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HOW STEPHEN HARPER AND ROB FORD CAME TO WRITE MY BLOG

France fell because there was corruption without indignation. – Romain Rolland

Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life. The hair-raising revelations of skulduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations. – Charles Francis Adams

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHY THIS BLOG

When I started this blog last March, I had no idea where it was going or if it was going. After ten months, I have some idea of its intent, but I have no clear notion of who is reading, if anyone. I write because I believe these things matter, perhaps not what I am saying, but what I write about. They matter to me, and they should you, not because I say so, or some personality you admire says so. For good or ill, politics and the men and women you and I put into office, shape our lives and affect what we do and how we do it; those we elect can work for us and if we are fortunate in our choices, can accomplish great things for the nation at large. The obverse is also true; they can just as easily turn against us if we are too timid in our choices, if we blindly accept all that they offer, or are simply disinterested, taking on the role of mere bystander who doesn’t even vote. Let the others do our lifting while we sleep. But, if and when we waken, it may, by then, of course, be too late.

As citizens, we have a duty to be engaged; it is not enough to vote for the candidate with the brightest smile, the most perfect hair or who makes the shiniest, if ultimately emptiest, of promises and often at the expense of others; we have had too much of that and it hasn’t worked well for us. It is up to us to make sure we are informed, that we know for what our representatives and their parties stand. Too, we must decide what it is we expect of governments and our leaders; we must chose wisely, hope that our elected bodies possess a vision, belief, and love for this nation that is broader and more humane than those of us who elect them. There are already too many elected, who are just like us: venal, sly, glib, easily bought, dishonest, hypocritical, deceitful, power hungry, vain, petty, vindictive, and simply just downright stupid. We need better people than ourselves, dreamers and doers, individuals who know it’s not enough to make promises that will never be kept, who serve no special interests save that of the nation and all its citizenry. The mere possession of the label of MP or the title of one’s ministry does not entitle any politician to my respect; what does is dignified behaviour, integrity, ethics, courage, wisdom, decency, a sense of shame, honour, passion, compassion, the ability to know right from wrong and to opt for right over wrong, openness and transparency, truthfulness and honesty, and a global view in which even the least worthy among us deserves and receives more and better than the back of the hand. With Harper and his crew, I have seen little, if any, of what I demand of my government. Voices of dissent that question and demand better of our leaders are not a threat to a civil, tolerant society but signs of a just, thriving community. Indeed, those voices should be welcomed and encouraged; that is how we grow into a civilized world.

It is not all about tax cuts, balanced budgets and jobs, almost always at the expense of public service jobs, of our healthcare, infrastructure, and support systems (the ice storm affecting the east coast and Toronto are just a hint of what’s in store when our hospitals, government resources, highways, overpasses and water all fail at once); a government that ignores the needs of the lowest, meanest, and poorest of us is a government of which to be wary for it is impoverished: scapegoating is just a step away and we already have that with Harper and his gang who appear to suspect all those on welfare and collecting EI of being potential fraudsters and all critics as enemies. Nor is a vibrant, healthy democracy all about what seems to preoccupy far too many of us these days: What’s in it for me? That view is odiously narrow, reflective of a self-absorbed vacuum, narcissism without shame or limits; it diminishes one’s life and it diminishes one’s self. Such an individual could as easily live in a darkened closet for all the concerns he has for the world out there.

We need better than what we presently have. That is not to say that there are no very capable representatives to be found in all political parties: they are not the toadies, the Party-or-Nothing hacks but, rather, are their own persons, individuals who respect their leaders, their parties, their voters, and themselves enough to stand alone if they feel they must on issues of ethics and principles but always for the greater good rather than the parochial. For the Harper regime in particular, it is almost impossible for an MP to oppose his leader without suffering severely for doing so. It is no more a sign of weakness to listen to the minority than it is a sign of strength to ignore the voices of the majority. Wisdom is always called for; it may occasionally lead to justice as long as partisanship is left at the door.

Still, all the above doesn’t explain why I began this exercise. Nor the fact that when I first took notice of Harper when he became leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, I sensed in him a man who was petty, vindictive, evasive and anti-democratic. I wish it were not so, but I believe history has borne this out. But even that wasn’t enough to convince me to take up the hazards of posting a blog.

No, what convinced me to join the world of white noise, so to speak, was not the incredible mismanagement of Harper’s governance, but the evidence that, in spite of corporate favouritism, of acting as shills for oil companies, of corruption, all the scapegoating, all the devious omnibus bills in which legislation is sneaked into law without public consultation and consent (he does have the majority and does not hesitate to use it as a hammer), he still manages to garner a high approval rating from his core base of supporters. It is an astounding feat, perhaps not as astounding and incomprehensible as that by Rob Ford, but astounding nevertheless for its durability.

Here are individuals who have made a mockery of democracy. Harper who ignored the wishes of the majority of Canadians with the destruction of the Long Gun Registry, who was cited for contempt of parliament and blissfully solidified that contempt at almost every turn as his Conservatives paid fines for their role in the robocalls scandals and with their attempts to subvert the electoral process by misdirecting voters to non-existence polls. And there is Ford, that clueless, happy-go-lucky, crack smoking, serial liar and daily apologizer, a proud associate of criminals, an ignoramus and buffoon, and laughing stock to the world who, somehow, manages to hold the support of an astounding forty per cent of Toronto voters. How is that possible? Are people insane, stupid, asleep, indifferent, dense, thick, uncaring, moronic? Do ethics and integrity and sense of shame account for nothing?

The answer appears to be a resounding: Yes.

I have repeatedly said we need better than we have. Not just better politicians, but better voters.

Where is the shame? We have seen clips of ecstatic people posing beside Ford as if he was a rock star and they had won the lottery. We have heard them vow to vote for him come next election, claiming, “He’s just like us” and “He tells it as it is.” The first may well be true, he is like them and that’s not good, but the last is darkly laughable: he lies, is proven a liar, apologizes, and repeats the cycle of lying, being proven a liar and apologizing. Are those “fans” (can they really be “voters”) blind, deaf and dumb? Is this their hero, this vulgarian, this mountain of flesh, ignorance and hubris? Evidently. Little wonder some of us are revolted and filled with a little more than fear. These are the barbarians leading the charge and they threaten to bring us all done. None of this is cute or harmless or acceptable. Those who insist that Ford’s crack use, public drunkenness, his urinating in a public park, and his criminal friends are private matters having nothing to do with his public life must live in another world: Ford’s crude escapades exposes the man in all his inanity, shallowness and unfitness for office; his public and private personae are one and the same. One only had to watch the thuggish behaviour of Rob Ford and his brother in the municipal chamber as council voted to strip him of some of his powers to know that something is clearly wrong. This is not mere arrogance, indifference or stupidity on the part of Rob Ford; it is pure intimidation in the form of thuggery. If Ford is unrepentant and indifferent, it is because he knows the public is indifferent to all his crassness, hectoring, and insanity. It’s all about them: What’s in it for me? He is as impervious to shame as his voters. To adopt these loudmouth cruds as one of their own is no charming feat to crow about. And yet, they could be on to something; to put it crudely, Ford and his supporters are apparently constructed of only two moving parts, mouths and assholes and both interchangeable. There appears to be no brain.

