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DECEIT & MALIGNANCY IN THE PMO: STEPHEN HARPER’S RELENTLESS CAMPAIGNING ON THE PUBLIC DIME

No other factor in history, not even religion, has produced so many wars as has the clash of national egotisms sanctified by the name of patriotism. – Preserved Smith

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. – Richard Arlington

I should like to be able to love my country and to love justice. – Albert Camus

Frank A. Pelaschuk

In a world of politics, when it seems no man, no group, in a civilized society can sink any lower, Harper and his gang always manage to prove me wrong. There is something depraved about the happy nonchalance with which they whittle away at Canadian democracy as they transform it into a Corporatocracy, a meretricious form of governance that works on behalf of business interests and always at the expense of citizens, particularly against the marginalized, the mentally ill, and the working poor, the single parent holding down several jobs while struggling to keep the family together. The extent of the Harper gang’s animus and the notable glee with which they savage unionists and public servants, critics, foes and opponents is unsettling, not just because it happens but because the attacks are so frequent, arbitrary, and malicious with so few apparently noticing or caring.

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

Harper’s 2006 electoral victory that resulted in a minority government was an achievement not all that unique. As had other politicians in the past, he successfully exploited public outrage over Liberal corruption and failed promises offering smug, loud undertakings of his own: less government, less taxes and more jobs. He and his regime would be deaf to “special interest” groups, be more transparent, more open, more honest, and more inclusive. But the allure of Power, of Big Business, especially Big Oil, and the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs and Big Money, had immediately proved too much: special interests won and transparency, openness, honesty, and inclusivity went out the window. Harper has pinned almost everything on the Conservative myth of economic mastery and on the huge tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline project, which would extend from Hardisty, Alberta to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. Here was a base of voters that would have little trouble supporting him and his party. After all, Alberta was rich in oil, jobs were aplenty and this was the birthplace of CRAP (an amalgam of Conservatives/Reform/Alliance Parties), which morphed into what it is today: mean, ugly, partisan, corrupt, and anti-democratic. All Harper had to do was promote Big Oil and tax cuts and play to fears of Big Government by getting rid of the Long Gun Registry (even though the majority of Canadians supported it), and ignore statistical evidence regarding crime, again playing to our fears with promises of more prisons and more jailed for longer periods. And if there were abuses, the mentally ill, the not so dangerous untreated and confined for years in solitary, well, who cared, certainly not Conservatives. The money rolled into the Conservative coffers; happy days were here again. Two years later, the Great Collapse of 2008 threatened the economies of the world but Canada remained relatively secure and stable. We had survived relatively intact. But the quiet, steady, unexciting Canadian modesty of the past was precisely that, a thing of the past with Harper at the helm. There he was, gloating loudly, pointing and wagging fingers, reminding the world of Canada’s economic strength and shrewdness and taking for himself all the credit for the achievements of a solid banking system put in place by previous, mostly Liberal, governments. Harper was no wallflower, nor was he shy in telling others how to get their houses in order and he certainly wasn’t shy in spreading the lie of how he and his Conservatives had saved Canada, perhaps even the world, from the brink of disaster. It was an unpleasant spectacle revealing Harper and his gang for what they really were, parochial, petty, hectoring, taking credit they had not earned and for years reminding Canadians it was the Liberals, always the Liberals, when things went wrong. Harper and his gang were wizards, faultless and nonpareil. Unfortunately, too many Canadians bought the myth: Harper was and is the economic wizard, a leader among men if you don’t mind him telling you so himself. But suddenly he was more; with Canada’s involvement in the war in Iraq against ISIS, he was a warrior/leader unlike any Canada had ever elected before, the man who would lead the world to salvation against ISIS the greatest threat to mankind since history began. Well, with oil prices tumbling, the gloating’s stopped and the Great Economic Wizard doesn’t look so great today after turning an inherited $13 billion dollar surplus into a massive $159 billion deficit. The collapse of oil prices was bad enough but Obama’s rejection of XL over environmental concerns was another shattering blow, the “radicals” in the environmental movement had won. So, for most, the good times are all gone if they ever were. Harper and his oily crew will tell us about the million net jobs created but how many of us feel the effects of all the good times coming our way? A million jobs? The flim-flam man’s at it again twisting facts and figures with a brave display of of bloviating braggadocio. According to him, we were the envy of the world and he let the world know it. Are we now? Times are suddenly tough but it’s not Harper’s fault, the gods are conspiring against him. He can’t blame the Liberals any more so it’s ISIS, the failure of other governments to respond to market forces, environmentalists and climatologists wreaking economic havoc with their lies and false-science quackery. Never mind that he pinned his hopes on one sector and neglected other provinces and the manufacturing sectors. Harper was, is, blameless. Just ask him.

Even so, neglecting infrastructures, cutting healthcare transfer payments and unloading unemployment burdens to the provinces, cutting services, closing down offices, and offering bonuses to bureaucrats who, in a reign of terror, oversaw the loss of 37,000 public servants jobs, a reign of terror that continues to this day, Harper is able to claim a small surplus and to find scads of money to bribe his core base of supporters with shiny baubles. Well, it’s worked before, why not now? He’s the Great Economic Wizard and there are plenty who prefer to believe in magic and snake oil.

And that is exactly what Harper is counting on. So the programs roll and there he is pushing for voluntary increases to CPP contributions, something he not all that long ago railed against and has absolutely no intention of seeing through. There is the increase to childcare benefits that began January 1st but will not begin to pay out until July 1st, mere months before the election, with a big, fat, retroactive cheque of $420 per child to remind those who receive them to whom they owe this largesse. And, of course, we have the income splitting, that wonderful program that helps those who already have, the top 15% who will garner about 49% of the benefits. But what of the single income family, the single parent holding down two or three jobs and struggling to keep the family together? What does income splitting mean for them? Nothing. A big, fat zero. No two thousand dollar tax break for them. Too bad, how sad, perhaps next time. Meanwhile, don’t forget, Harper’s your man.

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

While how Harper came to be elected may not be unique, what is unique is the nastiness of his governance and of those around him. We are all familiar with Harper’s boasting of how his was the only economic vision that would create jobs and witnessed first hand how he, and then employment minister Jason Kenney, conspired with Big Business to undermine Canadian workers with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that allowed foreign workers to be paid 15% below Canadian workers. That stopped when the public learned of it. Then we had RBC workers training foreign workers to do their jobs, which were then shipped overseas. That, too, changed when the public learned of it. But Conservatives and Big Business kept on trying. Foreign workers replaced Canadian workers in low-income jobs (they don’t complain, i.e., stand up for themselves, like Canadian workers). That is how anti-union Harper and Big Business work together to create jobs for Canadians: suppress wages, maximize profits. Never mind that the jobs are part-time, minimum wage, a life-long trap of drudgery, misery and fading hope. Harper and gang are not just anti-union, they are anti-worker preferring to keep low-income earners on the margins and are apparently content that a preponderance of jobs are part-time. Theirs is a vile worldview whereby the greedy, the powerful, and the brutal are rewarded while the real creators of wealth, the men and women who do the hard work and heavy lifting are punished, forced to do more and accept less.

