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STEPHEN HARPER: WOLF AMONG SHEEP

A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. – Bertrand de Jouvenel

The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal…is the ultimate indignity of the democratic process. – Adlai Stevenson

Frank A. Pelaschuk

MASTER OF ALL

Power and hubris can make even the best-intentioned government mean and corrupt. But what can one say of the Harper regime which has been motivated only by a narrow economic vision that does not include the greater good and which, I strongly suspect, had long before attaining its majority, already been mean and well on its way to plotting against those whom it believed had aggrieved them, i.e., everyone who stood against it?

Well, nothing good really.

To this observer, it has long been clear that Harper and gang actually believe they are servants to no one and masters to all. They feel no need to explain, justify or excuse, it is enough that they have the elected majority. We are to trust them and take them at their word that they are capable and know what they are doing. I believe the last can be taken at faith; they know exactly what they are doing. That their methods of smears, lies, innuendo, secrecy and cronyism apparently doesn’t trouble their base of core supporters nor those others, the soft-supporters, those what’s-in-it-for-me types who can easily be swayed by glitzy ads and promises of savings of pennies a day in tax cuts, those envious anti-unionists who are less interested in pulling themselves up than in dragging others down, those public servant haters who doubtless cheer every time they read that Harper and his gang have cut more public service jobs, says all you need to know about them. False promises, lies, fables and myths trouble no one in that crowd and Harper and gang know this. They also know a segment of voters are simpletons and they prove it time and time again each election swallowing the same promises, trembling to the same fear mongering, and voting for the same villains. Those are the ones that Harper and gang work at and once they’ve hooked them what follows doesn’t matter; come next election those voters will have forgotten or moved on replaced by another batch of simpletons who will buy the same bullshit and vote as they always do: for the pretty, shiny promises.

Arrogant beyond tolerance, Harper and gang are unhesitatingly free with admonitions accompanied by much finger-wagging to the rest of the world, loudly crowing of their successes and punching up far above its weight that is prideful, ridiculous and offensive and especially galling when one considers that much of Canada’s good reputation which they claim as their own successes have little to do with them but with the infrastructures created by previous Liberal governments. Theirs is a pride that has little justification unless one believes winning a majority of seats with only 40 per cent of the vote, skirting the rules of democracy with in-out scams, misleading and misdirecting voters with robocalls, accepting illegal corporate donations, not filling out proper expense claims for Elections Canada, and turning a massive surplus left by Paul Martin and the Liberals into a massive deficit, can be deemed sources for pride.

THE HARPER BRAND: WHINERS & BRAGGADOCIO

This is a government rife with decay. It is mean and spiteful. Stephen Harper has not only turned a blind eye to all that is wrong, he has encouraged and abetted all of it. In that sense, his branding of his term in office as Harper’s Government is absolutely accurate. It truly is Harper’s government. It is made up of a gang of folk who pad expenses, who smear opponents, who subvert the electoral process. It is made of a gang of folk who are thugs, roaming bullies and petty liars who respect neither the voters nor Democracy or the electoral process. Stand against them; you become the enemy, a troublemaker, unpatriotic. It is certainly not my kind of government and I suspect not one the majority of Canadians would recognize as theirs. Harper and gang are lowlifes in suits.

This is a group of MPs and supporters who are so small, so petty, so vindictive that they actually try to portray themselves as victims, who when confronted by charges of abuses in the Senate and the House and of their offices, cry about being treated harshly and unfairly. Senator Pamela Wallin is one such whiner, repaying claims to which she was not entitled and crying “foul” charging she was treated “unfairly.” Not a tear, though, for the public whom she ripped off. These are the same people who would have you believe that crime is on the rise and more prisoners are needed and that those claiming refugee status are all trying to take advantage of Canadian generosity and that all Roma are thieves. They would have you believe those on welfare are all potential fraudsters, that poverty is a crime, and that the old and sickly are just leeching off the system. Well, we know better, don’t we? Or we should.

Why do they believe that? Why do they hate the meanest and poorest among us so much? Could it be that Harper and his gang, small, mean, and vicious, know themselves and judge all others accordingly? Could it be they are afraid, fear those who believe that good fortune should be shared, that generosity is ennobling, that kindness has a human face? Do they fear the poor; wonder if the day will come when anger turns to fury? It could be they simply do not understand and do not trust those who are not always on the make and looking for the main chance. Perhaps that could explain why Harper and his gang mock, punish and sneer. They are afraid of losing what they have. And what they have, and what they want, and what they appear to need is POWER.

These are the type who weep copious tears at thoughts of unfairness and pain, not the unfairness and pain afflicting others but the unfairness and pain they imagine has been done to themselves by others, as Dean Del Mastro displayed when he, a month or so back, stood before the House and, choking back tears, whined about how unfairly he was treated, and cried about how long was the investigative process into his campaign expenses. Now that charges have been laid, Del Mastro no doubt weeps even more tears, more loudly while still denying wrongdoing.

But those protestations of unfairness, of wanting swift resolution, are not credible when Conservative MPs facing allegations of impropriety and the Conservative Party and Harper and gang fight tooth and nail to delay, impede and interfere by any means possible with the investigative process. Yes, they want fairness, but not today, and certainly not for them. Elections Canada Commissioner Yves Côté wants Parliament to change the rules so that they can compel witnesses to testify in their investigations into campaign irregularities. That is unlikely to happen even though it is true Harper had long ago promised to reform Elections Canada. But we know that with the recent problems plaguing his Conservative regime and with his appointment of Pierre Poilievre, once Parliamentary Secretary bobble head loudmouth now Minister of State for Democratic Reform, that positive reforms are extremely unlikely. Anti-unionist Poilievre is the man whose potty-mouth antics in the House and his glib, smarmy attacks against Elections Canada have earned him a reputation and a following that would shame most with a modicum of self-respect. But not this crowd; not those who support them.

Poilievre and Dean Del Mastro both voted against supporting Elections Canada during its investigations of the robocalls and “in-out” scandals, Poilievre going so far as to accuse the body of bias in going after Conservatives. Evidently it doesn’t occur to either to consider this: Perhaps if Conservatives were more honest….Better to ask a penguin to fly.

The thing is, the bullies, the liars, the cheats whine like children and, like children, resort to finger pointing rather than owning up. Only mature grownups seem able to accept responsibility.

Under Harper, too many of his Conservatives have been and continue to be under investigation for far too many campaign irregularities to hope for Elections Canada reform. In fact, this regime has consistently and persistently poked the eye of Elections Canada or gone out of their way to ignore it as Harper did when the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, requested that MP Shelly Glover be suspended until she filled out proper documents for the 2011 campaign. Instead of complying, Glover, former frequent Conservative spokesperson and another frequent bobble head guest on Power and Politics, sought to fight it in court only giving up when she clearly understood she was about to be promoted to the position of minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. She remains a bobble head with a title and, like all her ilk, remains shamelessly unrepentant. Hers is the Leona Helmsley approach: rules are for the little people. But she is not alone with that attitude in the Conservative party. The speaker of the House, Conservative Andrew Scheer, sat on the request and Harper ignored it when it finally came out, and Shelly Glover, as we know, was rewarded with a promotion. These people possess the morality of druggies: anything goes. And anything does.

THE VINDICTIVENESS OF MEDIOCRITY

Christian Paradis is our new international Development Minister. That he still holds a position in Harper’s cabinet should trouble voters. That he does is not surprising, for he is one of a very few MPs from Quebec. The thing is, Paradis has, in the past demonstrated he is capable of serious ethical lapses. In the past he has faced allegations of helping lobbyist and former MP Rahim Jaffer meet with government officials; he has been investigated for his role in the relocation of an Employment Insurance claims office to his riding; and he was known to have spent a weekend with former NHL team owner and lawyer, Marcel Aubut, who, at the time was lobbying the government for public funding for an arena. Paradis claims there was no business talk, no lobbying; we have to take him at his word. Yeah, we do.

