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Tag Archives: Bill C-51

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

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

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

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

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

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

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

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

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

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

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

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

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

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

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

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

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

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

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know. And so do you.

***

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

 ***

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

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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: THE MORAL FLEXIBILITY OF HYPOCRITES

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

GOLLY GEE LOOK AT ME; I’M A LEADER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT JOB CUTS?

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

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

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

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

IT’S NOT BETRAYAL; I HAVE THE MAJORITY

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

MY WAR, YOUR RISK

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRUST ME, I’M A CONSERVATIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 ***

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

STEPHEN HARPER: THE REAL THREAT TO CANADA

If we destroy human rights and rule of law in the response to terrorism, they have won. – Joichi Ito

Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it. – Noam Chomsky

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 THE WAR OF FEAR

Of what is Stephen Harper afraid? Why has he turned his back on the promises of honest, open, transparent, and good governance?

From where comes that mistrust of scientists, sociologists, scholars, jurists, and the idea that experts are not to be trusted and that he is answerable to no one. Does he believe it a sign of weakness to bend, to retreat, to seek advice, to hear others out, to admit to being sometimes wrong? If so, what kind of leader does that make him?

Harper may be successful as a politician and it is true he will certainly leave his mark on Canada, but it is difficult to believe him even a good, let alone great, leader. For some, he will most certainly be seen as a failure, a man of too much false pride and arrogant insubstantiality blinded by the belief of the inerrancy of his beliefs and goals however wrong, disastrous, and corrupt. He is too petty to be gracious, too vindictive to be forgiving, too mean-spirited to be empathetic, too suspicious to be trusting, and too intransigent to recognize and embrace the value of others especially his critics, preferring to listen to the sycophantic bleatings of toadies and “yes” men. He is a bully who abuses his majority privilege and is apparently untroubled by doing so perhaps because he is surrounded by others equally removed from the world where humaneness is considered a gift rather than a curse of weakness. Their behaviour is that of bullies and cowards, liars and knaves willing to do anything to keep that power even fomenting fear and even waging war against whole segments of society. For them, it is not enough to disagree. They must tar with sweeping generalizations, exaggerated claims, shameless self-promotion, apocalyptic warnings of terrorist activities, scapegoating of members of the Muslim community, gross misrepresentations of what the opposition offer, and impugning the patriotism of doubters opposing Bill C-51.

Harper apparently doesn’t know what great, even good, leaders do: they not only are decisive and confident, they also possess character and integrity and the possibility of experiencing shame; they listen, and they listen to everyone, with an open, honest intent that permits them to be persuaded, to change direction, to stand firm when they must and to retreat when it is wise; he does not seek out credit for the successes not due him nor does he take it for himself when unearned; he does not shrug off responsibility nor, more importantly, does he blame others for his failures.

Good leaders become great when they seeks counsel, accept sound advice even if unsolicited, and are willing to listen to those who are knowledgeable in their fields, “experts” if you will. A leader of a nation is not influenced by special interests nor does he wage war against those who question his judgement; instead, he listens and works for every member of society and works even harder to enrich the lives of those less fortunate rather than for those to whom much is given. In Harper and his crew, I see very little of a leader, even less that is admirable.

THE DEFENDERS AND THE DAMNED

Far too often, we have been witness to the Harper gang’s response to criticism. Opponents to frequent Conservative attempts to slip omnibus bills were smeared as “siding with pornographers” or by having their loyalty questioned. Joe Oliver, then environmental minster, slammed environmentalists as “radicals” accusing them of threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” This was in 2012. With that in mind, it appears Bill C-51 is aimed at setting this right and that is bad for Canadians. Not withstanding Harper’s denials, the bill threatens the right of assembly, association and peaceful protest if he, CSIS, or any other government body determines such activities, say a blockade of trains transporting oil, poses an economic threat. C-51, under Interpretation, Part 1, Section 2 (2) states:

“The following definitions apply in this act.

