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THE CORPORATION AND TRUDEAU’S LIBERALS: THE BETRAYAL OF PROMISE AND THE RETURN OF THE ERA OF ENTITLEMENT

 

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. – Voltaire

The aim is not more goods for people to buy, but more opportunities for them to live. – Lewis Mumford

Frank Pelaschuk

THE OLD

Can our elected politicians be trusted? I do trust them to make and break many grand promises but not with much else; I do not expect perfection of them, but I do expect them to possess the honesty, integrity and the ability to experience shame, as I would expect of my family, my friends and myself. People do make mistakes but making easy promises and breaking them easily and often are not mistakes any more than is lying routinely and with the ease of a con man. Making excuses for every misstep, blaming others for every blunder, and denying our own failings suggest a failure if not lack of character. I prefer to judge and trust a man by what he does rather than what he says and I would hope they the same of me. We see too little of that from our politicians and we still see it in the detritus from the previous Conservative government running for the party leadership most notably from those who continue to pander to the vilest instincts under the guise of Canadian values and security as espoused by the likes of the odious Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney the former minister of public. These are the people who would buy our vote by exploiting our fears and, in the process, encouraging the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance. The cost is too high. They will likely not win the leadership, but they will have infected the political landscape with a rot that will only spread as time goes by. That is probably the best we can expect for some time from that quarter: divisiveness, scapegoating, the scraping of the barrel rather than any hope of elevation and enlightenment. Leitch and Blaney and all of their ilk are bottom feeders best left in the filthy swamp that is their natural habitat.

THE NEW

But times have changed; we have a new, Liberal government with a new, young, charismatic leader and a slew of young, fresh cabinet ministers all swept into office by voters eager for change and eager to believe. We’ve seen this picture before, too many times, change that wasn’t change at all, the same old same old: the revolving door made for two parties only and a vast number of voters left unrepresented in the cold.

Better? Can these mostly new faces be trusted? Are they honest? Have they kept to their promises of openness and transparency? Do these Liberals really stand apart from the Conservatives or are they just as so many of us believe of politicians: little better than those con artists who will woo and dine and win your heart only to break it once they have gained what they want from you?

It is clear that voters can be bought. We swallowed holus bolus all the promises, many of them so excessive and extensive as to stretch the credulity of those calmer folks who have witnessed it all before and stood by the sidelines sadly shaking their heads knowing of the headaches and disappointments that would eventually befall those silly addle heads moved by gleaming surface and hollow hope offered by Trudeau and the Liberals. And if a few of the sceptical fretted wondering if they were doing the right thing, the doubts didn’t last, they allowed themselves to be charmed and bought and gladly gave the Liberals what they wanted. Anything was better than the Harper gang they were told and told themselves.

We live in hope and high expectation and are all too easily swayed by the same tired lines. Things really will be different this time we tell ourselves. And they, the politicians tell us that too. Sunny days, sunny ways are coming. We believe in them because we want to believe in them. But what makes them special, different, more believable better than any other politician. Their youth? The grandeur or extravagance of their promises?

I look at this new bunch and see what I expected but hoped not to see. I didn’t expect to see it as quickly as I did but I see it nevertheless.

We can be bought easily, cheaply and just as easily betrayed. The Conservatives and now the Liberals have demonstrated that time after time. But what of them? Can politicians be as easily and cheaply bought?

Of course they’ll say not. No, not a one of them is for sale. And I’ll believe them as much as I believe in the tooth fairy or that Kevin O’Leary cares about the homeless almost as much as he does about M-O-N-E-Y. I know this: when anyone, especially a politician, justifies a questionable act by claiming, “it’s allowed” and “others have done the same”, I know I’m in the presence of a man or woman I can not trust. In fact, I see a scoundrel. These are people who rely too much on legalese, what they can legally do and get away with seeming not to possess enough in the way of judgement and character to even ask themselves a simple question: Because I can, should I? These are opportunists, the self-enrichers who seek every avenue and seize every opportunity to find benefit in their every deed and word. I do not like such people. I prefer the honest thief; we both know what he is and what our roles are.

Now these people, such as shameless premier Christy Clark, will meet with anyone clutching $5, $10, $20, $30K in their hot hands and swear with eyes crossed that they are not and cannot be bought. That may be true. I don’t know. How can I know when almost all of these meetings are unannounced, are secret, private and often exclusive? We just have to take them at their word. But why should we? When they break promises as easily as they dip into the public till, how can one trust them when it comes to access for pay? We can’t, of course, and we shouldn’t.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould, our justice minister for god sakes, makes the ludicrous assertion that she had attended a fundraising event put on by lawyers not as a justice minister but as an MP, what are we to make of that? The roles of MP and minister are inextricably linked there is no separation. She, backed by Justin Trudeau, then asserted that the conflicts of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, that she was cleared. What a crock. In a letter, the commissioner stated, public office holders “including ministers and parliamentary secretaries,” are allowed “to personally solicit funds if the activity does not place them in a conflict of interest” (Vancouver Sun, Peter O’Neil, April 13, ’16). She has also stated that unless regulations are put into law, she can not enforce them. Bardish Chagger, government House Leader and, I suspect, minister of the newly created department of circular thinking, says legislation is not necessary because there are already rules holding them accountable. Say what? If a private meeting between a justice minister and a babble of lawyers doesn’t make for conflict of interest or, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest, what does? Can the justice minister reasonably expect the public to believe that these lawyers were quite willing to accept that only the MP was in attendance but not the minister of justice? It stretches credulity and cannot be believed by anyone but a dolt.

