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THE DEMAGOGUE AND THE VOTER AS IGNORAMUS: HARPER’S DIRTY POLITICAL WAR OF DIVISION AND FEAR

There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear. –Jawaharlal Nehru

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance. – Socrates

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The narrative regarding the NDP has largely been that it is a tax-and-spend party, a party greedily picking our wallets and reckless with our dollars. It is not true, of course, an invention promulgated largely by opposition Conservative and Liberal parties and their friends in the corporate and media worlds, a lie as infantile and dishonest as the Conservative myth of themselves as the best fiscal managers of the public purse since the dawn of man. To hear them tell it, it’s bred in the bone, as inherently impossible for Conservatives to mess up, as it is a divine certainty the NDP will drive the economy to the ground transforming Canada, as some have said, ” into another Greece”. It’s spurious fearmongering, of course, the socialist as bogeyman, as predictable as Harper’s daily alarmist rhetoric of terrorist hordes targeting Canada and pounding at our doors.

When things go right, it is always because of the smart things Harper and gang do or not do: “wise planning”; “prudent spending”; “tax cuts encourage investment”; “trimming public service fat”; “there’s only one taxpayer” whatever the hell that last means. Not surprisingly, when things do go awry, and they do and have, Harper MPs scurry into dank nooks in the way of cockroaches eyes rolling and panic-stricken mumbling old, tired refrains: “a mess inherited from previous Liberal mismanagement “; “market forces beyond our control”; “unforeseen world events”; “a minor self-correction”; “yadayadayada” leaving it for the big boys to enlarge on the spin, one of whom is Michelle Rempel, a bobblehead extraordinaire, whose frequent appearances on CBC’s Power and Politics (just try and stop her), always leaves one drained, so fraught with malice, shrillness, boorishness, and imperiousness as she makes up facts and offers diversions with the conviction of a conman shouting down anyone doubting his claims.

THE WIZARD AS BIGOT

For them, everything, everything, it seems, boils down to dollars and cents and their belief that the most important weapon one need possess is power: the greater the power, the greater the ability to exploit fear, inflict pain and to control. Harper has wielded this weapon, the power of his majority, effectively and relentlessly against public servants, critics, opposition members, and even the public. The manner of the pain has been extreme and vicious for some segments of society and is indicative of what is really bred to the Harper Conservative bone. It is more than their inflated imaginings of their fiscal adroitness and their smug arrogance that makes them so unpalatable; there is their zealotry, their willingness to distort, their ease with corruption, their eager mean-spiritedness, their pitiful delusions, their embrace of dishonesty, their penchant for scapegoating the weak and poor and their fomenting of religious and racial intolerance. There is almost nothing they will not do to forward their agenda and no weapon is too foul to not be used. Only the most contemptible would be drawn to such as these and many are.

And they, of course, are members of the Conservative base, unshakable, unreachable and unteachable. They unquestioningly swallow the swill and embrace the myths casting their votes accordingly and as thoughtlessly as the Conservative majority spin facts, engage in dirty tricks (the dirtier, the better), and slip dubious legislations into massive omnibus bills without debate with hopes of escaping detection. None of this troubles either side of the Conservative coin; both feed off the poisons each exude, the Conservative base a black hole swallowing everything except knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment and the Harper gang feeding it everything but knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment fanning the flames of ignorance, fear, and intolerance, waging war against the Muslim community and opposition parties with straw man arguments that have nothing to do with facts or reality. The base doesn’t need the facts or reality, they readily and easily accept the Conservative justifications of C-51, which grants our intelligence agencies greater powers to spy on Canadians with little oversight by suggesting the laws in place are not enough. It’s not true of course; no truer than the Conservative suggestion that opposing the bill makes one somehow unpatriotic, probably sympathetic to the terrorist cause. The Conservative base never questions. So the Harper gang ratchets the level of hysteria with evocations of ISIL inflating Canada’s contributions in Iraq and their own as triumphal leaders towering above all others among our allies passing legislation that jurists, scholars and leaders have condemned as heavy-handed, unnecessary, abusive, and an attack on fundamental civil liberties. No matter, the Conservatives are blind and deaf to appeals to reason, to fair play and to justice. They know the audience to whom they appeal, their base base. From them there is no blowback when there is speculation Harper and gang will ban the niqab in public service. Indeed, there is only resounding approval from this segment of the easily frightened, stupid and self-interested when Harper wages war against Zunera Ishaq, one of two Muslim women, who have obeyed all steps to obtain Canadian citizenship but have resisted the demand they be unveiled during the swearing in ceremony which the courts have said is their right. Why is the gang so afraid of this one woman? And why is Harper so eager to expend so much energy, time, and money against her? The Conservatives claim that the niqab symbolizes the subjugation of women. That’s a pretext, an excuse. How can it be when the “subjugated” wear the symbol voluntarily? I can understand him wanting to win an election, but I cannot his methods, one of which is the promise to set up a snitch line to report those who engage in “barbaric cultural practices”, i.e. Muslims again. That is a red herring. Amanda Alvaro of Narrative P.R., in her appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics called the move a “barbaric political practice”. She’s absolutely right. This is simply targeting a segment of society. We already have laws against such things. And, if you must have a Tip Line, why not one for the murdered and missing women or for battered women? This is nothing but posturing with one goal, to capture the Quebec vote in particular by capitalizing on the racial and religious intolerance of the ignorant and fearful. Where will it end? How far is Harper willing to go? Recently, alarms were set off when Bill C-24 was used to strip a terrorist with dual citizenship of his Canadian citizenship. What is going on in Canada with this gang of thugs? This is abusive and extreme, discriminatory and dangerous. We have a government that is behaving in the fashion of nation states we condemn. It not only foists on other nations a person they may not want because of the risks involved, it also has the potential to deny an accused basic civil rights. Will he have access to the evidence against him? Will he have the opportunity to fight back in the courts? How much will we tolerate when it comes to breaches of civil rights for a little security? When Harper speculates of taking away the citizenship of those born here accused of “serious” crimes or of behaviour that his government finds intolerable, there is, again, even more serious reasons for alarm. Making one stateless is against all codes of decency and international law. It is cruel. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “everyone has a right to a nationality” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”. That is exactly what Harper is proposing in in one instance of a Canadian born accused of being a terrorist. Now some may say these are bad people, they’ve lost their rights when they did what they did. But who is it that decides what is serious? How can we be assured due process has taken place? We can’t. Should a prime minister make up laws just to rid himself of those he does not like? What will be the cutoff point? If murder, people smuggling, and pedophilia merit the loss of one’s nationality as Harper suggests, what will be added to the list? Under C-51, will environmentalists blocking the shipment of oil be labelled economic terrorists? Will this be sufficient ground to strip a Canadian of his citizenship? I say Harper is scum. Could that, one day, earn me the loss of my birthright? No one knows how far the Conservatives will go but we have a good idea having been witness to their many abuses of the Parliamentary system including relentless efforts to slip laws into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection. There are some who will say that can’t happen here. They are wrong and there is history to prove that. Under the pretext of security in the first and second wars, Japanese, Italians, Ukrainians, Germans, unionists and pacifists, and others, Canadian born as well as foreign born, have been interned as security risks for no other reason than for being members of certain nationalities and for their activities as unionists and pacifists. When asked about public servants not being allowed to wear niqabs, Pierre Poilievre of the so-called Fair Elections Act would not answer. No surprise from that source. But the silence pretty well informs: it’s not good news.

This is politicking at its vilest; it is corrupt, a sinking into a sewer of dishonesty, deceit, posturing, fear, bigotry and religious intolerance. As an election ploy, it may just work. Harper does know his people.

If it does work, Canadians will be the ultimate losers for Conservatives will rightly view it as a validation of their methods. When we succumb to fear, surrendering our freedoms to bullying, to lies, and to the despicable messages of hate, we are all diminished in some way and all left even less secure. Who will be the next target?

It could be you.

THE WIZARD OF SHAM

But we are further diminished when we also allow only economic policy to govern our acts; we lose too much when everything has a price and a cost.

Can we justly claim moral superiority when we keep electing panderers, liars, and whores who seek to buy our votes and to terrify us with sabre rattling excesses while at the same time signing deals with murderers and dictators with appalling records for human rights violations? Well, for Harper, it is easy. On September 25, 2015, when questioned about his billion-dollar arms trade deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the globe’s most egregious violators of human rights, he argued other nations were also bidding for the contract and that, while human rights were important, if would make no sense to lose Canadian jobs over this issue. Why not? What right has Canada to point fingers when we not only stand with butchers, but enable them by our silence and with our deals? To observers following Harper’s campaign of division and derision, it is clear that his moral compass is extremely equivocal if not non-existent. Human rights are okay but they don’t buy votes.

Harper’s grandstanding, his attempts to portray himself in the forefront in the war against ISIL and as the only Canadian leader capable of keeping Canada safe is laughable not only because of his ridiculously bombastic triumphalism, all sound, no bite, but also because too many of us hold the image of him cowering in broom closet when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered last October. It’s not Harper’s fault; but still, to watch on the hustings flanked by adoring supporters swaggering across the stage and trying to look tough, I am unconvinced. I see a wannabe tough guy, an arrogant bully who picks on the weak or those easy targets about which he keeps warning us: Muslims and those niqab wearing women.

But Harper is no world leader to be admired. It is largely because of him Canada’s standing on the global stage has been tarnished.

