RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Barbaric Cultural Practices

KELLIE LEITCH AND STEVEN BLANEY: BOTTOM FEEDERS AND THE POLITICS OF DIVISION, PART TWO

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

 

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

Frank Pelaschuk

Part One, of course, began when Stephen Harper called the last election. His was an era of governance in a league of its own when it came to trolls, bottom feeders and sewer rats. A few of them, but not enough, were turfed out with the last election. Among those was Chris Alexander, the Conservative minister of immigration who, perhaps suffering from the pressures of office, began to show signs of a increased brittleness of character over time occasioning exhibited by unbecoming outbursts of impatience, partisanship, meanness, and anger before finally becoming unhinged, most notably when pressed by Carol Off host of CBC’s As It Happens June 11, 2014, with this question: “What has happened to the 200 government-sponsored refugees from Syria that you’ve committed to bringing into Canada?” Rather than responding, as he should have, the furious Alexander hung up on Off and the radio audience. For many, this was exceedingly strange behaviour from one who had earned a respected reputation for his many years in the Canadian Foreign Service and as Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.

Later, in October 1, 2015, during one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history, just days before the vote was cast, Alexander stood shoulder to shoulder with Conservative MP Kellie Leitch in Ajax, Ontario, to announce that the Harper gang would create an RCMP task force to enforce the mouthful Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act pushed through by the Conservatives. Further, appearing to almost salivate with anticipation by the prospect, they announced the Conservatives would also create a special snitch line to assist the RCMP to stem the massive wave of Barbaric Cultural Practices perpetrated by – well, we all know who. Evidently Harper and gang feared that 911 emergency lines would be overwhelmed by reports from vigilant Canadians once they were made aware of the extent and the dangers posed by those immigrants lurking behind closed doors. Conservatives had their bogeyman and they weren’t about to let it go unnoticed.

Perhaps it is indicative of the company they keep that gave impetus for the need of the legislation but the only barbaric practices I am aware of are those practiced by politicians of the ilk of Leitch, Alexander and the rest of the Harper gang for whom no dirty trick was too dirty or too vile to not be employed whether forcing through legislation or while running for office. Not only were the Conservatives eager to pander to the worst in us with innuendo and by exploiting our ignorance and fears, they were the very instruments fomenting the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance while, at the same time, suggesting a morally superior worldview possessed by Canadians, particularly Conservative Canadians who apparently love Canada more than I do.

YOU WANT TEARS? I’LL GIVE YOU TEARS

In April of 2016, the election over, the Liberals victorious with a massive majority and the Conservatives replacing the NDP as official opposition, Kellie Leitch appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics offering what appeared to be a brave attempt to shed a tear while voicing regret for her role in the snitch line debacle. Her words and demeanour struck me as sincere and warm as the love Donald Trump holds for ordinary blue collar working stiffs and, apparently, for women. If those watching believed it bad theatre and the only things authentic Leitch’s phoniness and hypocrisy, their suspicions were validated when she launched her Conservative leadership bid October 15th with the hallmark of her campaign: she would toughen up the screening process by ensuring that all immigrants interviewed (again we know to whom she refers, don’t we?) harboured “anti-Canadian values”. Now this may appeal to the dunces who live in perpetual fear, hatred and are proud of their ignorance, but the proposal is impractical and unworkable as well as vile. It would not only delay the immigration process but, surprise, the interviewee, particularly with something to hide, can simply lie.

So what values are we talking about? What would Leitch accept and not accept? Clearly in a celebratory mood over the Trump victory, she proudly reaffirmed her “platform” during the first candidate debate for the leadership. With the exception of Steven Blaney, another leadership aspirant and of the same stamp as Trump and Leitch, other candidates vying for the same position quickly disavowed Leitch’s proposal as impractical, unworkable and just plain wrong. It doesn’t matter. She pushes on as she did in the second debate November 13, mouthing similar lines employed by Trump talking about “elites” in politics and the media. On that day, following the debate, she abruptly left without taking questions from the audience as scheduled to attend a family crisis from the day before (a series of alarms triggered by a faulty system). Her campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, the man responsible for the success of the vile Rob Ford, made this observation, “This is how the left operates and we know that” (National Post, Nov. 14, 2016). Do we? I have questions regarding that event myself but it made good play and gave Leitch more publicity. I felt I had seen this movie before. That movie happened when Trump was briefly ushered off stage because of a perceived threat. As an audience member attempted to pull out an anti-Trump banner, someone hollered, “Gun!” The brave but foolish protester was beaten for his efforts. If this is all she and her manager have to offer in the way of originality and a platform, she will almost certainly capture the attention of trolls, the imbeciles who derive great pleasure in scapegoating others, who point fingers (as did Kouvalis), who whine about being “victims”, who likely may even believe her an “outsider”, and who see biases in every opinion not shared by them. Everyone’s out to get him or her, the media has rigged the game and the Muslim threat is pervasive in Canada. Such as these is fodder for Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney; having had many years of practice with the Harper team they are quite willing to roll in the filth of blame, harassment and just plain meanness. Leitch will have the added advantage of being coached by expert Kouvalis who evidently knows all about such. As with lowlifes everywhere, when opportunity knocks, however odious, they will seize upon it. The opportunity provided by Trump’s victory cannot and will not be squandered.

But which is the real Leitch? The one pushing the snitch line, or the one struggling hard to shed a single tear on CBC, or the one sneering at the “elites” even as she holds fundraisers at $500 a plate, or the one who so quick to congratulate Trump and his “exciting message” to Canada? Probably all and none of them though I would guess the hypocrite, phony and opportunist fits more comfortably than the individual struggling to offer some sign of shame or regret. She’ll be what she has to be for the occasion and if that means talking out of three sides of her mouth, she’ll find a way to do it.

Now I have merely touched upon Steven Blaney and for good reason; I see in him a lesser threat than Leitch. His platform is similar to hers. He is most notable for being one among many of Stephen Harper’s “yes” men. As public safety minister, he introduced C-51, the Conservative anti-terrorism bill that jurists, scholars and ordinary citizens believed was too wide-ranging and heavy handed as to threaten the security of the very citizens the Harper gang claim to want to protect. The Liberals at the time expressed some concerns regarding aspects of the bill and the NDP rejected it outright. Thus far, the bill stands as is. It’s strange how the allure of power corrupts and erases all concerns one may have possessed when in the role of opposition. The bill provides little oversight of CSIS and raises the possibility of criminalizing advocacy and peaceful disruption under the banner of “economic terrorism”. It also allows CSIS power to act within and outside of Canada for any perceived threat with limitations so ill defined and sweeping as to raise the spectre of abuse for almost any act ranging from civil disobedience to idle expressions suggesting agreement or sympathy for some of the concerns raised by those deemed terrorists. Under the Act, judges will be asked to issue warrants not only on the grounds that evidence suggests an act has been committed or reasonable grounds that a search of a place will provide evidence of commission of a crime or evidence of the possibility of an act being committed. Judges must not only look at evidence but now be oracles as well. For those citizens travelling abroad, there would be no assurance of privacy or that information would not be shared with foreign agencies. There is also the very real possibility that innocent Canadians will be placed on no-fly lists on mere suspicion (or dislike). For individuals wishing to challenge the no-fly status, they must prove that the safety minister acted unreasonably. As well, the minister can hold these challenges before the court in secret. The government needs not prove its case but the accused not knowing his accusers or the evidence must prove his innocence. That’s hard to do under C-51. Now, this man, much like Leitch, offers as the highlight of his leadership bid a single issue: he would ban the niqab for those voting, taking the oath of citizenship and for those working in the public service. If the courts move to strike down the measures, he would invoke the notwithstanding clause a section in the Charter that allows federal or provincial legislatures to exempt certain basic freedoms.

If Blaney has ever had an original thought, I have yet to be convinced. He was Harper’s loyal stooge and now he’s just a stooge harbouring the same winning-by-any-means mentality adopted by all bottom feeders, including rival Leitch who appears to be garnering considerable attention. That’s not a good sign for Canadians.

But what about that other member, Leitch’s snitch line sidekick who lost his seat and is now running for the Conservative leadership? What does Chris Alexander make of her campaign? Well, he seems to have regretted the snitch line effort; it was not the strategy for the time, evidently. He slammed her during the second debate November 13 for importing anti-immigration Trump-like ideas. Said he, “I don’t think it is right to import, for crass political purposes, the genuine anger that Americans are feeling and to say we have the same situation here. We do not” (CBC News, Nov. 13, ’16). As well, he did go after Blaney saying he didn’t believe in bans on clothing or in Blaney’s threat to use the notwithstanding clause on this issue. My, how things have changed; who would have guessed that last year? Perhaps a year out of office allowed him time to rethink his position? Perhaps. Politics is, after all, often the practice of shifting positions and accommodation; people do learn, grow and change. However, when shifting positions is just a strategy for winning, and far too many politicians concern themselves only with winning, such changes are often fleeting and unreliable demonstrating that politics is also mostly the practice of hypocrisy. The Conservatives and Liberals are masters at the game and they have fooled the voters every time.

BOTTOM FEEDING AS A WAY OF LIFE

It was the Conservative party under Harper that, most disturbingly, campaigned by raising the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance, blaming the media, stoking the flames of fear as wedge issues. We saw how it worked for Donald Trump.

But why has politics descended to where it has? Is it all the fault of those seeking office? I think not. We are willing dance partners, one side eager to lead and the other to follow. So we sink to exploiting fear, despair, ignorance, anger, rather than elevating ourselves. We have ignored and drowned out the voices of reason to such an extent that we can no long trust them viewing them with suspicion; it is much easier to trust the honeyed words of the charlatan validating our biases than the staid voices of reason that don’t. We expect less of politicians because we have accepted the view there is no possibility of better than what is offered to us. That is our fault. Trudeau was elected on the promise of being better. He isn’t and will not be. Oh, yes, there are glimpses of what he could be, but they are simply that, glimpses of possibility. With each day, he disappoints even more.

When you have politicians like Liberal Bill Morneau saying Canadians must lower their expectations, then you can be certain that those politicians who swept in on a wave of hope have never been with us. They have our vote. They, Conservatives and Liberals have always won using the same emotive words and methods touching upon our fears and hopes if for a different audience with one goal: to capture the vote. For 150 years they have broken with their supporters at every turn. Over time they have grown used to winning and trading places; at times, it is almost impossible to determine the difference if any. No wonder there is real anger and real danger; it doesn’t matter who is doing the promising, the only certainty is that the promises will be broken or abandoned eventually. So you go with the one you want to believe. Trudeau fed us the blarney about hope and expectations and the likes of Trump, Leitch and Blaney have gone the other direction continuing the dark journey initiated by the Harper regime. In the end, the working stiff is always left abandoned with, perhaps, a few crumbs thrown his way fuelling the anger the eventually turns to fury. But where is that anger directed? In Canada, it is never directed at the political parties that have governed this nation for almost 150 years. If it were, we would never have elected the same two parties for 15 decades when we have other options. Of late, it has become even more difficult because we have succumbed to our own unwillingness to question, challenge, demand, and expect better. The same political rats who have created this mess are always waiting at the gate to knead that fury and point the finger at someone else: it’s them who are to blame, the blacks, the Muslims, the Mexicans, the foreigners. Sometimes it’s the Welfare State they blame for having created the lazy welfare bum or the worker who wants too much but possesses the poor Canadian work ethic. No one accepts responsibility.

