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

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

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

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

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

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

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

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

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

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

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

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

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

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

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

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

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

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know. And so do you.

***

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

 ***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: DEMAGOGUES AND HYPOCRITES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.          

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller

 

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. – Albert Einstein

Frank A. Pelaschuk

DO SHEEP BLEAT? THE PUBLIC SURRENDERS

Stephen Harper and his loathsome gang would feel right at home in a third world dictatorship. It is not just that they lie at every turn, keep secrets from the very people who pay their wages and, almost from the first, have set out to muzzle the press. It is that they are truly anti-democratic. When they talk of democracy, I shudder, for they have waged a brutal war against it, one of doublespeak and pernicious manipulation. Their version is not mine.

Secretive, dishonest, paranoiac, petty, vindictive, and vicious, they have, not all that quietly, poisoned politics with suspicion, false accusations, name calling, scapegoating, vote rigging, and not very subtle attacks against the poorest among us while favouring the wealthy. They have struck out at our public institutions, including the Supreme Court, in an effort to politicize and corrupt them. As if that were not enough, they wage a war on citizens vilifying critics and questioning their patriotism. In Parliament, they refuse to answer questions, evade, dance around, mocking the questions, the questioners and even parliament itself with a cheery, breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt not only for opposition members but for the public itself. Absolutely ruthless and utterly without shame, they have made a mockery of civility dismissing ethics, integrity and simple decency as mere hindrances to their goals. They are devoid of compassion when it comes to the down and out, the weak and ill and yet fret daily for the well-being of corporations and wealthy supporters; there’s no percentage in fretting for the poor, no votes to be gained there. But, oh, they can make a grand spectacle of it when it suits their purpose and can be exploited for the tough on crime and terrorism agendas: the funerals of murdered soldiers and police officers. They are bottom feeders; there is no misery they will not milk to their advantage.

When it comes to investigating murdered aboriginal women, however, Harper can only muster “we don’t practice sociology”.

The Conservative heart is cold, very cold and empty. When it weeps, it only weeps for itself; it’s easier to blame others. Remember Dean del Mastro and Paul Calandra shedding loud crocodile tears in the House, the first, at that time, facing charges of election fraud (for which he was convicted) and the second when convicted by the court of public opinion for acts of outrageous buffoonery? Tears, real tears, yes – of whinging self-pity.

We saw much of that played out over the years with Harper. Whenever something went wrong or critics went after him, the fault was always placed at the door of someone else, staffers, scientists, the “lickspittle media”, but mostly the Liberal governments of past years. Almost ten years in office, they are still blaming them as did Harper recently when it was revealed that his regime has spent $700 thousand fighting a class action suit by six veterans wanting to reverse the government’s changes to military lifetime disability pensions that, in effect, reduce what the vets are entitled. It’s the Liberals that started this. It’s tiresome and doesn’t absolve them of their evasions, obfuscations, and vicious and open undermining of democracy and erosion of public trust. It’s easy to blame the Liberals, they have a lot to answer for, but it’s the Conservatives who have turned the screws: ask any vet. Surely, when they hear Harper utter “democracy” they, too, must tremble and wonder what’s coming next.

That there are only a few outraged voices heard rather than a whole nation is astounding. Are we really that frightened of our government? Are we that gullible that we swallow holus-bolus their fictions? Have we really become a nation of sheep, a nation that doesn’t question, that doesn’t challenge, that quietly appears to accept that propaganda, lies, threats, and corruption does not warrant closer scrutiny. It seems Harper believes so. I think he’s right. If not, where’s the outrage?

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMAGOGUES

For years, if not decades, we have been fed the line that Conservatives are, and always have been, the best at handling fiscal matters. There is absolutely no evidence to support that Conservative myth. When Harper first became prime minister, he had inherited a huge surplus and has squandered it on vanity projects, self-promotion, and tax cuts for the wealthy while allowing our infrastructure to crumble to a state of near utter ruin. We can all remember Harper sneering and sternly wagging his admonitory finger at the rest of the world urging it to get its house in order during the last great economic slump of 2007-8. Harrumphing loudly, he took credit to which he was not entitled: our banking system was the best in the world, our government the strongest and most stable and all, all, because of him, his superb, wise, skilful management of the economy. He’s been wagging his finger ever since, strutting and hectoring like some tin pot despot. It’s a lie, of course, and we see the truth of it all around us in the loss of jobs and the struggling oil industry on which Harper has placed all his hopes while ignoring the manufacturing sector in the rest of the country. Has he talked to the Canadian workers tossed on the street following the merger of Tim Hortons and Burger King, a merger that was loudly supported and hailed by industry minister James Moore? How about those Canadian workers replaced by foreign workers as business, abetted by his regime, manipulate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to supress wages? How about the single parent left out in the cold while those who don’t need it gain and additional $2000 thanks to his income splitting tax break. Has he talked to these people?

Harper and gang are not just mythologers, they are revisionists creating history as they would have it not as Canadians have lived and suffered it. We see that every day in the TV propaganda ads that Canadians pay for, the wondrous achievements of Harper and his gang. Does he really believe all Canadians have forgotten those ads touting the creation of non-existent jobs by non-existent programs? To watch these ads, one would be hard pressed to believe the straits we are in today. Everything is roses. Tell that to the battered, weary, work-worn, desperate single parent holding down two minimum wage jobs or the fifty year old suddenly out of work after thirty years on the job. The roses go to the wealthy, the bric-a-brac to those at the bottom. For such as these, the world is looking pretty bleak. As for the world, especially the US with its surging economy under Obama, there must be some sense of schadenfreude. If so, who can blame the Americans?

Even as troubling, if not more so, is the fear mongering the Harper gang has taken to indulging: the world is a dangerous place, “jihadists” are everywhere and they are all gunning for Canadians. So there is Harper, still swaggering, defiant now, wagging his finger at the world and thumbing his nose at terrorism and warning Canadians that they, they alone, the heroic, triumphalist Harper and gang, who, with their purity of heart, with their strength, courage and wisdom, are the only one’s able, willing and capable of not only saving us but also, perhaps, all of mankind, from the forces of darkness. That, too, is mythologizing. Some among us, however, buy it, the sheep bleating, frozen by fear and will-o’-the-wisps bogeymen when Harper and his gang howl. That’s not to say terrorism and terrorists aren’t there. But exaggerating the risks, amping the fears, pandering to our prejudices and fears, not informing Canadians about what our troops are really doing or what the cost of involvement is is simply amoral and irresponsible. Yes, we all want security. Unfortunately, there can never be security for a nation of sheep governed by wolves.

So how much are Canadians willing to surrender in the way of privacy, civil rights, humaneness, and justice in exchange for a little security? Harper came into power largely because of a promise of positive change, of a more open and transparent government. He has not only failed miserably, he has actively worked to making his regime more closed, more secretive, and our citizens less informed, more frightened and, thus, more malleable. He ran on the get-tough-on-crime agenda, more jails, more prisoners, more time. It worked with the voters. Pandering to the worst in us always seems to work. Ignoring facts, statistics and experts (the way Harper operates, he and his gang are the only experts), the Harper gang plan to introduce new legislation to take away the possibility of parole for those sentenced to life in prison. They say it’s only “for the most serious of crimes”. We already have laws in place for that but, hey, that doesn’t matter with these troglodytes. Those who still pose a danger, contrary to what the Harper gang would have us believe are not automatically granted parole after serving twenty-five years. Crime rates are down, that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that that doesn’t help Harper; he prefers us to be frightened, so he and the public safety minister, Steven Blaney, and the rest of the bobbleheaded gang ignore facts, work on our fears and inflate the terrors of crime, the lowest it’s been since the ‘70s. Most crimes of murders happen between family and friends, the killers known to the victims. These are the people least likely to reoffend. In fact, in a recent interview on CBC with Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison watchdog, Canadians learned recidivism rates of those on parole is extremely low. He pointed out that 99% of those granted day or full parole last year did not reoffend and of those granted full parole, 97% did not reoffend. Harper, however, refuses to let the facts get in the way of his version of the truth; it simply doesn’t help his cause, which is to notch up the fear level, prey on public ignorance, and draw the vote to this “law and order” gang. Without any shame, Harper and the gang have given up on rehabilitation. Lock them up and throw away the keys. One size fits all. How in God’s name did prolonged isolation help the deeply troubled teenager Ashley Smith who finally strangled herself while guards watched? That might satisfy the blood lust of many, but such policies are madness and will lead to an even more dangerous society. Take away hope, fuel the anger; is that what we really want? Harper’s get-tough-on-crime legislation will likely only increase the possibility of violence, mayhem and death – within prisons and on the outside. Punishment without the possibility of redemption and with the removal of hope? If this goes through Canadians may have real reason to fear. There is something contemptible in fighting an election on the blood of the dead and the tears and rage of the families left behind. Instead of offering hope, instead of working towards a better, more humane society, Harper prefers to feed on the carcass of despair.

HARPER’S LUCKY WAR

While getting tough on crime will help garner votes, there is something else for which Harper must go to bed every night with prayers of gratitude. ISIL and the war against ISIL. There is nothing like a war to rally citizens except, perhaps, engaging in a war with a few good Canadian men and women as casualties to ramp up the rage and support of those at home. We have had the fallen soldiers, killed shortly after Harper had announced Canadian troops were joining coalition forces in Iraq in the war against ISIL Sadly for Harper, try as he did to evoke the image of terrorism striking on home ground, he could not quite get the traction he sought from their deaths. Many Canadians remain unconvinced those separate acts were as linked to terrorism as they were to mental and societal ills.

Nevertheless, on the eve of an election that has yet to be announced, the war against ISIL is a godsend for Harper as he campaigns across the nation whipping up fear and xenophobia. Not only can they sound tough on crime and terror, they can prove it with the passage of new, tougher sanctions that will infringe on privacy rights, make it easier for CSIS to spy on Canadians, share information, and arrest and detain. Harper’s almost a new man, full of energy and excitement as he gleefully rubs his hands together pandering, pandering and pandering some more, ratcheting the militaristic rhetoric and the jingoistic fervour and pulling out at every opportunity his new favourite word, or variations of the same, the word that must surely chill the blood of all Canadians: Jihadist.

Jihadists are pounding at the doors! That will be the Conservative theme throughout the election campaign. It’s not enough the new legislation will affect almost every Canadian with increased surveillance and tighter controls on what we say and how. He must harangue and terrify and tighten even more the noose on civil liberties.

How much are we willing to surrender for peace of mind?

Harper is betting a lot.

He plays on our fears and adds to our nightmares. We saw how quickly he raised the spectre of terrorism when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo were murdered even before he knew the facts. He has played that card ever since. It will work as long as the timid stay on their knees. The jihadi are at the door!

Last September 30th, when asked what the role would be of the 69 troops sent to Iraq, Harper said: “If I could just use the terminology in English, it is quite precise. It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.” Recently, we learned Canadian troops were shot at and they shot back. When asked by the opposition if this was not an expansion of their role, “mission creep”, the defence minister, Rob Nicholson said, “You can’t advise and assist without accompanying”. So, which is it? Is Canada working towards another prolonged and costly engagement? This is a legitimate concern. Has Harper misled Canadians? Is this, in fact, “mission creep”? The firefight was not isolated; Canadians were involved in two other incidents since then. Clearly this is more than an “advisory” role. Curiously, of the coalition partners in Iraq, Canada has been the only nation thus far to be involved directly in combat. When questioned about this, the Harper gang respond thusly: If our soldiers are shot at, they will shoot back. Right. No one disagrees with that. But the question is this: If they are to “advise and to assist” why are they at the front lines with all likelihood of being in harm’s way if and when the enemy strikes? When pressed on this by Thomas Mulcair, the opposition leader, Harper and the gang respond with bafflegab, obfuscation and revisionist rhetoric. Even when it comes to the costs of this engagement, Canadians are denied the right to know the figures. Why? When you foot the bill, don’t you think you have the right to see it? Harper’s is not a democratic response from a democratic government. That’s the response of a government hiding something from us.

Even more invidious is Harper’s response to questions regarding the Iraq situation. Not only do he and the gang mislead Canadians with accusations the opposition members do not support our troops, there is in the charge the rotten stench of something even more sinister: the suggestion that Mulcair, the NDP, Trudeau and the Liberals, are somehow unpatriotic, untrustworthy, a threat to this nation. This has happened before. Pat Stogran, during his term as Veterans Ombudsman, smeared by the Harper gang. As was Kevin Page, the one-time Parliamentary Budget Officer, his integrity and credentials maligned simply because he, like Stogran, was doing his job. To raise questions, to ask what the government is concealing from Canadians, is to risk having one’s patriotism questioned. That is vile; it is low but not new for a government made up of men and women who apparently only thrive in the sewer of innuendo and smears.

But this is puzzling: Why is the Canadian public so silent on this?

But what can one say of Harper as a leader of a nation when he even refuses to sit with his provincial counterparts when they meet. He has ignored them since 2009. This week they were in Ottawa, within walking distance. Still, Harper ignored them. Is this really a leader of a nation when he will not meet with the first ministers of the provinces? This is not about being above the fray. This is hubris, vanity and contempt. This is shallow and signifies less a leader than a small-minded midget; when and if Harper becomes a man, he might one day leave his broom closet and meet with them.

But am I being unfair, unduly harsh? It could be he is too busy passing laws that allow CSIS even more power to spy on Canadians and curtail legitimate comment. As we have learned, millions of downloads by Canadians are tracked daily by CSE (Communications Security Establishment); the government would have us believe this is to help protect Canadian networks and systems from threats. Maybe he’s busy with that, protecting Canadians by creating new ways to spy on them.

How far is Harper willing to go? How long before we say “Enough!”

THE RAT IS A McCARTHYITE

We have observed the Harper gang in action the past few elections as they bent and broke rules to subvert the electoral process. The Conservative Party has paid a $52,000 fine for the “in-out” scam in a plea bargain deal that spared four upper level members from prosecution. Michael Sona was sentenced to jail, evidently the only one involved in the robocalls scandal. Yeah, right. We have Dean del Mastro, mentioned above, found guilty of election fraud. We have the oily Pierre Poilievre, the minster of democratic reform revising the Elections Act to limit investigations of election fraud and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Surely straight from Orwell, the Act has been renamed the Fair Elections Act (if interested in a more comprehensive list, refer to my Jan. 7, 2014 post).

For a time, I thought it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong.

We have the return of Mark Adler with his slimy Bill C-520. Adler evidently shares a worldview with Joseph McCarthy that foul Republican Senator who gave a name to an era of blacklisting and witchhunting during the infamous Red Scare. You might have heard of it.

Now, for those who aren’t aware, Mark Adler is a fool. He’s not the only fool in the Conservative gang (anyone recall Brad Butt?), but he is a dangerous fool. Last year, when Harper flew to Israel with a group of Conservatives, including business cronies, Adler first caught my attention when he was recorded whining about not being allowed to have his picture taken with Harper at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Whinged he, “It’s the election! This is the million-dollar shot.” Now one could laugh at that and dismiss it as a little man seeking attention. That would be true. However, more seriously, Adler is also the individual who barred Liberal Irwin Cotler, an internationally respected advocate of Human Rights, from attending an event in Israel co-hosted by Adler and an Israeli charity during that visit. Did I mention that Cotler is a Liberal? The snub was more than partisan; it was a petty, mean-spirited act by a very, very, very small, mean-spirited man.

The bill Adler proposes is despicable. It goes against all decency and is certainly an attack on democracy and the right of free association. It is an attempt to introduce the era of the witchhunt and to stigmatize and punish our parliamentary watchdogs, senior staff and their employees. The bill would force the agencies to publish the political backgrounds of employees. Moreover, this would be retroactive. Once passed into law, all employees would be required to publish their political activities. Presumably, refusal would lead to dismissal. Naturally, those seeking employment with the watchdogs would be required to disclose their past political activities. The jobs will no longer be based on merit but on which party one supported, joined, or worked for. Presumably, all Conservative’s applying for government jobs will get them while all supporters of other parties will not. Again, straight from Orwell, the bill is called, Non-Partisan Offices of Agents of Parliament Act. It’s anything but and will certainly lead to partisan hiring and create a real chill among those looking for work in the innocent belief the government has no right to look into their past political backgrounds. This is not harmless. This is vile stuff. If anyone has ever seen old clips of Joe McCarthy, Martin Dies and HUAC (House of UnAmerican Activities Committee) etc. in action, pounding on tables and screaming at those called before them to name names and to answer the question, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” they will certainly have had a clear sense of the hysteria and terror of the time. Thousands of public servants, teachers, scientists, artists, and just ordinary workers and housewives lost their jobs and friends because of past political associations, which were legal at the time, or for simply refusing to answer the question in the belief the government had no right to even ask it. Many, ostracized by families, friends and co-workers, committed suicide.

What is the real intent of such a bill? Where does it end? Loyalty oaths just to get a job? Party faithful rewarded and others shovelled out? How would you feel if your boss asked you whom you voted for? Would you tell him? If your job was on the line, what then?

Is that the period to which we wish to return, discourse and debate stifled, fellow citizens spied upon, dissent quashed? That’s McCarthyism. And Harper supports this contemptible bill. This is vile, vile stuff. What kind of folks are these? Who next?

There are few more vile than political rats hiding behind patriotism and standing on corpses to score cheap political points.

Yes, when Harper speaks of democracy, I do shudder. He has chipped away at it since the very first when, in his first demonstration of cowardice, he prorogued parliament rather than face the opposition. Now he has this war and he hopes we will swallow the lies, succumb to our fears, and vote for him next election.

Yes, yes, it would be safe to say I am afraid. But not of the terrorists that Harper and his gang want us to fear, but of those same demagogues who prey upon those fears and prejudices and who would stomp the jackboot on our necks. Orwell had it right: this is the face of the future.

Even as I began writing this post, Harper introduced the proposed new anti-terrorism legislation. He did not have the decency, or the courage, to debate it with the opposition nor did he even bring it up in the House. He chose instead to announce it in Richmond Hill, Ontario before a partisan crowd made up mostly of police according to reports. And there was Harper, once again strong, forceful, (Oh, what a man! What a leader!) dismissing critics and again questioning the patriotism of the opposition. Where’s the oversight? Not to worry. Trust us. So now it’s easier to arrest and detain, to spy on Canadians and to block Internet access. There’s jail time for “Advocacy For Terrorism”. But what does that mean, what are the definitions. Don’t worry. Trust us.

Does writing this post put me in the Harper crosshairs? Am I suspect because I have declared my contempt for him? Am I an enemy supporter because I trust absolutely nothing about him? Does my call that we stop Harper next election make me dangerous? While some of the legislation may seem fine on the surface, who will watch the spies as Stephen Maher asked (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 31, ’15)? That’s a question we should all ask.

Demagoguery must be exterminated and the demagogues thrown in the ashcan of history. Governing by fear, by appealing to emotions and to ignorance is not governance but despotism. The next time you vote, remember Harper’s dismal failure with the economy. Remember his treatment of the vets. Remember all the lies and smear jobs inflicted on public servants and citizens who spoke out not only in their own defence, but yours as well. Remember the cronyism and illegal expense claims, the subversion of the electoral process, the rigging of future elections, the spying on Canadians, the fear mongering.

I don’t hate Harper or his gang. I just hate every vile act they have done.

Today, the enemy is someone else; tomorrow, it may be your turn.

Remaining on the sidelines will not serve you. Silence will not save you.

Speak! Your voice will be heard. You are not alone.

***

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, AN EARLY VOTE, AND VETERANS BETRAYED – AGAIN

What difference does it make to the dead…whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? – Mohandas Gandhi

To hate and fear is to be psychologically ill…it is, in fact, the consuming illness of our time. – H. A. Overstreet

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. – Marcus Aurelius

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The Dirty Game

I have asked this before, but I’ll ask it again: Do Stephen Harper and his gang, or any politician for that matter, believe in anything but the main chance? What do they value? Is it money only, power, recognition, admiration? Do any really believe the reasons they offer for seeking office: “I want to serve the public” or “I wish to contribute or repay my debt to society”? Or is everything that makes them what they are as politicians solely dependent upon the gains made and losses counted, but never acknowledged: What’s in it for me?

We have an NDP MP crossing the floor to the Liberals, leaving federal for provincial politics. We have Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party in Alberta and eight other members abandoning their party, their supporters and, presumably, their principles to join the governing Progressive Conservative Party of Jim Prentice. Said Smith of two defectors earlier: They had been “seduced by the perks of power”.

Do those words now make her blush; do they trouble her at all?

It’s been said that politics is a dirty game. I’ve even said it. Perhaps it is. But if dirty, it’s the players, and those who stand apathetically in the sidelines allowing it to happen that make it so. I do not believe it is politics that corrupts or even power but proximity, the corruption is already there, in the individual. For some, it doesn’t take much of a nudge for the worm of greed and lust and power to succeed at its work.

To me, Harper and his gang and all Conservatives of their stripe, are the foulest of all. They hold no loyalty, not even to what they say or promise or believe; what they discard today as not useful to their goals, they will reclaim tomorrow; in truth, they hold no belief but that of self-interest; they bend with every breeze and label it “flexibility”. Yesterday the Harper gang was the Reform party. Then they were the Alliance party. Then they swallowed the Progressive Conservative party with the assist of PC leader and backstabbing opportunist, Peter MacKay. They then spat out the progressives to become what they are today, the party of shifting shapes and constant betrayals.

They know exactly what they want but not who they are because they are hollow men and women, petty and vindictive self-aggrandizing opportunists. They believe the worst of everyone because they judge all others by themselves and their own behaviour. I will not trust them because I cannot trust them. The only thing I believe of them is that they are dishonest, deceitful, anti-democratic, hypocritical and amoral; some of the members more so than others but amoral nevertheless for all too often they defend the indefensible. I do not believe them because they themselves do not believe in anything except what can be bought, stolen or bartered, but only and always to their own advantage. For them, everything has a price, even principles and people; the first are easily sold, the second cheaply bought.