In 2010, Canada, at that time more concerned with domestic policy, lost it’s bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council, losing the support of the middle east for it’s unquestioning support of Israel, for it’s casual attitude towards Southeast Asia, for cutting aid to African nations on ideological grounds and for failure to work towards solutions on carbon emissions. Making it worse, Harper has adopted a puzzling attitude of hostility towards the UN, not only bashing the world body, but often voting against it, even pulling out of a UN anti-drought convention leading to speculation that it had more to do with its own stand regarding Climate Change which was, at that time, it doesn’t exist, it was a myth, something like their fiscal acumen. Too, as the Ottawa Citizen reported, the European Union and some Canadian allies in September 2013 asked Canada to sign the Arms Trade Treaty meant to stem the flow of illegal weapons for which it had earlier voted along with 153 other countries. “More than two years later, Canada remains one of the few countries – and the only NATO member –not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty” (Ottawa Citizen, Lee Berthiaume, October 2, 2015)!

As well, Canada, with the US and Ukraine, voted against a UN resolution brought forward by Russia to fight against “the glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (Huffington Post, Nov. 26, 2014) offering as excuse that it was “counterproductive”. Canada had also boycotted the World Conference Against Racism. None of this should surprise anyone especially in light of the type of campaign the Conservatives are running. This is the same gang that, while still offering aid to certain African nations, refuses to allow the aid to be parceled out to charities offering family planning resources. For Conservatives, consigning victims of rape, including child brides, to a life of impoverishment, misery, and possible death, is preferable to offering safe abortions. Ask a Conservative; I’ll bet most would claim to hold Christian values. If so, charity and generosity must not be among them. Under Harper, Canadian-owned mines accused of human rights violations in Latin America numbering in the hundreds, have been protected by this government actively undermining efforts to hold them to account. Is this what the Conservative base supports? Seems so. If that’s not enough, how about this: Canada, an exporter of asbestos, has opposed its inclusion among products to be banned on a UN treaty called the Rotterdam Convention. We can’t use it here because of its link to cancer so we ship it to Asia. Is that enough to persuade Conservatives pinheads to reconsider for whom they vote? Not likely. If victims of rape will not move them, nothing will.

For one who imagines himself worthy of a place on the world stage (we can all recall his finger-wagging hectoring of world leaders for their poor economic performances), this is contemptible, nasty stuff. How can one uphold and support those mining companies responsible for criminal acts that have, in some instances, even resulted in allegations of murder? How can he justify voting against condemning racism or the glorification of Nazism? Why is he reluctant to sign a treating combating the shipment and trade of illegal guns? Well, if you’re Harper, it’s easy. He has turned Canada into a less inviting place rejecting victims of persecution and murder, not only from the severely troubled war zones of the globe but also from so-called “safe” countries for no other reason than we do business with them. As a result, the Roma, who are victims of persecution in Hungary, are not welcomed. And while Canadians all claim to be moved by the plight of those millions fleeing conflict in Syria, Harper’s own heart is as steel, not only reluctant to accept Syrians fleeing for their lives, but only those we “prioritise” as belonging to religious minorities, i.e., Christians. Sunni Muslims need not apply. There’s that terrorism issue, you see, Muslims can’t be trusted. Especially those wearing niqabs.

So who is the true threat here? Is it really Zunera Ishaq or is it the Harper government, which targets a young Syrian because she is a Muslim? Why has she become the symbol of all the things Harper and gang would have us fear? Why have they expended so much time, energy and money on this one individual? Racism is foul but it is particularly foul when our leaders not only engage in it but also appear to encourage it from those who elect them.

This is the government that has recklessly attempted to pass laws that have failed and been overturned by our courts. Instead of doing the right, the decent thing, instead of seeking to create laws that will be passed, laws that actually do protect every segment of society, the Harper gang keeps making up new bad laws. When the courts overturn the laws, he works on the public to turn opinion against them accusing the courts and justices of being “activists”. Harper has persistently used and abused the law, but he has never respected it.

Doubt it?

Think of this. When Harper made his move to get rid of the Long Gun registry, Quebec wanted the data kept until they could appeal the destruction of the records. It didn’t happen. Harper and gang ignored the court and had the RCMP destroy the data. The information commissioner ordered an investigation. So what did Harper do? He changed the law to retroactively protect the government and RCMP from prosecution for criminal acts. “The government also back-dated the changes to when the original bill to kill the gun registry was tabled in Parliament, months before it actually passed into law, wiping out ‘any request, complaint, investigation, application, judicial review appeal or other proceeding’ related to the final six months of the registry’s legal existence” (Bruce Cheadle, the Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015). Just think of that. Harper not only changed the law, he rolled back time, altered history, and rejigged events in the same way he hopes to rig future elections. The records were not only destroyed, they never even existed and no crime was committed. This is Harper’s universe. Vote for him and we’ll have more of that. Remember, his was the first government in Canadian history to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament. He not only acted as if nothing had happened, so did the 39% who voted and re-elected him finally giving him the majority he so wanted.

We’re better than this. So we tell ourselves boasting about our moral superiority over America and other parts of the world. Some may wish it were so or even believe it to be true. It isn’t. These are anti-democratic monsters and yet we re-elect them again and again. What will it take to get rid of them? They hold themselves above the law, above Parliament and above those who vote for them. Will there be no end to their miserable world, their intolerance, secrecy, deceit, and hypocrisy.

THE WIZARD OF HYPOCRISY

But, even if human rights were not part of the equation, we must then ask how good are the deals for Canada and Canadians. Why was the arms deal with Saudi Arabia contingent on secrecy? In fact, why does Harper shroud so much of what he does in secrecy? That’s what roaches and muggers do, lurk in corners, waiting.

We have had the secretive Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) that certainly appears less a result of Harper and gang working in the interests of Canada than of Harper’s eagerness to ink a deal with one of the largest markets in the world, a market that does not consider human rights a priority. Not only was the deal made in secret, it locks Canada in for 31 years requiring a one year notification period before either side can pull out. It also allows China extraordinary powers to trump Canadian laws if Chinese companies can prove they were forced to act under rules different from local businesses or investors. Is that really good for Canada? Isn’t that a surrender of sovereignty?

During the September 17 Globe and Mail debate, Harper suggested that the Conservatives were close to sealing the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) hinting that “the auto sector has concerns, as do others… I’m not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in”. That sends a pretty clear signal Harper may be willing to sacrifice some sectors to ink what will be a very, very lucrative deal both politically and financially with the election just around the corner. Such a deal would doubtless bolster Harper’s image as a trade negotiator among those who stand to benefit and may be enough to persuade the undecided to cast their votes for him. It may even help him win an election. But some leaders, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, for example, worry 26,000 jobs from the auto-parts industry will be lost. If one accepts his numbers and add them to those already lost in the auto sector, this will boost the number to a total of 64,000 jobs from one sector. As well, rumours have been that dairy farmers will lose though the Conservatives deny it. If the rumours are true, Harper is willing to ink a deal that will allow American dairy products into Canada without any reciprocity for Canadian dairy producers. That would be the price of trade Harper might say. With a deal this big, there is a real likelihood of health and safety standards being compromised, of well-paying jobs going south, of full-time jobs becoming part-time, of more lower wage jobs, and of more workers joining the ranks of the impoverished. It’s just business, I guess.

Yet, if decency and integrity play little to no role in the Harper regime, shame plays even less. Using taxpayer dollars, Harper and gang have spent $750 million on ads promoting themselves. Where is the same public outrage that toppled Bev Oda for a $16 glass orange juice? Or where is the outrage when military equipment purchases are almost always delayed, well over budget, and, when delivered, as with our Cyclone helicopters, unable to perform the jobs for which they were designed because underpowered or, as with the F-35 fighter jets, the most expensive planes ever built, are not suited for air combat and even less suited for the Canadian Arctic and for the Maritimes because of its single engine? To continue with the purchase of F-35s will needlessly cost lives. Trudeau says he will scrap the F-35s for other jets and Harper says that it can’t be done without incurring penalties. Not true, says the US government.

Harper says he is foursquare behind our Military forces. We have paid for those dramatic, stirring, triumphal, self-congratulatory ads saying that is so, an armed soldier running across a barren, snow-covered field, a thundering helicopter framed against an red evening sky, all the gung-ho stuff you expect to see from American military ads. But it’s mostly nonsense and sham. The reality is Canada operates like a third world nation the way it treats our armed forces with most of its fleet in dry dock, others stripped for parts, with planes due for retirement and parts for helicopters purchased on eBay. Yeah, right, this is the leader that really stands behind his troops. Far behind. We saw how much he cares by the way he treated out veterans. Can the gang really be trusted with our money when they purchase military equipment at twice the cost paid by other nations? Well, Harper says so; just ask him. But you don’t have to ask him. Every day we are treated to ads of their financial wizardry.

And, as if to underscore the point, Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay and the Canadian Revenue Agency have sought to save thousands, yes, thousands, by targeting charities perceived as left-wing advocates while ignoring the billions in off-shore accounts set up by wealthy tax cheats with the aid of skilled accounting firms. With Harper and gang at the helm, it’s best to cheat big if you’re going to cheat.

As with the way of all bullies, the Harper gang finds it easier to go after the small and weak. Who knows, among those wealthy offshore cheats might be a Conservative supporter or two. What are friends for, right?