I know that is offensive and very harsh. But I have had enough of politicians like the Ford brothers who almost make Harper and his gang look good. Almost. But all of them are shamelessly and heedlessly reckless with the reputation of their offices and with the trust they have squandered and abused. They are deaf and unseeing except to their own greed, ambitions and desires, too concerned with obtaining power and clinging to it, too preoccupied with satisfying the demands of their friends and their own hidden agendas; if they ever did, they no longer work for the interests of all members of society but choose, rather, to pander to those core supporters and special interests, those who can buy and be bought for very little. They are aware that those wavering on the fringes can always be lured with flashy gewgaws and promises of tax cuts. Each, in his own way, Harper and the Fords, has the same toxic, debilitating effect on our democracy. Eventually, those who once truly believed in the integrity of the electoral process simply tune out, exhausted and beyond caring surrendering to the fate they believe inevitable. That has to end. Perhaps that is why I continue to write; I haven’t reached yet that point.

ONE MAN’S POISON

While I do appreciate support, if silence can be construed as such, I have not embarked on this business to win the approval of readers who happen to agree with what I say. I write in hopes of reaching those folks who continue to support Harper and the Fords who offer governance of only the most loathsome kind, appealing only to the narrowest of interests almost guaranteed to appease and please their core base of supporters: tax cuts, guns, abortion, crime. It is these folks who help win them elections, the facts be damned.

Yet, while I believe I do not write to win approval, I feel I must address the concerns of one reader who clearly does not much care for what I have to say or how I say it. His name is Evan Treit.

Last October 9th, 2013, I posted an article, entitled, STEPHN HARPER: WOLF AMONG SHEEP. In response, Mr. Treit posted his own comments on October 12th (evantreit.blogspot.ca/), a momentous event of which I was completely unaware until I came across his observations on December 9th, which, while fair comment, puzzled me. He appeared surprised that my blog took a particular stance. He wrote: “An additional cue that points to the political stance of the blog is found in the titles above the paragraphs” and he cites the titles from the post (you can look them up in the archives). I don’t know why cues were needed though they are there in abundance throughout my blog. I hide nothing of my viewpoint regarding Harper and his gang. My postings are devoted to Canadian political commentary, not for the purported objectivity of journalism. There can be no mistaking how I regard Harper and his crew. In fact, I began my first posting, March 28, 2013, with these words: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to democracy.” No individual could reasonably mistake my sentiments. Since I wrote those words, nothing has changed to cause me to regret writing them. I make no claim for objectivity; that said, I have sought to be as accurate and truthful as possible; there is no reason to make up stuff; the reality is bad enough. As for saying something positive about Harper and his gang, well, I will leave that to Mr. Treit and others. This is not a fan club.

Evan Treit also appeared affronted by my usage of the descriptive “bullshit” and by my labelling of some Conservative MPs as “bobbleheads”. Yes, again, that may appear severe, but my intent is to convey in the clearest way possible my disapproval of a government that is secretive, hostile to criticism, that is, itself, crude in its methods of smearing opponents and critics. There is no finesse in how Harper and his thugs govern; they threaten and bully and dismiss all voices that speak out in opposition. “Bullshit” is a mild epithet to describe much of what they do. I can think of many more offensive words. As for calling certain Conservative MPs bobbleheads, what can I say? Anyone watching the various political panels on the news channels will see exactly what I see: government parliamentary secretaries responding to questions on script. Regardless of what question is posed, or the context, the government talking heads, appearing to be barely sentient recorders, will offer, almost word-for-word, the message of the day. The responses to legitimate questions are almost always evasive, off-topic, and ludicrous in the context; they are almost always partisan with cheap shots against the opposition having no connection to the questions posed. If the question were about cheese, they will find a way to point fingers at the opposition parties. The representatives are of a kind: barely animated, heads bobbing or shaking, and, as in the instance of Candice Bergen, eyes seldom blinking. When one political hack is replaced, one barely notices; the faces and genders are different but the behaviour and message is the same. What would you call them if not bobbleheads? Perhaps talking dolls. How about Zombies? I would be curious to learn if Mr. Treit was as offended when, in overseeing the elimination of 19,000 public service jobs, Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, referred to them as “deadwood”. This is the same Tony Clement whose department as mislaid $3.1 billion under his watch and this is the same man who had created a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 conference. Now I find that offensive.

Mr. Treit does not like that I label Harper and his gang bullies, suggesting that I am somewhat of a bully myself. Actually, I can see his point in that regard. If being blunt, sometimes crude, if finger wagging and admitting my dislike for Harper’s conservatives makes me a bully, I must plead guilty. But I have not targeted those collecting EI as potential fraudsters. I haven’t waged war on veterans with disabilities, or clawed back their disability pensions. I haven’t labelled environmentalists “radical” foreign stooges, nor have I smeared Pat Stogran, former veterans ombudsman, and Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission simply because they did what they were supposed to do, which was their jobs. Nor did I attack the reputation of the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. I haven’t lied about the true costs of the F-35 fighter jets or been cited for contempt of Parliament. I haven’t been responsible for rewarding Shelly Glover with a promotion after she, and another MP, refused to give a full accounting of their campaign expense claims until she learned of the promotion. Nor was I the PM who suggested Nigel Wright did the “honourable thing” in paying off Duffy’s illegal expense claims (Pierre Poilievre, one of those bobbleheads, went so far as to state Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing” in paying off the Senate debt).

Mr. Treit further states I offer an inaccurate representation of Harper and the Conservative government. One needs only read what I say and what the objective facts are, to judge for themselves; they are there for anyone to find. Treit found the information provided poor, the words offensive, and the views one-sided. He wrote, “Another reason that I found the information was unreliable was the use of a profane word ‘bullshit…’” That is absurdly laughable. I plead guilty to the offensive words and the one-sided viewpoint, perhaps to even being a bad writer; that does not make for deliberate falseness, unreliability, or inaccuracy as suggested. I would not be surprised if there are mistakes; for that I am truly sorry especially to the parties affected. I have sought to be accurate and hope I have succeeded.

Contrary to Treit’s assertion, I don’t make assumptions that Harper condones doing things that are wrong…his behaviour does that. Still, if off the mark, what Mr. Treit offers is fair comment: he disagrees with what I have written and he says why. Fair enough. He states, “When reading the blog you almost mistake it for a hate letter towards the Harper government.” Clearly we have a different approach to things. I prefer to think of it as an accounting. I despise hypocrisy, dishonesty, pettiness, and meanness: these have been the hallmark of Harper’s governance. Over the years, Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated that no trick is too dirty or too vile to not be employed. Harper doesn’t wear velvet gloves. Neither will I. Harsh criticism seems a fair trade-off to scapegoating and bullying.

