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STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: THE MORAL FLEXIBILITY OF HYPOCRITES

Trust not him with your secrets who, when left alone in your room, turns over your papers. – Johan Kasper Lavater

Tyrants have not yet discovered any chains that can fetter the mind. – Charles Caleb Colton

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

GOLLY GEE LOOK AT ME; I’M A LEADER

Stephen Harper still rides high in the polls largely as a result of Conservative mythmaking, dishonest use of public funds to promote the Conservative story under the guise of informing the public and the skilful employment of populist rhetoric that panders to the worst in us whipping us into a frenzy of Islamophobia and hysteria at the risk of abandoning any pretence towards safeguarding civil and individual liberties.

Too, it doesn’t help that his target audience, largely apolitical and uninvolved, is often too lazy and too willing to trust a government that in its shameless perversity admonishes other nations for failure to honour and promote the loftiest goals of democracy while undermining it at home with its anti-terrorism legislation. There is more at stake than an attack against civil rights. Indeed, there is a threat to democracy as Harper seeks to turn Canada into a Corporatocracy willing to rub shoulders and do trade with tyrants and their murderous regimes.

Harper is the unrepentant hypocrite who refuses to allow Canadian journalists to record him with Cuban socialist leader, Raúl Castro, and yet giddily fawns over the pro-business prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, and signs a deal to ship uranium to a country once considered a rogue state for many reasons, one of which was for breaking a 1956 pledge to use Canadian uranium for “peaceful purposes”. What assurances did Harper obtain from Modi and what is Canada’s liability if Modi reneges on the promise of using the uranium solely for energy production? There was a time when Modi was persona non grata in much of the western world, including Canada, because of allegations of his involvement, directly or indirectly, in the murders of Muslims when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Too, as prime minister, there are still lingering suspicions that he has little interest in protecting religious minorities who often fall victim in violence, including murder.

While I do not object to trade, I believe Harper should be more circumspect with whom he deals and calls friend. Pandering for the east-Indian vote and on behalf of the interests of corporate friends should not come at any cost with Canada keeping silent to the abuses against Indian minorities. Yet, unless I’ve missed it, I’ve heard nothing on that score from Harper. That disturbs me and it disturbs me even more so knowing of Harper handing over land worth $30 million to erect a monument to the victims of Communism. I see red and a thuggish hypocrite in a suit, a miserable cretin who clearly believes the victims of murderous pro-business dictators are somehow less worthy and somehow different from those of communist states (unless, as with China, he manages to overcome his squeamishness enough to score huge trade deals; then he just takes the money and keeps mum). He’s probably right of course the victims of capitalist dictator states are different. They are likely feminists, unionists, environmentalists, mothers supportive of family planning, and Socialists, fighting against the Western exploiters of workers and land and we all know what Harper thinks of family planning, unionists, environmentalists, and “Communists”.

Still, if Canadians haven’t wakened to the awful reality of Harper by now, it is doubtful they ever will in the near future. Even if Harper loses the next election, and I doubt the Conservatives will, it appears the public will only opt for change that is insignificant. In that eventuality, voters will turn to the Liberal party, which, in reality, is not all that different from the Harper Conservatives (they support the war in Iraq and C-51, the anti-terrorist bill with promises to amend it at a later date. Yeah, right.). Unlike Harper, the liberal leader is young, well meaning and charismatic. Unfortunately, like Harper, he thus far offers little in the way that is new and hopeful. It will be the same old same old, the Conservatives, if turfed, turfed for doing exactly, only better, what the Liberals were doing when they were booted out of office.