Paradis, this mediocrity in office, has recently announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain abortions. That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages.

Here is a government so ideologically driven that it will prolong, exacerbate, and consign victims, including child victims, in war-ravaged countries to even greater hardship, misery, poverty, despair, perhaps even death, simply because they, these hypocritical, self-righteous, dishonest moralists believe that their values, including their anti-abortion stand, should be jammed down the throats of the impoverished and hapless rape victims of war and forced marriages.

This is the government that is so corrupted by its own vicious vision and version of morality that it actually appears to believe itself somehow purer and better than those victims, who simply want a choice offered to most citizens around the world, the right to abort the product of a rape. While this stand will doubtless appeal to the Conservative base at home, those safe, smug, self-righteous anti-abortionists at home, those individuals who do not have to share the fate of those unfortunates over there, this move is so viciously cynical that, by not addressing this issue at home lest he lose his soft, pro-choice supporters, Harper demonstrates the truly cold-blooded nature of his make up: he will do anything, anything, to have it all ways so that he can keep what he has regardless of how many lives are further destroyed. They’re not Canadian lives so, who cares? It’s business as usual, and if there are a few ministers suffering from ethical lapses, so what? We’ve got our majority. In a few months, the voters will forget if they even cared in the first place and we’ll help them forget with a few new shiny promises. That’s the Conservative way.

Cold, very cold, Harper and his people are as brutal as they come.

HARPER, THE MONEY MANAGING MYTH AND TAX DODGING SCAMS

Some polls have shown that credulous Canadians still believe Harper and his gang are better money managers than the liberals or the NDP. Harper and the gang even tell them so. And it’s probably true…with their own money. Recent revelations have shown that Harper appointees Carolyn Stewart Olsen and several other Conservative senators have joined the ranks of those under investigation for making expense claims to which they are not entitled. For those who need reminding, Olsen is the same senator who was on the committee investigating the expense claims of Liberal Mac Harb and Harper appointees Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Patrick Brazeau. Olsen was also the senator who, along with David Tkachuk, was responsible for doctoring the Deloitte report on Mike Duffy offering for public consumption a more palatable whitewashed version. Yes, Conservatives are better money managers, just not so much with taxpayer monies. Which leads me to ask the president of the Treasury Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle: Have you found the missing $3.1 billion yet? And any word on why auditors found the Defence Department’s books out by $1.5 billion?

Too, we have revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay blaming bureaucrats for cutbacks in the CRA unit to fight organized crime. This is extremely interesting in light of recent CBC reporting on those working on the dark side, including Canadian tax lawyers and accountants who devote their lives to advising wealthy Canadian individuals and corporations how to set up tax avoidance schemes off shore. It is estimated that wealthy individuals and corporations routinely avoid paying taxes with off shore accounts to the tune of $29 plus billion, which would go a long way to eliminating the deficit created by Harper and gang. But if anyone really believes Harper is seriously interested in recovering these monies by vigorously pursuing those scumbag scofflaws, he must be smoking something. Harper and his gang have done very little, if not next to nothing, to seek out those wealthy tax evaders bleeding the system. Cutting services is not the way to do it. Instead of paying their fair share, these criminal freeloading scum force Canadian taxpayers to bear the burden and Harper and gang have, thus far, allowed this to happen, have cut services to ensure it will continue to happen. If this were a bank robbery, Harper would be the inside man sending the security guards home and then giving the “all-clear” signal.

With Conservative Ministers, Findlay a prime example of cowardly irresponsibility, the buck of blame always stops at the feet of underlings. So, while this government treats all those collecting UE as if they are fraudsters, it gives the green light to the real thieves, those slimy tax-evading Tory cronies to keep on doing what they’ve always been doing. And those wealthy individual and corporate thieves will because they know Harper and his misbegotten gang will not be pursuing those scofflaws: there are too many Tory friends in that crowd. It’s easier and more satisfying for these bullies to go after the small, helpless fry, the poor and needy, while Harper continues to watch over our tax dollars with massive layoffs in the public service, with cuts to taxes for his business friends, and continued support for the likes of Treasury President Tony Clement of the missing $3.1 billion while the self-absorbed sleeping public benignly watches on no doubt prepared to re-elect them next time.

Perhaps what will really warm the heart of those who buy into the Harper myth is this: while billions of taxpayer money goes missing, Harper is going to punish those “bad” guys and gals in prison even more: He is not only going to increase jail time, he is going to cut their wages which amount to about five or six dollars a day by one-third! This is money that prisoners use to buy toiletry, cigarettes, confections, etc. This will save, perhaps, one or two million a year. In the grand scheme of life, this is a paltry sum against the billions being ripped off by the influential. Of course, the savings might be lost when enraged prisoners respond perhaps in prison riots or, when released, by acts of rage directed against society. The Harper move is small, petty, and vindictive. It is of no real benefit to anyone. It is inhumane, obscene and dangerous. Keep on beating a dog, even the most docile will eventually bite back. Contrary to what the many ignorant believe, prisons are not hotels. If you really believe they are, volunteer to join the crowd there. This vicious and small-minded move by this vicious, small-minded Harper gang belongs to a bygone era; it is doomed to fail and it will be society that will unfortunately pay the price.

HARPER, THE VETERAN BULLY

And, while it is clear Harper has no soft spot for those who oppose him (they are all “the enemy”), nor for those collecting welfare, for the homeless and the elderly, it is also clear he has not much love for veterans, especially those with disabilities. One would believe that in these folks, Harper would have his constituency. If so, if once a fact, he squandered that support in a series of baffling moves that revealed him as a man not to be trusted; disloyal, if you will, to people of whom loyalty was not only expected but demanded. Not only did Harper turn on them, he did it in the most brutal way and, in doing so, brought dishonour to himself and worse, cheapened Canada’s reputation by making it a bully.

First, he clawed back the disability pensions of veterans in 2006 and fought with them every step of the way to the cost of $750 million dollars to taxpayers before settling for over $889 million this year. Even more egregious, is that this government whined about paying the legal files. None of the costs of over $1.5 billion, a needless, pointless, unjust waste of taxpayer money, would have been incurred in the first place if Harper hadn’t made this insane move. Another proven example of how well Harper’s gang handles taxpayer money.

But there is more from this government. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has announced a plan to review the New Veterans Charter. The Canadian veterans ombudsman has tabled a report stating that severely disabled and incapacitated veterans will lose their charter benefits when they turn 65. As if they haven’t suffered enough, that means disabled veterans, injured during service and not having built up a military pension, will be forced to endure even severer hardship with those benefits suddenly gone. That is how Harper rewards those who put everything on the line for a nation he claims to love. That hardship is to be their lot, that their suffering is to be made worse, is of no concern to Harper and his vicious gang. But Harper is still not done. This is the government that, rather than dole out disability payments in manageable amounts to veteran’s until the end of life or until recovery, insisted in paying them out in one lump sum to a maximum of $250,000 even though those affected did not want this knowing that it was a bad idea and that individuals, even with the best will and ability in the world, often aren’t capable of doing things in their best interests with that much given to them in one go.

This government is not about helping pensioners or about doing the right thing, honourable thing. It’s about saving pennies at the expense of those who gave so much for this nation.