So the next time you hear Harper and gang warn you of the dangers of voting for the NDP or Liberals, remind them of their own follies. Do not swallow the swill. We do have choices and they do not just include the Conservatives and the Liberals. If it is the economy that will decide your vote, as Harper and gang believe, then, even in this, the NDP has a better record than either the Conservatives and the Liberals. Check for yourself (www.progressive-economics.ca/2011/04/29/fiscal-record-of-canadian-political-parties/).

THE WIZARD OF INDIFFERENCE

Recently, British Columbian Conservative MP James Moore, while not running for office this time, was campaigning on behalf of the Conservative party in Port Coquitlam. On the 35th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run, and with Lauren Harper at his side, Moore announced that, if re-elected, the Harper government would match any private donation up to a total of $35 million. Now that might strike one as a good, decent, even Canadian thing to do in memory of one of Canada’s heroes. It is and it isn’t. Moore said the Fox family approved of this hijacking of the Terry Fox campaign by the Stephen Harper gang campaign. That wasn’t quite true. Not only was it distasteful in that it politicized what should have been a non-partisan charity, it was distasteful because the announcement was little more than emotional blackmail, tugging at Canadian heartstrings and appealing to our generosity while wielding a threat: vote for Conservatives or the Terry Fox Foundation suffers. That is brutish behaviour something akin to “Your money or your life”. From this gang, anything goes. It’s disturbing. It’s indecent. It’s the Conservative way.

And we can see that in the way they handle certain scandals that have plagued their regime. I will not comment further on the Senate scandal, Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. Canadians are familiar with the story. But I would like to remind them again of other matters that clearly demonstrate Harper’s Conservatives steadfast tolerance for questionable behaviour including lapses of judgment, ethics and morality.

We are all familiar of how Bev Oda fell from grace because she charged on the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. The outrage was less that she twice made false claims and was forced to repay them or that she forged a government document that resulted in denying a charity public funds simply because that charity, KAIROS, disagreed with Harper’s stand regarding Palestine. Harper continued to support her until the outrage over the $16 drink became too much. Too bad it took so little to enrage the public. The message for politicians: if you want to get away with stealing from the public purse best go big, voters don’t sweat the small stuff.

The thing is, Harper appears to have a very high tolerance for such transgressions as we have seen with Shelly Glover fighting Elections Canada over expense claims and later caught at a fundraising event attended by those who would gain from the decisions of her ministry. The same for Leona Aglukkaq. Glover’s retiring. Aglukkaq – well it seems impossible to get rid of that level of breathtaking incompetence.

Christian Paridis is also retiring. He too was tolerated for such things as violating the Conflict of Interest Act for giving preferential treatment to former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his company. Paradis was also in trouble for attending a hunting trip with a lobbyist seeking public funding for an arena. He denied any lobbying took place. Yeah, he did deny that and we are to believe him. As well, Paradis was investigated for his role into the transfer of federal offices from another city to his own riding. You get the picture. No backlash from Harper. He doesn’t mind lapses of ethics, not if you’re the right person. Yet this man Paradis with apparent very loose ethics is allowed to retire unscathed doubtless to step into some corporate board where his knowledge of the government process and ethical scruples will be much appreciated. One wants to weep.

And then we have making a comeback the best MP Labrador has ever had, according to Harper that great judge of character. The ex-MP, the best MP Labrador ever had, was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate donations for his 2011 campaign. If you’re a Conservative, ethical lapses and bad behaviour are easily forgiven and of apparent little import if you’re the one they want. Well, almost all. Even for Harper, candidate Jerry Bance, small businessman caught on camera by CBC’s Marketplace urinating in a client’s cup while the client was in the next room was too much. Here was a man running for office yet too lazy to walk to a washroom down a corridor. So Bance was out. As was John Crosby’s son, Ches Crosby, who was not allowed to run in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon because he took part in a skit in which Harper was made light hearted target. No sense of humour, those Tories.

Well, perhaps they do have some. We mustn’t forget Jason Kenney, Tweedledee and Tweedledum rolled into one. This is the guy who can’t help himself it seems. He has made so many blunders he should be made a backbencher for eternity. He wasn’t above using the government letterhead to fundraise for his party. In another fundraising scam, he attempted to link Justin Trudeau to terrorism because of his visit to a Montreal mosque declared by the US military to be a recruiting centre for Al-Qaeda. Kenney of course held back that Trudeau’s visit took place before the news was known and made public. This was no accident but a deliberate smear. No blowback from Harper or the public. And what of Kenney the propagandist liar who, on international woman’s day earlier this year, tweeted photos we were to take as evidence of ISIL’s brutality (as if we needed more), one depicting a child bride, hands bound, with an older man, presumably her “husband”, and another of many women in chains. Here, again, Kenney proved himself unreliable at best, a liar at worst, for failing to disclose the child-bride photo was fake, the chained women part of a re-enactment of an ancient historical event. And then we have Kenney, liar again, offering as reason for Canada’s extension of the war in Iraq the explanation that Canada and the USA were the only ally nations participating with the capability of precision bombing. That would have been risible were the matter not so serious. Kenney is a fabricator. Or else he just enjoys playing the role of buffoon: “God that Kenney, did you hear him? What a card!” Well, I’m no fan of comedians and certainly no fan of Kenney’s. And I certainly don’t find funny, any more than did Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi when Kenney said, “it seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it” after Nenshi registered his “disgust” over the Conservative efforts to fan public intolerance over the niqab issue. The mayor is right, it is “unbelievably dangerous stuff”.

For those wanting a more comprehensive list of the things that should sink this band of scum but likely won’t, I suggest readers copy this offering by David Beers and the staff of The Tyee: http://www.thetyee.ca/Documents/2015/09/24/Harper%20ebook%20final.pdf.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Harper would have us all be afraid. I agree; we should be. But it is not the terrorist out there that frightens me but the one with the title of prime minister. He has disgraced his office, made a mockery of Parliament, and abused our electoral process.

He tells us this is not the time to make a change in government. If not now, then when? He tells us Trudeau is not ready to lead and that Thomas Mulcair will be the ruin of this nation. Who can believe this man when he lies about his accomplishments and trades on fear and racial and religious intolerance? Does the economy matter? Of course it does, but not at any price. Ideas matter too, as do ethics, honesty and personal integrity. I see none of that from any member of the Conservative party and certainly none from Harper.

What I do see in Harper and his gang is meanness and spite, pettiness and arrogance, cowardice and betrayal, despair and misery, and the powerful walking on the weak. It is not just their offensiveness that is troubling, though there is an abundance of nasty in that bunch. It is their arrogance, the certitude of their inerrancy in the positions they adopt their commitment to be blind and deaf to those they do not like that is so galling.

Opposing Harper and gang should not make one the enemy. It is either them or us without any shading and they are always, always, right

We need better. It begins with tossing Harper and his thugs into the ashcan of history. All we should retain of him is memory so that we never tolerate his like again.

***

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

LIFE IN THE SEWER WITH THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG

We have watched American democracy at close hand for many years and we believe few governments are institutionally so susceptible to dictatorship as this one. – Gerald Johnson

Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. – George Bernard Shaw

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

When the Mike Duffy story first broke out regarding the questionable expense claims by the senator, with leaks of the whitewashed Deloitte report ordered by Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen of the Senate’s internal economy committee, with t Duffy’s televised claim of repaying what he felt he did not owe because everyone knew “that the Old Duff, the Duff they’ve known and trusted, would never do anything wrong. I would never knowingly fiddle anything”, with the declaration by Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate that the Duffy matter was closed once he’d repaid the false expense claims, with the discovery that it was Nigel Wright who had in fact paid off the debt and not Duffy, with Stephen Harper, that mean-spirited control freak, claiming he and none of his staff other than Nigel Wright, knew of the deal made with Duffy, most observers, particularly in the media, might have been forgiven for voicing scepticism with declarations that something was rotten in the PMO and it wasn’t just the cooked up deal between Duffy and Wright. It smelled; it stretched credulity to believe Harper did not know. But he’s the leader of your country and though you feel in your cynic’s heart of hearts all is not as he claims you want to give him the benefit of doubt and take him at his word and do so for two and a half years: he didn’t know.

But not all in the media and the real world were or are persuaded by Harper’s claims to ignorance in that particular matter, probably not good enough, compliant enough, to be really good Canadians (if you’re not for us, you’re against us), too much like those “radical” environmentalist foreign stooges or those lefties working at CBC always trying to trip up Harper and the Conservatives. No wonder they’re so loathed by the Harper Conservatives.

So both sides worked, the Harper gang at avoiding and ignoring the media and the media not buying the Harper line, still worrying the bone in the belief stories were still to be told and secrets exposed and that Harper and those vile bodies in his circle in the PMO and the Conservative party knew more than they were letting on.

ONE TRIAL BEGINS, ANOTHER RESUMES

With the adjournment of the first stage of the Duffy trial June 18 without inflicting too much damage, Harper and gang likely heaved a huge sigh of relief. He had extended the war in Iraq against ISIS, a vote winner for some, introduced the income-splitting plan and was loudly touting the childcare benefits raises that those with children finally began to collect on July1st with sizable retroactive cheques. Doubtless Harper was feeling confident; the worse was likely over as far as the Duffy matter was concerned and he, Harper, was still standing, hardly bruised, his credibility seemingly intact. Perhaps feeling somewhat emboldened, he stood before cameras on August 2nd and called what will prove to be for taxpayers the longest, most expensive election in Canada’s history.

