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POLITICIANS, PROLES, AND POPULISM: HYPOCRISY AND DEGENERACY AT THE POLLS

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. – Noël Coward

He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. – George Orwell

Frank Pelaschuk

I’ve never met a hypocrite who wasn’t a liar but I have met liars who were not hypocrites. What does it take to be a politician? Some may say it requires a tough hide, a willingness to serve, a belief that you have something to offer, perhaps some kind of “vision”; youth and good looks will certainly help for both offer the promise of something “fresh”, “new”. All of these may be true. Unfortunately, too many of our politicians are less interested in serving than in helping themselves. I am not simply talking about self-enrichment in the way of padded expense accounts though we have seen plenty of that but rather of serving special interests in the hopes that rewards will be forthcoming once out of office. We have seen plenty of that, as well, ex-politicians walking into corporate boardrooms willing to trade on the knowledge and contacts gleaned. Too, as well as possessing the zealot’s ambition and an almost unrealistic and all too often undeserved self-regard for oneself, it is likely many of them hold a deep level of contempt for voters. A newcomer, particularly the naïf who really does believe that politics is about serving others, about working towards a better society, is not likely to survive unless quickly proving himself flexible embracing the two, make that three, most important tools of politics, especially if one is not overly endowed with beauty, glibness, and a spouse of equal measure: shamelessness, the ability to lie with facility and the ability to seamlessly play the role of hypocrite (one may often find it necessary to quickly switch positions mid sentence). It is these three qualities that will allow him to survive and provide plenty of justification for the contempt he holds for voters: they will not notice or, if they do, care. Youth and looks may help extend one’s term but they will not be enough for long-term survival in the filthy world of politics; one must be adept and willing and able to change one’s position, course and beliefs immediately if not sooner and to revise one’s narrative without any hint of blush. If may be better not to believe in anything other than the belief one should have another drink; neither belief nor honesty is requisite. A moral compass combined with a pesky conscience is political death and will only prove a hindrance at best with few positive benefits except a reputation for being a “stand up” individual in some circles and a “sucker” in others. When ethics is raised, which should be rarely if ever, it should only be in reference to the failings of others and seldom if ever to elevate oneself as morally superior unless confident of one’s own superiority; in that event, strike fast, hard and without mercy. Destroy the opposition even if in bed with them; he, she or they are the enemy, but also be aware: hypocrisy is a two-edged sword which, when skilfully exposed, can redound to haunt one. Chances are, however, the accomplished politician can tread the landmines without fear especially if owed a lot of favours: he can lie, curry favour, pander to the worst in us and still be assured of re-election thus offering clear demonstration that contempt for the public, especially the voting public, is justified: voters are that stupid.

WHAT IS MY POSITION TODAY?

When Rona Ambrose as Conservative interim leader announced her picks of Denis Lebel for deputy leader and Andrew Scheer for Opposition House leader, she said, “Denis and Andrew bring not only a wealth of intelligence and parliamentary experience, but they bring the right tone, in helping build a strong, vigorous and respectful Opposition” (CBC News Nov. 18, 2015). Now that sounds good from a shining light in the Harper cabinet which over the years relentlessly demonstrated its contempt for strong, vigorous and respectful opposition invoking closure and ramming through legislation with the might of their majority. With little effort and no embarrassment, Ambrose thus demonstrated the utility of another useful tool: a faulty and selective memory.

For those who may not recall, Andrew Scheer spent four years as Speaker of the House one of whose roles is to have the government answer questions as well as maintaining order and decorum. In both areas, he failed miserably proving himself far too often partisan, weak, incompetent. During his tenure, the House often offered viewers of Question Period a spectacle of fractious, raucous, and mean-spirited behaviour with members of the government publicly lying in the House, performing charades of events that later proved to be fabricated (remember Brad Butt?), and allowed to go unchallenged histrionic displays of crude evasions by various Conservative members most notably Paul Calandra. Government members of Harper’s regime almost never answered questions posed to them and when they did respond it was with non-answers, non-sequiturs, evasions and/or outright lies none of which were addressed by Scheer. But, if Scheer was a failure in keeping decorum, he was no failure when it came to partisanship. In May of 2013, Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, sent Andrew Scheer the Speaker letters regarding the failures of Shelly Glover and James Bezan to provide completed and corrected campaign claims for the 2011 election. Wrote Mayrand, “The (Canada Elections) Act provides that an elected candidate who fails to provide documents required…may not continue to sit or vote as a member until the corrections have been made.” What did Scheer do? He sat on the letters for two weeks without informing Parliament, as he was required to do. Meanwhile, Glover was promoted, having by now submitted the corrected papers after, like Bezan, refusing to do so. Scheer thwarted elections Canada and, in doing so, abused his office with his show of support for two members who broke election rules and thumbed their noses at the public. To add to the insult, the public has enjoyed, if that is the word, the spectacle of watching this former Speaker of the House, who should know better, wearing a perpetually smarmy smirk heckling other members of the governing party as if he were some immature punk. This is what Ambrose means by “respectful opposition”?