Sadly, it will not, however, be the NDP that gains unless the unexpected happens, the public waking up and/or the Conservatives running a clean election (Oops, too late on that front). The New Democratic Party, with Thomas Mulcair as leader, has proven itself a party of ideas, vision, ability, and intelligence as has Mulcair who possesses, if not the charisma of Trudeau, the skill and maturity of experience Trudeau lacks. But for a self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and materialistic and shallow disinterested public, none of this will likely matter. Voters will likely stick to the tried-and-dishonest, preferring the false promises of Harper, who lies, misleads, and picks the public wallet with the same ease, glibness and skill of the tainted snake-oil salesman spending $7.7 million for Tory ads masking as government information bulletins. We can expect to see lots of ads, ads promoting the Conservative balanced budget, childcare benefit increases, income splitting and, of course, its wars on crime and terrorism. Too, there will be lots of ads showing off our Canadian Forces, heroic images of men and women in battle, rappelling down ropes, parachuting, fighting drug smugglers on the high seas, protecting the north against the Russians, “proud to go where many are not” as one ad has it while another says “fight fear, fight chaos, fight distress”. This laughable last from a government that has been stoking the flames of fear, chaos and distress even as it attempts to inflate its own image on the world stage with Harper’s strutting, hectoring bombast and Canada’s contribution of six fighter jets and a few hundred special forces to train Iraqi and Ukrainian troops. The message is clear: Harper will save us all if not the world. “Proud to go where many are not”. Catchy hyperbole if nothing else.

GIVE ME YOUR MONEY AND I’LL GIVE YOU MORE LIES

It’s all about the vote, the main chance, the “what’s in it for me” attitude. Ideological blindness and selfishness will not easily embrace, let alone demand, integrity, honesty, decency of our politicians; such sentiments, while noble, belong to another era and evidently have no place in today’s world. It’s much easier and more appealing to embrace ignorance, intolerance and fearmongering than having to actually think: hysteria and bigotry wins. Add to that mix the Conservative lie of sound fiscal management…. well, stupidity wins…by a landslide. This is false advertising and a form of theft; it may be legal, but it’s wrong. Canadians who have been ripped off by good ole’ Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are also having their pockets picked by Stephen Harper and his gang. Yet not a peep from those who believe civil servants are overpaid and underworked.

But God help you if you’re a single parent or the sole, low-income earner.

So then, whose fault is it really? A corrupt government that attempts to rig elections, that spreads the lies, that appropriates for itself tax dollars for propaganda purposes and resorts to bribery of an indifferent, sleeping populace easily distracted and satisfied with cheap, shiny promises while the wealthy, Harper’s business friends and cronies, benefit even more thanks to the largesse of Conservatives depleting the public purse on their behalf for their votes and the promise of job creation? Job creation? So, where are the jobs? For Harper, there is no greater demonstration of love for such folk than cutting taxes, cutting services and sacrificing union workers while also working with Big Business to suppress Canadian wages with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. And, if you have an offshore account, even better for you. He loves you so much that he believes you should be able to swim in our money in your offshore accounts without having to worry about the taxman coming after you. He has cut 3,000 jobs from the Canada Revenue agency: there’s no one to chase you, the money you stole from the Canadian purse is all yours! But, not to fret, he is going after those nuisance left-wing charities none of you like. The Fraser Institute is safe as are others of its ilk. The million or two he saves by taking on these leftie charities that promote family planning and affordable daycare and shelter for the homeless will be enough to appease the wingnut Conservatives. The best thing of all is that Harper will then offer taxpayer-funded ads telling us all how he has saved our dollars!

So, as Harper regales us with tales of money saved and dire warnings of terrorists targeting Canada and Canadians and of murderers on every street and of laws too lax favouring criminals (by criminals he doesn’t mean those wealthy friends of with offshore accounts or MPs and Senators stiffing taxpayers with bogus expense claims), he also reaches out with both hands, one offering shiny bribes in the way of tax cuts, more jails, longer jail time, and, fingers crossed, the assurances that he, only he and his Conservatives can save us. And the other outstretched hand? Why, it’s picking the public purse; someone has to pay for those Conservative/government ads and it ain’t going to be the Conservative Party.

Are there really that many stupid voters? Is there not a brain in those who support Harper? Does not one of them remember or care that when Harper became prime minister he inherited a surplus of $13 plus billion? Recently Joe Oliver announced that they would have a balanced budget. Where has the money come from, the money suddenly available and thrown about as carelessly and lavishly as champagne at a bacchanal? Remember, just weeks ago, Harper could not even find money for our veterans. Not only has he promised a balanced budget, Harper’s minister has mandated that all future budgets be balanced by law unless during times of war or natural disaster. It’s a gimmick that, if enforced, would severely hamstring future governments. It’s all show and yet some of you out there will buy it. To you I ask this: What the hell’s wrong with you? Where does the money come from? Well, not from corporations paying their fair share. We all talk about wanting honest governance, MPs with integrity and an idea of what ethics mean. We all want improved Healthcare, better roads. None of us believe children should go hungry or be denied a good education. Yet no one wants to pay. I agree, make governments more efficient. A good start is by electing honest politicians who actually do believe we are all part of society and that we must all share the joys as well as the pain and that pandering to special interests are a thing of the past. No. The Harper gang doesn’t care for that sop nor do those who vote for them.

