? The smear by Kenney was vile and clearly meant to pose an ugly question regarding Trudeau’s loyalty and relationship to terrorists.

During what little debate there was on expanding the war, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, rose to request if she could speak on the issue. Because she does not have full party status, she must have unanimous support to be allowed to speak. A few petty ignoramuses in the Conservative Party shouted “No”, thus denying an elected Member of Parliament the opportunity to be heard on an issue that affects all Canadians. Cheap, very cheap.

TRUST ME, I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Harper is a man leading a party made up of folks without a moral compass, without a shred of decency and without an iota of shame.

As a judge of good character, Harper has proven himself abysmal. And indifferent. It is evident that ethics doesn’t play a role in his thinking when he picks his people and makes decisions.

We have been witness to the debacle resulting from his appointments of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau to the Senate and the unseemly behaviour of Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen of the Senate Internal Economy Committee whitewashing the Deloitte audit of Mike Duffy after Duffy agreed to repay the money owed for fraudulent claims and which allowed Leader of the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, to declare the matter closed.

We also know, though we were led to believe otherwise, it was not Mike Duffy who repaid the money but PMO Chief of Staff at the time, Nigel Wright. We have witnessed the departure of Peter Penashue, called by Harper the greatest MP “ever” from Labrador for illegally accepting corporate donations during his campaign, which he won. We have seen Bev Oda, the forger of a government document, forced to leave after charging, one time too many, expense claims to which she was not entitled. We have witnessed how Shelly Glover and James Bezan fought against Elections Canada by refusing, initially, to submit full and proper claims during their 2011 campaign. Shelly Glover (again) and Leona Aglukkaq, a true model of incompetence, were both caught at separate fundraisers attended by members of the community who stood to gain by decisions made by their departments. Glover, caught on camera, is clearly heard to unhappily exclaim when she saw the media, “What are they doing here?” Mike Sona, a junior staffer, was sentenced to jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. Dean del Mastro was found guilty of election fraud and is facing possible jail time. Mike Duffy is presently facing the courts for ripping off taxpayers for expense claims. Pamela Wallin is also facing possible criminal charges for illegal expense claims. So is Patrick Brazeau. Recently, we have learned that Diane Finley, minister of public works has had her knuckles rapped for breach of ethics in awarding a contract to the Markham Centre for Skills and Independence in 2011. The allegation is she favoured a project backed by a Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn friendly to the Conservatives; this after it was rejected by her own department. For Harper, the fact that Finley did not personally gain was sufficient reason to still support her. Harper did the same with Wallin, claiming in the House, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over a period of time.” For Finley, there will be no consequences because the Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, has no power to punish. As we have already seen with the Harper gang, ethics, as most understand it, plays no role. For Harper, ethics is what he and the gang decide is ethical and that includes rigging elections and suppressing votes and imposing anti-terrorism legislation that is so sweeping that every individual who ever voiced a critical thought about this vile gang could, theoretically, be subjected to surveillance, harassment and even arrest.

What is almost amusing is how the gun-loving Conservatives supporters are silent on C-51. In the past, they railed against the Long Gun Registry as a way of spying and “criminalizing” “law-abiding” gun owners. They had their way and Harper scrapped the registry. Now, with a bill that threatens to trample on civil rights and free speech, the gun-worshippers are strangely silent except in their support of Harper.

No, it’s not just Harper and his gang who are hypocrites. But they are more than enough for me.

As for all those who stand up in protest against Bill C-51? A grateful thanks. It’s nice to know that not all have succumbed to the Harper myth.

***

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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

STEPHEN AND JUSTIN: BILL C-51, OPPORTUNISM AND SUBMISSION IN THE AGE OF FEAR

A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterwards. – John Paul Richter

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his convictions. – Robert G. Ingersoll

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

When Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in April, 2013, some sneered at the Liberals dismissing their choice merely as a shallow, photogenic youngster, inexperienced and riding on the coattails of his father’s name. For the Liberals, however, that was enough: they had a winner and they knew it.