And if the Conservatives are petty, vindictive and just plain mean, they are also puerile. Just watch them during Question Period in the House and judge for yourself. You will be treated to a dismal show of Conservatives exhibiting all the traits of what it takes to be a member of the Conservative Party, Harper’s gang in particular: arrogance, stupidity, pettiness, vanity, vindictiveness, deceitfulness, ignorance, bigotry, shamelessness. Their wilful refusal to answer questions put to them, their fingerpointing with responses unrelated to questions posed, their disregard for truth, their dismissal of the input of others, their absolute certitude they have all the answers, their abusive use of their majority, has made a mockery of the Parliamentary system. I have yet to see sparks of decency, of shame, of integrity from any member of the Harper gang. They govern as drunken lords and masters rather than as leaders worthy of respect and trust. They know more than all the scientists, scholars, legal and social experts combined. Contemptuous of everyone, they listen to no one, barbarians locked into a narrow vision that allows for no dissent. Experts are to be mistrusted, scientists to be muzzled, advice disregarded. Critics are dismissed, maligned, ridiculed, mocked and crushed. As for the public? Distract them, buy them off, offer cheap, shiny trinkets, the voter is that stupid. The Harper gang know their supporters.

Conservatives leave nothing to chance. As a consequence, they rig the game, surreptitiously changing rules, slipping and burying legislation into omnibus bills in hopes opposing players and spectators will not notice. Such moves are designed to deny members of the opposition and the public they serve opportunity to even learn of new legislation or of campaign electoral breaches by the governing party until too late. Too, such changes allow, indeed, almost guarantee, for political interference by the government, especially if the government is made up of present members of the Conservative party. Ethics and integrity are of no concern for this bunch of Conservative pond scum. So, when one sees a Conservative ad attacking Justin Trudeau, there should be no surprise to learn the ad is lifted almost verbatim from an NDP Manitoba ad during the 2011 campaign. It is this, Harper’s relentless campaigning without an election writ yet dropped and his willingness to spend lavish millions of newfound monies, your taxpayer dollars, that most clearly reveals the utter contempt he holds for Parliament, opposition members and, more particularly, the public. His only concern is to satisfy his hard-core base of supporters, those 30 to 40 percent of the voters who never tire of his mealy slop. Daily, we see our tax dollars spent on advertisements (to the tune of $13.5 million during hockey playoff season) that do not inform but rather promote the Conservative budget and its promises of income splitting and childcare benefit increases that have yet to be approved by parliament. By now, most Canadians have doubtless seen the partisan, tax-funded ads in which smarmy Pierre Poilievre appears talking to “shoppers” promoting Harper and the increased childcare benefits or standing in the halls of Parliament regaling us with the heart-warming story of his “Auntie” Kathy caring for him after school, we are not being informed but rather reminded, several times, that it is due to Harper that we owe all this largesse. But these are just promises. “Pending parliamentary approval”. That’s what we see at the bottom of these partisan ads, which, for politics generally, marks a new low in skirting elections laws but, for the Conservatives, is just another day at the office of dirty tricks. Imagine your banker drawing money directly from your account to pay for ads telling you how much he is saving you and doing for you. Would you accept that? I think not. Yet, there is Harper, spending your money to tell you what a great job he’s doing. And the election has yet to be called. We have entered the era of American-style campaigning. It never ends. And the winner is invariably the side that gets the most money in return for political favours. That is the huge downside of fixed election dates and first-past-the post.

But it is not a downside, of course, when you have a party as wealthy as the Conservative Party and which is made up of scoundrels, liars, opportunists, and the coldly calculating. It is not blood that gives them life, unless sucking it from others, nor conscience that directs them, but the allure of power, what power does, how it can be wielded, who can be made to bend and submit. We see it almost daily, Harper’s contempt of Parliament, his absences from the House during question period or, when present, by his dismissive refusal to answer questions honestly, often with diversionary responses having nothing to do with the matter at hand. It is all about control and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than the Conservatives refusal to appear in televised debates with the major networks, CBC News, ICI, Radio-Canada Télé, CTV News, and Global News which, in the past, have joined forces to offer leadership debates for maximum public exposure. Harper has opted to form a partnership with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine YouTube, and Rogers/Maclean’s. In turning the others down, calling them a “cabal”, Kory Tenecyke, Conservative spokesman, and former head man of the defunct Sun Media owned by Separatist Pierre Karl Peladeau, for whom Harper and gang could do no wrong, says the traditional outlet excludes other formats. What a crock! This is about control and about a government running scared. Personally, I would prefer the other leaders go with the “Consortium”. If Harper doesn’t show, place an empty podium reminding Canadians of Harper’s refusal to join the debate with the best chance of being viewed by more Canadians. The leaders could say something like this: “I would like to know what the Prime Minister thinks, but wait, I can’t know, he refused to be here.” As it is, the NDP has accepted Harper’s terms of when, where, how and what the topics will be. That is a mistake. Mulcair has ceded to Harper what was never his in the first place.

But, if Harper loves control, and we know he does, we also know he is not much for accepting responsibility. We have seen too often how he prefers to cut and run, to blame others, to smear and belittle opponents and to question the patriotism of his harshest critics.

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

Not that long ago, Harper, the great general, our Dear Leader, went to Iraq. We know he’s a great leader because we’ve seen the ads, sombre music, thunderous sound of helicopters, tanks, jeeps, speed boats, men and women in camouflage, “Going where few dare to go” and making “the world a safer place”. These are war images, Harper at his vile best fomenting fear and evoking images of barbarians at the gate. Now don’t get me wrong. I support the military and I believe the men and women as brave and fine as any. But the fact is, Harper’s acts do not match the rhetoric. We can all recall how he treated our disabled veterans. The military operates with out-dated equipment, boats in repair, submarines inoperable, tired ships due to be retired in five years. Yes, our military men and women are all that we would wish and more, but they are handicapped by a government that has cut, cut and cut some more. For God sakes Halifax navy mechanics had to shop on eBay for parts for one of two supply ships! Is this really a military might that will save the world? Is Harper really the leader you want as commander?

Yet there he was in Iraq, with members from 24Seven, which masks as a government “news” channel over “exclusives” but which is, in reality, a front for his own personal tax-funded advertising team (it’s easy to see why the Conservative Party has a huge reserve for campaigning; it gets to spend public money until the writ is dropped). The Iraq visit was a photo-op, nothing more. We were treated to images of Harper at the front, peering through binoculars. But we also saw images, the faces of Canadian Special Forces members. That’s a no-no. Soldiers and their families could have been placed at risk. Harper, with this vainglorious stunt, broke his own rule. While the mainstream media honoured the restriction, Harper couldn’t resist the poster shot of himself with brave men and women. Yeah, a real leader is Harper.

When confronted by this, Harper said he and his tax funded advertising team had been cleared and given permission to do this. Not so, according to the military brass: the Conservatives had neither sought nor received clearance to show faces. Well this is an election year. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Harper and gang are liars who will do anything to win including placing at risk those already in harm’s way.