So, when Harper vows he will hold to his own election date of October 19th this year, I don’t believe him; he has never served the full term preferring to end it early when the gods and the gullible easily bought seem to favour him. Why not, particularly today, when he is apparently closing the gap between the Liberals and their youthful, inexperienced leader and appears to have a few things working in his favour. As we know, Harper is averse to taking real risks; a lot can happen between now and October. As it is, there are some issues that might give him pause. There is Dean del Mastro to be sentenced for election fraud sometime this month. Conservatives already lost one staffer to jail, Michael Sona, for his role in the robocalls scandal. Fortunately for Harper and in spite of the sentencing judge’s voicing of strong reservations in his belief that Sona had acted alone and that he, the judge, did not wholly trust the testimony of the chief witness against the young campaign worker, and despite calls from observers, politicians, and legal experts, Yves Côté, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, has decided not to pursue the matter. When Pierre Poilievre introduced the so-called Fair Elections Act, critics had predicted the move of Côté’s office, one of the outcomes of the Act, would lead to political interference. Once the investigative arm of Elections Canada, which is answerable to Parliament, the move of the Commissioner’s office to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which is answerable to the government, fuelled these suspicions. Whether that was at play or not in his decision is not known and doesn’t matter. Perception does. Sona, a young staffer of 23 at the time, is held solely responsible and takes the fall. It stretches one’s credulity to believe that one so young would be given that much independence to act alone and in such a criminal manner without the knowledge of senior members of the Conservative Party. As if Sona and del Mastro were not headaches enough, there is the matter of Mike Duffy’s trial set to begin on April 17 of this year. This, too, might make Harper pause. If he waits for the October date, it could be he believes whatever fallout from the trial there is will not be enough to harm him. That wait could actually help him. However, if he believes the risks are too great and goes early, and I believe he will, it might lead to speculation that he’s worried and trying to forestall any resultant damage to himself and the party. As it stands right now, no one really knows what “good ole’ Duff” has in store for Harper though Duffy did make plenty of noise suggesting fireworks were in the offing. In the past, when staffers and MPs proved themselves no longer useful and, worse, liabilities, Harper has shown no compunction about throwing them under the huge, vindictive, Conservative bus. Doubtlessly still smarting from being abandoned and then denounced after proving himself as a fundraiser and merciless loyalist Conservative hack who personally and with gleeful gusto saw to the political annihilation of Stephane Dion, Duffy may yet prove to be the Harper’s most dangerous foe.

But the signs that he will go for an early election are there despite the various scandals, the mishandling of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the resignations of Peter Penashue, called by Harper the best MP Labrador ever had, for illegally accepting corporate donations during the 2011 campaign and of Bev Oda, forger of a government document, for padding her expense claims, twice. Harper staunchly defended both and, when he did finally accept their resignations, concocted an aura of virtue around their resignations. The thing is, they were caught cheating; there was no choice in their resignations and certainly no honour. But, in Harper’s world, not everyone pays a price for ethical lapses: the truth is made false, the false truth.

There is a whole list of offenses, enumerated in other posts, among them Shelly Glover and James Bezan, initially refusing to submit full reports of expenses during the 2011 campaign. Glover figured in another story in early 2014 when she was caught on camera attending a fundraiser in which were gathered members of the community who could possibly gain from decisions made by her ministry. When she saw the CTV camera, her alarmed reaction was, “What are they doing here?” Leona Aglukkaq did the same thing, sneaking through the back door of a hotel to attend a fundraiser. You can judge for yourself how proud they are of their actions. But ask yourself this: Was their behaviour ethical? Do they deserve to be re-elected?

So, how is it that Harper can be rising in the polls, when he and his group have persistently and insistently worked at corrupting our electoral process and debased our democracy? I’m not yet talking about the so-called Fair Elections Act but of the robocalls and the “in-out” schemes, the first attempting to keep voters from the polls and the second allowing for illegal transfers of money between various levels of the Conservative party which allowed it to spend more and make greater claims from Elections Canada (or, more precisely, from the Canadian taxpayers’ wallet). That netted the Conservatives a $52,000 fine; however, the plea bargain spared four upper echelon members of the party from facing the courts and perhaps jail time.

But these many attempts to subvert the electoral process, are mere child’s play to what Pierre Poilievre, the oleaginous minister of democratic reform, has managed to do with his rejigging of the Elections Act, now referred to (ironically by some) as the Fair Elections Act, that, along with the addition of thirty newly minted gerrymandered ridings, rigs the election game to almost guarantee the Conservative desired outcome: another win, perhaps even another majority.

Incredibly, this new Bill, C-23, seems to have raised barely a whimper of protest or outrage from the public. Why not? Not only does this bill threaten to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, it also denies the public the possibility of ever knowing of future Conservative (or even Liberal or NDP when and if they form governments) attempts at end runs around election laws. With the Commissioner of Canada Elections now in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, the government of the day could intervene if one of its members was under investigation. Who would know? Too, names of those under investigation for suspected voter fraud cannot be made public without the consent of the party investigated. Initially, when first introduced, the Act denied the Chief Elections Officer the right to speak of investigations or any matter; its role was to be reduced merely to notifying voters where to vote. That was changed after much howling from critics and then the public. We have already seen how Conservatives have behaved when it comes to flaunting the rules; with almost no possibility of prosecution or even exposure, there is no incentive (except one’s pride in one’s personal integrity) for Conservatives to behave any differently than they have in past elections. Nothing’s changed except for the voters; it will be harder to do so.

So how is it possible Conservatives are faring as well as they are? Have they forgotten Conservative Brad Butt standing in the House and pantomiming a concocted story in support of Bill C-23? That’s where he misled the House, that is, he lied in Parliament, about witnessing with his own two lying eyes how opposition workers scooped up Voter Information cards to be used by voters to pose as voters to whom the cards were addressed. It was shameful, dishonest. It was a fraud! And yet nothing, absolutely nothing happened to Brad Butt except to earn the scorn and contempt of those who understood exactly what he had done, the contempt he and his party displayed for the opposition and the House and democracy itself. Instead of condemning his vile, lying behaviour, Harper and his gang defended Butt.

So, a year-and-a-half of scandal, resignations, charges of corruption, rigging votes, and bribing voters with shiny trinkets, and still leading the NDP, the Official Opposition. I ask again: How can that be?

Luck, War, Terrorism, Fear

Apparently a good bout of luck and a forgetful and fearful populace helps. ISIS came along instilling fear in the West with horrific images of beheadings and mass slaughter easily lending public support for Harper’s joining Britain, France, the United States, and other nations in the war against terrorism. This one act, joining the war, immediately gave Harper the opportunity to stoke the flames of fear by raising the spectre of terrorism at home with the forewarning Canadians were under threat and that his swift (?), if conditional, response in joining the war was clear evidence that his government, under his leadership, with his experience, was the only government capable of ensuring the safety of Canada and Canadians. In other words: In time of difficulty (Harper’s gang would say “crisis”), you don’t swap horses midstream.

While some may have been sceptical about the danger posed to Canadians and not shy in voicing it, Harper must have been sitting on God’s lap for shortly after that dire warning, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was murdered, run down in a St. Jean Sur Richelieu parking lot and another seriously injured. The driver was later killed. Without having all the information, Harper and gang were already talking up terrorism in the House. Two days later, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at the Canadian National War Memorial on Parliament Hill. Again, the killer was shot down, this time in the Centre Block of the parliament building. It appeared Harper’s warning had become reality; terrorists had struck at the heart of Canada.

But had they?

While it made for compelling news, high drama of live television coverage, as the second event unfolded on Parliament Hill, despite the wild speculations of two or more gunmen, it quickly became apparent this attack, too, was the act of a lone individual. In spite of the media’s hype and the Harper gang’s best efforts, it quickly became evident that both the murders of Vincent and Cirillo were not acts of terrorism but rather individual acts of desperation by deluded, extremely angry, deeply troubled, self-destructive young men using ISIS as justification for their mad, violent actions. That they had visited ISIS websites seeking and perhaps finding vindication for their rage and self-pity, apparently was enough for the Harper gang to label them terrorists rather than what they really were, troubled, suicidal losers. These were not terrorists; there was nothing in their acts ennobling of suggestive of a cause except the cause of sad losers in desperate straits. They were not fighting for some ideal or religious cause but rather out of vengeance for real or imagined wrongs done to them by a society they believed to have turned its back on them. For Harper and the gang, and those Canadians who live in constant fear of terrorists, aliens, and UFOs, none of this matters; unlike as in the past, when attempts to sneak online spying legislation into omnibus bills led to howls of protest, Harper and gang could now safely, with very little blowback, pass new laws granting CSIS greater power to spy on Canadians without any meaningful oversight. Not to worry, trust us says Harper’s Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney, Canadians will be safer than ever. But how can we believe a government that has attempted to subvert the electoral process and has made changes to the Elections Act that rigs the game in their favour? We can’t. Bill C-44 will allow CSIS the ability to operate outside of Canada and break laws on foreign soil and even spy on allies. It also grants protection to anonymous informants and promises harsh punishment to anyone revealing the identity of CSIS spies including those who break laws. Those protesting these moves as a threat to civil liberties themselves have reason to fear but less from terrorists than from their own government which, in the past, showed little reluctant in calling critics of omnibus bills sympathizers to pornographers and environmentalists as “radicals”, stooges to foreign interests. To Harper and the gang, all critics are the enemy, their patriotism suspect. Nothing works like fear and paranoia, especially when fuelled by one’s own government that has recently enjoined citizens to report “suspicious” behaviour. I can just imagine many people settling scores but offering up names under the protection of anonymity.

Recently, in an appearance on CTV’s Question Period with Robert Fife, Blaney uttered this trite homily: “There is no liberty without security.” At the end of this post you can read Benjamin Franklin’s response to that. It was written over 200 years ago. Blaney is wrong, wrong, and wrong again; There is no security without liberty. Unfortunately, the massacre in Paris, France on January 7th, of two policemen, a maintenance worker, and nine cartoonists and journalists working for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and a third police officer the next day, evidently in response to the magazine’s work including satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has given Harper another chance to fire the flames of fear. Harper, not one to shrink from seizing any opportunity, however tragic, has attempted to draw a link, tenuous at best, between this event and what Canadians have experienced at home by inserting the sad reminders of the shootings in Sidney, Nova Scotia of three RCMP members, the hit-and-run murder of Patrice Vincent in St. Jean Sur Richelieu, Quebec, and the murder of Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa, Ontario. It says more about Harper than it does terrorism. But, if it works for him and we drink from the poisoned cup of fear, well, that says as much about us, doesn’t it?

In light of the brutal killings in Paris, Harper’s comments on free expression and the free press and democracy the following day are really hollow and self-serving; this is the fellow who refuses, unless it advances his own personal agenda, to meet with the press preferring to vilify them, refuses to answer direct questions in the House from opposition members preferring that he and all his members stick to prescribed scripts. He is the same leader whose members have labelled critics “radicals”, of siding with pornographers, and smeared Pat Stogran, Veterans Ombudsman, Kevin Page, ex-Parliamentary Budget Officer, and threatened diplomat Richard Colvin with jail time if he filed documents of involvement of abuses of Afghani prisoners before an investigative committee. He has proven himself leader of one of the most anti-media, secretive, anti-democratic governments we have ever endured.

So, why is he rising in the polls?

It is likely more than Canada’s entry into the war against terrorism and the deaths of two fine men that gives Harper the boost he presently enjoys. He ended 2014 with a budget surplus and immediately went on a spending spree, purchasing a military transport plane, a Boeing C-17 Globemaster, at double the purchase price, bringing to five the number of C-17s and making a commitment to procure four F-35 stealth fighters. When asked about the exorbitant transport cost, Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson huffed, puffed and squirmed without giving any reasonable response. But the promise of purchasing the F-35s is even more troubling. Canadians may recall that Harper and Peter MacKay, then minister of defence, during the 2011 election campaign had promised to purchase 65 of them quoting a figure of $9 billion. When challenged on that by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Conservatives embarked on another campaign, that to discredit the PBO questioning his credentials and character by suggesting he was biased and politicizing his office. It wasn’t so; Harper and gang had done that. When Page’s term ran out, Harper, in a snit of pettiness, refused to renew his contract. Small, vindictive, and extremely telling. With the purchase of the four F-35s, revealed through a leaked Pentagon document, critics suggest that the move is not only rushed but also meant to force future governments into buying more F-35s because the commitment of even only four jets will require costly training and extremely expensive replacement infrastructure to house them. Harper and MacKay finally prevail if only in a small way – at first – but do so deviously and at who knows what final cost. We certainly can’t rely on the figures offered by this regime. By opening this gate and forcing Canadians into a commitment that may prove very, very costly, Harper and the gang has once again proven themselves deceitful and far from the best money managers since the world began by their own accounting. But where are the voices of anger, the moans of scepticism or the sneers of derision from the public? During the 2011 campaign, the public was either sleeping, sold a bill of goods or both when they re-elected the Harper gang. Were they still sleeping when this came out? But, what the hell, it’s only money and not theirs. Too, he now had a surplus thanks in part to service cuts and to the 35,000 public servants thrown out of work (presumably all the same “deadwood” Tony Clement of the $50 million slush fund spoke of last year) and Veterans Affairs which returned to the treasury $1.13 billion of unspent money allocated for veterans.

Tricks And Treats

But Harper was not done with doling out the dough. In October, he announced he would introduce Income Splitting albeit in a reduced form than originally promised, which will add another $2000 to the wallets of the wealthy, or about 15% of households. That this will do absolutely nothing for single parents, low-income earners and those abandoned homeless dying on our streets evidently doesn’t trouble this gang. The marginalized don’t vote.

It seems Conservatives really do live by the motto, “Those that have deserve more”. Even so, those families with children will still benefit, though it’s also true single parents and single income families will not do quite as well as those who really don’t need the extra $2000. As of January 1st, child benefits will go up by $60 a month. Unfortunately, especially for those single parents who had better not get all excited and start spending it on things they may need today, none of that money will come to them any time soon. No, the money is to be held in trust until July. Then, all eligible families will receive a cheque of $420 for each child. Just in case you have failed to notice, that wad of money will arrive just three months before the October 19th election date (that is, if Harper keeps to that date, which I don’t really expect, but he may surprise us all). Now the cynic in me says that Harper is sending several messages to those with children. One of them is that he hopes they will remember that big payday when they vote. He also hopes they will know to whom they should be grateful. He is also saying that he knows these folks can be bought easily. That’s probably true. He’s proven it in the past. He’s also saying they’re stupid. He’s proven that in the past, too; how many times is he allowed to poke them in the eye before they wake up and say they’ve had enough?

So, there he is, still in office with only 40% of the vote of those who voted. And how many of those who could vote actually did vote? Well, 61%. That means 39% were too lazy, too apathetic or too self-absorbed to make the effort. I’ve heard it too many times, “My vote doesn’t count” as justification for not voting. Are they imbeciles? That line of reasoning suggests they are. They are certainly irresponsible and as citizens contemptible.

Still, Harper was not through with handing out money by the end of 2014. He also promised $500 million to vaccinate children in the developing world. This is part of the $3.5 billion announcement Harper made in May towards maternal and child health care. I’m all for helping vaccinate children and promoting maternal and child health. But why not spend some of it at home when more children than ever go hungry? Why not spend more for the homeless, for the First Nations communities without proper housing and no potable water? Why is it that Canadian children go hungry every day, single mothers are forced to hold two or three jobs to feed their children and endure misery and debt because their wages are substandard, the minimum wages totally inadequate. In the past few days, people have been found frozen to death on our streets. For politicians, especially those Conservatives who believe generosity should only extend to those who already have, the excellent November 29, 2014 piece by Global TV’s 16X9 on child poverty, Generation Poor, should be required viewing. It would not hurt for every Canadian to watch it either and that it be compelled viewing in universities if not all levels of education. Perhaps there might be less judgement and more action when it comes to the poor. Twenty-five years ago, all political party’s agreed to bring an end to child poverty by the year 2000. Nothing has happened, more children than ever live in poverty. Perhaps it’s time we held accountable the Liberals and Conservatives and demand explanations for just one question: Why has poverty become an accepted fact of life? Nothing can excuse the public’s apathy. Even less can we excuse our governments continued indifference and inaction that create and ensure conditions whereby people die on our streets, children go hungry, and single parents struggle, without any assistance, to juggle jobs, family and simply existing. Let Harper explain to that thirty-two year old single mother on the program why all opportunities have been closed for her as she holds two jobs and cares for her family and is on the verge of despair. Or perhaps Harper can explain to that 16 year old, pregnant, scrabbling for food, homeless, so desperate to escape her home life she chose the street and without job prospects, why she should hope. What has Harper done for these people here, in his own country? He treats the meanest and saddest of us as fraudsters and conspires against them punishing them even more with punitive mandatory victim surcharges should they appear before the courts stealing to feed their addictions or alcoholism or for stealing a pair of socks. Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco struck down this legislation as unconstitutional, “so grossly disproportionate that it would outrage the standards of decency” (Andrew Seymour, Ottawa Citizen, July 31, 2014). Yes, by all means help others elsewhere as much as we can but not at the expense of our own people and certainly not to promote Harper’s image on the global stage.

But, if Harper is truly intent on helping, on making a contribution with money for third world nations, perhaps he should consider removing some of the restrictions on how the money will be used to best serve those in need. Those organizations that promote family planning, including the right to abortion, will receive no Canadian assistance. So victims of rape and child war brides will be forced to endure a lifetime of poverty, illness and misery or risk losing all assistance and likely death should they opt for abortion. If this is generosity, it is a cruel, inhumane, and perverse generosity that is not reflective of Canadians but a bigoted, blind and immoral Conservative parochialism that denies choice and makes generosity conditional with the imposition of Harper’s hypocritical “family values”. It is blackmail and it is indecent and degrades the humanity of the gift. What is accomplished by forcing a child to a lifetime of misery? For Harper and his mean-spirited group of hypocrites it is this: Accept our morality, take our help, and shut up. Nice folks all right. Still, he’s doing better in the polls than he has for some time.

Angry Vets And Fantino’s Spurious Announcement

But are gains in the polls, a war supported by the public and public acquiescence to anti-terrorist legislation, the introduction of income splitting, increased child benefits, and offering to support an NDP motion to compensate victims of the drug, Thalidomide, for long term needs along with hoping to avoid fallout from the Mike Duffy trial sufficient reasons for me to believe we will have an early election? Perhaps.

Perhaps it has something to do with the tumbling oil prices. For years, at the risk of ignoring all else, he has been fixated on the oil industry, the Keystone XL pipeline in particular, as the sole economic engine of the country. The apparent collapse of the industry and with it jobs and his hopes has him showing signs of bending, oh, ever so slightly, but bending nevertheless, when, recently, he spoke to CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, albeit still quibbling, attempting to redefine such words as “levy” and “tax” with the rather commonplace “price” voicing his willingness to set a cost for greenhouse emissions. He is still against “job-killing” carbon taxes but is prepared to consider the Alberta model which “imposes a price on emissions for companies that don’t meet energy-efficiency targets. Those companies can also pay that money into a clean-energy research fund” (CBC post, Dec. 17th, 2014). Said Harper the equivocator, “It’s not a levy, it’s a price.” Well, a rose by any other name…. This is the man who, in early December of last year, said, “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy, it would be crazy, economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” So, when is it sound policy? Evidently not when the price of oil and gas were soaring. This man is incapable of backing down, of admitting he might be wrong, that perhaps others, scientists, educators, you and I might know more than he. Even when and if he retreats, and he hasn’t retreated on the carbon issue, it’s always to his own story, his facts and his reality.

Still, it was a concession, if even only a tiny one.

But then, too, after a year of snubbing Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario, there was Harper making another concession agreeing finally to meet her in Toronto just before he was to attend the Junior Hockey game between Canada and Russia playing for the gold. In doing so, he silenced Wynne, perhaps appeased a few Ontarians and mended a few fences. When Canada won the gold medal and his day came to an end, he must have experienced something akin to a glow of a warm hug that made him believe he was magic, he was golden! because, earlier that day, before Wynne and the gold medal, he had made a move that almost all Canadians, particularly military veterans have been calling for: he had demoted Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino. If Harper felt golden, if he believed he still had the magic touch, should we begrudge him?

Well, yes.

What took him so long? Why had he continued to support a man who had managed over eighteen months in the ministry to offend all veterans, serving military men and women (no doubt they could see the bleak future awaiting them and were second-guessing their choice of career) and almost every Canadian except the Harper gang who stood with him through thick and thin until thin and thick became too much. Even so, because of Fantino’s popularity in his riding and with his large Italian base and because he draws in a large amount of cash to the party of money, he still ended up with a soft landing returning to the post of Associate Minister of National Defence. Hardly a rejection. As NDP leader Thomas Mulcair rightly put it, it was a “half-hearted firing of an incompetent minister.” It was under Fantino that the New Veterans Charter changed the way injured soldiers were compensated. Instead of receiving pensions for life, as they expected and deserve, they have been dismissed with lump sum payments, which, on the average, will mean less compensation over a lifetime than for those who fought in previous wars. The move is offensive and dismissive: “Here’s your goddamn money. Now shut up and get out of sight.” And it was under Fantino, as most will recall, that nine veterans offices were closed. These were essential regional offices for members suffering from physical and mental disabilities. The Harper response: Need help? Drive to the nearest Service Canada centre. Too far? Too bad. Stressed, desperate, suicidal? You can always call Service Canada. Don’t do anything foolish while your waiting. Sorry about that.