Leitch, and Blaney and their kind are always there to misdirect. They wish to be leader of their party and eventually of the country, but where were they during the Harper years of error and misrule? Where are the jobs they promised? What had happened to the good life, the brighter and better? They were too busy then, as Trudeau is right now, working on the bigger global projects, trade deals that really do create “wealth” but not for those at the bottom who are told time and again to lower their expectations, that the era of full-time jobs has passed, that workers must adapt, must share jobs, accept the norm of part-time work with more hours and lesser pay. Benefits? Forget it, you’re on your own.

Where were Leitch and Blaney when their government conspired with corporations to use the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to suppress wages by hiring outside workers rather than assisting Canadian workers with gaining a higher education or improving or learning new skills through free training? Where, in fact, is Trudeau? When he was in opposition, he was highly critical of the abuses of the TFWP. Now, the well-dressed phony has expanded the program.

So, really, what can we expect from Leitch or Blaney or the others campaigning for the Conservative leadership? Well, scapegoating if nothing else. I don’t recall one member of the Harper gang speaking out against the war against the two women vilified for insisting on their right to wear the niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony. Where were their voices of protest when the Harper gang got rid of the life-long disability pension for vets and replaced it with a one-time lump-sum payment? The Liberals and NDP bitterly opposed it and vowed to reinstate the pension but, of course, not surprisingly, the Liberals had broken that promise shamelessly adding salt to the wound by adding a few dollars extra to the lump-sum payment when all the vets wanted was their hard-earned due. But of course, who really ever believed the Liberals were all that different from Conservatives?

And where were Leitch and Blaney, or any of the Conservatives, when the nine veterans offices across the country were shut down. Liberals and the NDP had screamed bitterly and vowed to reopen them. Thus far, the Liberals seem committed to honouring that promise at least. For that, I commend them. But why did they have to make it in the first place? Leitch, who talks of Canadian values, clearly demonstrated what she meant by them by remaining silent on that issue too. Even now, where are Leitch and Blaney and others of the Conservative party when it comes to homeless vets or homelessness in general? Where are the Liberals? From neither party have there been cries of outrage or shame regarding the poor and most miserable among us. There are not even promises from the Liberals; it is all about the middle class. So, instead of fostering hysteria and bigotry, why haven’t Leitch, Blaney, and the rest been at the forefront working to find shelters for those unfortunates living, if that’s what it can be called, lives of poverty and desperation, many of them ill physically and mentally? It’s clearly not a winner for either party to concern themselves with the marginal. It’s easier to get elected by blaming rather than offering hope and promising for promises kept often come with a price. No, it’s cheaper and easier to get elected employing the Leitch/Blaney method. That’s their Canadian values.

There is nothing hopeful or redemptive in what they do or want; it’s about them, about playing to our fears and preying on the innocent and helpless.

Kellie Leitch wrote on her Facebook page, “Tonight, our American cousins threw out the elites and elected Donald Trump as their next president. It’s an exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada as well. It’s the message I’m bringing with my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada” (Andrew Russell, Global News, Nov. 9, 16). On CTV’s Question Period with Evan Solomon, Leitch said she would be disappointed that people inferred she is a racist. One doesn’t have to infer. It’s there with her leadership platform and the snitch line she proudly rolled out with Alexander. She and Blaney are clearly targeting a segment of society from which to garner votes. No matter how one dresses it, theirs is a message appealing to the ugly face of racial and religious intolerance. And we see echoes of the legitimatization of such appeals with the increased incidents of racist posters asking “whites” to join the Alt-Right blogs and swastikas painted on sides of homes, business and mosques. The vermin, Clearly believing themselves granted permission by the messages of the Trump victory and of the bottom feeders, Leitch and Blaney, the vermin are emerging from the swamp.

Neither Leitch nor Blaney offer hope. Theirs is the opposite of hope, a concerted effort to avoid real ideas that are original, inspiring or that contribute positively to the health and well being of society. It is easier to blame, to tear down, to foment and fan the flames of ignorance, intolerance and mean-spiritedness. There is nothing authentic in what they do except their ambition and hubris. They have embraced the cheapening of politics to demonstrate how they are at one with the “ordinary” folks. It’s an act and some will pay for the ticket.

Hope? Better trust a cobra than either Leitch or Blaney for theirs is a poisonous mixture of anything, anywhere, anytime by any means. Shame and decency hold no place with them. Politicians have always been Democracy’s problem children. But what we see today had its beginnings long ago, long before the Conservative party under Harper embarked on that dark journey to cheapen themselves and politics with bigotry as the hallmark of their campaign. I expect many years of dark days ahead.

And the Liberals? Well, they are busy opening the doors for private foreign companies to invest in government infrastructure projects. Think the workers had it bad under Harper?

Well, that’s a topic for another time.

***

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

 

LIBERALS VS CONSERVATIVES: THE THINGS ONE SEES IN THE POLITICAL ZOO

We’re born princes and the civilizing process turns us into frogs. – Eric Berne

Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age. – Albert Einstein

 Frank Pelaschuk

WEASELS

Stephen Harper appealed to certain types. He was sly, closed, petty, vindictive and all too willing to exploit the worst in us. He was a prime minister possessive of a narrow, exclusive vision; when he spoke of creating wealth and jobs few appeared to understand that he meant creating wealth for special interests groups and that when he spoke of jobs his primary concerns seemed to be in working with Big Business in suppressing wages of Canadian workers through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. His message was one, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, and his efforts of building the economy focused solely on one industry while neglecting manufacturing and other sectors of society. As PM, for at least half of his time in office, he blamed the Liberals for all the things that went wrong, the global market collapse of 2008 for one, and was shameless in hectoring world leaders for not having their collective houses in order. Over time, taking personal credit for the health of our banking system while neglecting to admit to his role in attempting to dismantle the very regulations that made the system healthy, his crowing and badgering grew tiresome, even to Canadians. When Canada began to suffer it’s own economic slump some global leaders must have experienced a grim feeling of schadenfreude. Controlling, incapable of ceding ground or admitting to ever being wrong, he was a pygmy in many ways seeming to imagine himself a giant among men but when it came to generosity of spirit he was graceless and lacking proving himself cowardly several times when he prorogued Parliament rather than answer questions regarding his budgets. He blamed the Liberals for the stagnant economy and not his own preoccupations regarding Alberta oil and certainly not his own ineptitude. He inherited a huge surplus from the Liberals and quickly squandered it creating a deficit of $158 billion while spreading the myth that he and the Conservative squad were the greatest money managers since history began.

For most Canadians, even his supporters, he was not viewed as a warm or caring individual.

But how much worse, if worse, than Justin Trudeau? Oh, Trudeau looks good, I guess, appeals to more than Harper ever did what with his charm, his reputation as best-dressed world leader, his eager efforts to pose with all and sundry seeking selfies with him. There isn’t a camera that doesn’t like him or he a camera. And is it so bad boosting his “sunny, sunny ways”? Yet, there’s something missing. His is a fuzzier, harder image to grasp; many still embrace him because there is not yet enough there to dislike. It will come.

As opposition leader, he largely supported Harper’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, “with some reservations”, a bill that allows for little oversight of spy agencies, that allows for individuals to be accused anonymously, that allows sharing of information of all Canadians travelling to the US, and that could result in charges of economic terrorism for those staging peaceful protests against pipelines, transportation of oil etc. But why is Trudeau “consulting” with Canadians regarding this Harper initiated bill? It’s all show. C-51 has been universally condemned by jurists, educators, judges, lawyers, and activists and even ignorant lay people as myself as bad law that will be challenged in the courts and almost certain to suffer setbacks; as it stands, C-51 appeals to the frightened, uninformed and bigoted. Consultation with the public is only a feel-good measure allowing them to be heard, to voice their concerns and be likely a large enough segment to convince the Liberals to make little, if any changes. Trudeau can claim he gave Canadians an opportunity to be heard and he listened. No doubt he’ll win a few extra votes simply for doing nothing meaningful with C-51. And I am convinced that that is his strategy with electoral reform; many want a referendum and he appears to be having second thoughts even thought he has gone through with his promise to set up a committee to investigate reforms. If he takes the referendum route, the electoral reform will be defeated unless the Liberals make a concerted effort to educate voters. If he goes through with his pledge to make the last election the last first-past-the-post ever, he will likely opt for his preferred choice: the ranked ballot. PR will not make it, of that I am convinced.

While campaigning, Trudeau promised to make Human Rights a priority. He demonstrated he didn’t mean it. Well, not yet. Contrary to what he would have us believe, it is his government that has finalized the $15 billion Light-Armoured vehicle trade deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes, Saudi Arabia, even though it violates Canada’s own as well as UN laws regarding international trade with those Human Rights abusing nations. Liberals claimed they had no choice, their hands were tied, and it was already a done deal by Harper. Not true. Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, had quietly signed off on the export of LAVs. That was the final seal to the deal. Unlike the Dutch who had banned trade deals with Saudi Arabia, the Liberals use weasel words to justify honouring a contract and in the process make a mockery of their claims for Human Rights as a priority. Breaking a deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation as a trading partner, Trudeau claims. Utter nonsense. In the past, Liberal leader Jean Chretien held no such qualms when he cancelled a helicopter deal brokered by the Conservatives. There were penalties for that, but Chretien did not care. He should have. Human Rights were not at issue then.

Trudeau, no doubt thinking of the 3,000 Canadian jobs and the $15 billion deal has apparently made a commitment to trade regardless of the cost to the victims of those trading partners and, in doing so, has made Canadians complicit to any atrocities that may be inflicted by its trading Human Rights abusing partners. Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money.

The Streit Group, Canadian manufacturers of light armoured vehicles, once called “jeeps” by Trudeau, has a plant in Ontario. Recent revelations have shown that vehicles made in Canada have been shipped to South Sudan and Libya where they were then armed with weapons by the military regimes. The practice is called diversion and it is illegal under international law and has led to UN investigators criticising the deals and some concerned groups to ask the government if the deals have violated sanctions against South Sudan and Libya. The sad fact is the vehicles have been sold with the full knowledge that they would later be retrofitted elsewhere. The manufacturers know it; this government knows it. But not a peep of condemnation. See, hear and speak no evil. Instead, the Liberals claim the vehicles fell out of the purview of Canada once they were shipped from a company’s branch in the United Arab Emirates and are no longer any concern of the Canadian government. That’s legalese, a loophole, a weaselly cop-out, that the Liberals believe absolves the Canadian company and Canada: we make them, ship them to an outside branch and then wash our hands of them watching from the sidelines as they are sold to lawless states. Nothing to do with us.

Equally troubling is Trudeau’s commitment to closer ties with China at apparently any cost. Again, Human Rights is a factor. He appears set to cement trade relations with the Human Rights abuser by entering “discussions” (the Chinese call it “negotiations” a not too subtle difference) around an extradition treaty though, when asked directly, sidestepped the matter except to say that Canada has always had “extremely high standards when it comes to extradition treaties”. At one time, yes, but as far back as 2007 Harper had dropped opposition to the death penalty paving the way for extradition to the US. China executes more individuals than all the nations of the world combined including dissidents, students, educators, artists, as well as economic, underworld and everyday “thugs”. Personally, I have no sympathy for those “free enterprisers” in China who cut costs by adulterating milk and other products with poisonous substances such as melamine. Nor do I have sympathy for fraudsters who rip off consumers and exploit and endanger labourers and then flee to Canada seeking shelter. But I do opposed capital punishment and believe Trudeau must obtain a guarantee from China before he inks anything. Even then, I will oppose the deal because I do not trust the Chinese government It’s not enough to mouth support for Human Rights; Canada must demonstrate its support of them. In the crunch, Trudeau appears all too ready to pick and choose when to take a stand. Not good enough.

