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FORD, SCHEER AND CONSERVATIVES: NUT BARS OR FRUIT CAKES?

There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of “little guy” or “silent majority” rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves. – Christopher Hitchens

Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan. But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism, too, is less racist than is populism. A patriot will not exclude a person of another nationality from the community where they have lived side by side and whom he has known for many years, but a populist will always remain suspicious of someone who does not seem to belong to his tribe. – John Lukas

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Doug Ford and his shrill sidekick, Lisa Macleod, in fact, the whole gang of Ontario MPP neanderthals and their federal and provincial counterparts, seem to be following the path loved by certain types of politicos of the day: parochial, dishonest, mean-spirited, ignorant, craven, self-serving, hypocritical, abusive, lying, media-hating, science-denying, thought-aversive, punitive, vindictive, petty, dogmatic, autocratic, and fossilized.
Ideas, if they have any, are so immured in locked minds that not a hint of light is discernible as if a requirement that not a ray be allowed to penetrate — ever. They swept into office and immediately set to work dismantling every liberal piece of legislation put in place by the Kathleen Wynne government; it doesn’t matter if the ideas were good, bad or indifferent, they took office in the way of thugs swinging metal bars and bats bent on the destruction of anything they don’t like, don’t understand and don’t support. Doug and his gang don’t like much, understand even less and support only that which plays to the worst instincts held by their supporters: that they are victims of Big Government and Liberal elites; that asylum-seekers are not only to be feared but receive preferential treatment over “legitimate” border crossers and Canadian-born citizens; that those on low income deserve even less and should get off their butts. They whine, really whine, about the decline of our infrastructures: failing roads and overpasses; the state of our education; and they whine, really whine about the shortage of doctors, hospital closures, the interminable wait times in emergency rooms while whining, screaming, that taxes are too, too, TOO, high. The Progressive (now talk about misnomers!) Conservatives have made an art out of playing on stupidity and fear encouraging the concept of victimhood and finger-pointing: it’s not them, it’s them. So they target opponents as liberals and socialistic elites but, if pressed as to what they mean by either, will often prove themselves ignorant on both or offer the usual bromides: soft on crime, tax-and-spend, pro-refugee, anti-life baby-killers. Everyone apparently needs his or her bogeyman. For Ford supporters, indeed for conservatives across the country it appears, the bogeyman is often new or reworked ideas progressives call progressive and conservatives find suspect, frightening, and foreign: too much emphasis on feminism and gender equality; too much tolerance of niqab-, turban-wearing newcomers; climate change isn’t proven; those on welfare are bums. And what about that Middle Eastern family next door who recently moved into the neighbourhood. Are they legal? Are they economic refugees? Are they asylum seekers? How do we know they’re not terrorists? Why don’t they dress like Canadians? Why are we allowing so many into our country? Grab the cell phone and record their movements. It’s that damn Trudeau’s fault; he just threw open the doors to anyone especially those Muslims.
Racism has always played a role in Canada, a fact we consistently ignore and too often deny, but the increasing tide of hostility towards newcomers appears to be the legacy of Stephen Harper’s last campaign (remember Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander and the Snitch Line) and with the rise of populists as reflected by Trump and Trump-lite Ford fanning the flames of suspicion and intolerance with unproven claims of crisis at the border to Liberal assurances that that is not the case. Fomenting fear is an unproductive distraction; it does nothing to solve the problem of refugee claimants if there is a problem. The Trudeau liberals certainly could have done a better job regarding refugees but making life more difficult for those already having a hard go of it is not a solution and is unworthy of a nation that often boasts of being one of the most welcoming and tolerant on earth. Recent polls suggest that is no longer true if it ever was. Behaviour by politicians exploiting and exacerbating reasonable concerns regarding asylum seekers along with recent videos of fearful, bigoted Canadians harassing identifiable minorities should be enough to safely put that myth of smug moral superiority to rest once-and-for-all.
As is often the way of small, mean people with an even smaller vision, provincial conservatives, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister and Doug Ford, as do their federal counterparts, almost always believe it necessary to point fingers and blame others whether merited or not for any failures in society especially if those blamed are liberals just booted from office. So, for them, as with Trump, the media, perceived by conservatives as a cabal of liberal elites, becomes the target because one thing liars and sewer rats detest is light of any kind: facts are often a hindrance to their worldview therefore unwanted and unnecessary to the cause. For them, as with all of a despotic nature, an informed, educated populace is a dangerous populace; best keep the ignorant ignorant; so, to that end, stoke the flames of fear, warn citizens against the invasion of asylum seekers and economic refugees and the extreme likelihood of terrorists slipping into the country; tell them at every opportunity they’ve been lied to by a press made up of elites passing on FAKE NEWS not wanting you to know that the government is corrupt, is out to take away your rights, and is stealing all your hard earned money to help those foreigners get into the country, get more than you, and take your jobs: in short, you are the victim of a vast conspiracy of bleeding heart liberal-socialists. Of course, the ignorant lap it up for it confirms what they have always known but never been able to articulate: thank God for Trump and Fox News in the US and for Scheer and Ford and Rempel and Macleod and The Rebel Media at home who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is or, at least, tell us what we want to hear regardless of how crazy. And crazy it is.
Conservative supporters are much like the smokers of my day who refused to except the thousand science studies proving cigarettes cause cancer preferring instead to embrace, gasping for breath all the while, the single tobacco-sponsored study refuting all such claims: cigarettes are safe. Today, it’s Climate Change; it’s not happening, even if it is, it’s not man-made and any government intervention is nothing more than a TAX GRAB. It’s twisted, but that’s how ideologues win support: facts are unimportant; just give folks what they want to hear: You’re not the problem; you’re a victim.
For Ford, as with his federal counterpart, Stephen Harper, now longer in office and making mischief elsewhere, it is not enough to twist, ignore and/or make up facts, it is not enough to demonize journalists and the press, it is far better to muzzle it and what better way to suppress the media than to use taxpayer dollars to create your own propaganda organ and call it “Ontario News Now”. Now you can not only get true fake news with fake “journalists”, you can get it 24/7. And guess whose paying for it, Sucker. The very person whose money Ford says he wants to save.
Yeah, he wants to save your money. So he cancels Kathleen Wynne’s carbon program and allocates $30 million to fight the federal government on the imposition of a tax on provinces that do not come up with a carbon price program of their own. Ontario and the other provinces will likely lose the case but they don’t care because their real concern is demonstrating to their supporters that they are fighting on their behalf with a federal government of elites out to screw them. Conservative supporters will lap it up, run to the Ontario government website and click on Ontario News Now for the “real” truth and walk away deeply content in having once again confirmed what they already know: conservatives are the only ones capable of telling the truth and the truth is they are victims of an insidious liberal government conspiracy. But you will never hear that from the liberal media.
Kathleen Wynne, the wicked witch may be gone but everything she and her government have put in place has not only been bad, it has been DISASTROUS. Now that’s bad.
So, if Wynne’s carbon plan, as well as Trudeau’s, was disastrous, terrible, bordering on CALAMITOUS, what else has she put in place that could be as bad, maybe even worse?
Perhaps the basic income pilot project that was to be tested over three years. Now that’s pretty bad because, well, not to be too churlish about it or to make too fine a point, it’s a program that’s reaching into my wallet, taking my hard earned dollars, to help a bunch of poor, low income people whom I don’t know and could care less about. Why? I’m not responsible for their miserable lives. And the Ontario conservatives agree with me. Hell, they even broke their campaign promise to see the program to the end and are cutting a planned three per cent increase to social assistance by half. Why? Because, Lisa Macleod says, it’s a “disincentive” to work.
The program started near the end of last year. Yet less than a year into the three year test period, certainly not enough time to make an informed decision as to its effectiveness, but enough time to attack the poor and desperate simply because conservatives have a propensity to meanness and for categorizing the poor as shiftless or not trying hard enough, it’s been cut. The program involved 4000 low income people in various Ontario communities; it was one of the largest test projects of its kind eliciting world wide interest. It didn’t and doesn’t matter to Ford and gang. Singles received up to $16, 989 a year while couples received $24,027. If they had a job, the government would clawback 50% of every dollar earned. Did the project work? Lisa Macleod claimed it was failing recipients from becoming “independent contributors to the economy”. How could she make that determination when the project was axed before it became fully functional? One thing is certain: Ford and gang where not interested in knowing if the program worked. It was gone as far as they are concerned. What was at play here was just pure partisan political malice directed against a liberal Wynne government program with only the very poor taking the bullet.
This was not just the act of an unkind group of people; it was the act of nasty people.
I have in my long life met many conservatives with whom I have had disagreements but who were and are kind and generous and open to ideas and truth. Sadly, in my opinion, they are too few. Too many are like Trump and his followers and like Maxime Bernier, Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford, Lisa Macleod and their supporters. They are too shrill, too angry, too invested in their own interests and peeves to be concerned in yours or mine. Harper was a petty individual with a despot’s heart. Ford and thugs are the same.
In a few weeks time, municipal elections are to take place. Last week, just hours before cutoff time for candidates to put their name forward, Ford, unilaterally, in a truly anti-democratic and vindictive move, went after Toronto and the incumbent mayor declaring he would cut the number of council members to half its size. There was no consultation.
It was a petty act by a petty man wrapped in a big body with a pea brain.
The world is harsh enough for far too many with little to no resources. No one, least of all these, need the added burden of cruel, spiteful, selfish, tight-fisted political mercenaries targeting them. What Ford and gang are doing is not fiscally responsible, not being tough on waste, and certainly doing nothing to solve very serious problems. It’s just a cruel slapdash way of governance that allows the petty and mean to crow about acting and then clapping their hands dismissively as they ignore the pain and bewilderment of the poor and disadvantaged disposed as easily as one does trash.
Truth is not a plaything. Truth may be played with, it may be used and abused and deployed for unholy and selfish ends by the unscrupulous and vile. Truth is a light towards justice. If we want both, it is up to us to be vigilant and protective of both. We must not blindly accept anyone’s truth as gospel nor should we be foolishly closed to any truth or idea because it is not ours. An open mind is called for. When presented a story, a fact, it is best to study what we hear, see and feel before we embrace it wholly. Denying what we don’t like doesn’t make something any less true than embracing what we like makes it more true.
I am no more a fan of Trudeau than I was of Harper or Scheer. He is dishonest and untrustworthy and I believe his feminism a prop and his public displays of empathy fulsome and too full of self-regard…is the public taking notice? Nor was I a fan of Wynne’s governance though I did like her personally. The Ontario liberals were incompetent and too many of their actions suggested not all members were as honest as I would have liked. But I never thought of Wynne as mean or vindictive or full of herself.
I cannot say the same of Ford, Macleod, and the rest in his gang. They are not people I trust. When he ran for office, Ford offered no platform, gave no information. He would cut taxes but not tell us how or what would be sacrificed. In office, he has dismantled programs and legislation for no other reason than Wynne’s liberals were behind them. He has even cut the Wynne school sex education program reverting to one from twenty years ago and which educators say is outdated. Going back and erasing the work of the previous government is not a plan nor governance when nothing is offered to replace what has been destroyed. Ford’s is the thinking of those behind the government Phoenix payroll debacle. Get rid of the old; we’ll worry about the new later. We can see where he may be heading. If you are poor, alone, in need of assistance, God help you. Ford and his kind will not.