Were it not so serious, it would be fun watching the Conservatives demanding of the Liberals what they themselves refused to offer and watching the Liberals denying what they themselves demanded of the Conservatives. At times, it’s almost difficult to recall which party has formed government until one recalls that, unlike Harper, this prime minister and his wife have never met a camera they didn’t like or let pass any opportunity that allowed them to strut their stuff especially with cameras clicking away as at the Press Gallery Dinner with the beautifully attired Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau performing song and the “two-legged sage” yoga pose as a nod to her husband’s “peacock” pose earlier this year. The media laps it up but who can blame them after the years of being unloved, ignored and, when noticed, noticed only as “media lickspittles”.

Now I can understand voters going for something new. Let’s face it, anything other than the Harper gang just had to be better. And it is, if only marginally. Unfortunately, voters didn’t go for change, they didn’t go for new and they certainly didn’t go for substance. Instead, they opted for the status quo with glamour. True, they went for something that sounded new, looked new, that made big, bold promises but could never work up the courage for something really new and different convincing themselves that Trudeau was the real deal. He was fresh. He is glib, charming, the man to make the difference. Most wanted to see the end of the Harper reign of error. There were the Liberals, of course, but the leader was young, inexperienced and many remembered his old man some with the fondness of time-dimmed memories and others not so fondly. And there was the NDP riding the Orange wave on the memory of Jack Layton. Unfortunately, something happened; only two parties were really in play.

Of course, it didn’t help that the NDP, leading in the polls and wanting so desperately to win, had lost its nerve and sought to play it safe; it opted for the middle road and, in so doing, had turned its back on its own socialist roots. And it certainly didn’t help that Mulcair was less than stellar in the debates and Trudeau, well, Trudeau simply surpassed the expectations of those who thought him immature and weak and unready. He did more than show up in pants. For too many, Mulcair had suddenly transformed to a hairier version of Stephen Harper; but actually, it was much worse – Mulcair had abandoned the old guard stalwarts of the NDP.

CHANGE, REAL CHANGE. WELL, NOT SO FAST.

Looks and youth can carry one for a time, in Trudeau’s case, for some time clearly. But it will eventually come crashing down because the voter who went for the same old same old will eventually tire of it convincing themselves, as they always do, that this time things really will be different buying the old arguments replacing one with the other but never going for the third choice for the same reasons: they can’t defeat__; I want__gone; my heart’s with the NDP but they can’t win. Wet logic.

On the surface, the Liberals seem to be a little more open and to have accomplished more of what they promised than the Conservatives in their best days. But, of the promises kept, the important and meaningful items appeared to have been sidelined or weakened. While campaigning, Trudeau vowed he would attempt to regain a seat on the UN Security Council with human rights as a priority. But, in carrying through with the light-armoured vehicle (LAV) trade deal with Saudi Arabia, he has revealed himself a true politician who not only failed those who believed he really did care about human rights but also his supporters who, incredibly, are still, often angrily, defending the Trudeau betrayal with the party line: it was a done deal, he had no choice. Of course he did but the ninnies will believe what they want because they are ninnies. Human rights would be a priority next deal, Trudeau vowed. That the Saudi deal violates Canada’s own rules regarding trade with nations who violate human rights is of no consequence for Trudeau who offers several excuses not one of them valid and one we already covered: the deal can’t be broken; cancelling the deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation; Canadian jobs would be lost. One would think placing human suffering second place to Canadian jobs and a $15 billion contract would tarnish Canada’s reputation. The thing is, it was Foreign Affairs minister Stéphane Dion who signed off on the export permits not Stephen Harper! According to the department of Global Affairs memo, “there have been no incidents where they (Canadian-made LAVs sold to the Saudi’s in the past) have been used in the perpetration of human-rights violations” (The Globe and Mail, Steven Chase, April 12, 2016). To victims, it likely doesn’t matter whose gun kills them but does that make selling weapons to one of the most brutal regimes morally acceptable? When the Liberals, after opposition hounding, finally did release the Department of Global Affairs report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, something the Conservatives refused to do, the document was heavily redacted (thus breaking Trudeau’s promise of more transparency) but offered enough to inform the public of appalling abuses including mass political executions. This is the Conservative playbook and the Trudeau Liberals signed off on it.

What does it take? Does a nice smile and warm hugs make the abuses disappear from the Canadian psyche or the crimes any less brutal? With Harper, one at least knew where he stood. He didn’t care about issues like this. He should have, Canadians should have, but he didn’t, we didn’t and neither does Trudeau.