And then we have other Liberals, newcomers seeming born to the role of skimming from the public trough. We have environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna’s stiffing taxpayers $17K for photographers for 15 events including $6,600 for a private photographer as she attended a Paris climate summit where news photographers were aplenty and free. And who can forget health minister Jane Philpott’s several forays into charging and reimbursing taxpayers for unseemly claims. I guess she hopes to get it right which will be the day no one will notice. But these are pikers next to Chrystia Freeland who thought nothing of cancelling a government jet waiting to take her home from a business trip to Manila so that she could make a side trip to LA for an appearance on a talk show with Bill Maher. But if she went big, she was not above going low as well. While campaigning, she charged us $500 for her grooming. Now I can hear some screaming this is small stuff. Well, Eve Adams got into a lot of hot water over the same issue. Nickels and dimes add to dollars. One man’s meat is another man’s poison I guess.

But what is acceptable behaviour? Surely not access for pay. It seems the Liberals, provincially as well as federally, disagree. We have the Globe and Mail (Globe & Mail, Robert Fife and Steven Chase, Oct. 19, ’16) reporting that Bill Morneau was at a fundraiser at $1500 a plate attended by business executives at a private waterfront mansion of Fred George, a one time mining bigwig turned land developer. Those in attendance, numbering “about 15”, included Jim Spatz, chairman and chief executive of Southwest Properties. Spatz, as the article points out, is the partner of Fred George, host of the party, and was recently appointed to the board of Halifax Port authority “on the advice of federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison, the Liberals’ power broker for Nova Scotia.” Nothing fishy going on? The finance minister at the private home of a partner to a government appointee attended by like-minded individuals? Now CTV news has reported that Morneau has taken in part in several such meetings and is due to attend a gathering at a private home sponsored by an executive of Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs licensed to lobby Morneau’s department. If these are all innocent fundraising tea parties, why the secrecy? Again, we have to take these people at their word that everything is above board. Well, I don’t have to and I don’t.

Said Trudeau in his mandate letters: “Government and its information should be open by default.” On CBC television and radio, I have heard some journalists say that the sums are too small to influence anyone. Come again? We have a hint of what it takes to gain access but how much does it take to buy influence? If the Globe and Mail number of attendees is accurate, that’s $22,500. Is that enough to buy influence? What if it happens ten times with the same number of people? And if the attendees of other events have the same interests and goals and if the numbers in attendance were larger, 50, 100, 200 well, that’s $75, $150K, $300K… How small is too small? It doesn’t wash. When should the public begin to worry? People will smash a car window for a loony. Imagine what a politician will do for a vote. No one, no one, forks over thousands of dollars simply for the pleasure of being able to boast about sitting with premier Christy Clark or finance minister Bill Morneau and chatting about the weather and smelling lettuce. Bill Morneau is from the business world and no doubt knows almost everyone who counts on major corporate boards. As finance minister, when he talks, they likely pay attention. When they offer money for access, I have no doubt it is his turn to listen.

It is not just in the appearances of ethical failure that disturbs me, though, in truth, that should be more than sufficient for any citizens. It’s the excuses: it’s legal; others have done the same; I made a mistake; my assistant did it. These are the words of chiselers and cowards. Even if true, the excuses must not be used as justifications for one’s own acts but a call to do something about another’s and for making changes.

WHO REALLY REALLY LOVES YA, BABY

More than once I have stated that I believed Harper and his gang were often working more for the health and welfare of Big Business than of Canadians. We saw evidence of that more than once by how they handled the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, when Chinese workers were allowed to work in mines in northern British Columbia while our own were turned away and when his regime worked with business to allow foreign workers in low-income jobs to be paid 15% less than Canadians and when RBC had its own workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be shipped overseas. The TFWP under Harper was more about working hand in hand with business in the suppression of Canadian wages and union busting than in fulfilling a need. Once the public got whiff of these scandals, and the Conservative role was scandalous, Harper and gang pledged to reduce the number of foreign workers companies could employ from 20% of the workforce to 10%. The Liberals appeared to be on side but now, in power, apparently have had second thoughts; instead of tightening the program, they have decided to let things stand. This was to allow fisheries in the east to hire more workers. Well, one can understand that, after all, the Liberals won every seat in the east coast and one good turn deserves another. Right?

But how do workers feel about the program or about Bombardier Inc. receiving $1 billion from Quebec and a possibility of $1 billion from the Canadian government especially in light of news that the company has announced a 7500 job cut but will hire 3700 in “low-cost countries”? That is, jobs for workers overseas. That’s Capitalism for you, Big Business claiming they want less government interference, let business do what it knows best…which seems to be extending it’s greedy collective hands into the public purse whenever things get tough.

So, are we better off with Trudeau or did we buy a bill of rotten goods?

Maybe Canadians should ask our veterans. The Liberals saw an opportunity when Harper and gang time and time again screwed those very people who were likely the staunchest of Conservative allies. Trudeau promised to reinstate the lifelong disability pensions and to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Conservatives. We have yet to see the final outcome of the second promise but we do know that the Liberals turned their back on the first. They reneged on reinstating the lifelong disability pensions opting, instead, to add to the lump-sum payment and to the sting with another betrayal by a country for which they have given so much.