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

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

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HOW TO DESTROY THE HARPER GANG: STOP BUYING THE STRATEGIC VOTING LIE

It is not necessary to hope in order to undertake, nor to succeed in order to persevere. – Charles the Bold

Frank A. Pelaschuk

I will cede no ground to others when it comes to opposing the Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper is no leader to be admired, respected or even acknowledged. He has betrayed Canadians in the vilest of ways, not only by abusing our electoral processes but also by undermining our very democracy. This is a man and a group who find no dirty trick to dirty or too low to not be used. As a result, Harper and his gang work at our basest natures fomenting fear and appealing to racial and religious intolerance. He has disgraced himself. Worse, he has disgraced his office sinking to depths that has brought discredit to our nation thereby winning the opprobrium of outside observers. Years ago, when Harper was in the US speaking to a right-wing group, he said, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it”. He was right.

But there is another group for whom I also have strong loathing. These are the so-called “strategic” voters. This is the group targeted by several special interest organizations claiming to be non-partisan with only one goal in mind: to get rid of Stephen Harper and gang. Perhaps, but they act more like fronts for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party.

They are the same Snake Oil salesmen found in the Conservative camp, the ones who evoke images of terrorists pounding at our door and wage war against two niqab wearing Muslim women. Their targets and arguments may differ, but their methods are similar. They will tell you, and they have done so in the past, that a vote for the NDP or the Greens is a wasted vote, that voting for either party will only ensure another term in office for the Harper thugs. They will also tell you that the only party able to defeat the Conservative party is the Liberal party. Well, we’ve heard this in the past and as in the past this tactic appears to be working. It’s the appeal of the “status quo” to the dumb and witless rather than a support for real change. To be shed of Stephen Harper is a goal I easily support, but not the method offered. Strategic voting is dishonest and anti-democratic; it plays on fear and asks you to set aside your beliefs and hopes and to support a choice contrary to your own. In other words, they are asking you to vote for someone you believe may be second best at best. They obviously don’t think much of you or your opinion. But then, if you buy into their arguments, you don’t either.

In the 2011 elections, there were 308 seats. Conservatives won 159 seats, the NDP 95 and the Liberals 36. That the Conservatives could win the majority of seats with just 39% of the vote should alarm us all. Yet it apparently doesn’t. It does bother Elizabeth May and the Greens who support Proportional Representation. It also bothers Thomas Mulcair and NDP who also say they will bring in PR. Even Trudeau made noise about offering some kind of electoral reform. We know where the Conservatives stand on this. While the Liberals talk, chances are they will do nothing to change from first-past-the-post. Why would anyone feel emboldened to make changes to a system that works to his advantage? It may be the decent thing to do, the just thing to do, but who wins by being decent or just? The voters? Who cares about them once the election is over? One can always make the same promise the next time we go to the polls.

So why would anyone support something he or she does not really believe in? Not only do we risk getting a government we do not necessarily believe in, we may elect candidates we really believe incompetent. Going second best is surrender not victory even if it does remove Harper and his gang. Look at the numbers. While it’s true in theory the parties all start at zero seats during an election, realistically, they do not. There is something about incumbency. If nothing has happened to change your opinion of the opposition parties, what is the motivation for voting against your first choice for second best, from NDP to Liberal? In fact, with more candidates with experience as MPs, it makes more sense to support the NDP than to vote for Liberals. Assuming the vote for incumbents held, it would be much easier for the NDP to gain the extra seats to make the majority of 170 from 95 seats than it would be for the Liberals from 36 seats. Of course, for all parties there will be gains and losses but, if voters kept to their votes and preferences and those wafflers who claim to want to cast their ballots for the NDP actually did so, there would be no reason for Canadians to be restricted to another round of Liberals and Conservatives as we have been since the first vote over 140 years ago.

Voting Liberal is not a vote for change. It’s a vote for the same old same old. The party’s past history of corruption, cronyism and incompetency has proven them to be no more trustworthy than the Conservative party they replaced the same corrupt, dirty, petty, mean-minded, punitive, vicious, and anti-democratic party that, in turn, replaced them under the Harper banner. Different leaders, same parties.

If people succumb to the fear factor outlined by those parties advocating strategic voting, they are succumbing to the same kind of fear as those who will cast their votes for the Harper gang. In doing so, the frightened and ignorant will have extended the reign that excludes the possibility of true democracy and inclusion. They will have validated the continuance of the revolving door that only allows admittance to two parties. Is that what we want? Voting NDP or Green is not a wasted vote. It’s liberation, the smashing of chains that says, at last, you can and will make a difference. You just have to believe and then act.

Strategic voting? It’s for the dumb, witless and frightened, a strategy offered by con men and connivers who believe in nothing but power and the gullibility of voters.

UPDATE: October 15, 2015

Shortly after I published this post came news of the resignation of the Liberal national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, following reports of his efforts via email to assist those involved in the Energy East pipeline project by offering detailed instructions of how and when to lobby a minority government led by Trudeau. Does anyone recall the sponsorship scandal? That’s the scandal that got rid of the Liberals and gave us Harper. Yeah, vote strategically, vote Liberal and when you’ve had enough vote Conservative and keep repeating this until the end of time. Why go for something new when you know what you’ve got and what you’ll get. Don’t vote for real change. And don’t you dare take a chance with the NDP because you never know what you’ll get. Why risk the possibility of something foreign and new, the possibility that the NDP might actually provide good, open, honest government? Go with what you have and with what you know, cronyism, corruption, padded expense bills, corporate lobbying, members of parliament in corporate pockets. Vote Liberal, vote Conservative, and repeat it forever and hope for different outcomes each time. Prove your insanity. Why bother with real change? Everyone wins except the ordinary citizen of Canada. Happy days are here again!

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

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

STEPHEN AND JUSTIN: BILL C-51, OPPORTUNISM AND SUBMISSION IN THE AGE OF FEAR

A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterwards. – John Paul Richter

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his convictions. – Robert G. Ingersoll

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

When Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in April, 2013, some sneered at the Liberals dismissing their choice merely as a shallow, photogenic youngster, inexperienced and riding on the coattails of his father’s name. For the Liberals, however, that was enough: they had a winner and they knew it.

The goal, of course, is to attract new, younger voters to the Liberal fold. In the age of superficiality, of selfies and narcissism, it was hardly necessary that those drawn to the Liberals be particularly knowledgeable; the draw was all that mattered, someone young, handsome, articulate, and charismatic: he was one of them, he understood them, he knew where they were coming from: besides, he was cute, had great hair, and had won much admiration for defeating the brash, handsome, controversial Conservative Senator, Patrick Brazeau, in a charity boxing match when the odds had the senator wiping the floor with the lanky Liberal MP. Too, it did not hurt that his deceased father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Liberal and Prime Minister, larger than life and polarizing at the time, was still enough of a draw to earn some support from the elderly, those who harken back to the days of the late 60s and 70s and early 80s through the prism of nostalgia: memories not of what was but rather of what should have been. Compelling, charming, abrasive, intellectual, dashing, reckless, Trudeau père had married a vivacious, slightly insecure, and much younger woman, perhaps not quite up to his intellectual capabilities, but she was beautiful, endearing, fun loving, and naïve if a bit reckless and self-destructive. They had three children, all boys, the perfect family if briefly with it’s share of grief, a disintegrating marriage and later the death of the youngest at 23. It is not surprising that among Liberal supporters today, women outnumber the men.

Unfortunately, memory is an unreliable friend, the Trudeau era no Camelot. While it is true Pierre Trudeau gave us the Canada Act which included the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, we also had the FLQ and the October Crisis in1970 that clearly delineated a leader who, in the name of public security, squandered his reputation as a lifelong advocate of civil rights by placing the nation in lockdown with the imposition of the War Measures Act. The following excerpt of a seven-minute exchange with CBC’s Tim Rafe did nothing to help:

Trudeau: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is ‘go on and bleed’ but it’s more important to keep law and order than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of…”

Rafe: “At any cost, any price? How far would you go? To what extent?”

Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.” (CBC Digital Archive)

It looked good to the timid, easily swayed and easily frightened, showcasing a leader at his best and worst and who was prepared to act decisively and at any cost. But not all were impressed. Imposition of the Act was akin was akin to “using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut” quipped NDP leader Tommy Douglas

So here we are 44 and 45 years later, this time with the Conservatives leading the government and another Trudeau leading the Liberal party. Again, to hear how Harper and his gang tell it, Canada is besieged, in crisis, its citizens in direct danger not just because of the lickspittle, anti-Conservative media or an “activist” (i.e., anti-Conservative) Supreme Court, and not just from the murderers and mad dogs roaming our streets: terrorists are everywhere and they are pounding on Canada’s doors. Those who downplay those fears as alarmist and extreme urging caution in how we react are dismissed with innuendo their loyalty questioned.

It should surprise no one that a government, particularly one as secretive, mean-spirited and anti-democratic as this one, would play to our nightmares and appeal to our bigotry during its slumping fortunes. It’s been done before. But how far is Harper willing to go?

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

Long before ISIL entered the scene, Harper and his party have proven themselves quite willing to label critics in the environmental movement as radicals, stooges for foreign interests. Government employees have been fired, threatened with jail time, stonewalled, smeared, their reputations tarnished and medical records leaked. We have Conservative McCarthyite Mark Adler offering a bill that would require employees of watchdog agencies to swear loyalty oaths; employment will no longer be based on merit but on which political party you supported, or worked for years ago. If that passes, cronyism as played by Peter MacKay will be commonplace and accepted practice. But of what is this government afraid that it works to deceive Canadians by means of such dirty tricks, the frequent attempts to slip in spying legislation into omnibus bills and, when caught, hurling charges accusing critics of “siding with pornographers”.

Crime has always been a good bet for Conservatives, always eager to feed the fears, ignore the facts, and give the public what it wants: punish, punish, punish, one size fits all. The world is dangerous, full of bad guys and no one is redeemable except, perhaps, those Conservatives who subvert electoral rules, hold secret, illegal, fundraising events and pad their expenses.

But these days, even get-tough-on-crime measures aren’t enough. So thank God for ISIL and those horrific images of mass slaughters and videos of beheadings and a burning offering Harper and his Conservatives glimmerings of how they could reverse their sliding fortunes in time for the next election. Without debate, discussion or consultation, Harper joins coalition forces and involves Canada in the war in Iraq with the promise Canadian soldiers would play strictly advisory and support roles. The public approved, his fortunes immediately rose. Where was the downside in joining the forces of good to stop those Islamic monsters?