To demonstrate the level of meanness, of pettiness, as if we need any more examples, one needs only know about a deceased veteran, Cpl. Jacque Larocque, 40. He had suffered two previous heart attacks but had been misdiagnosed by military doctors as suffering heartburn. The soldier’s widow, Joan Larocque, wanted acknowledgment that the military doctors had erred. She wasn’t after money. Peter MacKay, at that time Defence Minister, supported the widow writing he confirmed his belief her husband’s death was “attributable to military service”. But that was overruled by the defence department under the new Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson in a written statement to the widow. MacKay’s previous support of her fight was considered “invalid”. When CTV contacted Nicholson’s office, he responded with an email within hours stating the exact opposite. In other words, he repudiated his own letter to the widow and now supported Peter MacKay’s initial stand, but this only after it made the news. The military Board of Inquiry had initially attributed no fault to the military service. However a military panel ruled otherwise. Harper and thugs are appealing the panel’s decision, no doubt worried about the costs of similar findings down the road should this be allowed to stand. It’s amazing how bad publicity can actually move this mean-spirited crew to (maybe) do the right thing. We will have to wait and see how this all turns out.

But Harper and gang have not finished with disabled veterans. They are planning to shut down nine Veterans’ Affairs offices across Canada for efficiencies and economic reasons. Unfortunately, this is certainly not something the veterans want or need. In fact, this appears to be an act of aggression fraught with hostility towards them. Now, many of them have over the years needed and developed personal relationships with experienced people who heard them out and knew their stories and understood how to work with them. All that support and trust will suddenly end for many veterans. For the personal contact, some will have to travel long distances to meet with strangers who may not know their stories or their needs. Too bad, says Harper’s gang. Julian Fantino dismisses those concerns saying veterans will receive better service. He says veterans can call by phone, go on the Internet, or drive to the nearest Services Canada outlet to have all their concerns met. You can see by this how much Harper and gang really respect those men and women. For many of this good people, it is the loss of the relationships that will hurt the most when these closures take effect. For some, face-to-face sessions are crucial and, not wishing to dismiss Service Canada employees, no doubt overburdened themselves by Harper cutbacks, how many of them are trained to deal with the needs of disabled veterans?

Cold, very, very cold.

HARPER: A MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES

Harper fancies himself a significant world leader. I suspect, each time he looks in the mirror, he sees a great leader. He is not great. He is not even a leader. He is a man who cuts and runs, who blows with the slightest breeze.

He has announced that he will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka next month because of concerns of Sri Lanka’s “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards.” Notice how strong he is on Human Rights when there is little to no financial costs to Canada. But the hypocrite is not such a staunch defender of such rights when the potential for gain is huge. He suffers no such compunction when it comes to China and its many egregious violations of Human Rights. In fact, given Harper’s sudden conversion to concern for Human Rights, it’s fair to ask why he attended the Francophonie summit in the Congo last year with one of the most brutal and repressive regimes ever?

Harper wants it all ways, but his moral outrage is laughable and evidently of the pocketbook variety: Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money. Being around that type should make one want to immediately bathe. There is something unclean about this double standard particularly since it appears to stem from his preoccupation with economic and corporate matters. Not everything should be reducible to economic interests.

But then, we have CSEC, the super secret Communications Security Establishment Canada (couldn’t they come up with a more unwieldy name?). This was a body created to oversee national security interests. But Brazil’s charge that CSEC has engaged in industrial espionage appears to suggest that it has broadened its mandate to national economic and commercial interests. Some may claim this is legitimate because other countries do this. Because this is Harper’s regime, and because Harper and gang are apparently focused only on economic issues, this should not be surprising news. Yet it is. Has Harper transformed this security agency into an espionage tool working for corporate interests? I don’t know, but I would not doubt it. If true, while spying in foreign countries and on their own citizens, this spy agency can now not only catch us doing what it doesn’t like, it can also pass on to the corporate masters what our views are on oil and mining domestically and abroad and even, perhaps, expand to informing grocery chains the types of products we wish to see on the shelves. The best of all worlds.

Surprisingly, the spy agency, apparently still growing and feeling pretty sensitive, responded saying that everything it does is legal, that it doesn’t spy on Canadians because it’s against the law. Well, a lot of things are against the law and they still happen.

Yeah, Harper really does have our interests in hand.

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE SHAMELESS CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY

 

“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” – Oscar Wilde

“After all, we have all eternity in which to despair.” – Enrique Vila-Matas

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

HARPER AND THE ART OF PETTY PARTISANSHIP

To really gain some appreciation of how shameless is Harper and his regime, just consider this: out of the 60,000 Diamond Jubilee medals handed out to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne, Tory hacks, partners, and supporters, including two anti-abortionist extremists who spent time in jail for their illegal picketing of abortion clinics, and Jennie Byrne, Conservative Campaign manager, as well as Lauren Harper, Stephen Harper’s wife, were among the recipients.

While even among Conservatives there may be worthy individuals whose contributions and achievements have been significant, there is something indecorous about a regime distributing these trophies to members of its own family: it stinks and is suspect, appearing to be more reward for services rendered on behalf of Harper’s Tory Party than for services and achievements in volunteerism, charitable works or contributions to the Sciences or Arts and Culture. Awarding medals to party loyalists, friends, and spouses, for no other reason than they are party loyalists, friends, and spouses, diminishes and taints in the most offensive way the honours given those who truly deserve them.

It is apparent that Harper and gang are willing to debase almost anything for purely partisan purposes. For example, we have recently learned that the Harper gang has determined that Canada must finally recognize veterans who served in the Second World War in Bomber Command operations in Europe. Now that is good news for those few remaining survivors if a little late after over seventy years of being ignored. Unfortunately, the new veterans’ minister, Julian Fantino, had determined that some of those very veterans being honoured, now in their late eighties and nineties, would have to wait a bit longer to receive their medals. Incredibly, the reason for this delay had to do with scheduling conflicts that would interfere with this government’s ability to exploit this to the max in photo ops! Fortunately, and not for the first time in matters involving veterans, the government and Fantino beat a hasty retreat after a public backlash of shock and anger. This is the same government of thugs that had clawed back the disability pensions of veterans, the same government led by Stephen Harper who had once said, “All too often we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” Well, for Harper, those were just words as we now know. That claw back was an act that was despicable and indefensible. Nonetheless, he did say something that could become true and bears repeating: This shame will end with the election of a new government.

Let’s take him at his word.

HARPER & CREW: THE SHAMELESS BARBARIANS

Now Harper and his crew, whatever I might think of them, are not dummies. It is difficult to imagine that anyone in that party with a shred of self-respect might not be troubled by the optics of such blatant partisan largesse. Not a bit of it with this misbegotten group.

Over the years, Harper’s Conservatives have demonstrated an absence of a moral compass; with their absolute majority they are like untutored children who neither respect themselves or others enough to not undervalue or to not dismiss such simple constructs that make for good citizenship and sound governance: ethics, integrity, honesty, openness, transparency, fairness. Untutored, undeveloped, petty, mean-spirited, they are also sly and full of tricks; though outnumbered, they are the schoolyard bullies protected by a flawed electoral system that allows them to torment, threaten and abuse with a ruthlessness and shamelessness that suggests religious zealotry. Only Harper and his crew can save this nation and by God they’ll do it regardless of who opposes or questions the need for salvation.

The Conservatives have their hardcore band of supporters and they have their majority. That is enough – for them.

I suspect they seldom, if ever, are troubled by self-doubts or pause to reflect on some of what they do. If you have ever watched Power and Politics over the past year, you have seen the likes of insufferable Pierre Poilievre, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander, Shelly Glover, and Kellie Leitch mislead, obfuscate, and point fingers rather than deviate from the script of the day to respond honestly and openly to direct questions and you know, just by watching them that, when it comes to the Conservative message, they have never had a moment of doubt, have never felt a need to reflect on how they come across: they are true believers and, as such, shameless in their adherence to the Party line. And it is their apparent inability to question, to doubt, to experience a sense of shame that most troubles me about these Tory dogmatists.