This is a government that talks big and looks good when it “consults” on almost every topic under the sun and even produces results on the things with which most Canadians do not disagree. Unfortunately, as I have suggested in previous posts, this regime seems prepared to let die one of its major promises: that the last election was the last ever first-past-the-post election.

During an interview for Le Devoir, Trudeau said that the voters appeared satisfied with the present regime (Liberals) and that there was no pressing need to act on electoral reform. Said he on the week of Oct 17, “they (voters) have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling.” How things have changed. Now that is nerve, hubris and hypocrisy. Harper had won his majority with just slightly over 39% of the vote. While campaigning, perhaps out of sheer exuberance, Trudeau had promised loudly and often that there would be electoral reform. Surely he must have believed the present system of FPTP was unfair and too many voters unrepresented. Now, a year later, having won with the nearly identical popular vote of just over 39% and with even a greater number of seats than Harper ever had, Trudeau, after the formation of an electoral reform committee, has suddenly become convinced that the public is well served under our present system.

Now Trudeau may well have been simply musing aloud to gauge public response to this. Regardless, it is a cynical move and does him no credit for it was he, on his own, not the clamour of the public, who made this significant promise that “We intend to keep.” Well, politicians lie all the time and Trudeau is apparently no exception. Yet his behaviour suggests he would prefer to have us believe him unique among the breed. He’s not. If anything, he has revealed himself as just another sleazy politico out for the main chance. On electoral reform, he mouths the appropriate things: he wants to “judge” the peoples’ opinion, i.e., consult more with the public before letting finally allowing to wither on the vine that for which he had little appetite in the first place.

That is the old and new Liberal hat of entitlement. Things are right with the world and why should he, of all people, tinker with it? To be fair, he hasn’t quite ruled it out though I expect he will or, if not, go with his preferred choice which will have the same effect: the ranked ballot.

On this issue, I did hold out some hope but not much. I did hope he would surprise me in a pleasant way by actually shooting for real electoral reform that was truly proportionately representative. I no longer hope for that from him. Why should he commit to the remaining 60+% of the voters when, like Harper, he won the love and his massive majority with just 39+%?

But, of course, Trudeau and gang have betrayed us even more significantly than in revealing themselves willing to push ethical boundaries and breaking promises as easily and quickly as Liberals did in the past. And that is in the areas of Human Rights and the question of Canadian sovereignty.

As did Harper, Trudeau seems to have made signing on to trade deals an important if not essential cornerstone of his mandate. That’s too bad because he appears too eager to sign the deals at the expense of Human Rights. In fact, he has turned his back on Human Rights, which he had declared to be his priority while campaigning.

Not only has he signed off on the light-armoured vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the worlds most repressive regimes regarding Human Rights, he lied about it saying he couldn’t get out of it, that Harper had made it a done deal, that trading nations would not respect Canada if it broke the contract. They were phony excuses and lies, the deal actually “done” when Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion signed off on the export documents. To do this deal, Harper and Trudeau were quite willing to ignore UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with oppressive regimes. It’s easy to understand, $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are no small thing. But then again, neither are Human Rights. But, while Trudeau made an exception this time, he did promise Human Rights would be a priority next time. Reminds me of St. Augustine’s prayer when he was young, “Lord, make me chaste—but not yet!” And, of course, there’s no blood on our hands. No, no blood…. let’s keep telling ourselves that.

But if Trudeau has failed Canadians in so many ways, including protecting Canadians against the depredations began by the Harper regime with C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, he seems prepared not only to betray Canadians by freely exchanging information on all Canadians who may travel to the States or overseas, he has proven himself equally willing to betray Canadians and Canadian sovereignty on the altar of Capitalism and to fulfill Harper’s goal of turning Canada’s democracy into a corporatocracy.

As I write this, Wallonia, an area of Belgium, with a third of the population, appears to have agreed to sign off on CETA (Eu-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) after a few days as the lone hold out. Evidently, the left in Europe had problems with the deal seven years in the making. And so they should and so should Canadians and all citizens of the signatory nations. The deal, cited by Chrystia Freeland as the “gold standard” of trade deals, is precisely that: a gold plated deal for Big Business but not so golden when it comes to ensuring that the legislative powers of signature states will be able to pass laws effective enough to protect citizens against the depredations of polluters, chemical companies, agribusinesses, and Big Pharma. Under NAFTA, ushered in by the Mulroney government, Canada has become the most sued member as a result of a clause that allows corporations to sue governments. Any business believing its “right” to maximize profits has been negatively impacted by laws meant to protect citizens can challenge the law and sue the government. Canadian and American laws, the right to protect citizens from corporate abuses, take second and third place to that of corporate rights under NAFTA; Big Business are more powerful and have more rights than governments and consumers. Sovereignty has taken a brutal hit and citizens betrayed by the very people and governments that are supposed to protect and look after their interests. CETA, lobbied and supported by Harper with Trudeau eager to sign off on the deal, offers more, if not worse, of the same. While the deal does replace the dispute mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement with a permanent investment court system, the changes are window dressing with an end result that offers, for all practical purposes, little to no change. It allows, as it did with the old ISDS clause for three arbiters: one from the investor, one from the defending nation and one appointed by agreement of the parties involved all drawn from a panel of fifteen agreed upon by Europe and Canada, five of whom are from parties of countries not involved in the deal. The benefits, if any, are procedural, rather than substantive and in one direction only; General Bullmoose, Al Capp’s caricature of the greedy, ruthless, tyrannical capitalist not only lives, he has won, and he thrives. The thing is, though the changes are subtle, the effect is not: the mechanisms protecting the interests of corporations are still in place: laws can be mandated to accommodate foreign businesses. That is likely catastrophic news for Canadians in general and for those in the agricultural sector in particular. If it is such a good deal, why haven’t Freeland and her boss offered assurances that sovereignty has not been compromised? Let us see the details before finalization. This is what the Conservatives were prepared to sign off on and this is what the Liberals are eager to see to its completion. Can anyone be surprised that these deals are conducted in secrecy and the public often staggered and embittered when they finally are made privy to the details and fully understand the extent of betrayal and what they, as a nation, have given away? But, by then of course, it’s too late! Knowing that, it is easy to understand why those working on such deals, like Freeland and her counterparts in Europe, refuse to address the details regarding corporate regulation and Canada’s right to protect itself and its citizens preferring to quickly move on to other topics, the magnitude of the deal, for example, while loudly braying that “this is the best deal in the history of mankind”.