“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:

  1. a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;”

That is vague language, and open to interpretation allowing this government the authority, if not the right, to shut down strike activities and perhaps even go after unions as economic terrorist threats. Just take another look at the Joe Oliver statement above and consider the Harper regime’s fixation on the Oil sector, the XL Keystone pipeline project in particular.  Harper and his gang, along with the RCMP, have labelled environmentalists as extremists. With such a mindset, could anyone doubt Harper and crew would not hesitate to employ C-51 against unions, strikers, activists or even peacefully protesting citizens blocking a highway?

A few lines following the above excerpt, is this proviso: “For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.

A superficial reading of this may reassure some who believe critics to be alarmists. Not so. It is the use of the qualifier, “lawful”, that becomes troublesome. Wildcat strikes, for example, while disruptive and not desirable, might be considered terrorist acts simply because they do affect the economy. To believe the best of this regime, to trust Harper and his crew to act only out of the purist motives, is not good enough especially since they have, in the past, proven themselves untrustworthy. This is a gang with a pattern of smearing and threatening folks they do not like. No one should forget what happened to Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who was fired by the Harper gang the day before she was to appear before a parliamentary committee to testify about why she shut down the Chalk River reactor for safety reasons. The government engaged in a smear campaign to discredit her. They did the same with Pat Stogran, at the time Veterans Ombudsman, when they quickly learned he took his job seriously. He became a target of anonymous email attacks and began to suspect his medical records had been leaked. The government side raised questions regarding his mental stability and cast doubts regarding his patriotism. Another vet, Sean Bruyea, was similarly targeted for his support of the Ombudsman and for his criticism of the government’s handing of disability pensions for vets which, readers may recall, under Julian Fantino, at that time Veterans Minister, was changed from a monthly, tax-free, lifelong pension to a one-time lump-sum payment. And no one should forget the treatment of Kevin Page, when he, as Parliamentary Budget Officer, was stonewalled by Harper, Peter MacKay and the gang at every turn when he sought information regarding the purchase costs for a proposed 65 F-35 jets. As with Stogran and Keen, Harper and gang went after Page, accusing him of bias and questioning his credentials and his patriotism and, as they did with Stogran, refused to renew his term. Most recently, Daniel Therrein, Privacy Commissioner, has been denied the opportunity to appear before the Commons public safety committee to voice is concerns regarding C-51. This is shameful, shabby treatment of those men and women who were, and are being, punished for doing exactly what they were paid to do. Clearly, when one goes against the Harper gang, there can be no expectation of walking away unscathed. They are brutal and vindictive. That is not leadership; it is petulance.

It will be much easier for Harper and gang, or any government for that matter, to hide behind Bill C-51 to not only target terrorists, but also those they perceive as “enemies” real or imagined. If this bill goes through, and it will because the Harper gang has the majority vote, it will be a bad day for Canada. The Harper regime has allowed for limited debate of the Bill, until the end of March. That is window dressing, dominated by Conservatives who are allotted half the allowed time to ask questions but, thus far, have indulged in rambling monologues and offensive attacks directed at witnesses often running out the clock to deny opposition members on the committee opportunity to pose questions.

Ian MacLeod, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, reports how Tory MP Rick Norlock went after Carmen Cheung, senior counsel for British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, saying, “Is there any degree of checks and balances that would satisfy you? Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” The implication is clear and it is contemptible.

MacLeod also quotes LeVar Payne commenting to Greenpeace Canada executive director, Joanne Kerr appearing as a witness, “The purpose of the act is sharing information for national security threats, so it makes me wonder if your organization is a security threat?” He went on to say, “I see your organization is protesting pipelines, forestry projects, but I didn’t hear anything to indicate to me that you were planning to bomb any of Canadian infrastructure or sabotage electrical grids, so I wonder if you consider yourself to be a national security threat and if you understand the definitions, that it won’t apply to you as long as you don’t commit any of these terrorist activities” (Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, March 14, 2015). I don’t know about you, but I see a threat in there.