While I appreciate Mr. Treit’s comments and thank him for them, I will continue to do as I do. Meanwhile, in the event he missed it the first time, the following may give him a hint as to why Harper and his gang will never make my list of people I respect.

THE OLD: STEPHEN HARPER’S DIRY LAUNDRY LIST REDUX (JUNE 18TH)

1. Harper appointee to the senate, Patrick Brazeau who was order to repay $48 thousand for making false housing claims.

2. Harper appointee to the senate, Pamela Wallin investigated for questionable travel claims. She has repaid over $38 thousand and issued an apology. The investigation is ongoing and expected to be completed and released during the summer break.

3. Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, investigated for making illegal housing claims. He promised to pay back money and evidently presented a cheque for $90 thousand. The world was led to believe the cheque came from Duffy’s funds or from a loan obtained from a bank. It didn’t.

4. The Deloitte report on Duffy is released but Conservative senators David Tkachuk, then chair of the internal economy committee, and Carolyn Stewart Olsen have scrubbed it of its harshest criticisms of Duffy.

5. With Duffy’s promise, Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, declared the Duffy file closed leaving the impression that senators investigated for defrauding taxpayers only have to repay the funds and suffer no other consequences.

6. Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright resigns when it was learned that it was he who repaid Mike Duffy’s debt for the false claims. Later it came out that Conservatives had a secret fund of close to a million. Harper refuses to answer questions about what he knew of Wright/Duffy matter. There is denial that secret Conservative fund was used to pay off Duffy’s debt. When asked, PMO denies having a record of cheque or of the deal made between Duffy and Wright.

7. Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan investigated for campaign expense claims and for not filing a complete campaign report. The Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, recommends in two letters to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, that both be suspended from the House until they file the reports. Andrew Scheer appears to have abused the non-partisan position to sit on the letters allowing Glover and Bezan time to appeal to the court.

8. Conservative Eve Adams is also under investigation for irregularities in expense claims for spa treatments and grooming supplies and failing to file complete the campaign report. She attempted to claim for cupcakes and restaurant tabs even after campaign closed.

9. Conservative Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board which has misplaced $3.1 billion of taxpayer money, announces plans to go after public servants in an effort to clean house and save money.

10. Conservative smear campaign against Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, for fighting against Harper’s claw back of disability pensions of veterans.

11. Conservatives smear and fire Linda Keen, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president, for ordering the Chalk River nuclear reactor shut down for safety reasons and then defying the government order to reopen it before it was safe to do so. With Keen out of the way, the government overturned the commission decision and reopened the facility.

12. Conservatives smeared and threatened with jail time ex-diplomat Richard Colvin if he filed documents of Afghani prisoner abuse before a special investigative committee.

13. Conservatives smeared, kicked out of caucus one of their own; called in RCMP to investigate Helena Guergis for abuses in office.

14. Conservative Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, diverts search and rescue helicopter as personal limousine while at a fishing lodge.

15. Peter MacKay authorizes the use of a military jet for General Walther Natynczyk to meet his family vacationing in the Caribbean. Once news breaks, the general agrees to repay what he should not have accepted in the first place.

16. Conservative Tony Clement, at time of G8 and G20 conferences, creates $50 million slush fund for Huntsville that includes boondoggle of $1 million fake lake and $250 thousand gazebo.

17. Conservatives spend close to one billion for security for the G8 and G20 conferences. Over a thousand arrested, less than two dozen charged, and only a handful found guilty.

18. Conservative Jason Kenney, who with pious glee leaked letter of Trudeau’s speaking fee (see above), uses government letterheads to fundraise for Conservatives.

19. Conservative Bev Oda or a staff member forges signed government document that approved funding for a charity Kairos by inserting the word “not” to deny the funding because the Conservatives disagreed of its views on Israel. When questioned on this, the Conservative response from Jason Kenney was this, “The CBC lies all the time. What media are you with?” (Globe and Mail, 2011, 2012).

20. Bev Oda pads expenses twice and is twice forced to repay. She charges for $16 orange juice, which results in much hooing and booing. Resigns because of public outcry.

21. Disgraced integrity czar, Harper appointee Christiane Quimet given $500,000 severance pay after signing agreement not to reveal details of package. She was investigated for failing to perform her mandate when, of 228 allegations of public service wrongdoing reprisals against whistleblowers, she only looked into seven and found zero problems. She was also accused of haranguing her staff.

22. Peter Penashue forced to resign for 2011 campaign irregularities. Harper calls him the best ever MP from Labrador. Voters didn’t think so in the subsequent by-election.

23. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay lie about the true costs of F-35s during last election campaign and begin war against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer who suggests $9 billion figure they offer is much, much lower than the estimated real costs of about $45 billion.

24. Vic Toews accuses critics of his online spying bill “of siding with pedophiles.”

25. Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, ridicules environmentalists and slams them as radicals and of being stooges of foreign environmental groups.

26. Joe Oliver, again, in a move typical of Conservatives attacks world-renowned scientist, James Hansen, for his critical stand opposing the Keystone XL pipeline questioning his reputation.

27. Harper announces he will spend $30 million dollars to go after tax evaders who owe $29 billion while he spends $100 million propagandizing for the Conservatives with taxpayer monies. More for propaganda than for chasing the tax cheats whom, if pursued, caught and made to pay, could pay off the national debt.

28. Conservative Party under investigation for robocalls and voter suppression.

29. Conservative Dean Del Mastro goes underground for 18 months while being investigated for campaign overspending and attempts to cover it up. He was the vicious Conservative attack dog and defender of the party during the robocall scandals who, while under the protection of the House had little problem in smearing his opponents with innuendo. He has re-emerged recently and, in the House, crocodile tears for himself while, it is alleged, tarring another person while under the protection of the House.

30. Harper cited for contempt of Parliament 2011.

31. Harper prorogues Parliament 2009 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

32. Harper prorogues Parliament 2006 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

33. – ?

Unfortunately, since then, there have been a few more added to the list.

THE MORE SINCE JUNE 18TH

33 – Neither the federal or provincial Conservatives, disavow their friend Toronto mayor, liar, crack user, associate of felons, world class buffoon and serious threat to municipal democracy, Rob Ford, for fear of offending the so-called Ford Nation who helped the Harper gang get their majority. Federal minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, close to tears, even comes to Ford’s defence, nearly coming to blows with fellow conservative, Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development), who clearly had enough of Ford and had the cheek to suggest he resign.

34 – Dean del Mastro (see #29) quits Tory caucus September 2013, facing four charges for Elections Act violations. His former official agent, Richard McCarthy, was also charged. Tears for himself in the House probably real.

35 – James Moore (Industry Minister), as quoted by John Blanchard, Canada.com, December 16, 2013, said the following, “We’ve never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier. Certainly, we want to make sure that kids go to schools full-bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” Callous, do you think? His comments are likely accurate reflections of Harper’s conservatives and supporters. It may well be true we are wealthier as a nation, but even truer for those at the top whom the conservatives clearly favour. The question then is this: Why do so many feel impoverished, abandoned, live in poverty, die on the streets? When the media picked up his comments, Moore claimed they were taken out of context. Yeah, right.