But it’s still a shock to watch the Conservatives, now in opposition, with Tony Clement, as foreign critic, demanding the Liberals release the report on Saudi Arabia rights abuses before they complete the deal, something the Conservatives and Clement had absolutely no interest in doing when in government! Tony Clement, probably with leadership aspirations, is the same Clement who, as Treasury President, created a $50 million slush fund, spent $1 billion during the G-8 and G-20 summits for security which led to hundreds falsely detained and few charges, the same Clement who described some public servants as “dead wood”. Said this mountebank, “So don’t take the signal from the last government. If you want to be true to your principles and values, which the Conservative Party under new leadership shares, let’s move forward” (The Huffington Post Canada, Ryan Maloney, January 12, 2016). Not only did he appear to disavow his part in the Harper regime, effectively skewering Harper in the process, he skilfully demonstrated his adeptness in employing the essential tools required for success in politics: complete shamelessness and a profound facility for lying and hypocrisy.

Clement isn’t the only one of that gang so gifted.

Canadians over the past few months have been treated to the spectacle of the likes of Rona Ambrose, Pierre Poilievre, Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Tony Clement, Maxime Bernier etc. speaking of co-operation, respect, and I find myself feeling trapped in a Kafkaesque world: how can these bastards who raised the spectre of fear and relentlessly worked at fomenting racial and religious intolerance still continue to hold office and so shamelessly ignore their own past behaviour?

I’M A LEADER. NO, I’M A LEADER. WRONG. I’M A LEADER.

There was Kellie Leitch standing next to Chris Alexander, gone for good one hopes, talking about a snitch line to encourage the reporting of BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES. Months later, evidently chastened, remorseful, sorry, saddened, rueful, regretful, she appeared on Power and Politics clearly on the verge of faux tears, eyes welling, voice and lips trembling expressing that it had been a “mistake” to have been party to that vile campaign. Now this woman is a professional. She’s not dumb. She knew what she was doing then. Today, running for the Conservative leadership, she has determined that humble pie, especially with tears, might do some good. It was a shameless performance that has by now become familiar whereby celebrities and politicians publicly plead for forgiveness with copious amounts of tears and self-pity. Evidently, as so many politicians seem to be doing of late, Leitch has attended the same school offering the course Remorse, Tears and Forgiveness: The Art of Hypocrisy On The Comeback Trail After Losing An Election. Personally, I’m all for dumping those lying, cheating, stealing, pandering scoundrels into the garbage dump of history where they belong. Fortunately for them, there are always some willing to lap up the tears and forgive.

Then we have self-referential and self-reverential Michelle Rempel, another leadership potential, who, during the Harper years, made herself so obnoxiously present on political panels faithfully mouthing the party line and script. Believing herself leaps and bounds ahead of her colleagues and everyone else, she felt compelled to pass on this information to the world in a series of late-night tweets last October coming across as a hubris-driven rambling soak: “I’m a 35 year old chick. We are not supposed to do these sort of things, you know.” “I mean, I’m too brash, impetuous and abrasive, right?” “I am competent, proven, and ready. Here’s the question – are you ready for someone like me?” Far from being unique, she was just another loud, offensive, Harper loyalist who now, apparently, appears suddenly engaged in presenting the other side of the Conservative coin, the softer, nicer – hypocritical – side to which all politicians eventually succumb. There she was at the Conservative convention, held the same week as the Liberal Convention, ecstatically clinching her fists when her party voted to remove the ban on gay marriage. For her, it seems, this was the clincher that her party had caught up with the times. Rubbish. But where was her voice when the party last election waged war against two Muslim niqab-wearing women and fanned the flames of racial and religious intolerance? Where was her voice or any Conservative voice condemning the Conservative Party attempting to subvert the electoral process during elections with robocalls and changes to the Elections Act? Yeah, the Conservatives are willing to change with the times and are willing to shed the tears and ooze sincerity, but how much saccharine phoniness must we endure from them and the narcissist Rempel who imagines herself leader of the Conservatives and the country and the narcissist Liberal who, to connote sincerity, taps a palm against his heart at every tender opportunity and who actually is the leader of his party and does “govern” this country? Said Rempel of the vote, “Yes, it took us 10 years to get to this point, but I think this is something that is a beacon for people around the world who are looking at equality rights. Canada is a place where we celebrate equality.” Suddenly she and the Conservatives have discovered equality rights. Tell that to the Canadian Muslims, to unionists, to those victim citizens of brutal human rights abuses inflicted on them by Saudi Arabia with whom Harper signed the fifteen billion dollar deal. I don’t recall Rempel voicing objection when Harper announced $3.5 billion in funds for global maternal and child health care while at the same time refusing to fund charities offering family planning. I can understand opposition to abortion but I cannot understand abandoning child brides and victims of war to a life of subjugation, misery and poverty. Nice.

