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STEPHEN HARPER: TERRORISM, THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

 

Where do murderers go, man! Who’s to doom when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? – Herman Melville

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 The Events

On October 20th, a lone male drove his vehicle into two Canadian Forces members in a St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot. One, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, later died. The driver was pursued, shot, and he too died later. That was all any knew initially and yet even before police had commented more fully on the episode, the Conservatives had stage-crafted a plan for maximum impact by having a backbencher, reading from a sheet of paper in the House, ask Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist threat. It was theatrics and it was cheap, clearly meant to disconcert and surprise the opposition and inspire fear not only by raising the specter of terrorism by also by reminding the public of what the Harper gang have been saying since Canada had joined the war against ISIL: Canada was under threat by terrorists. Harper responded to the staged question by saying he found the episode “extremely troubling”. The next day he went further saying the attack had been “against our values as a civilized democracy”. Steven Blaney, public safety minister said the event showed the driver “clearly linked to terrorist ideology”. Perhaps so, but was this really an act of a terrorist or a deeply troubled man?

Then, two days later, on October 22, a gunman armed with a rifle, attacked Parliament Hill. Reservist Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton, Ontario, standing honour guard at the National War Memorial with another soldier, was murdered. The police response was swift, efficient. Bystanders stepped forward, an unidentified woman attempting to breath life into the soldier while others performed CPR. A few contemptible others, souvenir hunters and callous creeps, used their cameras to take pictures of the soldier’s dying moments while the doers, the men and women of action, strove heroically to save Nathan Cirillo. The killer himself was shot dead within the parliament building with parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers playing a major role. American media disclosed the name of the killer before Canadian media. MP Jason Kenney demonstrated incredible insensitivity by being the first to publicly announce the death of Nathan Cirillo. In a time like this, some are always there to grab the headlines. No one knew what was happening, the police response was outstanding, and the media was there in full force the Globe and Mail capturing a shaky video of police racing through the lobby of the parliament building guns drawn. Shouts are heard and then an echoing volley of shots, too numerous to count recording the final sounds the gunman would ever hear. For the day, Ottawa was under siege. Parliament, public offices, Canadian Forces bases, schools, were put in lockdown mode for the day. The world was watching. And the media? The media was in frenzy acting as it always does in such terrible events, having a field day spreading alarm, speculation, fuelling rumours and offering little meaningful information.

I agree with Harper, these events are extremely troubling. But I am also troubled about what the fallout will be. For Harper, the Conservatives and many others, the immediate judgement was that these were terrorist acts. As a viewer watching the events unfold, particularly on October 22nd, I wasn’t so sure. As the day unfolded, I found myself increasingly doubtful that this was an act of terrorism and that, as the media first reported, there was more than one assailant involved. Rather, I began to believe this to be an act of criminality by an extremely disturbed, probably suicidal, individual.

THE STAGED RESPONSE

It was the first event of October 20th that gave me a clear sense of what Canadians could expect from the Harper gang. And it’s not good. On that day, while clearly prepped about what had happened in Quebec before the House began its session, a Conservative backbencher rose and asked Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist attack. As far as anyone knew at that time, a vehicle had mowed down two soldiers and the driver shot and captured. Yet Harper and the Conservatives chose Parliament to exploit the event, perhaps because two soldiers were the victims. Immediately, the alarm bells rang with this first raising of the specter of terrorism, which conjures images of extremists plotting and acting against Canadian targets. It should not have happened that way. It should have been left to the authorities to inform the public, not Harper, certainly not the way he did, and certainly not when not apprised of all the facts. It was only later, with the passage of time and with more information gathered, it was revealed the driver was known to police, that he had become “radicalized” drawing the attention of security who had taken away his passport and interviewed him just days before that terrible event. But the speculation raised by the backbencher and fuelled by Harper was irresponsible because, though uninformed, had the clear goal of fomenting public alarm and of reminding the public that Harper’s claims over the few weeks of terrorist threats had, in fact, been borne out. That wasn’t true, but the public was to infer that. Too, the question and answer was also meant to inform the public that Harper was on top of it (at that time “it” being unknown but certainly declared). Terrorists had struck.