The goal, of course, is to attract new, younger voters to the Liberal fold. In the age of superficiality, of selfies and narcissism, it was hardly necessary that those drawn to the Liberals be particularly knowledgeable; the draw was all that mattered, someone young, handsome, articulate, and charismatic: he was one of them, he understood them, he knew where they were coming from: besides, he was cute, had great hair, and had won much admiration for defeating the brash, handsome, controversial Conservative Senator, Patrick Brazeau, in a charity boxing match when the odds had the senator wiping the floor with the lanky Liberal MP. Too, it did not hurt that his deceased father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Liberal and Prime Minister, larger than life and polarizing at the time, was still enough of a draw to earn some support from the elderly, those who harken back to the days of the late 60s and 70s and early 80s through the prism of nostalgia: memories not of what was but rather of what should have been. Compelling, charming, abrasive, intellectual, dashing, reckless, Trudeau père had married a vivacious, slightly insecure, and much younger woman, perhaps not quite up to his intellectual capabilities, but she was beautiful, endearing, fun loving, and naïve if a bit reckless and self-destructive. They had three children, all boys, the perfect family if briefly with it’s share of grief, a disintegrating marriage and later the death of the youngest at 23. It is not surprising that among Liberal supporters today, women outnumber the men.

Unfortunately, memory is an unreliable friend, the Trudeau era no Camelot. While it is true Pierre Trudeau gave us the Canada Act which included the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, we also had the FLQ and the October Crisis in1970 that clearly delineated a leader who, in the name of public security, squandered his reputation as a lifelong advocate of civil rights by placing the nation in lockdown with the imposition of the War Measures Act. The following excerpt of a seven-minute exchange with CBC’s Tim Rafe did nothing to help:

Trudeau: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is ‘go on and bleed’ but it’s more important to keep law and order than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of…”

Rafe: “At any cost, any price? How far would you go? To what extent?”

Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.” (CBC Digital Archive)

It looked good to the timid, easily swayed and easily frightened, showcasing a leader at his best and worst and who was prepared to act decisively and at any cost. But not all were impressed. Imposition of the Act was akin was akin to “using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut” quipped NDP leader Tommy Douglas

So here we are 44 and 45 years later, this time with the Conservatives leading the government and another Trudeau leading the Liberal party. Again, to hear how Harper and his gang tell it, Canada is besieged, in crisis, its citizens in direct danger not just because of the lickspittle, anti-Conservative media or an “activist” (i.e., anti-Conservative) Supreme Court, and not just from the murderers and mad dogs roaming our streets: terrorists are everywhere and they are pounding on Canada’s doors. Those who downplay those fears as alarmist and extreme urging caution in how we react are dismissed with innuendo their loyalty questioned.

It should surprise no one that a government, particularly one as secretive, mean-spirited and anti-democratic as this one, would play to our nightmares and appeal to our bigotry during its slumping fortunes. It’s been done before. But how far is Harper willing to go?

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

Long before ISIL entered the scene, Harper and his party have proven themselves quite willing to label critics in the environmental movement as radicals, stooges for foreign interests. Government employees have been fired, threatened with jail time, stonewalled, smeared, their reputations tarnished and medical records leaked. We have Conservative McCarthyite Mark Adler offering a bill that would require employees of watchdog agencies to swear loyalty oaths; employment will no longer be based on merit but on which political party you supported, or worked for years ago. If that passes, cronyism as played by Peter MacKay will be commonplace and accepted practice. But of what is this government afraid that it works to deceive Canadians by means of such dirty tricks, the frequent attempts to slip in spying legislation into omnibus bills and, when caught, hurling charges accusing critics of “siding with pornographers”.

Crime has always been a good bet for Conservatives, always eager to feed the fears, ignore the facts, and give the public what it wants: punish, punish, punish, one size fits all. The world is dangerous, full of bad guys and no one is redeemable except, perhaps, those Conservatives who subvert electoral rules, hold secret, illegal, fundraising events and pad their expenses.

But these days, even get-tough-on-crime measures aren’t enough. So thank God for ISIL and those horrific images of mass slaughters and videos of beheadings and a burning offering Harper and his Conservatives glimmerings of how they could reverse their sliding fortunes in time for the next election. Without debate, discussion or consultation, Harper joins coalition forces and involves Canada in the war in Iraq with the promise Canadian soldiers would play strictly advisory and support roles. The public approved, his fortunes immediately rose. Where was the downside in joining the forces of good to stop those Islamic monsters?