These people are jokes. We have Maxime Bernier, another Conservative leadership entry, a libertarian who supports smaller government and the free market economy (you know, the market version of Darwinisim where those that have get more and those that don’t, well, I guess we just get less) who, as Minister of Foreign Affairs resigned after spending a night with his girlfriend, once affiliated with a Hell’s Angels member, leaving behind highly sensitive documents. Yeah, he’d be good for the country as long as he’s not preoccupied with the real things that make life worth living.

Another possibility for leadership is Jason Kenney though there are rumours he may resign his Federal post for a leadership role in his home province of Alberta. Now some may recall him as the MP who has proven himself rather careless with the use of government letterheads when fundraising and, to put it delicately, proven himself a stranger to truth more often than a man in his position should as when he attempted to suggest Trudeau seemed sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted pictures last year to celebrate International Women’s Day depicting women in chains and a young bride with her ISIS “husband” which the public was to take as proof of ISIS brutality. He just neglected to inform us that the first picture was a ceremonial re-enactment of an ancient historical event and that the second photo was an absolute fake. No one doubts the brutality of ISIS but it serves no cause to embellish or fake reports. But what can one expect from a fellow who also oversaw the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which, until the story came out, allowed Canadian companies to pay foreign workers 15% less than Canadian workers. In other words, Kenney and the Harper gang conspired with big business to undermine Canadian workers. And jobs were lost because of this. But if offensive and untruthful, for some, the Liberals in particular, there appeared in his behaviour a carryover of the racism dogging the last Conservative campaign. I don’t believe racism was at play when Jason heckled defence minister Harjit Sajjan as Sajjan attempted to explain the government’s plans regarding ISIS allegedly saying MPs needed an “English-to-English translation”. Liberals, however, demanded an apology and accused Kenney of racism. Was it? He may not have intended it as such but I have little doubt Kenney meant to be offensive. It’s comes naturally to him apparently.

Recently, Kenney has been all over the Liberals for demonstrating reluctance to denounce the acts of ISIS against the Yazidis as genocide. The reluctance by the Liberals was inexplicable but the Liberals finally agreed: ISIS acts against the Yazidis were indeed genocidal. But there is dispute about that. Vile and brutal as they are, some do not believe that the criterion of genocide has been met. To the victims, it doesn’t matter: death is death. But again, where was Kenney’s voice on human rights when Harper signed the deal with Saudi Arabia? No doubt, Kenney is an excellent politician: when it comes to the tools, lying and hypocrisy, he’s got them down pat and then some. There are facts and then there are Jason Kenney facts.

I’M NEW BUT AM I REALLY DIFFERENT?

It is not necessary to enumerate all the Conservative betrayals, the list would be too long, and I have covered many of them enough to be justly charged with being tiresomely repetitive, but it may still help to remind some that, when they finally did achieve the majority the Conservatives routinely abused the privilege wielding it as a club alienating environmentalists, jurists, educators, scientists, public service workers, unionists, military veterans, and the media while also working to dismantle the electoral process that would and could hamstring Elections Canada while effectively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. Unfortunately, we are seeing signs of similar failings from the Trudeau Liberals and not just with LAV. Motion 6, introduced and just as quickly rescinded last month, a bill some observers have suggested as being even more regressive, vicious and draconian than any put forward by the Harper gang during their worst days, not only gave the Liberals absolute control of the House, it stripped the opposition of any opportunity to do its job. Though rescinded, Motion 6 hovers like an evil spectre that, having been raised once can be made to rise again. The Liberals may be a younger crowd but they play hardball as seriously as any experienced politico thug.

In fact, the Liberals have learned a lot from the Conservatives. They have certainly learned that as long as people still support them, they can get away with anything.

Honesty; transparency; truth. Trudeau’s Liberals, as have the Conservatives, have betrayed all three with the same casualness. We have justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould unapologetically breaching what must surely be conflict of interest guidelines by attending a private fundraiser by lawyers. No matter; who cares except a few lousy journalists, idiot bloggers and concerned citizens?

When the Harper Conservatives became fixated on securing F-35s, Liberal and NDP opposition members were justly harshly critical of his failure to move towards an open bidding process and for his secrecy regarding costs and for his personal attacks against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer at the time. While the Liberals have not quite decided what to do with the F-35s, they have set their sights on purchasing Super Hornet jets labelled an “interim measure” without consultation apparently the matter too urgent to be delayed. While our present force of CF-18s is due for retirement in 2020, there is no evidence provided of the sudden urgency to move now. However, these are the best fighter jets for Canada we are informed. Didn’t the Harper gang say the same regarding F-35s? The F-35s are single engine while the Super Hornets two-engine; if I were a pilot I know what I would prefer. However, recently there was news of trouble with the oxygen supply for the Super Hornets. The Liberals might do well to pull back a little and investigate further with the possibility of looking at other jets. The Conservative secrecy they once decried suddenly seems acceptable. Ah, politics. Give me the honest liar.