Do you want better for everyone? If you voted for Harper or intend to do so again, clearly not. Under Harper’s governance, Canada has racked up seven successive deficits to a staggering sum. Since 2007 – 2008, the Harper years, the national debt has grown by $650 billion for a total of $1.8 trillion. So much for the myth of the Master Economist. So, how will Harper balance his budget this year? One way, of course, is to overestimate the costs of governance and claim a surplus for money unspent. That’s an old trick one that the public surely must have picked up on by now. Another way is for Harper to sell Canada’s GM shares that came from propping up the auto company to the tune $13.7 billion in taxpayer funding during the 2008 meltdown. The Harper gang recently sold the shares for a return of $10.2 billion. That’s a loss of $3.5 billion. Sound fiscal management? Does this really seem like a man who knows what he’s doing? Finance minister Oliver says the funds from the GM sale will not be needed to help him balance the budget as the numbers were already in place before that. Does anyone really, really, really believe him? If so, why didn’t Harper sell the shares earlier and balance the budget before this?

This is the government that has laid off thousands of public servants, restricted their pay raise and yet accepted for themselves a pay raise of 2.3%. Now wages of MPs and Senators are tied in to settlements reached by private sector companies. It is the secretive, controversial Board of Internal Economy, made up of MPs, which oversees House of Commons administration. The Board of Internal Economy can refuse or accept the wage increase. Not surprising it recommended the wage increase for MPs, an increase that is almost five times that of public servants! Even less surprising, not one of the pigs at the trough rejected the recommendation. But where is the public, those loudmouth Conservatives always whinging about public waste? Where is the rage? Not a peep. Probably too busy planning how to spend the windfall coming their way or, if among the less fortunate, a single parent and low income earner, too busy juggling two or more jobs. Families of children under six will receive an additional $60 for a total of $160 as of January 1st of this year while those with children ages 6 to 17 will receive a new benefit of $60 a month per child. However, the $60 increases will be held back until July 1 when all families will receive a retroactive payment of $420 per child, just three months before the October 19 election. Perhaps this gives a clue to the public silence regarding MP pay raises and the silence regarding the shabby treatment of public servants, workers who really keep governments working. Apparently, as long as families with kids get their share, they couldn’t care less about politicians picking their pockets and treating civil servants like trash. Pigs don’t care what the farmer does as long as they get their share.

But what about those childcare benefits? Who really gains? Well, Harper if he has his way, and he will, and those families who really don’t need it. Recently, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report saying that over half of the money Ottawa will spend towards child care will go to families with little or no child-care costs. That’s Harper for you, always there to help those who already have. Over the years, costs for child benefits rose as follows: 2006 – $600 million; 2013 – $3.3 billion; 2015 – $7.7 billion. Under Harper, 51% of the benefits will go to families who have no childcare costs. Those with children over 13 years of age “will receive nearly eight times the amount they spend on caring for their offspring” (Tom Parry, CBC News, March 31, 2015).

WHAT JOB CUTS?

That families who really don’t need this money will receive these breaks largely at the expense service and public servant job losses apparently troubles them and the Harper gang not at all. Harper knows everyone hates public servants (“deadwood” to Tony Clement who, in 2010, dipped in the trough for a $50 million slush fund for his riding) – until they need them. So families with teenagers will earn money for children who incur no costs while those from poorer families unable to afford daycare will continue to be left out of the equation. Nothing changes for single-parent families, for the poor, the homeless, or the mentally ill. They are short-changed. Again.

Nothing illustrates the inequality more vividly than Harper’s slightly altered income-splitting program that Parliamentary Budget Officer, Jean-Denis Frechette, says will cost Canadians $2.2 billion federally and $1.7 billion provincially. Of that money, those who already have, high- and middle-income earners, that’s about 15%, will get the lion’s share and the rest, 85% of households, very little while those at the bottom of the income scale will experience “near zero” benefit, about 1/6th of those in the upper bracket. The wealthy will get an additional $2000. But it’s unlikely this will negatively impact Harper and gang this upcoming election.