THE MEDIA RESPONSE

What happened on Parliament Hill was even more troubling. This time, Harper was more circumspect. There was no speculation of terrorist attack by him but, really, did anyone need him to say anything. The public could see for themselves the terrible image of the unknown woman attempting to breath life into the mortally wounded Nathan Cirillo, the massive police presence and the Globe and Mail video of police running through the hallway of the parliament building followed by echoing sounds of shouted voices and shots too numerous to count recording the last sounds the killer ever heard. But it was the media this time that exacerbated the situation, inflaming the fears with endless replays of the video and wild speculation that more than one shooter was involved and that there had been a shooting in the Rideau Mall. Terrorists had struck at the heart of Canadian democracy! Canada was under siege! This, too, was alarmist and irresponsible. No one knew what was happening but, while the police and security forces were doing a commendable job under great duress and without knowing what was happening, the media was fuelling the alarm with wild stories. Most irritating was watching CBC’s Evan Solomon breathlessly replay time-and-again that disquieting Globe and Mail video. This was sensational stuff and the media was sensationalizing it even more none more so than Solomon who, on the 23rd, on Power and Politics, still breathless, announced that he had a photo of a bullet hole in the carpet and would tweet it for the public. This is not responsible journalism but kid stuff. Terrorism had again reared its ugly head along with irresponsible reporting.

For the remainder of the day, there was nothing heard from Harper. But there was, for public consumption a photo of a sombre Harper attentively listening to the RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson as he was briefed. It’s a picture I imagine Canadians will be seeing a lot. There’s an election on the way.

The two events were terrible and terrifying; soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo who had done no harm to their killers, fell victim to their blind violent rage and hatred. But, as of this writing, the brutal acts appear to be independent of each other. The fact that both had lost their passports, the second shooter likely for his criminal activities and the first, the killer of Patrice Vincent, for his radicalization, does not mean this was an organized plot by terrorists seeking martyrdom for a holy war. Until we know more, the wiser course would be to consider these as separate criminal acts by loners and losers seeking retribution against a society they blame for real and imagined losses, failures and failings. If it was the latter, and I don’t know if it was, but if it was, then these are not acts of ideologues, believers, self-imagined warriors, but of miserable little men who have become lost somehow and sought easy answers and comfort by turning to others feeling just as they did, hating the world, wanting to strike back, feeding them the same lies and excuses they feed themselves: it’s not their fault, it’s them, those out there, society. Malcontent, unhappy with their lives and themselves, lonely, isolated, seeking attention and, as some do, finding it in the only way they can because they are misfits and losers: blaming others and hurting others. If some turn to ISIL, it’s likely because something in ISIL struck a chord: all westerners are evil, responsible for all their ills and pain; it’s the same blame game, but openly declared and open for membership. If some then read from the Qur’an, act as these two have done, that doesn’t mean the Muslim faith is responsible any more than someone quoting from the Bible. These are delusional people fed what they want to hear, picking and choosing from scripture the things that feed their rage and then act out their own delusional nightmares. There are many like them in society. With people such as these, one act often leads to another, copycat losers and each craving attention, their five minutes of “fame”, the notoriety they believe is owed them by a society that has denied them everything. These are disgruntled, alienated, possibly mentally ill individuals. Feeding into the “terrorist” frenzy is foolhardy and dangerous. Giving the killers this much attention is only likely to cause others, equally disaffected, to attempt something similar if not more outrageous down the road. Be vigilant, yes, but let’s not succumb to irrationality. If these were, in fact, isolated incidents, terrorism by the alienated rather than the “true believer”, Canadians may have even greater cause for alarm. The danger may be from its own government.

