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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER, ROB FORD AND THE LIMITED VOTER

The same people who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing. – Leigh Hunt

Where is there dignity unless there is honesty? – Cicero

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Stephen Harper and his gang believe you are dumb. So does Rob Ford. They believe that your only concerns are bread and butter issues. They believe their assaults on Democracy and the democratic process doesn’t interest you. They believe you are fearful and that the fear must be exploited. They believe you can be bought with cheap promises and shiny gewgaws. The fact that so many of you still support them tells me they are on to something.

The old adage goes like this: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

But what happens when most of the players involved experience nothing of shame, are insensible to outrage, one side contemptuously certain of the venality of the other, believing anyone can be bought with vague promises and pandering appeals to their worst instincts, and the other proving them right, easily dazzled and easily swayed and, once hooked, remain stolid and loyal as dumb oxen, impenetrably blind to light, knowledge and wisdom. Almost nothing will shake them, almost nothing will wake them; they live but are dead upstairs stirred only by the vulgar hijinks of TV reality shows or the latest salacious Miley Cyrus romp. And the coarser it gets, the more aroused they become. Neither side is interested in the ennobling possibility of politics but only in what politics can do for them. For one side, the aphrodisiac is power and influence, for the other, cheaper TVs and more duty-free goods from across the line.

CLONES

To look at both men, Stephen Harper, manicured, stiff, measured, articulate, and apparently publicity shy, and Rob Ford, always in apparent disrepair, loud, coarse, and publicity hungry, it is easy to believe them from different worlds. That is surface and artifice. Politically, they are kindred spirits neither trusting nor respectful of the Democratic process; both believe the worst of us and pander to the worst in us. As politicians, they are successful, each in his own way. Their supporters are many from all walks of life and they are of a kind. They believe themselves underdogs, victims of “special interests”, i.e., unions, the left wing media, the liberal agenda, and distrust almost everything governmental.

These folks, fearful and angry, encouraged from the sidelines, egged on by Harper and Ford conservatives, are going to save the world from itself. How? Less taxes.

Conservative supporters, especially those beloved core supporters, succumb easily, almost eagerly, to cheap, empty promises: promises of less government, less taxes, less crime. They believe the Tory mythology that they, the voters, are under constant danger from crime, lefties and unionists. They are told, and believe, that our justice system is lax and fixed to benefit criminals; that more prisons and harsher sentences will reduce crime; that crime is rising; that those on welfare are leeches; that unions are special interests and unionists are lazy, fat and overpaid; that Oil is ethical; climate change, fear mongering; environmentalists, radicals. They are warned that Conservative opponents side with pedophiles, are soft on crime, and are the enemy. They are told that Big Business is always good, moral and sacred; that corporate tax cuts equal job creation; that well-paid workers threaten business and, therefore, jobs; and that Big Business is the cure for all societal ills. Why shouldn’t they believe it: Everyone knows that Conservatives are the best money managers ever.

Mythology.

DUPES AND STUPES

Still, some folks willingly suspend all credulity. They want the promise of magic and the Snake Oil salesman knows this and he has them. And, because they want to believe, they mistake the unbending resolve, suavity and glibness of Harper for strength, wisdom and knowledge and the vulgarity, tell-it-like-it-is-in-your-face bombast, threatening behaviour, and public outrages of Ford somehow endearing and indicative of a straight shooting, no nonsense type, someone to be trusted, someone just like them, one of the “ordinary” folk. It’s utter rot, of course. And you’re left wondering: What that hell’s wrong with these people? Will they never wake up? There is nothing endearing about thugs who govern without consultation, who govern in secrecy, who subvert democracy and threaten public servants and scientists and mistreat disabled veterans in the way Harper has and there is nothing endearing about thugs behaving like thugs, as Rob Ford and his brother, Doug have, and it is certainly less charming when the “ordinary” citizen claims Ford as his own and turns him into a folk hero. If that is the ordinary citizen, then god help us all.

But who is to blame for all this? When has public service degenerated to self-service? Is the politician solely to blame for exploiting every opportunity, every weakness, for resorting to every vile trick, no trick too vile or too low to not be used? Perhaps it is the exploited who are at fault, the voter who has surrendered his capacity to think, to reason, and to investigate, preferring instead to leave that for others, those who stand to benefit most, either out of laziness, indifference, or dependence. It is no longer, if it ever was, that simple. For whatever reason, politicians and voters have become co-conspirators, accomplices in working towards the degradation of the Democratic process. The truth is, and there is no greater evidence of this than in the shocking display put on by the Ford brothers and their supporters in Toronto, that neither side frets about the greater good of all of society for the only good they believe in is the benefit to themselves. They do not concern themselves with respect, ethics, honesty, integrity, decency or shame for one side is always willing to buy and the other to be bought: the only value the exploiter believes in is power and the only logic of merit is the logic of legalese. Whatever is legal is allowable, whatever one can get away with is acceptable, and whatever one can pull over another is legitimate because the other is just a dupe, a fool, a simpleton, deserving of the entire ill that comes his way. However, should the fool inadvertently gain some good, the exploiter will take credit.

It is easy to see the benefits for the users and exploiters, the Harpers and Fords, but what’s in it for the exploited, the willing dupes, co-conspirators in their own exploitation? Well, that appears to be rather vague. They appear not to know what they want but are amiable to the promise of better and more and if the promises are never wholly met, never fully honoured, never energetically pursued, it doesn’t matter, a soupçon will do, perhaps a cut in mobile roaming fee charges will serve or the unbundling of television packages; there’s always more promises and more tomorrows.

So, are those Harper and Ford supporters simply dumb like those Tories believe? Are they so indifferent, so locked into their narrow narcissistic lives that they cannot see or comprehend what’s happening around them? Are they that immoral and empty that nothing matters, that nothing shocks because it doesn’t touch them personally? Have they, in fact, become that jaded, that insensate, they no longer care? Do the exploited not see themselves as used? If so, perhaps, in that sense, because they don’t, they are not. They sell themselves too cheaply because they value themselves only as objects to be purchased: give me this I’ll give you that. Buy me: cut my taxes, cut the price of my cable or phone or television set; I don’t want much, but I want something. In return, I’ll give my vote, I’ll give my forgiveness, I’ll believe everything you say. To the onlooker who cares about the state of our politics and our world, there can only be bafflement mixed with fear. The turncoats within have hired themselves out and opened the gates. The barbarians have taken over and Democracy is getting a rough ride.

SO, WHO’S TO BLAME?

Alise Mills, the Conservative pundit who frequently appears on CBC’s Power & Politics attempts to make the case that there can be no linkage between Harper and the Rob Ford of today. That’s hardly credible. Rob Ford’s character did not develop overnight, nor did his present difficulties; surely those who knew him best saw the signs long ago. He is an open book in many ways, proudly playing upon his crudeness, loudness and ignorance, adopting the role of the loner and underdog fighting for the ordinary against the insiders and elite (i.e., unions, the educated and Big Government). And that was hardly a secret; certainly not unknown by those needing, and willing to use, his help. That, too, was Harper’s shtick, without the crudity, playing the role of underdog and pandering to the fears and prejudices of the uninformed, the “little” guy, both, however, Harper in particular, downplaying their efforts to accommodate Big Business with tax cuts, deregulation in environment, in labour, in workplace safety, and with concerted attacks against the public service and union bashing. For the envious, attacking public servants and unions are always winners: it’s easier to drag well-paid workers down to your level rather than pull yourself up to theirs. It’s easy to understand why the so-called “Ford Nation” was a natural fit for Harper and Harper for them. Did it matter that Ford was coarse, vulgar, unlikeable? He was one of them, shared their values, their vision. And Ford was hugely popular. So, why not a few photo-ops of them together, shaking hands, working the barbecue crowd, the perfect odd couple. Ford could bring in the votes and he did, helping Harper make considerable gains in Toronto and ensuring his much lusted after majority. Which is all very interesting, particularly now with the on-going Ford saga.