It’s only when finally inked that Canadian and European citizens will fully realize the extent of their betrayal. I admire Wallonia and its people not only for the stand they have taken but also for withstanding as long as they have what must have been enormous and unrelenting pressure from the 27 other signatories to the deal. Bullies win far too often and far to many of us stand on the sidelines wringing our hands doing nothing. If CETA goes through, and it seems it will, the only winners will be Big Business and those politicians who have sold us out. And that is exactly what they have done. They have responded to the bell ringing of their corporate masters, shameless lackeys out for the main chance. Once they leave office or are booted out, they will, and have, be free to walk into corporate boardrooms in droves welcomed with open arms and sporting huge grins; they, at least, got theirs.

As we have seen with his shocking betrayal of the promise to make Human Rights a priority, Trudeau has revealed an almost childish eagerness to pander and trade with anyone including China, another outrageous and aggressive abuser of Human Rights. Trudeau appears to be a younger, smarmier version of Harper with the same gluttonous appetite to sign trade deals at any cost. Regardless of what happens with CETA, we then come to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement including Canada, the USA, and 10 other pacific states. The Americans loudly touted TPP as a “Made in America” deal. That alone should alarm all would-be signatories. Guess who the Americans believe will come out the winner? If you said Canada, go to the outhouse.

So, what has changed?

Nothing, really.

When a prime minister seems prepared, even eager, to sign away Canadian sovereignty, when he can only offer excuses and justifications for the questionable behaviours of his ministers and staff, when he can dismiss disabled vets as easily and readily as he has, I question his judgement and integrity. This is the same man who, while MP thought nothing of charging a $20K speaking fee to a financially troubled charity for seniors. He promised to reimburse the charity and all other fees for similar public speaking events between 2008 and 2012. You see, he explained, he wanted to make it all right in the same way Jane Philpott does. Too bad both had to be reminded by news reports and public exposure before suffering from the malady of making things right.

Everyone loves Trudeau. Lately, however, a few have, literally, turned their backs on him, perhaps regretting their votes. Too bad, too late. Maybe he is a nice, sweet fellow but I too often see a smug, strutting camera-loving well-dressed phony who welshes on the big promises and believes Human Rights are a priority—just not yet, later, after the next big deal unless another, something better comes along…. It is truly sad for he is extremely capable and could accomplish great things.

But he’s a Liberal. Get it while you can, as much as you can, however you can.

Just don’t get caught.

The world hates losers.

No doubt about it, the Liberals and the era of entitlement are back; the party is on.

***

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

***

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

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POLITICS, POLITICIANS AND THE PUBLIC: THE ENDLESS SHAMELESS DANCE

Politics, n.pl. A means of livelihood affected by the more degraded portion of our classes. – n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers from the disadvantage of being alive. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Frank A. Pelaschuk

They are politicians. They are of a type often found in groups of the like minded holding sordid ambitions involving recognition, influence, expense accounts and lifelong pensions, who, in seeking office, hold firmly (often unjustifiably) to the belief they are the right person for the job which, unfortunately, is dependent on the votes of the fickle, greedy, gullible, and ignorant which they quickly establish, often successfully, by currying favour with offers of promises that are largely extravagant and unrealistic and unrealizable in the full knowledge the promises cannot be met, will not be met and were never meant to be met.

The individual, and the group to which he belongs, while not necessarily needing but always mindful of the advantages of such should the need arise, will, in his quest for office, often add insurance that will almost certainly garner a few extra votes: they will pander to the worst in us, exploiting our fears and our biases: scapegoats are of particular use for electioneering purposes whereas honesty, integrity, loyalty, truthfulness, respect, openness, transparency, and the ability to experience shame have little place and hold little value and are certainly not requirements of the job but must, nevertheless, be loudly acknowledged as virtues deeply ingrained to appease those for whom such things matter. In truth, however noble these qualities may seem and however loudly the public may proclaim its desire that those who run for office possess most if not all these traits, it would be best if they were left at the door. Conscience and decency are obstacles and will bode no good for the individual or the party for the truth is this: the voter rarely cares about scruples unless in some way he feels personally negatively affected. Occasionally, in this mixture, aberrations can be detected and seem almost a fault because such rarities: there are some who actually are good, decent, able, intelligent, non-partisan, and worthy of the office they seek. They do not always last. Megan Leslie and Peter Stoffer of the NDP were such. Unfortunately, too many are not of the calibre of Leslie or Stoffer possessing none of their talents, work ethic and certainly none of their decency. I am thinking in particular of those Harper Conservatives who, if capable, were and are more noted for their naked ambition, shrillness, spitefulness, vindictiveness, partisanship, aversion to truth, and just plain unlikablity. They are sewer dwellers revelling in muck.