Now the Liberals have announced they would return the prison farms considered a very good rehabilitative tool for convicts. The Conservatives, preferring punishment to rehabilitation, had scrapped the program. Bringing back the prison farms is a good move as is the Liberal decision to alter the make up of the electoral reform committee to reflect the proportionality of the vote rather than the number of seats won. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives squeal, “back room deal” between the Liberals and NDP. As good phoney hypocrites they, naturally, chose to ignore their own failures to consult with Canadians and the opposition when they rammed through Bill C-23, the so-called fair elections act, and their many attempts to slip legislation into omnibus bills. Regardless, all that wheeling and whining may prove unnecessary. The Liberals may not go through with the reform or simple ignore the recommendations opting instead for their preferred choice, which will favour them forever, the ranked ballot system.

The Liberals have also kept another promise with the formation of an oversight committee to be watchdog over our spy agencies. That, too, is good. It was also another easy commitment and will silence critics. It will consist of two senators and a maximum of four governing members and the rest from the opposition, one assumes. The committee will have the ability to scrutinize all intelligence and security operations and expected to protect the rights and security of Canadians. There will be some restrictions but even these can be publicly appealed.

The Liberals and eight provincial governments must also be congratulated for having committed to an agreement that, if it goes through, will benefit the young workers of today thirty years from now with expansion of the CPP program. It could be better with more for the poorest and meanest among us but it’s something, a start that hopefully will include those now left out.

But this is no love-in for the Liberals. There are plenty of reasons for Canadians to be unhappy.

Health Canada plans to allow for the sale of irradiated ground meat. A few years back, over twenty consumers died from tainted meat poisoning. The Conservatives followed the tragedy by reducing the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber-stampers of in-house testing by meat producers. Since the deadly outbreak, there have been several massive recalls of tainted meat all of them caught by American food inspectors at the border. Where is Health Canada?

On May 30, 2016, I wrote an email to minister of health, Jane Philpott, with copies to the agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau expressing my outrage and concern regarding irradiation particularly in the area of hygiene and safety. There will be a further erosion of both. Because of irradiation, meat and other products will be deemed “safe” because zapped. Meat and other food producers will feel emboldened to increase productivity at the expense of safety and sanitary procedures. Workers, particularly in kill plants and processing, will become even more careless which will eventually result in meat products becoming laced with fecal matter, piss, puss, snot, blood and other offal matter. But that’s okay. The products may be unpalatable but will be “safe” enough to eat. Just don’t think about what you’re putting into your mouth. The products will be labelled as meat (or garden fresh fruit, lettuce, etc.) but fail to list the other tantalizing ingredients to which consumers may be subjected. Yum, yum, dig in.

But why has Health Canada, as it has over the years, and the Liberal government, as have all governments over the past twenty to thirty years, become more interested in the health of big business rather than the health of consumers. The answer probably lies in the type of people government ministers have on board as advisors and assistants. For example, we do know agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay has employed as chief of staff one Mary Jean McFall whose family, as owners of Burnbrae Farms, is one of Canada’s biggest egg producers in the country. She was also a former member of the Egg Farmers of Ontario Board as well as a recent Liberal Candidate. Does any of this make you pause perhaps wondering what kind of relationship Health Canada may have with other agricultural or pharmaceutical interests? And then we have Bill Morneau, finance minster, who has hired folks from TransCanada. The truth is, this government is riddled with past, present and doubtless future employees of Big Business.

So whose interests are really being served? With the Conservatives, we had no doubt. The question is: How good do the Liberals look to you now?

Still uncertain?

We have minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland who has or is about to sign off on various trade deals. We’ve covered the LAV deal and the despicable Liberal response to it coated with lies and hypocrisy. We also have CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) described by Freeland as a “gold-plated” deal. I guess she likes it. And we have the highly secretive TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) deal that the Americans have called “Made in America”. Gosh, I wonder who they expect to come out the winner? Must Canadians silently believe and accept that their governments will act in the interests of all Canadians? I guess so. Only when the deal is sealed will Canadians get a glimmer of what has been traded, sold, or betrayed with threats of severe sanctions to anyone revealing any part of the deal before then.