If Mills is right, what accounts for Harper’s muted response to the Ford dilemma for so long? If there is no linkage to be made, why has Harper, leader of the law and order get-tough-on-crime brigade, been so silent in denouncing the antics of his one-time ally and very best friend? Why has Harper not forcefully demanded that Ford resign from office? Why not even timidly? This is the mayor of Canada’s largest city. This is the man who has disgraced his office. This is the man who, for months, denied smoking crack, denied being a drunk, denied drinking and driving, denied consorting with alleged criminals. This is the man who has revealed himself to be a liar with his sudden, almost daily offerings of apologies for admissions of smoking crack, buying drugs, drinking and driving. This is the man who, in an angry response to a charge by an ex-staffer in a police report, denied consorting with prostitutes. The response was a tirade that was misogynistic and shockingly vulgar especially in regards to his wife who latter appeared with him in a news scrum looking shell-shocked as he once again offered an apology. This is the man who, to all those admissions, would cavalierly add, “I made mistakes.” No big deal. But how many mistakes, how many apologies before members of Ford Nation have had enough? This is the man, along with his brother Ford, points to other councillors saying he hasn’t done anything they haven’t done the only difference being he was “honest enough” to admit it! As if the guilt of others absolves him! Well that’s their world and they’re sticking to it.

THE HYPOCRISY OF HARPER’S OMINOUS SILENCE

It’s a freakish gong show, ridiculous and sad for politics and Democracy. And yet, what has been the response of the Conservatives provincially and federally? Muted. Tim Hudak belatedly and mildly distancing himself from Ford, though, it is also true, neither Kathleen Wynne nor NDP provincial leader, Andrea Horwath, were hardly stellar regarding this matter. It is the federal Conservative response that is most telling and disturbing, however. Not that long ago, when Justin Trudeau declared he was in favour of decriminalizing marijuana use, Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, the minister of incompetence in everything, pilloried him, attempting to paint him as a drug pusher to children. Yet, when the PMO finally commented on the Ford saga, Nov. 18th, weeks after it began, his comment was less about Ford, in fact, Ford wasn’t even mentioned, but more about Trudeau. “These latest allegations are troubling. Our Government does not condone illegal drug use, especially by elected officials while in office, including Justin Trudeau,” ran part of the statement. Not only was this ad hominem cheap, it was the revelatory, a desperate attempt to divert by a hypocritical Harper who wants it both ways. He wants to appear to condemn drug use without condemning the self-admitted crack smoking, drug buying, cocaine snorting, drunk driving Ford lest he offend members of Ford Nation. But this double standard is not unique in politics and certainly not to Conservatives who are double-jointed to the core. Just as Ford denied and denied until finally confronted by the evidence proving him a liar many, many times over, Harper still insists on denying he knew anything about the Duffy/Wright deal. Not believable, not credible. We saw how Harper behaved with the senate scandal. And we see how Ford behaves today with his own troubles. Secrecy, disrespect for the public and for their offices, Harper, once cited for Contempt of Parliament, his gang and the Ford brothers are poison in the well. Yet some of the public happily drink from it. Apparently, to those in the rose coloured world of Conservatism, the poisoned water is magic, nothing is as it seems: honest criticism is lack of patriotism, fakery is reality, lies are truth, ethics anti-democratic, secrecy openness, opponents enemies, and knowledge dangerous. Who cares about facts, truth, integrity? Not Conservatives who have made subverting the electoral process a fine art nor those who vote time and again for Harper and the Fords who appear to live in a world all their own. And it isn’t pretty.

THE DAY THE THUGS CAME

When Toronto councillors stripped Ford of most of his powers on Nov. 18th, viewers were witness to a spectacle that was raw, thoroughly ugly, and utterly menacing. We saw the Ford brothers for the thugs they are as they ignored the speaker, mocked councillors, derided city staffers, and roamed the chamber to scream at heckling spectators. We saw Rob Ford knock over councillor Pam McConnell as he attempted, so he said, to go to the aid of his brother whom he believed involved in an altercation with a spectator. Another councillor repeatedly demanded that Ford apologize to McConnell. Evidently that was difficult for Ford. When he finally did, using McConnell’s name, the apology was as heartfelt as all the other apologies in the past few weeks and just as insincere. But, if knocking down fellow councillors and heckling spectators wasn’t enough, there was another episode that was extremely disturbing. Rob Ford, accompanied by his bodyguard driver, roamed the chamber with the bodyguard taking pictures of hecklers in the gallery. There was little doubt what Ford intended by this. What was that in aid of if not meant to intimidate?

It is beyond understanding that people still support either Rob or Doug Ford. It is shocking to me that they are treated as celebrities, that they have garnered the attention they have. They are hoodlums, worthy of nothing but contempt. Instead, they get their own TV show.

I have heard some say over and over that Rob Ford needs treatment, that he is endangering his life. That is probably true but I couldn’t care less. The sooner he leaves office, the better. I don’t care how he leaves, as long as he leaves. I feel no sympathy for him and can’t even work up pity. And that is sad. If he possessed a shred of dignity, some sense of pride, an iota of shame, he would know that stepping down would be the best move for Toronto, the city he professes to love. It could even help him. Crude, loud, profane, he insists on staying in office and has declared war on all those who oppose him. We have seen him exposed and humiliated, he says, but, if humiliated, it is difficult to see. It is not his fault. It never is with the Harpers and the Fords. It never seems to end and it’s always the fault of others. For Ford, it is enough that he has apologized, time and time again. He wants to move on, voters are expected to take him at his word that he is not an addict, isn’t a drunk, that pictures of him with alleged felons is a one off, just the mayor posing with ordinary folks as far as he knew. To his mother and sister, the only problem Rob Ford suffers from is his weight problem. His brother Doug, a person who would know, one thinks, considering their closeness, says he has never seen Rob drunk. Yet the world has seen more than a few videos of an apparently intoxicated Ford. Hell, he’s been even taped taking a leak in a public park. He is surrounded by enablers and all, like himself, deniers: he’s done nothing wrong, he hasn’t a problem, the elitist lefties are out to get him, he’s loved by voters. Sadly, that last may be true. There are some who see him simply as some harmless, goofy, loveable buffoon and nothing more. To them, as to the Ford brothers, the whole thing smacks of the conspiracy of the left out to get Ford. They dismiss his drug use and public drunkenness as a private matter during time off work. Yes, he is entitle to time off; the thing is, he is mayor 24/7. His behaviour hasn’t affected his job, they say. How could they know? They, too, are deniers. It is immaterial to them that he has failed the test of character, that his flaws and faults are many and serious.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Earlier, I stated that Harper and Ford were kindred spirits. Who can doubt it? Harper and the Ford brothers are pathetic, weak men. Harper takes no responsibility for what happens in his office as with the Duffy/Wright affair. Rob Ford accepts no blame for his actions. People were out to get him. Had he behaved, there would have been nothing to get. And while Harper may appear to be more refined, he is no less a bully than the Ford brothers who have made their way into the public consciousness largely by the force of their brutish antics. Harper and Ford think nothing of pointing fingers, of pleading ignorance, of denying wrongdoing. These are the acts of children, of bullies and cowards who cannot man up and take responsibility. Even so, there will be those in the Ford camp who will say that Rob Ford did step up, that he did accept responsibility. They live in a world of fantasy and nothing will alter that.

There are too many too willing to defend the indefensible and the inexcusable. Too many will say that Ford’s private life has nothing to do with his public life. Since when has character become a nine to five role?

Ford cares no more about democratic process than Harper’s Conservatives. If he did, he would resign. But he will not any more than Harper will. And for that, we can thank their supporters.

Too many of us expect too little from our leaders. Too many of us say we want leaders just like us. I ask this: What is the glory in having leaders “just like us” when so many of us are flawed, incapable, and disinterested? When I vote for a person, I want them to be better than me, and not just more knowledgeable about pinching dollars, cutting costs, and lowering taxes. I want them better than me in wisdom and humaneness as well. We don’t live alone. I want them to have a broader view of my society and theirs and the world at large. I do not want them to pander to the worst in me, to my prejudices, my ignorance, and shallowness but rather to help me understand that there is no place for such things. I want them to make me proud that my vote helped elect individuals who worked for the good of all members of society, who are not tied to business interests, who are not blind to workers’ needs, who believe that justice is not just about punishment but also fair treatment.