PIGS, HOGS, SWINE—TAKE YOUR PICK

Trudeau promised better and kinder and of course people believed him. It’s true, he did accomplish a few things Canadians easily support: he kept his promise on Syrian refugees; he did create an inquiry commission into the missing and murdered indigenous women file; he brought back the long-form census; he cut taxes for the middle class and raised them for those making over $200K; he created a task force to look into electoral reform but, unfortunately, while he kept to his promise to consult with Canadians, he has overdone it; there comes a time when a prime minister must lead, must rely on experts in the military, legal and almost every other area of governance rather than on currying favour by consulting with those who may know nothing of a subject. It’s the big promises that are often the hardest to keep. And in the biggest and hardest, Human Rights and trade, Trudeau has not fared well at all. As for the poor, the meanest among us, I have heard nary a word from him. While eager to help the middle class, he has done nothing from what I can see for the single parent holding two or more jobs.

He was going to be fair, open, and transparent and has failed in all three though, it is true, he does seem to be eager to be seen as transparent. Not so with the NDP. During the Harper reign of error, the highly secretive and partisan Conservative and Liberal dominated board of internal economy had determined the satellite offices created by the NDP (offices set up in ridings without NDP representatives using parliamentary staffers as pooled resources working out of town in Quebec) were illegal. The BOIE had changed the rules, which, a year from then would revert to what they were, for the sole purpose it seems of bankrupting the NDP. The BOIE demanded the NDP pay back $2.75 million with allegations of improperly using government resources for partisan purposes, something staffers of all parties presumably do. The NDP, believing they have done nothing wrong, attempted to reach a settlement with the Liberals without going to court. Justin Trudeau vetoed the effort so the matter is headed for the courts. Said Dominic LeBlance then Liberal House Leader, “It is the NDP who decided to begin frivolous judicial proceedings and subsequently asked for settlement negotiations. We have always been of the view that the NDP misused public funds and should therefore reimburse taxpayers” (Joan Bryden, Canadian Press, March 11, 2016). If the NDP is guilty of misusing public funds as the highly secretive and questionable board of internal economy maintain in this particular instance, than so are the Liberals and Conservatives for doing the same. But they, a vile cabal of self-interested pigs will, to no one’s surprise, have none of that. As Harper had proven himself a vindictive bully in the past, Trudeau appears as ready and willing to take on the same role. If the NDP has done wrong, they must, of course pay; but so must the Conservatives and Liberals.

Troubling as this is, this image of a leader bent on bankrupting a party for purely partisan purposes, a sure sign of a smallness in the man, there are other issues of equal concern and they, too, have to do with money.

Following a platitude-laden speech at the UN September 20, 2016, Trudeau answered questions from reporters. Good so far. However, when asked about relocation expense claims by two senior members of his staff and personal friends, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, for a total of $220K, his response was this: We were just following rules set up by the previous government. What! That’s his response? After hearing the same from Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and MPs from all parties regarding expense claims, campaign expenses, haven’t we had enough of these lame excuses? When asked for the names of the two, Trudeau kept mute. Why? As taxpayers footing the bills, haven’t Canadians the right to know who may or may not be abusing the system? The Globe and Mail (September 21, 2016), reports that someone in Global Affairs charged $119,825 for moving. In total, the government spent $1.1 million in relocation costs for 47 (I’ve seen another figure of 49) individuals. As well, communications staff from all departments have run up a tab of $2.3 million in overtime during the first seven months of his governance. This is the new, different? From what? When Liberal prize candidate Andrew Leslie retired from the military, he charged $72K to move just a few blocks; Canadians were justly enraged. The above relocation costs should enrage them as well. For the Liberals, ho hum, we didn’t make the rules. But, even as I write this, both Telford and Butts, have offered to pay back about a third of what they claimed with offers of apologies. That’s how it works in politics. Do everything you can to get what you can; if caught, pay back some, say “Sorry”.

Trudeau’s response from the UN is what we have heard too many times from the Conservatives. It is inadequate. Just because one is allowed to make these extremely generous claims, should one milk it dry without a detailed public accounting? If we pay for it, surely we are entitled to know exactly for what we paid. This is not only pushing the envelope, it smacks of grabbing all you can when you can Otherwise what are we to his smacks not only of pushing the envelope but also of seizing the opportunity to feather one’s nest. It’s contemptible. As was Trudeau’s response. Legalese. The rules allow this. While I am on this, was it really necessary for taxpayers to foot the bill for seven staffers who accompanied him?

Nine years ago, my wife and I moved to Ontario from British Columbia. We hired a reputable moving company for our belongings including our vehicle and purchased plane tickets for less than $15K. Even accounting for inflation, and hotel accommodations, real estate fees and other allowances for government compensation, it is difficult to believe the costs of moving can be justified without crossing one’s fingers.

I should not be but I continue to be astounded by such behaviour. Is there no shame?

Clearly not. Until you’re exposed.

The Liberals were turfed out of office largely because of corruption and their sense of entitlement. Well, it appears that happy, sunny attitude is back. We saw to what extent early in their governance.

Our Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, supported by Trudeau, saw nothing wrong in attending a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers. What possible conflict of interest? Right.

We have Health Minister Jane Philpott continually pushing the envelope with questionable expense claims charging Canadians $3700 for luxury limousines, she paid that back. Then it came out she charged $520 for a pass to Air Canada executive lounges. Paid that back, too. Then it was $202 for a suitcase and $178 for a Nexus pass to allow for speedier passage across the border. She agreed to repay that as well. She did quibble over whether the Lexus she rented was a luxury vehicle. Chintzy. Keep on trying until you get it right and don’t get caught, I guess.

We have Environment Minister Catherine McKenna charging Canadians $6K+ to hire a professional photographer during the Climate summit in Paris. Media covered the event. She could have bought a few flattering photos from the press for mere dollars.

And then we have International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland who had been in Manila on government business. Instead of returning home on a booked government plane, she made a detour to appear on a TV show with Bill Maher. That sudden change of plans cost taxpayers close to $20K. She also charged Canadians $500 for grooming while on the campaign trail. When Conservative Eve Adams did the same, she got into trouble. Ah, well, you got to love the hypocrisy of politics.

Doubtless, there are many Canadians who recall Conservative Bev Oda. She had been caught several times making expense claims to which she was not entitled. She, too, had to repay. But the thing that finally forced her out of office was the tab for a $16 glass of orange juice. Evidently the public outcry was too much for the Harper gang. Oda was gone.

There appears to be a lesson to that story. If you are going to steal from the public, go big: Canadians don’t like pikers.

Maybe that’s why, when Mike Duffy was acquitted on all counts, the outrage was rather subdued. He went big and the judge accepted his excuses and that’s enough to absolve all grasping sins: the rules are unclear; the rules allow this; I was told I could do this; my staffer did this; it was an honest mistake; everyone knows me and I am an honest man/woman.

Yes, the Liberals are back and so soon in their mandate quickly proving themselves, with so many Bev Odas of their own, pros among the ethically challenged. And just like Harper, Trudeau will stand by them – until one buys the $16 orange juice. Susan Smith of Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. who is a Liberal pundit appearing regularly on Power and Politics dismisses the issue of costly expense claims as “pedestrian nonsense as opposed to substantive issues” and “junk and crap” dredged up by the opposition who would rather talk about this than the politics of Kellie Leitch or the falling fortunes of the NDP. Maybe Smith considers it small potatoes to charge taxpayers exorbitant, anything-you-can-get-away-with, expense. I don’t.

RODENTS –SEWER RATS

When Kellie Leitch made clear the ugly direction of her Conservative leadership aspirations, Canadians were treated to a glimpse of an outsized ego but one not quite confident enough to trust on her own experiences, talents, and merits to take her to the top. The circumspection seems warranted for, though she does have considerable experience with the Harper government, she is relatively unknown except for her enthusiastic endorsement of the Harper gang’s commitment to create a Barbaric Cultural Practices Snitch Line. At her side, equally enthusiastic, was Chris Alexander. He lost his seat and Leitch kept hers – go figure. Nevertheless, believing she has a winning formula, she has opted for a second kick at the can at trading in ignorance, fear, suspicion, and the collapse of moral character. She sees a scab she’ll pick at it; so it is with fear and ignorance, she’ll work it. She is simply another in a vast sea of Conservative bottom feeders eager to gain the attention and support of the imbecilic and hateful losers who derive a pitiful and grim satisfaction in making others pay for their miserable lot. Nothing is their fault. These are the folk envious of the success of others and embittered by the failures of their own banal lives, folks who prefer to work at pulling down rather than raising up, especially themselves, and for no other reason than the recognition of themselves as losers who will always be losers.

Kellie Leitch has offered them something, as had the Harper Conservatives last election. It didn’t work out to well federally but for the leadership race it might just fit the bill because she believes she knows her family, believes her appeal is what she offers this family of sad sack losers making up the core of the Conservative base: she offers the same sacrificial lamb that the Harper gang offered last election: the immigrant, the newcomer, the foreigner – the Muslim terrorist. Leitch will win some over because these folks are handicapped crippled by fear and suspicion and the certain knowledge and shame of their own weaknesses and cowardice; they possess no dignity because they have never understood the strength and worth of those they hate and fear; they are not worth a second glance except by those opportunists who would exploit them for all the poisons festering within. Leitch is not just one who feeds off the rot; she is the rot.

POSSUMS

But, of the Harper crew, she is not alone. Just days after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals appointed Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, to take on the role of Leader of the Government in the House of Commons as well, the Conservatives, under interim leader Rona Ambrose, appointed Candice Bergen as party House Leader, to replace Andrew Scheer who is running for the Conservative leadership. He is another prize. Bergen’s most notable achievement as member of the Harper Conservatives has been her many appearances on various political programs including CBC’s Power and Politics as Parliamentary Secretary. She, along with many others, including the execrable Leitch and Rempel and the departed Chris Alexander served primarily as functional, near-lifelike appearing wind-up dolls (the dead playing alive) in appearing as their government’s intermediaries. With eyes glued wide open and mouths fixed in permanent grimaces halfway between smiles and sneers these breathing effigies of something human behaved appropriately when asked questions offering what seemed a recorded message of the day transmitted to a chip implanted in relatively small brains: the message was not “I love you” but some variation of the Harper mantra, “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts”. Whatever the message of the day, anything approaching coherence and openness did not play a part. Regardless of the question or its variations, the responses by these (one assumes) living, talking dolls, were unvarying and almost word for word. It was horrific watching Bergen and her confederates; at times I wondered if, at night, these creatures from Stepford were placed at charging stations for reenergizing awaiting the transmission of the next day’s script to that chip within them, somewhere. Evidently, despite the months away and now as opposition member, Bergen hasn’t quite shed her role as living Conservative dummy. On September 15, she appeared on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton. Not only did she make claims that Conservatives have demonstrated an ability to “really get along quite well with opposition members” (!!!!), she also said that her new role was to ensure they hold the “liberals to account, we have to ensure they respect parliament, that they don’t ram things through…”!!! Maybe it was my TV set, but when she uttered those words, I’m certain I saw, through tears induced by laughter, her face redden. In fact, immediately following that, she also appeared to hesitate. Had she suddenly suffered a flashback? Had she, if even briefly, recalled how many times the Harper regime, of which she was a proud, loyal and disdainful member, refused to consult with opposition members regarding legislation? Had she suddenly recalled the many closures of debate by the Conservatives, the ramming through of laws, and the endless efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection? Was there, on that day, from Candice Bergen, a hint of embarrassment, a Conservative robot somehow, miraculously, showing a teensy bit of life and, dare I say it, shame?