For those who may have seen it on television, none can possibly forget the wife of a soldier suffering PTSD attempting to get answers and help for her husband as she pursued a fleeing Fantino down a corridor. Nor can anyone forget his snubbing of elderly vets by showing up late and then snapping and wagging a finger at a veteran for daring to call him up on it, “This finger-pointing stuff doesn’t work with me”. Clearly it didn’t. Fantino was as stone, immovable and as cold. Even then, he wasn’t done with poking the eyes of veterans.

Just days before the Auditor General’s fall report was to be released, a report expected to be damning in its criticism of the Harper gang’s shameful treatment of veterans, the Harper gang in the persons of Fantino and Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence, announced an additional $200 million for mental health programs for vets. The money was to be distributed over a six-year period. Surely this was good news. Surely this would lead to kiss and make up with veterans sucked back into the Conservative fold. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. The thing is, at it’s best, the announcement was misleading. At it’s worst, it was a scam, a good show with only part of the story, a photo-op that was mostly spin, no cotton but a lot of wool pulled over our eyes. Yes, there was to be $200 million for mental health programs. Unfortunately, it was to be distributed over a period slightly longer than the six years announced. The money would be spent over a period of 50 years! Now, when one considers this massive attempt to mislead veterans coupled with the $1.13 billion set aside for vets clawed back and returned to the public purse because unspent, it would be surprising to no one, except, perhaps Harper, if our veterans believed they had once again been victims of yet another betrayal. This, too, in the wake of Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s fall report which was, indeed, highly critical of the Harper regime’s treatment of veterans.

As outlined in the report, Veterans Affairs was not providing veterans the timely access to mental health services. The applications forms for disability benefits are extremely difficult to fill and some vets have had to wait up to eight months before they receive benefits. Many veterans have been forced to endure long delays in obtaining medical and service records and extensive wait times for mental health assessments, some waiting 3 to 7 years. Too, of the claims applied for, there is a denial rate of 24%. All of these suggest that Veterans Affairs is acting more like an insurance company than a much needed and deserved service. Interestingly enough, when the report was released, Fantino was nowhere in sight. He was in Italy attending a commemorative service. When asked about his absence in the House, his response was this: “In my world, ‘Lest we forget’ means something.” Does one laugh or cry over such a response? Were the vets amused? Is this how a government should treat the men and women who are asked to put their lives on the line when called upon?

Now there was a time when Conservatives might have been able to rely on the vote of military men and women, particularly veterans who, for some reason, appeared to blindly believe that Conservatives really did care for them. Well, it is true the Harper gang likes the pomp and circumstance of war, quite willing to spend on monuments and the pageantry of display as if lavish exhibitions of remembrance of wars past and present equals respect, honour or love. It doesn’t. It is almost as if this regime believes military service is its own reward and enough reward. It isn’t. It’s by one’s actions that we know a man, know were his values and his sympathies lie; it is easy to throw up monuments to heroes and mouth the words that make us feel good for a day and then wash one’s hands saying, “We’ve done our bit, here’s your tribute.” It is all show, of course, and rings hollow.

We have men and women killing themselves. One wants to weep. When will it end? In the Afghan war, between 2002 and 2014, 138 soldiers died in combat; in that same time span, more than 160 soldiers have killed themselves. The policies of the Harper government may well have contributed to many of those deaths. How many more will feel compelled to take their lives because the government they trusted has failed them? Harper’s choice of Julian Fantino as veterans affairs minister, was clearly a bad choice. What made it worse was Harper’s refusal to acknowledge he had made a mistake. Not only was Fantino incompetent, he was abrasive and offensive. He not only alienated veterans, those very folks most likely to support Conservatives, he managed to offend almost every Canadian. He, and the whole Harper gang, have disgraced themselves with their treatment of our veterans and of our serving men and women as if they were distant, unacknowledged, unloved, black sheep members of the family. I know if I was young and contemplating a career in the forces, I would seriously reconsider. Why should anyone be prepared to sacrifice everything, family, friends, even their lives, for a nation led by a regime that treats veterans as broken goods of diminished worth? Little wonder we see military men and women, mostly elderly, but not all, angered, in shocked disbelief, that they should be so ill-served by their own country.

Will the vets be happy with Harper’s replacement? Probably not. True, O’Toole had seen military service, but too many veterans and viewers have seen him when he was parliamentary secretary to the industry minister on CBC’s Power and Politics and CTV’s Question Period and other media bravely defending Fantino and the government’s handling of Veterans Affairs. It’s the same ol’ same ol’. A softer image is window dressing, nothing more, unless the message changes.

Even so, the Harper gang is doing better in the polls than they should, than they deserve.

How can that be?

Are you, those who vote for Harper and his gang, really that desperate for that shiny tax break, too blind to not see beyond the spin, to indifferent to the pain and needs of those without homes, without food, without hope? Are you that fearful, that cold, that self-absorbed, that greedy, that cheaply purchased? Or is it just something even simpler than that?

Do you really not care?

***

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: TERRORISM, THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

 

Where do murderers go, man! Who’s to doom when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? – Herman Melville

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 The Events

On October 20th, a lone male drove his vehicle into two Canadian Forces members in a St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot. One, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, later died. The driver was pursued, shot, and he too died later. That was all any knew initially and yet even before police had commented more fully on the episode, the Conservatives had stage-crafted a plan for maximum impact by having a backbencher, reading from a sheet of paper in the House, ask Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist threat. It was theatrics and it was cheap, clearly meant to disconcert and surprise the opposition and inspire fear not only by raising the specter of terrorism by also by reminding the public of what the Harper gang have been saying since Canada had joined the war against ISIL: Canada was under threat by terrorists. Harper responded to the staged question by saying he found the episode “extremely troubling”. The next day he went further saying the attack had been “against our values as a civilized democracy”. Steven Blaney, public safety minister said the event showed the driver “clearly linked to terrorist ideology”. Perhaps so, but was this really an act of a terrorist or a deeply troubled man?

Then, two days later, on October 22, a gunman armed with a rifle, attacked Parliament Hill. Reservist Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton, Ontario, standing honour guard at the National War Memorial with another soldier, was murdered. The police response was swift, efficient. Bystanders stepped forward, an unidentified woman attempting to breath life into the soldier while others performed CPR. A few contemptible others, souvenir hunters and callous creeps, used their cameras to take pictures of the soldier’s dying moments while the doers, the men and women of action, strove heroically to save Nathan Cirillo. The killer himself was shot dead within the parliament building with parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers playing a major role. American media disclosed the name of the killer before Canadian media. MP Jason Kenney demonstrated incredible insensitivity by being the first to publicly announce the death of Nathan Cirillo. In a time like this, some are always there to grab the headlines. No one knew what was happening, the police response was outstanding, and the media was there in full force the Globe and Mail capturing a shaky video of police racing through the lobby of the parliament building guns drawn. Shouts are heard and then an echoing volley of shots, too numerous to count recording the final sounds the gunman would ever hear. For the day, Ottawa was under siege. Parliament, public offices, Canadian Forces bases, schools, were put in lockdown mode for the day. The world was watching. And the media? The media was in frenzy acting as it always does in such terrible events, having a field day spreading alarm, speculation, fuelling rumours and offering little meaningful information.

I agree with Harper, these events are extremely troubling. But I am also troubled about what the fallout will be. For Harper, the Conservatives and many others, the immediate judgement was that these were terrorist acts. As a viewer watching the events unfold, particularly on October 22nd, I wasn’t so sure. As the day unfolded, I found myself increasingly doubtful that this was an act of terrorism and that, as the media first reported, there was more than one assailant involved. Rather, I began to believe this to be an act of criminality by an extremely disturbed, probably suicidal, individual.

THE STAGED RESPONSE

It was the first event of October 20th that gave me a clear sense of what Canadians could expect from the Harper gang. And it’s not good. On that day, while clearly prepped about what had happened in Quebec before the House began its session, a Conservative backbencher rose and asked Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist attack. As far as anyone knew at that time, a vehicle had mowed down two soldiers and the driver shot and captured. Yet Harper and the Conservatives chose Parliament to exploit the event, perhaps because two soldiers were the victims. Immediately, the alarm bells rang with this first raising of the specter of terrorism, which conjures images of extremists plotting and acting against Canadian targets. It should not have happened that way. It should have been left to the authorities to inform the public, not Harper, certainly not the way he did, and certainly not when not apprised of all the facts. It was only later, with the passage of time and with more information gathered, it was revealed the driver was known to police, that he had become “radicalized” drawing the attention of security who had taken away his passport and interviewed him just days before that terrible event. But the speculation raised by the backbencher and fuelled by Harper was irresponsible because, though uninformed, had the clear goal of fomenting public alarm and of reminding the public that Harper’s claims over the few weeks of terrorist threats had, in fact, been borne out. That wasn’t true, but the public was to infer that. Too, the question and answer was also meant to inform the public that Harper was on top of it (at that time “it” being unknown but certainly declared). Terrorists had struck.

THE MEDIA RESPONSE

What happened on Parliament Hill was even more troubling. This time, Harper was more circumspect. There was no speculation of terrorist attack by him but, really, did anyone need him to say anything. The public could see for themselves the terrible image of the unknown woman attempting to breath life into the mortally wounded Nathan Cirillo, the massive police presence and the Globe and Mail video of police running through the hallway of the parliament building followed by echoing sounds of shouted voices and shots too numerous to count recording the last sounds the killer ever heard. But it was the media this time that exacerbated the situation, inflaming the fears with endless replays of the video and wild speculation that more than one shooter was involved and that there had been a shooting in the Rideau Mall. Terrorists had struck at the heart of Canadian democracy! Canada was under siege! This, too, was alarmist and irresponsible. No one knew what was happening but, while the police and security forces were doing a commendable job under great duress and without knowing what was happening, the media was fuelling the alarm with wild stories. Most irritating was watching CBC’s Evan Solomon breathlessly replay time-and-again that disquieting Globe and Mail video. This was sensational stuff and the media was sensationalizing it even more none more so than Solomon who, on the 23rd, on Power and Politics, still breathless, announced that he had a photo of a bullet hole in the carpet and would tweet it for the public. This is not responsible journalism but kid stuff. Terrorism had again reared its ugly head along with irresponsible reporting.

For the remainder of the day, there was nothing heard from Harper. But there was, for public consumption a photo of a sombre Harper attentively listening to the RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson as he was briefed. It’s a picture I imagine Canadians will be seeing a lot. There’s an election on the way.

The two events were terrible and terrifying; soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo who had done no harm to their killers, fell victim to their blind violent rage and hatred. But, as of this writing, the brutal acts appear to be independent of each other. The fact that both had lost their passports, the second shooter likely for his criminal activities and the first, the killer of Patrice Vincent, for his radicalization, does not mean this was an organized plot by terrorists seeking martyrdom for a holy war. Until we know more, the wiser course would be to consider these as separate criminal acts by loners and losers seeking retribution against a society they blame for real and imagined losses, failures and failings. If it was the latter, and I don’t know if it was, but if it was, then these are not acts of ideologues, believers, self-imagined warriors, but of miserable little men who have become lost somehow and sought easy answers and comfort by turning to others feeling just as they did, hating the world, wanting to strike back, feeding them the same lies and excuses they feed themselves: it’s not their fault, it’s them, those out there, society. Malcontent, unhappy with their lives and themselves, lonely, isolated, seeking attention and, as some do, finding it in the only way they can because they are misfits and losers: blaming others and hurting others. If some turn to ISIL, it’s likely because something in ISIL struck a chord: all westerners are evil, responsible for all their ills and pain; it’s the same blame game, but openly declared and open for membership. If some then read from the Qur’an, act as these two have done, that doesn’t mean the Muslim faith is responsible any more than someone quoting from the Bible. These are delusional people fed what they want to hear, picking and choosing from scripture the things that feed their rage and then act out their own delusional nightmares. There are many like them in society. With people such as these, one act often leads to another, copycat losers and each craving attention, their five minutes of “fame”, the notoriety they believe is owed them by a society that has denied them everything. These are disgruntled, alienated, possibly mentally ill individuals. Feeding into the “terrorist” frenzy is foolhardy and dangerous. Giving the killers this much attention is only likely to cause others, equally disaffected, to attempt something similar if not more outrageous down the road. Be vigilant, yes, but let’s not succumb to irrationality. If these were, in fact, isolated incidents, terrorism by the alienated rather than the “true believer”, Canadians may have even greater cause for alarm. The danger may be from its own government.

Not long ago, Harper spoke of changing rules to give CSIS and the RCMP greater powers to spy, detain and arrest Canadians. In parliament, he stated his position to expedite the changes. This is reactive and reflexive legislation; it’s not good legislation. It is based on fear rather than on logic and facts. It does, however, feed nicely into the Conservative narrative and will no doubt assuage the fear of those easily fearful. As a consequence, one of the changes we will see is the right of informants to remain anonymous and free from prosecution. The accused will not be granted the right to face his accuser. Anyone with a grudge could lay a charge against anyone. This is not what one would expect from a democracy. Even today the Harper gang and the police are encouraging the public to take on the role of informers if they see anything suspicious. Do we really need leaders creating an atmosphere of paranoia? Do we really want a nation of informers?

Knowing how the public tends to overreact on the least of information, especially when fuelled by fear mongering and scattershot rumours, it’s easy to anticipate many anonymous calls.

OUR RESPONSE

In my first post as a blogger, March 28, 2013, I wrote the following: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy.” Nothing has caused me to change my opinion. In fact, my view has become even more entrenched.

Since the terrible events, the Harper gang has made many references to democracy, which, in the past, they appeared to find a hindrance based on some of their actions. It’s a word they evoke whenever it suits their purposes. With these murderous events, they will refer to democracy many times; the Conservatives and their supporters may even believe they have invented it by the time next election comes.

But this is a closed, secretive government. It ignores the opposition, closes debates and attempts to slip in legislation among vast omnibus bills.

Any government that is as closed, secretive, that changes the Elections Act to possibly disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, cannot be trusted to do what is best for the interests of Canada and Canadians.

This is a government that views all critics as the enemy. This is the government that believes Canadians should remain uninformed about the true cost of spending on fighter jets and security. This is the government that ignores evidence regarding crime rates. Instead, they build more jails, institute mandatory sentencing, and cut rehabilitative programs instead of preparing convicts for a life outside of prison. This is the government that believes those collecting welfare are all potential fraudsters and that Canadian workers are less worthy of a job than foreign workers. This is the government that works with Big Business to supress wages. Little wonder that the poor and helpless are disenchanted and unhappy. This is the government that will change copyright laws so that they can use, distort, cut and paste media clips of their opponents without permission and without regard of how that material is used and abused. This is the government that dislikes the media (except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong). With this move, he will have taken a huge step towards discrediting them by distorting their works. Instead of seeking solutions, the Harper gang carries on as if none of this matters. That Harper would increase spying on Canadians is not new. He prefers to be punitive than to seek solutions; perhaps he is simply responding to the wishes of his constituents. This is the government whose members have illegally accepted campaign funds from corporations, the same government whose members broke election rules, illegally attended fundraising events whose guests were the very people who stood to gain from the decisions their ministries made (think Shelly Glover, Leona Aglukkaq). This is the same government that has moved the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, to the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Justice Department, which is answerable to government whereby Elections Canada is answerable to parliament. This will lead to the real possibility of political interference should a member of the government gain attention for election irregularities. And this is the government when, failing to stack the Supreme Court with their man, smeared Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin. When our own government and its members smear citizens simply for opposing them, when our government and its members skirt the laws and break election rules, when out government and its members demonstrate a strong aversion for democracy, is it little wonder that those who feel left out, who are marginalized and ill, become disaffected and angry?

I am fearful that the deaths of those two fine men and the actions of their killers will be used to justify putting in place measures more suited to a dictatorship all in the name of security. A climate of fear and nationalism appears to have been sparked by these awful events. Neither is good for the nation. They lead to excesses and it’s often the innocent who suffer. Do we really want a return to the good ol’ bad days when folks, many Canadian born, good, loyal citizens were interned in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, simply for being members of unions or the communist party, for having Ukrainian names and, during the wars years, simply for being Japanese? It could happen again if the Harper gang is allowed to exploit these two tragedies fomenting fear and granting more powers to the police and intelligence agencies. Informants granted immunity, warrantless online searches forcing Internet providers to surrender personal information, detention and arrest for expressing beliefs we may find offensive. These are real possibilities if Harper continues as he wishes. We were a fairly open society but it is becoming more and more closed, secretive and frightened; we can thank Harper for that. We mustn’t overreact because two troubled individuals acted as they did. It may well turn out there is, indeed, a vast conspiracy. But, until we know more, I will continue to believe these were simply two sad losers who struck at innocent folks for no reason other than they were troubled misfits. The world is full of them. It does no good to brand them all as terrorists. It detracts from the real threat: a government all too willing to chip away at our democracy in the name of safety. If people are angry now, it could get worse.

Harper once said of the Conservatives, “…we don’t practice sociology.”

Perhaps it’s time we did.

***

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 SCUM ALSO RISES: STEPHEN HARPER, PARANOIA AND THE DEGRADATION OF POLITICS

 

There are some politicians who, if their constituents were cannibals, would promise them missionaries for dinner. – H.L. Mencken

When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him whose? – Don Marquis

Fill the seats of justice with good men, but not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is. – Sir Thomas Talfourd

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

BOTTOM FEEDERS

There must have been a time when individuals entered politics with the goal of contributing to society, of making a meaningful contribution towards change and enlightenment: a better world for all if you will. The gratification, apparently, was derived from working in the service of others. That must have been once upon a time long, long ago in a far, distant land. Service to others. The politicians of today, hearing that, must laugh all the way to the bank. How touchingly naïve.

That is not to say every politico was honest, wasn’t self-serving, wasn’t greedy or hypocritical “in the good old days”; some of them could quite easily keep up with those politicians of today in chicanery, corruption and knavery. It just seems, and perhaps that’s all it is, a chimera of memory, that governing parties were not as shamelessly openly corrupt as those we have today nor were they as many. I cannot recall the days when almost every member of a governing party was as fiercely partisan, as wilfully ignorant, as indifferent to openness, integrity, truth, as deaf to and contemptuous of the voices of the people and the opposition and as hostile to Democracy as this Harper regime. Does anyone even remember the good ones, Stanley Knowles, Tommy Douglas, even hapless fumbler Robert Standfield, a good, decent man as far as I know even if a Conservative? Does anyone even care that there are very few like them today? We still have Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent, but they have, to all intents, left the political scene. Do they recognize their old parties? Would they be welcomed and warmly embraced or would they be quietly endured with impatient politeness and then hustled out the door?

Oh, yes, yes, there were knaves, there always is, but there was a time of courtesy, respect, and decorum in the House, a time when the Speaker commanded respect because it was believed by all sides that he or she could be trusted and impartial. Now we have a Speaker whose word and decisions cannot be trusted because he has shown himself untrustworthy and biased as when he sat on two letters from the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for two weeks instead of informing the House, as he was duty bound, requesting that Shelly Glover and James Bezan be suspended from performing their duties until they made a full and accurate accounting of their expenses. There was a time when opposition members could frame questions from the top of their head and government members would respond in like fashion with no more than reference notes and with civility and a certain degree of frankness; today, questions and answers are scripted, the answers from the governing side never varying regardless of the question thrown at them. Asked the price of widgets, Harper, one of his oily ministers or some officious parliamentary secretary will stand up and say, “Glad you asked that. We reject your premise but will have a committee look into it.” If an opposition member were to immediately follow up with, “Is you mother a whore”, the response would be, without even a hint of a smile, “Glad you asked that. We reject your premise but will have a committee look into it.” Think I’m exaggerating? Watch Question Period when Parliament is in session. These are leaders of our nation. These are the folks we entrust to pass laws. Is this what we vote for?

This is not governance but a Punch and Judy show, a contemptible display of parties scoring points and settling scores on one side and a party clinging to power on the other convinced it is answerable to no one.

Thanks to Harper and his pea-brained gang, the days of questions and real answers are gone forever. Mean and petty, as small and ignoble as any group can possibly be, Harper and his crew have tossed aside the protocols of parliamentary dignity, transparency and inclusivity: obfuscation, circularity, outright lying, and sneering dismissals to any question posed are the order of the day. Opposition members are no longer viewed as legitimate representatives of the public; they are ignored, excluded, shut out of almost every important decision that, in previous regimes, would have had the governing party seeking and welcoming their input if only as a protective measure: everyone could be blamed. Not so with Harper and his hooligans.

SO, HOW BAD IS IT?

Last year, in an event honouring the contributions of volunteers across the country, one that most sane people would believe a non-partisan event, the ever-small Harper and his gang “uninvited” members of the opposition previously included because members of their community were being honoured for their work. Now that is small.

In January of this year, Harper traveled to Israel with a large entourage in tow, many at taxpayers’ expense. Touted as a business junket, it was also a photo-op for Harper where he loudly declared his friendship for the Jewish State. In the past, it was common for members from all parties to be invited. Well, Harper’s one of a kind when it comes to petty partisanship behaviour. No NDP or Liberal members were invited. Too, needy Conservative Mark Adler (remember the “million dollar” shot with Harper and Israeli leaders he was denied?), co-host of an Israeli charity event, barred Liberal MP Irwin Cotler from attending it. Cotler was there on another matter on his own dime; he is widely respected in the Jewish community and renowned as an expert on international law and human rights. Yet Adler, in a fashion typical of the Tory regime, could not resist in publicly humiliating a man simply because he was a Liberal MP. This is small stuff, extremely petty and mean but it paints a significant and disturbing picture of Harper and his sorry gang that is ugly, blindly partisan, and certainly not representative of a respectful, tolerant government.