When he did speak to the troops stationed in Iraq, presumably giving them the comfort of his magnificence presence, leadership and words, Harper said, “That’s why, as the national anthem says, you stand on guard, alongside a wide coalition of the international community, to comfort and defend the innocents in this part of the world and to make sure this threat does not despoil our home and native land” (CBC News, May 3, 2015). That’s a rather unique view of our anthem but, gosh, how American is that? You could almost love the big lug for that, if you didn’t know that he was again reminding Canadians, with his penchant for hyperbolic assurances, that he, mighty warrior, having proven himself on the world stage as a leader among men and women and the bravest and grandest of the allied forces leaders, he, he alone with his Conservative Party, is the only leader capable of bringing ISIS to it’s knees. If you haven’t heard it by now, ISIS is the most evil force man has ever known and the greatest threat to humankind, especially Canada. As a consequence, he has rammed through the anti-terrorist bill, C-51, a bill that jurists, legal scholars, activists and the NDP have condemned as overkill and unnecessary posing a real threat to civil liberties. Think not? As the bill stands, Conservative denials notwithstanding, C-51 grants greater powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) without real oversight. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), already underfunded and understaffed will simply not be able to do an adequate job of protecting Canadians from abuses. Too, all information on Canadian citizens can be shared not only with other Canadian agencies but also with allies. Those making accusations against others will be granted protection by the cloak of anonymity. The accused will not be able to face his accuser. Even peaceful protest could conceivably be targeted. Activists blocking transportation of oil, for example, could be charged with economic terrorism. That is not the way a free society operates. C-51, itself is an act of terrorism against Canadian citizens.

It is unfortunate that Trudeau’s Liberals opted to support this bill.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

The less informed Canadians are, the greater the comfort experienced by Harper’s Conservatives. They do not opt for light, for generosity, for kindness, nor do they offer hope or wisdom. They prefer to wallow in the filth of their kind of politics, the politics of darkness and cowardice: cheap shots and foul blows; fear, hate, rage, envy, dishonesty, pettiness, bribery, and vindictiveness are the tools in their vile arsenal of dirty tricks, and they deploy them happily and shamelessly.

They plot. They do not inform but will tell us they do. They derive no comfort in our knowing. Instead, they suppress. Or they create the mythology of themselves that no one can believe except the truly credulous and the easily bought and these, the easily bought, believe in nothing but what’s in it for themselves; they are the enablers of a corrupt regime, this regime, bloodsuckers that take and contribute nothing towards making for a better society; they not only allow for bad government, they make for corrupt governance: as long as they get their slice, they’ll ignore the Harper gang’s corrosive effects on the institutions that have made this country better than it is today. For the enablers, only today matters, tomorrow is a long, long way off.

During Harper’s years in office, we have witnessed his regime’s attacks against climatologists and environmentalists. Their credentials are often questioned and reputation impugned. Environmental activists are dismissed as “radicals”. But the Harper gang have also gone after the government’s own scientists, particularly those doing research on climate and fisheries and oceans. Government scientists work in fear and dare not speak; those who do are fired or threatened with job loss. In recent weeks, a few have taken to the streets demanding an end to the muzzling of scientists by Harper. The scientists speaking out were few; they know the price of doing so. What we saw in these public events were those representing them, the union and unionists. In the past six years, 2,000 scientists have lost their jobs. Research funding has been cut. Scientists believe they have a right to speak out; after all, Canadians pay for the research. Harper and his gang believe otherwise as do some journalists using the false argument that the government owns the results of research. That is true, but it is not a question of ownership, of scientists seeking to profit from the research. Rather, it is the belief of scientists that, since the public pays for it, the public has the right to know when research results demonstrate a real impact on Canadians. This is not about ownership but about the right of Canadians to know. There is only one reason the Harper gang would not wish the results of scientific research be made public: the possible negative impact it may have on Big Business, especially the big polluters in Big Oil and Big Mining. While Harper and those special interest groups who have his attention may wish it otherwise and seems determined to have it so, government scientists work at the behest and on behalf of Canadians not for profiteering Big Business. At least, that’s the theory. But Harper and gang and their business friends clearly know something we don’t. And they wish to keep it that way.

Those who pollute are protected. Those who lay waste to the land, who poison our water are seldom held accountable. This is a pro-business government more concerned with the health and welfare of Big Business, especially the tar sands, than with the health and welfare of Canadians and the land we inhabit. As a result, Canadians find themselves blindsided by a government in the pockets of special interests groups willing to intimidate, silence and fire scientists daring to speak out. For Conservatives, it is true: Knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

We have an election coming on. You know it with the endless Harper tax-funded ads and the lavish promises of tax cuts and more money in our pockets. But there is nothing about infrastructure, improvements to healthcare, aid for the homeless, for the elderly, or help for the young. We have the Duffy trial and a report on the Senate by the Auditor General Michael Ferguson to be made public on June 9. The report, a government document, has already suffered leaks, and was released to the Senate June 4. This dovetailed neatly with the leaks of the previous weeks and with the story Robert Fife of CTV “broke” during the week of May 24 to May 30 regarding the expenses of the Auditor General’s office and which prompted Ferguson to defend his office and to confirm that 30 Senators would be named and ten referred to the RCMP for investigation. It appears, over a period of four years, the Auditor General’s office spent $107,110 for its 640 employees in its four offices across the country. The employees were taken out to dinner, had pizza and, this of particular note to Fife and others, spent $23,000 at an entertainment centre for “team building”. That’s about $41.83 per year per employee. Quel Scandale! This kind of team building is common practice in large organizations and hardly merits attention especially in light of the fact that all this is non-news; anyone wishing to can find the information on the government website. The timing of the Fife story, a week before the AG Report was to be released, was curious and its intent unmistakable. Fife is deservedly a well-respected journalist; it is not his integrity I question. I am, however, curious as to who put the bug in his ear. This is information easily obtained on the government website, though, it is true, the expenses are not outlined in the detail offered by Fife. Fergusons numbers regarding Senators who may have overstepped the mark were confirmed on June 4. Thirty senators have been named, nine to be referred to the RCMP. The nine to be referred are two sitting members, Liberal Colin Kenny and Conservative member Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu and seven retired members, Liberals Sharon Carstairs, Rod Zimmer, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin, and Bill Rompkey and Conservatives Donald Oliver and Gerry St. Germain. Folks may recall that Conservative Senator Boisvenu, a Harper appointee, was a very strong supporter of Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda. On the report’s release, he has resigned from the Conservative caucus. Of the twenty-one remaining Senators with questionable expense claims are three holding key positions in the Senate including leading the charge to clean up the Red Chamber. They are two Harper appointees, Leo Housakos, Senate Speaker, Claude Carignan, government leader and Liberal Opposition Leader, James Cowan. They were also responsible for the appointment of ex-Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie as independent arbitrator regarding disputes regarding Senate expenses. Because of the roles they play and because of the possibility of perceptions of conflict-of-interest, the three must, in all decency, step down. As of yet, they have not done so. Two have stated they will appeal to Binnie. Again, without impugning the integrity of the ex-Supreme Court Justice, this should raise concerns on the matter of conflict of interest regarding these three Senators who offered Binnie that position.