With NAFTA, Canadians saw how easily Conservatives surrendered sovereignty to corporations; with TPP we can only expect a further diminishment but this time with the Liberals at the helm. Business interests, i.e. the maximization of profits, supplant Canadian laws meant to protect its citizens. This is better? Is this what Canadians heard when Trudeau talked of more openness, more consultation and more transparency?

Perhaps we should ask our veterans those brave men and women how they feel about this “new”, “better” regime. Abused by the Conservatives and now by the Liberals, veterans must be wondering when the nine veterans offices will be reopened. Too, what happened to the reinstatement of the lifelong disability pension? Gone, the promise sweetened only by an increase to the lump sum payments. Well, better than a lump of coal. Too bad. Suckers! Isn’t it enough to be called a hero?

Is this what our governments have become? Mean-spirited bullies jerking veterans around? Seems so.

Oh, yes, there have been some give by the Liberals, but on the small things.

Look at how the Liberals handled C-14, the physician-assisted legislation he promised to introduce. He kept that promise. That’s good. However, he weakened it so drastically that it satisfies no one except, perhaps, to those shining Christian hypocrites absolutely opposed to assisted suicide regardless of the pleas of those suffering. That’s bad. Trudeau and his justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and health minister Jane Philpott, have arrived at a formula that will allow doctor-assisted suicide only for those near certain death. This does not address the mandate of the Supreme Court and certainly does nothing to comfort most Canadians and especially those not terminally ill suffering unendurable mental anguish and physical pain. Trudeau clearly did not spell out the terms of his proposed legislation to Canadians while he campaigned. He and his crew deliberately misled the public doubtless aware that it expected him to honour the intent of the Supreme Court. He did not. What he did was cruel and manipulative. But it helped win him the vote. For the sufferers, this is no hope, mercy or solution. Instead there is cruelty and mockery in a law that offers very cold comfort indeed.

Only when near death will those suffering from unendurable pain be allowed to receive the care they need. This is no accident. Everyone wins except those who wanted, expected and deserved more from this bill and from this government. The law will be appealed. That is exactly what Trudeau most likely hopes to happen. He can then say to those opposed to assisted dying he stood up for them while offering compassion for the dying. He can also claim he stood up for those wanting such legislation. He can say he stood up to the Senate and that he did his best to limit the effects of assisted dying; he may claim, without justification that everyone wins, those for, against and on the fence. It’s a lie, of course.

The Senate can also boast of doing its best claiming they had fulfilled their mandate, made amendments, which the government, in fulfilling its mandate, could accept or reject in passing the bill. Senators will have thus proved their utility to the public, perhaps even earning some goodwill for their stellar efforts in demonstrating that there may, indeed, be a need for this much-maligned chamber of sober second thought. Trudeau will have been vindicated and credited with creating a “truly” independent Senate and the bill, taken to the Supreme Court will no longer be his responsibility whatever happens. He did his best and whatever, if any, changes the Court makes has nothing to do with him now. He did his level best (is anyone thinking of the Harper gang now?) he can say perhaps going so far as to blame an activist court just as did Harper, an act he, Trudeau, had condemned at the time as wrong, offensive, disrespectful and irresponsible.

Even the Conservatives can draw some comfort perhaps even vindication: See, we warned you of the activist courts.

Everyone will have proven his hypocritical stripe including the voters who apparently care nothing for “real” change preferring instead to swallow the bilge of those they support.

When will it end? When will voters bring an end to lies and hypocrisy and the liars and the hypocrites? Why do we listen to the demagogues who pander to the worst in us and why do we accept the populist rhetoric of voter as victim rather than refusing to be either victim or victimizer? Education, being open to new ideas, listening, really listening and understanding what one sees, hears and does are the tools we need to combat ignorance, fear, wishful thinking, magical thinking, non-thinking. Since Canada became a nation we have heard the same two parties make and break promises and still we go on voting for the same two lying hypocritical groups rather than trying out the third party or even the forth party. When will we awaken to the fact that parties campaigning with fear rather than hope and “real” change, change that actually takes place, wage war against truth? We must stop being afraid. When we hear of terrorists, examine what is really being said and done and look at your fellow citizens and the multitude of examples that give the lie to those haters who would have us make decisions based on fear. When will we shun the demagogue who pushes our emotional buttons because he does not believe us capable of thinking, of reasoning, of discerning the true from the false? When will we stop allowing ourselves to be defined by others and when will we put an end to our own self-doubts about our own worth and humanity and the worth and humanity of our neighbours and those newcomers seeking the comfort and security we claim to provide? We cannot call ourselves a truly good people unless we accept and help the poorest and meanest among us and know we have no right to judge when we do not know their story.

Unfortunately, when I look across the line to America and when I look back on all the elections I fear that what I will see in the future will simply be an ugly mirror of the past. We will not get better. We will not be better. We will keep on saying: This time, it really will be different.