But, if the boost wasn’t as much as Harper expected or wanted, the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent shortly after allowed him to quickly frame the narrative and raise the spectre of terrorism. The death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill two days later, in a separate incident, was a godsend lending credence to the speculation and giving him an extra bounce after Canadians watched events unfold on Parliament Hill on television while media wildly fuelled speculation about the number of gunmen and victims. The initial confusion and reaction is understandable. However, Harper’s exploitation of the tragedies, working up hysteria to win public support for new, draconian, anti-terrorism legislation for his own political ends, is not.

And if all this helped Harper, the war, the deaths of two fine men, how much more could he have gained if, when reports came out of Canadian soldiers engaging ISIL in combat, one or two Canadian casualties were added. He could throw that into the campaign speeches he’s been giving across the country for an election yet to be declared, evoking jihadists with every other word and having us imagine the rest: bloodthirsty savages slathering at our doors wielding bloodied knives and leaving behind a trail of headless corpses. Still, even without dead Canadian soldiers in Iraq, he’s doing well. Almost daily we hear reports of more arrests, of plots foiled. My God, we are under siege!

So it’s working, this pandering to our fears and emotions, providing impetus for Harper’s Bill C-51, the new anti-terrorist legislation, with no public blowback and with little to no resistance from the opposition, particularly the Trudeau Liberals who have promised to vote for the bill regardless of its shortcomings. When the bill passes, and it will, CSIS will be given broader powers without any parliamentary oversight. Harper doesn’t trust the opposition members we elect and do. In fact, oversight will be almost none existent, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), an “independent” government agency empowered to investigate and review CSIS, has proven itself ineffective, it’s members government hack appointees and itself prone to controversy with chairs Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, forced to resign in 2014 for lobbying activities and Arthur Porter (2008-2011), facing charges for fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, receiving secret commissions, and money laundering while also in the role of director general for McGill University Health Centre.

The bill is dangerous with real potential for abuse. So why is Justin Trudeau so eager to sign off on it? There are no terms of reference. Who defines what makes a terrorist or a criminal act. The Act prohibits “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism. But how are these terms defined? As Terry Glavin pointed out (Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 12, 2015), C-51 is not just about terrorism. Unions and activists will almost certainly be targeted, as they have been, if their actions have a negative economic impact, as when a union strikes or environmentalists set up roadblocks. Would these be deemed acts of terrorism? Almost certainly with this government. Bill C-51 grants CSIS sweeping powers to arrest and detain without warrant and for longer periods, allows CSIS to shut down Internet access of whomever it deems a threat, and denies accused individuals the opportunity of facing their accusers. This is not a bill for a free democracy but for a nation governed by an iron fisted despot.

Is this what Trudeau is willing to sign off on? How far is he willing to let Harper go?

SPY VS. CITIZEN

It’s easy to understand Harper’s motive for putting this forward. He is a demagogue, he is anti-democratic, his is the interest of corporate kleptocracy not the fair and just society that Pierre Trudeau talked about and then abandoned when it suited his needs.

As I stated many times, Harper and his gang are not above smearing their opponents. In trying to rally voters to his side, in whipping up the vision of terrorists banging on our doors, no one should be surprised that Harper resorts to planting the seed of the big, insidious and invidious lie: those who do not support him are against him. By itself, if used only in the rhetoric of campaigning, one party against another party, that may not seem so bad. But when used in the context of war, terrorism and electioneering for the purpose of stigmatizing opponents, of casting doubts to their loyalty, it becomes a weapon of potent danger. Only someone small, vicious, and corrupt would impugn another’s name and honour by questioning his loyalty, doubting his patriotism and by suggesting he supports the enemy in the full knowledge that it is not true simply to score cheap political points. Harper and gang are doing it now. Even as recently as today (February 17th), Harper was sowing division when, in a French-language interview, he said many employees of CBC’s French-language network, Radio-Canada, “hated” Conservative values. If by that he means his values, he may be right; I know I loathe them. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are swallowing that Harper poison. It’s not true, it’s not fair, and it’s destructive not just to the individual affected but also to society at large.

But how does one respond to the vicious smears, the innuendoes and the politics of division when there is always a whole population of the ignorant, bigoted and plain stupid ready to drink from the tainted Harper well?

A federal court recently ruled that Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim, should be allowed to wear her niqab while taking the oath of citizenship. Harper’s response before a gathering of faithful dolts was swift appealing to the lowest aspect of our nature. “I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family. This is a society that is transparent, open and people are equal.” It was a vicious statement, one of division and intolerance, meant to inflame, to isolate and to stigmatize the woman and her community by suggesting with the use of the word “hide” that there was a more sinister aspect behind her desire to wear the niqab. The niqab and burkha are not religious requirements but some Muslims have interpreted the Qur’an’s admonition for modesty as such. However, Zunera Ishaq stated she was quite willing to unveil herself before a government official but not to be unmasked in public. This should satisfy us. Not so for Harper. He must plant that vile seed of mistrust and suspicion. Personally, I would prefer to see the face of my fellow citizens and would wish newcomers embrace our mores. But I have family members who are unhappy that I wear T-shirts only instead of buttoned shirts, even at family celebrations and funerals. That Zunera Ishaq prefers to wear a niqab makes her no more suspect than wearing a T-shirt makes me a redneck. As well, the last part of the statement caused me to smile. Harper’s regime is as closed, secretive, distrustful, petty and vengeful as any tinpot dictator’s. He has invoked closure, refused to consult with opposition members, attempted to slip laws into omnibus bills, subverted electoral laws, engaged in cronyism, and thrown those no longer useful to him under the bus. As for being equal…tell that to the single parent who may want to know why she or he has been left out in the cold while the well-off become even richer by an extra $2,000 thanks to Harper’s income splitting bill. Tell that to the Canadian worker who has been replaced by a foreign worker thanks to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program or to the low income earners whose wages have been suppressed as a result of the united efforts of Harper’s gang and big business.

The storyline Harper has framed is deeply disturbing. It does him no credit and it does Trudeau no credit when he appears to buy into it.

What has happened to the Liberal Party? Well, nothing really. It’s the same ole’ same ole’ not the new and better Justin promised. As has Harper, Trudeau has proven himself as venal as any cheap politician though, as one wit noted, there is no such thing as a cheap politician.

So it’s a tossup with the voters who cannot seem to count above two: Conservatives or Liberals, Liberals or Conservatives. It is as if the two parties, with public consent, really do believe they are entitled to rule by divine right. To the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP as official opposition is merely an aberration so they work together in the secretive Board of Internal Economy to temporarily change the rules in hopes of financially destroying the NDP for engaging in what they all do with taxpayer funded mailouts.

BACK TO THE WHIZ KID AND HIS STORY OF NEW LOVE, ETC.

So what do Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have to offer that is new and different from Harper and his gang?

Well, very little, as it turns out.

In August of last year, he said, “A Liberal government will ensure that every Canadian is included….My vision is for a strong, united Canada and for a strong, respectful government.” We’ve heard that speech before. “Inclusion”, “openness”, “transparency”, “honesty”, are the buzzwords. And that’s the problem, they’re just buzzwords. After almost ten years of governance, suffused with an inflated image of himself as an economic mastermind, Harper has long ago proven himself a failure in every way. Integrity? None. Honesty? None. Openness? Nope. Truthful? Economic genius? Who is kidding whom?

Early in his term, we saw how it would be with Trudeau. He spent more time working the crowd than working in the House. Except for Elizabeth May, who does not get to ask questions in the House every day, none of the leaders have a stellar record of attendance during question period, “once considered a crucible of democratic debate in Canada, but now increasingly heavily scripted political theatre” (Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 30, 2014). Of 125 question period sessions in 2014, Thomas Mulcair attended 74, while Trudeau, with 49 appearances vied with Harper’s 46 in the race to trivialize and diminish Parliament. On that basis alone, there is no reason to vote for either Harper or Trudeau. For the record, May’s attendance was 100 out of 125 question period sessions.

In January of 2014, Trudeau boldly booted 32 Liberal senators from his caucus. The move came in the wake of the Senate scandals and while clever and unexpected, was perhaps meant more to show that Trudeau, young and inexperienced as he was, could be as decisive and brutal as anyone when necessary. But what did it accomplish? If the ploy was to eliminate partisanship in the Senate, what did it do for the House? How do you tell a life-long believer and member he is no longer a Liberal? Just as easy order a member of Harper’s gang to develop ethics.

And while he has proven himself as adapt as Harper in flexing his muscles, can Trudeau really be trusted to keep to his promises? Well…no. Remember his much ballyhooed open, free from political interference nominations promise? That proved a bust from the start with allegations of Trudeau publicly supporting some nominees and blocking others, of changing rules and membership cutoff dates behind closed doors. New, different, better? Hardly.

So, if quite not all he promised, if slow in unveiling some of his platform and less than open in some of his actions, it is true he still has a way to go in matching Harper in pettiness, ruthlessness, vindictiveness, and hypocrisy; that will likely come with time, the hardness and meanness, though I do not really believe Trudeau will ever develop the taste Harper has for wallowing in the sewer. Even so, Trudeau has shown himself able to surprise and, in doing so, of occasionally being remarkably reckless and as opportunistic as any old pro when, as recently as February 9, he made an appearance at a news conference with Eve Adams trailing behind him. Was this a joke? Apparently not. It did, however, elicit as much conversation as John Baird’s sudden departure a few days earlier. What was Trudeau thinking?

The loss of Baird, capable, partisan, and adroit as he was, is certainly more significant for Harper than that of Adams but the damage to Trudeau in embracing the defector may be greater. Which may explain why the Conservatives are still rubbing their hands and smiling. Not only had they rid themselves of a troublesome and toxic MP, Trudeau had, in welcoming her to his party, proved himself truly lacking in judgement. If he had failed to recognize the move by Adams for what it was, the last desperate gasp to salvage her political career and fulfill her personal ambitions, other Liberals did. If he had been under the perception he had made a coup, it is not all that surprising Trudeau would spring Adam’s defection before a clearly shocked media; what was surprising is that he would also spring it on his own supporters. It quickly became apparent that only a few members of his inner circle knew about Adams’s sudden conversion to the Liberal fold. Had more been informed, Trudeau may have been persuaded to withdraw the welcome mat thus saving him from embarrassment over the unseemly show. His failure to understand she was no great prize, certainly not of the calibre of John Baird, and that she had nothing to offer, in fact, might prove a liability, poses a real problem for him and the Liberal Party. How could he not see that Adams, by her own reckoning “25 years a ‘progressive’ conservative’”, was not a good fit for his goal of rebranding the Liberals as united, inclusive, honest, open and transparent? Had the ambitious Adams snookered an opportunistic Trudeau? Maybe. Other than baggage, what does she bring? More than one reference has been made of her telegenic looks. Is that the sum of her gifts? Well, turn about is fair play; the same has been said of Trudeau. I can just see it, Trudeau on the hustings, smugly offering platitudes while the cameras frantically shift from Adams to Trudeau to Adams ad nauseam: who cares about substance when you’ve got all that beauty? But, really, did Trudeau even pause to reflect?