What has come out, the leaks, the attempts to smear the Auditor General’s office and Ferguson himself just a week before the report was released should raise concerns. But of more concern is that something is very rotten to the core in the Red Chamber. Experts say the NDP promise to abolish the Senate is empty because it can’t be done. Why not? Surely we can reform the Senate at least and not by going for elected senators which could lead to a secondary body shutting down a government simply because they don’t like the Prime Minister or the government in power. This would lead to American-style gridlock. We do not need that.

But, surely, something can be done. We have a government in power that has with a few changes to the Elections Act found a way to rig elections by simply disenfranchising voters and with a few strokes of the pen, inserted in an omnibus budget bill, C-59, a way to actually rewrite history and alter time! They’ve done this before. Slipped into C-59 is legislation that retroactively changes the Access To Information Act (AIA). The change, in effect, blocks anyone seeking information regarding the RCMP’s destruction of the Long Gun Registry records that could lead to criminal charges. An unnamed individual sought information on the registry and made an application for Access of Information (AOI). Canada’s Commissioner of Information, Susanne Legault agreed to the request and told the RCMP not to destroy records pertaining to other provinces and to hand the material over to the individual making the request (Quebec had sought to keep the records and took the matter to court; they lost the case not too long ago). The RCMP ignored Legault’s request, destroying the records even before the destruction of the registry received royal assent and even before the results of the Quebec case were released. In other words, those charged with enforcing the law and protecting us were, in fact, breaking laws and working against us. The change to C-59 not only protects the RCMP for breaking the law but, in effect erases history making legal what was illegal yesterday. It is as if nothing had happened, as if no registry existed. History is erased and rewritten without a hint of shame from those Conservative members in the House. It’s insane, immoral and absolute corrupt. Would you actually welcome these people into your home? Would you not feel tainted in doing so? Legault, in a devastating critique, suggests that this move by Harper not only breaks the law but also sets a dangerous precedent that will allow future governments to cover up almost any crime retroactively! Harper and gang’s response to this when the news came out? The RCMP was “following the will of Parliament”.

Now there are several things happening that should concern Canadians. First, Harper and gang and the RCMP totally disregarded a watchdog agency of the government. This is not the first time. Everyone recalls how they went after Kevin Page, the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer. And we all now how Pierre Poilievre, the snake, along with convicted election fraudster Dean del Mastro, attempt to daily smear Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada in the House. This is vile stuff by vile people but not new stuff and no longer surprising. Public servants looking after the public interest have routinely become targets of the Harper gang who evidently find this approach much easier to do than the right, moral, ethical thing.

Harper claims that the RCMP followed the “will of Parliament” is not false, but it is a lie. With forty percent of the vote, Harper has gained a majority number of seats. In destroying the Long Gun Registry, it is to these voices he listened. A vast majority of Canadians opposed the destruction of the registry. Harper went ahead with it anyway because he had his core base of supporters. Again, the majority of voters were outgunned by the tyranny of a special interest minority. The Senate must go, or changes made. But how or when is for another debate. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party must be stomped into the ashcan of history come next election.

Until then, Harper and his gang will promise anything to get elected. They did that in the past and got elected. But what has Canada gained except broken promises, a corrupt, secretive, mean-spirited, anti-democratic group of folks who would hold us hostage to our fears, ignorance and bigotry. They wave the flag and talk of terrorists pounding at our gates. But these are the folks who have accomplished nothing worthwhile in nearly ten years in office. Their successes are in inflicting misery by targeting public servants, low-income earners, single parent families, the poor and marginalized. These are the folks that wage war against scientists, environmentalists and would stifle and end debate, criticism, and knowledge. They do not believe in, nor do they wish for a knowledgeable voter.

Look around you. Think about what you see and what you have. Has Harper and his gang really given you the life they promised?

Look around you, look at Harper, really look at him, look at those who surround and protect him, really look at them. Can you really place trust in them and their promises once again? With the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, five years in the making, Justice Murray Sinclair, speaking before an audience of Aboriginal leaders, church representatives, politicians and reporters asked for a national inquiry to investigate murdered and missing indigenous women. As one, the audience rose to its feet and offered a standing ovation of support. But one member sat stoically in his chair, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. As before, the Harper regime remains steadfast in its refusal to meet such a request. They still don’t practice sociology. How hollow must the Harper apology of a few years ago ring today for those families and friends of the murdered and missing.

And then think of Bill C-51. Ask yourself this: Whom should I really fear? Who is the real terrorist?

I know. And so do you.

***

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

 ***

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

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STEPHEN HARPER: THE REAL THREAT TO CANADA

If we destroy human rights and rule of law in the response to terrorism, they have won. – Joichi Ito

Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it. – Noam Chomsky

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 THE WAR OF FEAR

Of what is Stephen Harper afraid? Why has he turned his back on the promises of honest, open, transparent, and good governance?

From where comes that mistrust of scientists, sociologists, scholars, jurists, and the idea that experts are not to be trusted and that he is answerable to no one. Does he believe it a sign of weakness to bend, to retreat, to seek advice, to hear others out, to admit to being sometimes wrong? If so, what kind of leader does that make him?

Harper may be successful as a politician and it is true he will certainly leave his mark on Canada, but it is difficult to believe him even a good, let alone great, leader. For some, he will most certainly be seen as a failure, a man of too much false pride and arrogant insubstantiality blinded by the belief of the inerrancy of his beliefs and goals however wrong, disastrous, and corrupt. He is too petty to be gracious, too vindictive to be forgiving, too mean-spirited to be empathetic, too suspicious to be trusting, and too intransigent to recognize and embrace the value of others especially his critics, preferring to listen to the sycophantic bleatings of toadies and “yes” men. He is a bully who abuses his majority privilege and is apparently untroubled by doing so perhaps because he is surrounded by others equally removed from the world where humaneness is considered a gift rather than a curse of weakness. Their behaviour is that of bullies and cowards, liars and knaves willing to do anything to keep that power even fomenting fear and even waging war against whole segments of society. For them, it is not enough to disagree. They must tar with sweeping generalizations, exaggerated claims, shameless self-promotion, apocalyptic warnings of terrorist activities, scapegoating of members of the Muslim community, gross misrepresentations of what the opposition offer, and impugning the patriotism of doubters opposing Bill C-51.

Harper apparently doesn’t know what great, even good, leaders do: they not only are decisive and confident, they also possess character and integrity and the possibility of experiencing shame; they listen, and they listen to everyone, with an open, honest intent that permits them to be persuaded, to change direction, to stand firm when they must and to retreat when it is wise; he does not seek out credit for the successes not due him nor does he take it for himself when unearned; he does not shrug off responsibility nor, more importantly, does he blame others for his failures.