Ten days later, the Duffy trial resumed and it would be with a star from the PMO, Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff.

Now Harper gave as reason for calling the longest campaign in Canadian history his desire for all parties to foot the bill for their own campaigns. That was sure to please his supporters, those who believe (or want to believe) the myth that he is fiscally wise with our money, those same supporters who can be bought with shiny trinkets and cheap promises (to be fulfilled at a later date). The thing is, he simply wasn’t telling the truth. Changes to the Elections Act, now popularly referred to as the Unfair Elections Act, allows parties to not only spend more, but to recover more from the taxpayers. In the past, spending costs were fixed. Now, for every additional day over 37 days the election goes, the parties can spend an extra 1/37th of the limit. For all campaign costs, including the extra 1/37th per day, the taxpayer is on the hook for 50%! So, when Stephen Harper suggests he was sparing taxpayers and saving them money, he lied. As with many of his decisions, as with military planes and helicopters, this election will cost taxpayers much, much more than he would have us believe. According to the National Post (July 20, 2015), “Although per-vote subsidies have been eliminated, the rebates that parties and local campaigns receive will mean the taxpayer could be on the hook for up to $53 million per party…this on top of the estimated $300 million it costs to run the election itself” Joan Bryden outlines some of the costs to taxpayers. Tax credits for donations are “75 per cent on the first $400, 50 per cent on the next $350 and 33.3 percent on the next $500.” She also points out that for each day added over the 37 days allows each party to spend an extra $675,000 for its national campaign and an extra $2700 a day for each candidate. That is a lot more money being spent but also a lot more money the taxpayer is being forced to reimburse when parties can claim 50 per cent and candidates 60 per cent (Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press, July 28, 2015 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/longer-federal-election-campaign-would-cost-taxpayers-millions-more-1.3171793).

The Conservatives are by far the richest party in Canada raising about $20 million in 2014. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong in calling an early election so that parties, the Conservatives in particular, can pilfer from the public purse to spend more and recover more. The early election clearly benefits the richest party. It also allows that party the added advantage of bankrupting the poorer opposition parties. The real pilfering of public coffers by Conservatives, however, began long before the election was called when they employed taxpayer-funded ads masquerading as informational ads to promote the Harper government brand as strong, patriotic supporters of the military and the party of family values, tax cuts, and sound, fiscal management. Well, that’s their myth. The manoeuvrings, such as promoting their pre-election budget this year, has cost taxpayers $13.5 million (CBC, Aug. 3, 2015)! Yes, indeed, Harper and the Conservatives certainly know how to handle their money wisely. They just use ours to pay their bills and enrich their coffers.

But if Harper suffers in justifying the long campaign, he suffers even more when it comes to an accounting of what he knew and what others in his office knew about the shoddy Duffy/Wright affair. The emails released during the first days when the Duffy trial resumed and the testimony of Nigel Wright under cross-examination by Duffy’s lawyer show Harper’s version is at variance with the revelations of his one-time close and most trusted advisors at the time the Duffy story broke. While Wright loyally maintains Harper knew, “in broad terms only that I assisted Harper” and not of the cheque affair, it is clear that more knew than Harper claimed.

The doubters, those who would not, could not, simply take Harper at his word about what he did or did not know had been on to something after all. After almost ten years, Harper’s word holds little value, too carefully crafted and full of “outs” about matters that, if not illegal, certainly appear ethically iffy and difficult to be taken seriously.

When the Duffy trial resumed Aug. 12th, so did Stephen Harper’s, in a real sense, with Nigel Wright on the stand and with the release of copious emails. As Harper went on the hustings across the nation promising tax dollars on new programs, harsher punishment, more tax cuts and with the re-introduction of the home renovations program he had scrapped in 2010 but never quite able to get his message out as, each day, he was confronted with the same questions by reporters and responded with the same tired, worn, unconvincing line, that he knew nothing of the deal between Wright and Duffy and that, when he learned of it, had made all public and fired Wright.

You may want to believe him, after all he’s the leader of your country, but you just can’t. He’s lied too many times.

But some do believe him, willingly suspending their incredulity or simply too partisan, too ignorant if not downright stupid, to fret about ethics, honesty, and moral compasses; it’s about shared values having nothing to do with those touchy-feely things: What do I get out of it? is the real issue for such as these.

So, when Harper is constantly peppered by questions his supporters don’t like and believe hostile, it is hardly surprising there is push back from the partisans siting behind Harper as he attempts to offer his message of the day: “Stick to the topic”. We have that image of that foul-mouthed moron, later identified as Earl Cowan, shouting at Laurie Graham of CTV calling her a “lying piece of shit” and accusing her of cheating more on her income tax claims than Duffy. When CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau stepped in, he turned on her as well, an inarticulate bully who had clearly refined imbecility to its lowest and most base level. He didn’t care about the fact the two were doing their jobs or about the legitimacy of their questions. What values he shared in the way of policy with the Conservatives could not be easily discerned except the willingness to bully, intimidate and blame others as well as demonstrating a willingness to shoot the messengers and spew poisonous vitriol as only the truly vicious and ignorant can. So there is one, at least, who seems indifferent to the questions raised by the Duffy Affair, indifferent that Harper refuses to be forthcoming though the evidence of Nigel Wright and then Benjamin Perrin, once Harper’s personal lawyer and lawyer for the PMO, during the Duffy trial appears to cast doubt on his claims of ignorance in the matter and that no one else in the PMO was involved. But the buffoon who attacked Graham and Thibedeau is of a type easily identifiable simply by the Rob Ford button he was sporting: that says all one needs to know about him. Or almost all: he is the same individual, according to some reports who, when Olivia Chow ran for mayor of Toronto shouted she should go back to China. The face had seemed familiar to me, a reminder of something unpleasant. When I learned who he was, I wasn’t surprised: As much as one might wish to, it’s difficult to completely erase the memory of these types.

While this behaviour from Tory supporters is entertaining and likely damaging even if only minimally as far as Harper’s core base of supporters go, it is the greater matter of Harper, of his competency and apparent lack of a moral compass that should be of more concern to Canadians. Cowan, and such as he are unimportant in the grand scheme.

HARPER’S CHANGING TALL TAIL

For some, it may have been puzzling Harper would call the election knowing full well that the Mike Duffy trial with all its risks was about to resume a few days later. One plausible explanation was Harper and gang believed most of the bad news has already been made public and the Nigel Wright testimony would likely not be damaging and what damage there was could be weathered and likely forgotten by October 19th under an onslaught of Conservative ads and large promises and constant reminders that the world is full of terror and that Canada has been specifically targeted by jihadist barbarians.

If that is the hope, Harper and gang must be sorely disappointed, the campaign not going quite as Harper and gang would have it unfold, the questions tough and on the Duffy trial testimony, What did Harper know and who else knew? followed invariably by his stock answer: he knew nothing; the deal was only between Duffy and Wright; once he learned of it, he acted decisively making it public and firing his chief of staff. But that is his story today. The fact is it was the media, Bob Fife of CTV, who broke the story in 2013. At that time, Harper defended Wright. A few days later he had accepted Wright’s resignation for acting with the best of motives, then, May 28, Harper was saying, “By his own admission, Mr. Wright made a very serious error. For that he has accepted sole responsibility and has agreed to resign.” You can already see Harper distancing himself from his own man and then the break became overt and real, when, on October 28, 2013, Harper says, “I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy – he was dismissed”. So we have Harper defending his chief of staff, then Wright resigning and then Harper firing him. The only true thing is Harper accepts no responsibility nor does he admit to knowledge of the Duffy/Wright debacle as it was unfolding. He is robotic in his response, one who believes if he sticks to and repeats a story often enough, the rest of the world will eventually tire and accept what he says: his story, whichever version it is that day is the right one; if the world points out that his story has changed, no matter, it’s the world that has got it wrong. It seems to work with some of those who support him.

But for anyone paying attention to the trial, even if with half a mind, if becomes evident that Harper is not credible. Who to believe and which version? To believe Harper, one would have to believe others in the PMO did not know. Testimony and emails refute that. If you believe Harper you will likely believe some of Wright’s story. But you will also have to believe the emails are not what they seem and that Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer, as is Wright, is either mistaken or has lied on the stand about who in Harper’s office was in the know. If Harper, this man who is so careful and so controlling did not know, why not? Did all those many staff members in the PMO who knew of the deal, the attempts to rewrite the Deloitte audit on Duffy, who worked on scenarios to be used by Duffy to explain his, Duffy’s, payback of the money (as the public was supposed to believe), really conspire to lie to Harper?

So now it’s out there, Harper’s story unravelling though there has yet to be any concrete evidence of him knowing about the deal. He says he didn’t and you’re forced to take him at his word.

Still, the questions are persistent and the answers troubling. Why was Duffy insistent that he was innocent, had done no wrong? Well, clearly from the evidence, it was Harper who certified that he was okay, that he could claim to be the resident from PEI even though he hadn’t lived in PEI for decades.