Just days before her defection, she stood in the House staunchly defending the government in her role as parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Yet, as she and Trudeau sat side-by-side facing the media, she was able to claim without offering so much as a smirk that, “after a long and very difficult period of reflection” she could no longer support Harper’s “divisive”, “mean-spirited” leadership. It was enough to make one cringe. She also wanted to “better the lives of all Canadians.” Well, one Canadian in particular. “We need a kind, generous and strong leadership that champions shared vision for how to made Canada work for anyone,” she went on to say. Of income splitting, she had these words, “As a government, we were given a tremendous opportunity with the purported surplus to do right by folks. Instead the government is still about to roll out policies like income splitting which will devour the surplus without benefiting most Canadian families or creating a single job….I cannot support mean-spirited measures that benefit only the richest few.” As if this was news to her! Yet, in December 2014, she was loudly and extravagantly praising income splitting in the House, calling it a “simple, time-tested plan” and suggesting that all families would be better off.

Which is the real Eve Adams? I guess the phoney one.

But it is for her achievements outside of the House for which she has drawn most attention and which should have given Trudeau reason to pause if her 25 years as a Conservative wasn’t reason enough. During the 2011 election, Adams attempted to claim $2,777 in personal expenses including spa treatments and dry-cleaning costs. In December of 2013, she was caught on camera blocking cars at the pumps of an Ottawa Esso station throwing a hissy fit over a $6 carwash. There were allegations of misconduct against her and fiancé Dimitri Soudas with accusations they had paid for party memberships to build support for her nomination bid for the new federal riding of Oakville-North Burlington. As well, Soudas, a confidant of Harper’s and executive director in the PMO, was ordered by Harper not to interfere in Adams’s campaign. He did and was fired. In March of 2014, Adams angered a crowd of Conservatives attending a board meeting in the Oakville-North Burlington riding. She was asked to leave, she refused, more angry words before she finally left. When the Conservative Party finally cleared her to run in the riding, the party was forced to put a halt to the nomination process in order to investigate claims of dirty tactics by Adams and her opponent, Natalia Lishchyna. Due to an injury, which resulted in a concussion, Adams withdrew from the race in August. On February 9th 2015, Adams crossed the floor to join the Liberals. During the public unveiling, Adams neglected to reveal that, two weeks before, the Conservatives had informed her by letter she would not be allowed to run as a candidate for the Conservative Party. That was fine, the Conservatives were eager to help with that bit of news.

This is a woman of ambition who clearly feels entitled and doesn’t mind the perks while riding on the taxpayer dime. So what was the upside for Trudeau except to claim that he had poached a member from the Harper gang, a member who was already on the way out? This had all the hallmarks of gamesmanship as some have posited, nothing new, nothing different, certainly nothing better.

Now Adams had declared her intention to run against finance minister Joe Oliver in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. She would have to prove herself by “earning” the nomination in a process that would be free and open, Trudeau said. He said the same before and broke the promise in three other races. If Trudeau places a thumb on the scale in Adams favour, it could do irreparable harm to him with his own base. Some Liberals in the riding are already extremely unhappy with the idea of a parachute candidate and have made it clear they did not want nor would they support Adams. Is the risk of alienating lifelong Liberals worth it? Yes, if Adams turns giant killer by defeating Joe Oliver. But then Trudeau would be stuck with her, her overweening ambition and overwhelming sense of entitlement. If she lost, well, that’s one problem and one gigantic headache removed. But, what of the bitter aftertaste for those loyal, ignored, Liberals, Trudeau doing what all leaders apparently do all too often, opt for the expedience of one-upmanship, the cheap and easy short-term gain, lofty words and principles tossed aside for the photo-op, the telegenic booby prize. The same ole’ same ole’.

But it could be that Soudas, not Adams, is the real draw. As a close confidant of many years to Harper and as an insider in the PMO, he doubtlessly could provide much insight of Conservative strategy. But then, could he be trusted? Unlikely. He is poison, his career as a political insider surely over. And, if he did it all for love as some have suggested, even more foolish. If Adams loses, will true love conquer all?

While I have absolute contempt for the anti-democratic Harper and his Conservatives, with their anti-unionist/anti-worker/pro-business stance and would never, ever, vote for them, it is not to Justin Trudeau or the Liberals I would turn. I see too much in both that suggest they are brothers in spirit. Both will say and do anything to win the upper hand even sacrificing many traditional values that differentiates the parties. At one time the Liberal Party was proud to declare itself progressive, which suggested some support for individual rights and freedoms, for social and political reform. But that is gone by the wayside, winning and power the end game. Harper and Trudeau are two faces on the same coin and that is an unhappy thought. Interfering in riding association’s nominations and embracing Eve Adams and just two examples of Trudeau’s profound lack of judgement, blatant duplicity, and shameless equivocal scruples.

Yet it is his declared intention to support Bill C-51 that is most offensive and puts the lie to the Liberal brand of old. His father did the same. Trudeau has surrendered to Harper and his gang to such an extent that he has allowed Harper to define him. At least Pierre Trudeau was his own man. We do not need more anti-crime, anti-terrorist legislation. We do not need a police state. But that is what we will end with if Harper continues as he has and refuses to allow for parliamentary oversight and amendments to the bill. Of all the leaders, Elizabeth May, as of this writing, has been the only voice foursquare opposed to C-51. For that, I applaud her. The bill is vile, it is dangerous, it is contemptible. Those who support it are opportunists, stooges, and/or cowards. The new bill will almost certainly result in abuses and be taken to the highest court and likely struck down.

Trudeau says he will support the anti-terrorist bill. The NDP appears to be leaning against support but have yet to declare themselves decisively. I hope they do vote against it. It will pass, regardless, thanks to the Conservative majority, but I would hope there are some politicians who will see this bill for what it is and find a bit of backbone.

Those who oppose Bill C-51 are soft on terrorists. That will be the Harper spin and some will buy it. It will not be true, of course. Only a simpleton would believe that.

Any politician, and I mean any, who supports C-51 out of fear that voters will buy into the Harper narrative has already lost; they have allowed Harper to define and shape them. They will not have my vote but they will have earned my contempt.

Andrew Jackson said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

Think of that. Where do you stand? What kind of person are you?

***

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: THE COWARDLY LION

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. – Joseph Schumpeter

Idealists…foolish enough to throw caution to the winds…have advanced mankind and enriched the world. – Emma Goldman

Frank A. Pelaschuk

IS IT THAT TIME ALREADY?

You know Harper’s on the election trail when you see him tieless, checkered shirt unbuttoned at the neck, striding to and fro across a stage, his back to enthralled members of his caucus and playing to a camera and an unseen audience. His face glowing with the exultation of an ecstatic, he enumerates his government’s “achievements” loudly trumpeting that Canada is the envy of the world and Canadians are better off than ever under his leadership.

He’s talking to those whom you would think would know but, of course, he’s aware of the camera, it’s not to them he and his caucus are playing. One thing is certain, he has introduced an Americanism that appears here to stay: campaigning early and in earnest one full year before Canadian’s next go to the polls. That is if he keeps to his own fixed election agenda and doesn’t go sooner than the October 19, 2015 date. With this gang, one never knows; since he introduced the fixed dates, Harper’s never adhered to it. With the Mike Duffy trial now set for April 7, 2015 and the very real possibility of embarrassing revelations, voters might wonder if they can expect more of the same.

Maybe we do know after all.

Regardless of when, from now to the election, we are about to be flooded with even more of the triumphalist rodomontade, bombast, hypocrisy, lies, accusations, mudslinging, and bribery in the forms of taxpayer funded ads, hysterical hyperbolic speeches and shiny promises of tax cuts and a few other incidental baubles for the easily lead and the cheaply bought. Watching Harper work his MPs on the first day of the fall session (September 15, 2014), one cannot doubt his enthusiasm though he gives the impression of anxiety as he spins the Conservative mythology; he believes and wants us to as well: theirs is the best, wisest, and sanest government in the world and they are the best, wisest, and sanest money managers in the history of the mankind and he, Harper, is the best, wisest and sanest leader since time began. Clearly, and we must understand this, only he and his Conservatives can save us from the perils out there. Well, that is in their imaginings. All he really expects and wants of us, and many already have, is to park our minds, put them in neutral and swallow the swill holus-bolus. For some it’s a lot easier than for others.

Today, however, one senses something close to desperation, his declarations urgent, his warnings direr, Harper and his MPs making more appearances in the press though, it is true, Harper prefers to speak to the American press. Apparently he agrees with Senator Marjory LeBreton: the Canadian media is rife with lickspittle elites.

He’s worried, seems less convincing than as one trying to convince. Still, he looks more at ease then he does in that old picture of him wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest, hands on hips, his expression wary, shifty eyes shifted to his right, the smile a sickly grimace as if aware how dismal is his effort to appear one of the hoi polloi, a casual member of the masses. But that was a while back when he first sought to soften his image, to suggest that he was one of us, just regular folk, one who listens, cares. Did it work for you? To some, the transformation was convincing enough; he got his majority with less than 40% of the vote. So why does it seem, with all his claims to great achievement, the act of bonhomie does not come all that easily, that his exhortations appear a bit forced and his expression not all that inviting? Maybe it’s the cameras that intimidate. Whatever it is, there’s something false about it all, too stage crafted to appear natural and casual and convincing. He appears as comfortable as would the Duchess of Windsor mud wrestling before drunken males.

If Harper is running scared, and he should be given his propensity for secrecy, non-disclosure, bullying, ridiculing, smearing, and refusal to share information with Canadians and the opposition members who represent them, it is because he knows, come next election, he has a very good chance of losing to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. He certainly is not running scared because he has second thoughts about his policies or his goals, narrow to the extreme. He should, but he doesn’t nor do his supporters. Conservatives are not much given to second-guessing themselves; they are certainly not much given to reflection, to doubts. They are deaf to the voices of others, oh, no, not their friends, those lords and masters in industry or those generous donors to the Conservative coffers with off-shore accounts, but to the opposition members, the very people we elect to insure our interests are heard, considered and met. The sad fact is, the Harper gang, and that is what they are, thugs in suits, do not much care what we think: they have their majority. They believe their narrow base of core supporters will be enough and it well may be with the creation of thirty new gerrymandered ridings that will almost certainly garner them 22 more seats, provided the apocalypse doesn’t strike first or supporters switch on their brains. That will be a long wait.

SO WHO IS THE NEW(ISH) HOPE?

If Harper loses, and I hope he does and the whole gang are decimated to extinction, I am uncertain we will be better off even so; it will just be the Liberals swapping places and the NDP returning to their usual third place. It’s always been thus: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals. It’s a game chicken voters are too timid to end by trying something daring. Instead of booting both teams off the field and awarding the cup to the third team, Canadian voters would rather stick with the tried and true, the arrogant, cruel, corrupt and corruptible they already know and understand than risk the uncertainty of what they may believe competent and well-intentioned but fear because untested.