Good leaders become great when they seeks counsel, accept sound advice even if unsolicited, and are willing to listen to those who are knowledgeable in their fields, “experts” if you will. A leader of a nation is not influenced by special interests nor does he wage war against those who question his judgement; instead, he listens and works for every member of society and works even harder to enrich the lives of those less fortunate rather than for those to whom much is given. In Harper and his crew, I see very little of a leader, even less that is admirable.

THE DEFENDERS AND THE DAMNED

Far too often, we have been witness to the Harper gang’s response to criticism. Opponents to frequent Conservative attempts to slip omnibus bills were smeared as “siding with pornographers” or by having their loyalty questioned. Joe Oliver, then environmental minster, slammed environmentalists as “radicals” accusing them of threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” This was in 2012. With that in mind, it appears Bill C-51 is aimed at setting this right and that is bad for Canadians. Not withstanding Harper’s denials, the bill threatens the right of assembly, association and peaceful protest if he, CSIS, or any other government body determines such activities, say a blockade of trains transporting oil, poses an economic threat. C-51, under Interpretation, Part 1, Section 2 (2) states:

“The following definitions apply in this act.

“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:

  1. a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;”

That is vague language, and open to interpretation allowing this government the authority, if not the right, to shut down strike activities and perhaps even go after unions as economic terrorist threats. Just take another look at the Joe Oliver statement above and consider the Harper regime’s fixation on the Oil sector, the XL Keystone pipeline project in particular.  Harper and his gang, along with the RCMP, have labelled environmentalists as extremists. With such a mindset, could anyone doubt Harper and crew would not hesitate to employ C-51 against unions, strikers, activists or even peacefully protesting citizens blocking a highway?

A few lines following the above excerpt, is this proviso: “For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.

A superficial reading of this may reassure some who believe critics to be alarmists. Not so. It is the use of the qualifier, “lawful”, that becomes troublesome. Wildcat strikes, for example, while disruptive and not desirable, might be considered terrorist acts simply because they do affect the economy. To believe the best of this regime, to trust Harper and his crew to act only out of the purist motives, is not good enough especially since they have, in the past, proven themselves untrustworthy. This is a gang with a pattern of smearing and threatening folks they do not like. No one should forget what happened to Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who was fired by the Harper gang the day before she was to appear before a parliamentary committee to testify about why she shut down the Chalk River reactor for safety reasons. The government engaged in a smear campaign to discredit her. They did the same with Pat Stogran, at the time Veterans Ombudsman, when they quickly learned he took his job seriously. He became a target of anonymous email attacks and began to suspect his medical records had been leaked. The government side raised questions regarding his mental stability and cast doubts regarding his patriotism. Another vet, Sean Bruyea, was similarly targeted for his support of the Ombudsman and for his criticism of the government’s handing of disability pensions for vets which, readers may recall, under Julian Fantino, at that time Veterans Minister, was changed from a monthly, tax-free, lifelong pension to a one-time lump-sum payment. And no one should forget the treatment of Kevin Page, when he, as Parliamentary Budget Officer, was stonewalled by Harper, Peter MacKay and the gang at every turn when he sought information regarding the purchase costs for a proposed 65 F-35 jets. As with Stogran and Keen, Harper and gang went after Page, accusing him of bias and questioning his credentials and his patriotism and, as they did with Stogran, refused to renew his term. Most recently, Daniel Therrein, Privacy Commissioner, has been denied the opportunity to appear before the Commons public safety committee to voice is concerns regarding C-51. This is shameful, shabby treatment of those men and women who were, and are being, punished for doing exactly what they were paid to do. Clearly, when one goes against the Harper gang, there can be no expectation of walking away unscathed. They are brutal and vindictive. That is not leadership; it is petulance.

It will be much easier for Harper and gang, or any government for that matter, to hide behind Bill C-51 to not only target terrorists, but also those they perceive as “enemies” real or imagined. If this bill goes through, and it will because the Harper gang has the majority vote, it will be a bad day for Canada. The Harper regime has allowed for limited debate of the Bill, until the end of March. That is window dressing, dominated by Conservatives who are allotted half the allowed time to ask questions but, thus far, have indulged in rambling monologues and offensive attacks directed at witnesses often running out the clock to deny opposition members on the committee opportunity to pose questions.

Ian MacLeod, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, reports how Tory MP Rick Norlock went after Carmen Cheung, senior counsel for British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, saying, “Is there any degree of checks and balances that would satisfy you? Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” The implication is clear and it is contemptible.

MacLeod also quotes LeVar Payne commenting to Greenpeace Canada executive director, Joanne Kerr appearing as a witness, “The purpose of the act is sharing information for national security threats, so it makes me wonder if your organization is a security threat?” He went on to say, “I see your organization is protesting pipelines, forestry projects, but I didn’t hear anything to indicate to me that you were planning to bomb any of Canadian infrastructure or sabotage electrical grids, so I wonder if you consider yourself to be a national security threat and if you understand the definitions, that it won’t apply to you as long as you don’t commit any of these terrorist activities” (Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, March 14, 2015). I don’t know about you, but I see a threat in there.

One witness, Ihsaan Gardee, representing the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), was subjected to a harangue from Conservative Diane Ablonczy. Ablonczy wanted it noted her concerns regarding allegations the NCCM having ties to various groups supporting terrorists, including Hamas. Said she, “I think it is fair to give you an opportunity to address these troubling allegations. In order to work together, there needs to be a satisfaction that, you know, this can’t be a half-hearted battle against terrorism. Where do you stand in light of these allegations?” Mr. Gardee’s response was to the point. “McCarthyesque-type questions protected by parliamentary privilege and unbecoming of this committee” (Kristy Kirkup, Mar. 14, 2015). This was a deadly comeback but I suspect it was as if water off a duck’s back. There was nothing fair in what Ablonczy was attempting to suggest or in how she was doing it. Mr. Gardee knew it and let her know he was unimpressed and not intimidated.

The performances of the Conservative members were a shameful display of partisanship and vile innuendo. Mr. Gardee’s defence of himself was stalwart if wasted on the obtuse and absolutely nasty Conservative members on this committee who apparently believed they were participating in an inquisition rather than an attempt for a fair hearing. If so, in that, they were right, it was an inquisition. If anyone really doubted what the government expected from this committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney put that to rest when he went after the those opposing the bills referring to them as “so-called experts” who included, “former prime ministers, retired Supreme Court justices, eminent former politicians, national security legal academics and constitutional scholars” (Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, March 14, 2015).

The hearings will accomplish nothing, or very little at best. If there are changes, they will be modest, insignificant, but enough, perhaps, to convince an inattentive public that the government is listening. Don’t believe it. The government’s reason for not hearing from Daniel Therrein is that there is not enough time. Really? Perhaps the Conservatives on the committee should ask real and relevant questions rather than offer rambling monologues and accusations that are inflammatory and prejudicial and appear to question the loyalty of those appearing before them. It is clear from this government’s behaviour that opponents of C-51 will be tarred along the lines of George Bush’s, “You’re either for us or you’re against us.” Hardly conducive for a serious, objective debate when you know that the government side has already determined that those witnesses opposing the bill are suspect. As for Daniel Therrein being blocked? Perhaps his open letter published in the Globe and Mail played a role (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/without-big-changes-bill-c-51-means-big-data/article23320329/).