A developed sense of shame is one of many characteristics that elevate man from his fellow creatures. To know shame requires a conscience, which allows us to recognize and experience feelings of unease, embarrassment and guilt with a readiness to atone. Unfortunately, far too many of us, and that includes those in politics, are incapable of experiencing embarrassment. When threats of exposure or when actual exposure takes place eliciting much public hand wringing and loud mea culpas, and we see examples of such in the news almost daily, what is often witnessed is not true remorse, not genuine signs of shame, but rather grief that one has been found out and fear of what comes next. However, for the shameless, as in the instance of Harper appointee Senator Pamela Wallin who recently repaid well over a hundred thousand for expense claims to which she was not entitled, there is no apology, no admission of wrongdoing, not even fear, but a clear display of grief, not for the taxpayers who were rocked and ripped off by members of the Senate, but for herself. In fact, this once much admired and respected journalist has tastelessly opted to play the role of victim. Here is part of her statement as excepted in the Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 14, 2013:

“I wish to make it clear. I was not treated fairly by the Deloitte review, which was not conducted in accordance with generally accepted accounting principle, nor have I been treated fairly by the Senate Committee. Evidence that casts doubt on the correctness of the amounts owing was either ignored or disregarded during the review.

Unfortunately, the Senate succumbed to a ‘lynch mob’ mentality. There was no regard to procedural or substantive fairness. I am disappointed and angry about the way in which this matter was handled, and any implication that I behaved dishonestly.”

Poor Pamela. Apparently she knows all about generally accepted accounting principles and yet somehow fell victim of the system. Well, you have to give her credit for chutzpah if nothing else.

It would be refreshing if, just once, someone in Harper’s coterie of sanctimonious hypocrites would just stand up, man up, and freely admit they had defrauded, lied to, cheated, and abused taxpayers: perhaps one of those Harper appointed Senators or one of those ex-ministers forced to resign for padding expense accounts or accepting corporate donations while campaigning; perhaps someone like Vic Toews who accused opponents to omnibus bills of “siding with pedophiles”; maybe Joe Oliver who called environmentalists “radicals”, or those members of the Conservative Party who attempted to subvert Democracy with robocalls and directing voters to non-existent polling stations or those who sought to skirt the rules regarding election campaigning with “in-out” schemes or who doctored campaign expense reports before handing them in to Elections Canada and now hold ministerial posts. But that is wishful thinking, for we have seen how Harper rewards those MPs who act contrary to the party line or wishes: they are dumped, thrown under that ruthless Conservative bus.

Even when it comes to investigating allegations of voter suppression, the Conservatives manage to imbue the process with a stench of rottenness. Why, for example, was the Conservative Party lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, in attendance at the Elections Canada hearings of witnesses into this issue? That this has only come out months after the fact raises serious questions about the independence of the hearing and of Elections Canada. Certainly there is a suggestion of intimidation, particularly since one of the witnesses was Michael Sona, the young staffer so cold-bloodedly discarded by Harper and the Conservative gang of thugs for his reputed involvement in this matter. To believe the Harper gang, this bright, capable but very young man was the mastermind of the plot to subvert the electoral process.

Do the right thing? Harper’s Conservatives? It will not happen, not voluntarily, and certainly not when there is no potential for political and/or personal gain. With this group, respect for the allure of power and all its corruptive promises are more enticing than the value of a good name. For politicians, especially of this stripe, the first natural instinct seems to be to evade, to deny, to lie, to distort, to point fingers, and, when all else fails, to cut and run. When such, as Harper and gang, do not value themselves, imagine how little they value those whom they represent.

However, even if any one of their member did resort to self-abnegation, to public mea culpas and grovelling admissions of guilt with pleas for understanding and forgiveness for “mistakes” (they are always mistakes, aren’t they?), such exhibitions would appear merely self-serving and unseemly and ring hollow. How sincere can any apology be after whatever offence is exposed by whatever means? Still, some try; sometimes it works; people buy into it.

But what can one do with the shameless, those who claim victimhood, who believe that repaying what they were not entitled to in the first place is more than sufficient punishment and that, in doing so, however reluctantly, they have earned redemption if not the mantle of virtue? Perhaps all we can do is be awed at the magnitude of such extraordinary hubris.

HARPER AND THE ETHICALLY CHALLENGED

I began with questioning how the Diamond Jubilee Medals were handed out. This may seem a paltry issue to some, but it does illustrate what is symptomatic of the partisan rot that has infected this regime.

It is one thing to have members of the Senate and House who rip off taxpayers by making fraudulent expense and housing claims whether by “mistake” or with deliberation. And it is another thing for this government to shamelessly self-promote every day with its Canada Economic Action Plan ads to the tune of over $300 thousand, which are more about promoting Harper and his crew than about job creation. In fact, some of the Canadian taxpayer money went into advertising Tory programs and grants that don’t even exist. Probably most disheartening, at least from the Tory perspective, is the knowledge that this expenditure of funds has proven an absolute waste; that ads have flopped as Tory propaganda. No one is looking at them.

And if, for some, my pointing out some of the partisan nature of the Diamond Jubilee Medal distribution and the $300 thousand plus in self-promotion comes across as churlish, a curious focus on the relatively paltry, they would do well to recall what happened to MP Bev Oda. She was more than a minister who had, or had a staffer, forge a government document and yet had managed to keep Harper’s trust and support; she was also a repeat offender when it came to padding expense claims amounting to thousands of dollars and then being forced to repay them. Most revealing, it was only after public outrage for claiming a $16 glass of orange juice that Oda was finally forced to resign. Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things that can trip you. Perhaps from this episode there is a lesson to be drawn: If you want to get away with something, go big; it appears that, for the Canadian public at least, there’s something chintzy and in your face about that overpriced orange juice that made the whole thing unbearable.

But there are other things that were not so trivial. There was Peter Penashue forced to resign for accepting corporate donations during his election campaign. Of him, Harper said, “This is the best Member of Parliament Labrador has ever had.” There was sanctimonious Dean Del Mastro, the loud, bullying Conservative defender in the House against those robocalls questions who has suddenly fallen silent due to troubles of his own with allegations of campaign irregularities. And we have Christian Paradis, still in cabinet, still supported by Harper in spite of several allegations of ethical breaches including political interference and spending a weekend with lobbyists at a retreat. There are more from others, Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin in the Senate with fraudulent expense claims, Tory senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen doctoring the Deloitte report on Duffy, Nigel Wright in the PMO, now gone, writing a $90 thousand cheque, and Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu facing allegations of attempting to obtain greater job benefits for his girlfriend and having to repay $900 for “mistakenly” claiming housing expenses to which he was unentitled. Harper threw his support behind Boisvenu pointing out that he was a “tireless supporter of the victims of crime.” While it is true that Boisvenu has suffered terribly with a daughter murdered and another killed in a road accident and deserves our sympathy, it does not entitle him a free pass on the allegations against him.

When accumulated, these and other breaches present an extremely disturbing picture of Harper and gang’s high tolerance for breaches of ethics. They are clearly untroubled by them, their concerns no doubt on loftier pursuits like ramming through the Keystone XL pipeline and worrying about the economy and fulfilling the promise to get rid of the debt just in time for the next election. It is astounding the number of “mistakes” Conservatives make in money matters and even more astounding that the public swallows that swill of them as fiscally responsible. I still want to know from the president of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement of the $50 million slush fund, what happened to the missing $3.1 billion from the treasury. If anything, these “mistakes” should lay to rest the myth of Conservatives, as they keep reminding us, as inherently superior fiscal managers.

HARPER’S TWISTED VIEW OF DEMOCRACY

But even all that pales to what should really offend Canadians. Harper and his gang pose a real threat to Canadian Democracy.