36 – Harper seeks to avoid answering questions about what he knew of the Wright/Duffy deal and the Senate scandal in general. He extended the summer break hoping the issue would die down. It didn’t help.

37 – The RCMP releases emails from PMO in November of 2013 revealing that more knew about the deal than Harper had acknowledged leaping from two (Duffy and Wright) to over a dozen. While Corporal Greg Horton states there is no evidence of Harper’s involvement, lingering doubts remain because of one email sent by Nigel Wright to Benjamin Perrin, one time Special Advisor and Legal Counsel to the PM, in which is stated regarding the Duffy/Wright deal, “We are good to go from the PM…” (item #36 (u) from documents released by Corporal Greg Horton).

38 – The day before parliament takes its Christmas break, Canada Post announces plans to stop all house-to-house mail delivery within the next five years. Harper gang cuts-and-runs for the umpteenth time without taking questions.

39 – Hill staffers are forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement binding for life. Failure to adhere to the agreement will lead to immediate termination and loss of severance pay. What happened to Harper’s loud promise to protect whistle-blowers and to preside over open, transparent governance?

40 – When liberal Sen. Céline Hervieux-Payette attempted to have Sen. Irving Gerstein removed as Chairman of the Senate’s banking committee, Gerstein ruled the motion was out of order. Nice. This is the man alleged to have interfered in the Mike Duffy audit and apparently was willing to pony up $32 thousand to cover Duffy’s debt but balked at $90 thousand; in other words, Nigel Wright gets pilloried for doing the wrong thing at $90 thousand but not bagman Gerstein who was allegedly willing to commit a breach of ethics when the price was only $32,000. This is the same Gerstein who refused to call Michael Runia, a senior partner in Deloitte and the Conservative Party auditor, to appear before the Senate investigation committee looking into the Duffy/Wright affair. This is the same Gerstein who, at the party convention, publicly boasted of being the Tory bagman.

41 – Conservative Rob Anders, in trouble more than once for overt displays of ignorance, of which he has abundance, was at it again. He’s not only the man who was filmed snoozing in the House, he’s the same individual who opposed Nelson Mandela’s honorary Canadian citizenship in 2001 calling him a terrorist and, at the death of the great leader and opponent of apartheid, could not even work up the decency to display a little generosity, still calling Mandela a terrorist. One wonders what he would have said of the abolitionists to slavery or the Civil Rights movement.

42 – In early November, the government announced the planned closure of nine veterans’ affairs offices across the country. In the last week of November, and the first week of December, Canadians learned of the tragic suicide of four soldiers. It should not have happened. While there is no direct evidence linking the deaths to the closures, one cannot help but wonder how the veterans reacted to this latest attack by Harper’s gang. First it was clawing back disability pensions. Then it was firing veterans before retirement to prevent them from collecting disability payments. Now this. In response to protests, the government suggested the vets suffering from PTSD could always call Service Canada.

43 – During the 2010 G8, G20 conferences held in Toronto, Canada not only knew, but allowed, America’s NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on world leaders. If Harper and his gang allow this, what do you think they’ll do to their “enemies”, i.e., anyone critical of this motley crew? Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson and the head of CSEC (the Communications Security Establishment Canada) do not deny the spying takes place but attempted to weasel out this mess (perhaps with tongue in cheek) by saying this government does spy on Canadians on Canadian soil because they are not legally allowed to do so. And MPs and Senators are not legally entitled to make false expense claims either. That Harper would surrender Canadian sovereignty to foreigners, even if friends, is indicative of his respect for Canada, Canadians and Democracy; that’s the behaviour of tin pot tyrants. Canadians should be worried.

44 – Ottawa Citizen reports that CSE (Communications Security Establishment Canada) “‘incidentally spies’ on Canadians, but wants to reassure the public it protects the privacy of that information (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 7, 2014).

45- Harper regime announces plans to make “economic diplomacy” a top priority. They have already allowing CSEC to spy on foreign companies on behalf of Canadian businesses. That means, of course, human rights will take a backseat. This is not the first time that Harper’s gang have shown a willingness to work with anyone or any country regardless of how vile, when it comes to economic interests. Christian Paradis, this monument to mediocrity, had not too long ago announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain an abortion. As I stated in a previous post, “That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages” (October 9th, 2013).

46 – Last year, word was released that the Canada Revenue Agency was set to lay off 3000 auditors. The agency head at the time denied it. Now it has been confirmed that the government plans to get rid of 3100 auditors. Who benefits from these cuts when it is estimated that tax cheats are defrauding Canadians of anywhere from $9 to $20 billion a year? Well we know CRA workers certainly don’t. That means scofflaws, cheats, and thieves, will be allowed to continue to steal from Canadians. Many corporate friends of the Harper conservatives hold those offshore accounts. But, not to worry. Harper’s got our backs. The minister of national revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay has vowed to increase staff to go after government-funded charities. In other words, Harper and gang will go after charities that adopt a stand with which they don’t agree. This is not new or surprising. When Bev Oda was in office as International Co-Operation Minister, she or one of her staff members, allegedly forged a government document in which a listed charity, KAIROS, a faith-based organization previously designated to receive federal funds, was suddenly denied those funds with the insertion of “Not” in the recommendation by her own department that the organization be funded. Oda was reprimanded for misleading the house. KAIROS had the temerity to speak out against Harper’s stand against the Palestinians. These are not charities like the United Way or Heart and Stroke, and certainly not the right wing think tanks like the Fraser and CD Howe and Fraser Institutes, but those that offer perspectives on social, economic and environmental issues from a perspective critical of the Harper thug regime. This is another clear demonstration of the petty, vindictive nature of Harper and his gang. While their tax cheating friends steal billions from Canadians, the Harper thugs will go after the small fry, those unfortunate enough to make the “enemies” list.

47 – Even more appalling, as reported by the CBC in November 2013, the present chief of the Royal Canadian Mint, Jim Love and one time advisor to the federal Finance Department, a conservative appointee and close friend of Jim Flaherty (and large contributor to two campaigns) apparently helped run an offshore tax avoidance scheme in his capacity as a lawyer.

48 – Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, Harper appointee as head of the Security Intelligence Review, which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, registers as a lobbyist for pipeline with B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. Even if legally permitted, the optics of working for a private energy company, while on the government payroll, should concern every Canadian.

49 – The Harper gang revealed that there would be a sizable surplus by the time the next election in 2015. On the surface, that is good news. Unfortunately, this is a familiar shell game: governments inflate the deficit figures, cut public service jobs and services, suddenly discover, just in time for an election, that they have not only balanced the budget but also accrued a huge surplus proving, to no one’s surprise, that the conservatives, once again are the best money managers since the creation of God.