So what does concern critics other than that the Act allows for warrantless search and seizure, denies the accused opportunities to face their anonymous accusers, allows for suspects to be held for longer periods without charge, allows CSIS to shut down online activities of those they deem a threat and to share information with other agencies and have the ability to put Canadians on no-fly lists? Well, the vague language for a certainty. There are no terms of reference in the Act. What makes a terrorist? This is a regime that has targeted environmentalists, unionists and scientists, scholars and jurists. This is the regime that has conspired with corporations to suppress wages of Canadian workers by wielding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program as a vicious club. What if unions push back? With this government, I can guess. Conceivably, anyone urging a massive public protest across the country against Harper and his crew, perhaps shutting down highways or main streets, could be prosecuted for advocating “economic” terrorism. I suggest the reader look at the open letter by 100 Canadian professors of law and related fields addressed to all Parliamentarians (http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/27/open-letter-to-parliament-amend-c-51-or-kill-it/).

HARPER LOOKS IN THE MIRROR AND SEES A GENERAL

C-51 is simply bad legislation and will doubtless be struck down by the courts. But that will take time and by then we will have had the election and know if Harper’s campaign of terror worked.

Meanwhile, the present war in Iraq and the flap generated by Zunera Ishaq’s refusal to partake of her citizen ceremony by refusing to remove her niqab, allows the Harper establishment ample opportunity to continue to ratch up the rhetoric and isolate a whole community of Muslims with reckless language and disregard for truth telling. As face coverings are not a requirement of the Muslim faith, just of certain States, Saudi Arabia for one, I would prefer them done away with but I also believe if a woman chooses to wear niqabs or burkhas and are willing to allow themselves to be unveiled should they be required to do so for identification or security purposes they should be allowed to do so. That is not my preference but it should be their right. That Harper has turned this into an issue that is divisive and smacking of condescension is unworthy of any leader of a nation. He is appealing to the worst in us, to our fears, ignorance and intolerance. He has done the same with his changes to jail sentencing, his “life means life” homily and suggestions of “murderers walking our streets”. It’s loathsome stuff. It’s all about bogeymen out there, ISIL barbarians pounding at the gates and the neighbour next door waiting to pounce to rape women and slit throats. C-51, draconian and mean-spirited, serves no purpose other than to bolster the image that Harper and gang are on top of the terrorist threat. Unfortunately, the threat posed by this legislation is directed against all targets, the innocent, the guilty, the ones this government decides are its enemies: that would be me; it could be you. Harper’s inflating the dangers so that we are all quaking in our bedrooms and closets until Election Day is likely the best reason to not vote for him. This is irresponsible governance whereby he would seek to be re-elected solely on the basis of the politics of fear. Neither Harper nor his party can save us from the terrorist threat; they are it. Should he be re-elected, there will be no peace and harmony reigning over the land as he would have us believe. That is his myth. I tell you, it is chimera.

When Bill C-51 is picked apart piece by piece in the Supreme Court, and it will be, he will once again refuse to take responsibility for making bad legislation. Instead he will again blame the High Court and “activist” Justices and continue to work at whittling away the trust most Canadians hold for the institution and Supreme Court Justices.

That is not the behaviour of a leader but rather that of a man of low character and without shame, a child really, who is always pointing fingers elsewhere too cowardly to man up to his own failings. It’s always the fault of someone else.

Yet, why is Harper so resistant to the idea of independent or Parliamentary oversight?

Now he and his gang have told us they have plenty of oversight in the form of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). That is patently false. The agency cannot possibly adequately perform its mandate, particularly in this day, when its five members, all government appointees, meet only once a month and the executive director and fourteen staff are left to take care of the day-to-day affairs. Too, SIRC has been plagued by scandal with one time Harper Cabinet Minister Chuck Strahl forced to resign when exposed as a registered lobbyist for Gateway Pipelines and Arthur Porter, one time Chair, in a Panamanian jail facing Canadian charges for fraud, conspiracy, abuse of trust, money laundering, and accepting secret commissions. How confident can Canadians be that the agency is able to do the job effectively or objectively? Not very. So who will keep a non-partisan eye on the spies? No one.

When abuses do occur, and they most certainly will, Canadians will likely never know except, perhaps, years from now. Once the bill passes, as it will, we may occasionally hear faint voices of complaint, perhaps even cries for help, someone running to the media and telling a story of government abuses, false arrest, secret hearings. But we may never know. The government, if it’s still the Harper gang, will shrug the stories off with blandishments and the public, if roused from its apathy, will merely shrug along with Harper and go back to sleep. And if the voices are heard, perhaps the only one who will listen and believe the stories will be the veterans, themselves subjected to so much abuse from this regime, and environmentalists and a few others who actually do believe in democracy and civil rights. The environmentalists will be dismissed as “radicals”, “extremists”, and those noisy vets thrown a few bones with the hope of silencing them at least until the next election.

For this gang, it is no longer their stewardship of the economy on which they rely to capture our vote. In that front, they have been peculiarly silence considering all the noise and bluster of their self-mythologizing over the years of themselves as economic wizards. The folks they have attempted to snow with that myth live the harsh reality of the emptiness of that particular Conservative promise. Instead, Harper and gang prefer these days to stoke the flames of panic by conjuring up terrifying images and creating a poisonous atmosphere that threatens to overwhelm the Muslim community.

Are the Harper Conservatives racists? I don’t know, but I know the language Harper uses is offensive and divisive. We have Conservative MP John Williamson in offering a critique of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program saying: “It makes no sense to pay ‘whities’ to stay home while we bring in brown people to work these jobs.” Is he racist? Again, I don’t know, but the language was certainly racist. Instead of attacking foreign workers, Williamson would have done himself some credit by criticizing Harper, Jason Kenney, and the government for abetting business in suppressing wages and in exploiting foreign, at the expense of Canadian, workers through the TFWP.

And, speaking of our new Defence Minister Kenney, once again he has proven himself absolutely unfit as a member of parliament. When he was minister of immigration, his office faked a citizenship ceremony on the late, unlamented, Sun Media by having six bureaucrats pose as immigrants. He refused to apologize. It was Kenney who banned the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship ceremony, which led Zunera Ishaq to fight back. Jason Kenney clearly likes the headlines, good or bad. As minister of employment, he had his fingers rapped for accepting gifts from lobbyists to his department. In 2011, Kenney also had his finger rapped for using government resources to fundraise for the Conservative Party. Nothing happened, no punishment. Last October, he tweeted news of the death of Cpl. Cirillo before the military had a chance to release the news. Again, no repercussions. Recently, we have him tweeting on International Women’s Day: “On #IWD2015, thank-you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls”. Accompanying the tweet were three photographs. One shows a line of burkha-clad women in chains. Another shows four chained women, faces covered. The third shows the purported marriage of a child, hands bound, to an ISIL member. It’s clear what we are to take from this picture. Unfortunately, Kenney fails to tell us that these pictures are not what they appear. It’s a lie. Glen McGreggor (Ottawa Citizen, Glen McGregor, March 9, 2015) of the Ottawa Citizen reveals that the picture of the child marriage has been largely debunked. He also reveals that one photograph is a re-enactment of a 1300 years old event and that the other is a 2014 demonstration by Kurdish women in London protesting the sexual enslavement of women by ISIL. It was not a mistake; it was a deliberate attempt to mislead and to inflame the public using fake pictures to highlight legitimate and real concerns. It’s dodgy and, as with the other issues, says much about the character of Jason Kenney. It’s not flattering.

