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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

SEE HARPER RUN, RUN, HARPER, RUN

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE THINGS MIKE DUFFY SAID

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE THINGS PAMELA WALLIN SAID

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER, CONSERVATIVES, AND THE QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his political life. – Jeremy Thorpe

Frank A. Pelaschuk

LOVE ME, BELIEVE ME; I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Is Harper a liar or is he someone just as out of touch with his office as he is with the majority of Canadians? Either way, it’s bad for us.

It’s difficult to believe the man when every word he and his misbegotten crew utter promotes an agenda that is self-serving, self-promoting and self-deluding. They are right, always right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, always wrong.

Harper’s Conservatives listen to no one and apparently believe themselves answerable to no one. Why should they be, they have the majority, they can do no wrong. Robocalls, campaign overspending, accepting corporate donations, and directing voters to non-existent polling stations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process during the last two campaigns, are mere blips. No one cares. What matters to Canadians are jobs, the economy, low taxes; if Democracy takes a kicking, if voters are used, misused, abused, if senators and MPs dip into the public purse, who cares, these are small costs for sound economic growth. And, if the economy and jobs and lower taxes aren’t enough to lull voters into acceptance, or if they don’t perform as expected, there’s always fear and bigotry; crime, abuses in immigration and unemployment insurance, the threat of powerful unions, and endless possibilities of terrorist attacks from every quarter are sufficient to divert those simple-minded voters who haven’t a clue, who’d rather talk about hockey, Justin Bieber and Breaking Bad than about the governance that affects their daily lives by politicians who lie, steal and defraud; after all, what can they do, they’re only one person. That’s what Conservatives believe of us. Do you accept that? If so, prove them right. Next election, vote for Harper and gang again and, once again, prove you’re stupid.

What is it with Canadians? Why are so many asleep? Why do so many still put their trust in a man and his crew who has lied to them from the very first even before they took office? And why do so many now, prepared to reject Harper, appear so blindly eager to turn to an untested young man who appears to have it all, looks, wealth, a pleasant personality and a famous name and, yet, so far, has failed to offer any substantial alternative vision for this nation? Surely there’s more we should be seeking, wanting and needing than the superficiality of an attractive but empty package. How about experience, ideas? Why are these considered novelties today, quaint and old-fashioned? Is it image only; are the youth of today that shallow? The Liberals appear to believe so.

But there is another view of voters that is even worse for it is a view that is negative, without hope, cynically devoid of compassion and humanity. It is the view that believes Canadians really do not care about substance, depth, perception, honesty, integrity, ethics, decency, shame or about any of the ongoing Conservative scandals. That is the Conservative vision; it is a bleak and contemptible vision with the sole apparent goal of gaining and holding power for the benefit of self and special interests. Will we continue to allow the schemers, liars, and plain old sons of bitches rip-off artists to have the edge? Are we Canadians okay with that? Clearly Harper and his gang believe so.

Being young is no crime. I hold no brief against Trudeau and I don’t fault him his good fortune. Would that we were all so fortunate. I just believe he is too young, too inexperienced, too, innocent (?) to be what we need at this time. Surely it is time for Canadians to look elsewhere, to take a risk, to try something new. It wouldn’t be that much of a risk, the only challenge called for being that Canadians rid themselves of the hidebound fears and prejudices born of ignorance. Canadians should look at Thomas Mulcair and the NDP and seriously give them a closer look. As a politician, he certainly has the experience and the smarts. And he does have substance; we’ve seen it on display in the House this past year. And the NDP is really not the Party of the CCF. It is certainly not the party I have supported all my life, but it is better than what we have. In fact, for those who really want a change and yet no earthshattering shift, preferring the middle ground, the NDP should be their choice for it is closer to the centre than either the Liberals or Conservatives if centrism is what you seek.

Tories and Whigs have had their way for far too long. Haven’t we had enough? Surely yes. We do not need more of the arrogance, deceit, dishonesty, secrecy, and abuse of power practiced by Harper and his crew of malignant toads. We need leaders, champions of citizens rather than of business, cronies, and entitlement. Mulcair and the NDP could be those agents of change if offered a chance. But the force of timidity is not enough.

In truth, regardless of what happens today or tomorrow, regardless of what we see, hear or know, Harper and his gang will always have their singular version of themselves and their history; the rest of us will simply have to be content with the facts.

The last two elections and the recent senate scandal, particularly the Duffy matter, offer prime examples of Harper Conservatism at play and at its worst. There is no best.

When Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, after much protestations of having done nothing wrong, finally agreed to repay $90 thousand back for false housing and expense claims and the Senate internal Economy Committee received the Deloitte audit report on him, Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader of the Senate, ecstatically claimed, that the matter was closed. As far as the world was led to believe, Duffy had repaid the debt with his own money. Conservatives, including Harper, loudly praised him for doing the “honourable thing.” Evidently they were untroubled that he had acted dishonourably in the first place. There is no hope for such as these.

Almost immediately after the report was released, it turned out that the Deloitte document released for public consumption had been doctored, the harshest criticisms in the original Deloitte report cleaned up and removed. Those who did the whitewashing were Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen members of the Senate’s internal Economy Committee. But that wasn’t all. Another bombshell: good ol’ Mike Duffy hadn’t paid off the debt after all. Nigel Wright, at that time Harper’s chief of staff, wrote the cheque for $90 thousand.

Now, in the House, Harper had denied any knowledge of the Duffy/Wright affair. He did not know of the cheque, there had been no negotiation with the PMO, and no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. So he claimed. As well, the Conservative Party had not been involved. Nevertheless, Harper and his crude brood in the House initially and loudly and proudly praised Nigel Wright for “doing the honourable thing” going so far as to claim that he had done this to spare the taxpayers the burden of the cost of Duffy’s false expense claims! It was a ridiculous assertion completely unbelievable and without merit. As they did with Duffy, Conservatives across the land were now singing the praises of Nigel Wright. They abandoned Duffy. And, when it was his turn, they abandoned Wright. But of course, no one in the PMO knew of the deal. Harper said so and we were to believe him. In fact, according to him, there had been no deal. Wright was doing this on his own, a generous friend helping a friend in need. But, again, we now know that wasn’t true.

The recent release of the court documents by the RCMP tells a different version of what we have been told by Duffy, Wright, Harper and his churlish band of knaves.

We now know that the Conservative Party not only knew of Duffy’s difficulties, it was quite willing to pay the tab in the belief that it was only $32 thousand (though David Tkachuk had notified Duffy in February, a month before the investigation began due to public outrage, that he owed over $90 thousand; is it possible, or even credible, neither Duffy nor Wright notified the Conservative Party before this came out?). When the sum rose to $90 thousand, the party balked; it would not pay Duffy’s debt.

The person who could sign off on the debt for Duffy was Senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada. When the party refused to pay that amount, the obliging Nigel Wright stepped in. He brokered a deal with Duffy in which Duffy was to immediately repay the $90 thousand and not to talk to the media. As well, the Deloitte report would be absent of harsh criticism. Clearly, this deal, as well as that in which the Conservative Party initially considered paying off Duffy’s debt, was meant to be secret. Did Harper know? He said not. In fact, he claimed their had been no negotions. In any event, Canadians should be seriously troubled by these machinations and the secrecy surrounding them. There is no doubt that there was a concerted effort to deceive the public. For this gang, however, that is neither new nor news though it is puzzling why the Conservative Party would be so reticent in disclosing its willingness to help one of its own. But then, it may not be all that puzzling. With Conservatives, one thing is true: once you’re out, you’re out. And Duffy is out.

Now Harper had claimed that no one else in the PMO had known about the Duffy/Wright deal. He was either mistaken or misleading when he made that assertion. Clearly Senator Gerstein became aware of the deal once Wright interjected himself into the affair. But who else knew? According to the RCMP report, three others, and all in the PMO: Benjamin Perrin, the PMO legal advisor, David van Hemmen, executive assistant to Wright, and Chris Woodcock, the PMO director of issues (i.e., troubleshooter of crises). So, once again, we have Harper contradicted. But did he, himself, know of the deal? Well, I know what I think and I know what Harper wants us to believe. He apparently wishes to rely on that political standby of plausible deniability. He did not know. It is likely, in the eventuality that something like this should crop up, he had made it clear that he did not want to know, did not want to be told, and would not be told. Whether or not one believes Harper and those Conservatives, you’ve got to hand it to those endearing cretins, don’t you? They’ve got nerve if nothing of the scruples I would wish in a person.

Plausible deniability. When they resort to this, politicians resemble adult children who push from their mind the fact that they were conceived by their parents having hot, sweaty sex, who refuse to imagine their parents even having sex, who wish to ignore the possibility of their parents still being frisky, and who most certainly don’t want to know that their parents might actually still enjoy it.