It is a truism that citizens of any nation can only be assured of a free society if there is a free press and an open, honest, and transparent government accountable to its people. Five years ago, Harper and thugs set out to restrict if not destroy the Access to Information database. In the process, his has become the most secretive, manipulative, paranoid, and ethically challenged regime in Canadian history. Canadians have difficulty in getting answers from anyone in government. Canadian civil servants and scientists have been muzzled under threat of losing their jobs and the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, was stonewalled at every turn when trying to obtain documents regarding government expenditures and projections.

Access to Information is, as it should be, the hallmark of a free, open society. This is what people are willing to die for the world over. They do not sacrifice themselves for the right to vote, but for the promise carried in that right to vote. A vote in a dictatorship means nothing if the end result is the same old same old: the same old dictator, the same old secrecy, the same old abuses of human rights, the same old subversion of the electoral process. Citizens and journalists have a right, if not a duty, to be informed and to hold their governments accountable; that means governments, in turn, have a duty to be accessible, open, and honest to the press and its citizens in the full knowledge that they, these governments, will, and must, be held accountable. Except in the interests of national security (yes, there are exceptions even in a free society), and these exceptions must be rare, almost non-existent, a nation’s citizens and press must never be denied access to any, any, information pertaining to its governance. Governments do not have the right to keep from its citizens the true costs, for example, of government procurements. Governments do not have a right, to slip in legislation without informing its citizens and opposition members and allowing for debate. Yet Harper and thugs, notably Peter MacKay, then Minister of Defence, kept lying about the real costs of the F-35s during its last campaign. And Harper and his thugs created massive omnibus bills, which were rammed into law in which information and debate was limited and legislation passed without either the opposition or Canadians knowing what they were. This is a government that does not listen to its own citizens. Don’t believe it? Let’s take one example. The majority of Canadians supported the long gun registry. Even police chiefs across the nation supported it. Harper and thugs, however, preferred to hear and listen to special interests groups who make up much of the hard core base that supports the Conservative party. Again, there are more examples. Just look around, read the papers, look back. And remember.

When a government scapegoats members of society, as Harper and gang have, that government undermines all of society. When a government smears, spies on, and questions the patriotism of opponents, as Harper and gang have, that government undermines Democracy and poses a real threat to that society.

By its own admission, this government’s priorities have everything to do with the economy and jobs but little to do with better working conditions, raising the minimum wage, and improving the lot and well being of the poorest and meanest amongst us. This is the government that has consistently attacked workers and yet has gone out of its way to give every tax break, every benefit of doubt possible to big business including the hiring of temporary foreign workers for less pay and allowing, even encouraging, companies to ship jobs overseas. How do these measures better the lot of working Canadians and how do they improve the economy? Harper does not care about the health of the economy of individuals but rather the health and welfare of the economy of big business. Never forget that.

Look at Harper and gang’s efforts (at times extremely offensive in the form of Joe Oliver) on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline that may create many jobs but only for shortterm while certainly offering long-term gain for a very, very few. Theirs is the plundering Capitalist mentality of Al Capp’s General Bullmoose: What’s good for General Bullmoose is good everybody. It ain’t true, folks.

But for Harper and gang, Capitalism always trumps Democracy.

HARPER CUTS AND RUNS – AGAIN

By the time Parliament resumes, October 16th, Harper will have made just five appearances in the House over a period of six months. That is an absolute disgrace for a leader of any nation. After the spring session and over the summer, he has moved, like the sneak and snake he is, to prorogue Parliament for the third time. As in the past, it was to avoid answering questions and to rebuild his party’s fortunes. This is the regime that has worked tirelessly on behalf of Keystone XL and yet cannot bring itself to work on the business of governing Canada too fixated on its own problems than on the health and welfare of the nation.

H.L. Mencken wrote, “Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.” Sadly, Harper gives credence to that sentiment. We can change that by heeding the words of Ralph Nader: “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”

Amen.

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: BUMS, THUGS, & BOTTOM FEEDERS

We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. – Eric Hoffer

It is hard to look up to a leader who keeps his ear to the ground. – James H. Boren

Leadership is action not position. – Donald H. McGannon

Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: BUMS

To anyone who follows politics, even if superficially, it must be clear by now that Harper and his crew, and that includes their handlers, have little respect for the concept of openness, accountability and transparency with which they ran and which, along with the false figures offered by Harper regarding the F-35s, helped win them their majority last election. This is a government so far removed from integrity and ethics that I consider it a greater threat to Canada and Canadian parliamentary democracy than any dissenting voice. The only terrorists plotting against us appear to be Harper and his sycophantic, mendacious, and amoral crew who daily sit in the House posing as Parliamentarians while refusing to respond to pointed, legitimate questions from the opposition. They are not parliamentarians; to suggest they are taints the word and diminishes its meaning. Where is the debate? Harper and his crew are thugs, and thugs only.

What kind of leader is Harper when he and his enthusiastic toadies sit in the House and face questions regarding the recent scandals without even the pretence of attempting to answer them? Why no leader at all. Instead, this mean-spirited, frightened and evasive rabble dodge, spin and point fingers, too busy trying to undermine the credibility of the questioners with immaterial side issues than to honestly and forthrightly respond to issues that need answering and must be answered and will be answered. Thomas Paine said, “But such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks and all it wants is the liberty of appearing.” It will happen. If not today, tomorrow, but it will happen.

Harper is a charlatan, a faux leader; a man who was elected on promises that have never been fulfilled, his words proven empty, meaningless and untruthful. He has determined that he has no need to be guided by the principles of a Parliamentary Democracy. He has his majority and it has gone to his head; he wields it as a club to ram, beat and enforce without listening to the input, interest or concerns of others. Those who doubt what I am saying need only review how this group of vile bodies behave during Question Period. They have taken your vote and squandered it for no other purpose than to obtain power and, once having grasped it, clinging to power. In light of recent scandals, we have a clear image of how Harper and his gang govern and it is not a pretty picture but rather a grotesque dance of Tory MPs flying in all directions at once as they desperately seek to elude the shining light of Truth weaving among them.

RATHGEBER: HEROIC LONER, CHUMP OR SELF-AGGRANDIZER

How many times and for how long must we be deflected with side issues having nothing to do with what is the real matter, the rot that has infected Harper and the PMO? Harper’s penchant for endless denial, avoidance and obfuscation can only be effective for so long. Eventually Canadians will have had enough and do as one of Harper’s own backbenchers, Brent Rathgeber, has done; they will walk away having had their fill sickened by what they have been fed by this bullying prime minister and his gang.

The final straw for Rathgeber was the gutting of his private member’s bill, C-461, by fellow Tories calling for full disclosure of the salaries and expenses of public bureaucrats earning $188 thousand plus. The Conservative amendments raised the figure to $444,461 plus. While the merits of the bill are questionable, salaries of public employees are public, it was clear that Rathgeber believed Harper was bent on protecting senior management. He resigned from the Tory caucus on the evening of May 5 and the next morning, outlined his reasons for doing so and, in the process, offered a scathing indictment of Harper’s management style.