Not a bit of it. They are shameless.

JACKASSES

But this gives you a hint of the quality of what we had and have, Leitch, Bergen and all the other erstwhile luminaries: Michelle Rempel (notable for shrill appearances as parliamentary secretary and for what appeared drunken tweets where she wonders if the world was ready for someone like her – the answer is no); Clement (of the $50 million slush fund and deserving infamy for $3 billion missing while he was president of the Treasury); Deepak Obhrai; Brad Trost (who boasts of being right of Attila the Hun); Maxime Bernier (think secret documents, unzipped pants, ex-girlfriend of Hell’s Angels member); Andrew Scheer (ex-Speaker of the House notable for demonstrating his partisanship and indifference to impartiality), each as bad as the other sitting in opposition waiting for the day to offer more of the same some even imagining themselves not only leader of the party but of the country.

Jason Kenney, stalwart of the Harper gang will not be running for the leadership federally. Instead, he is galloping west to rescue Alberta from the socialist horde that has somehow, by some black arts, become the government with Rachel Notley leading the bloodthirsty gang. On September 20, 2016, Jason Kenney, interviewed by Rosemary Barton in celebration of his announced resignation as MP made this utterance “One thing I learned in politics is it’s much easier to tell a simple lie than a complicated truth”! He should know. He has proven that truth has been too complicated for him at times as when he attempted in a fundraising letter to suggest Trudeau was sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted a picture of a child “bride”, hands bound, with her “husband” and another of bound women we were to take as ISIS slaves without informing us the first was fake and the other of an historical re-enactment. This is the fellow who justified Canada’s expanded role in Iraq with the claim that only the US and Canada, of the allies, had precision-bombing capability. When truth threatens, he flees.

Sadly, nothing has really changed even with Kenney’s departure. Different government, the same kind of people: scoundrels, liars, whores. and a few honest folks elected by mistake. Trudeau has been more open, I will grant him that but he has proven himself to have the mettle to be secretive and shifty. All the warmth and fuzzy good feelings? It’s chimera. He seems ready to sign an extradition deal with China. If anything signalled how willing he was to turn his back on Human rights, it was the LAV deal with Saudi Arabia and the justifications he offered for doing so. If he signs the extradition treaty with China, there will be excuses but he he will have sealed the door on Human Rights as a priority so that he can open the door to trade and embrace the torturers and murderers.

***

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

KELLIE LEITCH’S BARBARIC POLITICAL PRACTICES: THE POLITICS OF DIVISION, FEAR, INTOLERANCE, BIGOTRY AND HYPOCRISY

 

America needs fewer men obsessed with erecting fences of hate, suspicion and name calling. – William Arthur Ward

Joe….was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything. – John Ciardi

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. – Jonathan Swift

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

Frank Pelaschuk

NEW REGIME, OLD STORY

Having observed politicians for some time, I have not found any reason to hope that Trudeau and gang would fulfill many of the campaign promises of newer and better than the Harper fare Canadians endured for the past decade, they were too many and too lavish. But there are some things that are refreshing and offer signs of hope, the prime minister and his crew showing a willingness to engage with the media, answering questions and offering responses that are not always scripted something that became the crippling hallmark of the Harper regime; it’s clear that Trudeau has confidence in his ministers and trusts them enough to carry the government’s message without coming across as living dolls incapable of independent thought. As well, I do appreciate that the Liberals have made an effort to consult with the public but have my doubts about the necessity of doing so on almost every conceivable item many best left for those who really do know what they are doing.

The support they have garnered is still extremely high. Perhaps that accounts for a few missteps since their massive victory. In less than a year, they have revealed themselves as susceptible to hubris, to a sense of entitlement and to questionable ethics as they have in the past and which their Conservative successors and predecessors have embraced under the Harper banner. Many of the Trudeau cabinet are new to politics but their behaviour in some instances is reminiscent to that of the old politico guard with years of experience revealing, so early into the mandate, troubling signs of rot. There is Jody Wilson-Raybould, just months into her office as justice minister showing a complete failure of understanding or simple disregard for public perception of her attendance of a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers from prestigious firms, the very entities who stand to benefit most from the decisions made by her ministry. For some, myself included, this is a clear example of conflict of interest revealing a justice minister of poor judgement, questionable behaviour and a careless indifference to either. Such fundraisers or other methods, including private access for loot, have become common, accepted practice among politicians such as Kathleen Wynne, Christy Clark and other premiers, ministers and backbenchers. They should not. It does not look good and it’s not good. Wynne, when questioned by the media, acknowledge such and has since made moves to scrap such practices. But how sincere or effective are such displays when some, as Clark, see nothing wrong in holding private meetings with those who can afford it: it’s about privilege and money. We just have to take the word of Christy Clark and her fellow politico hacks that access for money does not mean everything is not on the up and up. I don’t accept that and I cannot believe that. Access for cash is by its very nature corruptive; something is being bought and sold and apparently it’s our politicians.

And then we have politicos, who are pikers, the cheesy nickel-and-dime types who pilfer from the public trough with bogus claims in the belief the amounts too small to earn notice or the public fury. When caught, they will often apologize, claim they had done nothing wrong, that everything they did was allowed under the guidelines and, if the noise becomes too loud for too long, still claiming innocence of wrongdoing, some will offer to reimburse the treasury. Three recently elected Liberals who apparently had no trouble not consulting Canadians regarding the picking of their pockets immediately come to mind. There is Catherine McKenna, environment minister, who charged the pubic well over $6K for photos from a professional photographer to highlight the work she was doing on our behalf while at the Paris climate change conference. Surely that was an unnecessary expense since the media following the event must certainly have been as eager to showcase this new and highly photogenic cabinet member as she was to be photographed. Jane Philpott, health minister, is another who had little difficulty charging Canadians for costly limousine services and for access to Air Canada’s executive lounges across North America and Europe. When the first story broke regarding limousines, Philpott quickly agreed to repay taxpayers though there was some quibbling as to what constitutes a luxury vehicle. Again, when news broke of her signing up for the executive lounge pass, she offered to repay the tab. The question is: Why do these things in the first place? Perhaps it’s the thrill of pushing the envelope in hopes of seeing with what one can get away; if caught, there’s always the public apology for it’s seldom that something ever comes of such abuses. Finally, we have Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, who had been in Manila on government business and had already been booked to return home on a government plane. However, she booked another plane to make an appearance on a TV show with Bill Maher. The cost to taxpayers? Close to $20K. Even if she had committed to government business as she claimed, surely that should have been planned for ahead of time rather than appearing to be a sudden change of plans that the Conservatives were quick to pounce upon as a “vanity” trip to L.A. Too, while she was campaigning to get elected, she charged $500 as grooming expenses to the public. Evidently Freeland and the Liberals and their supporters see nothing wrong in this. Yet, Conservative Eve Adams suffered considerable grief for doing the same in 2013. When you’re as loved as the Liberals anything is allowed it appears.

These are behaviours, however, easily remedied by these very people if they possessed a sense of shame and the desire and integrity to do so. Regulations, detailed and not too complex regarding expenses can be made explicit so that even the most ignorant among them with the comprehension of a preschooler can be made to understand and follow them. Should the rules be broken, punishment should be instant, public and severe; neither apologies nor repayment should be considered sufficient. People who can’t be trusted with the little things certainly can’t be trusted with the big.

These are not deadly blows to the Trudeau gang, but they are telling. I do not like that Trudeau has broken his promise of making human rights a priority by going through with the LAV trade deal with Saudi Arabia. Nor do I like that he is in China signing trade deals without taking a stronger stand and making such deals conditional on China’s own problems with human rights. These are in contravention of Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with nations that violate human rights. These should be more damaging but apparently are not. The broken promises and unethical behaviours suggest a culture of entitlement, a cold disregard and insensitivity for the realities by which most Canadians and citizens of the world live, and an attitude that the suggests because something is not forbidden by law it becomes acceptable and therefore allowable because doable. Offensive and egregious as they are, and to me they are egregious, such attitudes can ultimately be remedied by the voter if not the folks he or she elects: boot the bums out. MPs can be made to act ethically even if reluctantly if the punishment is certain, swift and public. MPs can be made to repay padded expense claims as had Jane Philpott (unfortunately, only when her extravagant ways became public). Rules need to be rewritten so as to remove all possibility of pleading ignorance, of claiming misunderstanding because the guidelines are too difficult to understand. They must be rewritten so that even the stupidest, the sharpest, and the most corrupt can know for a certainty, without exception, the consequences of breaching ethical guidelines. The buck stops with the MPs and not with sacrificial staffers or the use of legalese as a refuge: the rules allow it; the rules were not clear; others have done this in the past; I was told this was allowed. That is the response of the coward, the man or woman who accepts no responsibility for his or her own acts. Those who blame others or who resort to legalese have no right to hold office.

THE SHAMEFUL AND SHAMELESS

I did not vote Liberal. Nor did I vote Conservatives. Both parties have histories of corruption and have ruled as if entitled. Nor do I much admire a party a couple so besotted by cameras and adulation of the public as the Trudeaus. I find their sincerity fulsome and believe it more show than genuine. It may be real; I have just to be convinced. I have never much trusted actors who can put on the sad faces on cue or who express warmth and authenticity by furrowing their brows and tapping their fingertips on their breasts to convince me of their sincerity. I have met a few like that over a long life and none have later proved themselves the real thing.

That said, the one thing I have yet to see from the Liberals, and hope to never see, is the utter debasement of politics as practiced by America’s Donald Trump and Canada’s Conservative party last election when they warred against two women over the niqab and then announced the Conservative plan to create a snitch line so that Canadians could report the BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES OF YOU KNOW WHO! as proudly trumpeted by their own Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander. Astoundingly, only a few paid a price for that debacle, one of them Alexander. Leitch, as we all know by now, and many of the prominent figures of the old Harper gang of mean-spirited, petty, shrill, lying, and hypocritical members still holding office as Official Opposition, are running for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

With Leitch running for office, there is no need to look south at Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton and not so quietly trumpet our own moral superiority. We have our own sewer rats.

When the Conservatives were ousted from power to become official opposition, months after the election, April 21, 2016 in fact, Leitch appeared with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Power and Politics making a big show of penitence for the party decision to create the snitch line and her role in happily making the announcement at the time. As she spoke, she appeared to be struggling to squeeze a few tears. That’s the trend these days, politicians going to the same school learning how to offer their “Sorry’s”, some even going so far as if to offer concrete proof of their rue, dabbing their eyes as if there really were tears or actually shedding and wiping a few drops of the real thing likely induced by onion juice rubbed into their knuckles. That’s all that’s needed they believe; hollow regrets, a few tears, real or faux.

So, almost a year from the snitch line announcement and a few months after her weepy appearance on CBC, we have Kellie Leitch emailing a survey to her constituents asking: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigrants?