The crew of the last regime, many still MPs if only as official opposition, were and are exemplars of this group as were the Liberals of the past until chastened by their ouster from first to third place recovering after years of exile for one too many excesses involving scandal and corruption. Regardless of the party, once having gained power, the winning group, with shovelfuls of hypocrisy, invariably quickly loses interest in the voter and the public in general breaking many of the promises with demands the public lower expectations their attention now focused on the special interests groups that contributed greatly to their victory. The victorious party invariably offers familiar excuses pointing fingers at the previous government for having left the cupboard bare or in some otherwise fashion imposed constraints that make it impossible for them to fulfill all they promised. In this regard, the Liberals have good cause for such claims, Harper overspending in procurement of planes and ships, often at double cost, and cutting taxes for the wealthy and, shortly before the election, renewing contracts of bureaucrats long before their terms expired. The victor will repeatedly remind voters how bad it was with the previous regime. It’s doubtful anyone will quickly forget. Meanwhile, those suddenly out of power, let’s call them losers, armed with equal amounts of hypocrisy and with a proclivity for revisionism regarding their behaviour, seek every opportunity to punish the new government with demands and expectations they themselves had refused to honour in the firm conviction that the opposition’s first duty is to oppose, obstruct and undermine rather than work with the government of the day. None of this can be unexpected, even if disheartening, for much of the Tory gang with the same level of meanness, spite and hypocrisy still hold office, ugly people with ugly mindsets. They are doing exactly what the previous Liberal governments have done when they, too, were booted out of office.

Once in power, the party, whether Liberal, as it is today, or vile Conservatives as it had been for close to ten years, will always offer small demonstrations of making efforts to honour their promises; these are usually largely insignificant measures with, perhaps, one or two major initiatives loudly trumped to suggest great importance, movement and impact. The public always embraces them initially and with great enthusiasm – This is what we voted for! – acting surprised and pleased, just as the governing party intends. Eventually, as noted above, rather quickly in fact, the ruling party will move on preoccupied with fulfilling its own agenda including paying off debts to major donors and backers with various forms of favourable legislation, government jobs, business contracts or various forms of public recognition often with a cost borne by the citizenry. The voter thus dismissed and unheeded until once again called upon to partner in the same squalid political dance four or five years down the road, will quietly step aside and observe a sad truth no other party demonstrated more clearly, loudly and viciously than Harper’s Conservatives: the primary duty and function of any governing party, seemingly, is to survive. Towards that end, the governing party, having obtained power, must work diligently at clinging to it for as long as possible by any means possible even at the expense of democracy exacting vengeance against opponents and critics while also resorting to deceiving the public, lying to the public, cheating the public, and changing laws and electoral processes to their advantage. Who can blame them: What use is power if it cannot be wielded and abused?

But a politician is nothing without an audience and is even less without his voters just as a dancer is without his partner. He is fully aware it is not often the dull, decent honest man or woman or the visionary with true ideas, ability, and integrity or even the steady, reliable truthful plodder who occasionally gets things done who are most rewarded but rather the hustler, the smooth talker with bold, flashy promises, and the panderer who appeals to our greed, vanity, fears and ignorance. He knows it doesn’t take much: push a button, any button, the selfish button, the bigoted button, the religious button, the patriotic button, the ignorance button, the stupid button, the fear button but, for god sakes, never, never, press the wake up button, the thinking button: that’s the road to certain ruin. The politician knows that voters will always, always, claim to want honest, decent, truthful individuals running for office and he knows voters will always, always, aver they want change, real change, but he also knows it’s just hot air, knows that many of them, enough to allow him and his group to lead and mislead a nation over the years, are primarily concerned with one thing: What’s in it for me? So he tells them, fingers crossed, offering the familiar uplifting homilies and vague outrageously extravagant undertakings as if new, never before promised or heard the player and played partners in deceit and self-deception. It’s all about winning and losing, of suasion and deceit, of pandering and being bought. It’s about power, image and perception. This is politics. Governance apparently has been relegated an ancillary role.

SHALL WE DANCE?

Well, that is politics as played by Harper and his gang who introduced Canadians to a soulless era of authority and dogma rather than guidance and wisdom.

Harper as prime minister is gone but his husk haunts the Hill. We have a new government. Under Trudeau, we may take a step back to kinder, gentler and possibly even effective governance, but it is likely the Harper rot and methods will win the day in the end. You can see it in the official opposition, many of the same people behaving in the same way slavering and impatient eager to witness if not bring about the downfall of the Liberals.

And the Liberals will fall. All parties and all leaders, however good and effective, fail over time and often for no good reason than the urge for change without real change. When that happens it will be the Conservatives once again back in power. Federally, it’s always been so.