The thing is, Harper and gang are not those adult children. They know exactly what they are doing. So do most of us. And we don’t like it.

THE FIVE DOLLS AND PROMOTION

With news of several high profile resignations in the government, including that of LeBreton, who plans to relinquish her position as Government Leader of the Senate and who will no doubt be missed by many of the Liberal media lickspittles, there is speculation regarding a cabinet shuffle and who the winners and losers will be.

Among the contenders expected to move up are Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander, Candice Bergan, Kellie Leitch and the particularly odious Pierre Poilievre who seems peculiarly adept at tossing slime. To those who follow politics, these five are familiar as point persons for Harper’s gang making frequent appearances in all media. They are most notable for being rude, overbearing, dismissive and arrogantly certain of every utterance as they talk over, shout down and point fingers at their opposites in the Liberal and NDP parties who appear with them. Unfortunately, from my many viewings of them on Power and Politics, I am left with the impression that they are more like talking dolls or, at most, barely sentient beings who, in their regular appearances, spout the message of the day apparently downloaded into the microchip that must surely be secreted somewhere into their moulded bodies. I say this because, whenever they make an appearance on Power and Politics, they never deviate from the message, often repeating it word for word each time a question is posed regardless of how it is framed or how often it is asked. I can almost imagine someone waking them in the morning by pulling the string in the middle of their backs. I can see them abruptly sitting up, swaying slight, and saying, “Hello, my name is Michelle (Chris, Kellie, Candice,Pierre) and I am ready for my daily assignment. Hello, my name is…”

Not quite alive, they still manage somehow to work up enough life to occasionally express faux high indignation, to be evasive, to point fingers at others, and to utter many words without saying anything.

When the public was supposed to believe Duffy had paid off his debt with his own money, they glowingly praised Duffy for “doing the honourable thing” and then did the same with Wright when they learned the truth. They can switch that easily from one gear to another without any sign of embarrassment or shame. Just like a talking doll. Watching them, I can almost believe that brains and mouths are interchangeable and regardless of which brain or which mouth, it would all be one.

They, Poilievre more so, are dislikeable bobble heads now and offer every indication of being the same as members of the cabinet. They will take questions and regurgitate the response of the day. When the question is asked another way, they will repeat the message and continue to do so regardless of how the question is framed or how many times. And we’ll continue to go round and round, never getting answers to anything by anyone on anything. The only difference between their appearances in the House from that of Power and Politics is they’ll be standing on their feet.

I’ll be looking for the strings. (edited, July 8, 2013)

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE ROAD TO PERDITION

The death of democracy is not likely to be a death by assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment. – Robert Maynard Htutchins

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHAT? WHO? ME?

In times of trouble, Stephen Harper makes it abundantly clear the buck does not stop with him. Instead, when it comes to blunders, breaches of ethics, and plain old-fashioned malfeasance, when accountability and transparency are called for, this hulking bully and his gang of arrogant asses, prefer to cut and run, to scapegoat, to smear and question the patriotism of critics or, failing all else, throw staffers and redundant allies under buses. They deflect, obfuscate, and flat out lie, gleefully pointing to the faults of others while denying their own, tongue in cheek, eyes and fingers crossed.

Harper and his crew are spineless. Incapable of introspection or of experiencing shame, poisoned by arrogance, smugness, malice, and the corruptive allure of power, not one of them appears to have the moral fibre of even a besotted drunk, unwilling to step forward, to own up to mistakes or to condemn the deliberate acts of wrongdoing committed in the name of their party, preferring instead to resort to the role of vile pit dog savaging all those who dare question or challenge them; they cannot even contemplate the possibility of ever being wrong, wayward and/or just plain stupid.

Even when confronted and cornered, trapped by truth and evidence, even when left with no place to run, no sewer drain to ooze into, can they stop themselves from cravenly squealing with the anguished self-pity of the guilty accused, “I know nothing”. The only outrage Harper and thugs can muster seems always to be the pathetically childish lament one hears in schoolyards, “But you did it too”!