Now what Canadian values is she talking about? She doesn’t say. Are they the same Canadian values of the Conservatives who waged war against the poor and sought to disenfranchise them by rigging elections with the misnamed Fair Elections Act. Perhaps it’s the same values exemplified by Harper’s Conservatives as time and again they attempted to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes Canadians wouldn’t notice. Perhaps it’s the Conservative values of smearing Supreme Court Justices the way Harper and Peter MacKay did when their choice for Supreme Court Justice was rejected. Perhaps it’s the same Conservative values that, during the last election, raised the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance as they worked at warring against two niqab-wearing women and evoked images of slathering bloodthirsty Muslim barbarians pounding on our doors. Are her values the same as mine? Yours? Kellie Leitch was a proud, vocal supporter of that gang and that campaign. So, which person is the real Kellie Leitch? The teary-eyed one on April 21 or the one on September 1st so closely resembling the Leitch who so proudly announced the snitch line? Maybe she wasn’t even weeping for her role in the snitch line debacle, after all. Anyone with a jot of self-respect would have walked away from it instantly. She did not. My guess is that she was sorry for the loss the Conservatives sustained October 19, 2015 rather than for role in fomenting racial and religious intolerance. Regardless of how one looks at it, she has proven herself totally unfit as an MP especially one with leadership aspirations. If the Conservatives had any decency, any sense of pride and shame, they would demand she withdraw her candidacy and resign her seat. She contributes nothing to the dialogue. She vows to continue in this vein saying, “In my bid to become the prime minister of Canada, I will be putting forward policies that will make Canada safer, stronger and that will enhance a unified Canadian identity” (CTV News, Sept. 2, 2016). Safer? Stronger? Unified? This is racism, plain and simple, the Leitch emulation of Trump and for no other purpose than to garner votes from the frightened and the racist lowlifes among us. Well, we have more than a glimpse of how far she will go to satisfy her ambition and ego. But what a way to do it!

Vile.

This passes for politics. Swimming in filth and offering nothing, the triumph of the mean, ugly, reckless, ignorant; the ultimate ignominy of Conservative values. Is this the best the Conservatives can offer? Here are some of the other contenders: there’s Maxime Bernier who is best recalled for leaving behind classified documents after a night with his then ex-Hell’s Angels girlfriend; there’s Tony Clement who still hasn’t explained what happened to the missing $3 billion when he was president of the Treasury. He’s also the guy who called public servants deadwood and during the G8 and G20 Summits in 2010 created a $50 million slush fund for his riding. There’s Brad Trost who likes to boast of being to the right of Attila the Hun. There’s Deepak Obrai. Who? Enough said. There’s Michael Chong, a relatively decent chap, I suspect, and relatively unknown. And then we have those yet waiting to declare themselves: shrill hysteric Michelle Rempel who wondered in what appeared to be drunken tweets if the world was ready for someone like her. She’s right; we’re not. We have Andrew Scheer who, as Speaker of the House, abused his role with too many bad decisions including keeping from the House requests by Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan until they submitted full, corrected, campaign expense claims. And, of course, we have the possible entry of Peter MacKay, the man who betrayed to Progressive Conservative Party by joining with Stephan Harper’s Reform party. You get the drift. There is one possible decent candidate in the mix but how many really know Michael Chong.

Unfortunately, one notable member is not running for the leadership. That is Jason Kenney who months ago has announced he would run for the leadership of the Alberta PCs. He also announced he would keep his MP seat, which he has, and continue to collect his pay, which he has, as a lame duck member of parliament until the Alberta Conservative leadership race becomes official. That, too, is another abuse of office and the taxpayers’ wallet. Others have done the same, he says. So what? Does their unethical behaviour absolve his? Evidently he believes so. But Kenney is a man of fluid ethics. In the past he has used government letterheads to fundraise for his party. He has thought nothing of smearing Justin Trudeau with fundraising letters by attempting to suggest he was sympathetic to terrorists because he had visited a mosque in Montreal that, after the visit, had been declared a recruitment centre for al-Qaeda by American intelligence. Nor did Kenney have any qualms of tweeting photographs of women in chains and a young “child-bride” with her hands bound with her “husband” with the clear intent of inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments; he just neglected to inform the public that the first photograph was that of an historical re-enactment and the second a faked document. And it was Kenney who made the false claim that, of the allies, only Canada and the US had the capability of precision bombing to justify Canada’s expanded role in the war against ISIS. No doubt, he will work up a complete set of new fiction to smear his opponents and inflame his supporters as he campaigns in Alberta. Had he stayed, however, he might have given Leitch a run as she plays in the sewer so familiar to every member of the Conservative party.

While no supporter of the Liberals and holding the Conservatives in contempt for their narrow, mean-spirited, pro-corporate parochialism, I prefer the NDP and even the Liberals who at least attempt to offer solutions and ideas that for the lowest and meanest among us offer at least a glimmer of hope. The Conservatives offer none; not ideas, certainly not hope; theirs is a commitment not to citizens but to special interests. It’s about the bottom line, dollars and cents and the myths of free enterprise and trading on fear: lower taxes, the infrastructure will take care of itself; corporate tax breaks are good for the country; tax breaks create jobs; the homeless and poor are to be feared; those collecting welfare are fraudsters, lazy bums; more jail time is the only answer to crime; every foreigner must be viewed with suspicion; every Muslim is a potential terrorist; every aboriginal a drunk; every person of colour suspect. The Liberals were swept into power not by the politics of fear but by offering many of the things that the Conservatives offered but also the possibility of hope and renewal. The Liberals have not fulfilled and likely had not even intended to fulfill all the commitments they made; that is the cynicism that has infected politics. It should not happen.

We, as voters, are too ready to forgive. We should not be. We must demand and expect more from those we elect. The least we can expect is that they be honest, ethical, open. We do not need politicians who will seize every opportunity to enrich themselves simply because they can. Nor do we need the likes of those who foment hatred and fear and target strangers as suspect. As voters, we have a responsibility to know for what we vote. We must educate ourselves and we must question and challenge rather than blindly accept every promise from a politician’s mouth as a promise fulfilled. As voters, we must not fall into the same traps we have always succumbed: that of acceptance and acquiescence. Politics should not be about getting power and then clinging to it by any means. And it should not be about voters asking, “What’s in it for me?” but rather, “What’s in it for us?”

But, as long as we keep electing those who pander to the worst in us, nothing will change.

Just how stupid are we?

***

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

 

IDIOTS’ DELIGHT: TRUMP, TRUDEAU AND TRADE

There’s a seduction in fanaticism. It simplifies things. The leader decides everything for you and suddenly you have no more problems. – Elie Wiesel

The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience. – Lech Walesa

Frank Pelaschuk

VICTIMS

French President Georges Clemenceau once commented, “America is the only nation in history, which, miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneracy without the usual interval of civilization.” That’s a harsh judgement from many decades ago but, unfair or not, it could easily be the verdict of today’s generation of relentless self-reference and self-reverence, folks taking endless photos of themselves and reporting on Facebook every aspect of their lives as if each minutiae was of such transcendent beauty and meaning that the world must surely be as eager to lap up the offerings as the presenter is to share. Occasionally however, reality barges in with shockingly graphic images: cops shooting blacks for no apparent reason other than their blackness. On the whole, however, thus far, there really is no there there as we suck in bromides as pearls, oh and ah over every cute picture of kids and cats and drool over every silly image of celebrity stars including our prime minister and his wife for whom no camera must be ignored and offer thunderous applause for every ignorant hate-filled utterance that somehow elevates us with suggestions that we are not to blame for any aspect of our own miserable hate-filled lives: it’s them, foreigners, the leeches on welfare, the old who left us a mess – well, the list is endless. We ceaselessly troll the web looking for the beautiful because we are not, perhaps hoping somehow some of that beauty and good life will rub off on us. But it’s not all beauty; we also troll the web in search of victims, the poor and ugly with smaller even meaner lives in hopes of bullying and destroying them because they are less skilful, less adept and weaker than ourselves. If you’re that shallow why not be mean?

In a time of decay, we wallow in a pit of hedonism, of narcissism and of sadism where judgement, intelligence, examination, and integrity are viewed with suspicion and dread; bellicosity, superficiality, dishonesty and meanness fuelled by stupidity and the rhetoric of fear, intolerance and ignorance fomented by the ilk of America’s Donald Trump, Britain’s Nigel Farage, and France’s Marine Le Pen appear to be winning the day: the virtuous many, they would have us believe, are victimized by the corrupt elite few who can be defeated only if the common man recognizes the dangers and works together.

Of course, we Canadians are not immune to such simple-mindedness; we’ve had our Ford brothers and for nine years the vile Harper gang Conservatives who last election proved themselves as despicable as any group can be with their campaign of racial and religious intolerance and today sit as official opposition pretending, as did those who voted them in, they were never part of that vile history. The ugly frog has been replaced by the handsome Prince with his Princess wife and all the little princes and princesses in his cabinet and Canada all agog and agag wowed by all that breathless freshness, the handsome youthful faces of such enchantment that the hoi poiloi and elites alike behave as religious ecstatics with every princely appearance and for every easy promise kept while studiously ignoring those broken or watered down or simply shelved. Criticize at your peril.

Not surprisingly, that populist line doesn’t offer the whole truth, though there is some in it: there are folks, though few, in politics and the corporate world who do have real power, who do conspire to keep wages low, who do conspire to quell dissent, who do conspire to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of those who haven’t. But the thing is, many of those who see themselves as “victims” seldom admit the role they themselves play in their own victimization, rewarding those very folks who seek their vote with vague and/or extravagant promises (often broken) while at the same time meeting in secret, often for a price (let’s call it kickback) with those very special-interest folks who would suppress their (the voters’) wages, ship jobs overseas, destroy their social safety nets, and feed from the public trough with government handouts with assurances, almost always broken once they’ve got the money, that the jobs will be kept here. But if it’s our man or woman making the promises and screwing others even more disadvantaged than us, we will gladly turn a blind eye: We’ll get ours if not today, tomorrow – one day, maybe taking longer than we hoped for but one day. Yeah, they’ll get theirs – one day. Meanwhile they’ll stay “victims” living in eternal hope and swallowing the endless bilge: those that have it all did it all by themselves; work hard, we can all be kings; those who fail are stupid, lazy; unions are ruining and running the country; union workers are greedy, lazy, fat cats; everyone has to tighten their belt, work harder, expect less (but when was the last time corporate taxes were raised?).

ENABLERS

We can see it today, everyday, the “victims” as applauding enablers to the rude, crude, vulgar, ignorant, stupid, misogynistic, racist, bigoted billionaire because he, that billionaire, has convinced them he is one of them, and he often is in rudeness, crudity, vulgarity, ignorance, stupidity, misogyny, racism, bigotry; Trump is not only their man, he is the man because his wealth is somehow proof he has no vested interests, that he is immune to corruption and influence. These are not intelligent people. If they were, they would weep that this is all American Republicanism is able to offer as presidential candidate.

Whether Trump believes what he says does not really matter. What does is that he says them. When he talks of building a wall, of barring entry to Syrians and Muslims, when he voices admiration for Saddam Hussein “because he kills terrorists”, because “they [sic] didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk” one wonders if there are any limits to hate uttered under the banner of free speech. The “terrorists” that Hussein slaughtered were often his own citizens their only crime likely opposition or perceived opposition to his tyranny. That this individual imagines himself presidential material and yet routinely talks of “killing” the bad guys suggesting America is too concerned with protecting their rights beggars belief while also giving a good indication of his thoughts regarding protections offered by the American Constitution. Clearly, for Trump, it is enough to be “suspect”. The hell with due process, if he was innocent he wouldn’t be a Muslim or a Mexican.

Trump may be a lunatic but he is a dangerous one and cannot easily be dismissed.