Yes, after a long hiatus, the Liberals are back. They and the other parties made big promises for the middle class, more benefits, more money in their wallets, less taxes. Unfortunately, none were interested in focusing on poverty, homelessness, health, education, assistance for single parents holding down two, three jobs though, it is true, there was a nod towards First Nations members. It was all about the middle class, the marginalized marginalized even more. That was surprising from the NDP, less so from the Liberals and expected from the Conservatives. So, yes, there are new, fresh faces and among them, a few familiar battle-scarred veterans to offer comfort of wisdom and experience but it’s the same old ground, the same beneficiaries and the same losers at the bottom. Occasionally, a bone is thrown to the losers. It didn’t matter, Trudeau, won the voters. Sunny days, sunny ways.

After Harper, any change would seem a seismic shift and for the better. But is it?

Within weeks of the election, Stephen Harper renewed the contracts of many of his bureaucratic appointees. Some of these renewals were made well in advance of the expiration date and were clearly intended to tie Trudeau’s hands with Harper appointees in senior positions. This was a filthy, mean-spirited move by a scheming prime minister who likely suspected his days were numbered but still wanted to have some say in government or at least to make things difficult for the Liberals. Trudeau, denied the opportunity to put his own people in the bureaucracy, wrote letters to the appointees requesting they step aside and reapply for the positions. It’s not clear how many have obliged (if any) if only for the appearance of decency and to eliminate the suspicion of cronyism run amok. Thanks to Harper, the taxpayer faces the real possibility of paying millions to buy out these bureaucrats if Trudeau goes that route. He will be held to blame, the Conservatives will see to that, and possibly accused of cronyism with his replacements. For some, that appears to be acceptable, a few journalist stooges admiringly labelling the Harper manoeuvre a creative use of his authority. Creative it certainly was, but vile and abusive as well. Had the Liberals or the NDP done such, one can imagine the howls of outrage from those hypocrites. The thing is, Trudeau might have been better served by first reviewing the appointees to determine for himself if they were indeed all Harper hacks or whether they were capable men and women able to work with his regime in a non-partisan manner. They should not be disqualified simply because they are Harper appointees but because they are incompetent or clearly too partisan to do their jobs effectively on behalf of the Liberal government. If the lesson was rough on Trudeau, hopefully he has learned from it and works to bring an end to that kind of shabby, cheap chicanery. There is nothing admirable in what Harper did. He was clever, yes, but devious, shameless and contemptible as well revealing as much about his character as many of his other questionable past actions and deserving of nothing but contempt. While I do not support the Liberals, I do not believe Justin Trudeau is of the same dirty cloth nor do I believe his caucus of the same snarling, partisan, mean-spirited, parochial vacuity so openly exhibited by such Conservative stalwarts as Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Jason Kenney, Peter van Loan, Kellie Leitch, and those booted out of office Chris Alexander, Dean Del Mastro, Paul Calandra etc. In that respect thus far, the differences are obvious and hopeful.

But limited. A few days from this writing, the PBO declared the Liberal plan for the middle class doesn’t add up and will reduce revenue by $8.9 billion over six years. Increasing taxes for the top 10% will only lead them to scurrying about to find and take advantage of other loopholes available to them. That’s a fail particularly when those at the bottom are completely shut out. And it’s an even more egregious fail when the middle class is defined as those earning between $45 and $90 thousand.

THE PARTNERS

Trudeau began well, however, fulfilling a commitment to form a cabinet with equal numbers of men and women. That was not mere tokenism for these are all people from all walks of life with real ability and accomplishments certainly suggesting a promise of great things to come. And he started moving on some of his promises, many of them small but not without significance to those affected. He has moved to look at pardons and the costs for applying for them which, under Harper had tripled. Trudeau’s minster of justice and attorney general of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, a First Nations member, will look towards reducing the time one can apply for pardons from five to ten years to three to five years. She will also be working with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to set up an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women as well looking into physician-assisted death. She is extremely impressive.

Too, the government will repeal CRA audits of charities, which, under Harper, targeted “left” leaning organizations for being “too political” such as Oxfam for wanting to end poverty. As well, in another great move, Trudeau has set out to depoliticize the public service by looking at ways to keep appointments of the clerk of the Privy Council at a remove from the Prime Minister’s Office. Small but promising moves. Unfortunately, so soon into the mandate, there are clouds that threaten the Trudeau honeymoon. The Liberals are at risk of falling into old habits. Politics has a way of doing that to even the best.

To all his minsters, Trudeau wrote “Mandate” letters outlining many of his goals, desires and expectations. I recommend all Canadians read them and take him at his word when he says, “I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments…. We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government” (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/ministerial-mandate-letters).

Trudeau has chosen very good men and women with his appointments but there are also glitches that are not insignificant.

His pick of Jane Philpott as Minister of Health who very early in her term appears well on the road to mending fences with provincial leaders in working for an accord on pharmacare, the sharing of patient information between doctors, long-term care, and funding, is a particularly good choice. Hopefully, there will be a time we see increased funding, less reliance on the private sector, and standardized treatment and care between provinces and a consistent, long term plan for training of nurses and doctors and the end of health and education being used as political footballs often resulting in cuts and demands for doing more with less. But I will not count on that happening soon.