I have actually heard people say they like Rob Ford because he is just like them. That terrifies me, for what I see in him is dangerous hucksterism, disingenuousness, magical thinking, buffoonery, ignominy. If he is truly representative of the population, then, perhaps, we should have a means test for voters. Surely it’s not too much to ask voters to inform themselves, to be aware of the issues, to know their candidates and the party policies. When I hear some declare, as if it was something of which to be proud, “I don’t vote”, I want to ship that person to a deserted island because he has already isolated himself from society by his disinterest in how it operates or is governed. When asked why they don’t vote, they sometimes say they are not interested, that they don’t know enough, that their vote doesn’t count. These are excuses from individuals who haven’t grown up, who cannot see, or don’t care, how our lives are intertwined and how our actions affect others. We already have too much of that in public life. There is no room for apathy, laziness, for leaving the decisonmaking to others. “Politics doesn’t interest me.” How can anyone say that of something that affects almost everything in their lives every day? It is these people that the Harpers and Fords love. They don’t think, they don’t analyze, they don’t absorb, they don’t remember. They just don’t care. They are zombies; they go through life asleep and are the ones who will do as they are told when they are told. They believe in nothing because they know nothing beyond their own needs wants and fears. And because they cannot see beyond their own narrow sphere, they vote for the populist emptiness of Ford and for the secretive, vindictive, and mean-spirited free enterprise governance of Harper and gang. They don’t mind, they don’t know, they don’t care.

And the rest of us? Well, we pay the price.

***

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

IS STEPHEN HARPER A LIAR?

Most ignorance is invincible ignorance: we don’t know because we don’t want to know. – Aldous Huxley

And here, poor fool, with all my lore/I stand no wiser than before. – Johann W. von Goethe

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

Last Thursday, October 24, Harper, in a rare appearance in the House in over 160 days, gave his strongest performance in months. It took place two days after Mike Duffy lobbed a few grenades at Harper while speaking in the Senate defending himself in hopes of avoiding a two-year suspension without pay. Harper was firm, pugnacious, and oh, so, so, self-congratulatory in his responses to questions by the opposition wanting to know if he had, indeed, ordered Mike Duffy to repay his expenses as Duffy had claimed. “Darn right I told him he should repay his expenses,” replied Harper. Solid, no nonsense, unequivocal. But no answer to the underlying question prompted by Duffy’s remarks: Had he been in the same room when the Duffy/Wright deal was made?

Nevertheless, members of his caucus that day must have felt a lifting of their hearts, a soaring in their spirits. Harper was back. In fact, so enthused were the members, and so forthright and eager Harper, that all leaped to their feet many times in Question Period, Harper responding forcefully and enthusiastically if not always satisfactorily. No matter, his Conservative gang clearly loved it all each appearing to out-leap and out-applaud the others as if, by such ardent public display of support, loyalty and love, hoping to garner public support or, more cynically, to forestall being thrown under the bus by Dear Leader for lack of enthusiasm.

Without doubt, they felt good, you could see it writ on their faces. But that glorious sensation was illusory, fleeting, another chimera of many in a regime of smoke, mirrors and thunderous white noise.

The following day, Harper and his party were exactly where they were before the spring/summer break, floundering, evading, fingerpointing and responding with scripted non-answers. It has been a shameful display by a majority governing party. The extended break had done nothing to improve matters, the Senate scandal had not gone away; it was cheap, loud, performance art and gong show. Is this how a leader of a Democratic nation behaves? Is this how Conservative Democracy works? Talking points, scripted bobbleheads, repeated phrases, lifelike dolls fingerpointing, mouths flapping and saying – well, saying nothing but yet, clearly, somehow, signifying the adoption of a new tack: Harper’s Conservatives had suddenly suffered a fervid, dizzying conversion; they were high, high on ethics and ethical behaviour. Villainous wrongdoers would be severely punished and Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Nigel Wright were, without doubt, villainous wrongdoers. Never mind that Wright was gone; he was the chief villain, the architect of all this mess; it was all his fault. Yeah, right.

While I have little to no sympathy for Nigel Wright or the three senators, I have even less for Harper and his gang of thugs who appointed the three to the Senate, apparently less for their merits as contributors to society than for what they could bring to the Conservative Party. Brazeau’s inclusion was likely the result of the potent symbolism he offered: young, intelligent, brash – and First Nations member. Duffy’s and Wallin’s inclusion was, without doubt, a result of their recognisability as respected and trusted members of the media and the promised ability to raise funds as Conservative shills. They were loved (and loved being loved) because they offered something that could be used, traded upon: the native gave them a certain cachet and the fundraisers? Well, they raised a lot of money, didn’t they? Yet, for the three, one can almost work up sympathy. Almost. When suddenly no longer loved, troublesome liabilities now, they were not only thrown under that massive, brutal Tory blue bus, they were to be made an example for all others: cross Harper, this, too, could be your fate. For these three, there would be the public damning, shaming and punishment; a Harper sanctioned lynch mob. Still, there would be a hint of decorum, a suggestion of fair play; the three were allowed to speak in their own defence in the Red Chamber and they did so, Duffy twice. Had cameras been allowed, the scene would almost certainly have closely resembled the Stalinist show trials between 1936 and 1938. Yes, yes, Harper and gang were going for the jugular, no more playing nice; these three would pay, and severely, and Conservatives, when done, could finally wash their hands of them for good while loudly proclaiming their virtue as defenders of ethics in politics. They were the good guys, white hats and tall in the saddle once again. That was the scenario they likely imagined. The party faithful would be happy and the soft supporters? Well, put on a good show, they’ll swallow anything.

The problem is: Would people really buy this? Is Harper and gang right? Is the world filled with simpletons? Well, forty per cent at one time. Enough to elect this gang of vicious thugs.

Unfortunately, for Harper and gang, when Duffy spoke October 22, Conservatives in the Senate and the House must have felt as if they’d been mugged. Regardless of the merits of Duffy’s defence, the sad spectacle says a lot about the character of this government. It is desperately wanting and severely challenged in matters of ethics and integrity. That’s been obvious to many, but this speech was just another nail. Canadians should be worried by now and do something; the foxes are in the henhouse and have been for some time.

In 2006, Harper announced that he would reform the Senate. Well, we saw how that worked out. Over half the Senators are Harper patronage appointees. During his latest foray in the Senate, Duffy posed the rhetorical question: Are we independent Senators or PMO puppets? He knows the answer to that. We all do. The days of a truly independent body had passed some time before the virulently partisan Harper entered the scene, but it is Harper who drove the final killing stake through its heart. The days of a truly independent Senate, if they ever were, were now well and truly dead.

WHICH TRUTH? WHOSE TRUTH?

Do you remember how it went? Did you care then?

When Duffy announced to the world that he and his wife had decided to repay the housing claims to which he was not entitled, Harper and Poilievre and all the rest of the thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of him. He had done the “honourable thing”, they had said. When that proved false, when we learned that it had been Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright who had paid off Duffy’s debts with a cheque, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of the Conservative thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of Wright. He had done the right, honourable thing, they said, Pierre Poilievre even going so far as to declare Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing”! Duffy was suddenly toast. The man who had shone in the Conservative glow, who basked in the limelight and hammed it up as “hard hitting” journalist with puffball questions for Harper during faux “townhall meetings”, was suddenly, and sadly, pariah. Oh, that must have hurt.

When Harper was asked in the House what he knew of the deal, he claimed to know nothing and went so far as to state that no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. It was a matter between Duffy and Wright and no one else, he said. He also said there were no documents. Months later, when the RCMP revealed that there had been others in the know, Irving Gerstein, who controlled party funds and was apparently prepared to help Duffy out when he believed the debt to be $32, 000, David van Hemmen, Nigel Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management in the PMO, Harper played dodge ball evading questions in the House, claiming Wright had accepted responsibility for the matter and had done the honourable thing: he had resigned. As for documents, well, they were there and one involved another cheque, which, until Duffy’s revelations October 28, no one knew about except for the parties involved. Still, Harper, until last week, had maintained the deal a private matter between Duffy and Wright. But that wasn’t true, it never was. The question is, did Harper know? Evidently not, if we are to believe him.

When Brazeau and Duffy, October 22, and Wallin, October 23, defended themselves in the Senate, it was clear from Duffy’s impassioned defence that he was placing Harper in the know, Harper had been there when the deal was made, “just the three of us” (Duffy, Wright & Harper), and that he, Harper, had ordered Duffy to repay the money and take the deal. Harper’s vigorous and proud, “Darn right I told him he should repay the expenses” “sort of” supports what Duffy says without actually placing Harper in the room.