Not long ago, Harper spoke of changing rules to give CSIS and the RCMP greater powers to spy, detain and arrest Canadians. In parliament, he stated his position to expedite the changes. This is reactive and reflexive legislation; it’s not good legislation. It is based on fear rather than on logic and facts. It does, however, feed nicely into the Conservative narrative and will no doubt assuage the fear of those easily fearful. As a consequence, one of the changes we will see is the right of informants to remain anonymous and free from prosecution. The accused will not be granted the right to face his accuser. Anyone with a grudge could lay a charge against anyone. This is not what one would expect from a democracy. Even today the Harper gang and the police are encouraging the public to take on the role of informers if they see anything suspicious. Do we really need leaders creating an atmosphere of paranoia? Do we really want a nation of informers?

Knowing how the public tends to overreact on the least of information, especially when fuelled by fear mongering and scattershot rumours, it’s easy to anticipate many anonymous calls.

OUR RESPONSE

In my first post as a blogger, March 28, 2013, I wrote the following: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy.” Nothing has caused me to change my opinion. In fact, my view has become even more entrenched.

Since the terrible events, the Harper gang has made many references to democracy, which, in the past, they appeared to find a hindrance based on some of their actions. It’s a word they evoke whenever it suits their purposes. With these murderous events, they will refer to democracy many times; the Conservatives and their supporters may even believe they have invented it by the time next election comes.

But this is a closed, secretive government. It ignores the opposition, closes debates and attempts to slip in legislation among vast omnibus bills.

Any government that is as closed, secretive, that changes the Elections Act to possibly disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, cannot be trusted to do what is best for the interests of Canada and Canadians.

This is a government that views all critics as the enemy. This is the government that believes Canadians should remain uninformed about the true cost of spending on fighter jets and security. This is the government that ignores evidence regarding crime rates. Instead, they build more jails, institute mandatory sentencing, and cut rehabilitative programs instead of preparing convicts for a life outside of prison. This is the government that believes those collecting welfare are all potential fraudsters and that Canadian workers are less worthy of a job than foreign workers. This is the government that works with Big Business to supress wages. Little wonder that the poor and helpless are disenchanted and unhappy. This is the government that will change copyright laws so that they can use, distort, cut and paste media clips of their opponents without permission and without regard of how that material is used and abused. This is the government that dislikes the media (except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong). With this move, he will have taken a huge step towards discrediting them by distorting their works. Instead of seeking solutions, the Harper gang carries on as if none of this matters. That Harper would increase spying on Canadians is not new. He prefers to be punitive than to seek solutions; perhaps he is simply responding to the wishes of his constituents. This is the government whose members have illegally accepted campaign funds from corporations, the same government whose members broke election rules, illegally attended fundraising events whose guests were the very people who stood to gain from the decisions their ministries made (think Shelly Glover, Leona Aglukkaq). This is the same government that has moved the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, to the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Justice Department, which is answerable to government whereby Elections Canada is answerable to parliament. This will lead to the real possibility of political interference should a member of the government gain attention for election irregularities. And this is the government when, failing to stack the Supreme Court with their man, smeared Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin. When our own government and its members smear citizens simply for opposing them, when our government and its members skirt the laws and break election rules, when out government and its members demonstrate a strong aversion for democracy, is it little wonder that those who feel left out, who are marginalized and ill, become disaffected and angry?