One way they will get the balanced budget has been through job cuts of public sector workers. But is this what we want or need? I guess so if you plan to vote the Harper in again. In 2008, twenty-three Canadian consumers of Maple Leaf products died as a result of Listeriosis. The Harper government had cut services to many governmental agencies including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Of that tragedy, the agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz quipped, “This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts.” Nice. Since that terrible event, the Harper gang have made claims to improving the system. Really? The Conservatives boast of having hired more food inspectors. So what, if true? In 2012, four years after Maple Leaf, the Alberta plant owned by XL Foods, sent out meat tainted with E. coli and were not notified by CFIA for two weeks. In fact, it was American border agents who caught the tainted meat, which, up to that time, resulted in the largest recall of bad meat in Canadian history. Just recently, a BC meat processing plant, Meadow Valley Meats, was charged with 11 counts of selling meat unfit for human consumption and covering it up in 2011. The company pleaded guilty of one count of selling meat with E. coli. It received a fine. It should have been closed. In December of last year, 31,000 pounds of meat shipped by the Cargill plant in Calgary for Walmart was recalled. According to CBC News James Cudmore (Dec. 14, 2014), it was not CFIA that discovered the tainted me but an obscure federally run public health program, FoodNet Canada. Hiring more “food inspectors” do nothing to enhance product safety when this government deregulates food processing so that the role of food inspector has become diminished to that of rubber-stamper for in-house testing by food producers.

On March 31 of this year, Canadian Food Inspectors have spoken up saying that the government promise to improve food inspections is a fiction; the reverse has happened. They also claim that meat shipped to American is getting preferential treatment over that of meat for Canadian consumers. In fact, the government has rolled back any improvements (very few) that did take place after 2008 with job cuts and by increasing the workload of food inspections. This is not news. This government has worked at undermining the CFIA and Health Canada for years going so far as to fire staff daring to voice their concerns. This government continues to lie about the problems with CFIA and, it appears, the public simply doesn’t care or get it: the Harper gang worries less about public consumer health than they do about the health of Corporate Canada. Where is the rage? How many more will die before Canadians wake up and consign this filthy gang to the trash can of history? Ritz is still the minister of agriculture and is the minister overseeing the sale of the Canada Wheat Board, which, to some, has an estimated value of a billion dollars, and yet a 51% share is being sold to G3 a venture of food company Bunge Ltd., an American company, and Global Grain Group a Saudi company. That’s an interesting choice considering that Canada’s oil is ethical (as opposed to Saudi oil) but the Saudi consortium can own over half of the resources, resources that were paid for by Canadian famers, for $250 million. Yeah, once again Harper and gang betray the interests of Canadians for that of corporate bargain hunters.

IT’S NOT BETRAYAL; I HAVE THE MAJORITY

Harper’s regime betrays at every turn, not just in the way he changes laws and rams them through with his majority and not just by his many efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills and subvert the electoral process, but also by his attempts to undermine our institutions, in particular the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a government that has no hesitation in pushing the boundaries by creating legislation that is bound to fail when challenged in the Supreme Court. This is no accident by stupid people. These people are not just mean and with an agenda they are also anti-democratic. They have made a mockery of Parliament by refusing to answer questions put to them by opposition members and they have gone out of their way to whip public sentiment against Canada’s highest court and the justice system in general by creating legislation doomed to fail. This allows them to then suggest these failures are proof of an activist, Anti-Conservative Court. That is not true, of course, but to those who support the Harper agenda and who have a tendency to point fingers and blame, who prefer punishment over seeking solutions, the invidious lie is enough, they know, just know, in their gut, that Harper and gang are right, that crime is rampant, murderers are on every street, and guns, only guns and godly Conservatives will save them. So the Conservatives deliberately overreach, hoping some legislation sticks and those that don’t will be attributed to the Supreme Court’s activism. As a result of such deliberate mishandling of legislation, of ignoring experts and opposition members, Harper lost another of many decisions to the courts. This time it was a rejection of his mandatory minimum sentencing for illegal possession of guns. He lost when his government attempted to deny assisted suicides. He lost when the high Court found prostitution laws unconstitutional and ordered him to come up with new legislation. He lost when he attempted to appoint Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court. As a result of that verdict, Harper, Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, and the gang engaged in a smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin with the charge of political interference. These are not nice people but it appears with every loss to the Supreme Court the Conservative base willingly swallows the Harper gang’s poisonous lies regarding activist courts.

MY WAR, YOUR RISK

It should surprise no one that Harper has expanded his war against ISIS with little consultation or debate. That is not unusual; he has little to no room for honest, open dialogue and even less desire to reconsider any of his positions especially those regarding his anti-terrorism bill, C-51. What little debate there was resembled something from the plague years of McCarthyism, committee Conservative hacks Diane Ablonczy, Rick Norlock and LeVar Payne, in a shocking demonstration of ignorance and partisanship, ridiculing witnesses, questioning the integrity of those opposing the bill and running the clock so as to forestall questioning by opposition members on the committee. It was cheap shameless disrespectful theatre by Conservatives without even pretence of fairness, gutter ambush by guttersnipes.

When the Harper Conservatives voted to expand the war against ISIL, they evoked the image of “moral clarity”. That is a bit rich coming from a party that has long ago set aside any pretensions to governing with a moral compass. We have had Conservative members forced to resign over questions of expense claims, Dean del Mastro found guilty of election fraud, Conservative workers sent to jail for the robocalls fiasco and the Conservative party paying a fine for breaking election laws. In truth, morality and ethics are strangers to this gang. Even when it comes to training our troops, they must act in secrecy. In this instance it is justified, perhaps, shame playing less a role than possibility of a public backlash, I suspect. The National Post has reported that Blackwater USA, a highly controversial private security force, mercenaries, has been training our troops in Afghanistan. Blackwater USA, with ties going back to the Bush administration, played a role in the killings of civilians in Iraq in 2007. Of the four charged and found guilty, one received a life sentence and three 30 years each. This linkage of Canadian troops to mercenaries was new to me but not surprising; nothing surprises me with this gang. If the devil were a businessman, Harper would happily consort with him. He’s already dirtied his hands by doing business with despots and murderers. If one is pro-business, it doesn’t matter his crimes, Harper turns a blind eye. He refuses to see. Or to care.

I am disheartened by the public willingness to ignore the dirty tricks, the scandals, the lies, the bad governance, the fomenting of hysteria and intolerance. Where is the public outrage as the Harper gang spreads the poisonous filth of fear and bigotry that borders on Islamophobia? I’m an old man and remember a time when people took an interest. It seems with the Internet and selfies a whole generation has drifted into casual indifference to the world around them. God help them when they wake up.

On March 24, when Harper put forward his proposal to extend the war against ISIS for another year, he did not rule out the possibility of feet on the ground in Syria as well. “Self-defence” he offers as justification. That stretches credulity because untrue; Canada has not been a direct target of ISIS. The Liberals, originally supportive of the war, says it will not support this expansion. The NDP has been opposed all along saying the government has been less than truthful and have no exit strategy. Undeterred, Harper and gang still evoke the images of terror and have no issue with outright lying to make their point.

Take Defence Minister Jason Kenney, for instance. A while back, he used his government’s letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party. He was untrustworthy then. Today, as he continues to defend his government’s role, he continues to prove himself completely untrustworthy as minister, spokesman, or witness, sending out photos of chained women that were, in reality, recreations of historical events or, as the case with one depicting a child bride, hands tied, which was proven to be a fake. He’s the fellow who tweeted Cirillo’s death even before the military learned of it. Critics have referred to these as “missteps”. Generous considering the frequency and eagerness of his use of twitter to inflame public sentiment with such nasty surprises. He is a partisan attention seeker, nothing wrong in that if you like bombast and hot air, but there is when he smears opponents by innuendo as when he forwarded a letter to Sun Media, a shrill Conservative fan base, using his Parliamentary email to suggest Justin Trudeau supported religious extremists by his visiting of a mosque in Montreal in 2011 that the New York Times had claimed in an article to have been linked by the military to al-Qaida. None of the Conservatives who picked up the story, including Harper, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and anyone in the PMO could work up the decency to tell the whole story, that Trudeau had visited the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque a month before the New York Times story ran. Was this just another Jason Kenney misstep? Did no one, not even in the PMO know the mosque was not on the list when Trudeau visited? If not, why are they still in charge? The smear by Kenney was vile and clearly meant to pose an ugly question regarding Trudeau’s loyalty and relationship to terrorists.