But, if Harper wasn’t there, and he says he wasn’t, and, as we now know four others knew, were there others? In June, Harper said no one else knew. But last week he did allow that “a few” others had known about the deal. That was a small change but extremely significant. It had gone from no one to a few knowing. So, had Harper lied at the beginning? Or did he really not know? Harper and his bobblehead parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, were now back to the scripted lines in the House, “Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” That was Harper. For Calandra, the script went something like this, “The prime minister has answered the question. Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” Oh, how wearisome the script.

On October 28, Mike Duffy took the opportunity to address the Senate again as his judges, jury and executioners prepared to debate his penalty, if any. This time, there was even more astounding news from Duffy even as the Senate Conservative sought to lessen the damage they had inflicted on themselves with this move to suspend the three. Arthur Hamilton, long-time lawyer for the Conservative party, a hardball troubleshooter often called to handle high profile incendiary events involving Conservatives (the Helena Guergis debacle for one, the robocalls scandal for another), had written a $13, 560 cheque to Duffy’s lawyer paying off Duffy’s fees with Conservative funds. There is documented evidence of the cheque. So, how many people did know? What constitutes “a few” as acknowledged by Harper? Some figures go as high as 13. If so, going from none to thirteen appears to be more than a minor discrepancy. Was Harper lying, mistaken, or just wilfully out of the loop on this, as well?

Too, Conservatives had previously denied that they had a secret Conservative fund run from the PMO for discretionary purposes. That was in the past. But that changed with Duffy’s speech in the Senate and with Harper’s recent admission that it did, in fact, exist. Had he lied then or simply been mistaken?

It was from this discretionary fund that Duffy’s lawyer was paid. When questioned about why the Conservative party would pay the fees for Duffy’s lawyer, especially if Duffy had breached the rules, pocketing money to which he was not entitled, Harper’s response was that it was standard practice for the Conservative party to help members from time-to-time. Which begs the question: If Duffy had defrauded taxpayers with illegal claims as Harper keeps on saying, why bail him out? Harper’s story makes little sense. He keeps shifting ground. At what point was Harper, if ever, telling the truth? Was it then or is it today?

In some ways, Nigel Wright seems to be a genuine victim of all this. This was a party loyalist, remember, a front rank soldier. Once word came out that he had written a cheque to pay Duffy’s debt, it was evident he was finished even though, two days later, a spokesman had said Harper still held confidence in him. There was no talk of resignation. On May 19, Wright announced his resignation from the PMO, which Harper had “reluctantly accepted”. Once again, Wright had proven himself a good soldier and, once again he was lavishly praised for doing the right, honourable thing.

Today, however, things are much different for the loyalist and one-time confidant of Harper. Looking back, his vision must be of a deceitful and bleak landscape: the only loyalty was his own.

In an appearance on a radio talk show, October 28th, Harper did another turnabout. Wright had not resigned as we had been led to believe. He had been fired! If Wright had been badly wounded when ruthlessly thrown under the bus, Harper, standing in the House the next day, made certain that he was dead meat as far as Conservatives and the public were concerned. In what must be the final indignity to this one-time much admired member of the PMO, Harper and his thugs left little doubt what Wright meant to them. Wright, said Harper, had been “The one person responsible for the deception.” Had they surrounded him and plunged daggers into his body in a public forum, it could not have been more brutal or more painful. Ruthless, shameless and appallingly cold.

What must Nigel Wright think of all this? What does he feel? What can those sitting around Harper think, what can they believe, who can they trust? Certainly they know that they are one misstep away from political and very public annihilation.

How is it possible that anyone can continue to place trust in this man who is leader of our nation? Petty, brutal, vindictive, evasive, deceitful, ready to sacrifice anyone, he is no leader I respect, let alone admire or trust. He and his party have governed in a manner that has been, time and again, revealed as the most ethically challenged in the history of Canada. It’s not all about money, folks. Mike Duffy says it has lost its moral compass, as if this were a recent thing. He is wrong. That happened long, long before this scandal broke out, probably on the very day Harper experienced the first real taste of power and succumbed to its corruptive allure.

Yes, yes, Harper is high on ethics – today. But even here, he appears rather easy on that score. Some stay, some go but these only when they become liabilities. We need simply remember Shelly Glover who the chief electoral officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, had recommended be suspended for refusing to file a full report of her 2011 campaign expenses. She finally agreed to do so only upon learning she was to be promoted with a cabinet position. And we have Christian Paradis, the lacklustre underperforming MP from Quebec who has been investigated more than once for ethical lapses with allegations of political interference and of providing favourable treatment to contractors seeking government business. He too holds Harper’s enduring confidence (at least until the next election) as well as a cabinet post. We have, as ugly as they come, vicious, oleaginous, union-busting Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, who, in 2010 during the G8 and G20 conferences set aside a slush fund of $50 million for his riding and whose department has apparently misplaced $3.1 billion. We have loudmouth, now silent, Dean Del Mastro, once Harper’s parliamentary secretary, facing charges relating to the 2008 election campaign. We have Bev Oda, who forged, or whose office staff had forged, a government document and was twice made to repay padded expense claims before being finally toppled by a $16 orange drink. We have Peter Penashue, declared by Harper to be the best ever Labrador MP, forced to resign for accepting corporate donations for his campaign. Best ever from Labrador? Clearly the voters didn’t agree with Harper when the by-election was held. We had Vic Toews who accused opponents to his online spying bill of “siding with pedophiles.” And we had Joe Oliver smearing environmentalists as “radicals” and impugning the reputation of a widely respected environmentalist who pointed to the risks of going ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline deal.

With Harper and gang, anything goes; the moral compass is rather fluid if it exists at all. If he likes you, or needs you, you are golden, in like Flint; if, however, you prove a liability, well, it’s under that brutal Conservative bus for you. Wright, Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau have merely joined Michael Sona, Helena Guergis, and all the other battered sacrificed. Clearly, working for Harper and the Conservatives is an occupational hazard.

Perhaps, in his own peculiar way, Harper has decided to set an example for public servants who have endured massive cutbacks and much maligning from the cretinous Clement. Harper has taken on the role of all three monkeys for himself: all hands clapped over eyes, ears and mouth and all at once.

Harper would have you believe he knew nothing. He would have you believe that everyone around him had conspired to deceive him. That makes him incredibly incompetent or incredibly stupid. Take your pick.

It is highly likely Nigel Wright can provide many of the answers. He knew Harper well and, after this, knows him better now. One wonders how much longer he is willing to play the good soldier. He owes Harper absolutely nothing now.

Is Stephen Harper a liar?

What do you think?

***

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

SEE HARPER RUN, RUN, HARPER, RUN

The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man. – Roy L. Smith

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them. – Aristotle

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE THINGS MIKE DUFFY SAID

On October 21, the day before the Senate was to vote on the suspension without pay of Harper appointees to the Senate, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy came out swinging with his lawyer, Donald Bayne, doing the damage. On the second day, October 22, it would be Duffy, speaking in the Senate, who would drop the bomb.

It was clear, if what Bayne was saying was true, the PMO’s office certainly knew more than Harper admitted to and certainly casts doubt on Harper’s credibility which has already been stretched pretty thin as it is. Duffy, according to Bayne, had met all the residency requirements and had even approached the government Senate leader at the time, Marjory LeBreton, who had informed him that he could claim his home in PEI as his primary residence and thus place a claim for his secondary residence in Ottawa. Duffy then asked the PMO about his living expenses and was informed, by Wright, he met them and was further informed that other senators had similar arrangements.

According to Bayne, Duffy, previously informed he had followed all the rules, had then, at the time of the scandal outbreak been pressured to repay the money he had claimed for housing for four years once it became clear that he was now a liability to the Conservatives and their core base of supports. The deal was made for Wright to ink a cheque for $90,000. For Duffy, according to Bayne, it was play along or pay the consequences. Apparently, Duffy played along his reputation easier to shrug off than a seat on the Senate. Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, overseeing the Deloitte audit of Duffy, also played along changing the report to whitewash Duffy’s image, which, with the promise of repayment, allowed LeBreton to declare the matter closed. At that time, the public was led to believe Duffy had repaid the money from his own wallet. When asked by Mulcair in the House what he knew, Harper claimed not to know of the deal. He also stated no one else in the PMO knew. We now know that was false. Much later it was revealed by an RCMP document that senator Irving Gertstein, was prepared to pay from a party fund he controlled when he believed the amount owed to be about $32,000. We also learned others knew, including David van Hemmen, Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management for the PMO. Did Harper know? He says not. Knowing his reputation as a control freak, it stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper would not know of the deal. But he denied knowing and there it stands.