How low will these Harper Conservatives go? How confident can Canadians be that this government will not abuse C-51? Clearly these folks have no shame.

WHEN I LOOK AT HARPER, I SEE A PISSANT

The Harper gang have engaged in a pattern of behaviour that should not be forgotten nor forgiven. It is not just the routine lapses of ethics that is troubling, though that should be sufficient to toss them into the ash can of history. It is their targeting of people they don’t like that is particularly worrisome. Everyone who opposes them is “the enemy”. Because they hold that mindset, the have rigged the so-called Fair Elections act that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands unlikely to vote for them. As well, it is their abuses of their majority that clearly threatens to undermine democracy. They have rammed through bills without proper debate, in fact, invoking closure routinely. With C-51, disregarding the chorus of voices warning them against this step, the Harper crew have volunteered to wallow in filth with the politics of fear that threatens to ensnare all Canadians hurling gratuitous insults at the critics and questioning their characters, reputations and patriotism.

And it all appears to be working for Harper. Polls suggest 66% of Canadians believe we will be subjected to terrorist attacks in 5 years. 48% believe we are in danger now, 71% worry about their children being radicalized.

It is unbearable that ignorance and fear has taken such a hold of Canadians. Folks should worry more about losing their child or friend through drugs, alcoholism, or an accident.

In Ottawa, there is a debate raging about a proposed monument to the victims of Communism. It is called Tribute to Liberty. It is to stand on land near the Supreme Court. Land donated by Canadians. Have people forgotten Canada’s own treatment of First Nations peoples? Have they forgotten the days when loyal Ukrainians, Germans and Italians, communists, and unionists were incarcerated during the war years? Does anyone remember the Japanese interment camps? Our hands are not clean.

Yes, by all means, let us recognize victims of totalitarianism. And also all victims of injustice. I would also include the victims of Capitalism: those unionist shot on picket lines by company thugs, those organizers hung from rail trestles, those workers trapped behind locked doors in burning or collapsed factories. Harper, however, has a worldview that doesn’t allow for that kind of inclusivity.

There is real irony in Harper’s support of this memorial. Even as he denounces a totalitarian system, he is working at legislation that threatens the security of every Canadian citizen.

Jack Layton wrote on his deathbed, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Harper is deaf to that hope.

What do you think? Who should I really fear?

***

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. — Jose Narosky

***

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

HARPER AND THE CORRUPTIVE ALLURE OF POWER

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it. – Thomas Cooper

Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous. – William Proxmire

HARPER AND THE REIGN OF ERROR

The best gauge of the measure of an individual is to give him power and then wait. By now, most Canadians have a clear picture of Harper and of his view of Democracy, of government, and of those who oppose him. It is not a pretty picture. For a man Democratically elected, it is apparent that he considers Democracy only a tool to be used and perverted for his own ends. Since his ascension to power, he has not been shy in demonstrating that. He has tested and abused our Parliamentary system time and again and when cited for contempt of Parliament, shrugged it off as casually as dogs shed fleas. It meant nothing to him then and means nothing to him now. Harper looks in a mirror and imagines he sees a general.

But what kind of leader is Harper? We have witnessed how he and his henchmen attack the unemployed and marginalized. We have watched as he and gang stifled debate, muzzled civil servants, masked legislation in massive omnibus bills, prorogued Parliament to avoid facing questions, and refused to give to the public the true costs of many of his pet projects. Why, no leader at all. He’s just a common thug, a lowlife schoolyard bully.

The perversion of power, cronyism and patronage, allegations of election overspending, of illegal corporate donations, a forged government document, padded expenses, intimidation, the vicious destruction of Helena Guergis, the throwing of aides under buses, and resignations have become the hallmarks of Harper’s reign of error. Most insidious and disturbing are allegations of the Conservative Party employing robocalls to further subvert the election process. Even as this is written, this government is preparing to redraw the electoral boundaries. If you don’t know what gerrymandering is, you’ll soon learn. Don’t be surprised, you’ve been warned. There is absolutely nothing Harper will not do to keep the Conservatives in power. That should frighten you.

A leader who does not hear, who does not listen, who does not bend is unworthy of respect and will not receive it. Sadly, Harper has no interest in earning respect; he prefers the respect of power or, more accurately, the effect of fear. As a consequence, he has no interest in listening to others let alone in reaching consensus. He and his gang have the majority and they know more and better than anyone else. Those who disagree are dismissed and ridiculed when not smeared and having to defend themselves when their patriotism is questioned or their histories distorted by Conservative hacks employing cut and paste sound bites with the delicacy of a butcher. Such is the corrupting influence of power.

Even so, even knowing this, Harper will never cease to amaze. While he has long established himself as the most secretive and shifty of government leaders, it must still surprise and gall some that he compounds his disgrace with shameless cronyism and patronage appointments. As the King of Hypocrisy, he is nonpareil. We saw that when he loaded the senate. Last week, we were treated to another example, but how many noticed?

THE RETURN OF DEB GREY

While much of Canada sat transfixed before their television sets as the RCMP announced the arrests of two terrorist suspects accused of planning to derail Via Rail, some sceptics found the timing extremely suspicious. In the wake of the Boston bombings, images still hauntingly fresh, Harper and regime had decided to reintroduce the anti-terrorist bill, S-7, for debate, a bill they had ignored for years. The arrests, coming at the heels of the Boston tragedy and just before debate of S-7, left little doubt about the outcome of the bill, especially since the Liberals would support it. Again, when questioned about possible human rights violations, Harper, Toews and the rest of the thugs merely shrugged. Who cares?

While this was happening (April 22, 2013), few noticed that CSIS, our security agency, was missing from the televised event. Apparently, it hadn’t been invited. That was strange, for surely this was a security matter. Eventually word leaked out that the government had, that day, quietly announced the transfer of the agency’s head, Richard Fadden, to the Department of National Defence effective May 13. As well, amidst all the government hoopla surrounding the arrests, few noticed the appointment of lobbyist Deborah Grey to the agency’s watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) joining her old buddy heading it, Chuck Strahl, another Conservative hack appointment. The NDP, while praising her previous life in government, opposes her appointment citing her lack of experience in security and in Canadian and International law. No matter, it appears to be a done deal. No consultation. No advance notification.