I am fearful that the deaths of those two fine men and the actions of their killers will be used to justify putting in place measures more suited to a dictatorship all in the name of security. A climate of fear and nationalism appears to have been sparked by these awful events. Neither is good for the nation. They lead to excesses and it’s often the innocent who suffer. Do we really want a return to the good ol’ bad days when folks, many Canadian born, good, loyal citizens were interned in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, simply for being members of unions or the communist party, for having Ukrainian names and, during the wars years, simply for being Japanese? It could happen again if the Harper gang is allowed to exploit these two tragedies fomenting fear and granting more powers to the police and intelligence agencies. Informants granted immunity, warrantless online searches forcing Internet providers to surrender personal information, detention and arrest for expressing beliefs we may find offensive. These are real possibilities if Harper continues as he wishes. We were a fairly open society but it is becoming more and more closed, secretive and frightened; we can thank Harper for that. We mustn’t overreact because two troubled individuals acted as they did. It may well turn out there is, indeed, a vast conspiracy. But, until we know more, I will continue to believe these were simply two sad losers who struck at innocent folks for no reason other than they were troubled misfits. The world is full of them. It does no good to brand them all as terrorists. It detracts from the real threat: a government all too willing to chip away at our democracy in the name of safety. If people are angry now, it could get worse.

Harper once said of the Conservatives, “…we don’t practice sociology.”

Perhaps it’s time we did.

***

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

 ***

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

 

 

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HARPER, NUMBERS AND TAX THIEVES

God loves the poor but he helps the rich. – Yiddish proverb

Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER AND TAX THIEVES

With the shifty Stephen Harper gang, the numbers seldom add up. This is a peculiarity of a government that touts itself as a great money manager, fiscally responsible and economically solid. When the Conservatives first came into office under Harper, they inherited a surplus budget of $13 billion from the Liberals. With the latest budget, the Harper gang predicts they will move from a $25.9 billion deficit to a surplus of $800 million by 2015. Just in time for the next election. Meanwhile, somewhere along the line, they lost $38.9 billion.

On May 8th, the Harper crew announced that they would allocate $30 million dollars to go after tax cheats who ripped us off for over $29 billion with off shore accounts. But how seriously are we to take Harper’s promise? Clearly not very when we know that this government plans to cut $300 million from the budget of the Canada Revenue Agency as well as eliminate thousands of jobs over the next three years. The numbers just don’t add up.

It’s a shell game a grossly cynical and manipulative regime expects Canadians to buy into. From all appearances, this anti-Democratic Harper government is more interested in protecting the offshore accounts of their tax evading business pals than in doing anything of substance to recapture the funds stolen from Canadians by tax avoidance schemers. In fact, it is even more difficult to give credence to anything Harper has to say regarding tax evaders when, in addition to cutting funding and personnel in the CRA, his government spent $100 million over the past year promoting itself with colourful, misleading, publicly funded Action Plan propaganda ads. Harper, in other words, is more willing to spend over three times the amount on himself than he is to the recovery of unpaid, hidden offshore taxes, money that, if recovered, would pay off the national debt. Calling those scofflaws “tax evaders” or “tax cheats” is almost too gentle and close to misleading: they are, in reality, lowlife thieves stealing money that belongs to Canada and Canadians. That this government appears not to be as eager to pursue them as diligently some might wish could lead to suspicions that Harper and gang, with their pro-business bias, sympathizes with those malefactors who apparently share the sentiments voiced by another infamous scofflaw, tax evader Leona Helmsley: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Nice. No doubt accurate as well.

That we have individuals in government who apparently subscribe to that notion is all too obvious. They sit in the senate and the House, write laws that benefit a few and punish the rest, and ceaselessly repeat, “less taxes” and/or “less government” while padding expenses and making false housing claims. By “less taxes”, of course, they mean a full, publicly funded twenty-course meal for the “contributors of society, the wealth creators, the deserving people,” at the table and a jagged piece of bone stripped of all meat for the “little people” at their feet.