I will take Rathgeber at his word when he says he resigned on a matter of principle, unhappy with Harper for failing voters by not honouring his commitment for a fully transparent, open, and accountable government. It is unfortunate that it took an exceedingly long time for his principles to waken to the endless abuses committed by his government. Brent Rathgeber was manifestly unhappy that Harper and his unelected staffers wielded too much control over his caucus; he was tired of MPs having to bow to “masters half his age” telling him how to vote and when to speak as if they were “trained seals.” Not a trained seal, he had had enough. Said he in his blog (brentrathgeber.ca/brents-blog), “I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.” That is almost accurate. Harper and his crew were never what they imagined themselves and never what they want us to believe. They did not morph, they already were, only much worse today. These days, it is seldom enough to simply take a person, let alone, a politician, at his word. Too many voters fell under the spell of Conservative promises rather than looking for their crossed fingers and forked tongues. Rightly, Rathgeber is one unhappy MP. But he came to the party too late. Where were his principles when Joe Oliver labelled all environmentalist activists as radicals and stooges for foreign interests? Where was Rathgeber when his leader muzzled scientists and civil servants, when his government slipped unheralded legislation into omnibus bills, when Vic Toews labelled critics of his online spy bill as “siding with pedophiles”, and when his government decided all those collecting UI were to be treated as potential fraudsters? Where was Rathgeber’s voice when his regime lied about the F-35 figures, when they stonewalled the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, at every turn and questioned his integrity?

I do believe Rathgeber had had enough of Harper and his control. But that he can say in his blog, “I still support and greatly respect the prime minister…” hardly makes for a heroic figure. But I’ll take him at his word that he quit the Tory caucus on the matter of principle.

STEPHEN HARPER: HYPOCRITE

With Rathgeber’s resignation from the caucus, Harper and thugs have demanded that he resign his seat as well and run for re-election pointing out that he had been elected as a Conservative. Rathgeber naturally pointed out the hypocrisy of such a stand by harkening back to the 2006 election when Harper clearly had no such concerns for those who voted for a Liberal, David Emerson, who, just days after winning his seat, crossed over to the dark side, joining the Conservatives who promptly rewarded him with the posting of Minister of International Trade. When it comes to hypocrisy, no one can call Harper a slouch.

Right now, Harper and his party, are allowing two Conservative members, Shelly Glover and James Bezan, to sit and vote in the House even though the Chief Electoral Officer has written letters to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, requesting they be suspended for failing to file complete election returns for 2011. Scheer, a Conservative member appointed to this role, has ignored the request. In fact, he had not even disclosed the request to the House, a curious position, to say the least, for the Speaker who is supposed to be non-partisan but appears not to be. The Harper rot is everywhere.

Which finally brings us back to his office. It has recently come to light that Harper has a slush fund in his office of about a million dollars. While it appears all parties have a similar fund set aside to be called upon for party leaders to pay for expenses having to do with party affairs, it is unclear why the matter was kept secret and why Nigel Wright, Harper’s ex-chief of staff, had access to it. Naturally, in light of revelations of Wright paying for Duffy’s $90,000 debt, a question has been raised: did Wright expect to be reimbursed from this Conservative slush fund? Harper and the Conservatives deny that Wright was reimbursed or that he would be. If true, Nigel Wright is out of pocket by $90,000. He is a good friend indeed.

No, I do not like Harper. Evasive, deceitful, he can be trusted only to look out for the main chance. He cares nothing about you or me and, worse, cares nothing for Democracy.

THE NDP: THE NEW DISSEMBLERS

Frank A. Pelaschuk

“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

What does it mean when a party attempts to rebrand itself? The NDP did that over the weekend (April 12-14) making a few changes to the preamble of its constitution. In doing so, the NDP has set out to distance itself from its Socialist roots. For those lifelong supporters, some of it must have hurt. They had been told, more or less, that the ideas they had brought to the party and the ideas they had fought for were now old and tired. Or course there is denial that that is so. Said Mulcair of the changes, “it’s a way of communicating the modernization of the party.” He further stated that it was not a move to the centre but a way of  “bringing the centre to the party” (Citizen, April 15, 2013). That is one way of looking at it. It’s also a crock.

For good or ill, the NDP has, from its CCF days, been a distinct voice. It has never governed the country, but its influence has been enormous and we are a better nation for it. However, over the years, something has happened to the party. There were some working from the inside that were not content that the NDP be relegated to the sidelines while Conservatives and Liberals often stole and took credit for their ideas. Perhaps most galling was the thought that the public might actually believe the party was “fringe” (i.e., unelectable as a governing party). So, today, we have a slightly different NDP. Having reached official opposition status, having smelled power without tasting it, it is heady stuff indeed and leaves the party and its supporters wanting more. In fact, they want it all. Therein lies the problem for the “government in waiting”. So close to achieving its goals, perhaps forgetting or simply in denial that the present NDP success was largely the success of one man, the late, much loved Jack Layton, NDPers appear to actually believe they will form the next government. In initiating the changes, they will claim they are continuing the work of Layton. I do not doubt they believe that. But why should it necessitate turning its back on its Socialist roots? Must ideas and ideals play second fiddle to the more ambitious goal of winning?

 Socialism is neither a dirty word nor a dirty idea. Free market lovers like Harper and his thugs will tell you otherwise throwing up a trail of fairy dust lies that are meant to confuse and frighten. They will tell you that Socialism is to be feared, that it is Communism, that it is godless, that it advocates murder through abortion, that it will lead to dictatorship, that it’s anti-market, that it means confiscation of property and the privatization of everything, that it will lead to the end to individualism, that it cares more for criminals and pedophiles than victims, and that it leads to laziness and welfare bums living high off the State. Too many of us are buying it. It’s nonsense, a big lie. Of course, those Harper free enterprisers would have us ignore those corporate welfare bums to whom they are so beholden, those leeches with their ceaseless demands for lower taxes, increased tax deferments, and even more gifts of public funding even as they hypocritically demand that governments not interfere in the market. They would have us ignore that those same bums demand, and get, public funds to set up business and hire workers with the implicit threat of pulling stakes if they don’t get their way. And the likes of Harper and gang would have us ignore that in times of crisis, as in 2008, those corporate blackmailers, those unpunished pieces of garbage who created the crisis in the first place and ruined the lives of millions, would have the public bail them out with billions of taxpayer monies in the full, smug certainty of knowing that they are “too big to fail.” Yet calls for regulation is labelled “Socialistic” and “Communistic”.

Still, the suckers vote for Harper and gang, swallowing the bilge that they are superb money managers, that they know what’s good for the country. Capitalism is the answer; what’s good for Business is good for Canada. Tell that to Canadian workers displaced by foreign temps or whose jobs are outsourced by CEOs who make millions off the backs of cheap labour and Canadian taxpayers. All of this happening with the help of Harper and thugs.

So why do voters keep buying that old Conservative line when the gap between the wealthy and the poor keeps widening, when the wages of workers has the same purchasing power of the 70s? For such as those, the words of Irene Peter would appear to fit: “Ignorance is no excuse — it’s the real thing.” The thing is, for those willing to listen and understand and be persuaded, ignorance is not necessarily a permanent state. It is, alas, for others, those individuals who refuse to listen or will not be persuaded, preferring the blindness of darkness to the wisdom of light: that’s stupidity and for stupidity there is no remedy. So why is it that even the NDP seems bent on buying, if even only a little, into the myth of Harper Conservatism. Well, it could be it helps win votes.

It is not that the NDP is jumping whole hog into the swill. Rather, it’s tepidly inching its way into the barrel. It is not totally denouncing its Socialist roots, its simply muting its voice, as if ashamed. Mulcair and the NDP have bought into the lie that Socialism is a bugaboo word and, in doing so, have all but guaranteed they will never be the governing party of Canada. How can any party be taken seriously when it turns its back on its own pioneer people and their core beliefs? Mulcair says nothing has changed, that the NDP is, at the core, the same party. But how can that be? How can the party still be a party of conscience and principle when it has decided those beliefs and values of the past are not quite good enough for today’s politics?