But, if the boost wasn’t as much as Harper expected or wanted, the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent shortly after allowed him to quickly frame the narrative and raise the spectre of terrorism. The death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill two days later, in a separate incident, was a godsend lending credence to the speculation and giving him an extra bounce after Canadians watched events unfold on Parliament Hill on television while media wildly fuelled speculation about the number of gunmen and victims. The initial confusion and reaction is understandable. However, Harper’s exploitation of the tragedies, working up hysteria to win public support for new, draconian, anti-terrorism legislation for his own political ends, is not.

And if all this helped Harper, the war, the deaths of two fine men, how much more could he have gained if, when reports came out of Canadian soldiers engaging ISIL in combat, one or two Canadian casualties were added. He could throw that into the campaign speeches he’s been giving across the country for an election yet to be declared, evoking jihadists with every other word and having us imagine the rest: bloodthirsty savages slathering at our doors wielding bloodied knives and leaving behind a trail of headless corpses. Still, even without dead Canadian soldiers in Iraq, he’s doing well. Almost daily we hear reports of more arrests, of plots foiled. My God, we are under siege!

So it’s working, this pandering to our fears and emotions, providing impetus for Harper’s Bill C-51, the new anti-terrorist legislation, with no public blowback and with little to no resistance from the opposition, particularly the Trudeau Liberals who have promised to vote for the bill regardless of its shortcomings. When the bill passes, and it will, CSIS will be given broader powers without any parliamentary oversight. Harper doesn’t trust the opposition members we elect and do. In fact, oversight will be almost none existent, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), an “independent” government agency empowered to investigate and review CSIS, has proven itself ineffective, it’s members government hack appointees and itself prone to controversy with chairs Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, forced to resign in 2014 for lobbying activities and Arthur Porter (2008-2011), facing charges for fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, receiving secret commissions, and money laundering while also in the role of director general for McGill University Health Centre.

The bill is dangerous with real potential for abuse. So why is Justin Trudeau so eager to sign off on it? There are no terms of reference. Who defines what makes a terrorist or a criminal act. The Act prohibits “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism. But how are these terms defined? As Terry Glavin pointed out (Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 12, 2015), C-51 is not just about terrorism. Unions and activists will almost certainly be targeted, as they have been, if their actions have a negative economic impact, as when a union strikes or environmentalists set up roadblocks. Would these be deemed acts of terrorism? Almost certainly with this government. Bill C-51 grants CSIS sweeping powers to arrest and detain without warrant and for longer periods, allows CSIS to shut down Internet access of whomever it deems a threat, and denies accused individuals the opportunity of facing their accusers. This is not a bill for a free democracy but for a nation governed by an iron fisted despot.

Is this what Trudeau is willing to sign off on? How far is he willing to let Harper go?

SPY VS. CITIZEN

It’s easy to understand Harper’s motive for putting this forward. He is a demagogue, he is anti-democratic, his is the interest of corporate kleptocracy not the fair and just society that Pierre Trudeau talked about and then abandoned when it suited his needs.

As I stated many times, Harper and his gang are not above smearing their opponents. In trying to rally voters to his side, in whipping up the vision of terrorists banging on our doors, no one should be surprised that Harper resorts to planting the seed of the big, insidious and invidious lie: those who do not support him are against him. By itself, if used only in the rhetoric of campaigning, one party against another party, that may not seem so bad. But when used in the context of war, terrorism and electioneering for the purpose of stigmatizing opponents, of casting doubts to their loyalty, it becomes a weapon of potent danger. Only someone small, vicious, and corrupt would impugn another’s name and honour by questioning his loyalty, doubting his patriotism and by suggesting he supports the enemy in the full knowledge that it is not true simply to score cheap political points. Harper and gang are doing it now. Even as recently as today (February 17th), Harper was sowing division when, in a French-language interview, he said many employees of CBC’s French-language network, Radio-Canada, “hated” Conservative values. If by that he means his values, he may be right; I know I loathe them. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are swallowing that Harper poison. It’s not true, it’s not fair, and it’s destructive not just to the individual affected but also to society at large.

But how does one respond to the vicious smears, the innuendoes and the politics of division when there is always a whole population of the ignorant, bigoted and plain stupid ready to drink from the tainted Harper well?