Even so, even with everything rigged in their favour, for the wealthy elite, this is not enough. When it comes to tax thieves, Harper nods, makes the appropriate sympathetic noises, and offers a few promises. But it is all sham. Very little will be accomplished towards closing the offshore accounts of the most egregious offenders and prosecuting them for the tax thieves they are. For some, presumably the contributing deserving rich, the “real” wealth creators as they would have us “little people” believe of them, there is no such thing as having too much. Harper and gang appear to agree. Perhaps that’s what they mean when they say “less government”. How much different from the United States. There, at least, Helmsley went to jail. The victim of too much government.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SENATE AND THE SWEET LIFE

Over the years, whenever a senate opening came along, I occasionally wrote to various prime ministers offering my services to be a member of the senate. When I made the offer, I also made a pledge that, for that money, I would be honest and show up for work every day, even on weekends. I never did receive a response and was never certain whether it was my offer to appear on weekends or to be honest which kept me from the senate. I was convinced I fit the bill.

Now I had made those overtures after I became aware that there were a few senators who appeared less than interested in the job making only the minimum required appearances and no more to keep their seats and collect their salaries. Well, I was willing to do more. And, as we have recently learned with the release of the audit on several senators, Liberal Mac Harb, Conservative Mike Duffy and Conservative appointee, now Independent, Patrick Brazeau, not all are all that honest when it comes to making housing and travel claims. The report on Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin is pending. Had I been appointed, the public would have received a bonus: an honest person. I couldn’t lose, I thought. My offers were rejected. Hell, they weren’t even acknowledged. Or course, I now realize that I was a bit more than naïve. Whereas I had thought appointments were for public service (okay, full disclosure: I admit to having done very little towards public service) and that judgement, honesty, integrity and ethics were musts (these I believe I do possess; ask me, I’ll tell you), it turned out what was really wanted were stooge rubber stampers willing to support the policies of the governments of the day. Just as well I didn’t get a seat. I’d find it difficult to endure the stench of so much corruption.

The report of the independent audit of the senators released on May 9th had determined that the two conservatives and one liberal senator had made false housing and travel claims. Mike Duffy had already repaid $90 thousand for false housing claims and then, apparently tipped off by Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, chair of the committee investigating the four, repaid an additional one thousand plus for claiming per diems while vacationing in Florida for twelve days. For that, Duffy blames a young staffer. That’s what Conservatives do; they point fingers and plead ignorance. As a result of the audit, Brazeau has to repay over $48 thousand and Harb over $51 thousand. It is worth noting that, of the four senators investigated, three were Harper appointees.

Mike Duffy is an interesting case. He claimed that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Is that really credible in light of the fact that he has paid back over $91 thousand dollars? But there is another issue that should concern Canadians. Is repayment sufficient punishment? Is it even punishment? Good ol’ Duff, as he likes to refer to himself, made the claim that the expense form was confusing. Really? This from the mouth of a once respected journalist, who stated with that folksy charm he likes to adopt, “Canadians know I am an honest man…”. Well, good ol’ Duff, I don’t know that.

When the audit was released, it immediately became plain that there would be no further punishment for those offenders even though some senators, the auditors, and the public believe the RCMP should be called in to look at the books of those four members. Perhaps that should extend to all senators and publicly elected MPs as well. Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, stating that the rules would be tightened up seems to confirm that no further action will be contemplated against the three. Harper, in the House, supported LeBreton stating his government would not pursue the matter because the rules were “confusing”! This, as you will note, is a particularly generous line from the prime minister, the same Stephen Harper who, not all that long ago, offered no such lenient extension towards those collecting UI when he passed legislation allowing authorities to barge into their homes for no other reason then the belief that they may be fraudsters. If the rules were that befuddling, why not seek clarification?

But, as for those three who actually did rip off Canadian taxpayers to the tune of $190 thousand, it is a mystery why Harper is taking such a soft approach. Well, it might not be that much of a mystery after all, not with Harper and his gang. If the issue is to be put aside once and for all, one thing is certain: the RCMP must be called in to investigate those three. And if charged they must face trial and if found guilty they should be removed from the senate, lose their pensions and serve time in jail. If jail is good enough for Helmsley, it’s good enough for them.