He tells his fans he is successful, he is “smart”, but ignores, as do his supporters, the evidence of his many failures in his business and personal life. He boasted on television of walking away with millions from his Casino in Atlantic City while stiffing his creditors and workers saying that’s what businessmen do. Is that right? Is that what successful people do, wash their hands of any responsibility and stiff others, folks just like those very ones who identify themselves as Trump supporters and plain working class Joes trying to earn a decent wage? Is this the man they would want for their boss? Imagine him running the country with that attitude; he’d have America bankrupt in every way while, doubtless, lining his own pockets. Shameless, unconscionable, he has tapped the support of those possessed of such stupidity they may not even grasp the depth of Trump’s amorality. I apologize for the previous sentence: in putting depth and Trump together I appear to give him too much credit.

“Smart”? The ignoramus can barely articulate a sentence let alone a coherent thought. If he does say something remotely intelligent, you can bet it was by accident. Even so, we cannot easily dismiss him for all his ignorance and offensiveness. It is not enough to ridicule him, not enough to say he ate his brain the first time he picked his nose. We cannot trust that he will lose his bid for American president because voters find him more offensive and dangerous than Hillary Clinton. That’s a mug’s position and too much is at stake.

Yet, having said all of the above, as much as it pains me to admit this, I understand why he does draw some to his side.

TRADE

He would renegotiate or scrap NAFTA calling it the worst trade deal ever and do the same for TPP calling it “a disaster”. Now this is the part that hurts: He is right.

Now I am no isolationist. I am, however, as much a fan of Big Business as Big Business is of unions. On NAFTA and TPP, I find myself on Trump’s side. Now Big Business will tell us that everyone wins with globalization. Not so. There are winners but they certainly are not working stiffs; workers just get stiffed. Perhaps that’s why, giving his past comments, I have doubts about Trump’s stand on the trade agreements. For many workers, NAFTA is associated with the beginning of the new age of chronic hard times. Jobs lost and shipped overseas or wages kept low under threat of same. The despair is palpable; it is real and not easily healed. Workers feel powerless and voiceless because they are powerless and voiceless. Ignored by their own political leaders, workers watch from the sidelines as politicians and company CEOs work together to suppress wages, as did the Harper regime with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and work to destroy unions and rollback gains made by them for their workers. With NAFTA, Canadians experienced first-hand the loss of sovereignty as Canadian laws meant to protect Canadian consumers have been repealed or born dead because of corporate lawsuits brought against Canada with claims that laws to protect consumers interfere with the ability of corporations to make and maximize profits. In other words, Canadian laws have become subservient to corporate interests. For ordinary working Canadians struggling to survive with two or three jobs while feeding a family, there appears to be no protections against governments that collude with Big Business. This is not just a rant of an old delusional white geezer though I may be all three. No less an authority than Fortune Magazine has pointed out some of the missteps of the NAFTA trade deal. In a piece for Fortune on NAFTA’s impact on America (there is no reason to believe the same could not be said of Canada), Jeffrey E. Garten (Fortune, March 29, 2016) wrote:

We failed to see that the benefits of trade, like all other economic benefits, were not shared equitably by the population. We failed to gauge how fast trade patterns could shift, how quickly industries were transforming themselves, and how much of a gap was created by the evisceration of unions which could negotiate protections and benefits for their members. As a result, those at the top of the economic pyramid benefitted. The other 80% were hit with low wage competition, outsourcing, lower paid jobs, or unemployment. All this was made worse by job-destroying technology that the Internet and digitalization was spawning, not to mention the great recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis that extinguished most economic growth. The meteoric rise of China, with its vast industrious labor force, was the coup de grace for millions of US workers, as was the ascent of so many other emerging market nations.

The highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “Made In America” deal as the Americans themselves have crowed, threatens to be even worse according to The Council of Canadians (http://canadians.org/tpp-info), especially for Canadians, controlling how governments may regulate corporate activity, expand the sharing of personal information across nations, extend the life of pharmaceutical patents (thus placing limits on generic drugs and greatly increasing costs of government health plans) and, under the ISD (investor-state dispute) clauses, and allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals and fix the amount of compensation when government regulation interfere with profitmaking. Under NAFTA, Canada has been successfully sued several times costing taxpayers $160 million. Under TPP, corporate ability to sue governments has been expedited thus making the transformation of a Canadian democracy into a Corporatocracy all but a fait accompli. By the time Canadians actually do get to learn the details, it will already be too late.

GAINS

Are Canadians better off? Well, some, just as in the United States, but they do not hold minimum wage jobs, do not work on factory floors, are, in fact, called boss, owner, shareholder. The losers, and there are losers, have been those who have always lost, the real workers, the men and women who are the backbone of every business and who are the real individuals that make a company a success, farmers, truckers, floor sweepers, janitors, nurses, doctors, technologists, educators, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers, public servants – well, you get the drift – the stiffs shafted, sold out and betrayed by the bosses and the politicians bought and paid for by those bosses.

Trudeau, if he had a speck of backbone, would look towards renegotiating NAFTA. If he had a speck of decency he would reject TPP unless significant changes are made that protect workers, create new jobs, opportunities and offer greater take-home pay. But first he must inform Canadians bout the deal itself: what’s in it, who gains, who loses, what does it mean for all Canadians? I expect nothing from Trudeau except that he, as did Harper, will make trade and business interests a priority. We have seen this already. So no one can really claim to be surprised that Justin Trudeau, who promised to do things differently from the Conservatives, spent July 6 at Sun Valley, Idaho attending the secretive meeting of 300 business and tech elites labelled the “Summer Camp for Billionaires”. For Trudeau, this may just be an opportunity to rub shoulders with global movers and shakers and to promote Canadian business opportunities and expertize but the secrecy is troublesome suggesting that nothing innocent is going on there. Is this the man who will give them what they want?

Probably. Likely. Absolutely!

One thing is certain. If things are better, it is not for the poor, not for the single parent holding down several jobs, not for minimum wage earners. Chances are things are not better for you. The world will go on and we will let it leaving it to others to worry while we do as we always have: nothing. We will not hear, we will not listen, we will not change.

But we will always listen to the shameless liars and opportunists, the Trumps of the world who have tapped into this well of resentment, tap into the worst in us, tap into our fears and bigotry milking and massaging the inarticulate rage offering the snake oil salesman’s promises of the all-in-one cure-all. And dolts that we are we’ll buy it because we have always bought it, bought the easy answers and quick fixes rather than looking around for those folks who really will listen, really will hear, really will work for us. It’s not quick fixes or easy answers that we need but politicians who will listen or be forced to listen. And those politicians are not the Christy Clarks who lend their ear to the highest bidder. Nor does solution lie with the likes of federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, barely in office when she’s attending a private fundraiser put on by lawyers, a clear conflict of interest if ever there was one. And the answer does not lie with Justin Trudeau who saw nothing wrong with the justice minister tending such an affair and who signed off on the Saudi Arabia LAV trade deal, a deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. No, the answer certainly does not lie with a single member of the old Harper regime who all, all, went along with the vicious Tory campaign of racial and religious intolerance including the promise to create the odious snitch line to report barbaric cultural practices by you-know-who.

If there will ever be a solution, it must come from voters who will no longer blindly swallow every line of bullshit because it sounds nice or jibes with their own biases, or because the speaker is glib and handsome or has wealth which surely must mean he or she is absolutely intelligent, honest and would never lie to you. The voter must take responsibility for his own destiny. When politicians have lied to you, deliberately misled you, when they hold secret meetings with special interests and accept funds in return, when they pad their expenses, refuse to answer questions, when they sneak in legislation, or break Canadian regulations regarding trade with nation states that abuse human rights, they must be punished, booted from office and shunned like the pariah they are. They are scum.

Trump embodies the worst of politics if not humanity. He promises everything to everyone. He panders to the worst in Americans. But he, at the least, has promised to do something about NAFTA and TPP. I don’t trust him to follow through on either but he has raised the issue. The first has already harmed American and Canadian workers. The second will inflict even more harm.

Trudeau? Can we trust him? He could step up and do what is right for Canadians. I don’t expect that. He’ll be preoccupied. There’s always another photo-op.

***

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

 

PIGGIES: POLITICIANS, THE GRAVY TRAIN AND THE LEGITIMIZATION OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOUR

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. – Rex Stout

In every well-governed state wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. – Anatole France

The people came to realize that wealth is not the fruit of labour but the result of organized protected robbery. – Frantz Fanon

An honest politician is an oxymoron. – Mark Twain

Frank Pelaschuk

Because I do not believe people inherently good or wise, I am occasionally surprised when they do what I believe the right and moral thing. This is particularly true of politicians and voters. I would prefer the politician to be honest and with a conscience and the voter exactly as the cliché every losing politician trots out to show what a good sport he is: The voter is always right. When it does happen, the voter electing a politician who behaves with integrity and in a non-partisan way for the interests of all citizens, I immediately become alarmed believing I will soon awaken to the political nightmare that is our reality.

While perhaps not to the degree of the transit of Venus, I believe the politician of unwavering honesty and steadfast principle a rarity. It should not be but it is. That is our fault. We make it easy for them by demanding too little and expecting even less. Both politician and voter measure each other by their own values and, because they do, often end with an inferior product: It’s what’s in it for me rather than how can I help make us both better. No voter, no con man, makes the politician corrupt, greedy or deceitful any more than does opportunity, lax rules, or systemic rot within an organization; the culpability lies with the individual, with his failure of character and lack of intellectual and moral substance. Unfortunately, the voter all too often plays the role of enabler and likely for the same reasons. He will forgive almost anything as long as he gets his cut.

THE GIVERS

They have always been with us, those citizens who put themselves forward, often “reluctantly”, willing to temporarily “sacrifice” personal ambitions and family life for the “greater good” as a way of “contributing” towards a “better” more “just” society and as repayment of a “debt” for the life they now enjoy. “Serving” some will modestly say. Nice sentiments, almost noble, perhaps even true for some – once. Much of it is baloney and most of it self-serving.

There are exceptions of course, there always is, those who enter politics with the best of intentions and the purest of motives. Occasionally they succeed and do honour to themselves, their families, their community, and to the offices they hold. Sadly, they are not the norm. Too many take the easy route adopting the party line or going with the flow; the path of least resistance is much easier than going against the tide. Cooperation, giving a little ground is perceived as weakness and disloyalty to the party or to the government. Too little attention is paid to the concerns and welfare of all citizens particularly the weakest and meanest among us because the real goal of any governing party is to maintain power preferably with a majority to inflict the greatest damage to those in opposition.

But whether a government of years or relatively new as is the Trudeau regime, there is too much effort directed towards enriching the party fortunes when it should be directed towards improving the lot of the citizens they govern. As a consequence, too much goes into secret fundraising cocktail dinners with the wealthy and powerful from all sectors. That such events often fail to pass the smell test and clearly transgress conflict of interest regulations are dismissed as the petty cavilling of envious opposition members unable to sell their favours as easily and as richly because theirs is a toothless power: second place is simply that.