The changes to the NDP constitution preamble may seem harmless and insignificant. They have been initiated to soften the NDP image, to make the party appear less threatening, less “radical”, more “business friendly”. It may work in today’s world, appealing only to the young or the ignorant, the know-nothings, the kind of people who haven’t a clue and swallow everything that the likes of Harper have to offer. Ignoring evidence and science, Harper appeals to the basest instincts in us preying on our fears and ignorance when it comes to crime and panders to the worst in us when he attacks the unemployed, the mentally ill, and refugee claimants as abusers of Canadian generosity. And it may work for those who turn on a dime to a famous name and a younger more attractive package. For the bubble-headed know-nothings, it’s glitz and noise that’s important, not what the package has to offer or to say. Appealing to such may be good for votes but not much else. Those voters are thoughtless and reckless and cannot be relied upon. The NDP would do better to seek the thoughtful constituent, the voter who wants to be informed, who is willing to try something new provided he is given enough reason to do so. Appealing to the lowest in us may get you elected, but don’t we already have enough of that with Harper and anti-Democratic crowd.

There is nothing wrong with the NDP or any party reaching out in hopes of attracting more supporters. What is wrong is a party that sells itself short to do so. It is dishonest and disrespectful of members. It also does little to respect those thoughtful supporters it hopes to gain. Instead of distancing itself from its Socialist roots, the party should embrace and celebrate it and set about educating the public about what it means to be a New Democrat and a Socialist.

It’s a mug’s game to pretend to be what you are not. It only works for the ignorant and uninformed or truly stupid. This “do-anything-to-win” attitude belongs to the likes of Harper and his fellow snake oil salesmen. For him and his gang, no dirty trick is too dirty, too low, or too vile not to be used. A day after Justin Trudeau was elected as Liberal leader we were treated to an example of this with attack ads on the young man. One of the ads was simply silly and reveals a Conservative party that is unimaginative and desperate. But the other was far, far more serious because the ad was a complete and utter lie of the same vile tripe used against Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. It was from an old file depicting a young Justin Trudeau speaking on something his father had said. It was offensive and it was an absolute distortion. And it was deliberate. But that is how Harper and his gang of knaves work. He believes in the market and he is convinced that voters are really, really stupid. Thus far, on the last, the voters have proven him right.

Eventually, the electorate will have enough of Harper and gang and will throw them into the garbage bin of history where they belong. But where will the NDP end?

Why would anyone now vote for it? Moving to the centre may earn it more votes, but it is a diminished party, a party that has compromised itself. It appears the NDP no longer wishes to stand fast with its old supporters. For years, the NDP accomplished much without getting elected. No doubt it could accomplish more if it became the governing party. But what price should it pay for that end? For years, the NDP had drifted more and more to the right. For this writer, it has become increasingly more difficult to vote for it. Now, it is almost impossible. Holding one’s nose is hardly satisfactory.

HARPER: THE WORKERS’ ENEMY

Frank A. Pelaschuk

One of the claims you hear from members of Harper’s gang justifying the import of foreign workers to replace Canadian workers, is that Canadian workers don’t have the requisite skills and training.

Today, everyone’s in a tizzy and the Harper gang is scrambling. Yesterday, news broke that temporary foreign workers with visas have replaced 45 Canadian RBC workers. In defending itself, RBC says that they are not hiring workers but working from a supplier, iGate, an outsourcing firm based in California. That explanation by CEO Gord Nixon is laughable and insulting, hiding as it does behind a technicality. The fact is, 45 workers are affected. When the dam burst, RBC quickly realized it had a publicity nightmare in its greedy corporate hands. It promised to find positions for the 45 workers, if they wanted them.

But RBC was not the only one scrambling. So was the Harper regime suddenly confronted by an onslaught of blame, well deserved if a little late. Cabinet ministers and staffers spent the day falling all over themselves while decrying as “unacceptable” the replacement of skilled Canadian workers with foreigners. But that feigned surprise and mock outrage is about as believable as Harper and gang discovering the milk of human kindness, ethics and shame. It just ain’t going to happen.

The RBC episode is not the only instance of foreign workers taking Canadian jobs. HD Mines, in Tumbler Ridge, BC, was allowed to import 201 Chinese workers to take Canadian jobs after 300 Canadian applicants were found not to have the required skills. Questions, however, were raised with claims that many of the applicants were, indeed, highly skilled with years of experience. As well, there were suggestions the company had not tried hard enough to find skilled Canadian workers preferring to employ Chinese labour for less. What was going on here? Was the issue really about skills and experience or was it, as it appears in almost all such issues, simply about wages?

Well, it depends, Harper and gang might say. They will tell you that there is no percentage for business not to do the right thing, that it doesn’t pay for business to give itself a shiner when it could hurt the bottom line. Unfortunately, past experience shows that argument to be bogus. Why would Big Business do the “right” thing unless, by that, is meant making a profit, when governments, such as Harper’s, make it so easy and alluring to do the wrong thing? It was Harper and gang who made adjustments to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program’s Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) which allowed companies unable to find eligible Canadian workers for highly specialized jobs to pay foreign imports wages 15% below that of Canadian workers. Note that these are for highly specialized skilled jobs. But how many of the 2,400 companies listed for accelerated approval, including MacDonald’s, Tim Hortons, A&W, and Subway, meet that criterion. Harper and gang, with those changes, almost made a certainty that abuses would occur. Not only that, they increased the chances of abuse by turning a deaf ear to those naysayers who suggested that loosening the rules would create difficulties not only for Canadians but also for those temporary foreign workers. If that is not undermining the Canadian worker, what is? Canadians should be enraged and many are. But it’s not enough to be angry. We have to stay angry and use what we remember come next election.

Regardless of how nicely CRAP (i.e., Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party) may package it, corporations are not citizens. They do not have a conscience or a moral compass. In that respect, they are much like the Harper gang. It’s all about the bottom line.

But why is Harper attacking Canadian labour? Why are he and gang allowing Canadian jobs to be sold to foreign workers? This is the government that purports to want to create Canadian jobs yet, in 2012, allowed 338,000 foreign workers to do Canadian jobs. In a country of such high unemployed, are there really that many stupid, lazy, unskilled Canadian workers? Harper’s gang must think so. Or could it simply be that intelligence, skills and ambition are not the issue after all but, rather, government sanctioned union busting and wage cutting? One gets the impression that Harper and gang, with their laissez faire approach to corporate shenanigans are quite content to allow Big Business to feed off the blood, sweat, and backs of foreign workers doing Canadian jobs at the expense of skilled, hardworking Canadian workers.

We saw this a couple of years ago when Caterpillar bought out Progress Rail in London, Ontario. It wasn’t enough for Caterpillar that it was given substantial tax breaks by federal and provincial governments without either making demands that jobs be protected and that Canadian money stay in Canada. When the 465 Caterpillar workers refused the company’s demand that they take a wage cut of 50%, the workers were locked out and then the plant closed, Caterpillar pulling up stakes and moving to the US to Muncie, Indiana, an anti-union state were workers did take the cut. This is Capitalism at its most inglorious, offensive and despicable. Unfortunately for those Ontario workers, the only support they received from either provincial or federal government were sad clucks of sympathy. What was worse was that even from fellow Canadians there was little sympathy, envious anti-unionists in particular deriving, it seemed, a certain schadenfreude over what had happened. Too bad. You brought it on yourself. You should have taken the cuts. Nice.

This is where Harper and gang have taken us. Busting unions, cutting wages, corporate tax breaks, jobs and businesses shutting down, jobs exported, workers imported, corporations moving on. Harper and thugs are more interested in the health and welfare of Big Business than in the health and welfare of ordinary Canadians. They have demonstrated that time and again. For Big Business, it’s about cutting labour costs and maximizing profits. It may be legal; it’s certainly not nice.