SHILLS

Perhaps simply exhausted by the Senate expenses scandal, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, government leader and defender of the Senate, provided a glaring demonstration of this oft employed, unworthy, and inexcusable political dodge used for so long and with some effect by Harper and his cadre of knaves, bursting into a hissy fit tirade against Tory critics “populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles…”. Whatever the cause for the outburst, it was an embarrassingly scant defence for the imbroglio that threatens the very body, which she chairs. The fact that four greedy senators, three of them Harper appointees, have brought disrepute to her house, the fact that the report released for public consumption on one of them, avaricious Mike Duffy, was scrubbed of its harshest criticisms by two members of the Conservative dominated economy committee, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, that LeBreton herself had declared the matter on the same individual closed after the declaration by Duffy that he would repay $90,000 of the illegally claimed expenses, appears to neither trouble nor offend her. To LeBreton, these are asides and immaterial; it is all the fault of the Liberals and “their media lickspittles”. It was enough that double-dipping Duffy, Harper stooge, former media superstar darling and major Conservative fundraiser, was repaying the fraudulently obtained claims. Conservatives across the land loudly sang his praises: he had done “the honourable thing.”

LeBreton, characteristically of Conservative shills, perhaps of all shills of any stripe, accepts no responsibility for fostering the public perception that allegations of fraud can simply be cleared away with repayment or, worse, the suggestion that with repayment, no crime has been committed in the first instance. She and the Conservative dominated senate economy committee had ignored repeated calls to have the RCMP brought in. The Duffy file was closed. And the world was happy and went to sleep believing that Duff, good ol’ Duff, had repaid the debt with his own, hard earned money.

In fact, it was only much later, long after Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff had resigned, exposed as the one who actually cut the $90,000 cheque for Duffy, when Duffy was a no show at a public hearing in a second review held by the same Conservative dominated committee that had investigated him earlier, did LeBreton take a breather from attacking media lickspittles to express something akin to dismay and an acknowledgement of something awry, even that, it should be noted, with a self-pitying whine: some members of the senate “had betrayed us.” The egocentrism or wilful blindness is jaw dropping but hardly surprising. By “us”, I have no doubt she meant Conservatives. Had she displayed similar anger over the fact that Canadians had even more reason for complaint, after all, they’re footing the bill, I might have been able to work up a modicum of sympathy for her.

But, when the Senate did act, only after Duffy’s no show at the second hearing, the Conservative dominated economy committee, the very committee that had released the whitewashed report on Duffy, caving in to the public outcry and growing resentment, appeared ready to act at last, reinstating the original unexpurgated report and agreeing to hand it and other documents to the RCMP. Clearly they had had enough of Duffy; angry now with what he had wrought, they would not just let him go, they would toss him. As we know from past experience, once Conservatives determine someone expendable, the toss under the bus is often brutal and swift, though, for Duffy, the Conservatives certainly showed considerable restraint and a puzzling, and unusual, desire to appear more than fair before calling in the police and even then only pushed to do so by Duffy’s own odd behaviour. One needs only contrast his treatment with that of Helena Guergis, another disgraced Conservative member, who was extended none of the courtesies or support offered Duffy. When her problems surfaced, she was not only expelled from the Conservative caucus, the police were immediately called in and Harper, with his inimitable style, abetted by his lowlife crew, set about to methodically wage a vicious and vindictive campaign that effectively ended her career as a politician.

Now that Duffy has been dispensed with, and with the recent leak of an email to a Conservative insider from Duffy (possibly leaked by the PMO) clearly outlining his desire to maximize the benefits of his Senate appointment, even angling for a position in cabinet, it is all but certain that he will meet a similar fate to Guergis if not worse. One thing is certain: notwithstanding concerted Conservative efforts to protect themselves by protecting him until he became a liability, good ol’ Duff’s reputation has been destroyed. If tears are shed, it’s likely by Duffy.

I’M SORRY, I DON’T KNOW WHY, IT’S YOUR FAULT

But, while it is the Harper pit dogs, Pierre Poilievre, Eve Adams, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, et al who usually and with relish do the dirty work outside of the House, seldom varying from their script of the day and, only occasionally, showing signs of discomfort from swimming in all the muck, Harper himself is not above joining them though it’s clear he doesn’t like the idea of dirt sticking to him. When the story of the Mike Duffy/Nigel Wright deal broke, Harper was asked about what he knew of the $90,000 gift. Immediately one could almost hear the massive Conservative cog shift gears. Harper and his stooges across the Conservative landscape blinked, loudly sang the praises of Wright, Poilievre, that unlikable, oleaginous hack, almost breathlessly reverential, claiming Wright had done “the exceptionally honourable thing” and Harper reaffirming his full confidence in his chief of staff. Well, that confidence lasted all of two or three days. Wright was gone and Sen.Tkachuk was talking to those media lickspittles admitting that he had spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office and to Nigel Wright while Duffy was under investigation. Had he talked to Harper? That was the question in need of answering.