Wright’s testimony and the emails, while not placing Harper directly in the loop regarding the cheque affair, certainly show PMO staff desperately working hard to clean up the mess, to keep it from becoming public, and “to make Duffy whole”. Again why? Well, again from the emails, we learn that the PMO was concerned that if Duffy was to fail to meet the residency requirements, other senators might also fail and it was the Conservative senators that the Harper gang wanted to protect at all costs. The emails in particular reveal interference by Wright in the Senate’s sub-committee audit report of Duffy by Deloitte. It was not just Duffy who was coached regarding repayment, the whitewashed Deloitte report, and how the news was to be made public. The Leader for the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton was coached as well: Duffy had repaid the money and the matter was now closed. Only it wasn’t, of course; before long the story unravelled. Duffy had not repaid the money himself. It was Wright who had cut the cheque. Duffy was primed on how to respond to questions regarding residency but also on what to say regarding the claims with several script options carefully crafted to demonstrate “‘There has been an historical lack of clarity in the rules and forms. I had thought I was doing the right thing, but I was mistaken. I will be repaying…etc.'” (email excerpt from Wright to Chris Woodcock, Andrew MacDougall, Stephen Lecce, Patrick Rogers, Benjamin Perrin, Feb. 20, 2013 3:27 PM). Clearly, there was nothing innocent going on here.

In another email (Feb. 21, 2013, 8.18 PM), Wright wrote, “Mike is going to do this (although I don’t consider that final, final until I see an email from his lawyer….I have to weigh on Sen. Tkachuk, and I will call Sen. S-O (Carolyn Stewart-Olsen) too, to insist that Mike’s ‘may have made a mistake’ will be accept as sufficient to call of (off?) Deloitte.” Lest anyone still have doubt that none of this was for public eyes or ears, the following might dissuade him. “I would like to understand who if anyone Sen. Duffy ever intends to inform about point 3 (or, for that matter, the entire arrangement). I assume that I know the answer, but I would like it to be explicit. For its part, the Party will not inform anyone” (email excerpt, Wright, Feb. 22, 2013, 11:39 AM).

And there is this: “One issue: she (Duffy’s lawyer, Janice Payne) wanted it all in writing. I explained that was not happening. We aren’t selling a car or settling a lawsuit here. She seemed to get it eventually” (email excerpt, Benjamin Perrin, Feb. 22, 2013 12:50 PM).

These are very small examples of what was going on in the PMO and none of it is pleasant.

While Nigel Wright was on the stand, a name that cropped up again and again was that of Ray Novak, at that time deputy chief of staff and considered by insiders a close personal friend of Harper’s, almost a son. Of the major players during the Duffy scandal, he is the only member of the PMO still working for Harper, now as chief of staff and senior campaign director. According to Perrin, Novak certainly knew about the cheque deal having been informed by email from Wright saying he was paying Duffy’s debt and being present during a conference call to Duffy’s lawyer when Wright informed Perrin Duffy would be repaying the money “because it’s coming out of my pocket” (excerpt of a statement by Benjamin Perrin to RCMP Sgt. Greg Horton, Feb. 20, 2014). This contradicts Wright’s testimony that Novak, while popping in and out of the room, wasn’t present when the matter of the cheque was raised and challenges Harper’s claim that no one in the PMO knew about the deal. Too, in his testimony while on the stand, Perrin says he was blind-sided by the news of this deal. He was the lawyer for the PMO and yet was clearly out of the loop in this, he claims. Had he known of it, he says, he would have gone to Harper and resigned if corrective steps were not taken.

If Perrin is correct in recalling Novak being present when Wright brought up the matter of the cheque, then Novak had lied to the RCMP when he denied knowing Wright had paid off Duffy’s debt. Too, there was the matter of the email in which Wright wrote to both Perrin and Novak saying he would send a cheque on Monday following the conference.

It stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper did not know. Especially when Conservative campaign spokesman and long-time Conservative loyalist Kory Teneycke made the observation that Ray Novak did not know of the Duffy/Wright deal because, if he had, it was “unfathomable” to believe he would not notify Harper. Was Novak in the room? Did he not read his email from his boss? That question could easily be answered if Novak set aside a few minutes from his duties as chief of staff and campaign manager to clarify publicly what he did or did not know. Unfortunately, these days Novak appears to have much in common with Big Foot: sighted but not to be found or heard. Which suggests that there is more than a bit of truth to Perrin’s testimony.

If Novak knew about the deal, and it seems he did, and if we accept the word of one of Harper’s closest advisors, Kory Teneycke, who should know, it is extremely unlikely that Harper could not know of the manoeuvrings of his staff. So why is Novak still working for Harper and the Conservatives?

If the PMO staff lied to him, why did they? Was it to offer Harper the shield of “plausible deniability”? Possibly, but unlikely. Did Harper, knowing something was up and suspecting he might not like it, make it known to his staff he did not want to know? If that’s the case, while it may save him, it still does not look good for Harper. That kind of avoidance behaviour, “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know” is merely legalese, weaselly wriggle room: I knew something was up but I didn’t want to know and they didn’t tell me and because they didn’t tell me, I can’t say I know as fact what I suspected and neither can you. If that’s how it went, what kind of leader does that make Harper? Not a very good or honest one, I suggest, and certainly not one to be trusted. Perhaps the same kind of leader who, according to an email by Wright, held the rather loosey-goosey view “that ownership of property equates to residency” (Nigel Wright, February 19 2013, to Benjamin Perrin, Ray Novak, Patrick Rogers, Joanne McNamara, Chris Woodcock, Myles Atwood). A nuanced interpretation, but laughable and one unlikely to be accepted by most folks. But that assurance was enough for Duffy, it seems. Benjamin Perrin, however, testified to being taken “aback” by this broad interpretation and had attempted to dissuade Harper from using it because the position was legally and practically untenable. Harper ignored that advice. No surprise there, either. Remember, Harper and his gang have a history of knowing more about everything than all the experts in the world: they know more than climatologists about climate change, more than environmentalists about the effects of toxins on the environment, more than legal scholars about jurisprudence, more than Supreme Court Justices about matters brought before the Court, and, it appears, more than the PMO lawyer at the time. And yet Harper, this most learned of men, did not know a thing about the Duffy/Wright deal.

IF I’M A LIAR, PROVE IT

That seems to be Harper’s line as he hits the campaign trail refusing to answer questions and trying to get his message across which appears to be based on the theology that anyone can be bought, anyone made fearful. When not attempting to buy our votes with shiny promises to be fulfilled down the road, he is attempting to move us with fear reminding us daily of those slathering jihadist barbarians who have singled out Canada and are coming for us pounding at our doors.

It is fear Harper and gang want us to experience and fear by which they would have us live. And, because he is one of extreme arrogance, without shame or integrity, who holds little regard for the opinion of others, he wants us to imagine, and to be frightened by the prospect, a world without himself as prime minister. The NDP and the Liberal economic policies will lead to the disaster that has befallen Greece. Greece, for Christ sake! Desperation on the fly. It is through our fear that he seeks to find his salvation October 19th.

Stephen Harper is no visionary. He is not even a leader. He is not one to be admired but rather loathed and dismissed tossed into the trashcan of history. A leader does not bully. A leader does not set out to frighten those whom he represents. Nor does he change electoral laws to rig the vote in his favour. Harper, with the assist of odious Pierre Poilievre has done precisely that. A leader does not threaten to his critics, he does not lie to his citizens nor does he deceive them and he does not smear and target those who oppose him. A leader is not afraid to admit to being wrong nor is he afraid to face his shortcomings and to seek, and accept, wise counsel from others, even his enemies. A leader does not take credit rightly belonging to others nor does he blame others for his mistakes and for his bad decisions. A leader does not refuse to answer questions, does not hide behind legalese, does not adhere to a policy or a line that he knows is wrong, false and harmful. A leader does not work to meet the goals of corporate interests by sacrificing the well-being and interests of workers, especially those holding minimum wage jobs. Nor does a leader conspire with corporations to suppress wages of low-income earners by importing cheap, compliant foreign workers to replace Canadian workers. A leader does not hide behind his staff nor does he continue to support those who have abused their positions. Harper has done that. Ray Novak still works for him. Marjory LeBreton who, as Leader for the Government in the Senate, oversaw the whitewashing of the Mike Duffy audit, still works on the Conservative election campaign. Why aren’t they gone? A leader does not alter facts and rewrite history to paint a rosy picture of himself. He does not change laws to increase his power and undermine democratic principles. He does not abuse his majority nor does he wield it as a club to beat his opponents into submission.

Harper is no leader because he has done all the things a leader should not do.

By any measure but his own, Stephen Harper is no one to be admired. He has led a government that is corrupt, amoral and unrelentingly dismissive of all other voices, especially those of dissent in opposition to him. Contrary to the Conservative myth, as a fiscal manager, he is a total bust, ignoring manufacturing for the oil tar sands and for having overseen eight deficits in a row taking responsibility for none by blaming external global forces. Yet, not too long, he was taking credit while the world was falling apart, wagging his fingers admonishing other world leaders of their failings and reminding them he was the model to emulate.

The Conservative party, Stephen Harper and his gang, all of them, some more so than other, have corrupted our electoral process and set out to rig the vote. They have worked towards the systematic erosion of our democracy and have passed legislation that threaten human rights and that could brand one a terrorist simply for acts of civil disobedience that may temporarily disrupt the economy. They have brought disrepute to Canada with their relentless dismissal of the UN, with their targeting of refugees, with their assault against the courts, and with their fixation on trade at any cost with brutal dictatorships with abysmal records of human rights violations.