A federal court recently ruled that Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim, should be allowed to wear her niqab while taking the oath of citizenship. Harper’s response before a gathering of faithful dolts was swift appealing to the lowest aspect of our nature. “I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family. This is a society that is transparent, open and people are equal.” It was a vicious statement, one of division and intolerance, meant to inflame, to isolate and to stigmatize the woman and her community by suggesting with the use of the word “hide” that there was a more sinister aspect behind her desire to wear the niqab. The niqab and burkha are not religious requirements but some Muslims have interpreted the Qur’an’s admonition for modesty as such. However, Zunera Ishaq stated she was quite willing to unveil herself before a government official but not to be unmasked in public. This should satisfy us. Not so for Harper. He must plant that vile seed of mistrust and suspicion. Personally, I would prefer to see the face of my fellow citizens and would wish newcomers embrace our mores. But I have family members who are unhappy that I wear T-shirts only instead of buttoned shirts, even at family celebrations and funerals. That Zunera Ishaq prefers to wear a niqab makes her no more suspect than wearing a T-shirt makes me a redneck. As well, the last part of the statement caused me to smile. Harper’s regime is as closed, secretive, distrustful, petty and vengeful as any tinpot dictator’s. He has invoked closure, refused to consult with opposition members, attempted to slip laws into omnibus bills, subverted electoral laws, engaged in cronyism, and thrown those no longer useful to him under the bus. As for being equal…tell that to the single parent who may want to know why she or he has been left out in the cold while the well-off become even richer by an extra $2,000 thanks to Harper’s income splitting bill. Tell that to the Canadian worker who has been replaced by a foreign worker thanks to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program or to the low income earners whose wages have been suppressed as a result of the united efforts of Harper’s gang and big business.

The storyline Harper has framed is deeply disturbing. It does him no credit and it does Trudeau no credit when he appears to buy into it.

What has happened to the Liberal Party? Well, nothing really. It’s the same ole’ same ole’ not the new and better Justin promised. As has Harper, Trudeau has proven himself as venal as any cheap politician though, as one wit noted, there is no such thing as a cheap politician.

So it’s a tossup with the voters who cannot seem to count above two: Conservatives or Liberals, Liberals or Conservatives. It is as if the two parties, with public consent, really do believe they are entitled to rule by divine right. To the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP as official opposition is merely an aberration so they work together in the secretive Board of Internal Economy to temporarily change the rules in hopes of financially destroying the NDP for engaging in what they all do with taxpayer funded mailouts.

BACK TO THE WHIZ KID AND HIS STORY OF NEW LOVE, ETC.

So what do Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have to offer that is new and different from Harper and his gang?

Well, very little, as it turns out.

In August of last year, he said, “A Liberal government will ensure that every Canadian is included….My vision is for a strong, united Canada and for a strong, respectful government.” We’ve heard that speech before. “Inclusion”, “openness”, “transparency”, “honesty”, are the buzzwords. And that’s the problem, they’re just buzzwords. After almost ten years of governance, suffused with an inflated image of himself as an economic mastermind, Harper has long ago proven himself a failure in every way. Integrity? None. Honesty? None. Openness? Nope. Truthful? Economic genius? Who is kidding whom?

Early in his term, we saw how it would be with Trudeau. He spent more time working the crowd than working in the House. Except for Elizabeth May, who does not get to ask questions in the House every day, none of the leaders have a stellar record of attendance during question period, “once considered a crucible of democratic debate in Canada, but now increasingly heavily scripted political theatre” (Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 30, 2014). Of 125 question period sessions in 2014, Thomas Mulcair attended 74, while Trudeau, with 49 appearances vied with Harper’s 46 in the race to trivialize and diminish Parliament. On that basis alone, there is no reason to vote for either Harper or Trudeau. For the record, May’s attendance was 100 out of 125 question period sessions.

In January of 2014, Trudeau boldly booted 32 Liberal senators from his caucus. The move came in the wake of the Senate scandals and while clever and unexpected, was perhaps meant more to show that Trudeau, young and inexperienced as he was, could be as decisive and brutal as anyone when necessary. But what did it accomplish? If the ploy was to eliminate partisanship in the Senate, what did it do for the House? How do you tell a life-long believer and member he is no longer a Liberal? Just as easy order a member of Harper’s gang to develop ethics.

And while he has proven himself as adapt as Harper in flexing his muscles, can Trudeau really be trusted to keep to his promises? Well…no. Remember his much ballyhooed open, free from political interference nominations promise? That proved a bust from the start with allegations of Trudeau publicly supporting some nominees and blocking others, of changing rules and membership cutoff dates behind closed doors. New, different, better? Hardly.