HAVE YOU SEEN THE BIGGER PIGGIES

IN THEIR STARCHED WHITE SHIRTS

YOU WILL FIND THE BIGGER PIGGIES

STIRRING UP THE DIRT

ALWAYS HAVE CLEAN SHIRTS TO PLAY AROUND IN Piggies by The Beatles

For such as these, optics and public opinion matters not a jot until, as with Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal party, it becomes a public issue when the media picks up the story. Even then, media attention and public disgust may not work. Christy Clark clearly doesn’t give a toss what the public thinks. If it’s legal but ethically dubious, no matter, they will do it. Ethics are for suckers and imbeciles. These are folks who game the system, mostly in secrecy though, it is true, sometimes openly and shamelessly, because they believe, mostly know, public apathy is their salvation unless it is provoked to fury over the sheer pettiness of some acts such as happened when Canadians learned of Conservative Bev Oda charging to the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. Tax evaders rob the public purse of billions but it is the orange juice that gets our attention! Even so, not to worry, particularly these days. Extravagant spending, false expense claims, unethical picking of the public pocket has been legitimized; all one has to do is plead innocence, ignorance and naiveté.

It is astounding, not only the extent to which the public purse is milked for claims that are often of dubious merit, but also the shamelessness of such. It is not theft in the legal sense that happens, but it is pilfering nevertheless. Claims are made that to the average person often seem frivolous, questionable, petty, and bordering on illegal. Every once in a while, a politician is caught with his hand in the till. Sometimes they receive a slap on the wrist, most times, nothing happens. Occasionally, the miscreant is forced to resign or shamed into resignation but that is as rare an occurrence as was a direct answer to a direct question in Question Period during the Harper years: politicians are shameless; they have to be when they pander. When they are caught, exposed to the glare of the media, they will justify their acts resorting to legalese weasel words, the wormy deviousness of the shady and dishonest as they extract every nickel and dime possible from the public purse: It was legal, allowed, permitted, within the rules. Occasionally they will claim the rules are “obscure, vague, unclear, difficult to understand”. At other times, they may claim that a higher authority approved their actions. Occasionally they will point out others have done the same thing and that, over time, such acts have become accepted as normative practice. If I am to be punished, so must others. They will often make claim to the adherence of the law by which they mean the “letter of the law” but never in this manner, and will likely keep silent regarding its spirit. It’s what one can get away with that matters.

They do not talk much of moral compasses, personal responsibility, common sense, conscience, and personal integrity unless pushed and pushed hard. Of course, they will insist, they themselves possess all these admirable qualities. Nor do they much dwell upon propriety, possible conflicts of interest, of the public good, or of public perceptions of doing something that not only doesn’t seem right but isn’t right: If it’s allowed, I will do it because it’s allowed. With the verdict of the Duffy trial, that view has apparently become legitimized. I wonder what will happen now regarding other senators who have paid back money for undeserved claims or who have been referred to the RCMP for investigation. Unless things change drastically, we can expect continued pillaging of the public trough with the same foul weaselly justifications.

Ethical behaviour is not about appearing to do the right thing but actually doing the right thing. I have nothing against a senator or an MP making claims, but let them be legitimate claims, earned claims. Don’t charge the public for your meals at home or for the coffee and donut you bought for a friend. Don’t travel across country on the public dime on the pretext of doing Senate business that can be handled with a five-minute phone call because you want to spend a few days with your family. Don’t claim expenses for a home you’ve lived in for forty or so years claiming your other property visited a few weeks a year in a province you supposedly represent as your primary residence. It may be legal but it’s certainly not ethical nor is it justifiable.

Whatever happened to common sense and judgement? Why is less attention paid to these rather than the excuses often stretching one’s credulity when politicians and senators misbehave? I can’t imagine our common variety street corner petty thief being granted as sympathetic an indulgence while standing before a judge. The rules are unclear; I didn’t know it was wrong; everyone else does it; there is no law against what I did; I made a mistake; I believed it was okay; I thought it was standard practice; my staffer made a mistake; my dog ate the rule book, I was told by my boss it was okay (in this instance the higher the level of approval the more likely the chance of absolution and no one paying the price). What is so difficult about knowing right from wrong? One who fudges seldom offers explanations he offers justifications and excuses.

So, when I look at Liberal premiers Kathleen Wynne and Christy Clark, and their responses to breaking stories regarding serious ethical lapses regarding conflict of interest in the way of secret meetings with corporate executives and/or anyone with the money to pay for the privilege, I am torn. While both deeply trouble me, it was the response of each that allowed me to declare Clark the winner among the ethically challenge but not by much.

When news broke of two of Wynne’s cabinet ministers, Charles Sousa, finance minister, and Bob Chiarelli, energy minister, attending an unannounced (secret) fundraiser that benefitted the Liberal party with $165,000 and a cabal of banks to the tune of $29 million with the privatization of 15% of Hydro One, an embarrassed Wynne announced not only an end to ministers raising money from those who may benefit from their decisions but also the end of $500,000 quotas members of her cabinet were instructed to raise each year. Wynne clearly was chastened but not unduly; the changes would be phased in over time and probably not in place before the next election. Was there a conflict of interest? Absolutely. Did anything illegal occur? I don’t know, the rules allowed such shady shenanigans. Legalese. Again. Unethical? Most certainly. Shameful? You bet but one wouldn’t know it from the response by Sousa and Deputy Premier Deb Mathews. Sousa said that was “part of the democratic process”. Mathews, dismissive of a need for an inquiry, said there is “absolutely no evidence ” of wrongdoing. Of course not, nor will there be unless there is an investigation. But explain that to the citizens of Ontario who were recently informed of steep rate hikes because Hydro One didn’t earn as much as expected because of the mild winter. Unethical? Yes. When a consortium benefits from a secret fundraiser it puts on for a political party something is rotten and it’s not in Denmark. If the fundraiser was so innocent, why was it kept from the public and how was it that the finance and energy minister sat with the very folks who raised money for the Liberals and walked away with millions from the Hydro One deal? Coincidence? I think not.

And then we have princess Christy Clark of BC who earns $200,000 as premier and another $50,000 from her party, which calls it a “stipend” for her impressive fundraising efforts. As reported in the National Post, Clark has earned $301,900 in stipends since she became leader in 2011 (Rob Shaw, Postmedia News, April 28, 2016). When questioned regarding this, Clark laughed it off saying she had believed it was a car allowance. Really? It’s all a joke to these folks but I wonder how much laughter there was from the single parent minimum wage earner holding two jobs upon hearing this. Were those who donated to the party amused when some of that money went to Clark who could use it as she sees fit? Stipend suggests a token payment usually to offset additional expenses. Clark’s amused response to receiving $50,000 is the carefree let-them-eat-cake attitude. But, before we feel too bad for those minimum wage earners, she promises to give them a raise from $10.45 to $10.85 this September. That should keep those carpers quiet. It’s contemptuous and callous. So, what does she do to earn this stipend? Well she’ll meet privately with anyone who can raise $20,000 to $30,000. Clark clearly believes there is nothing wrong with this saying she governs for all British Columbians (just works harder for some for a price) and has no plans to review or do away with the private (and lucrative) meetings between her and wealthy suitors. She claims no favours are exchanged for cash. We have to take her at her word for that. It’s difficult. Between Wynne and Clark, it could be a toss up judging which is more ethically challenged. Clark may have the edge simply because of her shameless disregard for public perception. She cares just enough to rub salt into the wounds by raising the stipend of minimum wage earners 40 cents. Car allowance I guess.

And then, of course, we have the newcomer, Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould, the federal minister of justice, who, along with her boss Justin Trudeau, should know better but apparently doesn’t or doesn’t care. She sees nothing wrong with attending a fundraiser with the very people who stand to gain from her decisions regarding justice. The ethics commissioner Mary Dawson evidently agrees. “The rules are scant,” she told CTV News (Thursday, April 7, 2016). Again, legitimacy is granted to weaselly outs by the very body meant to oversee ethics. Judgement and common sense are not required. It cost $500 to attend the two-hour cocktail event. That’s not much when one considers what it costs for a private audience with Christy Clark ($20K to $30K) or Sousa and Chiarelli ($7,500). I have heard some commentators suggest no politician would risk their reputation for a mere $500. That’s nonsense and beside the point. It’s not a measly sum when it’s $500 times the number of guests and all from the same field holding the same interests and wanting the same outcome. Conflict of interest? Absolutely. Unethical? Without doubt.

Folks who shape ethics to suit their own wants are suspect. Meeting with constituents is not a problem; meeting them in secret in exchange for money is. I certainly do not believe that anyone, regardless of how wealthy, would simply fork over $20 or $30 thousand for the simple pleasure of having had tea with Christy Clark. He expects something in return and the politician princess, regardless of how dim, knows it. Yet we must take Clark at her word: no favours are exchanged. How can we? Why should we?

AND THE WINNER IS…ALL THE LITTLE PIGGIES IN WHITE SHIRTS

Honesty in politics seems to be an increasingly missing ingredient. And I am not talking about folks simply picking our public purse. I am thinking of the integral aspects that make us what we are, character if you will.

The last election provided very good examples of similar failures. We had the Conservatives fearmongering with a vile campaign playing the cards of racial and religious intolerance. There was Kellie Leitch the ambitious bundle of mediocrity now running for the Conservative leadership. There she was standing before the media with Chris Alexander at her side both of them announcing the creation of a snitch line for Canadians to report and stop the barbaric cultural practices of you-know-who. It was contemptible and meant to play to the worst aspects in us. Recently, Leitch on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton disavowed her role almost on the verge of tears…well it was a good if phony act. “We weren’t talking about race, we were talking about kids … but that message was completely overtaken and I regret that, and I regret that it occurred, and it shouldn’t have been done,” she said (CBC, Power & Politics, April 21, 2016). “It shouldn’t have been done.” No kidding. Leitch is a reputable professional and from all I have found, good at her profession, and I have no doubt she cares for her patients. But the fact is indisputable: she was part of a team that made race and religion an issue. She cannot disavow that. Anyone with a shred of dignity, decency and intelligence would have walked away from the suggestion of the snitch line. More importantly, she would have walked away from the real message of the snitch line. The target was not abuse but the Muslim community. Neither Chris Alexander nor Kellie Leitch walked away from that filthy campaign. That says something about character or, more precisely, lack of same. It was an unpleasant spectacle because so willingly engaged by Alexander (he lost his seat) and Leitch (she kept hers). She is not leadership material but she certainly is a politician. When she says they weren’t talking about race, I suggest she is less than truthful. We have 911 and other services across the country to assist families and children. As with so many of that Harper gang, Leitch is just another sad example of another MP who, in hindsight, sought to refurbish a tarnished image with a subdued apology, faux tears and a flimsy defense without any evidence of sincere acknowledgement of her role in the sorry debacle. Of late we have seen too much of this, arrogant politicians caught in their own snares and then repenting with showy displays of phony tears only when the game is over or when seeking re-election perhaps or the role of leader to their party. They must stand before mirrors these bad actors in every sense practicing the quavering voice, the trembling lips, the tears sliding down cheeks with, perhaps to offer verisimilitude to the act, snot precariously leaking from one of the nostrils. I am unmoved convinced the tears are only for themselves. Perhaps, when done rehearsing the scene of self-abnegation they will then seek to relax by facing the mirror all pretence stripped away hands on hips making rubber faces before finally bursting into genuine laughter as they imagine the sympathetic response of the public they will face with teary eyes.

Anyone can misspeak and err but what happened that October 2 day with Leitch and Alexander was no mistake, no slip of the tongue. It was a media event staged during the final days of a failing campaign in desperate hopes of garnering a rush of support from the fearful and the intolerant. It did not work. Where was the shame at the time?