The Conservative party, Stephen Harper and his gang, all of them, have become corrupted by the allure of power. They govern for the interests of corporations and work to dismantle the things we cherish as Canadians. Our nation is falling apart; the signs are everywhere and can be seen everywhere in our failing infrastructure and disappearing jobs. Under Harper, we have become a wasteland led by lizards. He has proven himself reckless with facts, indifferent to ethics, absent of integrity and too many are still eager to suspend their incredulity and support him. He cannot be believed or trusted. He is the god who has failed because he began with lies and broken promises. Over the years of misrule, abuse and error, he threatens to turn what’s left of our democracy into a grotesquery, a Corporatocracy that may only allow memories of a day when humans matter more than profit.

By then it will be too late. There will be no memory.

***

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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER 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 AND THE GANG THAT WON’T SHOOT STRAIGHT

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. – Edmund Burke

Frank A. Pelaschuk

If anyone today were to muse aloud about “ethical politicians”, it might elicit a loud guffaw. They do come along, but these days are as rare as fish falling from green skies and direct responses from any of Harper’s gang when asked a direct question on ethical matters. We had Conservative Robert Stanfield and CCF/NDP Stanley Knowles. But that was long ago and in another, unrecognizable country. Today, the phrase is a quaint oxymoron.

But why is it so difficult for Stephen Harper and his Conservatives? They appear to lack a moral compass and come across as simply greedy and stupid. Are they all simply husks of air, bombast and meanness?

Whatever it is that stirs them, lapses in ethical behaviour appears not to be among them. For them, critical self-examination is apparently too arduous and unrewarding; it’s easier to point at the moral lapses of others with one hand while digging in the public purse with the other. While such finger pointing does not absolve one, for these types, there is evidently something pleasurable, if childishly inadequate, in saying, “Well, you did it too,” as if hoping to convince bystanders with their faux and gleeful outrage that moral equivalency is at play, though that is seldom true and is never persuasive as an argument; pointing out the wrongs of another does not nullify one’s own and it certainly does nothing to enhance the image of the finger pointer.

POWER CORRUPTS. BUT DOES IT?

Harper and his gang have amply demonstrated the perils of entering into the shady world of politics. When individuals run for public office, they almost always offer a picture of themselves, as they believe themselves to be, that is, one of us, honest, engaged, reliable, knowledgeable, dedicated, a selfless, and tireless servant and defender of the people. They almost always disappoint. They would have us believe that they are out there working on our behalf, that they will act honestly and honourably in all their dealings. They may even believe it and convince us into believing that what we see is what we’ll get. But it almost never quite works like that.

Politics changes people. Power corrupts. I have heard such said many times and, I confess, in my younger days, I had accepted those as valid truisms. Too, I did not care, the world would run smoothly without my input, there were others who knew more than I did, who were wiser and better. To say that I was wrong is to understate it. Unfortunately, these days there are too many as I was then and yet, in some ways, much worse, too focused into their own narrow self-centredness of getting “things” to concern themselves with the travails of others. But old and grey, perhaps just tired, I no longer believe that of one. I do believe politics can change people, it can open hearts and minds and reward and transform some. But it can also shut them down, replacing hope with bitterness, trust with cynicism. For each, I am certain, the experience will be different; once you enter the murky world of politics, you can never be the same. But I do not believe power corrupts an individual. It only allows opportunities for acts of corruption. The corruption is already within a rotting soul.

The image we see and believe of those running for office is seldom an accurate image of those we elect. No one who enters politics a truly honest man and leaves corrupted can be said to have been truly honest in the first place. The bruise of corruption and venality had already infected him, in need only of the opportunity to reveal itself. A truly honest man may be tempted, but he never wavers, never succumbs. Too many of us, believing ourselves good and honest, guilty at most of “small”, “harmless” sins, say we want politicians much like ourselves. Sadly, we have them in spades, just like us. Contrary to our high opinions of ourselves, very, very few of us can legitimately make the claim to being totally honest, absolutely trustworthy and unequivocally incorruptible. How many of us have got away with something saying, “it didn’t hurt anyone,” “no one saw me.” “it’s only a small thing,” “it’s not going to break them”? Knowingly keeping the extra change the cashier mistakenly gave you. Running the red light when no one was around. Swiping that small sweet. Buying something from someone on the street that you suspect may have been stolen. Stealing that light bulb or paper roll from your company. It’s easy to excuse the “small” and to laugh them off as “lapses” and to dismiss the effects on others and yourself as “harmless”, which they may well be, but they are nevertheless signs of rot. Moral equivocation is not a virtue.

For too many of us, it becomes easier to take it to another level. When a person fudges while campaigning, makes promises he knows he cannot keep, who misleads and lies, who cooks his books and refuses to open them, we can know this with a certainty of that person: he or she bears watching; it is no longer a laughing matter.

THE INTOLERABLE CHINTZINESS OF THE PETTY TIGHT-FISTED CHEAT

By now all of Canada knows of the four senators investigated for illegal expense claims: fraud in other words. Liberal Mac Harb must repay over $230 thousand. Conservative Harper appointees, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, all removed from the caucus, were into the taxpayers’ pockets for tens of thousands of dollars. When it appeared that Duffy had repaid $90 thousand (in reality it was Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright, who gifted the money and then resigned, leaving other questions to be answered regarding the PMO), Marjory LeBreton declared his case closed and senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen doctored the Deloitte report on him. Those three, as well, have a lot for which to answer.

We have seen people appointed to the senate for no apparent reason than what they could bring to the fortunes of the Conservative Party, including two of the most efficient fundraisers, Wallin and Duffy, though of Wallin it can be said she did serve the nation as Canada’s consul general to New York. Both had entered the senate with sterling reputations as far as the public knew. However, their fall from grace has been considerable and deserved, the damage to their standing irreparable. But, for Duffy, his fall from grace was not that far, for it had begun before his appointment to the Senate when the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that he had violated broadcasting ethics during the 2008 election, misrepresenting the views of one of three liberal members on the panel of his CTV show as well as airing an interview with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion that was cruelly intended to bring ridicule upon the liberal leader in a manner that “was not fair, balanced, or even handed” (Wikipedia). That same year, Duffy was appointed to the Senate. The Conservatives clearly knew what they were getting and liked what they saw. He was their kind of person.

But if Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin were simply motivated by greed or had made mistakes, as Wallin claimed in an interview on The National with Peter Mansbridge of CBC (June 13) with the admission she had been careless in failing to perform due diligence, what must we make of Conservatives Shelly Glover, James Bezan and Eve Adams who also have problems of their own which, while not as egregious in scope, still need answering?

Not that long ago, the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand wrote two letters to Conservative Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of the House, recommending that both Glover and Bezan be suspended for failing to file complete campaign expenses. Glover and Bezan, having none of it, filed appeals in court. Incredibly, the Speaker of the House, who is supposed to be nonpartisan, not only denied the request, evidently falling for Peter Van Loan’s assertion he had no right to tender a decision on a matter now before the court, he had also refused to table the letters before the House, sitting on them for several weeks before they finally became public knowledge. Scheer’s was purely a political and partisan decision allowing the two Conservatives enough time to launch their appeals and thumb their noses at Elections Canada with the full support of the Harper Conservative gang. Once a Conservative, always a stooge. Such acts do nothing for Canadian democracy except add another wound. Still, no expressions of shame or regret. Just business as usual.

A question, of course, comes to mind: If everything is on the up and up, why is the Conservative Party and those two members, so reluctant to file full, accurate expense reports? It’s that simple. Come clean.

But what is even more alarming, and clearly indicative of how entrenched is the contempt harboured by Harper and his gang for even the suggestion of transparency and for the democratic process, is that Shelly Glover, has since been appointed to the five-person panel (Conservative dominated, of course) to advise the government in the next appointment for the Supreme Court. Instead of suspension for not following the rules, Glover is rewarded. For Harper and crew, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, the queen of mean, “Rules are for the little people”. Once again, they thumb their noses at process and Canadian taxpayers pay the price. Absolutely shameless and absolutely revelatory of the moral compass by which they operate.

And then we have Eve Adams, poor, pathetic Eve Adams, the bobble head who sits next to Glover in the House and occasionally appears on Power and Politics with the set responses for the question of the day firmly embedded somewhere in that brain. She, too, is under investigation for making illegal expense claims of $2777. Now Adams states that over $1800 went to childcare and suggests her $260 Shoppers Drug Mart tab went towards toothpaste and grooming for volunteers. Perhaps. But how does she justify her $400 plus spa treatments? Compared to the senate scandal, these numbers are not large but it could be that the thing that may most rile Canadians, however, is the fact that, after the election, Adams attempted to claim for $2.63 cupcakes and restaurant fare. It’s the small things that can trip one up because there is almost something sad about the cheapness and chintziness in claiming those cupcakes as expenses. The amount is so meagre and yet the behaviour so pathetically and appallingly parsimonious that one might wish to pity this example of unpleasant tight-fistedness. One might wish. But not this writer. How trustworthy can anyone be with the big things who fudges on the small things? Not very, I suggest. It’s the small things that can get you. Remember Bev Oda, the minister who may have forged, or whose staffer may have forged, a signed government document, the minister who twice had to repay false expense claims, the minister who was finally felled by a $16 orange juice?