It won’t. Too many refuse to wake up.

I will ask as I have asked many times before: How stupid can people be?

Evidently the pool is limitless.

 ***

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

***

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

 

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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

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

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

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

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

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

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

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

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

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

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

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

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

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE VOTER IN THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

 Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the Majority share in it. – Leo Tolstoy

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience. – George Bernard Shaw

Avoid revolution or expect to get shot. Mother and I will grieve, but we will gladly buy dinner for the National Guardsman who shot you. – Dr. Paul Williamson, father of a Kent student

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE: THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

John Baird’s condemnation of the UN Human Rights council and the appointment of Canadian William Schabas to head a commission examining possible war crimes in Gaza should surprise no one. The Harper regime has, almost from the first, been vocal in its antipathy to the United Nations. Too, anyone who voices criticism of Israel, as has Schabas and others at times, inevitably risks condemnation by Harper and gang with suggestions of being pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Jewish.

Such a stance is offensive if not surprising and indicative of a stubbornly blind mindset that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of more than black and white. This digging in of one’s heels and refusing to tolerate or even consider dissenting opinions is neither admirable nor productive and suggests the profound weakness of insecurity. It’s the fear similar to that experienced by bullies who, knowing deep within themselves they have wronged, wait for the bullied to strike back. They behave as they do because they believe themselves righteous besieged by enemies when none may at first exist. Eventually, however, it becomes fact, the enemies real. The bullying escalates and so does the bully’s fear as the resentment of the bullied intensifies.

Harper’s gang is made up of that kind of bully, frightened of what they have wrought for themselves, brave as a vindictive group but too cowardly to seize the opportunity to co-operate, to listen, to discuss, to be transparent, to include and to accept and even adopt the ideas of others. Instead, they brandish their majority as a club. For Harper and his gang, the velvet glove, the ability to admit to being wrong or to apologize, is less appealing than sneering dismissal and exclusion; they mistakenly perceive generosity, openness and tolerance as weakness. If you ain’t for us, you’re ag’in us. But how can one be for them with such an attitude? It may work for a time but it poses its own risks. The enemies grow in number and so does the fear from the bullies’ camp. It is a poisonous mixture: power, abuse of power, fear and more abuses of power. Add to that the ingredients of intolerance, the willingness to pander, degrees of bigotry, ignorance, arrogance and a propensity towards deceitfulness, the mixture becomes downright toxic.

If Harper occasionally shares the same doubts as the rest of the world on any matter, and that is not a given, they are surely of a fleeting nature not to be nurtured but, rather, excised as quickly and brutally as possible. The message is set in stone; it cannot and will not be changed. When things do go awry, it’s not Harper and crew, it’s the world aligned against them, the world of lazy public servants, egocentric scientists, ignorant students, leftist scholars, radical environmentalists, the mangy poor and helpless, just ordinary citizens, that is out of step. So when critics question Harper’s unwavering support of Israel and condemn Israel’s deadly response to the Hamas bombings in the West Bank, we cannot be surprised when the response is, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” That’s true. But what of its swift, brutal and at times apparently indiscriminate bombing of civilians that have resulted in massive numbers of slain Palestinians when measured against Israeli lives lost? There are brutes on either side, the naysayers, the don’t-give-a-damn-what-you think types, the zealots and cowards; there are also the hopeful, those live-and-let-live folks, good decent people who only wish peace. Every life lost through senseless slaughter is to be mourned, regretted and condemned. Again, however, the response is predictable: “Hamas is shelling bombs from schools and hospitals, using civilians as shields.” But is that true? Perhaps. However, I prefer evidence over taking the word of politicians with their own agenda. But such claims do add legitimacy for a response that is overwhelming and extreme, the forces of one side massively outmanned and outgunned by one of the most efficient armies in the world. I don’t know who is right. I know that Israel has every right to exist as a nation as any other. So, does Palestine. Whose story does one accept? I cannot help but be reminded of one episode during the Gulf War in which a young woman claimed to have witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in a Kuwait Hospital and leaving them on the floor to die. Naturally, the world was shocked and outraged. This added another layer of legitimacy for the invasion of Iraq and provided further justification for the ouster and death of a vile dictator. Unfortunately, two years later, the world learned the story was false. The witness had lied, not only about her name and the story but also about being in Kuwait at the time; in reality, the “witness” was the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador. It was all a vast propaganda scheme to add fuel to justify the invasion of Iraq and just another of a long list of atrocity propaganda dating back to the Crimea war when “heathens” and “Huns” ate babies. Israel may well be right about Hamas; we have witnessed how they murder their own. But surely there is nothing wrong with questioning what we are fed and demanding more information. Atrocity stories make it more palatable to accept the bombing of known UN-run shelters for displaced Gazans. The killing of innocent men, women and children on either side is insupportable. Harper should say that. Instead he stands fast: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Can’t we even ask the question?