Untested. They would be wrong, of course. If any of them took the time to objectively watch the performances of the three parties in the House during Question Period, if they took the time and made the effort to fully appreciate how dismal the state of affairs has become, there is little effort required to discover this, they would know that the NDP is far from untested and, while imperfect in some ways, certainly has less baggage than the other two parties and is better placed to not only offer Canadians what we want but what we need: open, honest, ethical leadership.

It is not Justin Trudeau’s fault that he is young and relatively inexperienced, but it is that he is too eager in his ambitions to bide his time and gain seasoning before going for the leadership of the nation. Nor is it his fault that his name evokes rosy of flower children and Trudeaumania but false memories that gloss over the reality of the War Measures Act enacted by his father. Nor is it his fault that he is handsome and charismatic and draws the attention of the young and thoughtless who prefer celebrity to ideas or a clear vision. And it is not his fault a few of the old, perhaps harkening back to the days when they may have been “progressive’, will declare their vote for a change, something new, without really meaning it in the crunch, opting instead for the same ol’ same ol’. But it is his fault when he plays on these rather than offer Canadians valid reasons why he and his party would make a better choice to lead this nation.

If one watched Question Period in the House, he would note that Trudeau is absent more often than not, too busy raising funds and garnering support for his party. Too, he would note that, when Trudeau does make an appearance, he all too often throws his support to the Conservatives on such contentious issues as the Keystone XL pipeline or the Temporary Foreign Workers Program which allows companies to replace Canadian workers for foreign workers for less; Trudeau would tweak the program which allows for the suppression of wages rather than scrap it altogether as the NDP suggest. Too, without any apparent knowledge of what the full impact will be, Trudeau and the Liberals have thrown their support behind the secretive, costly free trade deal the Conservatives and the Chinese government cooked up over two years before ratifying it on September 9th. That’s when Canadians learned about the deal. What’s worse, the sellout takes effect this October 1st. That is three weeks after Canadian’s learned it was a done deal. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), locks Canada to it for 31 years and, according to experts, gives much to China, very little to Canada. The deal could cost Canadian taxpayers billions should China dispute a regulation any level of government might put in place that might place restrictions on how it conducts its business here. With their investments in the energy field, if they conduct business as they do in China, efforts to clean up the environment, which is already moving at glacial speed, thanks to the Harper gang who don’t believe it’s real, would be moot. FIPA is a Conservative effort conducted behind closed doors, with neither debate nor input from the opposition parties. While the NDP has called to put a stop to the deal before it takes effect, the Liberals have opted to support it without knowing what the full effect will be on Canada, the Canadian economy, and Canadians. If it was such a great deal for Canadians, why the secrecy, why the silence, why no debate? When Harper and gang are silent on a trade deal rather than shouting it from the rooftops, as is their wont, we should be prepared for the worst.

Trudeau seems a nice young man but surely we deserve better than this.

SO, IT WAS AN ELECTION, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

In 2006, Harper promised to usher in a “new era of accountability” if he was elected. He was, the promise broken, and the Conservatives laughing. Oh, that. That was just another election promise; surely Canadians knew that. If not, we quickly learned.

From the very first, Conservatives have openly and defiantly dismissed the concept of transparency when, in December of 2008, he prorogued Parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote when the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois joined forces threatening to defeat the budget. Since then, he has shut down Parliament, i.e., cut and ran, on three other occasions. That is one method of governance. Another is not to meet with Canadian media or to answer questions in the House by those people we elect to ask them. Harper and his gang have turned this form of governance into farce at times resembling performance art worthy of Dadaism if not a monkey house. Harper and his gang have made a mockery, not only of their offices, but also of the parliamentary process and of those who vote for them.

I don’t know about those who support the Conservatives, but I believe in democracy, in the right of citizens to be informed and believe that governments must be held accountable; that includes answering questions put to them in the House. Harper and gang flatly disagree routinely resorting to non-sequiturs, fingerpointing, evasion, diversion, derision, outright lying, and just acting up. And this is the sanest government in the world?

However offensive their antics and stubborn in their refusal to be accountable, it quickly becomes apparent that they are not indifferent stewards of our nation; no, they are too far gone for that. Theirs is the mindset of the corporatocracy; they govern on the behest of corporate interests in the core belief that it is business and money that keeps the world moving and that anything can and should be bought and sold for gain. They have long ago become corrupted by power and by the desire to cling to it. While their ideology may lead them to reject the Darwinism of evolution, they are not averse to passing legislation to make it easier for industry with their distorted free enterprising Darwinism of survival of the fittest. If the Conservatives were absolutely free to do what they would, they would doff their hats and sing in the streets, “Anything Goes”. They have become fixated with creating surpluses, selling off Canadian resources and cutting corporate taxes at the expense of public service jobs, social programs, our infrastructures and the environment. Let the next generation worry about the devastation left in their wake.

They talk about tax cuts, boasting of it how much they have saved consumers while thinking nothing of spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on ads informing us, much of it on Facebook! Really.

While Harper and John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, strut upon the world stage loudly and belligerently trumpeting their support of Israel and Ukraine, condemning Russia’s incursion into the Crimea, and hedge their bets on Iraq, they do so ignoring the screaming voices demanding answers and declaring them all bluster and hot air hoping the public will not notice. Yes, their voices are loud, but the sabres they rattle are very, very small plastic toothpicks indeed.

Talk and noise, while allowing our military resources to suffer greatly. Our men and women are ill equipped with old, out-dated gear. Half of Canada’s Naval ships are either being repaired or sold for scrap. The four used British submarines purchased 20 years ago have never properly performed and have been in constant repair. Canada’s air force C-18 planes are due for retirement in 2020. Unfortunately, the F-35s, upon which the government has set it’s sights while deceiving the public as to the real costs, will not be ready by that date. Remember Harper and MacKay campaigning, feuding with the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, regarding the true costs of those Cadillac of jets? Harper and MacKay boasted the figure was only $9 billion for 65 jets. Page disputed this saying the figures were closer to $45 billion. Harper and gang refused to show him the books, preferring instead to smear Page and his reputation and refusing to renew his contract. To this date, the true costs remain unknown though $45 billion appears to be the number many critics have settled on though some claim a much higher number: $125 billion. Nevertheless, the Conservatives won the vote. But, if that, if the misleading numbers regarding the F-35s doesn’t rile you, this might. Search and rescue has taken a beating; there was a time, I don’t know if it still applies, when someone needing help found himself talking to a call centre in Spain! The Search and Rescue team are saddled with obsolete planes that daily imperil our brave responders. Shockingly, it was recently revealed the Royal Canadian Air Force had to raid the aviation museum in Trenton for parts for its search and rescue planes. Scavenging for parts when the Harper gang spend millions advertising programs that don’t even exist! Lord help us. Lord help those poor folks who must rely on those planes.

Yeah, Harper and gang are the best and wisest money managers in the world; just ask them. They’ll tell you.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Harper’s is a government of loudmouths and blowhards. Harper talks tough, and he is, when it comes to civil servants, to the poor, elderly and young. It’s easy when you’re a coward and a bully and your opponent is defenseless. But he’s not so tough with his corporate friends who don’t pay their fair share, who hide funds offshore, as if they didn’t pay little enough as it is; indeed one gets the impression that the Harper gang plots with their business friends to suppress low income wages by replacing Canadian with foreign workers.

They are monsters of indifference not only when it comes to ethics, transparency, but also in how little respect they hold for voters, opposition members and for the House itself.

This week, Harper was in the United States. He was in New York but not attending the UN Summit on Climate Change (he could not care less). One hundred and twenty-five world leaders were in attendance. President Obama was there. Not Harper. After losing Canada a seat on the UN Security Council, after years of trashing the UN itself, after four years of shunning the opportunity to speak at the Assembly, he was there, finally, to give a speech. An election must be approaching. But he was not there to speak on climate change, terrorism or Canada’s role in Iraq. No, he was there to speak on something totally different, laudable and important: combatting preventable deaths of mothers and children. However, he undermines his own message somewhat with his government’s denial of funding to charities practicing family planning, including abortion for war rape victims and child brides forced into marriages in these war-ravaged, poverty-stricken areas of the world. He further diminishes his message by outlining his solution to preventable deaths of mothers and children by pushing the same message he does at home: Free enterprise. For Harper, everything is reducible to free trade and the free flow of capital. Prosperity and wealthy will naturally follow. He can’t give it a rest. Even doing the right thing, like saving lives, must be monetized.

Just prior to that, he attended an event sponsored by Goldman Sachs answering questions by a Wall St. Journalist. It was only then, on foreign soil, before a foreign press, that Canadians learned that Obama had sent Harper a letter requesting more help in combatting ISIL. We already have 69 “advisors” in Iraq whose presence there would be evaluated after 30 days. Harper stated he would consider the request after consulting with his cabinet. There is nothing in that appearance about seeking advice from the opposition or debate or holding a vote. What is very disturbing about this is that Canadians and their representatives did not learn of this first; they had to hear it from foreign journalists on foreign soil. Too, CTV reported on the late evening National News September 25th, the story didn’t quite unfold that way. According to the report, sources from the White House stated it was Harper who approached the President, writing to ask in what way Canada could help. This may appear small, and it is, but, if true, says something about Harper’s character, which would surprise no one following him. By having one of the most important leaders on the world stage turn to him for assistance, Harper inflates his own significance in hopes of convincing Canadians that he is, indeed, a world player. This is typical Harper. As is his making of significant announcements when he is out of the country because he is too cowardly to face his Canadian audience and because he has determined that the Canadian media is out to get him (all that is except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong).

While Harper was in New York, and before his conference in the with the press, Thomas Mulcair, at home, struggled for two days to get answers to legitimate questions: How long would those 69 advisors be in Iraq; when did the 30 day evaluation period begin and when would it end; would Canada be asked to do more; would there be feet on the ground in Iraq? Canadians have every right to know the answers to these questions. Well, not so according to Harper’s Conservatives.

When Mulcair posed these questions in the House, Paul Calandra, either Harper’s immoderately idiotic parliamentary secretary or Harper’s voluntary whipping boy and sacrificial lamb, responded on behalf of the government for the absent Harper. He stood up and read from a script a reply that had nothing to do with the question but would have done Lewis Carroll proud. After several more attempts to get a straight answer to direct questions, Calandra responded in the same ridiculous vein reading from the same sheet of paper. Mulcair, angry now, addressed the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, pointing out he had an obligation to enforce rules and compel government members to respond to questions put to them. When Mulcair once again tried to get an answer from the government side, Calandra again read from the script, prompting an exasperated Mulcair to address the Speaker with this: “Well, Mr. Speaker, that does not speak favourably about your neutrality in this House.” Scheer immediately retaliated by denying Mulcair the final question to which he was entitled, moving on to the third party leader, Justin Trudeau.