But Harper wasn’t taking questions. After addressing his Conservative senators and MPs with an invited media in attendance May 21, still not answering questions, Harper flew to Peru and Colombia on a trade trip. While in Peru, he did reiterate his anger over the crisis at home adding something new and, for Harper, something that must have come particularly hard because so unfamiliar to him: he uttered the word “sorry”. And I bet he was. But not sorry enough to own up to any of this.

When he returned to the House, May 28, nine days after Wright had resigned, still not having answered questions, Harper finally respond to intense questioning by an effective Mulcair and Trudeau. As expected, he denied all knowledge of the $90,000 gift to Duffy, the deal negotiated and whether or not there were documents. It was the classic plausible deniability defence that no one could refute yet any really bought. That Wright, Harper’s chief of staff in the PMO, could engage in this deal without Harper being made aware stretches one’s credulity. How was that possible?

This is the man, after all, who maintains strict control of his office, his caucus and his message. He did not know what had happened in his own office by his own right hand man and yet, on questions regarding Pamela Wallin’s expenses, he was able to say months ago, and with a straight face, that he had seen her documentation and they were “comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” That he would know more about Pamela Wallin’s expenses than about the machinations in his office is rather remarkable to say the least and certainly very difficult to believe. Two months later, still under investigation and just days after Duffy had left the Conservative caucus, Wallin did the same, forced to do so by Harper. In question period, when asked why she had been asked to resign and what had changed that made him ask for her resignation, Harper evaded the question. Same old, same old.

WHO’S THE HYPOCRITE? YOU ARE! NO, YOU ARE!

In Harper’s absence, Conservative MPs engaged in the familiar pattern of obfuscation, stonewalling, misdirection, and deflection. When questioned about how much Harper knew about the Wright/Duffy matter and the alterations to the audit report on Duffy, the MPs suggested that, if dissenting members to the senate economy meeting who had not signed off on the report were unhappy, they should have released a minority report of their own. Of course, Conservatives were playing to the public as they always do and without informing it that Senate rules do not allow for such reports.

As well, this nest of vipers, and Harper would pick up on this with his return, began to attack the credibility of Thomas Mulcair on two fronts perhaps smelling blood. They went after him for first claiming in 2010 he had never been offered a bribe and then disclosing, when approached by the police two years ago, the Mayor of Laval, Giles Vaillancourt, approached him in 1994 with an envelope suggesting he could help Mulcair. Mulcair states that he did not see the contents of the envelope and that he walked out and, because he had, there was no bribe to report, just a suspicion. The other issue is that of NDP member, Tyrone Benskin who had failed to pay provincial taxes to the tune of $58,000. For the gleeful Conservatives, these two events are clear evidence of Mulcair and NDP hypocrisy.

These are serious issues. Benskin was easily dealt with, Mulcair removing him from the shadow cabinet, stripping him of his deputy critic role when he found out. The other matter is not so easily explained and does need a more definitive response for Thomas Mulcair. If he thought a bribe was being offered, why not approach the police, even if he believed that there was not enough evidence at the time to charge and/or convict Vaillancourt? And why wait all these years before making it public? Clarification is needed from Mulcair.

That said, however, the Conservative attempt to make hay from this rather than answer questions regarding the Senate scandal, is just another example of deflection and diversion. This is where the Harper gang prove themselves unworthy of the positions and trust they hold. They cannot continue to bend the rules and play the playground bullies and then offer the cowardly whinge when confronted, “But you did it too!” It’s childish and we need more than children governing our country.

As well, there is no moral equivalency. Pointing to the crimes of others does not absolve one from one’s own crimes. In other words, the Conservatives have only pointed out that there is a reason to do something about the Mulcair issues but have offered no reason why something should not be done about the Senate scandal, the Duffy/Wright $90,000 “gift”, the doctored report, and the role Conservatives, Harper and the PMO played.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM

Just recently, the oily Tony Clement embarked on his own version of deflection. No doubt aware of the unjustly low esteem in which civil servants are held by the envious public and quite willing to exploit that, perhaps hoping this will be sufficient to distract voters, Clement announced his intention to have all public servants undergo rigorous performance reviews with the goal of ridding all government departments of “deadwood”. Those who agree with this may be ecstatic but they would do well to consider Tony Clement and his performance rating before they dance. This is the man, during the G8 and G20 conferences a few years back, who set aside $50 million as a boondoggle slush fund for his riding. This is the man who, as president of the Treasury Board, mislaid $3.1 billion in taxpayer money.