Bayne spoke at length in a truly extraordinary meeting with news reporters. While he asserted that the PMO’s office had resorted to blackmail in dealing with his client, he appeared to be resorting to the same tactic with Harper and gang, saying he had much more than the three emails he read from during the event and would not hesitate to use them.

If Duffy, through his lawyer, is to be believed, then it certainly exposes Harper to risk of charges of either lying in the House last spring about others in the PMO knowing or of having been deceived by his staff regarding the Duffy/Wright deal. Either way, Harper needs to explain himself.

An hour and a half following that media event, there was an even more disheartening display, this by Harper (who had failed to appear in the House on the first day of the Fall session) and his parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, who appears to offer a prime example of the Peter Principle whereby individuals rise to their level of incompetence.

After evading opposition questions in the House for over 160 days, Harper finally made an appearance and, in a sickening display of hubris, again displayed not only his utter disregard for the opposition, but also his contempt for Parliament, the Democratic process, and for the voters of this country when he was asked what he knew of the Duffy/Wright deal. Harper’s response was telling and appalling. Several times, to repeated questions, his non-response was repeated almost word-for-word to each question posed. Said he, with variants to the script: “Mr. Wright has accepted full responsibility for his decision in these matters. The position of the government as I’ve said repeatedly is that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the rules regarding expenditure, not just the letter but the spirit of those rules, and if they don’t respect those rules they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable.”

A non-answer. Nothing. It is true that Harper did attempt to deflect attention to the new trade deal with Europe; a deal everyone says will be his legacy. Perhaps, but I suspect his legacy will lie elsewhere and it will lie tarnished in the trash bin of history where it justly belongs. If there was ever a shine to Harper’s regime, I must have missed it, blinded by the sheen of an out-dated, shabby and mean-spirited amalgam of Conservative/Reform/Alliance politics.

Then it was Paul Calandra’s turn. He’s the new parliamentary secretary to Harper. Not wishing to be outdone in sticking to a script, Calandra responded to similar questions using almost identical words about what the PMO knew by saying and iterating that Harper had already answered the question and then went on to quote the party line about the economy and jobs. Then, in response to a variant of the same question, what did the PMO know? He veered into a mind-blowing off-the-cuff tangent proceeding to give a befuddling and impressive if lengthy non-response response stating absolutely nothing, which caused Charlie Angus to accurately remark, “Now, that was bizarre.” Clearly, Paul Calandra is well-suited for the role of bobblehead, one of those doll-like figures which play so prominently in the Conservative Party the roster of which include such figures as Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierre Poilievre, all now promoted for, no doubt, diligently following the party line. Evidently, Harper has also become a member of the club, at least, for that day. Unfortunately for Calandra, the string controlling the message must have snapped producing that silly performance from him. It was entertaining if nothing else. In any case, Harper’s non-responses followed by the mimicry of Calandra are disturbing, disheartening and disgusting and do little to enhance the image of either.

Yet, anyone could have a bad day. But when bad behaviour is repeated, you know there’s more to it than that. The next day, Oct. 22, when Thomas Mulcair asked Harper if he regretted anything in his own actions, Harper did the same as the previous day, answering with the same response of the day before in almost identical language. It was confirmed. He was a flesh and blood talking doll, a BOBBLEHEAD! Not a flesh and blood man, not a prime minister, just a talking shell of something resembling life. It was the same with Calandra, bobbing his head, saying what he had said the day before: a true bobblehead. What made it worse, even more offensive, was that when asked a question that only Harper could know the true answer, it was the bobblehead who responded without the insane performance of the previous day with standard non-answers saying, as he had the day before, that Harper had answered the questions, that they would focus on the economy and jobs.

The script is wearying, especially when it appears every member of Harper’s gang has learned it and employs it for the umpteenth time and at every opportunity in attempts to divert public attention away from the Senate to the “greatest” trade deal in the history of Canada if not the world.

But, if those performances did not rile anyone, perhaps what happened that evening did, when, under privilege of the Senate, Duffy spoke in defense of himself and, in doing so, lobbed a grenade that doubtless woke the nation, even if only momentarily, and possibly signalled the beginning of the end for Harper and his Conservative thugs.

Not only does Duffy say that Harper had ordered him to repay the money, he also suggests that Harper was in the room with Wright and himself when he did so. If that is true, then Harper lied in the House on May 5, when Mulcair asked him if anyone else knew of the deal. The deal was between Duffy and Wright, Harper had said. Duffy then spoke of the new chief of staff, Ray Novak, at that time senior aide to Harper, and Marjory LeBreton, calling him at home in PEI, ordering him to resign or appear before an ethics committee with the likelihood of being expelled from the Senate. We have heard Harper’s version. This is Duffy’s. Who can we believe, if either?

THE THINGS PAMELA WALLIN SAID

Perhaps Pamela Wallin can shed a little light and she did, like Duffy, speaking in the Senate under privilege levelling the basic same charge against Harper as Duffy and employing almost the same arguments. For Wallin, particular targets were Marjory LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen who, she states, had “orchestrated” leaked documents apparently because they “could not abide” her criticism of their leadership and the praise she had earned from Harper! “These were targeted leaks,” she said, “many of them incorrect, designed to cast my conduct in the worst possible light. They were personal and vindictive –and violated all the rules of this place.” She also claimed, as did Duffy, that LeBreton and Ray Novak, had called her claiming to speak on behalf of Harper, demanding she resign from the Senate. She further claimed they came to an agreement whereby she would recuse herself from caucus, not resign but, “less than 10 minutes later, Senator LeBreton broke the deal and publicly declared that I had resigned.” Does anyone look good in this? Immediately following Wallin’s speech, LeBreton spoke under privilege of the chamber refuting Wallin’s claims as baseless. Who can we believe?

What we are witnessing has moved beyond tragedy to farce. It has become a spectacle with performers who, on one side have appeared to have sold their reputations, now tattered, for the price of joining an elite club and those on the other side willing to exploit at any cost the influence and prestige of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and the potent symbolism at the time of a controversial young Patrick Brazeau, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples which had assisted the Conservatives during the 2006 election. The performances have brought disrepute on all offering a show that is shabby, shameful, and enduring. Harper and his crew could as easily play the roles of comic mimes for the white noise of denials that spews from their mouths say nothing and mean nothing providing only a constant din that is far from comic and leaves nothing to the imagination about them as representatives of a Democracy. It is not good.

PROVE YOU’RE STUPID; VOTE FOR CONSERVATIVES – AGAIN!

That Harper and his crew are still able to garner support is astounding to me and clear evidence that there are some in society who will support liars, thieves, dishonest ideas, unethical behaviour, anyone and anything, in short, for promises of shiny trinkets, of easy cures, and quick fixes as offered in the throne speech along with the announcement of a tentative major trade deal with Europe, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Harper believes he knows his people and I fear he may be right. He believes that little matters to voters other than cutting fees for paper bills, ending bundling by communications giants, reducing roaming fees and passing laws forcing governments to balance budgets in normal times which he does not define and which is laughably untenable. The world is fluid and little can be certain and even less controlled. But it is not on those few baubles that Harper pins his hope. Rather, it appears, he has placed them on CETA with its promises of 80 thousand jobs and infusion of $12 billion into the economy. But even here, critics say, Harper has misjudged, exaggerated the expectations.

The figures, they claim, are from a joint study between Canada and Europe based on a computer model that is five years old. A lot has happened since 2008. Can the numbers be believed? According to Harper they can, for these are the figures he relies on. But a 2011 European study suggests otherwise, that the figures might be closer to one third to one half of those estimated from the 2008 study. Further, the numbers of that 2008 study were arrived at before the economic crisis shattered the global economy and before negotiations had even begun. In other words, the numbers just don’t stand up. Harper and thugs would have you believe otherwise. However, knowing how well this government is with figures, I will trust the critics. I remember too well how Conservatives turned a huge surplus left by the Liberals to a record Conservative deficit. And I still haven’t heard a reasonable explanation from Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, an account of what has happened to the missing $3.1 billion. Nor have I heard how government cutbacks in the Canada Revenue Agency will resolve the issue of recovering over $29 billion from offshore accounts of tax evaders. In fact, do we even know, can we be assured, this government is pursuing those wealthy individual and corporate tax fraudster scofflaws?