Conservative Jason Kenney is another likely to throw himself into the leadership race. He should not. When he used government letterheads to fundraise for his party, he demonstrated he was willing to fudge; he crossed the line. Last year he posted tweets on International Women’s Day to rally support for the war against ISIS. He posted two photos, one of women in chains and one depicting a child bride with her “husband”. Her hands were tied. The tweets were clearly meant to inflame sentiments against the Muslim community and ISIS in particular. Both were bogus and he knew it. The first picture was of a re-enactment of an historical event. The second was simply a fake. When asked about Canada’s expanding role in Iraq, he offered this as explanation: “The United States is the only one of those five that has precision-guided munitions. That is a capability the Royal Canadian Air Force has, so one of the reasons our allies have requested we expand our air sorties into eastern Syria is because with those precision-guided munitions our CF-18s carry, we can be more impactful in the strikes we make against ISIL” (David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, March 25, 2015). That was a lie. But Kenney is used to lying. As multicultural minister, he used his government email account to suggest Trudeau held sympathetic views for terrorists based on his visit to the Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque when he was an MP. The US intelligence community had released documents that they believed the mosque had links to al Queda. This bit of news was made public a month after Trudeau had visited the mosque. But Kenney and the other Conservative members kept this to themselves. Can such an individual who deceives, misrepresents and proves himself a glib liar time-after-time be worthy of governing a nation? We had that kind of leadership from Kenney’s previous boss. We don’t need a repeat. All the above suggest an individual with serious ethical issues. Evidently he’s a man of some ability. That may be true. He is also untrustworthy.

Behaviour matters. But, judging by the support Donald Trump and the deceased Rob Ford managed to garner, not much to many. Rude, foul-mouthed misogyny, drunken rowdyism, name-calling and shameless lying, racial and religious intolerance seems, in fact, the endearing qualities that draw the stupid and ignorant to support worthless notables of that ilk. Politicians have taken note.

Secret meetings between politicians and influential community and business types for a fee, have apparently been and still is the accepted practice. Does this matter?

Duffy, legally cleared of all charges, will re-enter the Senate chamber and likely make claim for restitution for pay for the more than two years he lost while absent from the red chamber. The Senate itself has made changes but will they be enough, will they endure. I suspect not. As long as there are folks willing to bend rules by pleading ignorance or turning a blind eye, the Senate will remain the dysfunctional, unloved and unwanted institution of a bygone era of partisanship and entitlement. Going along to get along, doing what others have always done is not sufficient. Yet that is how the zoo operated. Men and women took advantage of the laxity of rules and oversight and thought nothing of pilfering from the taxpayer coffers. The Duffy verdict seems to have legitimized such abuses. The offender is not liable. The offender is a victim in fact. Sometimes I want to join Howard Beale from Network and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But then I guess I’ve been doing that the past three years.

But where does the blame really lie? Why must the public accept that a politician can claim ignorance or was unable to understand the rules? If you watch a man going to the washroom, do you pocket the wallet he left behind knowing that it is his? If so, you’re a thief. Would you take that wallet claiming he had left it behind therefore there was not theft? Would you say, “If I hadn’t taken it someone else would?” There are just some things one does not do even when the water is muddy or opportunity presents itself. People without character play dumb, do not question, do not wish to know; they prefer to close their eyes to the wrongdoing of others or to join in saying if it’s okay for one, it’s okay for all.

Politicians who accept money for private meetings are corrupt. What they do may be legal but it is certainly immoral, unethical, and dishonest. They should not hold office and voters should not forget or forgive. Getting away with something simply because one can or because there are no rules against it doesn’t make it right.

PIGLETS

But let’s turn our attention to Trudeau and the Liberals. They swept into office promising new and better and, as have all previous governments, promised openness and transparency. Well, they have failed and continue to fail. Think about the meeting with lawyers by Jody Wilson-Raybould. She said she attended as an MP not as minister of justice. When you are a minister of the crown, there is no such distinction. A few years back Shelly Glover was skewered (and I joined in) when she was filmed attending a secret fundraising event that violated conflict of interests guidelines simply because many of the attendees could possibly benefit from the decisions made by her ministry. Now Glover did not want to be caught but caught she was. She at least paid back the money. Wilson-Raybould? Well, thus far there’s no word of what she’ll do but I can guess and suspect you can as well. Remember this next time you vote: She as minister of justice met with the very folk who stand to gain or lose by the decisions she makes.

But there is something equally as troubling and that concerns the CRA offering amnesty to tax cheat clients of KPMG, one of Canada’s large accountancy firms who allegedly helped these tax cheats set up accounts on the Isle of Man. Amnesty was offered on condition the tax evaders paid the taxes owed and kept their mouths shut regarding the deal. Now that is not only patently unfair, that is corrupt providing more evidence to those already suspicious that governments are more interested in protecting the wealthy and punishing the weak and helpless. The scheme is simple. Firms such as KPMG help businesses or wealthy clients create shell companies offshore and then help them get it back as tax-free “gifts”. Recently the CRA proudly announced it had recovered $1.5 billion from tax cheats. Big deal. What does that do about the rest of the estimated loss per year of $7 to $9 billion? Stats Canada says there is a total of $199 billion declared money in offshore accounts. That is likely a fraction of what is undeclared. In the House, May 3, 2016, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair asked Trudeau if he would hold an investigation of the matter and of KPMG. Trudeau responded thusly: “Once again, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is always willing to play parliamentary procedure games as opposed to digging into the real facts of the issue. We’re working with the Canada Revenue Agency,” (CBC News, Question Period, May 3). The answer was clearly “No!” to Mulcair’s question, which, as posed, clearly indicates he and the NDP do want to dig into the facts. Trudeau said the government was working with the CRA…and skirted the issue of a government agency, assisted by the government, also working with tax cheats and those firms who help the tax evaders in their cheating.

So, from Trudeau and the government, no penalties for stealing, and that is exactly what tax evasion is. If anyone is playing a game, it’s Trudeau, but it’s a rigged game with Canadians losing to the wealthy thanks to the our political leaders taking on the role of accomplices. It may have started with the Harper gang but it is unconscionable that our government continues to protect cheats with promises of amnesty and demonstrates absolutely no desire to go after the corporations who help them cheat some more. Even after the story broke the CRA was still quietly meeting with KPMG. None of this however is surprising; the Liberals have a history of scandal, of working with Big Business and dipping into the public trough. With the Trudeau crew it looks like we will, over time, witness the return to the bad old days of bad old ways.

Good words mean nothing. We have heard the Senate to which Duffy has returned is not the Senate as Duffy knew it. Don’t believe it. The Senate fails in all counts. The changes made are too little too late. The Senate members will behave for a time but before long, the greedy greasy fingers will again be picking at the public purse.

Trudeau’s government fails because it has proven itself flexible in ethics when Trudeau sanctioned the Wilson-Raybould cocktail dinner. The government also lied to its citizens regarding human rights when it ignored government regulations by signing off on the Saudi Arabia light-armoured vehicle trade deal. Trudeau lied to our veterans when he said he would restore disability pensions. He didn’t. He just increased the lump sum payments. He has done some things I do like but he could do much better; he has changed the tone of parliament and has a balanced cabinet of many capable individuals, there is more openness (but already showing signs of second thoughts on that front) and a better image internationally; for these reasons and a few others, he deserves very high marks. But he also broke his word on the big things that count and this is where he may eventually fail. I would prefer it if he had honoured Canada’s commitment to human rights when trading with other nations today and not down the road; yes, the Saudi deal is big, $15 billion. There are Canadian jobs at stake that too is true. But, as a nation, we have to be counted. Can we really justify setting aside human rights until the next international trade deal? Should monetary concerns really trump when dealing with one of the worst offenders of human rights?

Nor should he have reneged on his promise to veterans with disabilities. I would prefer he spent less time posing before every camera he meets and think more seriously of what he wants to do and what he will do and be more open about it. He has what it takes, but fudging on ethical matters, even if a little, suggests he is on the same path as others before him. One thing is clear; the people mobbing him still love him even as he jobs them. They at least got a picture with him.

Politics is a filthy game. It needn’t be. But as long as we allow our politicians to bend the rules, to act unethically, to lie, cheat and deceive and to meet in secrecy with the wealthy and powerful special interest, little will change.

Politicians may be corrupt, but so are we. Join Howard Beale: Get mad as hell. Do something!

***

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: WINNING THE VOTE WITH RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

Thwarted lives have the most character-conditioned hate… The easiest idea to sell anyone is that he is better than someone else. The appeal of the Ku Klux Klan and racist agitators rests on this type of salesmanship. – Gordon W. Allport

Frank A. Pelaschuk

On October 19, Canadians will go to the polls. Chances are it will be a Conservative or Liberal minority. Voters will go back to repeating the same stupid mistake they have made since the first Canadian vote took place.

I have heard some people say, “I would vote for the NDP but I’m afraid of splitting the vote and getting Harper for another term”. If every person who offered the same excuse actually voted for the party they say they prefer, the NDP would have gotten in long ago.

These people are disingenuous at best. The truth is they are afraid, too cowardly to take risks even when there are none though they have had plenty of experience with bad, even corrupt governance for the same reason. They prefer the same old same old because they bought the Conservative/Liberal lies and can’t seem to get past their own blind ignorance. We all know the Liberal record and we have had close to ten years of Harper’s scapegoating and law breaking as he and his party benefited by subverting the electoral process.

What is truly astounding is that those who vote for Conservatives have no shame. They clearly do not care about corruption, lack of ethics, honesty, open government, and truth. What is even more alarming, more reprehensible is that these people support Harper’s fomenting of racial and religious intolerance under the guise of protecting women from the “subjugation” of men within a culture. That is, Muslim men and a Muslim culture. Those who support Harper on the niqab issue say that this has nothing to do with racism or religious intolerance. I beg to differ. The courts have ruled on this matter and yet Harper and gang and those supporting them seem to believe that the war against two women should continue. This is bullying. This is politicking at its vilest, meanest and smallest this targeting of minorities to win voters. That was the same appeal that allowed for Hitler and Mussolini. It was racism and religious bigotry then and it’s racism and religious intolerance today.

The Harper gang and those who support them solely on the basis of this one issue represent the worst that Canada has to offer. They support racism and bigotry.

For this I blame Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, Chris Alexander and all the other hypocrites in the party who have revealed themselves for the straw men and women they truly are. Harper now promises to ban the niqab in public service. That’s a nonissue; no one or almost no one wears the niqab in government offices. He promises to set up a snitch line for those engaging in Barbaric Cultural Practices (i.e., non-Christians, Muslims in other words). He and his filthy group are suggesting such things are common in Canada. It’s not. It doesn’t exist in Canada. On CBC’s Power and Politics, pundit Amanda Alvaro said it best, what the Harper gang is doing is “barbaric political practices”. She is absolutely right in this. Where are the snitch lines for battered women, the murdered and missing women, the child molesters. Oh, right, 911.

Harper claims ours is a “welcoming”, “open” society. Who can believe it when liars, cowards and bigots fan the flames of hatred and so many appear to welcome it?

If Harper can do it to one group, why do you believe you may not be next? Just reflect on these words by Martin Niemöller:

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 Unionists.

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 one left to speak for me.

Neither silence nor complicity guarantees safety. It’s okay to be afraid, but not okay to stand by and allow Harper to do what he has done. You could be next.

Then what?

 ***

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

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

THE WIZARD AS BIGOT

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

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

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

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

It could be you.

THE WIZARD OF SHAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubt it?

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

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

THE WIZARD OF HYPOCRISY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WIZARD OF INDIFFERENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not a pretty picture.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

%d bloggers like this: