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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER RUNNING SCARED IN THE PLAYGROUND OF DRAGONS

I love my country too much to be a nationalist. – Albert Camus

All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers…. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born. – Francois Fenelon

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling? – Bertrand Russell

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE PREY

As tragic as the deaths of the two soldiers were following Harper’s declaration of joining allies in the war against ISIL in Iraq, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo gunned down while guarding the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill, the events proved fortuitous for Harper and his gang. That is not to suggest Harper or any member of his party would have wished the deaths, I have no doubt they were as appalled and heartbroken as all Canadians by what happened. But they are also seasoned pros; opportunities are not to be ignored. As much as all of us would have it otherwise, nothing can be done to spare the soldiers or their families. With celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just a few weeks away, if any benefit could be gleaned from what happened, Harper and his gang would certainly prove themselves up to the task in running with it; they are not shy or tactful folks.

A few days after Harper had announced Canada’s entry into the war against ISIL in Iraq, he and his crew began to warn Canada had come under the sights of ISIL extremists. Their language was alarmist and demeanour somewhat smug as if to suggest the threats somehow validated them as members who had joined the big leagues even though our contribution, including Harper’s warmongering bluster, is modest and conditional. When in fact Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo were murdered, opponents to Harper might have been forgiven for wondering if he had been sitting on God’s lap; on the surface, his alarming claims of a possible terrorist offensive appeared to have been borne out. Or so Harper wanted us to immediately conclude, prepping those watching question period in the House October 20th. That morning, Canadians learned a hit-and-run driver had struck two soldiers, one of whom had died; there was a chase and, as the day wore on, we learned the driver had been shot and killed. In the House, Harper was asked by a Conservative backbencher if he had been aware of a possible terrorist attack. At the time, no one was fully apprised of what had happened. That did not deter Harper and the Conservatives who were eager to raise the spectre of terrorism and the possibility of a terrorist act on Canadian soil; they wanted to ensure Canadians had little doubt that what had happened had been a terrorist act though there was as of yet no evidence of terrorism. All that was known was a soldier had been killed and another injured. That was enough for the Conservatives. The police were guarded most of the day neither confirming nor denying the suggestion. But the seed had already been firmly planted. While Harper and his crew had been premature and irresponsible, the murder nevertheless provided Harper an opportunity that must have seemed heaven-sent and which he could exploit; he had no compunction in doing so. The second murder, that of Nathan Cirillo two days later, appeared to seal the deal: another soldier dead, shot twice. What more proof did Canadians need that terrorists had not only struck but struck at the very heart of our government! But had they? Were these acts really the product of terrorism and a terrorist movement or simply the criminal acts of two very troubled men operating on their own? Apparently, both had become bewitched by ISIL and its brutal, bloody atrocities committed in the name of Islam. That does not make them part of a terrorist group. The sad fact is the killers were misfits, loners, ill and unstable men who along the way began to believe society had failed and rejected them. Apparently they found in the ISIL blogs and videos something that appeared to answer their needs and feed their anger and justify their desire to retaliate. Whatever it was, the two killers, independently, responded violently and irrationally in retribution against society by targeting innocent Canadians who happened to be soldiers. They did not murder because of ideology or religious fervour but rather because they were deeply disturbed and deeply angry, perhaps seeing in the uniforms or in the Parliament buildings, the symbols of a society that had turned its back on them. Who can now really know? That doesn’t excuse them, but it may help explain and understand why they did what they did. Canadians should know this and understand it. But it is not this aspect with which Harper and his gang trouble themselves. As Harper once proudly admitted, Conservatives “…don’t practice sociology”. They prefer to concentrate on the fact that these two men had read from the Muslim scripture, were fascinated by ISIL, and had murdered two soldiers who had done them and no one harm. To extrapolate from this that they were terrorists and acting on behalf of an ideology is lazy thinking and allows for excusing this government’s failures and neglect of a large segment of society. For the Harper gang, examination of root causes of discontent, preventative action and rehabilitation are beside the point; it’s the punitive aspect of law and order they most care about (unless it’s one of their own). Moreover, this plays better for Harper with the public than acknowledgement that there might be a systemic failure in our society and governance that makes inevitable such terrible events. Who wishes to admit to apathy, to willful indifference, to active neglect, and to the misery of others, what right do they have to be so angry when, as the Conservatives are quick to tell us, we live in the greatest country in the world. We do, in one of the greatest countries at any rate, but how much greater without the Conservative boots on the necks of those less fortunate as they widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t. It’s easy to judge but what do we know of their stories? Shouldn’t we care enough to at least attempt to find out more before we condemn? I’ve heard it said that most of us are one pay cheque away from the street. With that in mind, hold back on your judgement of those less fortunate than you. You could as easily be among them.

THE TRAP

It is not surprising that Harper pounced with news of the murders: hadn’t he warned us?

That the murders and murderers were not linked, that there was no evidence of a concerted conspiracy was of any concern to Harper and those quick to accept what they had been prepped to accept. Two of our bravest had been murdered. But, once thrown out there as a possibility, it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle; if you were Harper, why would you wish to? The enemy was no longer over there but here, on Canadian soil murdering young, brave Canadians. How well it all played before the public; it was just the thing needed for a troubled, scandal plagued Conservative party lagging in the polls threatened by that upstart youngster, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Here, at last, was something Canadians could understand and rally around: Canada at war in Iraq, terrorists targeting Canada, terrorists killing two fine Canadian soldiers. That it happened days after Canada’s entry into the war in Iraq and with the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just around the corner made it even better. So play up the threat, warn citizens of further possible attacks and while fanning the flames of fear, why not, while Canadians were in an angry, pliant mood, push for and rush through legislation expanding the powers of CSIS to eavesdrop, detain, and arrest without any clear defining of the terms of reference for doing so. And, just to make it more palatable, to make it that much easier for good, honest, decent citizens to step forward and report “suspicious” behaviour, perhaps the neighbour you don’t like for his anti-Harper comments, accusers, or informants if you prefer, will be protected, the accused unable to confront his accuser and the accuser granted immunity. This is not the first time Harper and his gang attempted to expand the powers of our spy agencies; previous attempts were in secrecy, legislation slipped into omnibus bills dealing with the budget without consultation of the public and its representatives in the opposition. Fortunately, a vigilant press and a vocal and scrupulous segment of society thwarted the government loudly exposing its dirty tricks and forcing it to retreat somewhat. But today it is evident the murders of soldiers and the Harper gang crying “terrorist” has made the public more amenable to the passing of new “anti-terrorist” laws even if it means more intrusive spying on Canadians and greater restriction in movement. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire may be how the thinking goes.

Canadians should reconsider this and do so very carefully. Such new, even more repressive measure should alarm all Canadians. It is too late to save Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent and it is too late to help their killers. But what of the future, the others like them out there? How do we protect our future victims? Do we continue to do as we always do, elect governments that simply ignore the ill and alienated? Do we turn a blind eye to the inequities of our society; do we just sweep them under a rug; do we continue to turn our backs on our own failings as members of a society to provide the understanding and care the marginalized need? Where will it end? What will be the determinants of who poses a threat? Do public expressions of dislike for police or loathing for political figures ignoring environmental ravages committed by corporations make one suspect? Do peaceful marchers decrying corporate greed and homelessness really signify would-be terrorists? What about the person who opposes Canada’s entry into the Iraqi fray? What is acceptable and what not in a nation that declares itself democratic and yet whose government rigs election laws that benefit a particular party and disenfranchises a particular segment of society? Must we embrace a government that asks its citizens to report any and all suspicious behaviour? Spying on neighbours and friends and family. What next? That has happened in the past, children denouncing teachers and parents, parents denouncing in-laws, churchgoers, atheists, and businessmen rivals. Humphrey Bogart once remarked of the witch-hunting House of Un-American Activities Committee, “They’ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem”. Is that the road we want to take? What is suspicious behaviour? Is it the person who is solitary, prefers his own company to yours? Perhaps it’s that homeless individual on your street haranguing passersby about the evils of society or claiming the CSIS is loaded with Martians? Or is it the student questioning the government’s indifference to poverty or the high cost of tuition? Perhaps it’s the environmentalist slamming Big Oil. What about the woman asking the government why it’s taken no action regarding the disappearances of aboriginal women? Experts claim the laws are already in place to combat terrorism. I believe that is true. They also claim what is needed is not more laws but a government spending more on resources to implement them. We have a government that spends freely on self-promotion but begrudges veterans the benefits to which they are entitled and considers those tossed on the wayside to be of little worth. Do we really believe Harper has set the right priority for Canadians?

The Harper gang is made up of a vicious, narrow, vindictive group of ideologues. It does not look for anything into the future except the next win. It is not Canada that concerns them but the free enterprise agenda: maximizing profits and keeping costs down. That they do not look beyond their self-interest and the interests of their cronies, that they refuse to consider a future without themselves at the helm, will ultimately lead to their destruction. Perhaps it’s just as well. If they did look into the future, would they like what they see? I think not. You can ignore people and their suffering for only so long. You can line the pockets of your friends and yourself and leave behind a wave of misery and broken humanity and believe yourself free, above it all. But you will not be free nor above it all. Too many people are being ignored, are being left behind, and tossed aside. Eventually, those ignored, spat upon, ridiculed and slapped down and neglected will have had enough of hunger and misery. John Steinbeck once asked, “Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?” The Harper gang should think of that. Even the timid eventually fight back.

Terrorism may be a real threat in Canada. If not today, tomorrow. It need not be. Poverty in Canada is a greater threat than those like the two soldier killers. It has arrived long ago. It is real and entrenched. An astounding 21% of our children live in poverty. That is the real threat and that will be the real cause for fear tomorrow. Poverty can, and will, lead to anger and anger to fury.

We’ve all heard the Conservative mantra: Business creates wealth. Or the variant, which makes most people feel better because of the hope offered: Business creates jobs. Conservatives take it further. Corporate tax cuts attract even more business, which in turn creates more jobs, which, ergo, creates more wealth. That is the free-enterprising assertion, the Big Hook. But it’s an assertion not based on evidence. If tax cuts and deregulation really created jobs, Ireland would not have gone bankrupt a few years ago and no Canadian or American would be out of work. Tax cuts and tax grants. Conservatives ignore, wanting us to do the same, that tax concessions are almost always made under duress with threats of moving business elsewhere. Certainly the Conservatives are partially right: wealth is created; the profit margins of corporations always seem to grow. Unfortunately the jobs never materialize as promised and working stiffs today are only able to purchase as much as they did thirty or forty years ago. It’s the trickle theory working both ways: wealth flows up, piss rains down. Of course, the Conservatives might dispute that and continue to sing their lying song: Tax breaks equal jobs equal wealth. It’s their myth and we, idiots or hopeful fools that we are, buy it time and again without even a thought of examination. In previous posts, I’ve asked this: Are we that stupid? That crazy?

Even when they make a profit, free enterprising pigs squeal if the profit margin does not match or is less than last year’s. Immediately, this “loss” calls for “restructuring”. That is, throwing thousands of workers to the wolves. That’s what happened November 4th when Scotiabank announced it was restructuring to the tune of shedding itself of 1500 workers because of a bad investment; it still made record profits, just not enough.

So, who’s your friend? Big Business knows. Do you?

Even when things don’t quite work as promised and governments begin to take a hit from doubters, there’s always a bogeyman to call upon to distract the voting public. In the past, it was Communism. Today it’s terrorism. Harper and his gang are counting on us not swapping horses midstream during a time of crisis, real or of their making. But, just to make sure, just to be on the safe side, it might be wise to throw a few shiny baubles our way. So they do.

Between attending the funerals of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent while continuing to stoke the fires of alarm and fan the spirit of hyper-nationalism (an extreme and unpleasant form of patriotism to which Canadians, thankfully, aren’t all that easily drawn) Harper and the gang made a “good news” announcement on October 30th. And it was all about the thing they really, really, really love: money.

THE BAIT

No doubt you have seen the images: Harper tieless, checked shirt open at the collar (indicative of openness, of being one of the “folks”), striding to and fro across the stage (thereby demonstrating a “take charge”, “can do” attitude) with a swagger (nothing wrong in showing a little braggadocio) before a crowd of Conservatives wearing pasted smiles and gazing in wide-eyed wonderment (all eager to applaud at cued moments thus confirming they were living, breathing dolls) while, to one side, a female “reporter” (representing the taxpayer funded faux “news” channel 24 Seven, which follows Harper everywhere and offers those who visit the government website, an endless supply of propaganda, fake “exclusives” and highly polished, if questionable, drivel), waits to ask softball questions. The news is momentous. Can an election be far behind? Well, yes, if Harper keeps to his own fixed election date of October 19, 2015. Harper had long ago embraced American-style politics with vile, mud-slinging ads; now he has gone the further step of starting the campaign a year early guaranteeing this to be one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history.

But, if you were watching him that day and if you were paying attention, you would have immediately understood two things: not only was this an election stump speech but also, if you were a single parent earning a modest income, if you were single, young, elderly, homeless, a student, ill, disabled, a veteran, there was absolutely nothing for you. It was all about Conservative values I guess, marriage, children, family values (that the NDP and Liberals don’t fully appreciate or condone), and healthy doses of hypocrisy. In fact, you would have immediately understood yourself to be one of the 85% of Canadian households (according to the C.D. Howe Institute) who would not benefit from the income splitting scheme Harper was proudly unveiling. True, the income splitting plan has been watered down because of loud opposition (including from the deceased Jim Flaherty, Harper’s finance minister) to its patent unfairness. But Flaherty’s gone and the plan, albeit not as Harper and gang envisioned, will go ahead. Immediately, those families with two incomes will get a $2000 tax credit. That leaves out all the rest and hits hardest the single parent. But not to worry. Lest you feel left out as a single parent, Harper also included news of a raise to child benefits.

Even with the increase in child benefits, Harper could not resist playing games. There is a catch. It is in how the Harper gang plans to implement the new benefits that most clearly reveal his contempt for voters, particularly those in the low-income bracket. In January of 2015, the child benefits will go up from $100 to $160 a month. However, and this might clue you into understanding what Harper and gang really think of you: households will not see the benefits until July, just three months before the next election. Then, every household with children will receive a cheque of $420 per child aged six to seventeen with a retroactive payment including the first six months (it makes a total of $720 taxable by year’s end). So, while you as a single parent with one child will receive a total of $720 a year, a two-income family will receive $2835. For 2015-216, the cost for the income splitting and child benefits will be $4.5 billion. Canadian families earning more than $140,000 will get the lion’s share of the benefits estimated at 43%. As a single parent, that must really make you feel good. Does that seem fair to you? Really? Now you know if you didn’t already, what Harper thinks of you. He and his gang believes your vote can be bought for $60 a month per child; just to be sure, he believes a one-time only lump sum, just before election of a gargantuan $420 per child will be enough for you to remember who to vote for when at the polls. Not only does he believe you can be easily bought, he also believes you to be stupid. Come next election, take the money then prove him wrong. It might help if, just before you cast your vote, you recall this Yiddish proverb: “God loves the poor but he helps the rich.” Conservatives do not even love the poor.

If you are a voter from a two-income family and stand to gain while 85% of Canadians do not, it might be time to think about what you value when you vote. Instead of looking to have your pockets lined with money you really will not miss when others are neglected, could you not take a little time to reflect about what your role in society? Is it, as Harper would have us all believe: everything is reducible to dollars, that those who have deserve more, that the poor deserve to be poor. We certainly do not need the spectre of terrorism raised because of the acts of two disturbed, angry individuals. Nor do we need more laws to quell dissent, to silence critics, to arouse suspicion and fear. Laws are already in place. We do not need a leader like Harper who boasts about his “accomplishments” when they are, in fact, inconsequential outweighed by the damage he has inflicted on the largest portion of society. When he first became prime minister, the country had a surplus of $13 billion. In a few years he squandered it, much of it in tax cuts and tax funded self-promotion touting his Economic Action Plan and non-existent job creation through non-existent programs. He has cut 35,000 public service jobs, over three thousand from the Canada Revenue Agency. If there is any surplus, it was on the backs of those civil servants and low-income earners. As a consequence, billion dollar corporations and millionaire pikers are allowed to avoid paying taxes by funneling money to off-shore accounts while Harper has the now politicized CRA hound left-wing charities. Harper has cut services to veterans and closed down offices serving veterans while commemorating historic military achievements and loudly declaring his respect for our men and women who have served this nation. He has ignored the environment, lectured others on fiscal restraint and has almost bankrupted his own nation with tax cuts and giveaways to corporations. He has conspired with Big Business to suppress low-income wages and offer Canadian jobs to temporary foreign workers. He talks loudly of Canada’s contributions on the world stage and yet had for years ignored and condemned the United Nations. He has been bombastic and belligerent in his triumphalism and boastful of his support of our military personnel and yet parsimonious where it counts. Too many military families are forced into bankruptcy or on the brink because they must sell homes at a loss when suddenly relocated to another post; but military brass are often granted huge moving allowances when just moving a few blocks in the same town. We have an air force that has been neglected, the C-18s old, tired, due for retirement in 2015. Many of our ships are also old, out-dated, and ill-equipped, in desperate need of repairs and replacement. He ramps up the fear when he talks of terrorism but our military and police are wanting, their budgets slashed. Recently, the leaked pentagon document reviewed that Canada may purchase four F-35 jets. When Harper ran for the last election, he talked about buying 65 such jets. Originally he said the cost would be $9 billion. He lied on that. When challenged on that figure by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Harper regime waged a smear campaign against him. Harper was re-elected with Canadians never learning the true costs of what those purchases would be. Figures have varied from $45 billion to $125 billion. Apparently, without fanfare, Harper set aside any plans to purchase the 65 jets with the exception of the four leaked by the Pentagon.

And because Harper has begun his campaign so far ahead of the projected date, voters might do well to remember and think of the following. It was Harper who appointed disgraced Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin to the senate; they are the high-flyers who padded living and travel expenses. Duffy apparently was confused which of his homes was his principal residence. He also secretly accepted a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s Chief of Staff, to repay the fraudulent claims. Conservative members of the Internal Economy Committee in the Senate altered the Deloitte audit to give Duffy a free pass for the transgressions. In April of 2015, he will be facing the courts. Perhaps, to forestall any bad news emerging from the trial, the Conservatives may call the election early. If that does occur, voters should ask why.

Voters should also remember another Conservative who also believed she was entitled and who was twice forced to repay expense claims fraudulently made. Bev Oda was finally forced to resign because of public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice. Nor should voters forget Peter Penashue who Harper called the “best MP Labrador ever had”, who also was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions. Too, voters should be reminded the Conservative Party pleaded guilty of breaking election laws; they paid a fine of $52,000 thus saving themselves the embarrassment (if capable of such) of high level members facing prosecution. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan who fought Elections Canada regarding overspending during the 2011 campaign. Glover finally submitted a full campaign expense report. She was promoted to a ministry. Early this year, Glover made the news again when attending a fundraising event in her riding where the guests were those who stood to gain from decisions made by her department. She later refunded the money, again no consequences for the minister who appears to have a penchant for ethical lapses. Voters should also be mindful of Michael Sono, the young Conservative staffer thrown to the wolves and facing jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. And of course, no one should forget Dean del Mastro, who along with another nasty partisan, Pierre Poilievre, smeared Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada for having the effrontery to investigate allegations of Conservative involvement in the robocalls scandal. Allegations later confirmed. Del Mastro was found guilty of three counts of voter fraud and overspending. He maintains his innocence but just hours before he was to be expelled as a member of parliament, he resigned his seat thereby saving his pension. And, of course, we have the aforementioned Pierre Poilievre, the minster and architect of the so-called Fair Elections Act, which allows the Conservatives to hold an advantage come next election by promising to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and restrict the powers of Elections Canada to investigate voter fraud.

This is a party rife with bad people and bad behaviour.

When will you have had enough?

It is time Canadians refuse to accept Harper’s version of voters as easily led and bought, as too dumb and too self-interested and greedy. Let him know that you cannot be easily bought, that you do care about honesty, integrity and good governance. Do not let him convince you that the world out there is all menace and only he can save you from the bogeyman. It’s no truer than the myth that giving tax breaks to the wealthy creates jobs. The bogeyman does exist. It is Stephen Harper and the Conservative party.

The deaths of Vincent and Cirillo were tragic enough. But it does no honour to their memory to exploit their deaths by fomenting and xenophobia. Because a murderous, barbaric group of zealots in the Middle East running under the banner of ISIL have hijacked and perverted the teachings of the Qur’an, because some young Canadians have succumbed to ISIL’s vile lure, it is irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous to encourage public suspicion, fear and misunderstanding of Muslims. We must not succumb to panic and fear.

Instead, Canadians should concentrate on the rot in our own society and reject a government that refuses to excise it. Yes, there are enemies out there. But the greatest threat comes from what we refuse to acknowledge. Fomenting fear and mistrust to justify increased surveillance of its own citizens is hardly the work of a responsible, thoughtful, regime that respects democracy and nurtures its citizens.

For this regime, democracy and sensibility to the needs of the disadvantaged and troubled are ancillary considerations, distractions best left for another time and for another regime. Nothing must interfere with the agenda of boosting the economy – of the wealthy at least – and getting re-elected.

One day, almost certainly not in my lifetime, Canadians will have had enough of the kind of governance to which we have been subjected since Canada became a nation. We cannot tolerate the same game of cutting taxes, ignoring our infrastructure, of scapegoating unions and public servants and abandoning veterans and their families. We are a better people than Harper would have us be. It’s time Canadians really think about riding itself of this rotten crew. Going back to the Liberals is not the answer. For our whole history we have opted only for the two, Conservatives and Liberals. The game of simply batting the ball to and fro between two cheaters is boring. Canada needs something new and fresh. It needs a change. Set aside your fears, prejudices and doubts. It’s not a question of what can we lose, but rather, what we may gain.

***

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

***

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

THE WORM IN THE APPLE: STEPHEN HARPER AND DEMOCRACY

 Certitude is not the test of certainty. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the good and brave ever in the majority? – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

If there is any hope for the Canadian future, surely it cannot be with Harper’s Conservatives, particularly the core band of entrenched, witless supporters who find their brand of nasty dirty tricks somehow acceptable if not bracing. Who cares what the goals are or how they are achieved or who shunted aside: anything goes at any cost. Civility, decency, honesty, and transparency appear to be mere products of another by-gone era; quaint, fondly remembered, but no longer tolerable, expedient, or expected. For such as these, morality is gauged by self-interest and individual gains. Democracy is a fine sentiment but what’s in it for me. The world has changed. So must we. Let’s rig the game.

It is not a pleasant vision. But these are not pleasant folk.

GENERAL BULLMOOSE LIVES

Harper and his gang know something about their supporters that core of true believers who cannot, will not, be swayed regardless of how secretive, dishonest, corrupt, mean-spirited or vile this Conservative regime is. That core is made up of the intractable self-centred, self-loving, of mean-spirited, free-enterprising corporate free-loaders, of gun-loving, anti-union, anti-government, tax-hating “but-“want-everything” lumpens, of belligerent immigrant vilifiers and exploiters, of “punish” the poor, the homeless, the helpless and hapless. It is upon this ilk that the Harper gang most relies. Come next election, victory is assured as long as they can divide the vote between the NDP and the Liberals and sway a few soft votes from either camp. Just to be certain, it might help to rig the Elections Act and gerrymander 30 new ridings with boundaries redistribution. It’s all about the economy, jobs and reduced taxes they will tell you appealing to your baser instincts neglecting to tell you that it’s really about power and suppression: getting power and keeping it. But, in order to keep that power, Harper and his gang believe it is necessary to wage war against Canadian citizens and organizations that stand in opposition to their narrow, single-minded fixation on the economy and tax cuts to the neglect of all the rest that makes for a successful, thriving, decent, and generous society. This is a group so devoted to their goals and yet are so frightened and so distrustful of their own citizens, the sixty per cent who did not vote for them, that, even with their majority of seats, still feels insecure. Wedded to an ideology, they cannot understand why most Canadians do not support them. To them, it is incomprehensible that so many voters find their policies exclusionary, limited, and just plain mean. Surely it’s all about money and self-interest and the welfare of Big Business. To quote Al Capp, they believe “What’s good for General Bullmoose (Capp’s fictional ruthless, mercenary capitalist) is good for everybody.” They are not wrong. It is good – for Big Business.

Over the past few years Harper and gang have deprived Canadians of over $43 billion with corporate tax cuts. Some figures place the cuts at $60 billion. It is estimated that corporate tax cuts are about $12 billion a year. The Conservative myth is that investing in business creates jobs. Where is the evidence? One thing is certain and neither the Harper gang nor the corporate beneficiaries of the largesse extracted from Canadians seem too eager to boast of it: corporate welfare is very good for Big Business but it comes at the expense of service cuts and public service jobs. They prefer buzzwords: restructuring, modernizing. The benefits, however, do not extend to our veterans nor those homeless on the streets but rather the sleazy group of Conservative politicians and CEOs who can boast about creating low income, part-time jobs. Whatever benefits most Canadians at the lower end of the scale may derive amount to little more than three to four hundred dollars a year, which are quickly consumed by increases in utility rates or goods. Canadians are left holding the bag carrying more of the load while the infrastructure upon which we depend, our highways, bridges, hospitals, public services, drinking water, public pension plans, and public safety nets are increasingly placed at risk through cuts, underfunding, and maintenance neglect. For Harper, hurling a few tiny shiny tokens our way is sufficient; it has never been about the welfare of Canadians but the welfare of Big Business. As we have seen with his regime’s persistent and often deceitful efforts to ensure that the Keystone XL pipeline and other pet projects succeed (including smearing opponents and downplaying the risks), he and his gang take on the roles of corporate shills. These Harper Conservative thugs apparently cannot understand why some Canadians are not convinced that cutting taxes for corporations, that keeping wages of low income earners low, and that keeping low income workers fearful of losing their jobs to immigrants is good for society, good for the economy. That it doesn’t work, that it’s a lie, doesn’t deter them. One can almost hear the puzzlement as those tiny peas rattle behind those beady, greedy eyes. What’s wrong with millionaires making more; after all, they create the jobs, they create wealth, they keep the economy going? It would be nice to test that theory if only for one agreed upon day when every worker on the globe found the courage to lay down his tools, held back his services and his skills. Let the Lords and Masters discover for themselves who really creates wealth, who keeps the world humming and functioning. Would the world tremble, come to a juddering halt for that single day? Perhaps not, but it would notice. And if it were extended to a second or third day…but it will not of course as long as workers believe they are powerless or lack the courage to take a stand.

It’s not a one way street, but Harper and his gang and their Masters in Big Business would have us believe differently: everything we have is through the generosity of the Titans of Capitalism and we should be grateful and keep our mouths shut. It’s a lie, as big a lie as saying all civil servants are lazy or every welfare claimant is a fraud or that every successful business man did it all by himself. Free enterprisers are often our biggest freeloaders. There is never enough for them. Hands out of our pockets, they scream while displaying no signs of hesitation in extending theirs for taxpayer monies during times of trouble or when blackmailing us into forking over huge grants and tax cuts to set up shop under threat they’ll look elsewhere. But, even then, that is often not enough. Even when the taxes are the lowest in North America, when the government well runs dry, when the government annual handouts stop, they often close shops, fire workers and run back home richer and happier without so much as a good-by kiss but rather a Kiss My Ass, Sucker!

It happens time and again and all governments play along as if it were some game. We voters are as much to blame for we keep on voting those scoundrels in time and again. As long as there are workers who swallow the line that they deserve less and others deserve more, that unions are greedy and Corporations charities, the likes of Harper and his crew will continue to sell out Canadians with a shoddy bill of goods. As long as we allow them to divert our attention away from their misdeeds by scapegoating others for our ills, they will crow and we will whine and others will bear the brunt of our fury. So it’s fixed minimum mandatory jail times and mandatory victim surcharges applied against the meanest and lowest and poorest among us, surcharges some judges have ignored as cruel and vindictive one, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco writing in a 31 page judgement, “This is a crushing amount for him, beyond his foreseeable means. It is a sum that, in relative hardship, is many multiples of what a moneyed offender would have to pay. Simply put, Mr. Michael (the accused) is being treated more harshly because of his poverty than someone who is wealthy” (The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 1, ’14).

THERE ARE ENEMIES EVERYWHERE

Yes, the economy and jobs certainly do matter. But there are other things equally important if not more so. Yet, it seems, neither Harper nor his supporters believe so.

So, what is it that Harper and his small, vindictive, insecure, weak crew fear from their own citizens that they feel compelled to wage war on them? Not content with their majority, which they happily wield as a bludgeon to ram through bills and batter the opposition to submission, they have displayed an unhealthy disregard for democracy itself using subterfuge in the forms of omnibus bills to sneak in legislation with little to no time offered for debate and examination; proposed amendments are dismissed out of hand or, if accepted, are trivial and trivialized. Opponents to these bills wanting nothing more than time to examine and debate them are smeared, charged with siding with pornographers or their patriotism questioned. This is vile stuff. What does Harper fear? He has the majority; the bills would pass. So what harm is there in demonstrating a little grace, in making some amendments that, if done well, would not only accomplish the stated goals, but would likely pass the smell and legal tests as well? To hold a majority and be generous is not weakness. In fact, the duty of all governments is to protect the interests of all citizens even it’s perceived enemies. However, this government acts out of weakness and fear and, in doing so, proves itself cowardly as it bullies and threatens and imposes. Every individual, every organization, every public servant and every citizen is viewed with suspicion if he or she dares stand up to this regime and say, “What you are doing is wrong”. This gang cannot accept such a criticism. They believe themselves inherently superior to all others who do not share their vision. They cannot apologize or admit to being wrong; they will not retreat. That is the danger of an Ideology embraced so tightly that it allows no room for oxygen. The oxygen deprived cannot imagine that opponents might have worthwhile contributions to offer in the way of ideas or change. And, because they are oxygen deprived, the Harper Conservatives appear incapable of holding more than one thought: they are right and everyone else is wrong, is out to get them, is a crazed left-winger and left-wingers, as everyone knows, are incapable of fiscal responsibility or of even a single good idea.

We have Harper and his gang attacking government watchdog agencies that are meant to protect the public from governmental abuses. We have oafish Mark Adler wishing to propose legislation that would force employees in these agencies swear loyalty oaths. But to whom would these workers be loyal? The agencies? The public at large? Or the Harper gang? Based on their behaviour, I know the answer to that and so do you if you’re not a blind adherent to the Harper agenda. As it is, those working for the PMO must sign life-long non-disclosure agreements. Why? What are Harper and gang doing on our behalf that we are not entitled to know? Right away I’m suspicious. I don’t trust them. I can’t trust them. Unless it touches upon matters of utmost national security, Canadians have every right to know everything its government does. Unfortunately, this government, which campaigned on transparency and honesty, had long ago abandoned those promises. Everyone is a potential terrorist, especially the voter that wants to boot this regime out of office. Harper really seems to believe that knowledge is a dangerous thing. As a consequence, Canadians have yet to be informed of the true costs of those overpriced fighter jets, the F-35s which Harper and the then Minister of Defence Peter MacKay claimed would be about $9 billion. Critics however, including the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, believe the costs will be much, much more. Thus far the estimates have pegged them ballooning from $45 to $125 billion. This lack of information is typical of the Harper gang. But, ask yourself: as a taxpayer footing the bill, shouldn’t you know how much it’s going to cost you? Harper believes not.

And because Harper does not think Canadians should know, or are incapable of handling what they might learn, he insists that knowledge should be limited. The less Canadians know, the better for all concerned. Especially for him and his crew. How can we ask questions to what we don’t know? So the Conservative gang muzzles scientists, smear critics and consider the poor and homeless as suspect. In fact, everyone is suspect. That legitimizes his efforts to obtain warrantless access to our internet accounts. Under the guise of going after pedophiles, the security agencies may as well hunt around for terrorists, perhaps learn what we think of this government, what are views are on the Israel/Palestine question etc. Enemies are everywhere; you could be one.

What Harper fears is certainly not those who form his core base of support and vote for him and his ilk. It is not even the spies, terrorists, criminals, immigrants he and the gang are quite happy to evoke at every opportune moment to play on our fears, exploit our bigotry and feed upon our ignorance to help keep him in power. It is knowledge that Harper fears and the wisdom that comes with it. An informed public is dangerous.

AND THEY ARE US

Unfortunately for Harper and crew, the quest for knowledge and truth is unquenchable and unstoppable. Unfortunately for Canadians, knowledge and truth are not enough when you have a government led by such as this vile gang for whom no dirty trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be exploited. Too, it is clear that the Conservatives themselves do not believe their own agenda, their own policies, in the rightness of their cause. If they did, the merits of Harper’s Conservatism should be enough to convince the majority of Canadians. It doesn’t. So, faith shaken, what can they do, these scoundrels? They can simply change the rules. And they have. For this group, chicanery comes easily.

With the passage of the so-called Fair Elections Act, supposedly to combat rampant voter fraud (a myth, a lie fuelled by Pierre Poilievre with his misrepresentation of the Neufeld Report on Electoral Reform) the Harper gang has effectively disenfranchised by some estimates, 100,000 to 500,000 voters. These include aboriginals, the poor, the homeless, the ill, the mentally ill, the elderly, those on welfare, and those with no fixed address, students, itinerant workers, and those relocating to other areas across the nation during election time. That’s a lot of people and mostly those on the bottom of the heap who would be least likely to vote Conservative.

Too, by next election, as stated earlier, there will be an additional 30 new ridings. With its penchant for rigging the game, gerrymandering of the boundaries will all but guarantee the Conservatives at least 22 new seats if voting patterns remain as is. However, as it is likely that the Conservatives are not as certain of voter support for their platform as they would wish, they are reluctant to test it without a little help.

Just to make certain that things are as easy as possible for a Conservative victory, Harper, with the assist of Pierre Poilievre, has reduced the powers of Elections Canada. While Elections Canada is still able to inform people where, when and what they need to have on them when they vote, it can no longer encourage voters to vote! Well, that leaves a few more voters Harper and gang don’t have to worry about.

As well, this gang has all but made it easier for those running for office to cheat. As if Conservatives haven’t tried in the past few elections with the in-out scam, with the robocalls scandals, with MPs such as Shelly Glover and James Bezan resisting calls from Elections Canada to submit full campaign claims. We even had Eve Adams attempting to palm off her spa treatments as expenses and Dean del Mastro facing the courts for fraudulent election expense claims. The Tories have greatly weakened the powers of Elections Canada. The agency, which is answerable to Parliament, will lose much of its powers to investigate election fraud. Those being investigated must be informed and must give permission before the public is informed. Too, witnesses who may know of fraud, cannot be compelled to testify. As well, and probably most offensive, the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, has been moved to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is accountable to the PMO. This is extremely important. This could, and would, likely lead to political interference especially with Harper at the helm. As well, the opportunity for corrupt outcomes would be enhanced with the prosecution also taking on the investigative role. It could decide what evidence to disclose or not. When this was pointed out by critics, the oily and sinister partisan, Poilievre, the Minister of Democratic Reform, suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, “only wanted more power’ for himself. That’s how Conservative under Harper work: they smear those who dare speak out against them. And if you are on the government payroll, they fire you or don’t rehire you. That’s what happened to Kevin Page. When there is little to no likelihood of discovery and punishment, there is every possibility of electoral fraud by those running for office.

Meanwhile, as the next election year approaches, the rat pack hunts out its enemies and picks them off one-by-one. Environmentalists are radicals and stooges for foreign interests. As if Canadians can’t think for themselves. Perhaps Harper and his gang arrived at that low opinion of others by using as benchmark the knowledge they possess of themselves and their supporters. Well, they know that crowd best, I guess.

BUT WHY SO MEAN TO SOME?

It is difficult to understand what it is that makes Harper and his gang as mean as they are. If they truly believe in their agenda and their methods of achieving them, why are they always on the offensive against their critics in ways that are, well, downright offensive, smack of arrogance, are based on ignorance and often dishonestly presented. Harper and his gang reveal a gross intolerance for questions from opposition members and even more aversion for answering them. Next time Parliament is in session, take the time to watch Question Period. One is left with the sad feeling that the Conservative gang are so wedded to the idea of power that they, themselves, have lost sight of what they offer and believe and can no longer give voice to them because those beliefs no longer exist or have become muddled with something else: winning, and at any cost.

I have little doubt they know that their approach of economy and job creation is too narrow and that its benefits, while there, are few, are not for the advantage of the whole of society but for the very few among the very privileged; for these few the benefits are many and rich indeed. For the rest, shiny promises and a few dollars in tax breaks perhaps and more in the way of public services cuts may be enough. But should it be? The envious are always with us. Unhappy with their lot, they are always willing to rip into public service workers and pull them down. And, of course, there are others to encourage them in their scapegoating. We have Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, feeding into that envy and hostility. He had no hesitation in throwing over 19,000 public workers out of work suggesting they are too many, are underworked and overpaid and altogether undeserving fat cat unionists. This is the man who milked from the public purse a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the 2010 G-8 and G-20 conferences less remembered for its accomplishments than the $1 million fake lake, the $250 thousand dollars gazebo and the mass arrests of peaceful protesters. Where is the outrage for all that?

It is easy to target those who can’t fight back. Harper and his gang are the schoolyard bullies; they appear to relish the role.

So, perhaps, the enemies Harper and gang see around them are real after all. It’s difficult to respect, let alone love, a government as abusive of others as this one with its relentless partisanship, its lack of fairness, its narrow vision and its inability to rise above its own desires to even consider the interests of all, including its enemies. The Harper crew offer little leeway. Unless promoting some pet project of their own, they avoid the media like the plague. After all, it is made up of “lickspittle elites”. And naturally, they do not trust educators, scientists and environmentalists unless they are stooges for Big Oil denying climate change or that humankind’s impact is real and devastating and on the edge of no turning back. How can you trust those biased anti-business, pro-NDP, ivory-towered intellectuals? Climate change, global warming? Rubbish. Just cyclical events that mankind has endured since the creation of the world three thousand years ago when man ran with dinosaurs. Ah! give me a break.

Thanks to Harper and his gang, 3,000 workers have been cut from the Canada Revenue Agency. They are out of work. As well as offering a $43 billion dollar free lunch to Big Business in tax breaks, the Harper gang appears eager to make it easier for corporations and wealthy individuals to set up offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. The cuts in the CRA makes it more difficult, if not impossible, for the revenue agency to pursue and punish those cheats as well as recover the money owed the Canadian public. That is stolen money and there is little to no evidence that Harper and the gang are attempting to recover it. The tax evaders, along with Harper and crew, apparently agree with Leona Helmsley who infamously said: Only the little people pay taxes. In cutting those jobs, Harper and his gang give me the impression of abetting this criminal activity; they are the lookout while the gang inside pillage the bank. Experts estimate that Canadians are being cheated by more than $9 billion a year by scofflaw cheats. These are thieves. While Canadian taxpayers carry the burden, the wealthy, apparently believing themselves entitled, flout the law in the full knowledge that Harper is not able or unwilling to recover what we are owed. Instead, Harper and gang have other priorities. They have set out to put an end to what really riles them: charities. Not just any charity or all charities but only those of a perceived political slant: those charities that are critical of Harper and his government; those charities that believe in family planning, which may include abortion. You get the drift. Disagree with Harper’s worldview or offer an opinion with which he may disagree, you pay the price. Your patriotism is questioned. You’re branded as suspect. So, while over $9 billion are siphoned out of this country by knaves and thieves, charities are fighting for their survival as they are harassed with yearly audits. Now, some of those charities targeted have become so at the instigation of EthicalOil.org, the lobby group for Big Oil and the tarsands behind the Keystone XL pipeline project that has aroused so much interest from environmentalists and climatologists who have warned Harper and the gang about the risks involved in going ahead with it. Of course, EthicalOil.org, sanctimonious and hypocritical, so concerned with how our taxes are being spent will not, itself, reveal who its backers are except to state it only receives monies from Canadian companies. Personally, I am more interested in knowing if foreign interests own the Canadian companies and what benefits, if any, it obtains from taxpayers. Meanwhile, we must take them at their word that everything is above board while they smear others with innuendo.