THE NATIONAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY

Three years ago, the Harper conservatives announced they would cancel the long form census replacing it with the voluntary National Household Survey. To many, the move made no sense. There would be problems they predicted. But Harper’s is not a government that listens. Instead, typically of bullies, Harper rammed the deal through and the results are less than stellar.

In the past, the mandatory long form survey went to one in five households. Because the form was mandatory and because 94% of those receiving the forms complied in filling them out, the results were extremely accurate. The same cannot be said of the voluntary National Household Survey released May 8th, which went to more people, close to 30% of the households, and yet were filled by only 68% of those receiving it. In some areas, the compliance rate was far below that of the average, the sampling in some areas so small that whole communities across the country were dropped from the survey. The results cannot be trusted. This is not a good outcome, made even worse because Harper had been warned and refused to listen. This is not the first time Harper and gang have turned a deaf ear to the voices of reason. They pulled out of Kyoto because they still believe that climate change is still unproven. We have the minister of resources Joe Olivier maligning scientists and environmentalists for their criticisms of the XL Keystone pipeline, and we appear to have some folks in the Conservative party who still believe that man walked side-by-side with dinosaurs three thousand years ago when the earth was formed in seven days by a supreme being.

When the Harper regime made the decision to kill the long form in favour of the voluntary survey, the justification was privacy concerns. This had been voiced by Tony Clement, the President of the Treasury Board, the same man of the $50 million slush fund boondoggle, the very man whose department has somehow mislaid $3.1 billion of taxpayer money. That claim is a red herring. Information on those who filled the long form census has never been made public. Another claim is that as voiced by Conservative Mike Lake, parliamentary secretary for the minister of industry. On the day of the release of the voluntary National Household Survey, Lake appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics stating anywhere from three to seven times with slight variations the following: Canadians have the right not to be threatened with fines or jail time for not wanting to answer questions regarding their religion, the number of bedrooms they have or how much time they spend with their kids. This is another red herring ludicrous on several levels. No one has ever gone to jail for refusing to fill the long form census. But Conservatives never let the facts interfere with their narrative. All too often, as with this issue, they create a scenario that has no basis in reality in the hope that Canadians are as stupid and fearful as the Harper gang believe. Well, it might work for the paranoid and truly stupid, but one might pause to ask this: If privacy is an issue with the long form census, why isn’t it an issue when Canadians fill out income tax forms? They, too, demand information some Canadians, judging by the number of offshore accounts, clearly do not wish to share.

HARPER, SHIPS AND AN ‘OLD TROTSKYITE’

In March, the Minister of Public Works, Rona Ambrose, and the Minister of Defence (and Ineptitude), Peter MacKay, announced that Irving Shipbuilding would be paid $288 million to design Arctic offshore patrol ships. They did not, however, disclose that the design of a Norwegian ship had already been purchased by Canada for $5 million. Nor did Ambrose or MacKay reveal that the Norwegian ship had been designed and built for $100 million, one third of the cost that we are paying just for the design. This is Harper’s version of sound money management. It is also a very, very disturbing picture of a very, very sweet deal for Irving Shipbuilding if not for Canadian taxpayers.

It was Terry Milewski of CBC who brought these facts to light. The reaction from Harper’s gang was predictable with one of the talking airhead puppets, parliamentary secretary Chris Alexander, hurling out the charge that Milewski was “an old Trotskyite”. Typical. Alexander didn’t bother to deny the story preferring instead to resort to diversion and finger pointing with a charge against Milewski that had nothing to do with the validity of the story. I could care less if Milewski is a Trotskyite, old or otherwise, or if he’s a man from Mars or if he takes marshmallows with beer. Is the story accurate? Gauging from Alexander’s ridiculously simple-minded ad hominem attack, clearly so.

No one who has followed Harper and gang would be surprised by the way Alexander responded. He and the others in the Harper regime apparently believe they are in a war in which every critic or questioner is the enemy and must be treated as suspect. Never answer, never explain, never listen, always attack. They are bullies of the worst sort, vile, dishonest, deceitful and totally devoid of a sense of shame. I’ve said that before, I’ll say it again.