If there’s any justice in this world, one can only hope Eve Adams, Shelly Glover and James Bezan will eventually go the way of Oda and Peter Penashue. They evidently don’t experience the sense of shame that would move honourable individuals to do the right, decent thing. Innocent or not, they are judged by their behaviour. Fairly or not, they cannot be trusted. Nor should they. An open book is all that is required and yet they refuse those who pay that right.

BASHING PUBLIC SERVANTS AND ANYONE ELSE IN THE WAY

And while Conservatives on one side are busy not explaining themselves, we have those Conservatives on the other side, Tony Clement and James Moore, happily looking for a scrap with federal government employees. From the very first, smearing others and scapegoating has been the favourite pastime of Harper and thugs. This is the government, after all, that assumes all those collecting EI are fraudsters, that all critics are enemies, of questionable patriotism or of siding with criminals, pedophiles or of being radical stooges of foreign environmentalist groups. Even veterans collecting disability pay were not immune to the mean-spirited niggardliness of Harper who, before he was elected as prime minister in 2006, had declared, “All too often, we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” He won and made changes all right, clawing back the disability pensions of veterans (reinstated years later; refer to March 28th post). His troubles with veterans, however, are not over. Recently, Cpl. Glen Kirkland, against the wishes of senior military brass, appeared before a committee of MPs regarding the treatment he suffered at the hands of the military when trying to claim health benefits. This was a soldier who fought and nearly died in Afghanistan while in the performance of his duty. Defence Minister Peter MacKay had made a loud declaration that Kirkland would not suffer as a consequence of his appearance before the panel. That assurance was as good as his word to David Orchard a few years back when the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance Party. Shortly after his appearance, Kirkland was issued release papers from the military to take effect in six months. With the ensuing uproar that followed, the military brass and MacKay met. MacKay ordered the papers torn up and the military busied themselves admitting there had been “a colossal mix-up”. While the military clearly did not like what Kirkland had to say, they cared even less for the public backlash. This was just another betrayal of veterans by the Harper regime and the public did not like it. While the outcome appears to be satisfactory for Kirkland, we are left wondering about the treatment of those other walking wounded by the military and this government.

But, not satisfied with just scapegoating ordinary, but discerning and critical citizens, we have the Conservatives, with frontmen Tony Clement, the man behind the $50 million slush fund boondoggle for his riding, the president of the treasury board which has “mislaid” $3.1 billion, and James Moore, minister of historical distortion and Conservative revisionist propaganda, doing their dirty work stigmatizing public servants with suggestions that they are slackers, dishonest, and incompetent and embarking upon a campaign to bypass the bargaining process in the case of border guards. While these are cynical, despicable diversions, and they are despicable when lives are played with for personal gain, meant to deflect public attention away from the many troubles of this scandal prone regime, with its predilection for padding expenses and fraud, it could be there is more at play here, both men of immense egos priming themselves for the role of Conservative leader when Harper leaves the stage.

But before excited Harperite voters, especially those envious anti-unionists jump on the federal public servant bashing bandwagon, they should pause to reflect on this regime’s proclivity for avarice, mendacity, obfuscation, hypocrisy, and unethical and anti-Democratic behaviour. Unfortunately, when it comes to swallowing Harper poison, Harperites are nonpareil in suspending credulity. Promise them the moon. That’s sufficient. Buy them off with tax cuts. That’s sufficient. Tell the Big Lie. That too is sufficient. Feed them another lie, any lie; repeat the process time after time; do it again and again. It doesn’t matter. Just get the enemy, it doesn’t matter who, and destroy them. And for Harper and crew, the enemy is anyone who criticizes. Those true believer misanthropic Harperites are always there ready and eager to blindly swallow any crap dished out by this group. An incredibly nice and perceptive bunch.

BUT WHO IS WITHOUT SIN?

While this regime has many serious problems and all of them have to do with the secretive, closed, paranoid nature of its governance bolstered by an attitude that is highhandedly convinced of its infallibility and its right to be answerable to no one, Harper and gang, sadly, are not the only party, though by far the worst, that needs looking at.

The Liberals had their own scandals in the past, and Mac Harb, the same Harb who has been told to repay over $230 thousand, was their man in the senate. It does Justin Trudeau little credit to say that Harb will be allowed to return to the Liberal fold if he repays what he owes and faces no criminal charge. Since when is it sufficient to simply pay back what you have illegally obtained? There must be real consequences. It is no justifiable excuse to claim the rules were unclear. If unsure, hire a lawyer or accountant.

Even as I write this, the Conservatives, especially propaganda minister James Moore, are in paroxysms of ecstasy over news that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had breached Parliament Hill security by blowing by the security guard and ignoring the flashing lights of the police car pursuing him until he found his parking spot. It is alleged, and there is no evidence for this, that he turned on the officer and reportedly said, “Do you know who I am?” and threatened to report him to his superiors. If true, that was cheap, arrogant and evidence that some people probably believe their own press. But it is really stretching it for the Conservatives to hope or believe that this issue should be enough to get the public to forget the senate scandal, Mike Duffy, the $90 thousand gifted cheque by Nigel Wright. With hundreds of thousands of dollars ripped from Canadians, this failure to stop at a security station, while serious, hardly compares to the Conservative obfuscations, evasions, lies, and failure to answer questions. Now that the RCMP are looking at the matter of the Wright cheque, there is little doubt that Harper and gang will now use this as a subterfuge to continue to refuse to answer questions.

The NDP, however, has another more problematic issue that could severely erode whatever support they may have. It is their failure to back Liberal motions to make public online all MP expenses. If unhappy with the motions, the NDP should have presented their own proposals or made amendments. Instead, they simply said that the Liberals were grandstanding and nixed the propositions. It is hard to love a party that demands openness and transparency from others while refusing the same for itself.

While I will never, ever vote Conservatives, believing them the most dishonest and dangerous to Canadian Democracy and to Canadian citizens, I am hard pressed to say that I will continue to vote NDP. I am reminded of these words of G.K. Chesterton: “My country right or wrong is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober!’” My party right or wrong is not something I can do. I cannot imagine being desperate enough to vote for what I don’t believe. If I am missing something, I wish the NDP would explain what it is.

WHY SHOULD I BE INTERESTED?

There is something seriously wrong with Canadian politics. It has become corrupted by the slothful and ignorant where winning for the sake of winning appears to be the goal and getting what you can, when you can, the only purpose. It has become about compliance, about partisan sniping and satisfying the wants, rather than the needs, of special interests instead of a uniting of opposing forces to combat the common problems that afflict us all: poverty, inadequate housing, mediocre health care, failing education, crumbling infrastructures, hunger, and the despair of knowing that the greedy haves will always keep a boot on the base of your neck. There are few visionaries and fewer men and women of principle and courage. Too many in politics are like most of us, believers of nothing and out for the main chance: what’s in it for me?

Recently, Conservative Dean Del Mastro has emerged from whatever hole after eighteen months, under investigation by Elections Canada for overspending while campaigning and then covering it up. Appearing in the House June 13, reading from a statement and near tears of whinging self-pity, he had, he said, “been subjected to unfounded hatred, contempt and ridicule as the result of a leaked document belonging to Elections Canada…” (Ottawa Citizen, June 14, 2013). I was totally unmoved recalling him during the robocall scandal, his loud, relentlessly abusive assaults against opposition members as he finger-wagged, shifted and dodged in a contemptible effort to protect his party while refusing to respond to questions deserving answers and, at the same time, smearing others with innuendo under the protective shield of the House. Not surprisingly, he often resorted to the childish “Well, you did it too!” Some defence. Now, emerged from his warren and clearly unrepentant, Del Mastro’s pitiful display should move no one who recalls his merciless behaviour in the past. As ye sow, so shall you reap.

Those who lie, who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others, those people who change fashion with every breeze and who believe that, having gained power, they must wield it as a club, are craven and detestable. Yet I see such people every day as well as the arrogant and smug when I watch Question Period or Power and Politics on TV when the Conservative bobble heads appear on screen and mouth the same words time and again without answering a single question honestly and openly. The sly and weaselling are there too, abhorrent toads who worm their way out of difficulties by resorting to legalities rather than to what is ethical and honest. As well, there are the venal, such as we have seen of late, those lowlifes who fudge expense accounts, who nickel and dime us at every turn, who will not come clean with their expense claims and who claim what is not theirs to claim. They are fraudsters, liars, untrustworthy and unworthy and the worst of all are those who sell themselves for so little and who hold no beliefs except the belief that they are somehow better and more deserving and who are pitiless against those who fail, who are weak and in need of intervention rather than incarceration in the firm belief that those people, those lowlifes, have brought it on themselves. They are the feral zombies who float through life in awe of themselves firmly believing that their every accomplishment is noteworthy, cosmic, and solely by their own efforts.

I see all the things I do not like on Parliament Hill, the liars, shills, snake oil salesmen, charlatans, and weasels. I do not believe Harper is an honest man and I do not believe him kind or generous. But I do believe him small and petty and believe the same of his unworthy crew. I have seen little sign of integrity; if it is there, it is as smoke, no more, a puff of air, poof! and it is gone. They would not, could not, behave as they do otherwise.

I would not trust them in my house. I would not shake their hands. If I were locked in the same room with them for an hour, I would feel a need to shower because they are not clean. How can anyone who is in power be clean when he perceives his only duty is to achieve his ends and interests, help his friends, line his pockets, and views all dissenting voices as enemies to be destroyed and treats the concepts of ethics, integrity and Democracy merely as hindrances to be endured rather than lived.