Now, I am not saying there should no audits when taxpayers fund a charity. I do, however, expect that the audits be fair and applied to all political spectrums equally. But when the CRA becomes politicized, as it has under the Harper gang, targeting those on the left, one has to wonder, what is it that Harper and gang hope to accomplish? Of what are they afraid? Why would they punish the beneficiaries of the charitable work, those in desperate need, innocent victims, simply because the organization funds abortions, speaks out against some of Harper’s policies and legislation? That kind of behaviour is obscene from a government that purports itself as democratic. If it is silence that Harper seeks, it will not work; truth will always out ¾ eventually. What the public does learn, however, is that there is no limit to the smallness of the men and women in this regime. When one imagines they have sunk as low as humanly possible, they will sink lower. They wallow, apparently with great relish, in the shallow meanness of their collective character. As reported by Dean Beeby in the Ottawa Citizen (July 25, 2014), there is a word that the Harper gang and the CRA does not like in Oxfam’s stated goal which is to “prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk.” The objectionable word is “prevent”. The CRA says, “…preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.” This is insane. What does that mean? Picayune. Imbecilic. Arbitrary. Tax evaders are ripping off Canadians to the tune of over $9 billion a year and the government is threatening to remove the charitable status of an organization because of one word and save what…a couple of hundred thousand, a million or two? This is what our government deems more important than thieves ripping us off!

Well, intimidation worked with Oxfam; it removed the offending word. And you have to wonder why this government appears to be offended by the thought of wanting to rid or prevent the world of poverty. Perhaps, in doing so, it will be more difficult for employers to suppress wages because workers will no longer feel the need to undercut each other in competing for jobs. Is this to what Harper and his gang are reduced?

Minister of Revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay denies that the targeting of charities perceived to be on the left is politically motivated. Judge for yourself.

The David Suzuki Foundation, an outspoken advocate for the preservation of our environment and resources has also been listed. Well, Harper and gang don’t believe Global Warming is the real thing. The Foundation’s criticism of the Keystone XL pipeline project and Harper’s role has made it a target.

Amnesty International merits targeting because of its willingness to fight for the human rights of all who are incarcerated. In the past, it has been critical of the Harper regime’s treatment of Omar Khadr.

KAIROS, a United Church human rights advocacy group too has earned the ire of the Harper Gang. For many decades it received funding with the approval of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Then, a few years back, Bev Oda, at that time overseer of the agency (until forced to resign in disgrace over padded expense claims and a $16 glass of orange juice), rescinded CIDA’s approval by inserting “NOT” to the document thereby committing forgery. For that act, she was not punished. What had KAIROS done? It had committed the crime of disagreeing with Harper’s unquestioning support of the Israelis over their heavy-handed treatment of the Palestinians. Look what’s happening today. Not a word of condemnation from Harper though the world, while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, condemns the brutality of its responses to Hamas bombings.

Another target is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), which promotes research on economic and social policy issues. It’s easy to see why it is targeted. While it may look for economic and social alternatives, the Harper thugs clearly believe there are no alternatives to their economic plan. Rather than defend the Conservative plan, Harper finds it easier just to silence others.

Lastly, he has targeted PEN Canada, which promotes the right to free speech around the world. PEN had been critical of the Harper gang when it muzzled and fired government scientists. As stated earlier, it’s knowledge and the wisdom that comes with it that Harper fears. But, let’s give Harper some credit: He will defend with as much will as he can muster to fight for our right to agree with him.

These are not the only targets. Just a tip of the iceberg. Clearly what troubles Harper with these organizations is that all seem to be concerned with freedom and human rights. Now, what do you suppose Harper and his nasty crew have against freedom and human rights? Oh, yes, knowledge, wisdom.

THE KING OF KINGS – IN HIS OWN MIND

Vile, hypocritical, vicious, petty, mean, dishonest, conniving, sly and deceitful, this gang of lowlifes never feels in its element unless swimming in the slime of Conservative ideology. We have been witness to their behaviour when they smeared those taking the government to court over bad laws or bad appointments in an end run attempt to skirt the taws and democracy. They are not even above taking cheap shots against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin accusing her of political interference during a search for a candidate for the Supreme Court. That turned out to be a lie. He and Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice have yet to apologize to the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court and to the Canadian public. International jurists have called about Harper and MacKay to do the right thing. Neither will. They are not man enough, not decent enough to admit they were wrong and dishonest.

They are shameless and vile.

Just think of this: Thérèse Casgrain, a leading Quebec suffragette activist and first female to lead a political party had been honoured by Pierre Trudeau naming a national volunteer award after her, the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award. If one followed her exploits, he would agree she deserved this recognition. Recently, we have learned that Stephen Harper has rebranded the award. It is now known as the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. How low can this man go? The Gazette Editor has it right: “Ignorant. Repugnant” (July 30, ’14). The rebranding occurred in 2010. We just learned of it this week. Think of that. This is Harper. You should not be surprised. Disgusted, yes, but not surprised. When I read about Casgrain and Harper’s dismissal of her, words written by Percy Bysshe Shelley came to mind: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Refresh your memory, read the poem. With Harper, vanity and arrogance are no myth. He looks in the mirror and imagines he sees a general. It’s his fancy and it’s pure rubbish.

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

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

 

 

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