Which finally brings me to Margaret Thatcher who died yesterday. Of her, Stephen Harper said she gave “wise, gracious counsel.” He has learned well from her and from Ronald Reagan, her twin sibling in spirit. For the working stiff, they were not nice people. In fact, they were the enemy. Both are gone and, by this writer, neither respected, loved nor missed.

DOES ANYONE HEAR ME

Frank A. Pelaschuk

What is it about the Harper Conservatives? Why is it that they appear to never question themselves or to suffer doubts? Are they not interested in what the world thinks? Or even their own people? Do they not hear the incipient groaning moans of rebellion or the slight tearing sound of Harper’s carefully woven image slowly unravelling? The tear is barely noticeable. But it’s there. And people are beginning to take notice.

Last week, Canadians were treated to the spectacle of a short-lived revolt by Conservative backbenchers wishing to reopen the abortion debate through the back door. Harper wanted none of that. On March 26, MPs Mark Warawa and Leon Benoit stood up in the House and asked the Speaker Andrew Scheer to rule that their rights to speak on certain topics were being violated by their party leadership when their names were removed from a list of speakers and they were prevented from speaking in the House prior to Question Period. Later, the dissidents emerged from a caucus meeting, all smiles but clearly reined in. All was well and Dear Leader Harper was in control again. But for how long?

The mini-revolt was not the only blow to Harper’s image within a week. On the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and a month before they were to meet, Harper announced Canada’s withdrawal from the UN convention of scientists to fight drought in Africa. He also stopped Canadian funding, about $350,000. Canada had signed on to this UN effort in 1994 and is the only nation of 194 signatories to withdraw its support. One of the rationales offered was that it was a cost-cutting move which would save taxpayers $350,000! That’s slightly above the cost of travel expenses claimed by senator Pamela Wallin over the past few years. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a paltry sum and amounts to a miniscule fraction of what Harper and gang spend in self-promoting propaganda with its Action Plan campaign. This move is cruel window dressing; it will have no real effect on the economy and will appeal only to those who believe “charity begins at home,” and that Canada is already far too generous and free with taxpayer monies. But for those living in drought plagued nations, every lost dollar for anti-drought research is a matter of life and death; the withdrawal of any money for such an effort is catastrophic, not only for those dying from the effects of drought but also to Canada’s image. Because the sum involved is so insignificant when compared to other sums we spend, we look foolish, mean and niggardly. We are a relatively rich nation and yet Harper is willing to declare to the world that we have neither the heart nor the willingness to contribute towards finding the solution to end drought. That is one cold heart.

The anti-drought convention is a UN initiative. That may be the problem. For some reason, Harper has it in for the world body. He doesn’t like it and will poke it in the eye in every possible way. That the consequences of his acts have resulted in a tarnishing of Canada’s reputation as a good and humane nation, that such actions could result in death for some, is apparently of no concern to him and his gang. Their concern is to appeal to their base of supporters, those folks who believe the best charity is no charity and that all victims are masters of their own misfortune. They elected Harper and gang and gave him power. He intends to keep it and will do so by heeding to the worst in them.

Another blow to his image, this too self-inflicted, is equally puzzling.

Recently, seven young people wishing to draw national attention to aboriginal issues completed an arduous and dangerous 1600km trip. The journey began from a James Bay Cree community on January 15 and ended on Parliament Hill March 25. They had hoped to meet with Stephen Harper at the end of their journey. Unfortunately, it was disappointment, rather than Harper, which greeted the young trekkers. Harper had more important issues to deal with and they involved international matters calling for diplomacy, cooperation and lots and lots of cameras. He and his wife were in Toronto greeting two “ambassadors” from China. That the ambassadors were Panda bears on loan to Canada speaks volumes and sheds more light on a man that is not only unflattering but all too revealing. With a backhanded slap of contempt, Harper opted for cute and cuddly over courageous, tired, foot-sore, message-bearing, young aboriginal people. It was a photo-op to good to resist and Harper didn’t. The world noticed but, if he was hoping that Canadian love for animals would translate into something more positive, a further softening of his public image, he clearly miscalculated. Another thread snapped in that carefully crafted image. Canadians and the world saw him for what he is: aloof, disrespectful, uncaring, ungenerous, mean, small, and getting meaner and smaller every day.

His refusal to acknowledge the young people, to hear them out and to convey to them, and to the rest of us, that their efforts actually meant something to him will no doubt leave a lasting impression on them. Perhaps, still smarting from the Idle No More movement, or of the belief that his issuance of a public apology in 2008 on behalf of Canada for the brutal failures of residential schools was sufficient, Harper just could not bring himself to break away from what was important to him: the careful crafting of his image. You can never go wrong having your photo taken with pandas. But Harper might have done better meeting with those young people.

THE LAST OF THEIR KIND

Within a day of each other, Conservative Ralph Klein, and New Democrat Peter Kormos died. In both, we can see almost identical personalities, but men of absolutely different characters. Both were popular figures in politics, though, of Kormos, it can be said he was the more solitary and sadder figure in his private life though, it is true, it was Ralph Klein who, in the end, suffered the cruellest of fates when diagnosed with a lung illness and dementia.

Both were larger than life and absolutely fearless in their worldview. And both, it can safely be said, were principled but in different ways. Klein, it appears was more flexible when it came to personal beliefs, preferring, in some ways, to let those whom he represented, to lead. Both were populists, for good and ill, and both served their constituents well and were so easy to be around that voters felt they could call them by their first names. Klein was often referred to as King Ralph, a title both sincerely affectionate and ironically meant.

Of the two, Ralph Klein subscribed to a darker view of humankind than did Kormos as attested by his declaration regarding easterners moving to the east: “Any person with an honest desire to work and an honest desire to contribute to society is welcome, but people who come to rob banks, mug seniors & snatch purses are not welcome.” As if such elements did not exist in Alberta but were eastern imports. Those who supported him loved this. They saw him as a man “who told it like it is.” On the surface, that declaration may sound reasonable. Unfortunately, the sentiment reeks of suspicion and judgement creating an unpleasant image by tarring with a rather large brush a segment of society.

“He’s a straight shooter,” is the consensus regarding both men. Perhaps Klein was, but most of his targets were easy not to like for they are the targets and scapegoats of like-minded people the world over, those naysayers who always look for those less fortunate and weaker than themselves. Perhaps it makes them feel better to know that, as low and mean as their lives are, there are others worse off, the “leeches” of society: the unemployed, the homeless, the mentally ill. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it just makes you feel so damn good to be the one giving the shit-kicking rather than taking it. These are the kind of people who love the cruelty of American Idol when the self-deluding, truly untalented perform on stage to be subjected to loud mockery and ridicule. It doesn’t concern the viewers that these folk are often there at the encouragement of friends and family who should have known better and cared more: what better sport than to be among the mockers, to witness the fall of others no matter how weak and defenceless. I don’t know if Ralph Klein was a mean man; I think not. But he should have known better. He fed off that kind of thinking and he used it publicly as when he threw money at a panhandler telling him to get a job, and became much loved as a result by those who saw vindication of themselves in that act, saw that they were not of that ilk, that they were indeed contributors, “hardworking independent men and women who didn’t whine, who succeeded on their own, who neither sought nor took help from others.” That the “self-made man” is largely a figure of myth troubled neither Klein nor those who really want to believe they were that person: “I work, I contribute; those who don’t are bums.”

Kormos was a different type of populist. He, too, had strong opinions and he was equally colourful, but there was less judgement and meanness in how he looked upon others. He stuck to his socialist beliefs and appeared to have little patience with those pragmatists who were more concerned with getting re-elected than in doing the right thing. Why couldn’t you do both, he likely thought.

Both men will be missed. They were cut of the same cloth yet worlds apart. Of both, it has been said, “we shall not see their like again.”

Perhaps. But I do believe, of the two, we need more like Peter Kormos.

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