These are just a few examples of many of the degree of disrespect Harper holds for those who oppose him. It is also a clear demonstration of the fear and cowardice of a governing power that, even with its majority, must feel compelled to pulverize and humiliate opposition parties who are presently incapable of even posing a threat to their reign of error. This is an example of raw power abused. The message is clear: those who oppose Harper and gang are subject to the full fury of their thuggery; they include personal ad hominem attacks which may end with your reputation smeared, your integrity questioned, your credentials dismissed and trashed and your patriotism challenged. Too often, we have heard members of this odious group label others “radical”, “stooge” “hack”; these are almost gentle lashings compared to what Pat Stogran, Linda Keen, Richard Colvin, Kevin Page, Marc Mayrand, and even one of their own, Helena Guergis, have been subjected. My sympathy for Guergis, I must admit, is muted somewhat; until she found herself out with Harper, she was just as nasty as the worst on the Conservative team.

And we saw how vicious and careless when, with disregard for facts, they chose to publicly single out Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin after the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that Justice Marc Nadon, Harper’s choice for a seat in the highest court of the land, did not meet the requirements for the position. Ignoring many warnings from experts informing Harper that Nadon failed to meet the necessary requirements, Harper nevertheless persisted in pushing for Nadon. Furious with the outcome, Harper and MacKay responded as any worthy bully or child might: both threw a public tantrum and opted to impugn the integrity of Chief Justice McLachlin and the Court. It’s worth noting that Harper had appointed five of the eight judges presently sitting in the Court. He hopes to add another. Harper’s hostility for the Court has been longstanding and overt. It is too “liberal”, tends to favour criminals, it is an “activist” court, i.e., has an anti-Conservative bias. Well, that’s what he would have us believe. It was clear he wants to stack the Supreme Court with likeminded individuals. Apparently, with the Nadon decision, the judges were swayed more by the sanctity of the law than loyalty to an ideology or to the man who gave them the job. That’s as it should be.

This is not the first time things did not go Harper’s way. The government lost the decision when it sought the opinion of the Supreme Court as to whether it could unilaterally change how senators were elected, set term limits which would openly politicize them, or abolish the Senate outright. Instead of picking up their toys and licking their wounds, as any adult would, Harper and MacKay chose to attack the Court and the Chief Justice whom they apparently view as emblematic of all the things they believe wrong with an independent Court: it is not Harper Conservative enough! As far as Harper and gang are concerned, the high court, in failing to reach a decision with which Harper agreed, was a biased Court, which favoured criminals and, I would suspect, dissenters who are probably terrorists or riffraff in the Conservative world. Another shining example of the “if you ain’t for us, you’re against us” mentality that fuels this miserable gang.

But unhappiness with the decision was not enough for Harper; that impish rascal just could not stop his bullying ways. He proceeded to charge that Chief Justice McLachlin had improperly approached him in July of 2013. Clearly, we are meant to take from this the suggestion that Chief Justice McLachlin had been opposed to the Justice Nadon appointment from the onset simply because he was Harper’s choice. In making the accusation, he was also suggesting that he, he alone, had attempted to preserve the sanctity of the Supreme Court by rejecting the advances made by her. It was an extraordinary charge clearly meant to inflame public prejudice against the Court with its suggestion of bias and political interference. As if that wasn’t cheap and low enough, Harper and MacKay deliberately left out information in the charming tale clearly intent on misleading the public. Their version was made of half-truths, which makes it untrue. Key elements were missing. For one, the parliamentary committee looking into the selection of candidates for the Supreme Court had been the ones who approached McLachlin for advice on vetting the candidates. That is normal, in fact, is expected. She did, however, admit to warning the Harper gang of potential eligibility issues. As did other experts. But McLachlin had issued that warning months before the issue was brought to court and at least a month before Harper’s choice of Nadon was named. Harper, as defender of the people from the law, became Bozo the Clown shot down in flames.

Evidently, these folks can’t help themselves; charge and attack and the truth be damned. For both Harper and Peter MacKay, this must be a new low of countless lows. This is gutter politics and a far cry from the political interference suggested by Harper and MacKay. To no one’s surprise, but everyone’s dismay, neither McKay nor Harper bothered to clear the air with the facts or the timeline. Certainly there was no apology from either bottom feeder. Crude, rude, and unacceptable.

This is extremely vile behaviour from a governing party towards the highest court in the land. It is serious, malignant – deliberate. Evidently Harper believes that attacking the high court might enhance his reputation among his followers who still believe man walked with dinosaurs and that the world is six thousand years old. For the troglodytes, such behaviour may be acceptable and expected, but it will likely garner little sympathy from the public at large. I know whom I trust in this tawdry tale.

THEY NEVER GIVE UP

Naturally, it doesn’t end there with these two. Last week, the Harper crew appointed Federal Court of Appeal Justice Rober Mainville to Quebec’s highest court with MacKay saying he would be “welcome at the Supreme Court”. Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati, who had successfully challenged the Nadon appointment, is again challenging the Harper appointment saying the Constitution clearly states judges on the Quebec court must be appointed by the Quebec bar. Other critics believe this just another Harper/MacKay end run to avoid appointing a qualified Quebec judge. If so, what does Harper fear from Quebec justices? “What had they done to upset Harper,” asked panel member Martin Patriquin in his appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics. Are Quebec judges considered too progressive for Harper’s Conservatives? Or is this retaliation against a province that did not elect enough Conservatives? Either way, petty.

But what should frighten and truly offend the public at large, especially if it believes the courts should be above the political fray, is not so much Harper’s blatant disregard for the sanctity of the Supreme Court, but his willingness to publicly declare his desire to politicize the judiciary to achieve desired outcomes. If the five Harper appointees to the Supreme Court might have ever harboured sympathy for some of his policies in the past, they might have little reason for feeling such now. Harper and MacKay have demonstrated the extent they are willing to embellish, omit and distort to achieve their goals. Their behaviour is discreditable, reprehensible, and just plain dishonest.

But that is not unusual behaviour from these two. MacKay had years ago proved he was untrustworthy when he betrayed David Orchard and the Progressives in the Progressive Conservatives by joining forces with the Alliance Party and Stephen Harper in 2003. To this day, despite proving himself nasty, untruthful, and incompetent in every post he has been offered, MacKay continues to hold a key position in the Harper gang solely because of his role in the formation of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party of today, CRAP in other words. For his part, MacKay is quite willing to capitalize on this. He’s incompetent, not stupid. Well…

Look at how he and Harper, having set their sights on the F -35 jets, lied and obfuscated during the 2011 election campaign about the true costs of the jets. They claimed the jets would only cost $9 billion. Experts were sceptical. When Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page questioned the numbers and requested to see the documentation, he was not only stonewalled at every turn, Harper and his rat pack began to wage a vicious campaign against him smearing his name, questioning his credentials, character and integrity. Does this sound familiar? When Page’s term ran out, he was not kept on and the public was no closer to the truth. We now know the jets will cost at least $45 billion though some have pegged the number closer to $126 billion. Canadians don’t really know what the final number will be; that is unacceptable. The Harper gang has lied and smeared their way to victory apparently untroubled that taxpayers will be left to pay a hefty bill of unknown size because of its unwillingness to admit to mistakes, to being wrong, or to even conceding that the planes may not be what we need.

Even today, with the release of a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled One Dead Pilot, which suggests that the F-35 single-engine jets are not only costly, but also dangerous and unreliable, because it denies pilots the possibility of a backup engine should anything go wrong, Harper and gang are unmoved and determined to go through with the deal. Michael Byers, UBC political scientist, author of the report, as quoted in the National Post by Josh Visser, June 9th, notes, “…a second engine is the only thing that can prevent a crash. The issue is especially important for Canada, which has the longest coastline in the world and vast Arctic territories.” Regardless of cost, lack of transparency, and closed bidding, it appears Harper is set to go ahead with the purchase, playing loose with the lives of pilots. Well, can we claim to be surprised? We know how much they respect our vets and public servants; why should they behave any differently towards those who will fly those planes? A final decision appears to be near. Regardless of what it is, we know they can’t be trusted.

THE FAMILY CIRCUS

Sometimes one gets the uneasy feeling that the so-called Fair Elections Act, as with so many of their efforts, so clearly botched, had been introduced solely for the perverse joy the Harper Conservatives experience in observing the response from poking the contemptuous Conservative finger into the collective eye of both public and critics. It has passed third reading and will soon become law the loud chorus of opposition ignored and dismissed. The heedless contempt and faux surprise exhibited by Pierre Poilievre, that viciously partisan Minister of Democratic Reform and Harper’s go-to man when it comes to dirty fighting, and the smug self-congratulatory hypocritical huzzahs that greeted the outcome from that quarter, was overt and painful to observe; these are despotic personalities taking sadistic delight in the despair of the howling voices railing against the bill’s inherent unfairness many consider a direct assault on Democracy. The outcome was no more in doubt than Poilievre’s dismissal of all such concerns as alarmist fear-mongering. He has resolutely campaigned to pass the bill as is with only token consultation or consideration of advice from opposition members as is customary and he pointedly ignored all other voices including experts in constitutional Democracy. Cherry picking “facts” that suited his purpose, Poilievre, often quoting and misquoting from a report by Harry Neufeld, past Chief Electoral Officer for British Columbia, suggested the changes were essential to stop voter fraud. In that claim was also the suggestion that voter fraud was widespread and perpetrated by a certain segment of society. When asked for proof of fraud, he could offer none because there was none. In fact, the only fraud perpetrated has been by Conservatives, how they reported on the bill and the methods employed to bolster support including their deliberate misreading of the Neufeld report. Can anyone who saw it forget Conservative Brad Butt’s contemptible little charade in the House? He regaled a spellbound Conservative audience (surely no one else was duped) with a tale of witnessing with his own two beady eyes opposition campaign workers scooping up voter information cards discarded by recipients which were then used by other opposition supporters passing themselves off as those voters named on the card. He had no answer for why he did not report it then. Later, in the House, he admitted he had lied, it hadn’t happened. Now, that is fraud. And, of course, we all recall how the Conservative Party paid $52000 for its role in the 2006 “in-out” campaign scheme for exceeding election expenses. And we mustn’t forget bulldog Conservative Dean del Mastro, that loudmouth thug who, along with Pierre Poilievre, waged a vicious smear campaign against Elections Canada and Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer, for having the nerve to investigate the Conservatives for allegations of voter suppression. Del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now faces several charges for election fraud during his 2008 campaign. These are not nice people.

So what is it about C-23 that has so many experts and ordinary citizens troubled? Simply by getting rid of as ID the Voter Information Cards we all receive in the mail, some estimate that 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised with the passage of this bill. Others have pegged the number to be as high as 500,000. One is too many. Those are large numbers and these will include our native peoples, seniors, students, transient workers, the poor, the homeless, the disabled, and the mentally ill. In other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. That is no accident.

But C-23 doesn’t stop there. The Commissioner for Canada Elections, the investigative body of Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, has been moved to the Department of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. There is a difference and it is significant. With Harper at the helm, the potential for political interference is not a possibility but a certainty. Poilievre, without his trusty sidekick, evidently has a few more scores to settle with Elections Canada.

Bill C-23 also considerably weakens the powers of Elections Canada to investigate election fraud, enforce regulations, and denies it the right to compel witnesses to testify. Too, those under investigation must be informed that they are being investigated. As well, their permission must be sought before such investigations can be made public. In other words, Harper and gang have determined that the public has no right to know when the rules are broken or by whom unless the offenders volunteer the information. There is absolutely no incentive for those who are naturally dishonest to be honest during election campaigns because the likelihood of discovery and punishment is almost nil. And while Elections Canada can inform people when and where to vote, it can no longer encourage them to vote. Again this targets large segments of society, the same folks victimized by the changes to vouching rules.

The Conservatives did retreat on some items. They tried to bypass spending limits by exempting telemarketing calls to anyone who donated more than $20 in the previous five years. This was a loophole that would benefit the richest party (guess which one) with the most number of donors by increasing the amount it is allowed to spend without having to claim it as an expense. As well, they retreated on the matter of incumbents determining who the polling station supervisor would be. Had this been allowed to stand, one can imagine that all disputes brought before the incumbent’s choice could only have one result.

The Conservatives, never shy about rigging the game in their favour, have now, in fact, entrenched bad behaviour into law with C-23. No doubt, with their past experiences and proclivities the party will take full advantage of these limitations.

Who can honestly claim to be surprised? All too often Harper and his crew have demonstrated that, when it comes to abuses of Democracy and unseemly behaviour, they couldn’t care less what we may think. It is not enough to win the game, they have to rig it and they have.

It’s not just the fixing of the game or the meanness of the Conservatives that offends, though I do detest them for that; it’s the smallness of their characters, the limitations of their vision, the selfishness of their goals, the blindness of their ideology, the aridness of their souls. If they use the word inclusive, wanting us to believe that is what they are and what they wish to be, they will stumble over it, perhaps even mask a smile with a hand. It’s a word they drag out for election campaigns or when attempting to convince us that what we might believe of them isn’t true. That they stumble always diminishes the message; it is foreign to them, the word difficult to get the tongue around. Besides, they don’t mean it. They see too many enemies in every dissenting sign and give the impression of believing the poor and helpless lesser beings. Workers employed at menial jobs are to be exploited, diminished, kept in their place; it’s good for business; those who dare speak out, those ungrateful sods, those who actually might believe they deserve more and better find their jobs auctioned off to foreign workers who are less likely to demand more and better than their Canadian counterparts whom they replace. Canadian workers are sacrificed to a life of drudgery as opportunities in trade schools and further education are closed to them. The have-nots have even less and the haves much, much more. Big Business, aided and abetted by an anti-union, anti-worker government, no longer need train workers, they can be found elsewhere. And that’s the problem and the threat facing low-income earners: a lifetime of nowhere and nothingness. For that, they can thank the likes of Jason Kenney and the Harper gang and those profiteering exploiters in the service industries.

To hear the lords and masters of industry, Canadian workers act too Canadian. I recall, I don’t remember where, reading that employers love foreign workers because they don’t act Canadian. By that was meant they worked harder, work longer hours, kept their mouths shut, didn’t make waves, didn’t complain, and didn’t dare believe that they deserved more and better. In other words, foreign workers are pliable, flexible, submissive and exploitable. If not, if they dare get uppity, there is always the threat of shipping them home. For the foreign worker, and he is not the enemy, the choice is stark: slavery in Canada or in their homeland Though employers and the Harper gang will deny it, all this is in aid of suppressing wages of low-income earners and even of those in the trades. Speak out there are others willing to step in. Of course, it’s not necessary to speak out in some instances. Not if you are Canadian. Many of us may remember the episode of RBC workers training foreign workers to take their jobs overseas. And we all know of Sandy Nelson and Shaunna Jennison-Yung, the two long-time service workers in a Weyburn Saskatchewan restaurant, who were fired due to “restructuring” and replaced by the very workers they had trained. Restructuring. That’s jargon, employers taking advantage of a government program to exploit foreign workers at the cost of Canadian jobs to maximize profits. With business, loyalty is apparently a one-way street.

And, as always happens when these things occur, business and the Harper stooges loudly condemn the abuses and promise a harsh response. And, as always, nothing happens. Jason Kenney (notable for using government letterheads to fundraise for the Conservative Party, for which he received a warning slap on the wrist), Minister of Employment and Social Development, a vocal supporter of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, a true free enterpriser, has so far, failed to take any significant action against the exploiters. It’s business as usual.

The lords and loudmouths of free enterprise, and that includes every member of Harper and his gang, always demand more of others than from themselves and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program appears to be one of the results, Canadian workers sacrificed on the altar of profit.

Originally created to help business find skilled workers not found among Canadian workers, it has been expanded and degraded to include even low skill, low paying, jobs. Employers love it. But its abuses and excesses are well documented. The program must be ended. Now.

Jason Kenney and the Harper gang have a lot to answer for. This regime has not just abandoned the Canadian worker it has betrayed him. It is also betrayed those foreign workers who have done nothing wrong except seek better lives for themselves and their loved ones. A free market mentality that encourages the exploitation and degradation of workers around the globe, feeding off their fears and desperation at any cost, including putting lives and limbs at risk, is a product of a bygone era and must be exterminated.

SO WHY IS NO ONE LAUGHING?

How troubled should Canadians be with a government that talks obsessively of jobs and the economy and yet seems as obsessed with spying on Canadians? What do they fear? What are they looking for? We know that they have little tolerance for those who step on their toes, but do they really believe the Supreme Court is their enemy or that those vocal opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are threats. Does the Harper crew, notwithstanding its majority, fear the electorate so much and doubt its own platform that it feels compelled to pass new bills that rig elections in their favour? Is every differing voice the voice of the enemy, someone out to get them? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes.

On June 13th of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada gave Harper another reason to whine and smear. On a criminal matter appearing before it, the court had rendered a unanimous verdict on internet spying saying that police cannot get information on internet users from service providers without first obtaining a warrant. This is extremely significant because it places in jeopardy Bill C-13, the “cyberbullying” bill, introduced last November by Peter MacKay. The Court agreed that everyone had a reasonable expectation of privacy and the right to not fall victim of unreasonable search and seizure.

The bill, which critics do say does address the issue of cyberbullying in the first few pages, appears to go much further than its stated goals and seems more interested in gaining access to user information from service providers without warrants and protecting those providers from repercussions when they voluntarily hand over information to law enforcement agents. This bill allows Harper to share data collected on Canadians with the US and, presumably, any country it deems friendly. This is clearly about more than sexual predators though the Harper and MacKay would have us believe otherwise. It’s about looking for enemies, real and imagined in every charity, political organization and individual expressing a hostile thought regarding Harper and his prolonged war against the citizenry and democratic principles.

This is not new for Harper. In the past, Vic Toews, another of their ilk and one time justice and public safety minister, attempted something similar. As today, there were howls of outrage and Toews, good Conservative that he was, opted for the smear of vitriol over a dab of peacemaking honey by charging all critics of siding with pornographers. Nice. He now sits as a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba.

Opposition members and legal experts have said C-13 will not pass as is and that it should be split into two: an anti-bullying bill and what, an all purpose spying bill? Of course, what could the Harper gang do but ignore the recommendations. It made sense. Besides, doing as the critics suggested might deny Harper the opportunity of another excuse to malign the Supreme Court. The new Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, appointed without consultation by Harper and protested by the opposition because they believed him not to have the “detachment” necessary for the job, i.e., he might be biased towards the Harper gang, surprised everyone, no doubt Harper most of all, when he agreed the bill should be split in two. In an appearance before a Conservative dominated committee, he warned that law agencies would be given too broad a power to investigate Canadians on mere suspicion and that C-13 gave immunity to providers who spied on users and voluntarily gave data to law enforcement. The Conservative members of the committee, not surprisingly, turned on him, their own appointee, as they are wont to do with anyone who doesn’t behave as they wish.

Will the recent Supreme Court decision cause MacKay and the rest of the gang to reconsider the bill? Don’t count on it. This was another defeat for Harper and gang and it is very unlikely he will be in an accommodating mood. Poor baby Harper. Like all spoiled children, he will likely keep on trying until he either beats the Supreme Court Justices into submission or the public decides it’s had enough of him.

SO WHAT ARE THEY DRINKING?

Yes, they are stubborn folk those Harper louts full of the certitude of their righteous virtue, superior vision and the sanctity of their goals. What reason is there to heed the voices of others when they, the Conservatives, are whole and perfect in thought, word and deed?

Then we have Chris Alexander to help us rethink that. Not too long ago, he, along with Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Kellie Leitch and the nasty Poilievre, was part of a cadre of Conservative bobbleheads appearing on various news programs reciting the Harper message of the day. They weren’t much then and they aren’t much now, all promoted and confirming the Peter Principle. Alexander is the citizen and immigration minister. In the past, he gave the impression of amiability, the least offensive of Rempel, Bergen, Leitch, but, with his elevation to minister, all that is gone. He has become angry and shrill and altogether unpleasant. I never did like the scripted Conservative messages he offered, the obfuscations and outright lies, but now I find him as offensive as the rest though, I must admit, Poilievre still beats him and the rest but only by a hair.

Bill C-24, Alexander’s baby, would strip away the citizenship of dual nationals accused of membership to an outlawed organization or “convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences.” Rocco Galati, that Constitutional gnat to Harper, has moved to challenge the bill. What did Alexander do? He did what Harper Conservatives always do: began to smear Galati on CBC’s Power and Politics, June 10, saying, Galati “…also defended, a senior member, the patriarch of the Khadr family, who was a senior member of al-Qaeda.” The inference was clear: because Galati defended someone the Harper gang (and perhaps most Canadians) did not like, the lawyer was suspect as well. We’ve seen this before.

That’s nasty enough. The proposed bill is even worse and its effect is so far-reaching, it could affect all Canadians and those applying for citizenship. Any Canadian citizen, Canadian born or not, can now be arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship. Those seeking to become citizens will have a more difficult time of it and the cost to apply will triple. Immigration officers will replace judges with the power to revoke citizenship. Too, those threatened with revocation of citizenship will no longer have the right to an oral hearing before a judge. In fact, there need not be a formal hearing. As well, the ability to appeal a revocation has been removed. Residency requirements will be increased; time already spent in Canada before the application for residency is made will not be counted. This is not the behaviour of a sane, civil, democratic government. Instead, it’s a clear signal of a government deeply, deeply, troubled. The Harper regime trusts no one, is fearful of everyone and suffers no qualms in abusing the rights of all it deems unsuitable and undeserving of Canada’s generosity. I though Alexander was better than that. Clearly I was wrong. The bill is as morally bankrupt and flawed as Harper and his gang.