How can we trust a leader and his crew that runs, evades, obfuscates and just outright lies about almost everything we should know and have a right to know, but which they don’t want us to know (which is almost everything). How can we trust a leader, if Duffy and Wallin are to be believed, who lied about what he knew and how much he knew? As for Harper’s numbers regarding this new deal, they strike me as wishful thinking plucked from air. As for job creation, critics suspect that the reverse can be expected, that the result in job losses will be anywhere from 30,000 to 150,000. If Harper is so confident of this deal, why are Canadians not able to have access to the details? It may well be a good deal, but it could also be a chimera, smoke and noise and not to be trusted.

But for Harper and his gang, Duffy’s speech, Wallin’s speech and even Brazeau’s speech, in the Senate, it is all bad news that not even this promised trade deal can ameliorate. The Senate scandal is there, it will stick, and Duffy’s and Wallin’s version, if true, if accepted, will likely spell the end to this highly secretive, vindictive, mean, and dismal regime.

Unfortunately for Democracy, there are still voters who will not experience shame or despair, those voters who are quite willing and are even eager to be bought for mere pennies a day or with large, shiny, but ultimately empty promises. Harper and gang know this and those on the sideline who disapprove can only gape in astonishment that none of them, the bribers or the takers, experience anything closely resembling shame. Those people, the bribers and takers, do not value themselves, so why should they value others, why should they value the Democratic process? For them, rules, ethics, integrity are all hindrances; they don’t matter, they never have, they never will. It’s all about the main chance: What’s in if for me?

I would hope the tactics employed by Harper and thugs would not work and certainly not as often as they have. Unfortunately knowing Canadian voters I cannot help but wonder: how is it possible that so many, so often, can be so dangerously indifferent and so outrageously stupid?

With the Duffy bombshell, followed by Wallin’s, it is just possible that some of those voters will wake up.

But I will not hold my breath. I will hope for better, but I will not expect better. Too many voters think with their wallets. And even more simply do not think.

Vote for Harper; get more of the same. Prove you really are stupid – again.

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE SHAMELESS CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY

 

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

HARPER AND THE ART OF PETTY PARTISANSHIP

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

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

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

Let’s take him at his word.

HARPER & CREW: THE SHAMELESS BARBARIANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARPER AND THE ETHICALLY CHALLENGED

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

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

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

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

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

HARPER’S TWISTED VIEW OF DEMOCRACY

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for Harper and gang, Capitalism always trumps Democracy.

HARPER CUTS AND RUNS – AGAIN

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

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

Amen.

HARPER ON WALLIN: “I HAVE LOOKED AT THE NUMBERS”

MARJORY LEBRETON AND THE ART OF CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRISY

With the release of the Pamela Wallin audit, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, was immediately out there, not for the first time, front and centre releasing a statement that fairly bellowed with faux indignation, a showy display of outrage and near rapturous sanctimony. Aaron Wherry, (MacLean’s, Aug. 12, 2013) quotes:

“Our government will not tolerate the waste or abuse of the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians. We expect that any inappropriate expenses will be repaid. Senator Wallin is no longer a member of the Caucus and must be held accountable for her actions.”

“These issues are coming to light because of actions we took to publicly release Senators’ expenses when we gained a majority in the Senate in 2010. We have subsequently taken steps to toughen rules governing Senate expenses.”

“Our Government will continue to advocate for meaningful reform of the Senate – including elections, term limits and tough spending oversight. Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change, or like the old Upper Houses of our provinces, vanish.”

LeBreton, like Stephen Harper and the rest of the Conservative ideologues, is not shy in cutting her loses and throwing another of a long list under the proverbial bus. Nor is she shy in claiming, on behalf of her party, the mantle of righteousness taking credit for the exposure of the rot infecting the Senate. It doesn’t faze her that this is at odds with the facts; for Conservatives history is meaningless unless it can be distorted to suit their story. In that respect, she is an ideal Tory and is fully cognizant of the value of the revisionism to which Conservatives are not loath to indulge. That what she claims is absolute rubbish is of no consequence. Repeat the lie often enough, those docile voting sheep out there will eventually fall in line perhaps with the need of a little sweetener thrown in, another tax cut, or better yet, a promise of greater things (never mind what) coming down the pike. However, while they may have you accurately pegged, before you swallow that drink she’s offering, if you haven’t keeled over from laughing, you might want to have it analysed. You never know what those Conservatives will serve you but it’s seldom the truth and often unpleasant, an amalgam of wishful thinking, half-truths, outright lies and fairy dust, an imagining of the world not as it is, but as they would have you believe.

The Senate revelations came about not by dint of Conservative or Liberal efforts. In fact, Conservative senators released a doctored audit report for public consumption and the PMO denied all knowledge of the cheque Nigel Wright wrote to pay off Mike Duffy’s debt. They were underplaying and underselling the whole debacle. The thing is, four senators, three of them Conservatives, got caught with their hands in the cookie jar! Yet, to the worthy LeBreton, Harper and the Conservative are heroes! As for those alleged fraudsters, well, they should be commended for returning their ill-gotten gains! Yeah, right. They did the honourable thing. You have to weep that politics has sunk so low into the swamp of self-enrichment rather than the welfare of the nation.

So we ask: How do you think the Conservatives would behave if Liberals alone had ripped off taxpayers? We’ve seen their reactions in the past: the outrage would be there, as would the accusations, slanders and distortions. And if it was just Joe Blow? Hell, jail wouldn’t be enough!

As an historian, LeBreton is as credible as any Conservative stooge in the same way Bernie Madoff was as financial handler reporting on how the funds of those he bilked were doing. Unreliable at best. Regardless of how LeBreton and other Conservatives spin it, and oh, how they are spinning it! those alleged fraudsters got caught and want us to believe that, because they got caught and are willing to return what they fraudulently claimed, that they are somehow blameless and honourable. In fact, by returning the money, it is as if they want us to believe no offence, no fraud, was committed! Rats, unless like these folks, who happen to walk on two feet, are more trustworthy. Conservatives have a penchant for revision (remember Penashue, “the greatest MP ever” from Labrador who resigned for illegally accepting corporate funds for his campaign?). LeBreton’s response to the release of Wallin’s audit is just another prime example of it. Of course, to call Conservatives up on any of this is likely to lead to labeling as Liberal media lickspittle by shrill LeBreton with muted “huzzahs” from Tories. Think it, believe it, but not say it too loudly.

PAMELA WALLIN, THE AUDIT AND THE EXCUSES

If Conservatives were slapped by integrity, ethics, truth, facts and shame, they would doubtless be confused if not utterly alarmed fearing they have been rendered impotent by invading foreign bodies.

Recently, there have been whispers that Harper and his gang may do more than move to reform the Senate. The may set out to abolish it, something the NDP has been demanding for years though Harper’s gang, as is typical of them, will claim it was their idea spinning some elaborate story as to why they are the only ones to work in the public interest. No doubt, some of the gullible public will gladly swallow the swill.

Wallin wants to stay in the senate. She wants to work for the public. She will pay back the more than $140K, with her own money, a clear barb meant for Harb and Duffy who did not. Nowhere does she admit guilt or accept responsibility. She made “mistakes”, the “system” is at fault, the Deloitte audit “report is the result of a fundamentally flawed and unfair process” (Joanna Smith, The Star, Aug. 12, 2013). She further states the expense forms are confusing. If so, then Wallin, clearly not unintelligent, would have turned to an accountant. One would think. As to being unfair, who the hell is the victim here if not taxpayers.

She also claims that changes made to the data on her calendar when she learned she was about to be audited were on the advice of David Tkachuk. Naturally Tkachuk, who along with Carolyn Stewart Olsen had whitewashed the Duffy audit for public consumption, denies this. But a question needs asking: Regardless of whose advice, if any, why alter data in your Microsoft Outlook calendar detailing your activities after the fact if you have done no wrong? Is Wallin that stupid or gullible? According to the audit report, Wallin made many expense claims related to purely partisan fundraising activities having nothing to do with Senate business. Wallin is the same senator Stephen Harper defended in The House when he stood up and claimed he saw her travel claims and found them comparable to those of others doing government business. Really? Perhaps it’s time auditors do a complete examination of all the books of senators and MPs. Hands up, those in favour.