So, if quite not all he promised, if slow in unveiling some of his platform and less than open in some of his actions, it is true he still has a way to go in matching Harper in pettiness, ruthlessness, vindictiveness, and hypocrisy; that will likely come with time, the hardness and meanness, though I do not really believe Trudeau will ever develop the taste Harper has for wallowing in the sewer. Even so, Trudeau has shown himself able to surprise and, in doing so, of occasionally being remarkably reckless and as opportunistic as any old pro when, as recently as February 9, he made an appearance at a news conference with Eve Adams trailing behind him. Was this a joke? Apparently not. It did, however, elicit as much conversation as John Baird’s sudden departure a few days earlier. What was Trudeau thinking?

The loss of Baird, capable, partisan, and adroit as he was, is certainly more significant for Harper than that of Adams but the damage to Trudeau in embracing the defector may be greater. Which may explain why the Conservatives are still rubbing their hands and smiling. Not only had they rid themselves of a troublesome and toxic MP, Trudeau had, in welcoming her to his party, proved himself truly lacking in judgement. If he had failed to recognize the move by Adams for what it was, the last desperate gasp to salvage her political career and fulfill her personal ambitions, other Liberals did. If he had been under the perception he had made a coup, it is not all that surprising Trudeau would spring Adam’s defection before a clearly shocked media; what was surprising is that he would also spring it on his own supporters. It quickly became apparent that only a few members of his inner circle knew about Adams’s sudden conversion to the Liberal fold. Had more been informed, Trudeau may have been persuaded to withdraw the welcome mat thus saving him from embarrassment over the unseemly show. His failure to understand she was no great prize, certainly not of the calibre of John Baird, and that she had nothing to offer, in fact, might prove a liability, poses a real problem for him and the Liberal Party. How could he not see that Adams, by her own reckoning “25 years a ‘progressive’ conservative’”, was not a good fit for his goal of rebranding the Liberals as united, inclusive, honest, open and transparent? Had the ambitious Adams snookered an opportunistic Trudeau? Maybe. Other than baggage, what does she bring? More than one reference has been made of her telegenic looks. Is that the sum of her gifts? Well, turn about is fair play; the same has been said of Trudeau. I can just see it, Trudeau on the hustings, smugly offering platitudes while the cameras frantically shift from Adams to Trudeau to Adams ad nauseam: who cares about substance when you’ve got all that beauty? But, really, did Trudeau even pause to reflect?

Just days before her defection, she stood in the House staunchly defending the government in her role as parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Yet, as she and Trudeau sat side-by-side facing the media, she was able to claim without offering so much as a smirk that, “after a long and very difficult period of reflection” she could no longer support Harper’s “divisive”, “mean-spirited” leadership. It was enough to make one cringe. She also wanted to “better the lives of all Canadians.” Well, one Canadian in particular. “We need a kind, generous and strong leadership that champions shared vision for how to made Canada work for anyone,” she went on to say. Of income splitting, she had these words, “As a government, we were given a tremendous opportunity with the purported surplus to do right by folks. Instead the government is still about to roll out policies like income splitting which will devour the surplus without benefiting most Canadian families or creating a single job….I cannot support mean-spirited measures that benefit only the richest few.” As if this was news to her! Yet, in December 2014, she was loudly and extravagantly praising income splitting in the House, calling it a “simple, time-tested plan” and suggesting that all families would be better off.

Which is the real Eve Adams? I guess the phoney one.

But it is for her achievements outside of the House for which she has drawn most attention and which should have given Trudeau reason to pause if her 25 years as a Conservative wasn’t reason enough. During the 2011 election, Adams attempted to claim $2,777 in personal expenses including spa treatments and dry-cleaning costs. In December of 2013, she was caught on camera blocking cars at the pumps of an Ottawa Esso station throwing a hissy fit over a $6 carwash. There were allegations of misconduct against her and fiancé Dimitri Soudas with accusations they had paid for party memberships to build support for her nomination bid for the new federal riding of Oakville-North Burlington. As well, Soudas, a confidant of Harper’s and executive director in the PMO, was ordered by Harper not to interfere in Adams’s campaign. He did and was fired. In March of 2014, Adams angered a crowd of Conservatives attending a board meeting in the Oakville-North Burlington riding. She was asked to leave, she refused, more angry words before she finally left. When the Conservative Party finally cleared her to run in the riding, the party was forced to put a halt to the nomination process in order to investigate claims of dirty tactics by Adams and her opponent, Natalia Lishchyna. Due to an injury, which resulted in a concussion, Adams withdrew from the race in August. On February 9th 2015, Adams crossed the floor to join the Liberals. During the public unveiling, Adams neglected to reveal that, two weeks before, the Conservatives had informed her by letter she would not be allowed to run as a candidate for the Conservative Party. That was fine, the Conservatives were eager to help with that bit of news.