Deborah Grey’s claims to fame are several. She was loud, brash, and confrontational, which is apparently an endearing trait if you are of the right: people often erroneously confuse loud, brash and confrontational with being a straight shooter. She became the first Reform member ever to be elected MP (winning a 1989 by-election). She often boasted that she would never buy into the MP pension plan while loudly ridiculing those who did. Later, she changed her mind leading former Prime Minister Joe Clark to label her “the high priestess of hypocrisy”. But, never mind, she was a straight shooter otherwise. Interestingly (or ominously), Stephen Harper had been, at one time, her legislative assistant.

The Reform Party eventually morphed into the Alliance Party and it was as members of the Alliance that Grey and Chuck Strahl eventually led a revolt, which allowed Harper to unseat Stockwell Day as leader of the party. Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives had problems of their own in looking for a new leader, which led one of the candidates, David Orchard, a progressive, to offer his support to the frontrunner, Peter MacKay, both reaching “a gentleman’s agreement” according to Orchard. MacKay, now leader of the Progressive Conservatives, in a move that would have made Quisling proud, then betrayed David Orchard and the progressives by merging with the Reform/Alliance to form with what we are now saddled: CRAP (Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party). Harper, clearly repaying a debt, rewarded MacKay with his present position as Minister of National Defence. Well, we all know how that has turned out. Yet Harper, for all his many egregious faults, and they are egregious, can sometimes be loyal to friends. That sometimes leads to reward, thus the patronage appointments of Strahl and Grey to SIRC. Cronyism? No doubt. Worrisome? You bet. But, just as important is this: How much trust should we place in the Conservative Party of today emerging, as it has, from the dung heap of hypocrisy and betrayal?

JOE OLIVER: MINISTER OF IGNORANCE

“Joe…was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything.” – John Ciardi

Now we have a minister of natural resources as nasty and ignorant as they come. No, it’s not Vic Toews. His name is Joe Oliver. Except for Harper, there is probably no more a vocal supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline in the federal government. Where he distinguishes himself from Harper is this: he is refreshingly open with his quick temper and nasty disposition, two characteristics, along with the willingness to be bellicose, rude, loud, abusive, arrogant, oppressive, picayune, and ignorant, requisite, I suspect, for admission to Harper’s inner circle. As unlikable and as untrustworthy as Harper is, even he compares favourably when judged against them. Oliver can always be relied upon to rile people if riling is what you want. Over a year ago, when speaking of opponents of the pipeline, he accused them of being “radicals” and suggested they were stooges for, and funded by, foreign interests. That he had no evidence did not matter. What did was the innuendo, the smear. Some of it, false or not, will always stick.

Recently, Oliver spoke in Washington presenting the government’s case for the sale of Canadian oil (and Canadian jobs, according to some). Before the carefully screened audience, he seized the opportunity to slam James Hansen a highly regarded scientist accusing the climatologist of crying wolf and exaggerating environmental concerns. Not only was his language abusive and offensive, his hostile tone suggested a personal motivation, revealing another trait characteristic of Harper and gang: no truth or fact will be accepted or tolerated that does not coincide with theirs. For this group, ignorance and the Big Lie is preferable to differing opinions, to ideas, to science.

What was it about Hansen that had set off Oliver? Evidently it was statements regarding the development of the oil sands, such as the following as quoted by Paul Koring (The Globe and Mail, April 24, 2013): “there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 (parts per million), a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control”. Oliver’s response was typical of him: “It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in facts.” Oliver went on to say that Hansen “should be ashamed”. Even worse, for this minister, was the fact that Hansen was (gasp!) “an activist!” As if that bit of knowledge should be sufficient to sink Hansen’s reputation. This from a minister of a government that is anti-science, anti-knowledge, anti-openness and anti-Democratic only recently and with great reluctance publicly coming around to the position that global warming might be a possibility (if only to get the critics off its back). That Global warming has been, for some time, considered an accepted fact by the majority of scientists clearly matters not a jot to Joe Oliver or Harper et al. Instead, he prefers to rely on the discredited “science” of deniers of global warming. It that respect, he reminds one of those pathetic smokers who, in spite of the overwhelming preponderance of evidence on the dangers of smoking, embrace the one study that says, “the evidence is not yet there” so they can continue to smoke themselves to death. It’s foolish, self-deluding, and dangerous. One can almost admire Oliver’s passion. It would be more effective, however, if that passion was matched by credible facts, credible emotion and a modicum of intelligence rather than cheap noisy political pro-business ideological grandstanding.

Unfortunately, however, Vic Toews and Joe Oliver (brothers-in-bile) are emblematic of what is wrong with this regime. But so are the likes of the oleaginous, evasive, Pierre Poilievre, the Harper mouthpiece who speaks much and says little whenever he appears on CBC’s Power and Politics. In that respect, Poilievre is much like all of the few bubbleheads allowed to speak on behalf, always in defence, of this regime. Dean del Mastro, that bombastic windbag who was such a staunch defender of the Harper gang when the robocalls scandal broke out, was another such voice until he, too, suddenly fell silent, sidelined by troubles of his own concerning questionable overspending during the last election.

THE RCMP AND STATE CONTROL

But it is Harper, Minister of All, who sets the tone and direction of this government. Not only has patronage and cronyism exploded during his tenure in office, but, more ominously, so has his mania for the muzzling of public servants, scientists, and MP backbenchers. Now, as if that wasn’t troubling enough, recent revelations suggest that Harper has made the move to politicize, and muzzle, the RCMP (though I wonder if that hadn’t already occurred when it was busy rounding up unionists as communist suspects during the 20s and 30s) by attempting to deny MPs access to senior members of the force. We have learned that Commissioner Bob Paulson had sent emails to senior officers instructing them not to meet with MPs without prior approval from him and the minister of public safety, Vic Toews, the same Toews who notoriously and vilely tarred all critics of his online spy bill, Bill C-30, with this egregiously offensive charge: “either you stand with us or you stand with the pedophiles.” This is not a mindset unique to the Minister of Terror or to Harper, Minister of All, but appears throughout the Conservative cabinet of cretins.

With a government as clearly anti-Democratic as this one, we should be worried. What next? Well, we’ve just learned that the press has been denied access to interview Omar Khadr, the boy soldier who went to Guantanamo at 15 for war crimes and now sits in Millhaven at the age of 26. While it appears that the warden gave permission for the interview, Harper and Toews, that vile minister of terror, evidently torpedoed the visit. What do they fear? Khadr was a boy when he was taken and charged with a war crime for killing an American soldier. But he was under the influence of his fanatical father and doubtlessly believed he was fighting a “just” war. He has been imprisoned for eleven years. Isn’t that enough? At the least, let his story be told.

When the press and the public is denied access to information, when public servants are silenced, when our police have lost their independence to government interference, when our MPs are denied access to information, and when our citizens are routinely attacked simply for speaking out, can we really claim that Harper is all that much different from those cheap, tin pot dictators that occasionally pop up in Latin America?

Look at Harper and his gang. Examine them closely. Look again.

And then think about these words by Benjamin Franklin: “They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

 

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