If none of this doesn’t wake you up, doesn’t enrage you, then nothing will.

I write about these things not just to be read by people who agree with me, but to leave people thinking about governance, politicians and their role in making it work for the best of all. Don’t blame me, blame Stephen Harper. As the comic Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it.” It is not just the poor who are impoverished, but also the leadership of this nation; when there is no vision, no wisdom, no humanity, there is no government, just a big stick. This is my humble response to it.

Complacency is a deadly disease. It’s time to wake up, look around and take part. There is more to us than just our narrow world. It is not a badge of honour to proudly declare, “I have never voted.” Nor is it okay to use the excuse, “I’m only one vote. My vote doesn’t count.” One vote can make a majority. That doesn’t mean the majority is always wise or good or right; but it does mean you had a chance to make a statement.

People have died for that privilege.

***

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

HARPER: THE BEAST IN HIM

Frank A. Pelaschuk

*   C.R.A.P. – Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party

CRAP – (noun) 1. nonsense, 2. dirt or garbage, 3. excrement, feces, interchangeable with Conservative or Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party

I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy. From the first, behind a façade of stiff-necked amiability, Harper has revealed a sly, deceitful, churlish, ungenerous, controlling, petty, bullying, and brutal nature that threatens his office and our society.

Since he has taken hold of the Prime Minister’s crown, a rot has infected our Parliamentary democracy. This offends and fills me with disquietude. It should you, as well. As an elected member of parliament and as prime minister, he has defiled the office he holds, tainting the reputation of Canada and, with the assist of loud, angry, offensive, and ignorant conservative MPs, subverted and made a mockery of our electoral process. Though cited for contempt of Parliament, Harper has remained unscathed, unrepentant and the public largely indifferent. That he has a base of support as large as it is astounds me. How can so many be so blind, so indifferent, so…so dumb?

Not that long ago (yet an eternity to this voter), Harper ran on the promises of introducing an open, fair, honest and transparent government, a government that would rid itself of corruption, that would eliminate patronage and cronyism, that would reform the Senate. He gave us none of that. Instead, we now have one of the most closed, secretive, and paranoid governments in Canadian history, a regime that views every critic as the enemy, vilifies every environmentalist as a “radical” stooge of outside forces, and every dissenter as of  “suspect” patriotism. Patronage and cronyism is one of the hallmarks of his terms in office. He has appointed over half of the senators, all Conservative hacks, a few of them now under investigation for abuses in expense and housing allowances, one a pathetic has-been journalist who, averring he has done nothing wrong, refunds the money saying, “I hope it reassures Islanders and Canadians that the old Duff, the Duff they’ve known and trusted, would never do anything wrong. I would never knowingly fiddle anything” and another, appointed in spite of warnings that he could prove problematic, has been thrown under the bus not for what he has done as a Senator, but for allegations of repugnant actions in his private life. Patrick Brazeau, once useful as a trophy Indian Chief in the Senate, was now a liability and easily expendable.

Harper, eyes always on the main chance, is a master politician, no denying that. More than once we have seen how ruthless he could be against one of his own when he feels threatened, as we learned with his brutal discarding of Helena Guergis, once a Conservative bright light and Cabinet minister who suffered a public meltdown at the Charlottetown airport and, shortly thereafter, faced several serious allegations of misconduct, including allegations of a criminal nature by a “third party.” Guergis resigned from her post and was swiftly expelled from the Conservative caucus. No charges were ever laid against her but her reputation had been effectively destroyed by the way Harper and gang handled the affair. The merits of the allegations are of less concern than that Guergis appears to have been denied due process from her own Law and Order government. That episode was enlightening as well as disturbing. Then there was another thrown under the wheels, this involving a young staffer, Michael Sona, thus far the only one held responsible for the Robocalls incidents in which voters were misled and directed to non-existent polling stations. It is a pattern with Harper and gang; never acknowledge wrongdoing, blame others, point to the past wrongdoings of previous governments, never answer a question directly or honesty and, when you do answer, offer bafflegab or respond to another issue regardless of how irrelevant to the topic at hand. Failing all else, find a lamb for slaughter. Apparently it works.

TARGETS

But, if cruel to his own, Harper is even more so to those who stand in his way. With ruthless precision, towards fulfilling his vow to destroy the Liberal party, he has employed personal, cruel and misleading attack ads against Paul Martin, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff while ceaselessly campaigning for his majority. In that, he has been partially successful; the Liberals have been decimated. But they, at least, were legitimate targets, knowing the risks of entering politics though clearly overestimating their abilities while underestimating Harper’s and the ruthlessness of the machine behind him. Unfortunately, Harper and gang do not limit punishment or invective to political opponents. Every opponent and critic who may be heard by the media becomes “the enemy” and thus fair game. However distasteful and unethical their methods, one cannot deny their skill.

There was Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, smeared and vilified for daring to stand up to Harper and gang in defence of veterans who, for their service and sacrifice, were rewarded by an ungrateful Canada by having their disability pensions clawed back, a practice Harper fought hard to keep in place by fighting with veterans at a cost to Canadians of over $750,000. This from the man who 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, he lied on that, didn’t he, his government dropping the clawbacks only after a court decision on another case. Too, there was Linda Keen, of the AECL, smeared and fired for refusing to restart the ailing Chalk River reactor before it was safe to do so and ex-diplomat Richard Colvin who was threatened with prison time if he released certain documents during his appearance before a special committee investigating the abuse of Afghani prisoners. Intimidation, threats and dismissal; makes one proud to be Canadian, doesn’t it?

Another, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a post created by Harper and gang, has over his tenure endured countless attacks against his person and reputation when he demanded that the government be more open and accountable. And when he suggested the government was holding back information on the F-35s, that the figures Harper presented to the public while campaigning for re-election were far too low, he was ridiculed and charged with partisanship or, worse, incompetence. It helped win Harper his long sought majority though later events would prove Harper a liar and Page right on the money when the costs were revealed to be quadruple Harper’s much touted deliberately misleading lowball numbers. Again Harper and thugs sought to wriggle out of their own snare offering excuses and double-talk with the hollow claim that “no money had yet been spent” on the jets. Only the gullible or truly credulous would believe them on this. Meanwhile, Kevin Page, honest, decent, brave and, yes, respectfully defiant in his quest for independence, had by now made himself a target of Harper, Flaherty and gang who missed no opportunity to publicly attempt to discredit him with suggestions questioning his competence and integrity. The dislike for Page by Harper and thugs is visceral, you can see it and hear it on TV whenever his name is brought up to one of the government gang. Luckily, as with Sheila Fraser, Kevin Page has an ally: the public trusts him. Unfortunately, with Page’s term over, it is likely the department will be quietly closed or, at best, gravely weakened by a compliant and innocuous Harper appointee.