One witness, Ihsaan Gardee, representing the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), was subjected to a harangue from Conservative Diane Ablonczy. Ablonczy wanted it noted her concerns regarding allegations the NCCM having ties to various groups supporting terrorists, including Hamas. Said she, “I think it is fair to give you an opportunity to address these troubling allegations. In order to work together, there needs to be a satisfaction that, you know, this can’t be a half-hearted battle against terrorism. Where do you stand in light of these allegations?” Mr. Gardee’s response was to the point. “McCarthyesque-type questions protected by parliamentary privilege and unbecoming of this committee” (Kristy Kirkup, Mar. 14, 2015). This was a deadly comeback but I suspect it was as if water off a duck’s back. There was nothing fair in what Ablonczy was attempting to suggest or in how she was doing it. Mr. Gardee knew it and let her know he was unimpressed and not intimidated.

The performances of the Conservative members were a shameful display of partisanship and vile innuendo. Mr. Gardee’s defence of himself was stalwart if wasted on the obtuse and absolutely nasty Conservative members on this committee who apparently believed they were participating in an inquisition rather than an attempt for a fair hearing. If so, in that, they were right, it was an inquisition. If anyone really doubted what the government expected from this committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney put that to rest when he went after the those opposing the bills referring to them as “so-called experts” who included, “former prime ministers, retired Supreme Court justices, eminent former politicians, national security legal academics and constitutional scholars” (Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, March 14, 2015).

The hearings will accomplish nothing, or very little at best. If there are changes, they will be modest, insignificant, but enough, perhaps, to convince an inattentive public that the government is listening. Don’t believe it. The government’s reason for not hearing from Daniel Therrein is that there is not enough time. Really? Perhaps the Conservatives on the committee should ask real and relevant questions rather than offer rambling monologues and accusations that are inflammatory and prejudicial and appear to question the loyalty of those appearing before them. It is clear from this government’s behaviour that opponents of C-51 will be tarred along the lines of George Bush’s, “You’re either for us or you’re against us.” Hardly conducive for a serious, objective debate when you know that the government side has already determined that those witnesses opposing the bill are suspect. As for Daniel Therrein being blocked? Perhaps his open letter published in the Globe and Mail played a role (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/without-big-changes-bill-c-51-means-big-data/article23320329/).

So what does concern critics other than that the Act allows for warrantless search and seizure, denies the accused opportunities to face their anonymous accusers, allows for suspects to be held for longer periods without charge, allows CSIS to shut down online activities of those they deem a threat and to share information with other agencies and have the ability to put Canadians on no-fly lists? Well, the vague language for a certainty. There are no terms of reference in the Act. What makes a terrorist? This is a regime that has targeted environmentalists, unionists and scientists, scholars and jurists. This is the regime that has conspired with corporations to suppress wages of Canadian workers by wielding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program as a vicious club. What if unions push back? With this government, I can guess. Conceivably, anyone urging a massive public protest across the country against Harper and his crew, perhaps shutting down highways or main streets, could be prosecuted for advocating “economic” terrorism. I suggest the reader look at the open letter by 100 Canadian professors of law and related fields addressed to all Parliamentarians (http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/27/open-letter-to-parliament-amend-c-51-or-kill-it/).

HARPER LOOKS IN THE MIRROR AND SEES A GENERAL

C-51 is simply bad legislation and will doubtless be struck down by the courts. But that will take time and by then we will have had the election and know if Harper’s campaign of terror worked.