During what little debate there was on expanding the war, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, rose to request if she could speak on the issue. Because she does not have full party status, she must have unanimous support to be allowed to speak. A few petty ignoramuses in the Conservative Party shouted “No”, thus denying an elected Member of Parliament the opportunity to be heard on an issue that affects all Canadians. Cheap, very cheap.

TRUST ME, I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Harper is a man leading a party made up of folks without a moral compass, without a shred of decency and without an iota of shame.

As a judge of good character, Harper has proven himself abysmal. And indifferent. It is evident that ethics doesn’t play a role in his thinking when he picks his people and makes decisions.

We have been witness to the debacle resulting from his appointments of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau to the Senate and the unseemly behaviour of Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen of the Senate Internal Economy Committee whitewashing the Deloitte audit of Mike Duffy after Duffy agreed to repay the money owed for fraudulent claims and which allowed Leader of the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, to declare the matter closed.

We also know, though we were led to believe otherwise, it was not Mike Duffy who repaid the money but PMO Chief of Staff at the time, Nigel Wright. We have witnessed the departure of Peter Penashue, called by Harper the greatest MP “ever” from Labrador for illegally accepting corporate donations during his campaign, which he won. We have seen Bev Oda, the forger of a government document, forced to leave after charging, one time too many, expense claims to which she was not entitled. We have witnessed how Shelly Glover and James Bezan fought against Elections Canada by refusing, initially, to submit full and proper claims during their 2011 campaign. Shelly Glover (again) and Leona Aglukkaq, a true model of incompetence, were both caught at separate fundraisers attended by members of the community who stood to gain by decisions made by their departments. Glover, caught on camera, is clearly heard to unhappily exclaim when she saw the media, “What are they doing here?” Mike Sona, a junior staffer, was sentenced to jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. Dean del Mastro was found guilty of election fraud and is facing possible jail time. Mike Duffy is presently facing the courts for ripping off taxpayers for expense claims. Pamela Wallin is also facing possible criminal charges for illegal expense claims. So is Patrick Brazeau. Recently, we have learned that Diane Finley, minister of public works has had her knuckles rapped for breach of ethics in awarding a contract to the Markham Centre for Skills and Independence in 2011. The allegation is she favoured a project backed by a Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn friendly to the Conservatives; this after it was rejected by her own department. For Harper, the fact that Finley did not personally gain was sufficient reason to still support her. Harper did the same with Wallin, claiming in the House, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over a period of time.” For Finley, there will be no consequences because the Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, has no power to punish. As we have already seen with the Harper gang, ethics, as most understand it, plays no role. For Harper, ethics is what he and the gang decide is ethical and that includes rigging elections and suppressing votes and imposing anti-terrorism legislation that is so sweeping that every individual who ever voiced a critical thought about this vile gang could, theoretically, be subjected to surveillance, harassment and even arrest.

What is almost amusing is how the gun-loving Conservatives supporters are silent on C-51. In the past, they railed against the Long Gun Registry as a way of spying and “criminalizing” “law-abiding” gun owners. They had their way and Harper scrapped the registry. Now, with a bill that threatens to trample on civil rights and free speech, the gun-worshippers are strangely silent except in their support of Harper.

No, it’s not just Harper and his gang who are hypocrites. But they are more than enough for me.

As for all those who stand up in protest against Bill C-51? A grateful thanks. It’s nice to know that not all have succumbed to the Harper myth.

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER: THE REAL THREAT TO CANADA

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 THE WAR OF FEAR

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

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

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

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

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

THE DEFENDERS AND THE DAMNED

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

“The following definitions apply in this act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARPER LOOKS IN THE MIRROR AND SEES A GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN I LOOK AT HARPER, I SEE A PISSANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harper is deaf to that hope.

What do you think? Who should I really fear?

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

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

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

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