But this move against civil servants is mere distraction. Conservatives are hoping that voters are really as stupid as they believe. Voters, however, would do well to look at Harper and his performance, especially as a judge of character. Can it be trusted? Let’s look at a few examples:

Does anyone recall Harper’s contempt of parliament citation or that he cut and ran twice, shutting down Parliament?

Some in Harper’s gang still believe global warming is a myth.

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, called environmentalists “radicals” suggesting they were stooges for foreign interests. He still has Harper’s support

Despite evidence to the contrary, Harper’s gang would have you believe that crime is on the rise and that more jails are needed. Conservatives prefer to play to our fears and prejudices rather than to our hopes and generosity.

Harper has muzzled Canadian scientists with threats of job loss.

He misled voters during the last campaign about the true costs of the F-35s.

He also clawed back disability pensions of veterans.

Harper is the man who appointed three of the four senators involved in the Senate scandal.

He’s the one who had personally cleared Pamela Wallin though, we now know, she had to repay expenses falsely claimed and there is expectation we will hear much more about her.

He also loudly crowed Mike Duffy had done the “honourable thing” when we were all led into believing it was Duffy who had repaid the $90,000 to which he was not entitled and, when that went bust, said the same of Nigel Wright who was the one who had actually settled good ol’ avaricious Duff’s debt. And, of course, Harper knew nothing about it.

Too, this is the man who supported Bev Oda, the minster who forged a government document, who more than once had to reimburse the state for padded expenses and who was finally toppled because of a $16 glass of orange juice.

Harper threw his support for Peter Penashue, the MP forced to resign because of overspending and accepting corporate donations even calling him the best ever MP from Labrador. Clearly the voters didn’t think so in the by-election.

And our slush fund king, Tony Clement? Well, he still has Harper’s support, as does Jason Kenney who used government letterheads to fundraise for a Conservative advertising blitz.

And, of course, we mustn’t forget Arthur Porter, well-known Montreal oncologist, ex-head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) who became a fugitive and now awaits extradition in a Panama jail facing charges of fraud, money laundering, abuse of trust, and conspiracy to commit government fraud. And, yes, he was another Harper appointee.

See a pattern here? Well, it appears Harper and gang know their voters. Some couldn’t care less about any of this.

GOD YOU’RE STUPID!

That Harper and gang can still garner a support of 38% is astounding to me and clearly indicates something wrong. We need to reform the electoral system. Can it really be true that Harper, Hudak, and all Conservatives have accurately gauged the populace as replete with self-absorbed morons more interested in the main chance for themselves than in the greater good of society? Surely not. And yet, apparently so. For some, and they will always be with us, there will never be too much power, too much exploitation, too much having and too much taking. It’s the larger number of voters, however, who trouble me more. These are the ones who sell themselves so cheaply, bought for pennies a day, for whom the promise of lower taxes is apparently sufficient to continue electing manipulative, deceitful, and unethical politicos, such as Harper and his miscreant gang, who consider ethical behaviour, integrity, honesty, truth, fairness and Democracy mere hindrances to be overcome.

We have got to change this.

THE SENATE, THE WHITEWASH, AVARICE AND THE SILENCE OF STEPHEN HARPER

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.” – Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Can it get much crazier than this?

When Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Stephen Harper had declared the senate economy committee investigation of Mike Duffy closed after Duffy declared his decision to “voluntarily” refund the Senate for money obtained through fraudulent expense claims, they doubtless believed the matter behind them. The report was released and Conservatives across the land loudly and at every opportunity blithely sang the praises of Duffy saying he had done the “honourable thing”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the whole story, as we now know.

Nothing was said of Duffy’s refusal to co-operate with the committee once the $90,000 to which he was not entitled was repaid. Nor was the public informed that the report on Mike Duffy had been “cleaned” up, the harshest criticisms removed by two Conservative senators on the Senate internal economy committee, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, because Duffy, we all believed, had repaid what was owed. Tkachuk admits to seeking advice from the Prime Minister’s Office but denies he was ordered to clean Duffy’s report, which the public saw. Neither Liberal Sen. Mac Harb nor Harper Conservative appointee now Independent, Sen. Patrick Brazeau, also under investigation by the same committee, were accorded similar consideration: Sen. LeBreton loudly and publicly threatened them with garnishment.