Meanwhile, the present war in Iraq and the flap generated by Zunera Ishaq’s refusal to partake of her citizen ceremony by refusing to remove her niqab, allows the Harper establishment ample opportunity to continue to ratch up the rhetoric and isolate a whole community of Muslims with reckless language and disregard for truth telling. As face coverings are not a requirement of the Muslim faith, just of certain States, Saudi Arabia for one, I would prefer them done away with but I also believe if a woman chooses to wear niqabs or burkhas and are willing to allow themselves to be unveiled should they be required to do so for identification or security purposes they should be allowed to do so. That is not my preference but it should be their right. That Harper has turned this into an issue that is divisive and smacking of condescension is unworthy of any leader of a nation. He is appealing to the worst in us, to our fears, ignorance and intolerance. He has done the same with his changes to jail sentencing, his “life means life” homily and suggestions of “murderers walking our streets”. It’s loathsome stuff. It’s all about bogeymen out there, ISIL barbarians pounding at the gates and the neighbour next door waiting to pounce to rape women and slit throats. C-51, draconian and mean-spirited, serves no purpose other than to bolster the image that Harper and gang are on top of the terrorist threat. Unfortunately, the threat posed by this legislation is directed against all targets, the innocent, the guilty, the ones this government decides are its enemies: that would be me; it could be you. Harper’s inflating the dangers so that we are all quaking in our bedrooms and closets until Election Day is likely the best reason to not vote for him. This is irresponsible governance whereby he would seek to be re-elected solely on the basis of the politics of fear. Neither Harper nor his party can save us from the terrorist threat; they are it. Should he be re-elected, there will be no peace and harmony reigning over the land as he would have us believe. That is his myth. I tell you, it is chimera.

When Bill C-51 is picked apart piece by piece in the Supreme Court, and it will be, he will once again refuse to take responsibility for making bad legislation. Instead he will again blame the High Court and “activist” Justices and continue to work at whittling away the trust most Canadians hold for the institution and Supreme Court Justices.

That is not the behaviour of a leader but rather that of a man of low character and without shame, a child really, who is always pointing fingers elsewhere too cowardly to man up to his own failings. It’s always the fault of someone else.

Yet, why is Harper so resistant to the idea of independent or Parliamentary oversight?

Now he and his gang have told us they have plenty of oversight in the form of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). That is patently false. The agency cannot possibly adequately perform its mandate, particularly in this day, when its five members, all government appointees, meet only once a month and the executive director and fourteen staff are left to take care of the day-to-day affairs. Too, SIRC has been plagued by scandal with one time Harper Cabinet Minister Chuck Strahl forced to resign when exposed as a registered lobbyist for Gateway Pipelines and Arthur Porter, one time Chair, in a Panamanian jail facing Canadian charges for fraud, conspiracy, abuse of trust, money laundering, and accepting secret commissions. How confident can Canadians be that the agency is able to do the job effectively or objectively? Not very. So who will keep a non-partisan eye on the spies? No one.

When abuses do occur, and they most certainly will, Canadians will likely never know except, perhaps, years from now. Once the bill passes, as it will, we may occasionally hear faint voices of complaint, perhaps even cries for help, someone running to the media and telling a story of government abuses, false arrest, secret hearings. But we may never know. The government, if it’s still the Harper gang, will shrug the stories off with blandishments and the public, if roused from its apathy, will merely shrug along with Harper and go back to sleep. And if the voices are heard, perhaps the only one who will listen and believe the stories will be the veterans, themselves subjected to so much abuse from this regime, and environmentalists and a few others who actually do believe in democracy and civil rights. The environmentalists will be dismissed as “radicals”, “extremists”, and those noisy vets thrown a few bones with the hope of silencing them at least until the next election.

For this gang, it is no longer their stewardship of the economy on which they rely to capture our vote. In that front, they have been peculiarly silence considering all the noise and bluster of their self-mythologizing over the years of themselves as economic wizards. The folks they have attempted to snow with that myth live the harsh reality of the emptiness of that particular Conservative promise. Instead, Harper and gang prefer these days to stoke the flames of panic by conjuring up terrifying images and creating a poisonous atmosphere that threatens to overwhelm the Muslim community.

Are the Harper Conservatives racists? I don’t know, but I know the language Harper uses is offensive and divisive. We have Conservative MP John Williamson in offering a critique of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program saying: “It makes no sense to pay ‘whities’ to stay home while we bring in brown people to work these jobs.” Is he racist? Again, I don’t know, but the language was certainly racist. Instead of attacking foreign workers, Williamson would have done himself some credit by criticizing Harper, Jason Kenney, and the government for abetting business in suppressing wages and in exploiting foreign, at the expense of Canadian, workers through the TFWP.