Doubtless Alexander’s comments of Galati are reflective of a regime still furious and smarting by the judgement Galati had won that cost Harper Nadon. During a June 11th appearance on CBC’s As It Happens, Alexander, perhaps feeling embattled by the aggressive questioning by Carol Off about Syrian refugees and how many of the them, government sponsored, had arrived in Canada, appeared to have lost his cool when pressed about the number. He abruptly hung up claiming he had to get back to the House for Question Period. Later, he would whine that As It Happens had been “unfair” and “unprofessional” in not explaining why he had hung up. They had, but Alexander’s response of shoot first and blame others rather than own up to the fact that his poor showing gave the impression of a minister behaving evasively to tough, legitimate questioning as well as having a meltdown. This, too, is typical of the regime. Harper and gang are quick and eager to ride roughshod over others when it suits them and are even quicker and more eager to whine about unfair treatment and a biased media when challenged. Another example of the if you ain’t for them, you must be against them mentality. With a mindset like that, Canadians have every reason to be suspicious of bills C-13, C-23, and C-24 and the Harper agenda. These are the kinds of legislation a paranoiac might propose. Certainly, if passed, these bills could imperil many of the rights, including assembly, fair comment, and criticism, Canadians take for granted. This relentless erosion of Democracy is the kind of behaviour one would expect from a third world dictatorship. For how much longer will Canadians remain silent before they let it be known they’ve had enough? Poor Harper. Poor baby Alexander.

With this gang, perhaps like this article, it never ends. We have Peter MacKay, again, this time proposing new anti-prostitution laws that prostitutes, lawyers, police and almost everyone else agrees are punitive and very likely to put street workers at even greater risk including risk of death. Based on the so-called “Nordic Model”, Bill C-36 targets and criminalizes buyers primarily and prostitutes who solicit trade anywhere underage children might be “reasonably” expected to be. Come on. When’s the last time you saw prostitutes soliciting before a school or in a mall? The bill is ridiculous in its expectations, unworkable and inherently wrong. The Tory majority will ram the bill through and, as they have so often, ignore legal experts, critics, opposition members, and those very workers they claim to seek to protect. And, as have other bills, almost all inadequately vetted by legal experts, if even vetted, C-36 will meet a similar fate when brought before the courts. It will be tossed offering Harper another opportunity to claim he was mugged by an “activist” court.

Recently, we had Harper announcing Canada’s gift of $3.5 billion to promote the health and care of mothers and children of the less developed world. Maybe this is what Harper would have as his legacy as he prepares to leave office, if not before the next election, surely shortly after.

But even this worthwhile goal, helping the impoverished in other areas achieve a better, healthier life, he cannot help but taint in his own inimitable way. The exact nature of the funding was not made clear and critics were quick to note that there appears to be no room for family planning when it is estimated that over 47,000 women die because of unsafe abortions. For Harper, ideology trumps the lives of the impoverished. Canada’s gift is great publicity as a caring nation, but it’s marred by Harper’s inserting of his own anti-abortion stance. And while it may enhance Harper’s image abroad, and Canada’s by extension, how will this impress the folks at home, when some First Nations communities haven’t had potable water for decades, yes, decades, where suicides rates among natives are at unconscionable levels, and where most of the homes are poorly insulated and have no running water. What about the homeless and ill on our streets? By all means, those folks in less developed areas must be helped and we should do what we can and must. But it must not be just about photo-ops and positive publicity on the world stage and certainly not at the expense of those at home.

But at that summit in Toronto, Harper also addressed another issue. In this he expressed his befuddlement that people in the developed world still refuse to get vaccinated. Said he, and with a straight face, “It’s hard for me not to get very emotional about this because we know, we scientifically know, what vaccinations and immunizations have done for us, personally, in our generation and generations after us. I frankly don’t understand people who are walking away in our society from something that’s proven to work” (CBC, Trinh Theressa Do, May 29th). Did you catch that? Harper said, “scientifically know”.

This is the fellow whose government has muzzled and fired scientists for speaking out. This is the fellow whose government, so obsessed with pushing the Keystone XL pipeline, has denied the possibility of Climate Change. This against the overwhelming evidence that it is real and the threat it poses is real! This is the fellow whose minister of natural resources at the time, Joe Oliver, loudly dismissed and dissed world famous climatologist James Hansen questioning the scientist’s reputation and fairness. Science and Harper? When it suits his purpose, Harper will swing on a dime. Otherwise, he hears no one, listens to no one: the experts are wrong and only Harper and the gang know the answers. And, while I agree with him regarding vaccinations, I had to laugh at his hypocrisy. But it’s not funny that Harper can turn his back on what most of us “scientifically know”: good maternal health care also includes family planning; 47,000 lives should not be tossed aside because world leaders refused to acknowledge abortions are a fact of life in all parts of the world. Why not make them safe? You don’t have to support abortion; just allow women a choice.

Speaking of choice, this evening, June 17, as I write this, the Harper gang announced that the Northern Gateway Project had been approved. No choice for those against it. Unusually for Harper and his gang, not a single Conservative could be found to take questions from the media. Were they hiding? Too, Justin Trudeau pointed out something I had not caught. Harper has always branded his reign of terror and error as “the Harper government” which about says it all about its priorities. It’s never been about Canada or Canadians but about Harper and special interests. All decisions made, and they are always good, wise, and loved by every Canadian citizen, even if rammed down our throats, have been made, Conservatives are quick and proud to inform us, by the “Harper government”. Not this evening. Trudeau noted that it was not the “Harper government” that had approved the Enbridge pipeline deal but the “Canadian Government”. Could it be Harper is worried?

Immediately, all opposition leaders spoke out against the deal and vowed to scrap it if they became the governing party. First Nations spokesman along the route from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, B.C. vowed to defeat the project. There are five court cases pending. Three quarters of British Columbians reject the deal believing the risk too great and the huge tourist industry at risk. And it is. The pipeline would pass through pristine wilderness lands and rugged, treacherous terrain. The effects of ruptured pipes and spillage would be immediate, widespread and long lasting. Over two hundred tankers a year would travel through difficult coastal water channels endangering all marine habitat including polluting the navigable routes of Pacific grey whales, orcas, humpbacks and other marine life accounting for much of the tourism. That a majority of British Columbians and almost all First Nations people are against the deal makes no never mind. This is about Harper’s agenda: jobs, the economy, and, of course, the health and welfare of Corporate interests. In a recent speech, Harper suggested he would not sacrifice one job for the protection of the environment or to stave off climate change. Said he: “It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change. But we seek to deal with it in a way that will protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth, not destroy jobs and growth in our countries. And frankly, every single country in the world, this is their position.

“No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking” (from The Sidney Morning Herald, Crispin Hull, June 12, 2014).

That about says it all about Harper and his gang.

IT IS TIME FOR THE CREAM

What I have outlined is not a picture I have painted. Rather it is Harper’s work. It is vile, ugly and corrupt.

Standing up to Harper and his crew can be a hazardous business; it can leave your reputation in tatters, your patriotism questioned, your privacy invaded, your trust violated.

The Harper gang believe themselves misunderstood. They believe every sceptical voice raised against them is the voice of the enemy. They believe the public ignorant and uniformed. For that, they blame the media, the scholars and scientists, the Supreme Court justices, and you and I if we oppose them. So Harper and gang use loopholes to make it difficult if not impossible to apply successfully to access to information. By the time some do get the information, it is often too late and useless because of the passage of time or because so heavily redacted. Even though this is, in theory, our government and the Harper gang our employees, they act as if we are nuisances and prefer that we remain uninformed and ignorant. Harper and his gang obstruct at every opportunity and, because they are fearful and suspicious, treat us all as threats. And, because they see us as threats, they would spy on us behind bills meant to catch cyberbullies and pedophiles. The Harper gang is afraid of frank, open, and honest discussion. They pass legislation that is hidden, disguised, undiscoverable until too late and condemn those who demand a full accounting of those laws including full disclosure. They are impossible to shame because they know no morality except self-interest, economic interest, and the grasping and keeping of power. The Harper gang appears to speak with one voice with one thought. One looks at them and finds it almost impossible to differentiate one pig from another in a litter wallowing in the filth. They hear no one, listen to no one, accept no advice, least of all from “experts” and “scientists” and “scholars” for whom they hold the utmost contempt unless those same “experts”, “scientists”, and “scholars” just happen to hold the same concerns and narrow values as the Harper Conservatives.

And because it is Harper and his gang, they set up to rig the game and invalidate your vote and silence your voice. They have the majority. Don’t like it? Too bad.

Are these folks really offering you what you voted for? Do they really stand for what you believe and desire? Does honesty, integrity, decency, fairness, justice, humility, kindness, openness, transparency, democracy, dignity mean anything to you? If not, you really do belong with Harper and his thugs.

 ***

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 RIGS THE VOTE

The wolf in sheep’s clothing is a fitting emblem of the hypocrite. Every virtuous man would rather meet an open foe than a pretended friend who is a traitor at heart. –H. F. Kletzin

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. – Confucius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE CONSERVATIVE WHINE: I’M A VICTIM TOO

Harper and his cretinous gang have set out to rig the next election. Oh, it’s not as obvious as stuffing the ballots or party faithful posing as folks long dead; it’s more insidious and, if all goes the conservative way, and they will, the methods of rigging will become entrenched into law. Not only will skirting election rules and cheating be easier, and those involved have less reason to worry about being caught and prosecuted, the changes will most benefit the liars, the cheaters and the vote riggers who form our present government.

Unlike as in the past, when the public was informed of conservative attempts to subvert democracy and the electoral process, circumventing rules through in-out scams, robocalls, illegally accepting corporate donations, fudging campaign expenses, illegal overspending, passing themselves off as Elections Canada officials, redirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, this Harper regime of vile bodies intend to make it possible to do even more of that. When that happens, and it will be soon, the public may never learn of breaches to the Elections Act or of those involved unless, of course, the offenders are from the side of the opposition. The new Bill, C-23, invites corruption because there is almost no possibility of discovery, charges or penalty when the election rules are breached. Had this bill been in effect the last two elections, we might never have known about any of the ethical violations by members of Harper’s gang. The bill will pass and pass with few, if any, amendments, because Harper has his majority and he is far from reluctant to wield it like a club. Once it does, it is likely we will never know if Shelly Glover goes for the hat trick in attempting to skirt election laws.

C-23, is concerned with reforms to the Elections Act. In a page stolen from Orwell’s 1984, the Harper Tories have embarked on a campaign where nothing means what it says. Thus Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform would be, in the real world, and in the real sense, the Minister For Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression. Bill C-23, in Harper’s world, is called the Fair Elections Act; in the real world it would be called the Screw Democracy Act. This is no exaggeration however outrageous it appears.

Bill C-23 appears to be a direct response to recent investigations by Elections Canada spearheaded by the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand. The result, especially if passed as is, as Harper clearly intends it to be, will almost certainly lead to the absolute corruption of the election process. While there may be some worthwhile aspects to Bill C-23, it is the not so good that is most worrying and which offers clear evidence of the partisanship, pettiness and vindictiveness which permeates and poisons almost everything this regime does.

Portraying themselves as victims of a conspiracy by Elections Canada, Poilievre, in announcing the proposed bill to the media, was moved to say, “the referee should not be wearing a team jersey”. With those few words, Poilievre chose to carry through with his unwarranted and unsupported character assassination of Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada. Smearing opponents is not new for Harper’s scummy crew; they have resorted to it many times in the past and always against someone or some group who dared to question the Harper gang decisions. If Poilievre has evidence that Elections Canada is out to “get” the conservatives as he suggests, why doesn’t he present evidence of such? He will not because he cannot. He spews filth and hopes it sticks. And it will for some, especially those cretins who fantasize about governments out to get them.

POILIEVRE: DEMOCRACY? WHAT ABOUT IT?

This vendetta with Elections Canada goes a long way back. It dates from the 2006 elections when Elections Canada began, in 2007, to investigate the conservative ‘in-out’ scam whereby parties shuffle funds between ridings and the party to rip of taxpayers with illegal refunds. For that escapade, in a deal reached with federal prosecutors, charges were dropped against four Conservative Party officials, including Senators Irving Gertstein, proud conservative bagman, and Doug Finley and the party paid a maximum fine of $52,000 and returned $230,000 for illegal claims. The conservatives hailed the agreement as a great victory in that “no individuals were found to have done anything wrong” (National Post, April 10, 2012, Glen McGregor & Stephen Maher). That’s legalese by the way. Something happened: a deal was made, money handed over and folks walked away unpunished. Laws were broken and ethics discarded. With conservatives, ethics are easily tossed aside.

Since then, when the investigations began, Poilievre and loudmouth Dean del Mastro had embarked on a smear campaign that was loud, vicious and always under the protection of privilege because waged in the House. Mayrand and Elections Canada were accused time-and-again of bias by the whining pair after Elections Canada received many complaints of irregularities during the 2006, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. As a result of these investigations, the public learned about the in-out scams, the robocalls scandal, of Shelly Glover and James Bezan refusing to submit full reports on their campaign expenses. Eventually, del Mastro himself became caught up with his own scandal, facing four charges relating to the 2008 campaign with allegations that he had failed to report $21,000 in expenses and for filing a fraudulent document. I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude on hearing that. The Tories, caught in their own webs, cry foul, del Mastro even shedding actual tears of self-pity in the House. You could see it then, the claws were out: the Harper gang would strike back.

Meanwhile, Poilievre, that partisan toad, and today’s Minister of Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression, finally answering the call from Elections Canada for reform, after ignoring it for years, does so, but in so blatantly and prejudicial a manner that Tories on the sidelines must have felt a warm glow of pride swelling in their sere, tiny, vengeful hearts: Gotcha Mayrand and Elections Canada.

Canadians, however, should be extremely troubled and enraged. While the Chief Electoral Officer says of the bill that he and Elections Canada have not been consulted, Poilievre, however, asserts that, “I did meet with the CEO of Elections Canada some time ago, and we had a terrific and a very long meeting, at which I listened to all his ideas” (Macleans’s, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Feb. 3, 2014). One needs only examine aspects of the Bill to know Poilievre may have listened, but that’s about it. He certainly didn’t hear and heed. When Chief Electoral Officer Mayrand finally did respond to Poilievre’s intimations of bias on his part, he was to the point and particularly pertinent: the referee had been kicked off the ice.

Bill C-23 will certainly pass rammed down our throats with debate limited by the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Note that is not the majority of the popular vote; they only won 40% support from those who voted. But that 40% was sufficient to give them the majority in the House. And make no mistake: Harper’s governance, with limited debate, with multi omnibus bills, with legislation sneaked in without consultation or discussion, is nothing less than a tyranny. Perhaps not of a Putin or Pinochet kind, but sufficient to eventually lead to serious consequences for Canadians down the road. It’s a system that needs changing but, as we shall see, one that is not likely to happen thanks to Bill C-23 and the Liberals who apparently support aspects of this anti-democratic reform.

OKAY, LET’S TALK. THAT’S ENOUGH. ALL IN FAVOUR? PASSED.

But why this reform now; and why the haste?

Since Harper’s gang won its majority, they have been all but unstoppable in achieving their goals. They want something passed in the House, be it omnibus bills and hidden legislation, they ram it through. Every time. There is no consultation and only mere nods to a semblance of debate. What listening there is is just pretend listening and sometimes not even that bone; the results are as inevitable as the Harper thugs smearing Kevin Page while he was the Parliamentary Budget Officer or slamming Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada simply for doing their jobs: enforcing the laws and keeping Canadians informed. But the days of informing Canadians and enforcing election laws are about to end.

By the next election, there will be an additional 30 new ridings, the boundaries redrawn with the conservatives the happy beneficiaries. If Harper’s core of supporters hold, and there is no reason to believe they will not, these changes will almost certainly give a gerrymandered additional 22 conservative seats to the conservatives increasing their majority substantially and alarmingly. No doubt anxious, if only for the sake of appearances, not to be judged as too overt and greedy in their gerrymandering efforts, the conservatives will surrender the bone of 8 ridings for the opposition to fight over. It’s a rigged game. With even less of the popular votes than they have already, the conservatives could end with an even larger majority in the House. The thought is terrifying.

However, not content with even that all but certain possibility, Poilievre, savvy if oily partisan guttersnipe that he is, has finally responded to Elections Canada’s call to reform the Elections Act after his government had ignored such demands for years. On the surface, it seems to be good news for Canadians. It’s not. Not content with the cheating of the past, they have embarked on a road that is dark, deceitful and dangerous, reforming the act, true, but rigging the outcome just the same but in a fashion that is truly malevolent; Harper and his thugs wish not only to steal your vote but also deny others theirs. Poilievre would claim it’s a new and improved Bill, but that’s the snake oil salesman talking. Bill C-23 offers no pretence to fairness, no nod to honesty, no blush of shame for its lack of moral decency. It bodes ill for all Canadians and entrenches even more firmly my detestation of this group; their version of democracy doesn’t match mine. If it matches yours, shame on you.

Among the items Elections Canada sought was for more investigative powers to enforce the Elections Act. One of the things that would help them in this would have been the ability to compel witnesses to testify. These are not suspects, but those who may have knowledge of wrongdoing. That is not going to happen. In fact, Harper’s thugs have done exactly the opposite: Bill C-23 takes power away from Elections Canada; it emasculates the body. The cheaters will have been liberated to cheat: free at last, free at last, free at last.

One way the conservatives will have achieved this is by moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is presently housed in Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which reports to the government. Now that is a huge step towards corrupting the system and denying Canadians the opportunity to be informed of any investigation of any party or individual suspected of breaching election laws. The mandate of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who, until the passage of Bill C-23, is an independent officer, “is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced” (Elections Canada). That independence, once the Bill is passed, will be stripped from him because it denies him of the right and duty to report directly to the public through their representatives in Parliament. He must approach the government of the day. If they don’t like what they hear, they can keep it out of the public eye. Yes, indeed, they have taken the referee off the ice.

Too, the Bill offers the real possibility of disenfranchising students, aboriginals and the truly marginalized. Incredible as it may seem, with voter turnout as low as it is, this government of tyrants has made it against the law for Elections Canada to place ads encouraging citizens to vote. Poilievre, that oleaginous shyster, would have us believe that political parties are the best means of getting people to vote. Yeah. I can easily imagine the Conservative Party placing ads where the marginalized live and urging them to vote. This is real chutzpah shamelessly flaunted and absolutely revelatory of the depths of Harper’s hypocrisy and contempt for democracy. He and his thugs have easily spent $136 million in promoting themselves in 2009-2010. Of that money, they spent millions promoting over-hyped, non-existent job programs. And yet Elections Canada cannot encourage voters to vote. Is that your version of democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 also goes after the voter information card. You know, the card Elections Canada mails you confirming your name and address and notifying you where to vote. Well, that, too, will no longer be used for ID purposes as it has been up to now. And if your name has been crossed off the electors’ list “in error” (or deliberately, who knows with this regime) you will have to take a written oath before receiving a ballot. For two elections, provincial and federal, my wife and I have been excluded from the rolls. And we own our home. If, for whatever reason, the voter is transient, has relocated to his parent’s home or moved in with a friend, neither the Elections Canada information card nor the word of family or friends vouching for you will be enough to allow you to vote. These, along with denying Elections Canada the right to remind citizens to vote will likely affect thousands, even hundreds of thousands, mostly students, aboriginals, the homeless, seniors and others who may be on the fringes. Do you believe this is democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 will also allow parties to fundraise from past donors while campaigning without having to count their telephone marketing costs as election campaign expenses. This is simple rejigging of the formula to allow parties to spend more without having to claim it for elections purposes. Naturally, this will greatly help the money-rich conservatives who have mastered, if often in the sleaziest of ways, methods of expanding the list of supporters with no extra cost to them. It’s like a tax break, the richer they are, the more people they know, the less they have to pay. Another rigged advantage.

Bill C-23 absolves parties of being held accountable for party databases used without authorization. If this Bill had being in effect when “Pierre Poutine” was wreaking havoc, the conservatives would have got off scot-free. We would not have known and they would not have been revealed as the sleaze they are. With Bill C-23, the message is clear; campaign managers and party brass have been given permission to inform staffers they can cheat: “If you’re using databases for cheating purposes, we don’t want to know.”

Too, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections cannot inform the public of investigations without first informing the parties and then obtaining the permission of all parties involved, including those very individuals and/or parties accused of breaking the law and under investigation! That means there is almost no chance of prosecution and certainly no chance of the public learning of breaches to the Act. Just think of that. Bill C-23 effectively protects the villains against the good guys (Elections Canada and the public) and denies citizens the right to fair, honest elections. It actually appears to encourage cheats to break the laws. Yes, fines will be increased, and there is threat of even jail time but when the risks of discovery and penalty are placed at near zero, it should not surprise anyone that unethical politicians and their supporters would feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity. For that, we can thank Harper and his gang of chisellers. Poilievre is, in effect, saying to the cheats: “Go thou and sin more; there is no punishment.” Except perhaps for the truly wicked, the New Democrats or the other conservative party disguised as Liberals.

Harper’s thugs have set out to make Elections Canada impotent and they will have succeeded with the passage of this Bill. Not only must the Commissioner of Canada Elections be required to inform the subject of an investigation when it starts, MPs found to have violated the rules will be allowed to continue to sit while they appeal their cases. Now the cheats can continue to rig the laws in the House while, at the same time, dragging out lawsuits at public expense. Public scrutiny of election campaigns will have been brought to a grinding, undemocratic halt thanks to the conservatives and this Bill. Elections Canada will no longer have the power to enforce laws and inform Parliament and the public. If that doesn’t concern you, why doesn’t it?

While the irony of imposing debate limits on such a sweeping Bill named the Fair Elections Act is impossible to ignore, can anyone really claim to be surprised by the depths to which this sordid band of vote riggers have lowered themselves?

Well, there are a few more things.

There is another very serious troubling aspect of the Bill, one that demonstrates the egregious level of contempt Harper and gang hold of Parliament and of Canadians revolted by the shenanigans of the Senate. Bill C-23, while permitting the Chief Electoral Officer to seek approval to test a different voting method, i.e. one truly representative of the vote, say proportional representation, he “must first obtain the approval of the Senate and the House of Commons” to do so. Guess who controls the Red Chamber and the House? This is the conservative thug poking a stick into the eye of the outraged voter.