As for Harper and his numbers? They just don’t add up. They didn’t with the F-35s; they don’t with the design costs submitted by Irving Shipbuilding; they fail with the National Household Survey. As money managers Harper and gang went from a surplus of $13 billion to a deficit of $25.9 billion. As money managers they spent $100 million on propaganda while allocating only $30 million to close offshore accounts of tax cheats that, were the money recovered, would not only clear the national debt but leave a surplus of over $3 billion. Perhaps, over time, Harper and gang might find that missing $3.1 billion. But again, they might not. They are cutting back on funds and personnel in the CRA.

Do you still believe Harper and thugs are better stewards of this nation? If so, you must still believe in the tooth fairy and that the world is only three thousand years old. Poor you.

HARPER, BOSTON AND THE CHEAPNESS OF EXPLOITATION

Frank A. Pelaschuk

On the day Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal party, it appeared there was little that could divert the attention of the public and the press. For members of CRAP (Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party), this was worrisome. He was getting all the attention and most of it favourable. Then, on the following Monday, April 15th, there occurred in Boston the murderous bombings that claimed three lives and over 170 wounded. Harper and his gang must have said a prayer of thanks for this gift.

Of course, it is not a gift Harper and gang would have wished or sought. No one would. But it was there and of all the things one can say about Harper and crew, none would be the accusation of shame, shyness or of failing to seize the opportunity. It was there, and because it was there, ripe for exploitation. That’s what any good politico would do. Just business.

As a consequence, the tremendously cruel tragedy could not be wasted. Not only was Trudeau ousted from the headlines and robbed of the chance to bask for any length in the publicity of his great achievement, Harper and gang saw this as an opportunity to deflate the Trudeau juggernaut even more and they would do so with the characteristic meanness and pettiness that is the Conservative trademark.

The bombings occurred on Monday afternoon during Question Period. It was also Justin Trudeau’s first appearance as Liberal leader in the House. When asked to comment on the event after QP, Trudeau said, “Well, I think we have to be very, very careful about politicizing troubling news immediately” (Aaron Wherry, Maclean’s, April 17th). About two hours after the Boston bombings, in responding to a question by Peter Mansbridge of CBC, he stated, “ We have to look at the root causes. Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, okay, where do those tensions come from?” There was something in those two comments that Harper and thugs did not like. Immediately they were out for blood apparently sensing something in Trudeau’s words that made him vulnerable. That others, even supposedly astute political observers, felt the same is puzzling.

Trudeau was as shaken and unprepared for what happened that day as most of us. When he did speak, unlike most of those in the media, it was thoughtfully, sympathetically and, I thought, considering the hysteria surrounding the event, emblematic of what Canadians like to believe of themselves: a call for a reasoned response. At that time, he did not, could not, have had all the facts. Nor did Harper or the rest of us. Because he did not, Trudeau was asking us for calmness and to not rush to judgment. Yes, the bombings were acts of terrorism. But, none of us, when he spoke, knew if these were the acts of mad individuals or a plot by criminals or an organized effort by political or religious zealots. There was nothing unreasonable with Trudeau’s response. That Harper and members of CRAP would make it so, is. Harper’s response was crass and cheap and hard to accept as anything but pure, partisan, political opportunism. He should be ashamed but he is shameless as well as cheap and petty.

Immediately Harper and gang took Trudeau’s comments and set about to differentiate themselves from him. They were the seasoned veterans best able to deal with terrorism and all emergencies whereas Trudeau was inexperienced and callow somehow untrustworthy. Apparently, what really upset Harper, Toews and the rest of the thugs was the fact that Justin Trudeau was not elbowing everybody aside so that he could match the Harperites in indignation, outrage and sheer offensiveness. Evidently, if you were measured, calm and thoughtful, rather than screaming loudly for blood, anyone’s blood, you were someone to be mistrusted, weak, and perhaps even sympathetic to “the enemy”. They’ve done that before. Remember Vic Toews during the online spying bill debates, such as they were, Bill C-30, when he said, “you either stand with us or with the child pornographer”? Typical of Harper and gang. Following Trudeau’s comments, they must have had an “Ah ha!” moment believing they had the young Liberal leader. But did they? Do they? Only the dullest of Harper supporters could really believe that.