But if Page was an understandable and obvious target, others, less so, are not immune to Conservative hostility and control. In an act of breathtaking hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness, Harper, with the passage of Bill C-377, has demanded of unions what he and his government refuses to offer the public: full transparency and accountability. That unions already are transparent and accountable, matters not to Harper, his goal is to destroy them by imposing onerous and costly demands that they report all transactions over $5000 including salaries and pensions, and all itemized lists of costs of products and services offered by private companies and that the books be open to any union member who asks, something that unions already allow. Yet Harper makes no such demands on his government or of other organizations. If you are a unionist, Harper’s gunning for you, which will make some happy, those anti-unionists who, envious of your wages and benefits but not willing to contribute, would rather pull you down to their level than pull themselves up to yours.

Yet, if unions are targeted, so are government civil servants and scientists who have been muzzled and threatened with dismissal if they talk to the media without written approval. That should send a chill down you spine, as should this: staff at Library and Archives Canada is being trained in a code of conduct emphasizing “duty of loyalty”. That is, duty of loyalty to the government, to Harper’s government. As if they were his personal employees. This is extremely serious and smacks with more than a little of the odour of the McCarthyism of the Truman years when teachers and other public servants were required to swear loyalty oaths to the regime of the time. Even so, Harper and gang do not restrict themselves to intimidation of just civil servants, and scientists; they have also targeted civilians.

When critics from every walk of life stood up against the various omnibus bills, various members of Harper’s gang, Vic Toews in particular, were moved to declare opponents to the online spy bill, Bill C-30 (later scrapped) as standing on the side of pedophiles and criminals and were of questionable loyalty. It did not concern Harper and gang that the critics could have legitimate concerns, that there was not enough information, not enough discussion of the legislation slipped into the bills, that those sneaked in had little to do with the bills themselves and posed a threat to Democracy as well as infringed upon the rights of Canadians. Harper and gang limited debate and imposed closure. The opposition was forced to vote on Bills in which they, and you and I most certainly, have no clear idea of what was included, of who or what will be affected. Even for this government, this was a new low. But not the end of wallowing in the gutter.

Early on in his reign, in response to a question by a reporter, Harper had said, “…cut and running is not my way…” While that was in reference to Canada’s role in Afghanistan, he quickly cut and ran when he prorogued Parliament twice rather than face questions from the opposition regarding his budgets. I would suggest that not only is cut and running second nature to Harper and gang (i.e., blaming and cutting loose staffers and running at the first whiff of trouble), so is arrogance, pride, obfuscation, denial, finger pointing, belittlement, pettiness, and outright intimidation. As he has clearly demonstrated with prorogation, with the scrapping of the long gun registry, and with his omnibus bills, Harper is not one for listening to Canadians who disagree with him, especially to those in the majority who voted against him. With his majority, and in his arrogance, he is evidently of the belief that Canadians with opinions are best ridiculed as elitists and that all Canadians are best served if kept in the dark. It may work in the short term, but eventually this will catch up to him. One needs only recall the words of Thomas Paine: “But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.” In other words, truth will out. And it will.

THE GOLDEN

But, if Harper can be ruthless, he can be loyal, too. Recall his steadfast support of Bev Oda when she, or someone in her staff, forged a signed government document, inserting a “not” so as to take away approved government funding from KAIROS, a charitable group because Harper’s gang did not like its view’s on Israel. Recall how twice she had to reimburse the public purse for expense abuses. With so much against her, it is almost a sad commentary on us that public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice is what finally brought her down. And remember Del Mastro, that angry, sanctimonious MP who thunderously impugned the opposition in his defence of the Conservatives in the so-called robocalls affair? Where is he, this man so suddenly silent, now that he, himself, is under investigation for campaign overspending? As one of Harper’s golden boys, the PM was quick to defend him and though Del Mastro has missed over two dozen sessions as member of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, he remains on the committee and Harper remains mum.

Another golden boy, Natural Resources Minister, Christian Paradis, has been investigated for similar serious lapses, including allegations of influence peddling regarding the awarding of a contract for the renovation of our Parliament building and revealing a serious lack of judgment by spending a weekend with a lobbyist. But, we have to take him at his word there was no lobbying of his office. Too, a former aide of his, Richard Walker, was dismissed for using his office credit card to pay for his trip to Las Vegas and another former aid, Sebastien Togneri, at Natural Resources, had restricted access of data to the media who had applied for it under the Freedom of Informations Act. But Paradis was not done. He was also investigated for his role in the relocation of an Employment Insurance Centre in his riding and for changing the formula to make it easier for private companies to avoid an environment assessment review. And we mustn’t forget the slap on the wrist he received after investigation for conflict of interest when he helped former MP Rahim Jaffer, now a lobbyist, and husband of Helena Guergis mentioned earlier, meet with department officials in an attempt to secure a government contract. But, even with all this, in spite of all this, Paradis still holds his position and remains one of Harper’s valued, trusted ministers. Even if all this is innocence, one must question his judgment and that of Harper for continuing to support him. So far, nothing seems to stick and one can only wonder: Is the public asleep?

Does anyone remember the nearly $1 billion bill for the G8 and G20 conferences for security, the mass arrests with only a handful of convictions? Does anyone recall Tony Clement’s $200K gazebo, the million dollar fake lake, the $50 million Legacy slush fund for his riding? This was the man promoted to presidency of the Treasury Board by Harper, the man who is to oversee major government spending. When concerns are raised regarding these matters, there is silence or accusations of muckraking by the opposition and the media. Do Canadians not have a right to have answers to legitimate concerns? Evidently not. And what about Jason Kenney’s usage of a government letterhead to fundraise, and Jim Flaherty’s use of his office to lobby for a business in his constituency? Small compared to other questionable conduct, but questionable conduct nevertheless. No repercussions for those good old boys, though a Kenney staffer (yet another in an increasingly long list of sacrificial lambs) resigned and the Speaker of the house did rebuke Flaherty. It pays to be one of Harper’s favoured few.