When pressed about the troubling aspects of the bill, Poilievre offers no satisfactory explanation and, when pressed about limiting debate, he doesn’t pretend to consider the question. This is vote rigging. This is a government that has set out the rules with full knowledge of an almost certain outcome. This is not by accident, not through misadventure or by inattention or oversight: this is by calculated design and from pure malice.

WHAT? ME WORRY? NOT NOW. I’M IN AND YOU’RE OUT.

Embroiled as they have been and are in scandal after scandal, one would think that Harper and his gang of lowlifes would wish to offer a semblance of adhering to democratic principles. Not a chance. That’s the perspective of a sentimentalist longing for the good old days, not that long ago, when politicians actually believed in the virtue of serving others rather than themselves. But such virtues went by way of the Dodo bird with the Liberal sponsorship scandal; Harper and his crew have simply entrenched the rot of corruption: with Bill C-23, they have sabotaged the democratic process. Shameless sleaze and slime have become the order of the day. With this gang of fixers and riggers, it is all about winning at any cost. How do you feel about that?

For Harper and thugs, truth and examination are dirty, fearful concepts only to be applied to all those who oppose them but never themselves. Thomas Cooper had it absolutely right when he said, “Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.”

This week, while the world is watching the Olympics, the Harper gang will be putting forward its budget. As with Bill C-23, there will be little, if any debate. The budget will be rammed through because of the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Among the items in place is the government’s plan to audit all charities involved in some way with environmental concerns. Flaherty, the finance minister, had warned that charities involved in politics should be careful. That was a threat. By law, his department is not allowed to direct the CRA about who should be investigated. Because the CRA often acts on complaints, it is interesting to note that one of the complainants has been Ethical Oil.org, a creation of Alykan Velshi, Director of Issues Management for the PMO. We all know Harper and gang, along with the Liberals support the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Charities are allowed to use 10% of their monies for political purposes. Yet the Harper gang has set their sights on them.

And we know that Tony Clement, he of the $50 million slush fund and president of the Treasury which is missing $3.1 billion, has not only targeted public servants, he has set his sights on unions as well.

Finally, convinced that the “elite” media is conspiring against them, Harper and his gang have staff, for which taxpayers pay, that play the role of journalists questioning cabinet members about the great things his government is doing? Yeah, everyone is out to get them.

Does any of this concern you? If not, why not?

Of what are the conservatives, Harper and his rat crew afraid?

Everything it seems, including the truth.

 ***

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, ROB FORD AND THE LIMITED VOTER

The same people who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing. – Leigh Hunt

Where is there dignity unless there is honesty? – Cicero

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Stephen Harper and his gang believe you are dumb. So does Rob Ford. They believe that your only concerns are bread and butter issues. They believe their assaults on Democracy and the democratic process doesn’t interest you. They believe you are fearful and that the fear must be exploited. They believe you can be bought with cheap promises and shiny gewgaws. The fact that so many of you still support them tells me they are on to something.

The old adage goes like this: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

But what happens when most of the players involved experience nothing of shame, are insensible to outrage, one side contemptuously certain of the venality of the other, believing anyone can be bought with vague promises and pandering appeals to their worst instincts, and the other proving them right, easily dazzled and easily swayed and, once hooked, remain stolid and loyal as dumb oxen, impenetrably blind to light, knowledge and wisdom. Almost nothing will shake them, almost nothing will wake them; they live but are dead upstairs stirred only by the vulgar hijinks of TV reality shows or the latest salacious Miley Cyrus romp. And the coarser it gets, the more aroused they become. Neither side is interested in the ennobling possibility of politics but only in what politics can do for them. For one side, the aphrodisiac is power and influence, for the other, cheaper TVs and more duty-free goods from across the line.

CLONES

To look at both men, Stephen Harper, manicured, stiff, measured, articulate, and apparently publicity shy, and Rob Ford, always in apparent disrepair, loud, coarse, and publicity hungry, it is easy to believe them from different worlds. That is surface and artifice. Politically, they are kindred spirits neither trusting nor respectful of the Democratic process; both believe the worst of us and pander to the worst in us. As politicians, they are successful, each in his own way. Their supporters are many from all walks of life and they are of a kind. They believe themselves underdogs, victims of “special interests”, i.e., unions, the left wing media, the liberal agenda, and distrust almost everything governmental.

These folks, fearful and angry, encouraged from the sidelines, egged on by Harper and Ford conservatives, are going to save the world from itself. How? Less taxes.

Conservative supporters, especially those beloved core supporters, succumb easily, almost eagerly, to cheap, empty promises: promises of less government, less taxes, less crime. They believe the Tory mythology that they, the voters, are under constant danger from crime, lefties and unionists. They are told, and believe, that our justice system is lax and fixed to benefit criminals; that more prisons and harsher sentences will reduce crime; that crime is rising; that those on welfare are leeches; that unions are special interests and unionists are lazy, fat and overpaid; that Oil is ethical; climate change, fear mongering; environmentalists, radicals. They are warned that Conservative opponents side with pedophiles, are soft on crime, and are the enemy. They are told that Big Business is always good, moral and sacred; that corporate tax cuts equal job creation; that well-paid workers threaten business and, therefore, jobs; and that Big Business is the cure for all societal ills. Why shouldn’t they believe it: Everyone knows that Conservatives are the best money managers ever.

Mythology.

DUPES AND STUPES

Still, some folks willingly suspend all credulity. They want the promise of magic and the Snake Oil salesman knows this and he has them. And, because they want to believe, they mistake the unbending resolve, suavity and glibness of Harper for strength, wisdom and knowledge and the vulgarity, tell-it-like-it-is-in-your-face bombast, threatening behaviour, and public outrages of Ford somehow endearing and indicative of a straight shooting, no nonsense type, someone to be trusted, someone just like them, one of the “ordinary” folk. It’s utter rot, of course. And you’re left wondering: What that hell’s wrong with these people? Will they never wake up? There is nothing endearing about thugs who govern without consultation, who govern in secrecy, who subvert democracy and threaten public servants and scientists and mistreat disabled veterans in the way Harper has and there is nothing endearing about thugs behaving like thugs, as Rob Ford and his brother, Doug have, and it is certainly less charming when the “ordinary” citizen claims Ford as his own and turns him into a folk hero. If that is the ordinary citizen, then god help us all.

But who is to blame for all this? When has public service degenerated to self-service? Is the politician solely to blame for exploiting every opportunity, every weakness, for resorting to every vile trick, no trick too vile or too low to not be used? Perhaps it is the exploited who are at fault, the voter who has surrendered his capacity to think, to reason, and to investigate, preferring instead to leave that for others, those who stand to benefit most, either out of laziness, indifference, or dependence. It is no longer, if it ever was, that simple. For whatever reason, politicians and voters have become co-conspirators, accomplices in working towards the degradation of the Democratic process. The truth is, and there is no greater evidence of this than in the shocking display put on by the Ford brothers and their supporters in Toronto, that neither side frets about the greater good of all of society for the only good they believe in is the benefit to themselves. They do not concern themselves with respect, ethics, honesty, integrity, decency or shame for one side is always willing to buy and the other to be bought: the only value the exploiter believes in is power and the only logic of merit is the logic of legalese. Whatever is legal is allowable, whatever one can get away with is acceptable, and whatever one can pull over another is legitimate because the other is just a dupe, a fool, a simpleton, deserving of the entire ill that comes his way. However, should the fool inadvertently gain some good, the exploiter will take credit.

It is easy to see the benefits for the users and exploiters, the Harpers and Fords, but what’s in it for the exploited, the willing dupes, co-conspirators in their own exploitation? Well, that appears to be rather vague. They appear not to know what they want but are amiable to the promise of better and more and if the promises are never wholly met, never fully honoured, never energetically pursued, it doesn’t matter, a soupçon will do, perhaps a cut in mobile roaming fee charges will serve or the unbundling of television packages; there’s always more promises and more tomorrows.

So, are those Harper and Ford supporters simply dumb like those Tories believe? Are they so indifferent, so locked into their narrow narcissistic lives that they cannot see or comprehend what’s happening around them? Are they that immoral and empty that nothing matters, that nothing shocks because it doesn’t touch them personally? Have they, in fact, become that jaded, that insensate, they no longer care? Do the exploited not see themselves as used? If so, perhaps, in that sense, because they don’t, they are not. They sell themselves too cheaply because they value themselves only as objects to be purchased: give me this I’ll give you that. Buy me: cut my taxes, cut the price of my cable or phone or television set; I don’t want much, but I want something. In return, I’ll give my vote, I’ll give my forgiveness, I’ll believe everything you say. To the onlooker who cares about the state of our politics and our world, there can only be bafflement mixed with fear. The turncoats within have hired themselves out and opened the gates. The barbarians have taken over and Democracy is getting a rough ride.

SO, WHO’S TO BLAME?

Alise Mills, the Conservative pundit who frequently appears on CBC’s Power & Politics attempts to make the case that there can be no linkage between Harper and the Rob Ford of today. That’s hardly credible. Rob Ford’s character did not develop overnight, nor did his present difficulties; surely those who knew him best saw the signs long ago. He is an open book in many ways, proudly playing upon his crudeness, loudness and ignorance, adopting the role of the loner and underdog fighting for the ordinary against the insiders and elite (i.e., unions, the educated and Big Government). And that was hardly a secret; certainly not unknown by those needing, and willing to use, his help. That, too, was Harper’s shtick, without the crudity, playing the role of underdog and pandering to the fears and prejudices of the uninformed, the “little” guy, both, however, Harper in particular, downplaying their efforts to accommodate Big Business with tax cuts, deregulation in environment, in labour, in workplace safety, and with concerted attacks against the public service and union bashing. For the envious, attacking public servants and unions are always winners: it’s easier to drag well-paid workers down to your level rather than pull yourself up to theirs. It’s easy to understand why the so-called “Ford Nation” was a natural fit for Harper and Harper for them. Did it matter that Ford was coarse, vulgar, unlikeable? He was one of them, shared their values, their vision. And Ford was hugely popular. So, why not a few photo-ops of them together, shaking hands, working the barbecue crowd, the perfect odd couple. Ford could bring in the votes and he did, helping Harper make considerable gains in Toronto and ensuring his much lusted after majority. Which is all very interesting, particularly now with the on-going Ford saga.

If Mills is right, what accounts for Harper’s muted response to the Ford dilemma for so long? If there is no linkage to be made, why has Harper, leader of the law and order get-tough-on-crime brigade, been so silent in denouncing the antics of his one-time ally and very best friend? Why has Harper not forcefully demanded that Ford resign from office? Why not even timidly? This is the mayor of Canada’s largest city. This is the man who has disgraced his office. This is the man who, for months, denied smoking crack, denied being a drunk, denied drinking and driving, denied consorting with alleged criminals. This is the man who has revealed himself to be a liar with his sudden, almost daily offerings of apologies for admissions of smoking crack, buying drugs, drinking and driving. This is the man who, in an angry response to a charge by an ex-staffer in a police report, denied consorting with prostitutes. The response was a tirade that was misogynistic and shockingly vulgar especially in regards to his wife who latter appeared with him in a news scrum looking shell-shocked as he once again offered an apology. This is the man who, to all those admissions, would cavalierly add, “I made mistakes.” No big deal. But how many mistakes, how many apologies before members of Ford Nation have had enough? This is the man, along with his brother Ford, points to other councillors saying he hasn’t done anything they haven’t done the only difference being he was “honest enough” to admit it! As if the guilt of others absolves him! Well that’s their world and they’re sticking to it.

THE HYPOCRISY OF HARPER’S OMINOUS SILENCE

It’s a freakish gong show, ridiculous and sad for politics and Democracy. And yet, what has been the response of the Conservatives provincially and federally? Muted. Tim Hudak belatedly and mildly distancing himself from Ford, though, it is also true, neither Kathleen Wynne nor NDP provincial leader, Andrea Horwath, were hardly stellar regarding this matter. It is the federal Conservative response that is most telling and disturbing, however. Not that long ago, when Justin Trudeau declared he was in favour of decriminalizing marijuana use, Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, the minister of incompetence in everything, pilloried him, attempting to paint him as a drug pusher to children. Yet, when the PMO finally commented on the Ford saga, Nov. 18th, weeks after it began, his comment was less about Ford, in fact, Ford wasn’t even mentioned, but more about Trudeau. “These latest allegations are troubling. Our Government does not condone illegal drug use, especially by elected officials while in office, including Justin Trudeau,” ran part of the statement. Not only was this ad hominem cheap, it was the revelatory, a desperate attempt to divert by a hypocritical Harper who wants it both ways. He wants to appear to condemn drug use without condemning the self-admitted crack smoking, drug buying, cocaine snorting, drunk driving Ford lest he offend members of Ford Nation. But this double standard is not unique in politics and certainly not to Conservatives who are double-jointed to the core. Just as Ford denied and denied until finally confronted by the evidence proving him a liar many, many times over, Harper still insists on denying he knew anything about the Duffy/Wright deal. Not believable, not credible. We saw how Harper behaved with the senate scandal. And we see how Ford behaves today with his own troubles. Secrecy, disrespect for the public and for their offices, Harper, once cited for Contempt of Parliament, his gang and the Ford brothers are poison in the well. Yet some of the public happily drink from it. Apparently, to those in the rose coloured world of Conservatism, the poisoned water is magic, nothing is as it seems: honest criticism is lack of patriotism, fakery is reality, lies are truth, ethics anti-democratic, secrecy openness, opponents enemies, and knowledge dangerous. Who cares about facts, truth, integrity? Not Conservatives who have made subverting the electoral process a fine art nor those who vote time and again for Harper and the Fords who appear to live in a world all their own. And it isn’t pretty.

THE DAY THE THUGS CAME

When Toronto councillors stripped Ford of most of his powers on Nov. 18th, viewers were witness to a spectacle that was raw, thoroughly ugly, and utterly menacing. We saw the Ford brothers for the thugs they are as they ignored the speaker, mocked councillors, derided city staffers, and roamed the chamber to scream at heckling spectators. We saw Rob Ford knock over councillor Pam McConnell as he attempted, so he said, to go to the aid of his brother whom he believed involved in an altercation with a spectator. Another councillor repeatedly demanded that Ford apologize to McConnell. Evidently that was difficult for Ford. When he finally did, using McConnell’s name, the apology was as heartfelt as all the other apologies in the past few weeks and just as insincere. But, if knocking down fellow councillors and heckling spectators wasn’t enough, there was another episode that was extremely disturbing. Rob Ford, accompanied by his bodyguard driver, roamed the chamber with the bodyguard taking pictures of hecklers in the gallery. There was little doubt what Ford intended by this. What was that in aid of if not meant to intimidate?

It is beyond understanding that people still support either Rob or Doug Ford. It is shocking to me that they are treated as celebrities, that they have garnered the attention they have. They are hoodlums, worthy of nothing but contempt. Instead, they get their own TV show.

I have heard some say over and over that Rob Ford needs treatment, that he is endangering his life. That is probably true but I couldn’t care less. The sooner he leaves office, the better. I don’t care how he leaves, as long as he leaves. I feel no sympathy for him and can’t even work up pity. And that is sad. If he possessed a shred of dignity, some sense of pride, an iota of shame, he would know that stepping down would be the best move for Toronto, the city he professes to love. It could even help him. Crude, loud, profane, he insists on staying in office and has declared war on all those who oppose him. We have seen him exposed and humiliated, he says, but, if humiliated, it is difficult to see. It is not his fault. It never is with the Harpers and the Fords. It never seems to end and it’s always the fault of others. For Ford, it is enough that he has apologized, time and time again. He wants to move on, voters are expected to take him at his word that he is not an addict, isn’t a drunk, that pictures of him with alleged felons is a one off, just the mayor posing with ordinary folks as far as he knew. To his mother and sister, the only problem Rob Ford suffers from is his weight problem. His brother Doug, a person who would know, one thinks, considering their closeness, says he has never seen Rob drunk. Yet the world has seen more than a few videos of an apparently intoxicated Ford. Hell, he’s been even taped taking a leak in a public park. He is surrounded by enablers and all, like himself, deniers: he’s done nothing wrong, he hasn’t a problem, the elitist lefties are out to get him, he’s loved by voters. Sadly, that last may be true. There are some who see him simply as some harmless, goofy, loveable buffoon and nothing more. To them, as to the Ford brothers, the whole thing smacks of the conspiracy of the left out to get Ford. They dismiss his drug use and public drunkenness as a private matter during time off work. Yes, he is entitle to time off; the thing is, he is mayor 24/7. His behaviour hasn’t affected his job, they say. How could they know? They, too, are deniers. It is immaterial to them that he has failed the test of character, that his flaws and faults are many and serious.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Earlier, I stated that Harper and Ford were kindred spirits. Who can doubt it? Harper and the Ford brothers are pathetic, weak men. Harper takes no responsibility for what happens in his office as with the Duffy/Wright affair. Rob Ford accepts no blame for his actions. People were out to get him. Had he behaved, there would have been nothing to get. And while Harper may appear to be more refined, he is no less a bully than the Ford brothers who have made their way into the public consciousness largely by the force of their brutish antics. Harper and Ford think nothing of pointing fingers, of pleading ignorance, of denying wrongdoing. These are the acts of children, of bullies and cowards who cannot man up and take responsibility. Even so, there will be those in the Ford camp who will say that Rob Ford did step up, that he did accept responsibility. They live in a world of fantasy and nothing will alter that.

There are too many too willing to defend the indefensible and the inexcusable. Too many will say that Ford’s private life has nothing to do with his public life. Since when has character become a nine to five role?

Ford cares no more about democratic process than Harper’s Conservatives. If he did, he would resign. But he will not any more than Harper will. And for that, we can thank their supporters.

Too many of us expect too little from our leaders. Too many of us say we want leaders just like us. I ask this: What is the glory in having leaders “just like us” when so many of us are flawed, incapable, and disinterested? When I vote for a person, I want them to be better than me, and not just more knowledgeable about pinching dollars, cutting costs, and lowering taxes. I want them better than me in wisdom and humaneness as well. We don’t live alone. I want them to have a broader view of my society and theirs and the world at large. I do not want them to pander to the worst in me, to my prejudices, my ignorance, and shallowness but rather to help me understand that there is no place for such things. I want them to make me proud that my vote helped elect individuals who worked for the good of all members of society, who are not tied to business interests, who are not blind to workers’ needs, who believe that justice is not just about punishment but also fair treatment.

I have actually heard people say they like Rob Ford because he is just like them. That terrifies me, for what I see in him is dangerous hucksterism, disingenuousness, magical thinking, buffoonery, ignominy. If he is truly representative of the population, then, perhaps, we should have a means test for voters. Surely it’s not too much to ask voters to inform themselves, to be aware of the issues, to know their candidates and the party policies. When I hear some declare, as if it was something of which to be proud, “I don’t vote”, I want to ship that person to a deserted island because he has already isolated himself from society by his disinterest in how it operates or is governed. When asked why they don’t vote, they sometimes say they are not interested, that they don’t know enough, that their vote doesn’t count. These are excuses from individuals who haven’t grown up, who cannot see, or don’t care, how our lives are intertwined and how our actions affect others. We already have too much of that in public life. There is no room for apathy, laziness, for leaving the decisonmaking to others. “Politics doesn’t interest me.” How can anyone say that of something that affects almost everything in their lives every day? It is these people that the Harpers and Fords love. They don’t think, they don’t analyze, they don’t absorb, they don’t remember. They just don’t care. They are zombies; they go through life asleep and are the ones who will do as they are told when they are told. They believe in nothing because they know nothing beyond their own needs wants and fears. And because they cannot see beyond their own narrow sphere, they vote for the populist emptiness of Ford and for the secretive, vindictive, and mean-spirited free enterprise governance of Harper and gang. They don’t mind, they don’t know, they don’t care.

And the rest of us? Well, we pay the price.

***

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: WOLF AMONG SHEEP

A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. – Bertrand de Jouvenel

The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal…is the ultimate indignity of the democratic process. – Adlai Stevenson

Frank A. Pelaschuk

MASTER OF ALL

Power and hubris can make even the best-intentioned government mean and corrupt. But what can one say of the Harper regime which has been motivated only by a narrow economic vision that does not include the greater good and which, I strongly suspect, had long before attaining its majority, already been mean and well on its way to plotting against those whom it believed had aggrieved them, i.e., everyone who stood against it?

Well, nothing good really.

To this observer, it has long been clear that Harper and gang actually believe they are servants to no one and masters to all. They feel no need to explain, justify or excuse, it is enough that they have the elected majority. We are to trust them and take them at their word that they are capable and know what they are doing. I believe the last can be taken at faith; they know exactly what they are doing. That their methods of smears, lies, innuendo, secrecy and cronyism apparently doesn’t trouble their base of core supporters nor those others, the soft-supporters, those what’s-in-it-for-me types who can easily be swayed by glitzy ads and promises of savings of pennies a day in tax cuts, those envious anti-unionists who are less interested in pulling themselves up than in dragging others down, those public servant haters who doubtless cheer every time they read that Harper and his gang have cut more public service jobs, says all you need to know about them. False promises, lies, fables and myths trouble no one in that crowd and Harper and gang know this. They also know a segment of voters are simpletons and they prove it time and time again each election swallowing the same promises, trembling to the same fear mongering, and voting for the same villains. Those are the ones that Harper and gang work at and once they’ve hooked them what follows doesn’t matter; come next election those voters will have forgotten or moved on replaced by another batch of simpletons who will buy the same bullshit and vote as they always do: for the pretty, shiny promises.