What struck me most about the Mansbridge/Trudeau interview was the surprise I experienced. I had, as so many, dismissed Trudeau as lightweight and shallow. He may yet prove himself that. But on that day with Mansbridge, Trudeau came across as thoughtful, sincere, and not at all interested in scoring cheap political points with attempts to frighten the population of by whipping up a frenzy of blame against the usual suspects. In fact, when I consider his comments against Harper’s attack ads, I find reinforced my long-held belief that Harper and gang will politicize anything and everything and that, for that gang, no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile not to exploit. They are shameless.

But the horrific bombings provided Harper another opportunity to exploit. Here was the chance to show nervous, on-edge Americans and Canadians that his government was serious about countering terrorism. Before the week was over, he had announced that there would be a debate on an anti-terrorism bill, Bill S-7.

Now this bill has a strange history. It was first introduced by the Liberals in 2001 and set aside in 2007. In October 2012, Harper and gang announced they would reintroduce S-7 but again it had been set aside only to be resurrected with Harper’s announcement that debate would be on Monday and Tuesday (April 22, 23). The timing is interesting and, again, reveals the mindset of this regime. The Liberals were scheduled to introduce a motion at that time to allow MPs from all parties the right to speak on any issue they wished without the constraint of party or leadership. This came about, as we know, because of a near revolt by Conservative backbenchers unhappy that Harper would not allow them to open debate on the contentious issue of abortion, which they oppose and the majority of Canadians support. Harper wanted none of that and denied his party members the opportunity to speak. The Liberals decided to take up their cause. Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader, would have us believe that the move to bump the Liberal motion has nothing to do with trying to discredit Trudeau but everything to do with terrorism! Perhaps, but the timing is peculiar given the number of years Bill S-7 sat in limbo.

Then, of course, another godsend, this on April 22, the day the anti-terrorism bill was to be debated. The RCMP announced the arrest of two suspected terrorists believed to be plotting a major offensive against Via rail or Amtrak in Canada. The Harper gang must have fallen on their knees in gratitude no doubt convinced by now that God was, indeed, on their side.

Certainly the timing of the arrests on the day Bill S-7 was to be debated could not have been more fortuitous. Coincidence? Perhaps. First we had the Boston bombings knocking Trudeau from the headlines at what should have been his greatest moment. What better time to move ahead with the bill. The clincher to the argument was the Canadian arrests. Harper could now show Canadians were under threat. He and gang could now boast that this was proof that they were on top of things, that his was the only government prepared and capable of protecting Canadians. That the bill means risking human rights violations is of little apparent concern to Harper and gang. In the past, when in opposition, it was. But, in those days, as we now see, it was all political posturing.

As for critics of the anti-terrorist bill, critics because they believe the bill too broad, too inclusive and certainly subject to abuse, they will, of course, be labelled as “soft on terrorists”. That is the way of Stephen Harper, Vic Toews, Peter Van Loan, Pierre Poilievre, Lisa Raitt, Rob Nicholson, John Baird, Tony Clement and mouthpieces Candice Bergen, Kellie Leitch et al. A nasty, bullying group and certainly not shy when it comes to stealing from the public purse for partisan cheap shots. Those Conservative anti-Trudeau flyers? Paid for by the public.

Irritated yet? How much before you become angry? Harper is an anti-Democratic bully and thug. It’s time to stand up to him.

If you are not with Harper, if you disagree, if you question, if you speak out, you are the enemy. Wear it as a badge of honour. It is.

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