All this happened on September 23, before Harper spoke to the American press and before his speech in the UN. That evening, on CBC’s Power and Politics, Conservative James Bezan laughed off the episode with a dismissive and well-worn phrase, “It’s called question period, not answer period”! If that is not contempt for Parliament, nothing is. Pardon my naiveté, but I expect an answer when a Member of Parliament puts a question to the governing party. The next day, Scheer responded to Mulcair’s charge, saying there was nothing he could do, that, if members wanted to change the way things are done, they would have to do it themselves. He could not, he said, direct the question nor direct a response. Then he repeated the same facetious line Bezan had the day before, “That’s why it’s call question period, not answer period”! That Scheer said this with a smirk should have made the blood of all Canadian’s boil. This from the Speaker of the House who is supposed to be neutral. Immediately after Scheer spoke, both Conservative and Liberal members stood up and gave Scheer a standing ovation! To their credit, the NDP kept to their seats.

If it is as Scheer states, if it’s true his hands are tied, then perhaps it is time the Speaker be given more power to ensure that government response are relevant to the questions posed. As it stands, his function is little more than to rise and shout over the bedlam, “Order. Order!” If one of his duties is to impose decorum, he has failed miserably. Since Scheer has become Speaker, all pretence to decorum in the House has vanished. Is he really that weak, that powerless? I think not. I sense that the Conservatives feel emboldened to make Asses of themselves because Scheer has taken the easy route; he simply washed his hands of the matter and Question Period. His neutrality has been questioned in the past as when he sat for two weeks on requests by Elections Canada to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan for not filling out proper expense claims during the 2011 campaign. Both finally did so, Glover when learning she was to be promoted and Bezan with claims to having been “vindicated” after he submitted an accurate report and Elections Canada dropped the matter.

What we are witnessing in the House today is a perversion of democracy, a mockery wherein government members could as easily be baboons for all their antics and their non-responses. For this, I blame Stephen Harper and his gang. It’s not entertaining except, it seems to the Conservative members, who jump up and enthusiastically applaud and thump each other on the back whenever Harper or one of his members opens his or her mouth to offer a non-response or, when someone like Calandra, the sacrificial Fool in the House, likely acting on instruction from Harper’s handlers, retorts with nonsensical innuendo by reading from a script in hopes of smearing the opposition NDP with something so obscure that even most Conservative members don’t know what’s going on. These are apes enamoured by their own idiocy. I am not amused nor should you be. If Question Period in the House does not give members of the public answers to their concerns, it does give them ample opportunity to witness for themselves how completely underserving Harper and his gang are of holding public office. They certainly don’t deserve the pay and the padded expense accounts.

Scheer, too, must be held accountable for much of antics we see in the House. He has lost or surrendered control of the House. He could censure members who refuse to offer responses relevant to the questions put to them by naming them or having them removed. He can do the same when government members evade, obfuscate, lie or ignore the question altogether. As it stands now, he has washed his hands of the whole affair and refuses to accept responsibility. We all are familiar with that story. It’s a spectacle unworthy of those who have the nerve to call themselves Parliamentarians. Something needs to be done; somehow, someway, the Speaker’s role must be enhanced and his partisanship eliminated as much as possible. But members of parliament, too, must change. They are not answerable to their party or their leader but they are to the people.

If the behaviour in Parliament we have been subjected to doesn’t repel you, nothing will; you are indifferent to ethics, to democracy and deserve the contempt of all those who do believe governments must be accountable to those who elect them. When the Speaker of the House simply shrugs his shoulders and repeats a silly statement that is specious and dishonest, you can only despair. Is this what we expect from our leaders? Do we not deserve better?

One can almost forgive Calandra if his was the only act of buffoonery and he was dumb enough to offer himself for the role assigned by Harper; if he was acting under instructions, he should simply have said, “No”. Why would anyone set himself up to be the laughingstock of Canada?

Interestingly, the next day, perhaps realizing that the Calandra show might have gone too far, the Minister of Defence at least made an attempt to appear as if he was answering questions on Canadian troops in Iraq while in fact not doing so. The result is the same and just as bad, just as offensive and yet better than what we witnessed the day before. Today, September 26, even as I am writing this, Paul Calandra, teary-eyed and voice breaking, stood up and apologized to the House.

Too late.

Perhaps it was from the backlash from the public. Perhaps his own fellow Conservatives were embarrassed. Nevertheless, too late.

Shame on Stephen Harper and his government.

Democratically elected, the Harper Conservatives are absolutely the least democratic party in the past few decades. By their very behaviour in the House, they have degraded Parliament and threaten our democracy. They are unworthy of this country, of our support, and of our trust; they have consistently and persistently degraded their positions with the élan of monkeys and the truly stupid, cruel and thoughtless: Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre, Kellie Leitch, Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, Chris Alexander, Brad Butt, Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Leona Aglukkaq, Colin Carrie, Andrew Scheer, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Jason Kenney, John Baird, and, of course, Stephen Harper are the most notable wallowing in that foul swamp.

These are the people you folks want in office?

Even greater shame on you.

Yes, yes, and yes again…they belong in the trashcan of history.

***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND JUSTIN TRUDEAU: TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE AT WAR

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

    Agreed to have a battle;

For Tweedledum said Tweedledee

    Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,

    As black as a tar-barrel;

Which frightened both the heroes so,

    They quite forgot their quarrel

                        – Lewis Carroll

I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others. – Thomas Jefferson

Our inequality materializes our upper classes, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class. – Mathew Arnold

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE SLAUGHTER

For some, Justin Trudeau’s sudden and totally surprising decision to expel the 32 liberal senators from the federal liberal caucus at the end of January, following months after his announcement that MPs would post expense travel and hospitality claims, was the clearest evidence to them that he had the true makings of a leader: he could keep a secret, make decisions, and act upon them in a ruthless fashion. Others are not so sure. It was true the move took almost everyone by surprise, not only because of its brutal suddenness, but also because of its sweeping implication of indictment, judgement and verdict: none of the senators affected, most of them liberal loyalists to the core, were consulted, and all were treated with equal shabbiness without regard to stature, status, and quality. Repudiated by Trudeau and the liberal party, tainted, Trudeau’s denials withstanding, apparently for drinking from the same public well poisoned by conservative Harper appointees Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and liberal Mac Harb, the senators were no longer welcome. Stunned, bloodied, tarred and abandoned by their own, still calling themselves liberals, they must have wondered what had hit them.

What was the message intended in that massive expulsion? Was it a George W. Bush moment, Trudeau saying, “I’m the decider” and flexing his muscles lest there be any doubt? Or was the move, as Trudeau suggests, the first step towards eliminating partisanship and returning the chamber to the days of sober second thought. Don’t bet on it. Some have offered that the move was merely a pre-emptive strike, in anticipation of the senate report to be released by the auditor general, Michael Ferguson, Trudeau’s desperate effort to dissociate himself and the liberal party from the seemingly endless Senate scandal in expectation that revelations would show that skimming from the public trough is not merely the purview of the three Harper appointees and the lone liberal prodigal. I would bet on that. Almost certainly, even if inadvertently, the move has effectively stigmatized the reputations of all liberal senators in the eyes of the public. What does Trudeau know or anticipate? It was neither right nor just but it was dam clever. The ball was thrown in Harper’s court. The buzz was immediate: “bombshell’ (National Post), “tactical masterstroke” (The Province). Trudeau was indeed the decider, the boss, the man in control. To Andrew Coyne, Trudeau “is the liberal party” (National Post, February 23, 2014). Some claimed it to be the most significant change to the senate since its inception. Bold it was; Trudeau had achieved the buzz he craved and needed; he had proven himself one tough bastard. Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP, the only party that has consistently sought the abolition of the Senate, had apparently been caught flatfooted. The gadflies, those lovers of eye candy over substance, were in love with Trudeau all over again, only more so; his ratings soared. He had done something exceptional; they just didn’t know what or its significance, but it looked and sounded good.

THE SPIN

Smearing and sacrificing others for one’s own ambition is not new in politics. Harper has made an art of such behaviour throwing scores of individuals under buses, some deserving, some not: if you’re not for them, you’re the enemy. Trudeau has not reached that stage; nevertheless, in aping Harper in the manner with which he dispatched the senators, he demonstrated that liberals and conservatives are both sides of the same coin, each as self-serving and as single-minded in the pursuit of raw power as the other: get in the way, you’re toast. If it’s legal, if it’s effective, if it’s headlines and boosts one’s image, anything goes. This is war; there are always casualties.

From the day he decided to run and was elected liberal leader, it has always been Trudeau’s party. While there had been a few naysayers within and without, liberal fortunes almost immediately reached new, dizzying heights: few had doubts this was the new saviour of the Party even though it appeared he had little to offer except charm, youth and inexperience; for the public, this apparently is enough. Few had doubts those soft Tory supporters, disenchanted with the Harper gang, would eventually drift back to the liberal fold. Thus the cult of personality, with the name of another Trudeau, had been reborn. Still, there were those niggling, irritating, doubters, the pragmatists who wanted only to know what he offered that was new and different, what were his party’s policies, what new ideas he brought, and where he stands on certain issues: abortion, assisted suicide, proportional representation, unions, public servants, healthcare, power sharing between federal and provincial governments?

Policies? Ideas? Well, they can wait. Enjoy the moment, let the world love him.

For liberals, any glimmer of appearing to be open, transparent, and honest, is seized upon and brandished with the smugness of righteousness. When that glimmer happens to be from Trudeau, that sparkling darling of the media and the public, as when he “reported” on himself for a “mistake” in claiming $840 to which he was not entitled, the liberals went into paroxysm of self-congratulatory ecstasy. He had put himself on the line, revealed that he, too, was capable of weakness, of making mistakes, was close to being just like them; it was risky; what if others saw him as just another politico taking the high road only because he was about to be caught or exposed. Not to worry; the risk paid off, Trudeau was a hero, a virtuous, self-effacing young man in the dirty world of politics. He was willing to suffer the slings for admitting to making expense claims he should not have made. Oh, how everyone loved this, especially the liberals; what further proof of integrity was needed?

But how had this happened in the first place? As reported by CBC’s Leslie MacKinnon, these were “errors” “inadvertently” made when he used “one of his parliamentary travel points to pay for a trip to a paid speaking engagement in 2012…” The mistake was “due to a ‘human error’ by his staff”. How could that be when Trudeau had, in June of 2013, stated unequivocally he had not used parliamentary resources for his public speaking events? As Mulcair pointed out, in that same CBC report, “he’s stolen a page from Stephen Harper’s playbook – deny, deny, deny – until you get caught and then you apologize” (CBC, Leslie MacKinnon, Jan. 16, 2014). Errors. Inadvertence. We’ve heard it all before from Harper and his crew time and again when caught in a lie or breaking the rules: “it’s an opposition smear campaign”; “it never happened”;  “I made a mistake”; “someone on my staff messed up”. No one owns anything, least of all his or her own wrongs.