This is a woman of ambition who clearly feels entitled and doesn’t mind the perks while riding on the taxpayer dime. So what was the upside for Trudeau except to claim that he had poached a member from the Harper gang, a member who was already on the way out? This had all the hallmarks of gamesmanship as some have posited, nothing new, nothing different, certainly nothing better.

Now Adams had declared her intention to run against finance minister Joe Oliver in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. She would have to prove herself by “earning” the nomination in a process that would be free and open, Trudeau said. He said the same before and broke the promise in three other races. If Trudeau places a thumb on the scale in Adams favour, it could do irreparable harm to him with his own base. Some Liberals in the riding are already extremely unhappy with the idea of a parachute candidate and have made it clear they did not want nor would they support Adams. Is the risk of alienating lifelong Liberals worth it? Yes, if Adams turns giant killer by defeating Joe Oliver. But then Trudeau would be stuck with her, her overweening ambition and overwhelming sense of entitlement. If she lost, well, that’s one problem and one gigantic headache removed. But, what of the bitter aftertaste for those loyal, ignored, Liberals, Trudeau doing what all leaders apparently do all too often, opt for the expedience of one-upmanship, the cheap and easy short-term gain, lofty words and principles tossed aside for the photo-op, the telegenic booby prize. The same ole’ same ole’.

But it could be that Soudas, not Adams, is the real draw. As a close confidant of many years to Harper and as an insider in the PMO, he doubtlessly could provide much insight of Conservative strategy. But then, could he be trusted? Unlikely. He is poison, his career as a political insider surely over. And, if he did it all for love as some have suggested, even more foolish. If Adams loses, will true love conquer all?

While I have absolute contempt for the anti-democratic Harper and his Conservatives, with their anti-unionist/anti-worker/pro-business stance and would never, ever, vote for them, it is not to Justin Trudeau or the Liberals I would turn. I see too much in both that suggest they are brothers in spirit. Both will say and do anything to win the upper hand even sacrificing many traditional values that differentiates the parties. At one time the Liberal Party was proud to declare itself progressive, which suggested some support for individual rights and freedoms, for social and political reform. But that is gone by the wayside, winning and power the end game. Harper and Trudeau are two faces on the same coin and that is an unhappy thought. Interfering in riding association’s nominations and embracing Eve Adams and just two examples of Trudeau’s profound lack of judgement, blatant duplicity, and shameless equivocal scruples.

Yet it is his declared intention to support Bill C-51 that is most offensive and puts the lie to the Liberal brand of old. His father did the same. Trudeau has surrendered to Harper and his gang to such an extent that he has allowed Harper to define him. At least Pierre Trudeau was his own man. We do not need more anti-crime, anti-terrorist legislation. We do not need a police state. But that is what we will end with if Harper continues as he has and refuses to allow for parliamentary oversight and amendments to the bill. Of all the leaders, Elizabeth May, as of this writing, has been the only voice foursquare opposed to C-51. For that, I applaud her. The bill is vile, it is dangerous, it is contemptible. Those who support it are opportunists, stooges, and/or cowards. The new bill will almost certainly result in abuses and be taken to the highest court and likely struck down.

Trudeau says he will support the anti-terrorist bill. The NDP appears to be leaning against support but have yet to declare themselves decisively. I hope they do vote against it. It will pass, regardless, thanks to the Conservative majority, but I would hope there are some politicians who will see this bill for what it is and find a bit of backbone.

Those who oppose Bill C-51 are soft on terrorists. That will be the Harper spin and some will buy it. It will not be true, of course. Only a simpleton would believe that.

Any politician, and I mean any, who supports C-51 out of fear that voters will buy into the Harper narrative has already lost; they have allowed Harper to define and shape them. They will not have my vote but they will have earned my contempt.

Andrew Jackson said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

Think of that. Where do you stand? What kind of person are you?

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

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

 

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