Then, of course, came the revelation that it had been Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff, and not Mike Duffy, who repaid the money. Immediately, Conservatives across the land loudly and at every opportunity blithely sang the praises of Wright for doing “the exceptionally honourable thing” for taxpayers. Those words, later echoed by other members of Harper’s execrable crew, “exceptionally honourable thing”, were Pierre Poilievre’s. Further, Conservatives were, to use Andrew Coyne’s phrase, “shocked, simply shocked”, that Duffy had misled them.

There were questions, of course, but no answers from Stephen Harper. Duffy was to be re-investigated by the same secretive Conservative-dominated economy committee that had closed the file on him in the first place. Liberal Sen. James Cowan, Leader of the Opposition, called for a public hearing and was accused by Sen. David Tkachuk of being a “publicity hound.” The heat was on, this was too close to the PMO, it smelled bad; even so, Wright still had Harper’s full confidence. He had done the “honourable thing” for the best of motives. So we were repeatedly told.

But Harper wasn’t talking even though a scandalized nation was eager for answers. Why had Duffy’s file been closed once the $90,000 was repaid? Why had he quit co-operating with the committee? Why had the two Conservative senators cleaned up the report? Why was Duffy being re-investigated? How much faith can Canadians entrust to this committee and its re-audit of Duffy? Why did Wright make the gift? Why was that gift not made public? Why did they want Canadians to believe that it was Duffy who had made the payment? What negotiations were involved? Where were the documents? Were there documents? Had lawyers been involved? Why did Wright resign? How much did Stephen Harper know? When did he know if he did?

Of course, when Wright resigned on May 19, a true trooper, he took full responsibility for what had transpired declaring Harper knew nothing of the $90,000 gifted cheque! Credible? Hardly. Not with this control freak of a prime minister.

Still, Harper wasn’t talking except to announce that he would be addressing his MPs and senators on the following Tuesday, May 21. Media was also invited to attend. Was Harper making a new start towards accountability and transparency?

But what happened on that morning was extremely telling. To all intents and purposes, Harper, apart from voicing his displeasure with what had happened, had addressed none of the issues Canadians wanted addressed.

When he walked into the packed room Tuesday, Conservative members had loudly and enthusiastically greeted Harper. Observers may have been confused. Was this a government in crisis? Watching the televised event and the enthusiasm of Harper’s supporters awakened memories of a video I had seen on television of Saddam Hussein from years ago. He was addressing a room filled with party faithful all loudly applauding him in a sustained ovation as he calmly surveyed the seated audience. Eventually, after a brief speech, he began to call out names, evidently of those he no longer trusted. Those called rose and quickly strode out of the chamber stone-faced and doubtless aware of the executioners waiting for them. This was repeated several times and, with each name called, the applause grew louder and more sustained the expressions of those applauding more desperate and frantic as one person after another rose and left the room for their inevitable fate. Clearly those remaining in the audience were desperately hoping Hussein would notice the enthusiasm and sincerity of their love for him and that he would spare them. For most, it worked.

Observing Harper and those Conservatives reminded me of that horrifying clip. It was as if, by exhibiting such enthusiastic devotion to their leader, those Conservatives hoped to stave off the crisis that was threatening to overwhelm and, perhaps, destroy them. Maybe they were desperately hoping that Harper would offer something reassuring that would take away all their troubles or, with a wave of his hands, undo the past. If so, they must have been grievously disappointed. Harper said absolutely nothing of value to resolve the matter of the Senate crisis.

True, he did state that he was not happy with the conduct he had witnessed. And he did restate his position of 2005 saying, “Anyone…anyone, who wants to use public office for their own benefit, should make other plans – or better yet – leave this room.” Nice words then but had anyone listened? Today the words are as hollow as the man who uttered them.

Earlier in his brief statement, and it was brief, he said: “Our Federal Accountability Act, the toughest accountability legislation in the history of this country forever changed the way business is done in Ottawa.”

Well, not really. Think F-35 jets, Bev Oda and padded expense accounts, ship designs that cost three times what it takes to build. And remember Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, who faced allegations of political interference in a contract for renovations on Parliament Hill, who gave Rahim Jaffer special access to his office, who spent a weekend with lobbyists, who was investigated for involvement in relocation of the Employment Insurance centre in his riding and who rejigged the formula for structures for private companies so that they did not have to go through an environmental assessment review and finally, whose aid charges taxpayers $11,415 for a trip to Las Vegas (repaid when exposed). Looks like the same old same old business as usual.

But that’s Harper for you; every allegation of ethical and questionable accounting breaches glossed over if one of Harper’s favoured few. And, if needed, there’s always a staffer to throw under a bus.