But let’s go back to the issue of overspending. It is not isolated. We have Peter Penashue, the MP from Labrador, “the best MP ever from Labrador,” according to Harper, this of the quietest and least memorable MPs ever. Penashue not only accepted corporate donations (illegal) and overspent during his campaign (illegal) but took over a month to resign when confronted by Elections Canada and, when he did (March 14, 2013), had, four days before, already set up a website to launch his by-election bid. Cynical, questionable, disturbing but not as disturbing as Harper and members of his crew campaigning on his behalf in the House fulsomely praising his stalwart services while blithely ignoring his errancy leaving pundits to speculate whether or not Harper was going to set the by-election date before Elections Canada offered its report on him (the betting is, Harper will call it early). So, for Penashue, apart from resigning and promising of pay back monies for an “error” by an “inexperienced staffer”, what are the consequences? Absolutely zero. Unlike with Guergis, no rush to judgement, which is a good thing, though the evidence against him is compelling and should be enough to end his political career. But not when Harper’s involved. He is going to be allowed to run with the full backing of Harper and crew while the likes of Pierre Poilievre, Candice Bergen and others praise him on Power and Politics for “falling on his sword,” for doing the “honourable”, “responsible”, thing (in resigning) or, in a typical move by this regime, sidestepping the issue by pointing fingers at the NDP for accepting illegal union contributions during their leadership campaign. Apparently, they are unable to understand that the last point is beside the issue, that it offers no argument for not punishing Penashue but, rather, an argument for doing something about the NDP and their issue. With a government that has been less than open and less than clean, such distinctions matter little. Conservatives know from experience that denial, delay, avoidance and mystification will eventually cause the public to tire of the issue and forget it. It’s worked before, hasn’t it? Meanwhile, Harper says that the voters are the best judges of whether Penashue was fit to be returned to office. Really? That may be true if Harper and gang just leave it at that. But, with this government, it’s a fair bet that nothing will be left to chance. Labrador will almost certainly receive a hefty infusion of public money between now and the day of the by-election with full credit attributed to Penashue’s “dogged efforts” on behalf of his riding. Yessiree, even as he’s running for office, a discredited MP, to Harper and gang he’ll always be  “the best-ever MP” and even more so should he be re-elected. They will believe it without irony or shame. The fact is, shame is something from which Harper and gang never suffer. Just look at the government web site and watch the ads on TV and consider his rebranding of the Canadian Government to the Harper Government. Public funds poured into one endless Conservative propaganda campaign of questionable merit, legitimacy and legality. This is his fiefdom and we are his subjects.

THE UNWASHED

Of course, we all know that when Harper speaks of getting tough on crime, he is certainly not talking about those MPs.  Nor is he talking about those Senators who falsely claim housing allowances and who pad their expense accounts for no other reason than they can and will with utter impunity. Whether illegally registering falls claims or accepting donations from corporate friends, all’s forgiven, especially in the Senate when, it appears, all you have to do is return the funds, apologize and “accept” responsibility. Sincerity is optional and it doesn’t matter that the apology and return of funds only came about because you were finally exposed as less than honourable. Of course, if you really accepted responsibility and had an iota of integrity, you’d resign from the Senate and, if a disgraced MP, lick your wounds and never run again. If you had integrity. But, for Harper and members of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party, integrity is as rare a commodity as shame and certainly not a requirement. We know by now that Harper has an extremely high tolerance for such indiscretions from those favoured sons and daughters in the Senate and his caucus.

Unfortunately, those collecting EI can expect no such leniency or tolerance from Harper or from Vic Toews, his Minister of Security, and Jason Kenney, his Minister of Immigration. Rather, you immediately move to top the list of suspected fraudsters, presumed guilty without benefit of hearing, any offer of evidence or sense of fairness. The same goes for immigrants who have had their refugee claims denied or rescinded simply because of a few honest errors on the application forms. Never mind that they may have lived, worked and paid taxes here for years. When that happens, you better pray you are not sick because you are immediately cut off from the Interim Federal Health Program and likely to be subject to quick expulsion (unlike many criminals who, knowing how to milk the system seldom suffer consequences). Too, after the release of an intelligence report suggesting that immigrant Hungarians are responsible for a spike in crime and fraudulent EI claims, Jason Kenney has warned that Romas seeking asylum will be turned away. If that is not racial profiling, what is? The Romas, persecuted for centuries, have suffered particularly at the hands of the Hungarians, including death, with some political leaders calling for their extermination. Yet Canada, without a trace of irony, has labelled Hungary as one of the “safe” countries.

As well, if you are an immigrant coming across the border, you’re likely to be a target on a government approved, so-called “reality” show featuring members of The Canadian Border Services Agency showing “the situations faced daily by our front-line border officers,” according to Vic Toews. Evidently, the show’s focus is the targeting of illegal immigrants. One has to wonder to what those who appear on the show, had to agree. Not only is this show an invasion of privacy, it is exploitation, plain and simple, cheap, sensational stuff, meant to puff up Harper’s government as tough on illegals with the presumption, again, of those appearing on camera as conniving, dishonest abusers of our immigration policy. If that doesn’t concern you, maybe this will: How much of your money is being funnelled in this repugnant, scapegoating Harper-backed program? Well, Harper and Toews don’t believe you’re entitled to know.

Yes, Harper’s get tough on crime will appeal to most of us who harbour the lowest view of those who collect unemployment insurance, who are homeless and who commit crime. They are all lazy, worthless, good-for-nothing bums leeching off the good will and generosity of society. Harper panders to the worst in us, exploiting and exacerbating our fears, our bigotry, our ignorance. In his narrow world and that of his supporters, one size fits all and statistics and science are thrown by the wayside as useless tools when not meshing to their distorted worldview. So Harper would build more jails (but not let us in on the cost), he would impose harsher punishment (while still refusing to acknowledge that crime rates are down while fighting crime costs are up). Rehabilitation does not concern him. It’s all about punishment and revenge and the harsher, the more extreme, the better, he believes, because it will earn votes. It’s all about the main chance. He is not interested in the price you may pay when that prisoner, well punished but ill equipped to function in society, is released, as he one day will be. There is no thought for the effects on future generations of such a cold policy. Harsh punishment may satisfy the vengeful among us but is such short-sightedness good for society? Is it healthy, will it reduce crime, create a better, safer world? Harper, Toews, and the rest of CRAP have no interest in these issues. Their only wish is to placate us into believing they are doing something, anything. If that means demeaning, dehumanizing, and demonizing convicts, the mentally ill, immigrants, the unemployed, so be it. That such a view is neither right nor just does not matter. Harper and gang play to the worst in us. Clearly it works. Yet we must ask this: What cause is served when Harper takes away the annual fundraising pizza drive of inmates, a drive that raises over $150K for the needy? None, yet Harper has done that. I suspect it was because the prisoners reaching out felt good, felt they were making a difference, and prison is not about feeling good.

Canadians should pause and consider the treatment Harper and thugs offer natives, immigrants, the unemployed, and those on the margins, the homeless, mentally ill, and imprisoned as compared to their corporate friends for whom they lobby. While they dwell on this, they should also think of an old Yiddish saying: God loves the poor but helps the rich. With Harper, there is no pretence of loving the unfortunate poor, miserable, and troubled. Of all Harper’s people, these are the least cherished and least loved and, yet, the most utile: they are fodder for scapegoating.