No admission of wrongdoing from Wallin. Nor does she talk of resigning. Shame? Not a whit of it. These people believe they are above it; rules don’t apply to them, that’s for the little people; they are major players and are entitled to their entitlements and all the rewards that come their way and they will continue to nickel and dime Canadian taxpayers as is their divine right to do so. Do you like that? If so, how can you?

So, the next time you hear Harper and the rest of his lousy Conservative gang have a go at public servants, attack science and scientists, punish whistleblowers, seek new ways to destroy unionists and smear enemies, just remember what these people are and how they act and how they betrayed your trust. And remember in particular that, of the four senators investigated, three were Harper appointees. Nor should you forget that Harper not only did not reform the Senate as he promised, but he also turned it into rubberstamping machine for government policies with over half of those in the Senate Harper appointees. These are his people, his stooges, his greedy little soldiers. Abolishment, not reform is needed.

A QUESTION FOR YOU

If you don’t mind what has happened, if ethics, truth, integrity, principles, and honesty are of less importance than tax breaks for Big Business, then continue to support Harper and brag about doing so because you are among the shameless and should be known.

And every time Harper attempts to sell you something new and you feel tempted and about to weaken, when you hear Tony Clement attack public servants whom you envy and hate comparing many of them to dead wood, think of Clement’s $50 million slush fund and of the $3.1 billion mislaid while he was president of the Treasury Board. He’s still there. Then think of Bev Oda, her false expense claims, Peter Penashue, Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Liberal Mac Harb.

Ask yourself: Do we need the Senate? And, while you’re thinking on this, ask yourself a more important question: Do you believe in the Democratic process? If so, ask another question: Do we really need or want more of Harper and his gang? If you think we do, I suggest you question your own ethics. Something’s missing.

STEPHEN HARPER’S SHUFFLE HUSTLE

He [the Emperor] is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders. – Jonathan Swift, The Voyage to Lilliput

Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed. – Irene Peter

Frank A. Pelaschuk

NEW! IMPROVED! YOU GOTTA BUY THIS!

“New faces, experienced hands”. That is the message we are to take from Stephen Harper’s latest cabinet shuffle. Well, is it?

We have the same old guard with the same old, tired Harper message: economy, tax cuts, jobs.

James Flaherty is still minister of Finance.

Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle and the missing $3.1 billion (does no one out there even care?) is still Treasury Board president.

John Baird is still minister of Foreign Affairs, still belligerent, still loud and still angry, just slightly less so.

Peter van Loan is still government leader of the House. Always a dedicated partisan, his most notable achievement of late has been the role of would-be brawler when, finger wagging, he charged across the floor of the house cursing opposition NDP members in a vivid display of the level of decorum and discourse he and his colleagues have unleashed upon the House since Harper took power.

Troglodyte Joe Oliver also retains his position as minister of Natural Resources. Combatively unpleasant, mean-spirited, ignorant, and partisan as they come, clearly the kind of person Harper likes, he has endeared himself to oil lobbyists with his free wheeling ad hominem attacks against environmentalists and scientists who warn of climate change and the dangers posed by the XL Keystone project.

Unfortunately, we still have Christian Paradis, in a reduced role, one of only four elected Tories from Quebec, Paradis who has himself been embroiled in several allegations of ethical “missteps” in the past. As a performer, he has proven himself to be ineffectual, inconsequential and as dazzling as a bowl of cold porridge.

Too, we have Gerry Ritz, still minister of Agriculture, the same minister who was there during the tainted meat scandal of 2008, the same minister who quipped of the listeriosis outbreak that this was akin to a “death by a thousand cold cuts”. Hundreds fell ill; twenty died. And he was there in 2012 when the Americans came to the rescue initiating one of the largest meat recalls in Canadian history upon finding tainted meat shipped from the Alberta XL Food plants. No quips that time. This is the same Ritz who will tell you that Conservatives have increased the number of food inspectors. It may be true that there have been more hires for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it may be true that they are called “Food Inspectors” but, thanks to Harper’s Conservatives, the role of meat inspectors have been reduced to that of rubber stampers of in-house testing results performed by meat producers.

And we have two, two! ministers who have simply swapped positions, weak, vain, Progressive Conservative sell out, Peter MacKay, moving to Justice and tough, stats-be-damned, twin to Toews, scapegoating panderer Rob Nicholson moving to Defence. A straight swap where everyone loses but those two.

And, finally, we have Leona Aglukkaq who has simply moved from Health to the Environment. As minister of health, she has proven time and again that she really took her job of health seriously going out of her way to ensure the health and well being of Big Business over that of Canadian consumers. Hell, with her in place, she made certain we did not even get a decent labelling program for our food products. Gotta love her.

So those, I guess, is what Conservatives mean by “experienced hands”. The same old same old.

ENEMIES

Changes? A few. Peter Kent is gone. No loss there. As Environmental minister, he was more effective as a Harperite stooge than as watchdog for Canadian interests against the depredations of Big Business. During his term, he has slashed environmental regulations, gutted the environmental assessment process, walked away from Kyoto Accord, and lied time and again about the reduction of Canadian environmental standards. Unfortunately, with Aglukkaq replacing him, Canadians and environmentalists have little reason to celebrate though I expect there may be more than a few business types out there gleefully rubbing their hands as they eye the resources of our National Parks. Also gone is shrill Conservative loyalist Marjory LeBreton, once government leader of the Senate and overseer of the whitewashed Duffy audit by two Conservative Senators. She, too, will likely be unmissed except by those Liberal media lickspittles who may have a soft spot for her. Vic Toews is also gone. That is good news. I know nothing about his replacement Steven Blaney so will refrain from saying anything more than this: I suspect he will be hard pressed to match his predecessor for unpleasantness and bile and sincerely hope he doesn’t try. Harper has enough of that type around him already. But, if Toews was of a blindly partisan mindset disturbingly parochial in meanness, spite and fury, he wasn’t alone; almost any member of Harper’s gang could have sprung up from the same vile, dark, dank woodwork that smacks of paranoia where everyone who opposes them is not only stupid, but a threat, a danger, something to be condemned and destroyed: they are the enemy.

And to prove that they would not suffer them easily, Harper and gang had little difficulty in working themselves into attacking their critics. Some were ridiculed as radicals, stooges for outside environmentalist interests; others had their patriotism questioned, reputations smeared and endured brutal innuendo regarding their mental competency; opponents of the online spying bill were ridiculed by Vic Toews with suggestions they sided with pedophiles and were soft on crime. And if you were unemployed, collecting welfare, well, you are naturally suspect: you are a fraudster, a liar, a druggie, an illegal, a lazy lowlife leech if not all of that. The Conservative staple? If you ain’t one of them, if you ain’t for Harper and his gang, you’re against them. It is that simple.

For those who believe this an exaggeration, they would do well to wake up and pay attention to the news. They would have learned on July 16 that the “newcomers” to cabinet posts were given a ten-point checklist kit direct from the PMO which included information not only of the bureaucrats to avoid who could not take yes or no for an answer but also “who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders” i.e., anyone who has dared to speak out against them.

That there is a list, that it would be long, should surprise no one. The only thing shocking about this revelation is that the secretive, underhanded Harper gang would submit such a list so baldly. That is either hubris or enthusiasm gone overboard.

This behaviour by Harper and gang is grossly wrong. It is undemocratic and bespeaks a sick paranoia that is the real threat to our Democracy. It is also shallow, lazy, and just plain irresponsible. And it all rests with Harper.

Even so, even as offensive as it is, there are some, however, who by some peculiar reasoning process find this attitude of meanness and scapegoating appealing and justified. For them, they really are beset by enemies and they are called them. These are Conservative supporters who cannot or will not think things through, who would rather buy into the view that the world is rife with danger, that thieves, rapists, pedophiles freely roam amongst us and that crime is constantly on the rise and that harsher sentences and more jails and further stigmatizing of the mentally ill are the just solution to all that troubles them rather than listening to this bare, simple fact: it just ain’t so. For such as these, confirmation of their fears by panderers and exploiters such as Harper and his gang are sufficient. Gut feelings, the truthiness first propounded by comic Stephen Colbert, are the things to rely on, not facts, and certainly not scientific facts. Irene Peter must have been thinking of these types when she said, “Ignorance is no excuse – it’s the real thing.”