We have the impressive Catherine McKenna who, within days of her appointment as Minister of Environment and Climate Change, was in Paris playing a significant role during the climate change summit. This is a formidable and talented member who managed to unseat another formidable and talented member of parliament, NDP’s Paul Dewar.

Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions, seems another extremely good choice. Young, bright, energetic, she has the task of overseeing the reform of the Senate. The committee of prominent Canadians formed under her guidance, however, suffers from the inclusion of Heather Bishop, a talented folksinger with a great voice, who engages in hypnotherapy, a form of “new-age” quackery popular in the ’70s discredited by reputable scientific bodies. Hers is a very odd choice for a government proclaiming itself determined to make policy that is evidence-based. Monsef will be the minister looking at electoral reform. This was a major promise by Trudeau when he declared last year’s election the last first-past-the-post. But, if he opts for the ranking system, well, nothing will have changed; it’s another rigging of the game.

Another possible good choice, which has yet to be demonstrated, is Harjit Singh Sajjan, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Armed Forces with combat experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan, as Minister of Defence. The Liberals had vowed to pull Canadian planes from the ISIS mission in Iraq without saying when while at the same time hinting at involvement in other ways. However, their dithering on the role they would play in the war against ISIS in the future has likely been the reason for Canada’s exclusion from the summit by allies meeting in Paris to determine how to best combat ISIS. Sajjan claims this is not a snub. Really? This is not a good beginning for the defence minister nor does it indicate a government fully embraced by the US-led coalition combating ISIS.

A FEW GOOD STEPS, SOME STUMBLES

John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, is an old experienced hand for the Liberals. He is responsible for overseeing Canada’s efforts to resettle refugees into Canada. Unfortunately, it has not gone as smoothly or as well as the Liberals had hoped and promised. When campaigning, they had vowed to introduce 25,000 refugees to Canada by year’s end in just a little over a two-month period. There were sceptics saying it could not be done and there was the NDP making a much lower but clearly more realistic commitment of bring in 10,000 during the same time frame. Even so, the Liberals insisted they were up to the task. The tally by year’s end turned out to be 6,000. The difficulty is not the number of Syrians taken in; any number is better than none. The difficulty is the extravagance of the promise in the first place and that so many wanted to believe it possible they were willing to overlook that the Liberals had over promised and failed to deliver and likely knew they would fail. It didn’t matter. People preferred to believe in hype and hope especially when presented by a young and sincere Liberal leader with a famous patronym. What made it even worse, in spite of repeated delays in meeting the challenge, the Liberals vowed to bring in thousands more by the end of 2016. The first was a foolish promise, the timeline impossible. It was a promise that could not be met or kept observers warned yet Trudeau and the Liberals went ahead ignoring them trusting in the generosity and compassion of Canadians to forgive and forget because the promise was made with the “best” intentions. That was something Harper did all too often. Thus far, Canadians appear willing to give the Liberals a pass excusing the delay as a result of an enthusiastic grand gesture. But should the Liberals get off that lightly? Does anyone really enjoy being played?

Still, the Liberals know how to score points at little cost. One of which was to make a quick decision on the so-called Monument to Liberty to honour the victims of Communism. Not only would this monstrosity be moved and downsized, the government would reduce by half Ottawa’s contribution towards it. These are good moves but not good enough. The project should have been scrapped. At the very least, it should be renamed: The Monument for Victims of Tyranny perhaps. It is an offensive travesty that memorializes the victims of one tyranny over the victims of others as if mass murder were more tolerable when committed by free enterprisers in the name of Nazism, fascism, despotism, or capitalism. The Harper gang offered strong support for this eyesore with donated crown land and taxpayer monies evidently holding to the belief victims of any –ism do not deserve equal consideration. By not insisting that the project be scrapped or renamed, the Liberals appear to agree. That is disappointing.

So, how new and fresh are the Liberals when one looks at the party rather than the young, bright faces? Overpromising, as with the Syrian refugees, may strike some as quibbling. People were brought in; lives were saved and transformed for the better. But it was the cynicism behind the promise that disturbs me. It’s not new; this kind of tugging at the heartstrings has been practiced probably since politics began.

In fact, there is not much that’s new though what we now have is much, much better than what we had with Harper.

Nearing the end of the campaigning, the Liberals removed the Liberal national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, one-time lobbyist for TransCanada following reports of him offering detailed advice via email on how to lobby a minority government led by Trudeau. Looked like Trudeau was on top of it. Only, it appears, the energy sector had nothing to worry about. Janet Annesley, former executive from Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was hired as chief of staff for Jim Carr, Minister for Natural Resources. As well, Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, one-time executive chair of one of Canada’s largest human resources companies, Morneau Shepell, hired Sharan Kaur, former communications expert for TransCanada, as senior special assistant.

And then we have Lawrence MacAulay, agricultural minister, hiring as his chief of staff, Mary Jean McFall, who ran for the liberals. This is an extremely problematic promotion because of the very real possibility of conflict of interests. Her family owns one of the largest agricultural businesses in the egg-laying and egg-grading sector. She was a former Egg Farmers of Ontario board member. Friends in high places, debts being repaid with jobs in high governmental positions – this is the old-style cronyism practiced for decades by the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Is this new? Is this fresh? Is this better? These should worry Canadians who recall the many Liberal scandals of the past. And the Liberals are just into their fourth month!