STRAW MEN

It is not enough that Harper satisfies your needs and your wants, which apparently have little to do with the needs, wants and wishes of most Canadians. Lower taxes, less government, tough on crime. Is that all it takes to determine that a man like Harper is fit for office? Tax cuts represent a massive savings for business and the wealthy but, for the majority of us, they amount to savings of about the cost of a cheap television set or less. Is it really worth the price of a few paltry dollars to elect such a man? Are we that easily bought? Are we really willing to sacrifice our health care, our social safety nets? Are we really willing to allow our infrastructure to further decay, to risk the poisoning of our drinking water, to continue to allow our roads to collapse, and our citizens occasionally killed by falling debris from overpasses badly in need of repairs? One needs only look at Ireland to see how well tax cuts and deregulation has worked for its citizens. Do we really want to take that road? Today, Corporate profits and salaries of executives are the highest they have ever been and yet jobs are shipped overseas, workers and unions are under siege, and the purchasing power of the average Canadian worker is equivalent to that of the 1970s and 80s. Tax cuts work well for Big Business and those in the upper bracket, but why must the ordinary citizen bear the brunt as a consequence? Why do we continue to buy the myth of Conservatives as better money managers when, in fact, the reverse is true? According to the Ottawa Citizen (March 20, 2013), when Jim Flaherty took office in 2006 as finance Minister, there was a surplus of $13.2B. As of March 20, 2013, there was a deficit of $26.2B. So much for Harper and the myth of fiscal responsibility. But, if you ask him, he’ll blame it on the mismanagement of old Liberal governments and on outside forces. When it comes to blame, the buck never stops with Harper and gang.

Perhaps the most offensive thing about Harper and his crew of thugs, apart from their hypocrisy, is the extent of their hubris and smallness of mind. Because of their majority (which they intend to increase with the creation of 30 seats and a gerrymandered outcome), they act as a law unto themselves. Never mind that only 40 per cent voted for them. Even so, with that vast majority, they cannot stop themselves from acting in ways that demeans them and their offices. Earlier, there was mention of KAIROS being defunded by this government because Harper did not approve of its views. Yet, Crossroads, a Christian organization, loudly and virulent anti-gay, working in Uganda, a country which targets homosexuals, had its funding renewed by Harper’s government until, disconcerted by the outcry of rage denouncing the decision, Associate Minister of National Defence, Julian Fantino, promised to review the decision. Evidently, if you share Harper’s values, you’ve made a friend for life or for as long as you don’t make waves. And yet, in the spirit of meanness and pettiness, Harper and gang could not even set aside partisanship when, in holding a ceremony to honour volunteers from across the country, they had removed from the guest list all Liberal MPs who had been invited. It was a gesture so lacking in generosity, so blatantly political, that it discredits Harper’s office and forever brands him as “small”. Utterly without shame, there is nothing he and gang would not politicize to their advantage. Sometimes, as in this instance, it backfires.

Stephen Harper has cheapened our status in the world and cost us a seat in the UN Security Council. He has made a mockery of our Democracy and I believe him and his gang a serious threat to Canada and to Canadians. He frightens me more than any terrorist simply because his mind is too focused on the end game, holding on to power, serving his corporate friends, and making his mark regardless of the scars he makes on our lives. He is more interested in the health of Big Business than in the health of Canadians and Canada; under his regime, following the deaths of twenty-two Canadians from tainted meat and the poisoning of many others, Harper and gang deregulated the food industry reducing the role of food inspectors to that of rubber-stampers of in-house testing performed by meat producers. Health Canada, under Leona Aglukkak, has gone from respected organization to something resembling a corporate lackey. Scientists who have spoken up have been dismissed. Demands from Canadians for better food labeling have been ignored as well as demands that the food industry be compelled to reduce sodium amounts in what we eat. Aglukkaq prefers to rely on the “voluntary” approach with Big Business. Yeah, that will work; Big Business will always put the interest of consumers ahead of profits. At least, that is what Harper and gang would have you believe.

Harper and members of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party are crude, nasty, belligerent and utterly shameless. They appear to believe that no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile not to be exploited. Harper is a moralizer when it comes to the faults of others, a finger pointer and a blamer but has little patience for self-examination, doubt or for criticism and opposition. As for such lofty concepts as truth, honesty, ethics, integrity, decency? They are clearly not in the personal lexicon of Harper and gang who apparently deem them essential in others but a hindrance when applied to themselves and their goals. This is a man who believes with absolute certitude that he is right in all things and that everyone else who disagrees is wrong, a fool, and a personal threat, therefore the enemy. He is stubborn and wilful and will admit to fault or risk apology only if he believes it will enhance his image or further entrench his grip on power. He can, and does, lie to the public and he does so easily, without shame. He has the majority. He believes he has the right to do anything he wishes. So far, the voters, in giving him a free ride, appear to agree with him. Why?

THINK

I suggest that all Canadians watch Question Period and Power and Politics on CBC. When you do, you will almost never hear a direct response from Harper or gang to a direct question from the opposition. Instead you will hear contemptuous laughter, rude dismissal and ludicrous attempts to turn the table on the opposition with accusations having nothing to do with the original question in the first place. The only facts that count are Harper facts and everyone else should just shut up. You’ll seldom hear a direct, let alone honest, answer from Harper or members of his gang. And when a question is asked another way, the response is always exactly the same as the first, jeers, countercharges and, all too often, when Harper, Flaherty, Baird or one of the others makes what they smugly believe to be a particularly telling point, there is a mass rising from the gang and loud, sustained applause. The faces of those conservative backbenchers and ministers are, invariably, beaming, almost glowing, with the ecstasy of the sycophantic self-congratulating idolaters in the state of rapture. It is orchestrated and unconvincing except, perhaps, to the blind or true believer.

Too, almost daily, on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon as host, something similar happens, though it’s not as large and not quite as noisy as in the House simply because there is no entourage surrounding the representatives of the three major parties. Parliamentary secretaries of various ministers usually represent the government and they include Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander et al. While all of them are attractive in a bland way, to this observer they are thoroughly unlikeable reminding me of talking dolls who, when asked a question and wearing similar blank looks and vacuous smirks seldom, if ever, stray from the script loudly talking over their opponents often with sneering dismissal and much rolling of the eyes. As a consequence, the viewer is left dissatisfied if not enraged having learned nothing but hearing a lot of white noise. It is as if the recorder, when the string is pulled, has become stuck in a loop and the message of the day is repeated again and again word for word every time they open their mouths. It is a disheartening spectacle to witness the same evasiveness, obstruction, misinformation, character assassinations, and churlishness from those Harper puppets. The contempt these Conservatives hold for the opposition and for the viewing public is palpable. They really do believe we are all stupid, that we cannot understand what we are witnessing and that we deserve to be in the dark. Civility and decorum is no more a part of this government’s nature than is openness and transparency. The robocalls scandal and the Penashue escapade should be warnings to all Canadians to what extent the Conservatives will go to cling to power once they have snatched it. Watching Harper and his gang perform, and that’s what it is, a performance, is painful because you know you are not witnessing Democracy in action, but rather, a subversion of it by a divisive, secretive, contemptuous, hypocritical and controlling cabal who would have you believe it was otherwise.

Anti-Democratic. Smug. Shameless. Deceitful. Closed. Secretive. Brutally partisan. Small and ungenerous. They are not qualities to be admired and yet these are the things I see in Harper and they are not erased, nor his image softened, by his spirited rendition of a Beatles tune at a National Arts Centre fundraiser several years ago. The song, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” escapes irony because all too true.

No, I do not like him. I do not trust him.

Why do you? – March 28, 2013

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