Arrogant beyond tolerance, Harper and gang are unhesitatingly free with admonitions accompanied by much finger-wagging to the rest of the world, loudly crowing of their successes and punching up far above its weight that is prideful, ridiculous and offensive and especially galling when one considers that much of Canada’s good reputation which they claim as their own successes have little to do with them but with the infrastructures created by previous Liberal governments. Theirs is a pride that has little justification unless one believes winning a majority of seats with only 40 per cent of the vote, skirting the rules of democracy with in-out scams, misleading and misdirecting voters with robocalls, accepting illegal corporate donations, not filling out proper expense claims for Elections Canada, and turning a massive surplus left by Paul Martin and the Liberals into a massive deficit, can be deemed sources for pride.

THE HARPER BRAND: WHINERS & BRAGGADOCIO

This is a government rife with decay. It is mean and spiteful. Stephen Harper has not only turned a blind eye to all that is wrong, he has encouraged and abetted all of it. In that sense, his branding of his term in office as Harper’s Government is absolutely accurate. It truly is Harper’s government. It is made up of a gang of folk who pad expenses, who smear opponents, who subvert the electoral process. It is made of a gang of folk who are thugs, roaming bullies and petty liars who respect neither the voters nor Democracy or the electoral process. Stand against them; you become the enemy, a troublemaker, unpatriotic. It is certainly not my kind of government and I suspect not one the majority of Canadians would recognize as theirs. Harper and gang are lowlifes in suits.

This is a group of MPs and supporters who are so small, so petty, so vindictive that they actually try to portray themselves as victims, who when confronted by charges of abuses in the Senate and the House and of their offices, cry about being treated harshly and unfairly. Senator Pamela Wallin is one such whiner, repaying claims to which she was not entitled and crying “foul” charging she was treated “unfairly.” Not a tear, though, for the public whom she ripped off. These are the same people who would have you believe that crime is on the rise and more prisoners are needed and that those claiming refugee status are all trying to take advantage of Canadian generosity and that all Roma are thieves. They would have you believe those on welfare are all potential fraudsters, that poverty is a crime, and that the old and sickly are just leeching off the system. Well, we know better, don’t we? Or we should.

Why do they believe that? Why do they hate the meanest and poorest among us so much? Could it be that Harper and his gang, small, mean, and vicious, know themselves and judge all others accordingly? Could it be they are afraid, fear those who believe that good fortune should be shared, that generosity is ennobling, that kindness has a human face? Do they fear the poor; wonder if the day will come when anger turns to fury? It could be they simply do not understand and do not trust those who are not always on the make and looking for the main chance. Perhaps that could explain why Harper and his gang mock, punish and sneer. They are afraid of losing what they have. And what they have, and what they want, and what they appear to need is POWER.

These are the type who weep copious tears at thoughts of unfairness and pain, not the unfairness and pain afflicting others but the unfairness and pain they imagine has been done to themselves by others, as Dean Del Mastro displayed when he, a month or so back, stood before the House and, choking back tears, whined about how unfairly he was treated, and cried about how long was the investigative process into his campaign expenses. Now that charges have been laid, Del Mastro no doubt weeps even more tears, more loudly while still denying wrongdoing.

But those protestations of unfairness, of wanting swift resolution, are not credible when Conservative MPs facing allegations of impropriety and the Conservative Party and Harper and gang fight tooth and nail to delay, impede and interfere by any means possible with the investigative process. Yes, they want fairness, but not today, and certainly not for them. Elections Canada Commissioner Yves Côté wants Parliament to change the rules so that they can compel witnesses to testify in their investigations into campaign irregularities. That is unlikely to happen even though it is true Harper had long ago promised to reform Elections Canada. But we know that with the recent problems plaguing his Conservative regime and with his appointment of Pierre Poilievre, once Parliamentary Secretary bobble head loudmouth now Minister of State for Democratic Reform, that positive reforms are extremely unlikely. Anti-unionist Poilievre is the man whose potty-mouth antics in the House and his glib, smarmy attacks against Elections Canada have earned him a reputation and a following that would shame most with a modicum of self-respect. But not this crowd; not those who support them.

Poilievre and Dean Del Mastro both voted against supporting Elections Canada during its investigations of the robocalls and “in-out” scandals, Poilievre going so far as to accuse the body of bias in going after Conservatives. Evidently it doesn’t occur to either to consider this: Perhaps if Conservatives were more honest….Better to ask a penguin to fly.

The thing is, the bullies, the liars, the cheats whine like children and, like children, resort to finger pointing rather than owning up. Only mature grownups seem able to accept responsibility.

Under Harper, too many of his Conservatives have been and continue to be under investigation for far too many campaign irregularities to hope for Elections Canada reform. In fact, this regime has consistently and persistently poked the eye of Elections Canada or gone out of their way to ignore it as Harper did when the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, requested that MP Shelly Glover be suspended until she filled out proper documents for the 2011 campaign. Instead of complying, Glover, former frequent Conservative spokesperson and another frequent bobble head guest on Power and Politics, sought to fight it in court only giving up when she clearly understood she was about to be promoted to the position of minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. She remains a bobble head with a title and, like all her ilk, remains shamelessly unrepentant. Hers is the Leona Helmsley approach: rules are for the little people. But she is not alone with that attitude in the Conservative party. The speaker of the House, Conservative Andrew Scheer, sat on the request and Harper ignored it when it finally came out, and Shelly Glover, as we know, was rewarded with a promotion. These people possess the morality of druggies: anything goes. And anything does.

THE VINDICTIVENESS OF MEDIOCRITY

Christian Paradis is our new international Development Minister. That he still holds a position in Harper’s cabinet should trouble voters. That he does is not surprising, for he is one of a very few MPs from Quebec. The thing is, Paradis has, in the past demonstrated he is capable of serious ethical lapses. In the past he has faced allegations of helping lobbyist and former MP Rahim Jaffer meet with government officials; he has been investigated for his role in the relocation of an Employment Insurance claims office to his riding; and he was known to have spent a weekend with former NHL team owner and lawyer, Marcel Aubut, who, at the time was lobbying the government for public funding for an arena. Paradis claims there was no business talk, no lobbying; we have to take him at his word. Yeah, we do.

Paradis, this mediocrity in office, has recently announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain abortions. That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages.

Here is a government so ideologically driven that it will prolong, exacerbate, and consign victims, including child victims, in war-ravaged countries to even greater hardship, misery, poverty, despair, perhaps even death, simply because they, these hypocritical, self-righteous, dishonest moralists believe that their values, including their anti-abortion stand, should be jammed down the throats of the impoverished and hapless rape victims of war and forced marriages.

This is the government that is so corrupted by its own vicious vision and version of morality that it actually appears to believe itself somehow purer and better than those victims, who simply want a choice offered to most citizens around the world, the right to abort the product of a rape. While this stand will doubtless appeal to the Conservative base at home, those safe, smug, self-righteous anti-abortionists at home, those individuals who do not have to share the fate of those unfortunates over there, this move is so viciously cynical that, by not addressing this issue at home lest he lose his soft, pro-choice supporters, Harper demonstrates the truly cold-blooded nature of his make up: he will do anything, anything, to have it all ways so that he can keep what he has regardless of how many lives are further destroyed. They’re not Canadian lives so, who cares? It’s business as usual, and if there are a few ministers suffering from ethical lapses, so what? We’ve got our majority. In a few months, the voters will forget if they even cared in the first place and we’ll help them forget with a few new shiny promises. That’s the Conservative way.

Cold, very cold, Harper and his people are as brutal as they come.

HARPER, THE MONEY MANAGING MYTH AND TAX DODGING SCAMS

Some polls have shown that credulous Canadians still believe Harper and his gang are better money managers than the liberals or the NDP. Harper and the gang even tell them so. And it’s probably true…with their own money. Recent revelations have shown that Harper appointees Carolyn Stewart Olsen and several other Conservative senators have joined the ranks of those under investigation for making expense claims to which they are not entitled. For those who need reminding, Olsen is the same senator who was on the committee investigating the expense claims of Liberal Mac Harb and Harper appointees Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Patrick Brazeau. Olsen was also the senator who, along with David Tkachuk, was responsible for doctoring the Deloitte report on Mike Duffy offering for public consumption a more palatable whitewashed version. Yes, Conservatives are better money managers, just not so much with taxpayer monies. Which leads me to ask the president of the Treasury Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle: Have you found the missing $3.1 billion yet? And any word on why auditors found the Defence Department’s books out by $1.5 billion?

Too, we have revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay blaming bureaucrats for cutbacks in the CRA unit to fight organized crime. This is extremely interesting in light of recent CBC reporting on those working on the dark side, including Canadian tax lawyers and accountants who devote their lives to advising wealthy Canadian individuals and corporations how to set up tax avoidance schemes off shore. It is estimated that wealthy individuals and corporations routinely avoid paying taxes with off shore accounts to the tune of $29 plus billion, which would go a long way to eliminating the deficit created by Harper and gang. But if anyone really believes Harper is seriously interested in recovering these monies by vigorously pursuing those scumbag scofflaws, he must be smoking something. Harper and his gang have done very little, if not next to nothing, to seek out those wealthy tax evaders bleeding the system. Cutting services is not the way to do it. Instead of paying their fair share, these criminal freeloading scum force Canadian taxpayers to bear the burden and Harper and gang have, thus far, allowed this to happen, have cut services to ensure it will continue to happen. If this were a bank robbery, Harper would be the inside man sending the security guards home and then giving the “all-clear” signal.

With Conservative Ministers, Findlay a prime example of cowardly irresponsibility, the buck of blame always stops at the feet of underlings. So, while this government treats all those collecting UE as if they are fraudsters, it gives the green light to the real thieves, those slimy tax-evading Tory cronies to keep on doing what they’ve always been doing. And those wealthy individual and corporate thieves will because they know Harper and his misbegotten gang will not be pursuing those scofflaws: there are too many Tory friends in that crowd. It’s easier and more satisfying for these bullies to go after the small, helpless fry, the poor and needy, while Harper continues to watch over our tax dollars with massive layoffs in the public service, with cuts to taxes for his business friends, and continued support for the likes of Treasury President Tony Clement of the missing $3.1 billion while the self-absorbed sleeping public benignly watches on no doubt prepared to re-elect them next time.

Perhaps what will really warm the heart of those who buy into the Harper myth is this: while billions of taxpayer money goes missing, Harper is going to punish those “bad” guys and gals in prison even more: He is not only going to increase jail time, he is going to cut their wages which amount to about five or six dollars a day by one-third! This is money that prisoners use to buy toiletry, cigarettes, confections, etc. This will save, perhaps, one or two million a year. In the grand scheme of life, this is a paltry sum against the billions being ripped off by the influential. Of course, the savings might be lost when enraged prisoners respond perhaps in prison riots or, when released, by acts of rage directed against society. The Harper move is small, petty, and vindictive. It is of no real benefit to anyone. It is inhumane, obscene and dangerous. Keep on beating a dog, even the most docile will eventually bite back. Contrary to what the many ignorant believe, prisons are not hotels. If you really believe they are, volunteer to join the crowd there. This vicious and small-minded move by this vicious, small-minded Harper gang belongs to a bygone era; it is doomed to fail and it will be society that will unfortunately pay the price.

HARPER, THE VETERAN BULLY

And, while it is clear Harper has no soft spot for those who oppose him (they are all “the enemy”), nor for those collecting welfare, for the homeless and the elderly, it is also clear he has not much love for veterans, especially those with disabilities. One would believe that in these folks, Harper would have his constituency. If so, if once a fact, he squandered that support in a series of baffling moves that revealed him as a man not to be trusted; disloyal, if you will, to people of whom loyalty was not only expected but demanded. Not only did Harper turn on them, he did it in the most brutal way and, in doing so, brought dishonour to himself and worse, cheapened Canada’s reputation by making it a bully.

First, he clawed back the disability pensions of veterans in 2006 and fought with them every step of the way to the cost of $750 million dollars to taxpayers before settling for over $889 million this year. Even more egregious, is that this government whined about paying the legal files. None of the costs of over $1.5 billion, a needless, pointless, unjust waste of taxpayer money, would have been incurred in the first place if Harper hadn’t made this insane move. Another proven example of how well Harper’s gang handles taxpayer money.

But there is more from this government. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has announced a plan to review the New Veterans Charter. The Canadian veterans ombudsman has tabled a report stating that severely disabled and incapacitated veterans will lose their charter benefits when they turn 65. As if they haven’t suffered enough, that means disabled veterans, injured during service and not having built up a military pension, will be forced to endure even severer hardship with those benefits suddenly gone. That is how Harper rewards those who put everything on the line for a nation he claims to love. That hardship is to be their lot, that their suffering is to be made worse, is of no concern to Harper and his vicious gang. But Harper is still not done. This is the government that, rather than dole out disability payments in manageable amounts to veteran’s until the end of life or until recovery, insisted in paying them out in one lump sum to a maximum of $250,000 even though those affected did not want this knowing that it was a bad idea and that individuals, even with the best will and ability in the world, often aren’t capable of doing things in their best interests with that much given to them in one go.

This government is not about helping pensioners or about doing the right thing, honourable thing. It’s about saving pennies at the expense of those who gave so much for this nation.

To demonstrate the level of meanness, of pettiness, as if we need any more examples, one needs only know about a deceased veteran, Cpl. Jacque Larocque, 40. He had suffered two previous heart attacks but had been misdiagnosed by military doctors as suffering heartburn. The soldier’s widow, Joan Larocque, wanted acknowledgment that the military doctors had erred. She wasn’t after money. Peter MacKay, at that time Defence Minister, supported the widow writing he confirmed his belief her husband’s death was “attributable to military service”. But that was overruled by the defence department under the new Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson in a written statement to the widow. MacKay’s previous support of her fight was considered “invalid”. When CTV contacted Nicholson’s office, he responded with an email within hours stating the exact opposite. In other words, he repudiated his own letter to the widow and now supported Peter MacKay’s initial stand, but this only after it made the news. The military Board of Inquiry had initially attributed no fault to the military service. However a military panel ruled otherwise. Harper and thugs are appealing the panel’s decision, no doubt worried about the costs of similar findings down the road should this be allowed to stand. It’s amazing how bad publicity can actually move this mean-spirited crew to (maybe) do the right thing. We will have to wait and see how this all turns out.

But Harper and gang have not finished with disabled veterans. They are planning to shut down nine Veterans’ Affairs offices across Canada for efficiencies and economic reasons. Unfortunately, this is certainly not something the veterans want or need. In fact, this appears to be an act of aggression fraught with hostility towards them. Now, many of them have over the years needed and developed personal relationships with experienced people who heard them out and knew their stories and understood how to work with them. All that support and trust will suddenly end for many veterans. For the personal contact, some will have to travel long distances to meet with strangers who may not know their stories or their needs. Too bad, says Harper’s gang. Julian Fantino dismisses those concerns saying veterans will receive better service. He says veterans can call by phone, go on the Internet, or drive to the nearest Services Canada outlet to have all their concerns met. You can see by this how much Harper and gang really respect those men and women. For many of this good people, it is the loss of the relationships that will hurt the most when these closures take effect. For some, face-to-face sessions are crucial and, not wishing to dismiss Service Canada employees, no doubt overburdened themselves by Harper cutbacks, how many of them are trained to deal with the needs of disabled veterans?

Cold, very, very cold.

HARPER: A MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES

Harper fancies himself a significant world leader. I suspect, each time he looks in the mirror, he sees a great leader. He is not great. He is not even a leader. He is a man who cuts and runs, who blows with the slightest breeze.

He has announced that he will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka next month because of concerns of Sri Lanka’s “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards.” Notice how strong he is on Human Rights when there is little to no financial costs to Canada. But the hypocrite is not such a staunch defender of such rights when the potential for gain is huge. He suffers no such compunction when it comes to China and its many egregious violations of Human Rights. In fact, given Harper’s sudden conversion to concern for Human Rights, it’s fair to ask why he attended the Francophonie summit in the Congo last year with one of the most brutal and repressive regimes ever?

Harper wants it all ways, but his moral outrage is laughable and evidently of the pocketbook variety: Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money. Being around that type should make one want to immediately bathe. There is something unclean about this double standard particularly since it appears to stem from his preoccupation with economic and corporate matters. Not everything should be reducible to economic interests.

But then, we have CSEC, the super secret Communications Security Establishment Canada (couldn’t they come up with a more unwieldy name?). This was a body created to oversee national security interests. But Brazil’s charge that CSEC has engaged in industrial espionage appears to suggest that it has broadened its mandate to national economic and commercial interests. Some may claim this is legitimate because other countries do this. Because this is Harper’s regime, and because Harper and gang are apparently focused only on economic issues, this should not be surprising news. Yet it is. Has Harper transformed this security agency into an espionage tool working for corporate interests? I don’t know, but I would not doubt it. If true, while spying in foreign countries and on their own citizens, this spy agency can now not only catch us doing what it doesn’t like, it can also pass on to the corporate masters what our views are on oil and mining domestically and abroad and even, perhaps, expand to informing grocery chains the types of products we wish to see on the shelves. The best of all worlds.

Surprisingly, the spy agency, apparently still growing and feeling pretty sensitive, responded saying that everything it does is legal, that it doesn’t spy on Canadians because it’s against the law. Well, a lot of things are against the law and they still happen.

Yeah, Harper really does have our interests in hand.

STEPHEN HARPER: THE PAPER LION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARPER: THE BEAST IN HIM

Frank A. Pelaschuk

*   C.R.A.P. – Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party

CRAP – (noun) 1. nonsense, 2. dirt or garbage, 3. excrement, feces, interchangeable with Conservative or Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party

I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy. From the first, behind a façade of stiff-necked amiability, Harper has revealed a sly, deceitful, churlish, ungenerous, controlling, petty, bullying, and brutal nature that threatens his office and our society.

Since he has taken hold of the Prime Minister’s crown, a rot has infected our Parliamentary democracy. This offends and fills me with disquietude. It should you, as well. As an elected member of parliament and as prime minister, he has defiled the office he holds, tainting the reputation of Canada and, with the assist of loud, angry, offensive, and ignorant conservative MPs, subverted and made a mockery of our electoral process. Though cited for contempt of Parliament, Harper has remained unscathed, unrepentant and the public largely indifferent. That he has a base of support as large as it is astounds me. How can so many be so blind, so indifferent, so…so dumb?

Not that long ago (yet an eternity to this voter), Harper ran on the promises of introducing an open, fair, honest and transparent government, a government that would rid itself of corruption, that would eliminate patronage and cronyism, that would reform the Senate. He gave us none of that. Instead, we now have one of the most closed, secretive, and paranoid governments in Canadian history, a regime that views every critic as the enemy, vilifies every environmentalist as a “radical” stooge of outside forces, and every dissenter as of  “suspect” patriotism. Patronage and cronyism is one of the hallmarks of his terms in office. He has appointed over half of the senators, all Conservative hacks, a few of them now under investigation for abuses in expense and housing allowances, one a pathetic has-been journalist who, averring he has done nothing wrong, refunds the money saying, “I hope it reassures Islanders and Canadians that the old Duff, the Duff they’ve known and trusted, would never do anything wrong. I would never knowingly fiddle anything” and another, appointed in spite of warnings that he could prove problematic, has been thrown under the bus not for what he has done as a Senator, but for allegations of repugnant actions in his private life. Patrick Brazeau, once useful as a trophy Indian Chief in the Senate, was now a liability and easily expendable.

Harper, eyes always on the main chance, is a master politician, no denying that. More than once we have seen how ruthless he could be against one of his own when he feels threatened, as we learned with his brutal discarding of Helena Guergis, once a Conservative bright light and Cabinet minister who suffered a public meltdown at the Charlottetown airport and, shortly thereafter, faced several serious allegations of misconduct, including allegations of a criminal nature by a “third party.” Guergis resigned from her post and was swiftly expelled from the Conservative caucus. No charges were ever laid against her but her reputation had been effectively destroyed by the way Harper and gang handled the affair. The merits of the allegations are of less concern than that Guergis appears to have been denied due process from her own Law and Order government. That episode was enlightening as well as disturbing. Then there was another thrown under the wheels, this involving a young staffer, Michael Sona, thus far the only one held responsible for the Robocalls incidents in which voters were misled and directed to non-existent polling stations. It is a pattern with Harper and gang; never acknowledge wrongdoing, blame others, point to the past wrongdoings of previous governments, never answer a question directly or honesty and, when you do answer, offer bafflegab or respond to another issue regardless of how irrelevant to the topic at hand. Failing all else, find a lamb for slaughter. Apparently it works.

TARGETS

But, if cruel to his own, Harper is even more so to those who stand in his way. With ruthless precision, towards fulfilling his vow to destroy the Liberal party, he has employed personal, cruel and misleading attack ads against Paul Martin, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff while ceaselessly campaigning for his majority. In that, he has been partially successful; the Liberals have been decimated. But they, at least, were legitimate targets, knowing the risks of entering politics though clearly overestimating their abilities while underestimating Harper’s and the ruthlessness of the machine behind him. Unfortunately, Harper and gang do not limit punishment or invective to political opponents. Every opponent and critic who may be heard by the media becomes “the enemy” and thus fair game. However distasteful and unethical their methods, one cannot deny their skill.

There was Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, smeared and vilified for daring to stand up to Harper and gang in defence of veterans who, for their service and sacrifice, were rewarded by an ungrateful Canada by having their disability pensions clawed back, a practice Harper fought hard to keep in place by fighting with veterans at a cost to Canadians of over $750,000. This from the man who once said, “All too often we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” Well, he lied on that, didn’t he, his government dropping the clawbacks only after a court decision on another case. Too, there was Linda Keen, of the AECL, smeared and fired for refusing to restart the ailing Chalk River reactor before it was safe to do so and ex-diplomat Richard Colvin who was threatened with prison time if he released certain documents during his appearance before a special committee investigating the abuse of Afghani prisoners. Intimidation, threats and dismissal; makes one proud to be Canadian, doesn’t it?