It will be interesting how much Liberal support TransCanada will garner in light of recent reports the energy giant is suing the US government for shutting down the XL Keystone project. Under NAFTA and other trade deals, notably the EU-Canada deal, CETA (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement), and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), companies can sue democratically elected governments for passing laws Big Business does not like leaving taxpayers footing the costly bills if decisions favour business. American businesses have been very successful in going after Canada for laws they claimed interfered with their ability to earn profits (or profiteering). Such rights, referred to as ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement), handicap governments even in protecting citizens from harm in matters of health and in protecting the environment. A few years back we saw this at work when Canada attempted to remove a gasoline additive deemed harmful and banned in the states. Faced with a lawsuit, Canada cravenly backed down. But they had done that earlier when they became signatory to Chapter 11 of NAFTA and surrendered Canadian sovereignty to American Big Business interests. But it works both ways, as well. Canada, under Harper and now Trudeau, has consistently opposed labelling origin of country in meat products. The US insisted on that until pressured by Canada and hoping to close the TPP, it scrapped that requirement. For them, it’s a small concession when the benefits are huge. This is unconscionable when Harper insisted on this and is still unconscionable under Trudeau. When people die from tainted meat as they did a few years back, there will be no way to trace meat products to their source. Profit over lives. How can Canadians trust any leader who places the health of Big Business over the health of consumers?

This is a big deal and should worry all Canadians. In truth, it should worry all citizens of signatory states. CETA, which has yet to be ratified, apparently poses some problems for Europeans who are less prone than Canadian governments to roll over as they did for the Americans with NAFTA and TPP. Americans have no doubt who will benefit more from TPP for they call this the Made In America deal. As of this writing, Canada and European Union Officials are in secret talks to rewrite a clause that protects businesses from “arbitrary” government legislation, i.e., anything Big Business doesn’t like. Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, refuses to call the talk “negotiations”. What is it then? Clearly the EU has concerns about sovereignty. Perhaps they have seen what has happened to Canada under NAFTA. Canada has been at the losing end of innumerable lawsuits. Is that what Europeans want? Was that what Canadians signed for when they voted for Mulroney? The deals now pending, CETA and TPP, promise to be much worse and more effective in eroding Canadian sovereignty. Canadians do not know what the deals offer, what is being surrendered and lost. Trudeau’s mandate to Freeland was to quickly close these deals. I suspect she will and to Canada’s detriment. Trade deals cloaked in secrecy were the hallmark of the Harper era. Look at the trade deal with China locking Canada in for thirty years. One certainty is this: Canadian sovereignty is imperiled to corporate interests. The plutocrats, which Freeland warned against in her book, Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, will have won if Trudeau and Freeland stand by and allow the takeover by the corporate elite. So secretive is TPP that those involved in the negotiations risk arrest if they leak any part of the agreement. Is this for what Canadians voted? The Conservatives have begun the process of replacing our democracy with a corporatocracy. Will Trudeau continue on that path? Signing these deals without removing the ISDS clauses will be an absolute betrayal of Canadian interests to Big Business and the Plutocrats. What does Trudeau or Freeland who literally wrote the book on the dangers we face under a plutocracy have to say?

Finally, on the issue of trade, we have to question Trudeau’s commitment to human rights when he insisted days after a mass execution of political prisoners the $15 billion military equipment Arms deal with Saudi Arabia would go ahead as planned. It’s business as usual and 3,000 Canadian jobs saved at the price of human rights and lives lost in a deal with one of the world’s biggest violators of human rights. Supporters of the highly secretive deal have said Canadians and the Saudis share the same values. Really? Do Canadians really share values that deny women the right to drive, opt for abortion or to vote? Do we share values that call for public stoning of women and hanging of men for adultery? Harper, who signed the deal, refused to track human rights violations in Saudi Arabia as required by Canada’s own trade policies before any deal can go ahead. The Liberals initially refused to release the report and then relented promising the public an edited version of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Why are Canadians kept in the dark regarding this deal? What did Harper and now Trudeau want to keep from us? What guarantees has Canada that the Saudis will not use the equipment against its own people? It has in the past.

So what really differentiates Trudeau from Harper? You either believe human rights matter or you don’t. Harper believed more in business and profit. What about Trudeau? Canada is the only member of NATO to refuse to sign the Arms Trade Treaty to control and regulate the global arms trade. As a result, Canada, mostly because of the Conservative pro-business at any cost attitude, has sided itself with South Sudan, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Saudi Arabia all of whom visit gross human rights indignities upon their own people. Under Harper, Canada has even opposed having guns stamped identifying origins of manufacture. That is not something to be proud of. Yet the Liberals will go ahead with the deal. As with the Conservatives, it all boils down to money and those you prefer to sleep with. While the Conservatives, foul as they were, never disguised where their interests lay, the Liberals offer hand wringing lip service saying they are locked into the deal. That’s hypocrisy. What is even more laughable if not so tragic is Tony Clement who for years worked with one of the most secretive and mean-spirited governments in Canada now calling on the Liberals to release in full the report on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. https://www.opencanada.org/features/ten-facts-about-canadas-arms-deal-with-saudi-arabia/

Trudeau better? Maybe. But relative to what? It’s easy to say “Yes,” after Harper. I see a few things I like. As of yet, I’m uncertain they are enough. I see a few too many reminders of the bad old days of the Sponsorship era.

Politics, you gotta love it. Better yet, we gotta change it.

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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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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