And, speaking of our new Defence Minister Kenney, once again he has proven himself absolutely unfit as a member of parliament. When he was minister of immigration, his office faked a citizenship ceremony on the late, unlamented, Sun Media by having six bureaucrats pose as immigrants. He refused to apologize. It was Kenney who banned the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship ceremony, which led Zunera Ishaq to fight back. Jason Kenney clearly likes the headlines, good or bad. As minister of employment, he had his fingers rapped for accepting gifts from lobbyists to his department. In 2011, Kenney also had his finger rapped for using government resources to fundraise for the Conservative Party. Nothing happened, no punishment. Last October, he tweeted news of the death of Cpl. Cirillo before the military had a chance to release the news. Again, no repercussions. Recently, we have him tweeting on International Women’s Day: “On #IWD2015, thank-you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls”. Accompanying the tweet were three photographs. One shows a line of burkha-clad women in chains. Another shows four chained women, faces covered. The third shows the purported marriage of a child, hands bound, to an ISIL member. It’s clear what we are to take from this picture. Unfortunately, Kenney fails to tell us that these pictures are not what they appear. It’s a lie. Glen McGreggor (Ottawa Citizen, Glen McGregor, March 9, 2015) of the Ottawa Citizen reveals that the picture of the child marriage has been largely debunked. He also reveals that one photograph is a re-enactment of a 1300 years old event and that the other is a 2014 demonstration by Kurdish women in London protesting the sexual enslavement of women by ISIL. It was not a mistake; it was a deliberate attempt to mislead and to inflame the public using fake pictures to highlight legitimate and real concerns. It’s dodgy and, as with the other issues, says much about the character of Jason Kenney. It’s not flattering.

How low will these Harper Conservatives go? How confident can Canadians be that this government will not abuse C-51? Clearly these folks have no shame.

WHEN I LOOK AT HARPER, I SEE A PISSANT

The Harper gang have engaged in a pattern of behaviour that should not be forgotten nor forgiven. It is not just the routine lapses of ethics that is troubling, though that should be sufficient to toss them into the ash can of history. It is their targeting of people they don’t like that is particularly worrisome. Everyone who opposes them is “the enemy”. Because they hold that mindset, the have rigged the so-called Fair Elections act that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands unlikely to vote for them. As well, it is their abuses of their majority that clearly threatens to undermine democracy. They have rammed through bills without proper debate, in fact, invoking closure routinely. With C-51, disregarding the chorus of voices warning them against this step, the Harper crew have volunteered to wallow in filth with the politics of fear that threatens to ensnare all Canadians hurling gratuitous insults at the critics and questioning their characters, reputations and patriotism.

And it all appears to be working for Harper. Polls suggest 66% of Canadians believe we will be subjected to terrorist attacks in 5 years. 48% believe we are in danger now, 71% worry about their children being radicalized.

It is unbearable that ignorance and fear has taken such a hold of Canadians. Folks should worry more about losing their child or friend through drugs, alcoholism, or an accident.

In Ottawa, there is a debate raging about a proposed monument to the victims of Communism. It is called Tribute to Liberty. It is to stand on land near the Supreme Court. Land donated by Canadians. Have people forgotten Canada’s own treatment of First Nations peoples? Have they forgotten the days when loyal Ukrainians, Germans and Italians, communists, and unionists were incarcerated during the war years? Does anyone remember the Japanese interment camps? Our hands are not clean.

Yes, by all means, let us recognize victims of totalitarianism. And also all victims of injustice. I would also include the victims of Capitalism: those unionist shot on picket lines by company thugs, those organizers hung from rail trestles, those workers trapped behind locked doors in burning or collapsed factories. Harper, however, has a worldview that doesn’t allow for that kind of inclusivity.

There is real irony in Harper’s support of this memorial. Even as he denounces a totalitarian system, he is working at legislation that threatens the security of every Canadian citizen.

Jack Layton wrote on his deathbed, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Harper is deaf to that hope.

What do you think? Who should I really fear?

***

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. — Jose Narosky

***

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPY VS. CITIZEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, very little, as it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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