I have never held any hope for better from Harper and have not been disappointed. There was just something about him I have never liked and it had more to do than with him being a conservative, intransigent and relentlessly partisan, though these were and are more than reasons enough for me to detest him; it was the folks with whom he surrounded himself, Pierre Poilievre the architect of the odious so-called Fair Elections Act meant to rig votes and disenfranchise tens of thousands to the advantage of the conservatives, and Dean del Mastro, Shelly Glover, Vic Toews, Rob Nicholson, Peter MacKay, Joe Oliver, Rob Nicholson, and on and on. Vicious, partisan, self-serving, mean-spirited and, more than a few, truly ethically challenged.

We all know about Harper’s loud denunciations of the liberals for their lack of openness and transparency when they held power and we know of his avowals to do better if elected. Well we have learned over the years that those were just words, his fingers crossed and his tongue forked. Instead of openness and transparency, we have in Harper and his regime the most secretive, deceitful, vicious, corrupt and anti-democratic government in recent memory. Most shocking is not that he and his conservative crew had early on shown signs of holding the electoral and democratic processes in contempt, but that they have actively and systematically acted on that contempt without any appreciable drop in their core base of support: the “in-out” scam; robocalls, illegal campaign claims, illegal corporate donations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process; had the new Bill, C-23, been in effect, it is doubtful we would have learned of these. But even all that is not enough for the conservatives. Devoid of shame, decency and credibility, in the full, proud awareness of their own vile corruptness and clearly content to spread their poison, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of these hypocritical, anti-democratic monsters, not content with the gerrymandered extra seats they will gain with the redrawn boundaries have, with the recent, offensively misnamed Fair Elections Act, set out to completely rig the game in their favour, striping Elections Canada of the right to investigate campaigning fraud and inform the public.  Still, even that is not enough for them. Having eliminated as acceptable IDs the election information card and vouching, that is, declarations by others that you are who you and the card say you are, in place for decades, conservative Brad Butt, to buttress the justification for doing so, made the claim that he had seen campaign workers pick up voter cards discarded by recipients in an apartment building. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to other people who would then be vouched for at a polling booth. There he was, standing up in the House offering, while miming the actions of those nefarious workers that would have done the Gong Show proud, a vivid description of what he, personally, had witnessed. The implication was clear, based on that one sighting, voter fraud was rampant and he had seen it with his own two crooked eyes. The thing is, it was all a lie. Bogus. A fabrication. An untruth. Fiction. Later, in the House, by his own admission, he stated he had witnessed no such thing. He said he had “misspoke”, he had been “mistaken”. Misspoke! Mistaken! About what he had publicly and loudly claimed to have personally witnessed with his own lying eyes? Butt’s ludicrous but damaging story may have changed but not my opinion of him; to me, he will always be a lying horse’s ass. If it’s not a staffer’s fault, and it usually is with conservatives, it’s a “mistake”. But this was no error. It was a deliberate attempt to deceive and mislead in order to bolster conservative claims of widespread voter fraud as justification for the changes to the Elections Act. Come hell or high water, the conservatives would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, those least likely to vote for them. When asked in the house about the figures regarding voter fraud, Harper could give no concrete answer to the amount saying that Elections Canada, the very body he intends to muzzle and deprive of investigative powers, could give the numbers. The conservatives just know, they have this gut feeling, this thing Stephen Colbert called “truthiness”, that the poor, the elderly, those on the margins are cheats, liars, fraudsters. They never, ever look into their own befouled nest. Bill C-23 will be the real Harper legacy for future generations: it is a template of vileness and corruption to be admired and emulated by like-minded politico scum. Deceitful, dishonest, detestable! For conservatives, all that is beside the point; to them, all that matters is that we believe they are economic wizards. They promise to erase the debt and have a surplus expected to be of about $10 billion just in time for the 2015 election. And they will, off the backs of 19,000 public servant jobs and public service retirees, with closures of Veterans’ offices across the country, by withholding $3.1 billion from the DND (to be paid back later by future generations), by slashing services and ignoring the infrastructure. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Economic wizards? Yes, economic with the truth, economic with the facts, economic in ethics and integrity.

THE SEARCH

On most things, we know where Harper’s conservatives stand and for whom (not you and I). We know they are self-serving, venal and absolutely ruthless; theirs has been a quest for POWER and, having achieved it, keeping it, by any means. We know all critics are viewed, not just with suspicion, but also as enemies. We know Harper’s ambition has been to exterminate the liberal party. There is nothing admirable or noble in any of this though one would not know this by the strength of core conservative support.

But where does Trudeau stand? Where are the liberal ideals, vision, and policy? Referencing Jack Layton more than once, Trudeau talks of hope. Hope is not enough. Where is the beef?

Ask that of any of his supporters. Oh some might speak of his promise to legalize marijuana and the liberal wish to legalize assisted suicide, but most would simply blink before the lights went out. They don’t know because Trudeau himself doesn’t appear to know or, if he does, he’s keeping it to himself. Even his stand on assisted suicide is uncertain; it seems to be the position of liberal members rather than of Trudeau who, according to reports, had left the convention during the vote.

Blinded by the brilliance of his smile, supporters might have also become deaf to the emptiness of his offerings. To quote Gertrude Stein, “There’s no there there.” Stein was referring to her home in Oakland, California, which had been razed and, to all intents, no longer existed for her. I believe Trudeau is a decent man, but that is it: as of yet, there is no there there. Harper and his crew, on the other hand, have lots of substance, but it’s all in the form of meanness, spite, vindictiveness, and self-serving venality. No, nothing admirable about them.

Perhaps, in time, Trudeau will prove there is more to him than I believe; as he stands today, there’s nothing that suggests he should be the next prime minster any more than Harper should be now. I bear no grudge for Trudeau, he seems a likable fellow, but I do not see the maturity and depth one should expect, nay, demand, of a leader. Anyone who goes for a cheap laugh, as he did on a Quebec program with the referencing of the troubles in the Ukraine, with the loss of many lives, tying it to the Russian hockey game at the Olympics, needs to grow up. Now I do not for a moment believe that was callousness on Trudeau’s part. Rather, it was the callowness of youth and inexperience. Of course, Conservative Chris Alexander and other conservatives were quick to leap on their high horses indignantly harrumphing against Trudeau as clear evidence that, in the world of global politics, he would be a lightweight disaster. Maybe. But this comes from members of a government whose “economic diplomacy” allows them to do business with regimes notorious for human rights violations and where child brides are legal. These are the members whose government will not fund organizations that provide safe abortions for war rape victims and forced child brides. That is the obscenity, not Trudeau’s careless attempt at levity.

To his credit, Trudeau publicly apologized and he did so again to the Ukrainian ambassador. But only after much noise from the other parties though liberal MPs staunchly declared he had no reason to apologize. When he did so, they appeared uneasily subdued. But Trudeau did apologize and that should not be diminished. I can’t image Harper or his thugs doing so as easily. Truth, doubt, self-criticism, self-examination. Useful for the children of light but meaningless for Harper and his gang.

THE STAR

Trudeau promises to be different and better. Last summer, he and the liberals proudly declared that they, MPs and senators, would voluntarily post their travel and hospitality expenses and challenged the other parties to do the same. Supporters immediately trumpeted the move as a seismic leap into openness and transparency. The conservatives accepted the challenge but the NDP dismissed it as a stunt insisting that such postings would be meaningless without verification, which would necessitate the involvement of the auditor general. As it stood, the NDP correctly pointed out, the Trudeau “stunt” allowed MPs and senators to cherry pick what would be declared and revealed. On Monday (Feb 24), when the liberals released their expenses for the period from September to December 31, that’s exactly what was revealed: the NDP had it right, the postings were incomplete and did little to inform the public of the true costs of the travel and hospitality claims. Surprisingly, when the conservative senators posted their claims, they had done better than the liberals; they had included the costs of their spouses. The ex-liberal senators did not saying the information included were based on what MPs currently release. Liberals promise to add spousal costs in the future. Different? Better? Certainly meaningless if meant to demonstrate openness and transparency. But what is revealed should give pause to taxpayers. Do we really need the Senate? What does Trudeau think?

Well, Trudeau had a chance to let us know his thinking on many issues last weekend with the liberal party policy convention. Unfortunately, it got off to a rocky start.

Among the stars at the convention was one on whom Trudeau appears to pin much hope, his senior advisor on foreign policy and defence, retired, much decorated, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie considered a shoo-in liberal candidate which may disturb some liberals who took Trudeau at his word when he said that nominations for candidates would be open and free. He was to speak at the convention introduced by retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, another much respected veteran and one-time liberal senator until he and his colleagues were booted from the liberal caucus. Leslie did get to speak but Dallaire did not do the introduction . He was no longer wanted or needed. Shades of Harper. Is this the road to take with one of Canada’s heroes?

But, if Trudeau and Leslie were expecting an easy ride, the conservatives had a surprise for them. The day before the convention began, the government had leaked documents revealing that star Andrew Leslie might prove a problem for the liberals. Taxpayers had funded his move to a new home within the same city and only a few blocks from his first home for a cost of $72,000. Clearly this was no ordinary move, no ordinary bill. Given the Senate scandal and the public’s sudden concern for how their tax dollars was being spent, the conservatives saw their opportunity and took it and pounced; the NDP joined in. Leslie was just another big spending liberal living high on the public trough. Immediately, the liberals were screaming foul and defending their man. ‘“It’s quite clear that this government is ready to be vicious and ruthless with anyone, even with a Canadian hero, that dares disagree with their ideology and their approach,” Trudeau told reporters…’ (CBC, February 18).

Leslie’s move was not illegal. He considers it a “benefit” for his years of service in the military. Perfectly right, he’s entitled to his entitlements would say those more concerned with the niceties of legalese than the naïve niceties of perception. For them, judgement, optics, even the ethics, of claiming such an entitlement for a move of only a few blocks within the same city at such an exorbitant cost to taxpayers, is of little concern. The liberals, however, see this as a concerted conservative smear campaign. Of course it is. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that there is something unseemly about accepting such largesse at taxpayer expense. Seventy-two thousand dollars. Seven years ago, my wife and I moved from Richmond, B.C. to a small town in Ontario east of Ottawa. We hired a reputable trucking company that estimated the total weight of our goods to be slightly over 8000 lbs. The charge for the move, three months storage, for our flight, and final delivery to our new home came to slightly over $13,200. For an additional $1,100, we also shipped our car. Even accounting for inflation, even taking in that Leslie’s belongings may have exceeded the weight of ours and that there may have been costs that we did not incur, it is difficult to imagine how the $72,000 move in the same town can be justified or excused. Yet the liberals did exactly that. Their surprise and indignation, while clearly political posturing, is misplaced and should lead them to look at Andrew Leslie in a new light. This was the new and better? It was a “benefit” to which he was entitled, he claimed. Maybe so. However, because one is entitled to something doesn’t always make it right that he take it. The hypocrisy all round, from the conservative leak to the sputtering liberal outrage, is breathtaking and unseemly. Everyone seems to be in on the take. What’s in it for me? With what can I get away? One needs only look at the behaviour of conservatives Bev Oda and Peter Penashue, both gone, of Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Deal del Mastro and the three Harper Senate appointees. Offensive as it may be, Leslie’s moving claim was legal at the least.