Stephen Harper went on to say, “We have: Strengthened the powers of the Auditor General. Toughened the office of the Ethics Commissioner, reformed political financing.” Well, yes and no. When has the present ethics commissioner taken any meaningful action on anything recently?

Harper went on to say that his government had, “Dramatically tightened lobbying rules. And beefed up auditing and accountability within government departments.” Huh? That must have been news to Kevin Page.

Finally, Harper added the howler: “Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the world.” Said from the mouth of the leader of one of the most secretive, petty and punitive governments Canada has ever endured.

And then, to demonstrate how open and transparent he and his government is, Harper refused to take any questions from reporters he had invited to this gong show.

Most accountable and transparent? Canadians know better. They want better. They ain’t getting it. Even as I write this, Conservative MP Eve Adams, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Veteran’s affairs and another talking air-filled pointy-head made the same claim as Harper: “Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the world.” Well, we know how this is going.

Harper’s failure in this matter is dismal and absolute. He failed to take advantage of that showing to answer questions regarding Duffy, what he knew of Wright’s gifting of $90,000, and whether such behaviour was meant as a cover-up to stave off questions. With such enthusiastic conservative support, one would think Harper would have faced the issue of scandal, corruption, fraud, avarice, and the senate head on. He did not. Instead, he talked about being sidelined by “distractions” and, as above, offered self-congratulatory mythmaking bombast so far from reality those attending must have believed they had entered some fantastic parallel universe.

Conceivably, though I doubt it, Harper has forgotten those scientists and public servants muzzled with threatened job loss if they spoke to the media. And he might have forgotten about the prolonged smear campaign he, van Loan, Baird, Flaherty and the rest of the thugs waged against ex-Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page who disputed the figures offered by Harper and Mackay regarding the F-35s, the false figures with which Harper ran and won his campaign. But I doubt he forgot that as well. And Harper might even have forgotten how Page was stonewalled by almost every government ministry refusing to hand over documents he had requested so that he could do a proper accounting of public expenditures. Again, I doubt that.

Immediately after that meeting, Harper left for trade talks in Peru. It was only there, on foreign soil that he finally responded to two questions regarding the Senate scandal in which he expressed his frustration, reiterated his anger, and said how sorry he was. But the expression of sorrow rang false because lacking evidence of true remorse which might have been revealed by acknowledging guilt, admitting that he had dropped the ball, that the Senate must be investigated and the rules overhauled, if not done away with, with the assist of all parties. Then, mea culpa barely expressed, he promptly, and typically, threw under the bus, his once trusted advisor, Nigel Wright who, only a few days before, had his full confidence. He denied knowledge of the $90,000 cheque, the negotiation, and the meeting between Wright and Duffy. Wright had acted alone and without Harper’s approval. That really does stretch one’s credulity and I, for one, am not buying it. With this government, almost no one accepts full responsibility for his actions. Why should he or she? There are plenty of sacrificial lambs available and just as many buses.

On May 22, came news that the RCMP had requested documents regarding Duffy’s file. The request was dated May 16 and yet Marjory LeBreton did not see fit to inform the public.

As if all this wasn’t mad enough, we were rewarded with this absurdity by Conservative MP Joan Crockett who tweeted, “Our government has the highest ethical standards demonstrated by 3 resignations: 2 from Senate caucus & the PM chief of staff.”

Some people just don’t get it. Crockett, clearly not a profound thinker, evidently believes that forced resignations for unethical behaviour are testament and proof of high, ethical standards! Crockett’s statement, characteristic of Harperite slugs, is not only incredibly stupid, it also reveals a disturbing line of reasoning that those unfamiliar with this odd, scandal-driven storyline might conclude written by Lewis Carroll: the number of resignations determines the measure of integrity. Interesting. I had always believed the measure of ethics included ethical behaviour as well as honesty, integrity, openness, accountability, remorse, and a sense of shame. For Conservatives, especially Harper and his crew, those words are foreign concepts useful when necessary but mostly a hindrance.

The Senate needs more than a few changes and they do not include new rules or an elected body. While I do believe there are some in the Senate who are honest, hardworking and deserving, they are not making the news. I am with the NDP: the Senate must be abolished.

I also think, on reflection that Crockett might be on to something when she suggests resignations are proof of a government’s ethical standards. Using her criterion, let’s have a real demonstration of the highest ethical standards by Harper and his gang who have, thus far, eschewed the same.

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