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
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