Leslie and the liberals have their supporters. These charge that going after Leslie on this issue is tantamount to going after our military veterans. Give me a break. We know that’s what conservatives do; this is another matter entirely. Canadians should be more concerned about equity rather than defending what is clearly questionable. There is the letter of the law and there is the spirit of the law. Unfortunately, Leslie opted to follow the letter rather than the spirit. And that is a shame. Canadians should be asking themselves this: Why are certain military retirees like Leslie entitled to make outrageous moving claims while hundreds of other military personnel are suddenly thrust into bankruptcy selling homes for tens of thousands of dollars less than their value because of forced transfers? These military men and women have been abandoned by the government, the military and the public. It is this that should elicit howls of outrage rather than a rush of support for Leslie.

THE SCAM

Leslie and the liberals have accused the Tories of going after Leslie for purely partisan reasons because of his role as Liberal advisor to Trudeau. No kidding. From day one, Harper’s gang has demonstrated that no vile, dirty trick is too vile or too dirty not to be used including vote rigging, making it easier for wealthy parties (i.e. the conservative party) to make more telephone calls without claiming them as expenses, and striping Elections Canada of the power to investigate campaign fraud and reporting on them. Harper’s thugs, in effect, have entrenched the right to cheat during elections. So why the (gasp) surprise? Even before the convention was to begin, the Toronto Star had released documents outlining Conservative plans to undermine Trudeau. And they did, with Leslie. That is in their nature. For Tories, smearing opponents is a Pavlovian response; to criticize them is to immediately have them slavering and straining against the chain to get at you. In this instance, reprehensible as the tactic is, vile as their motives may be, which have nothing to do with informing Canadians or saving them money but everything to do with discrediting Leslie, the public has every right to know of these expenses. But, we should also be aware of the source and of the reason why it was made public. No one walks away clean on this.

Yet there is something else about Leslie that is just as telling as his claiming of his entitlements. While speaking at the convention, he had suggested that the conservatives had courted him and he had rejected them. But that wasn’t quite the story. According to the oily anti-democratic minister of democratic reform, Poilievre, it was Leslie who had approached them, which Leslie appears to confirm. Surely Trudeau could not have been happy with this turn. On CBC’s The House with Evan Solomon, Trudeau, while claiming there had been “no active courting” of Leslie, had this to say of Leslie: “He had a range of conversations with different people, different political parties and I’m quite pleased that after reflection…he chose to serve his country through the Liberal Party” (CBC, February 22, 2014). Even with something as straight forward as this, those politicos have to spin: where is the pride in being second choice or in having a star candidate who is clearly shopping for the best deal – for himself? Leslie is no kid; one would think he would know which party most represented his philosophical/political leanings. Apparently not. Perhaps he had difficulty in differentiating between conservative and liberal ideology, which is easy enough considering how much they agree on when it comes to the Keystone XL Pipeline and helping themselves to their entitlements. Of course it could just be as simple as this: Leslie sees the liberals as the sure bet for next election, and he’s a winner. Or so the liberals are betting. Political philosophy? That can wait.

Leslie “chose to serve his country through the Liberal Party” Trudeau said. Leslie was a victim of a smear, Trudeau said, because he “dares disagree with their ideology and their approach,” It’s painfully obvious and sad because so patently untrue. This is to what politics has come, a star candidate willing to palm himself off to the highest bidder and the buyer gilding the lily. If a rookie to politics, Leslie sure acts like a pro: he may not know what he believes but he certainly knows what he wants. Crass opportunism has degraded politics to its present state. It has less to do with serving one’s country than serving one’s self. And that is a shame.

We have seen too much of that from the conservatives, those who cherish no belief but the economic Darwinism of capitalism: What’s in it for me? With the certitude of their own superiority, Harper and crew are not prone to doubt or self-examination, why should they accept such from others? They don’t. The liberals show every sign of following the Harper example and that, too, is a shame.

Hope. Different and better. Nice sentiments. Even rumblings of the rebirth of the Just Society invoked by father Pierre Trudeau. Platitudes and public stupidity appear to be the winning combination conservatives rely upon. It appears the Liberals do as well.

Would Trudeau be a better leader than Harper? I don’t know. I know this: turning a blind eye to the failings of one of your own while zeroing in on the same failings in others is nothing but hypocrisy. Too, demonstrating the ability for ruthlessness is not necessarily a quality of leadership but, rather, a demonstration of power fuelled by fear and the desire to impress. That’s a sign of weakness.

I dislike Harper. I don’t like what he and his crew have done. As a leader, I don’t believe he is fit to lead an outhouse brigade. But then, there I go, wrong again. He does. They govern this nation.

I do believe Trudeau a better person than anyone in Harper’s gang, but how much better do you have to be to eclipse bottom-feeders?

We need a change, a real change. Conservatives and liberals rule as if by divine right; they have been the only parties that have governed since Canada became a nation. We need to change how we vote so that the results are truly fair representation. Though Harper and gang would have us believe otherwise, there is more to governance than “economic diplomacy” and rigging the game. Nor is it enough to turn to Justin Trudeau’s liberals with the same platitudes we heard from Harper; liberals are just a softer image of the same message Harper offers. Surely we have had enough of that.

We could do a lot worse than Mulcair and the NDP. We have done. We still are.

***

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: THE PAPER LION

To the surprise of no one, Harper has announced that he would approach the Governor General to prorogue parliament until October. This is mere formality. The GG will go along with whatever Harper seeks and Harper will do as he has done all too frequently in the past: thumb his nose at the democratic process. To some, the sleeping, the brain dead or Tory supporters, who make up both camps, this will be acceptable. A few folks will be incensed, a few will speak out and the rest will shrug, claiming it’s no big deal; it’s been done before.

That is true. Unfortunately, when Harper invokes it, suspicions are naturally aroused. This is the man who, when faced with tough questions regarding budgets, omnibus bills and scandals, resorts to prorogation of Parliament as a matter of routine in the hopes that, with time, out of sight, sound and opposition fury, the public will forget. It’s worked before.

When he finally got his majority, clearly relying on public apathy, a short attention span as well as playing on fears, ignorance and resorting to outright lies, Harper did not hesitate to prove himself the anti-Democrat he is wielding his majority in the way of bullies wielding a club. He not only sneaked in legislation through massive omnibus bills, he satisfied the thirst of his base by scapegoating the poor and helpless, criminalizing those collecting EI, stigmatizing the mentally ill, ignoring supporters of the long-gun registry, and smearing all critics, seeking neither to accommodate nor to consult. Why should he, he has the majority and, as are most bullies, not shy of publicly revealing his petty and vindictive side; as the elected victor, he was typically ungracious, the lout who would never let his enemies forget that he was now the man. And who are his enemies? Why everyone who disagrees with him and his gang.

It’s the same old same old with Harper and his mob, an anti-democratic regime led by a bullying coward who, when riding high in the polls believes himself invincible and imagines himself master of all he surveys. At such moments, in the euphoria of public- and self-love, Harper is king and certainly, in all the world, no finer man to be found. But that is all will-o’-the-wisp, Tory fancy and utter rot; that is not the real man. The real man is the bully who throws his weight around at such moments and in others, in times of crises (robocalls and Senate scandals), thinks nothing of throwing loyalists under buses while he cuts and runs shutting down Parliament as if it were his own personal playhouse. That pending legislation withers and dies because of this means nothing to him. He can always push the reset button. Meanwhile, away from the House, he avoids answering opposition questions and sets his own storyline and plots with his despicable crew how to woo the public once again with the same old refrain of “jobs and the growth” without even a nod towards ethics, integrity, and Democracy. These are side issues and, for Harper and crew, have nothing to do with running a nation.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said of him, “He likes the power but he doesn’t like to govern.” Ain’t that the truth.

But, if Harper is gutless, he is also shameless. When he announced prorogation of Parliament, he was up north enjoying his annual pilgrimage of tokenism. That he made the announcement while away from the capital is typical of him; almost all major announcements are made away from Ottawa where questions are few, limited and all too unsatisfactorily answered (after all, these affairs are meant to be photo ops and the churlish liberal media lickspittle spoilsports appear maliciously intent on marring these good-news love-ins with real issues regarding Senate scandals and prosaic day-to-day governance).

As well as announcing prorogation, Harper reaffirmed his intent to lead the Tories during the next election. Whether he goes or not is immaterial, his replacement will certainly be equally odious having emerged from the same vile swamp that has nurtured Stephen Harper’s corrupted version of Democracy and governance of misrule. Among the contenders are James Moore (past Cultural Minister who appears to dislike culture), Jason Kenney (past Immigration Minister who illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for the Tories), Tony Clement (president of the Treasury, of the $50 million slush fund and missing $3.1 billion) and the least likely to succeed, sciolist Joe Oliver (and just one of the many ideological Cliff Clavens who make up Harper’s cabinet) who apparently knows more about science, climate, oil and pollution than any disagreeable scientist in the universe who dares challenge this regime.

During the brief five week spring session, Harper made five appearances in the House. One appearance a week. By the time the House will have reconvened in October, over five months will have passed and Harper’s appearances in the House will remain at five.

Is this a way to govern? Whose interests are served by prorogation, by refusing to answer questions, by denying the public the right to hold Harper and his miscreant rabble accountable? Certainly not the public’s. It is of no consequence that others have imposed prorogation of Parliament. What is of consequence is that Harper has all too often resorted to the easy out. In doing so, he has made a mockery of the Democratic process. He really believes that the public will forget and forgive his Party’s numerous attempts to subvert Democracy, that it was he who appointed Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin. and that it was he who broke his word on Senate reform and appointed over half of the senators now sitting.

As a leader of a nation, Stephen Harper is an abysmal failure. He and his party have no great vision. In fact, they have no vision at all. Instead, they appear to be infused with hubris for which there is no basis unless the arrogance and smugness of his majority are rated virtues. Power is all that matters but in the hands of a weak, frightened person, that power can be dangerous. Harper is such a person. He is weak; we see it in how he uses and abuses his majority. And he is frightened. We know this, too, by how he regards all opposition with suspicion and fear. Those who oppose him are seen as the enemy. And because he is weak and frightened, Harper and his crew are willing to pander to the worst in us because they actually believe that all of us are like them: venal, petty, self-interested. Many of us are, but not all.

Harper and his gang are quick to point to the motes in the eyes of others, but find intolerable the thought that they may be similarly afflicted. They are good and perfect and I have no doubt they truly believe that. Perhaps that is why they are so afraid of facing questions and challenges. Harper and his gang have no interest in serving the interests of the nation nor of all its people. They would, however, happily sell themselves to special interests and they have. They equate Capitalism with Democracy. In truth, Democracy doesn’t much interest them any more than the plight of the homeless. Money does. Power does.

Prorogation may be a legitimate tool in governance. However, when Harper resorts to it, it is just another abuse of power by a weak, frightened man.

He and his party have no business leading this country. And, right now, they aren’t.

THE NDP: THE NEW DISSEMBLERS

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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