CONSERVATIVES, CORRUPTION, AMORALITY AND THE BIG FIX

A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy. – Benjamin Disraeli

The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted the spoons – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Frank A. Pelaschuk

NOT SO FAST MARJORY LEBRETON

Not all that long ago, (May 9th, 2013), with the recent release of the audit on the three senators who had made false housing and travel claims, Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, stated the matter was over as far as Mike Duffy was concerned. This declaration was made after the public had been informed that Mike Duffy had repaid $90 thousand dollars he had collected while not entitled to do so after making false claims. LeBreton also threatened Liberal Sen. Mac Harb and Sen. Patrick Brazeau, Stephen Harper appointee, now an Independent, with garnishment if they didn’t repay their false claims on time. Neither Harb nor Brazeau, it would appear, would be offered any leniency by the Conservative dominated senate. The difference between the three cases, as far as the public was led to believe was that one, Duffy, had “voluntarily” offered and made restitution to the tune of $90 thousand. However, with the latest revelations regarding Conservative Sen. Duffy, it is clear that LeBreton spoke far too soon.

When word came, with much fanfare, that Duffy had repaid the $90 thousand, Stephen Harper and the rest of the Conservative chorus began to sing his praises. Duffy, who had admitted to no wrongdoing, had done the right thing; he was honourable. So went the line. The way they sold it, it was unlikely there was a finer, more honest individual to be found anywhere across this great land. Well that sounded good, didn’t it? Of course, not everyone was buying it.

Some suggested it was time to call in the RCMP. Neither LeBreton nor Harper would have any of that. The matter was closed as far as they were concerned. For others, however, there was still that nagging question that needed a response: If guiltless, why would Duffy feel impelled to repay the housing claims to which he was entitled? The forms were confusing, he had claimed. He may have made a mistake. “But I would not knowingly fiddle,” he had said. He had also said, “Canadians know I am an honest person…”

The audit results suggest otherwise. And because they do, more than repayment is called for.

But Duffy’s refund was not the whole story, was it. Not by a long shot. For weeks the public had been led to believe that he had repaid the money out of his own funds, presumably the money he had illegally claimed as his entitlements. We now know that Duffy, forewarned by another senator, Conservative David Tkachuk, about what to expect, that the audit would, as it did, find that he had abused his office, could not afford to repay the money on time. Not to worry; he had a good friend in the PMO willing to help. The money was repaid. The name of the benefactor was Nigel Wright, Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper. But none of this was made public until May 15. Intriguingly, once the refund was made, good ol’ Duff no longer co-operated with those investigating him and LeBreton declared the matter closed.

Unfortunately, the narrative as the cretinous Duffy, Stephen Harper and the Harper gang may have sought isn’t as straightforward as they would have us believe. It was true; the government was repaid money Duffy had undeservedly claimed, but the repayment was not from Duffy’s wallet nor was it even with the taxpayers’ own money. Instead, the debt was paid with a “gift” from Nigel Wright, Harper’s right hand man. But none of this, as stated above, was made public by Duffy, Wright or anyone else who may have known. If the $90 thousand was a loan, Duffy and Wright had a duty to inform the auditors as well as the Leader of the Government of the Senate, LeBreton, and the Ethics Commissioner. But not a whisper for weeks until May 15th, when the story broke. Only then did Wright finally inform the Ethics Commissioner of the $90 thousand cheque. If, however, the $90 thousand was a “gift” rather than a loan from Nigel Wright to good ol’ Duff, then surely the rules were broken. As cited in the Globe and Mail (May 15th), “senators are prohibited from accepting gifts that could reasonably be seen to relate to their position.” No ambiguity there. Clearly the $90 thousand “gift” had everything to do with Duffy’s senate position, the anticipation of the audit outcome and the preserving of his position and whatever reputation he had left. Forewarned, the debt repaid, Duffy no doubt expected that that would be the end of the matter. With LeBreton’s help, that’s exactly what transpired. Now the public might be forgiven for shaking their heads with disappointment if not disbelief. The public might also be forgiven for wondering if these people have any clue as to how this looks, if they even care or if they experience any sense of shame. If Harper and gang have any inkling what ethics entails, they obviously are unfamiliar and indifferent to the practice of it and they certainly don’t care what you and I think. And they will continue to not care until you and I loudly scream: We are not going to take it any more!

THE CONSERVATIVE CONCEPT OF HONOUR

When the story broke out on May 15, something interesting but unsurprising began to take shape. The Harper regime went into full spin mode. On CBC’s Power and Politics that afternoon, Pierre Poilievre, that Conservative stooge who can always be relied upon to give the government spin on almost any story, kept insisting that Nigel Wright had “done the exceptionally honourable thing” for the taxpayers by paying off Duffy’s debt. Wow. Now that is spin. Wright had saved Duffy’s hide to spare you and me!

So, according to Poilievre, Wright is “exceptionally honourable”. But what is so honourable about this secret pact requiring negotiation between Wright, Duffy, the senate and, for all we know, Harper himself? What is so honourable about a deal bailing out a double-dipping senator who, once the debt was repaid, went mute, became uncooperative, and refused to share records with investigators, and was found to have deliberately made false claims to money that wasn’t his to take in the first place? To suggest, as Harper stooges have, that Wright’s act was pure selfless generosity, just an old friend helping out a pal and attempting to spare the Canadian taxpayers from the pain of the loss of the $90 thousand dollars illegally obtained by Duffy, the same honest Duffy who claimed expenses from the senate while campaigning for Harper and the Conservatives last election, rather than a measure to protect the senator, stretches all credulity. But that is precisely what Harper and his gang want us to believe. This was no attempt at a cover-up. No, indeed. Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing”. So said Poilievre. What is remarkable about that statement is that Poilievre and other Harper Conservative pinheads (Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander et al) had said almost exactly the same thing of Duffy when they went about attempting to convince us that it was Duffy who had paid off the debt he claims he did not owe! It’s remarkable how easily Harperites can shift. Pat phrases always helps; myth making bullshit for any and all occasions.

One could almost be excused for laughing except this is no laughing matter. In the past, Wright himself had been looked at and cleared for ethical breaches. But this $90 thousand gift from one so close to Harper’s office deserves full public scrutiny. Why the secrecy if there was nothing untoward? If this was simply a pal helping a pal, what was there to negotiate? Did Marjory LeBreton and others in the Senate know? If so, how much did they know and to what extent were they involved? Once the $90 thousand was paid, why did Duffy stop co-operating with the investigators, falling silent and refusing to hand over documents that could have cleared him if he is innocent of wrongdoing? Did Stephen Harper know of this gift? Did he play a role in any way? The PMO’s office says Harper knew nothing. With Harper’s well known penchant for control, is that even credible?

The day following the Wright revelations, the Ottawa Citizen ran the following headline: “PMO’s integrity thrown into question” (May 16). Now that is a howler. What integrity are they talking about? This is a government from day one that has demonstrated that it will exercise any excuse for any act, lie or deed committed by one of their members, cronies or friends. Time and again Harper and gang have demonstrated readiness, even eagerness, to point fingers, throw staffers and colleagues under buses, and smear those who dare question its style of governance. It’s even been cited for contempt of parliament. Ministers have been forced to resign for padding expense accounts and accepting illegal corporate donations while campaigning. The truth is, Harper and gang will take a line, any line, twist it, hammer it, chisel it, and hack it to pieces until it fits the filthy portal of lies they insist it must fit. This is a government so ethically challenged that even the staunchest of Conservative supporters are beginning to understand that the promise of an open, honest and transparent government offered by Harper has not only never flown, it has never even sprouted wings.

CONSERVATIVES AND THE ELUSIVE NATURE OF TRUTH

The nature of truth is irresistible. It cannot be stopped. But it can be delayed, interfered with, and denied for some time. Harper’s gang have been doing such for some time; they are well practiced in obfuscation, obstructionism and plain old-fashioned lying. Eventually, truth will out, but occasionally it needs a little help. The RCMP must be brought in.

Notwithstanding Harper’s support of Wright, itself a key insight into Harper’s dark nature, the deal between Wright, Duffy and the senate must be thoroughly investigated. Even if what transpired was legal, it certainly poses some ethical questions. That Harper cannot understand that or, based on his response to past issues, most likely doesn’t care, speaks volumes but should surprise no one. To this regime, ethics, integrity, honesty, truth, shame are just words and little more. Some people just don’t understand them and they never live by them. That so many in Harper’s circle including Harper himself could be devoid of the moral compass that guides most of us is shocking. These people are like zombies, devoid of the things that give a person value and meaning as a human being. They live in a vacuum in which anything goes and the only thing that offers them sustenance is not the doing of the right, just, honourable thing, but the main chance, i.e., what they can get from anything and anyone however and by whatever means. They are beyond redemption and contempt. Harb, Brazeau and perhaps all members of the senate and even parliament should be investigated as well with the books examined and the record set straight. If laws have been broken, charges must be laid. If found guilty, those senators and/or MPs must be booted out of office, they must lose their pensions and they must pay fines and serve time.

When that is done, the public should then turn its attention to the senate and drive a stake through its rotten, pustule plagued, useless, patronage burdened heart.

And then the public should turn its eyes on Stephen Harper and his gang of amoral thugs who can excuse and justify anything vile that suits their needs.

When will the anger turn to rage and the rage to a whirlwind?

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