Another, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a post created by Harper and gang, has over his tenure endured countless attacks against his person and reputation when he demanded that the government be more open and accountable. And when he suggested the government was holding back information on the F-35s, that the figures Harper presented to the public while campaigning for re-election were far too low, he was ridiculed and charged with partisanship or, worse, incompetence. It helped win Harper his long sought majority though later events would prove Harper a liar and Page right on the money when the costs were revealed to be quadruple Harper’s much touted deliberately misleading lowball numbers. Again Harper and thugs sought to wriggle out of their own snare offering excuses and double-talk with the hollow claim that “no money had yet been spent” on the jets. Only the gullible or truly credulous would believe them on this. Meanwhile, Kevin Page, honest, decent, brave and, yes, respectfully defiant in his quest for independence, had by now made himself a target of Harper, Flaherty and gang who missed no opportunity to publicly attempt to discredit him with suggestions questioning his competence and integrity. The dislike for Page by Harper and thugs is visceral, you can see it and hear it on TV whenever his name is brought up to one of the government gang. Luckily, as with Sheila Fraser, Kevin Page has an ally: the public trusts him. Unfortunately, with Page’s term over, it is likely the department will be quietly closed or, at best, gravely weakened by a compliant and innocuous Harper appointee.

But if Page was an understandable and obvious target, others, less so, are not immune to Conservative hostility and control. In an act of breathtaking hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness, Harper, with the passage of Bill C-377, has demanded of unions what he and his government refuses to offer the public: full transparency and accountability. That unions already are transparent and accountable, matters not to Harper, his goal is to destroy them by imposing onerous and costly demands that they report all transactions over $5000 including salaries and pensions, and all itemized lists of costs of products and services offered by private companies and that the books be open to any union member who asks, something that unions already allow. Yet Harper makes no such demands on his government or of other organizations. If you are a unionist, Harper’s gunning for you, which will make some happy, those anti-unionists who, envious of your wages and benefits but not willing to contribute, would rather pull you down to their level than pull themselves up to yours.

Yet, if unions are targeted, so are government civil servants and scientists who have been muzzled and threatened with dismissal if they talk to the media without written approval. That should send a chill down you spine, as should this: staff at Library and Archives Canada is being trained in a code of conduct emphasizing “duty of loyalty”. That is, duty of loyalty to the government, to Harper’s government. As if they were his personal employees. This is extremely serious and smacks with more than a little of the odour of the McCarthyism of the Truman years when teachers and other public servants were required to swear loyalty oaths to the regime of the time. Even so, Harper and gang do not restrict themselves to intimidation of just civil servants, and scientists; they have also targeted civilians.

When critics from every walk of life stood up against the various omnibus bills, various members of Harper’s gang, Vic Toews in particular, were moved to declare opponents to the online spy bill, Bill C-30 (later scrapped) as standing on the side of pedophiles and criminals and were of questionable loyalty. It did not concern Harper and gang that the critics could have legitimate concerns, that there was not enough information, not enough discussion of the legislation slipped into the bills, that those sneaked in had little to do with the bills themselves and posed a threat to Democracy as well as infringed upon the rights of Canadians. Harper and gang limited debate and imposed closure. The opposition was forced to vote on Bills in which they, and you and I most certainly, have no clear idea of what was included, of who or what will be affected. Even for this government, this was a new low. But not the end of wallowing in the gutter.

Early on in his reign, in response to a question by a reporter, Harper had said, “…cut and running is not my way…” While that was in reference to Canada’s role in Afghanistan, he quickly cut and ran when he prorogued Parliament twice rather than face questions from the opposition regarding his budgets. I would suggest that not only is cut and running second nature to Harper and gang (i.e., blaming and cutting loose staffers and running at the first whiff of trouble), so is arrogance, pride, obfuscation, denial, finger pointing, belittlement, pettiness, and outright intimidation. As he has clearly demonstrated with prorogation, with the scrapping of the long gun registry, and with his omnibus bills, Harper is not one for listening to Canadians who disagree with him, especially to those in the majority who voted against him. With his majority, and in his arrogance, he is evidently of the belief that Canadians with opinions are best ridiculed as elitists and that all Canadians are best served if kept in the dark. It may work in the short term, but eventually this will catch up to him. One needs only recall the words of Thomas Paine: “But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.” In other words, truth will out. And it will.

THE GOLDEN

But, if Harper can be ruthless, he can be loyal, too. Recall his steadfast support of Bev Oda when she, or someone in her staff, forged a signed government document, inserting a “not” so as to take away approved government funding from KAIROS, a charitable group because Harper’s gang did not like its view’s on Israel. Recall how twice she had to reimburse the public purse for expense abuses. With so much against her, it is almost a sad commentary on us that public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice is what finally brought her down. And remember Del Mastro, that angry, sanctimonious MP who thunderously impugned the opposition in his defence of the Conservatives in the so-called robocalls affair? Where is he, this man so suddenly silent, now that he, himself, is under investigation for campaign overspending? As one of Harper’s golden boys, the PM was quick to defend him and though Del Mastro has missed over two dozen sessions as member of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, he remains on the committee and Harper remains mum.

Another golden boy, Natural Resources Minister, Christian Paradis, has been investigated for similar serious lapses, including allegations of influence peddling regarding the awarding of a contract for the renovation of our Parliament building and revealing a serious lack of judgment by spending a weekend with a lobbyist. But, we have to take him at his word there was no lobbying of his office. Too, a former aide of his, Richard Walker, was dismissed for using his office credit card to pay for his trip to Las Vegas and another former aid, Sebastien Togneri, at Natural Resources, had restricted access of data to the media who had applied for it under the Freedom of Informations Act. But Paradis was not done. He was also investigated for his role in the relocation of an Employment Insurance Centre in his riding and for changing the formula to make it easier for private companies to avoid an environment assessment review. And we mustn’t forget the slap on the wrist he received after investigation for conflict of interest when he helped former MP Rahim Jaffer, now a lobbyist, and husband of Helena Guergis mentioned earlier, meet with department officials in an attempt to secure a government contract. But, even with all this, in spite of all this, Paradis still holds his position and remains one of Harper’s valued, trusted ministers. Even if all this is innocence, one must question his judgment and that of Harper for continuing to support him. So far, nothing seems to stick and one can only wonder: Is the public asleep?

Does anyone remember the nearly $1 billion bill for the G8 and G20 conferences for security, the mass arrests with only a handful of convictions? Does anyone recall Tony Clement’s $200K gazebo, the million dollar fake lake, the $50 million Legacy slush fund for his riding? This was the man promoted to presidency of the Treasury Board by Harper, the man who is to oversee major government spending. When concerns are raised regarding these matters, there is silence or accusations of muckraking by the opposition and the media. Do Canadians not have a right to have answers to legitimate concerns? Evidently not. And what about Jason Kenney’s usage of a government letterhead to fundraise, and Jim Flaherty’s use of his office to lobby for a business in his constituency? Small compared to other questionable conduct, but questionable conduct nevertheless. No repercussions for those good old boys, though a Kenney staffer (yet another in an increasingly long list of sacrificial lambs) resigned and the Speaker of the house did rebuke Flaherty. It pays to be one of Harper’s favoured few.

But let’s go back to the issue of overspending. It is not isolated. We have Peter Penashue, the MP from Labrador, “the best MP ever from Labrador,” according to Harper, this of the quietest and least memorable MPs ever. Penashue not only accepted corporate donations (illegal) and overspent during his campaign (illegal) but took over a month to resign when confronted by Elections Canada and, when he did (March 14, 2013), had, four days before, already set up a website to launch his by-election bid. Cynical, questionable, disturbing but not as disturbing as Harper and members of his crew campaigning on his behalf in the House fulsomely praising his stalwart services while blithely ignoring his errancy leaving pundits to speculate whether or not Harper was going to set the by-election date before Elections Canada offered its report on him (the betting is, Harper will call it early). So, for Penashue, apart from resigning and promising of pay back monies for an “error” by an “inexperienced staffer”, what are the consequences? Absolutely zero. Unlike with Guergis, no rush to judgement, which is a good thing, though the evidence against him is compelling and should be enough to end his political career. But not when Harper’s involved. He is going to be allowed to run with the full backing of Harper and crew while the likes of Pierre Poilievre, Candice Bergen and others praise him on Power and Politics for “falling on his sword,” for doing the “honourable”, “responsible”, thing (in resigning) or, in a typical move by this regime, sidestepping the issue by pointing fingers at the NDP for accepting illegal union contributions during their leadership campaign. Apparently, they are unable to understand that the last point is beside the issue, that it offers no argument for not punishing Penashue but, rather, an argument for doing something about the NDP and their issue. With a government that has been less than open and less than clean, such distinctions matter little. Conservatives know from experience that denial, delay, avoidance and mystification will eventually cause the public to tire of the issue and forget it. It’s worked before, hasn’t it? Meanwhile, Harper says that the voters are the best judges of whether Penashue was fit to be returned to office. Really? That may be true if Harper and gang just leave it at that. But, with this government, it’s a fair bet that nothing will be left to chance. Labrador will almost certainly receive a hefty infusion of public money between now and the day of the by-election with full credit attributed to Penashue’s “dogged efforts” on behalf of his riding. Yessiree, even as he’s running for office, a discredited MP, to Harper and gang he’ll always be  “the best-ever MP” and even more so should he be re-elected. They will believe it without irony or shame. The fact is, shame is something from which Harper and gang never suffer. Just look at the government web site and watch the ads on TV and consider his rebranding of the Canadian Government to the Harper Government. Public funds poured into one endless Conservative propaganda campaign of questionable merit, legitimacy and legality. This is his fiefdom and we are his subjects.

THE UNWASHED

Of course, we all know that when Harper speaks of getting tough on crime, he is certainly not talking about those MPs.  Nor is he talking about those Senators who falsely claim housing allowances and who pad their expense accounts for no other reason than they can and will with utter impunity. Whether illegally registering falls claims or accepting donations from corporate friends, all’s forgiven, especially in the Senate when, it appears, all you have to do is return the funds, apologize and “accept” responsibility. Sincerity is optional and it doesn’t matter that the apology and return of funds only came about because you were finally exposed as less than honourable. Of course, if you really accepted responsibility and had an iota of integrity, you’d resign from the Senate and, if a disgraced MP, lick your wounds and never run again. If you had integrity. But, for Harper and members of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party, integrity is as rare a commodity as shame and certainly not a requirement. We know by now that Harper has an extremely high tolerance for such indiscretions from those favoured sons and daughters in the Senate and his caucus.

Unfortunately, those collecting EI can expect no such leniency or tolerance from Harper or from Vic Toews, his Minister of Security, and Jason Kenney, his Minister of Immigration. Rather, you immediately move to top the list of suspected fraudsters, presumed guilty without benefit of hearing, any offer of evidence or sense of fairness. The same goes for immigrants who have had their refugee claims denied or rescinded simply because of a few honest errors on the application forms. Never mind that they may have lived, worked and paid taxes here for years. When that happens, you better pray you are not sick because you are immediately cut off from the Interim Federal Health Program and likely to be subject to quick expulsion (unlike many criminals who, knowing how to milk the system seldom suffer consequences). Too, after the release of an intelligence report suggesting that immigrant Hungarians are responsible for a spike in crime and fraudulent EI claims, Jason Kenney has warned that Romas seeking asylum will be turned away. If that is not racial profiling, what is? The Romas, persecuted for centuries, have suffered particularly at the hands of the Hungarians, including death, with some political leaders calling for their extermination. Yet Canada, without a trace of irony, has labelled Hungary as one of the “safe” countries.

As well, if you are an immigrant coming across the border, you’re likely to be a target on a government approved, so-called “reality” show featuring members of The Canadian Border Services Agency showing “the situations faced daily by our front-line border officers,” according to Vic Toews. Evidently, the show’s focus is the targeting of illegal immigrants. One has to wonder to what those who appear on the show, had to agree. Not only is this show an invasion of privacy, it is exploitation, plain and simple, cheap, sensational stuff, meant to puff up Harper’s government as tough on illegals with the presumption, again, of those appearing on camera as conniving, dishonest abusers of our immigration policy. If that doesn’t concern you, maybe this will: How much of your money is being funnelled in this repugnant, scapegoating Harper-backed program? Well, Harper and Toews don’t believe you’re entitled to know.

Yes, Harper’s get tough on crime will appeal to most of us who harbour the lowest view of those who collect unemployment insurance, who are homeless and who commit crime. They are all lazy, worthless, good-for-nothing bums leeching off the good will and generosity of society. Harper panders to the worst in us, exploiting and exacerbating our fears, our bigotry, our ignorance. In his narrow world and that of his supporters, one size fits all and statistics and science are thrown by the wayside as useless tools when not meshing to their distorted worldview. So Harper would build more jails (but not let us in on the cost), he would impose harsher punishment (while still refusing to acknowledge that crime rates are down while fighting crime costs are up). Rehabilitation does not concern him. It’s all about punishment and revenge and the harsher, the more extreme, the better, he believes, because it will earn votes. It’s all about the main chance. He is not interested in the price you may pay when that prisoner, well punished but ill equipped to function in society, is released, as he one day will be. There is no thought for the effects on future generations of such a cold policy. Harsh punishment may satisfy the vengeful among us but is such short-sightedness good for society? Is it healthy, will it reduce crime, create a better, safer world? Harper, Toews, and the rest of CRAP have no interest in these issues. Their only wish is to placate us into believing they are doing something, anything. If that means demeaning, dehumanizing, and demonizing convicts, the mentally ill, immigrants, the unemployed, so be it. That such a view is neither right nor just does not matter. Harper and gang play to the worst in us. Clearly it works. Yet we must ask this: What cause is served when Harper takes away the annual fundraising pizza drive of inmates, a drive that raises over $150K for the needy? None, yet Harper has done that. I suspect it was because the prisoners reaching out felt good, felt they were making a difference, and prison is not about feeling good.

Canadians should pause and consider the treatment Harper and thugs offer natives, immigrants, the unemployed, and those on the margins, the homeless, mentally ill, and imprisoned as compared to their corporate friends for whom they lobby. While they dwell on this, they should also think of an old Yiddish saying: God loves the poor but helps the rich. With Harper, there is no pretence of loving the unfortunate poor, miserable, and troubled. Of all Harper’s people, these are the least cherished and least loved and, yet, the most utile: they are fodder for scapegoating.

STRAW MEN

It is not enough that Harper satisfies your needs and your wants, which apparently have little to do with the needs, wants and wishes of most Canadians. Lower taxes, less government, tough on crime. Is that all it takes to determine that a man like Harper is fit for office? Tax cuts represent a massive savings for business and the wealthy but, for the majority of us, they amount to savings of about the cost of a cheap television set or less. Is it really worth the price of a few paltry dollars to elect such a man? Are we that easily bought? Are we really willing to sacrifice our health care, our social safety nets? Are we really willing to allow our infrastructure to further decay, to risk the poisoning of our drinking water, to continue to allow our roads to collapse, and our citizens occasionally killed by falling debris from overpasses badly in need of repairs? One needs only look at Ireland to see how well tax cuts and deregulation has worked for its citizens. Do we really want to take that road? Today, Corporate profits and salaries of executives are the highest they have ever been and yet jobs are shipped overseas, workers and unions are under siege, and the purchasing power of the average Canadian worker is equivalent to that of the 1970s and 80s. Tax cuts work well for Big Business and those in the upper bracket, but why must the ordinary citizen bear the brunt as a consequence? Why do we continue to buy the myth of Conservatives as better money managers when, in fact, the reverse is true? According to the Ottawa Citizen (March 20, 2013), when Jim Flaherty took office in 2006 as finance Minister, there was a surplus of $13.2B. As of March 20, 2013, there was a deficit of $26.2B. So much for Harper and the myth of fiscal responsibility. But, if you ask him, he’ll blame it on the mismanagement of old Liberal governments and on outside forces. When it comes to blame, the buck never stops with Harper and gang.

Perhaps the most offensive thing about Harper and his crew of thugs, apart from their hypocrisy, is the extent of their hubris and smallness of mind. Because of their majority (which they intend to increase with the creation of 30 seats and a gerrymandered outcome), they act as a law unto themselves. Never mind that only 40 per cent voted for them. Even so, with that vast majority, they cannot stop themselves from acting in ways that demeans them and their offices. Earlier, there was mention of KAIROS being defunded by this government because Harper did not approve of its views. Yet, Crossroads, a Christian organization, loudly and virulent anti-gay, working in Uganda, a country which targets homosexuals, had its funding renewed by Harper’s government until, disconcerted by the outcry of rage denouncing the decision, Associate Minister of National Defence, Julian Fantino, promised to review the decision. Evidently, if you share Harper’s values, you’ve made a friend for life or for as long as you don’t make waves. And yet, in the spirit of meanness and pettiness, Harper and gang could not even set aside partisanship when, in holding a ceremony to honour volunteers from across the country, they had removed from the guest list all Liberal MPs who had been invited. It was a gesture so lacking in generosity, so blatantly political, that it discredits Harper’s office and forever brands him as “small”. Utterly without shame, there is nothing he and gang would not politicize to their advantage. Sometimes, as in this instance, it backfires.

Stephen Harper has cheapened our status in the world and cost us a seat in the UN Security Council. He has made a mockery of our Democracy and I believe him and his gang a serious threat to Canada and to Canadians. He frightens me more than any terrorist simply because his mind is too focused on the end game, holding on to power, serving his corporate friends, and making his mark regardless of the scars he makes on our lives. He is more interested in the health of Big Business than in the health of Canadians and Canada; under his regime, following the deaths of twenty-two Canadians from tainted meat and the poisoning of many others, Harper and gang deregulated the food industry reducing the role of food inspectors to that of rubber-stampers of in-house testing performed by meat producers. Health Canada, under Leona Aglukkak, has gone from respected organization to something resembling a corporate lackey. Scientists who have spoken up have been dismissed. Demands from Canadians for better food labeling have been ignored as well as demands that the food industry be compelled to reduce sodium amounts in what we eat. Aglukkaq prefers to rely on the “voluntary” approach with Big Business. Yeah, that will work; Big Business will always put the interest of consumers ahead of profits. At least, that is what Harper and gang would have you believe.

Harper and members of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party are crude, nasty, belligerent and utterly shameless. They appear to believe that no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile not to be exploited. Harper is a moralizer when it comes to the faults of others, a finger pointer and a blamer but has little patience for self-examination, doubt or for criticism and opposition. As for such lofty concepts as truth, honesty, ethics, integrity, decency? They are clearly not in the personal lexicon of Harper and gang who apparently deem them essential in others but a hindrance when applied to themselves and their goals. This is a man who believes with absolute certitude that he is right in all things and that everyone else who disagrees is wrong, a fool, and a personal threat, therefore the enemy. He is stubborn and wilful and will admit to fault or risk apology only if he believes it will enhance his image or further entrench his grip on power. He can, and does, lie to the public and he does so easily, without shame. He has the majority. He believes he has the right to do anything he wishes. So far, the voters, in giving him a free ride, appear to agree with him. Why?

THINK

I suggest that all Canadians watch Question Period and Power and Politics on CBC. When you do, you will almost never hear a direct response from Harper or gang to a direct question from the opposition. Instead you will hear contemptuous laughter, rude dismissal and ludicrous attempts to turn the table on the opposition with accusations having nothing to do with the original question in the first place. The only facts that count are Harper facts and everyone else should just shut up. You’ll seldom hear a direct, let alone honest, answer from Harper or members of his gang. And when a question is asked another way, the response is always exactly the same as the first, jeers, countercharges and, all too often, when Harper, Flaherty, Baird or one of the others makes what they smugly believe to be a particularly telling point, there is a mass rising from the gang and loud, sustained applause. The faces of those conservative backbenchers and ministers are, invariably, beaming, almost glowing, with the ecstasy of the sycophantic self-congratulating idolaters in the state of rapture. It is orchestrated and unconvincing except, perhaps, to the blind or true believer.

Too, almost daily, on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon as host, something similar happens, though it’s not as large and not quite as noisy as in the House simply because there is no entourage surrounding the representatives of the three major parties. Parliamentary secretaries of various ministers usually represent the government and they include Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander et al. While all of them are attractive in a bland way, to this observer they are thoroughly unlikeable reminding me of talking dolls who, when asked a question and wearing similar blank looks and vacuous smirks seldom, if ever, stray from the script loudly talking over their opponents often with sneering dismissal and much rolling of the eyes. As a consequence, the viewer is left dissatisfied if not enraged having learned nothing but hearing a lot of white noise. It is as if the recorder, when the string is pulled, has become stuck in a loop and the message of the day is repeated again and again word for word every time they open their mouths. It is a disheartening spectacle to witness the same evasiveness, obstruction, misinformation, character assassinations, and churlishness from those Harper puppets. The contempt these Conservatives hold for the opposition and for the viewing public is palpable. They really do believe we are all stupid, that we cannot understand what we are witnessing and that we deserve to be in the dark. Civility and decorum is no more a part of this government’s nature than is openness and transparency. The robocalls scandal and the Penashue escapade should be warnings to all Canadians to what extent the Conservatives will go to cling to power once they have snatched it. Watching Harper and his gang perform, and that’s what it is, a performance, is painful because you know you are not witnessing Democracy in action, but rather, a subversion of it by a divisive, secretive, contemptuous, hypocritical and controlling cabal who would have you believe it was otherwise.

Anti-Democratic. Smug. Shameless. Deceitful. Closed. Secretive. Brutally partisan. Small and ungenerous. They are not qualities to be admired and yet these are the things I see in Harper and they are not erased, nor his image softened, by his spirited rendition of a Beatles tune at a National Arts Centre fundraiser several years ago. The song, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” escapes irony because all too true.

No, I do not like him. I do not trust him.

Why do you? – March 28, 2013

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