TALKING BOBBLE HEADS BROUGHT TO LIFE!

Anyone who follows politics and watches the news will have almost immediately realized that, at best, Harper and gang have simply pulled a con game, the old switcheroo where faces may have shifted but the ideas, what there are of them, remain stuck in the same old sewer. The speakers may be different, but the words and message are the same and are already just as tired and trite when the past robotic parliamentary secretaries, Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierrie Poilievre first spouted them before their elevation to cabinet where they, no doubt, will continue to spout them. In their ubiquitous appearances in the media, including CBC’s Power and Politics, they have clearly earned Harper’s approval demonstrating their fidelity with daily, programmed performances of slavishly repeating set responses to questions asked a dozen ways in the vain hope of getting even one honest answer. Expert at evasiveness, at obfuscation and outright lying, these talking, lifelike mannequins have suddenly come into their own, Harper kissing them with the breath of life, soaring into the stratosphere approaching but never quite attaining the freedom and independence they so hungered for; we will witness them in the House, we will hear the party line and talking points and we will note the standard non answers to even the simplest and most innocuous of questions; we will admire their performances. Even blessed with life, it will be as good, if not better, as the good old days when they were mere bobble heads on Power and Politics; they have been inoculated against openness, against truth, against integrity, against independent thinking, and against any sensation resembling the emotion of shame. Shame? Have any of them known the experience and, if so, have any of them been humbled. Likely not.

“New faces”? Turns out, not so new and not so fresh after all when it comes to ideas.

Now I have read and heard on the news that these people are “smart”. Well, I don’t know. What I have seen of them in their performances in the House, on Power and Politics and other news items, convinces me not of their intelligence but that when it comes to partisanship, to mindless adherence to the party line, when it comes to sticking to and endlessly repeating the Harperite talking points of the day, these live talking dolls are non-pareil.

New faces? New ideas? These six mouth the Conservative refrain with an aplomb that is frightening because they are never, never in doubt and because they are never, never in doubt, they never, never answer questions directly or truthfully, preferring evasion, diversion, historical revision, dishonesty, and pointing fingers to the offences of other parties that often date back years and are beside the point. Occasionally, they have displayed signs of actual life with flashes of anger and frustration but never, never of shame. Of all of them, Chris Alexander strikes me as the least offensive and the smartest. He steps in for Jason Kenney as Immigration minister. Michelle Rempel, for whom a new post was evidently created, always appears wide-eyed and startled as a deer caught by headlights. Whenever one of the opposition members who usually appears with her and the others on Power and Politics speak, she invariably interrupts, talks over them, shakes her head and rolls her eyes determined to drown out the other. She is determined, lest it missed it the first dozen times, that the audience will hear her talking point for the umpteenth time.

Watching Kellie Leitch on Power and Politics is always interesting. Whenever her counterparts speak, she sits there, shaking her head a smirk pasted on her mug and, as Rempel, has little trouble in trying to addle the other member by talking over, interrupting, and hectoring.

And there is Candice Bergen, tireless lobbyist for paranoid gun lovers with her successful bid to get rid of the long gun registry, her unblinking eyes wide, wide, to connote sincerity I suspect, and Shelly Glover, rigid and imperious (of whom more will be said), both equally stupefyingly unpleasant and just as rude as the others.

But, of all of them, the most cringingly obnoxious is the oleaginous Pierre Poilievre, the new minister of state for Democratic Reform. Certain, viciously arrogant and obstructionist, he is the-takes-no-prisoner adherent who, along with Peter van Loan, offers the clearest testament to how little things have changed with Harper’s shuffle. This is the fellow who has waged war against Elections Canada during its investigations of allegations of Conservative attempts to subvert the electoral process by means of robocalls, redirecting of voters to nonexistent polling stations, and of election overspending employing the “in-out” scam. This is the fellow who had praised Mike Duffy for doing “the honourable thing” when everyone thought Duffy had repaid the Senate with his own money for illegal housing claims and then, as easily, shamelessly switched gears and praised Nigel Wright for “doing the exceptionably honourable thing” when he wrote out a $90,000 cheque to pay off Duffy’s debt. Those are weasel shifts and Poilievre is the master of such shifts. And he is going to be in charge of election reform? We should be worried, very worried.

Changes? Yes, a few of the faces in cabinet may be “fresher” but the message and those passing it are as stale as last year’s joke. Partisan, secretive, dishonest, dismissive, dismal, evasive and abusive, these six will be little more than carryovers of what we have endured from Harper and vile gang over the years. They are a perfect fit because, as is the rest of the Harper crew, these six are utterly lacking in shame, scruples and charm.

BUT WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Change? Well, Rempel was given a post created just for her it seems. But wasn’t Harper about smaller government as well as changing the Senate? It appears, under Harper, bloated government is here to stay. However, with Poilievre as minister of Democratic Reform, there may be some move to reform the Senate. Even so, the move will be less about reform than ensuring Conservatives salvage something for themselves from the Senate debacle. An elected Senate? Revised rules for housing allowances? Abolishment? Oh, if only. One thing is almost certain. There will be more erosion of our Democracy in the way of attacks against our electoral process.

But of particular interest is the curious case of Shelly Glover, our new Minister of Heritage and Official Languages. This “fresh” face, straight-backed and haughty, is the same Shelly Glover who, along with fellow Conservative, James Bezan, had been investigated by Elections Canada for illegal overspending and claims. This is the same Shelly Glover who refused to submit a proper audit of her campaign expenses, the same Glover who, along with Bezan, Marc Mayrand of Elections Canada had recommended be suspended until they made things right in letters he wrote to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer. The Speaker, however, sat on the letters for two weeks, allowing Glover and Bezan time to take the matter to court while Poilievre (see above), ran to their defence in the House renewing his attacks of Elections Canada. When news of the letters and the recommendations came out, the opposition were further enraged when Scheer stonewalled, refusing to act on Mayrand’s suggestion offering the excuse that the matter was before the court! Could this be partisan politics at play from a Speaker who is supposed to be unbiased? Perhaps.

But then, something changed; Glover, the outraged ex-cop who should have known better, who should have behaved better, suddenly reconsidered and agreed to submit a revised report. Instead of being fired, or urged to resign – anyone remember Penashue who resigned over campaign irregularities? – Shelly Glover is rewarded with a significant portfolio. Why is less demanded of Glover than of Penashue? She deliberately broke the rules, she sought to wage war with Elections Canada. She cheated. But no punishment. Once again Harper has demonstrated that, when he favours one, no sin, no foul deed is so egregious that it cannot be forgiven or overlooked. This is a government of many foul deeds and as many foul people.

IT’S ALL ABOUT NOTHING

Can anyone still believe this shuffle amounts to change? If so, shame on you. This is the same old Harper and the same old ethically challenged gang. The Conservatives may have lost a few faces, but they remain thugs, they behave as thugs. The message remains the same: the economy and jobs. A sense of shame, ethical behaviour and sound moral judgment is still wanting in this group of vile bodies. The bullies and guttersnipes still rule the roost. It’s all a game and, come next election, there will still be some among you who will still insist that Harper is the most capable, the best leader for the country. You will not care about ethics, integrity, or decency. Perhaps you never did. You will only care about what’s in it for you and will be bought easily and cheaply. If Harper is a threat to Democracy, so are those who support him.

Change? Ironically, just hours after the cabinet shuffle, CTV reported that the RCMP have been stonewalled by the PMO in its investigation of Duffy, Wright, the cheque and what the PMO knew. Unsurprisingly, the PMO issued a denial though they did admit to there being an email of the deal which, not that long ago, Harper denied existed. The PMO claims it wishes to co-operate with the RCMP but that the RCMP had not placed a request for the document. Incredible. And this from the government of “law and order”? Weasel excuses. Poilievre must be proud.

On July 15, Harper shuffled his cabinet. What has changed?

In my first posting, Harper: The Beast In Him, I began with these words: I dislike Stephen Harper; I dislike his gang.

I have never liked this crew. I have not changed in that opinion. I dislike them still.

How do you feel? Will you ever wake up?

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