It is not Harper’s support of Israel that troubles me; I support it, too, but not without reservation, without doubts. It is his refusal to accept that others have legitimate concerns about what they see as Israel’s disproportionate response to the Hamas bombings. Loyalty to a friend is one thing and it’s commendable; but acknowledgement that the friend can and may be wrong and, in the wake of such widespread condemnation, might do well to reconsider the extent of force in its response to Hamas, is probably a better test of friendship. To ridicule critics, to label them as anti-Israeli and of possibly questionable character, perhaps pro-Palestine and in need of monitoring is no way for a government claiming to be a democracy to behave. An enemy of my friend (or of those whose votes I’m pandering for) is my enemy. It is almost as if, in recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian victims, Baird and Harper and the rest of mob believe we are denying the humanity of the Jews. It may win votes, but isn’t the price too high?

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

Not all should be accepted on face value, especially when it appears to coincide with one’s own worldview. So, when the Harper gang, one of the most secretive, petty, angry and partisan regimes this nation has ever endured, offers its version of events, of facts, of what they believe, one must be particularly diligent. Are Harper and his crew attempting to inform, expressing a true belief, or are they intending to mislead with malicious intent? When a government goes out of its way to remove obstacles to governmental spying on Canadians under the pretext of going after child abusers and then condemns sceptics with charges of “siding with pedophiles”, can it rightly claim to be working in the best interests of Canadians? A government that prefers secrecy to openness, deceit over truth, and punishment over understanding is a government that fears its citizens. How can we trust it when it doesn’t trust us?

This is not new. For the Harper gang, all critics, regardless of the cause, are suspect, dangerous, anti-Harper, anti-Conservative. They are the enemy; as such, they are worthy targets of the smear.

In a recent fundraising effort, the Conservatives went after Justin Trudeau, a man for whom I have grave doubts as a leader. But they did so with a lie. They told a story but left out some details. The lie of omission. They attacked Trudeau for visiting the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque in 2011. He had, indeed. They further claimed, Jason Kenney even using his government email, that the US security agencies considered the mosque a recruitment centre for extremists. That, too, is true. However, what Kenney (who in the past illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for his party) and the other Harper gang omitted to tell us is this: That fact only became public when published in the New York Times a month after Trudeau’s visit. There is no doubt what Kenney intended with this vile, less than accurate attack. Too, nowhere in the email does Kenney acknowledge that just last year, two years after Trudeau, he had visited the same mosque, which, by then, presumably, he, and every member of the Harper gang, knew had garnered American interest. What makes the attacks so vile is that, knowing the truth, the Conservatives persisted in suggesting something even more sinister about Trudeau than doubts about his leadership abilities, innuendo that he supports extremists, terrorists, was, in fact, unpatriotic. That is vile stuff. It is also dishonest stuff. But it is also typical of the Harper thugs. When questioned about his visit, Kenney, a senior cabinet minister with Conservative leadership aspirations, claims he did not know that the mosque was suspect! The same excuse Trudeau used. However, the truth is on Trudeau’s side; he could not have known because the news had not yet been made public. What is Kenney’s excuse? Well, the Conservatives simply shrug, gloss over these facts and blithely continue fundraising and smearing Trudeau while ignoring his legitimate, to the point question: If the mosque is a known haven for terrorists, why hasn’t the government done anything about it? No answer.

But there have been other attacks against Trudeau and they, too, are misleading, dishonest, and partisan in the Conservative tax funded jabs against the Liberal leader.

The ads are aimed at parents, evidently in hopes of scaring up votes, and clearly more concerned with crushing Justin Trudeau and maintaining the health and wellbeing of the Conservative agenda than the health and wellbeing of their putative targets: children. In their efforts to add legitimacy to their propaganda, the Conservatives sought support from the medical profession in hopes they would give their stamp of approval to the Conservative anti-drug ads. Fortunately, the Canadian Medical Association, The College of Family and Physicians of Canada and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons quickly saw through the Conservative ploy refusing to sign on. The ads suggest that Trudeau is endangering children with his stand on marijuana, which is one of legalization. Julian Fantino, minister of veterans affairs, has issued a flyer stating that Trudeau’s “first order of business is to make marijuana more accessible to minors,” and the Liberals plan on making “buying marijuana a normal, everyday activity for young Canadians” (CBC News, Aug. 16, 2014). This from a man who used to be a cop! Well, for this gang, no trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be used.

That Harper failed this time to recruit three highly respected and influential health bodies to act as his stooges is no reason for us to simply heave a sigh of relief and sit back. The Harper Conservatives are devious, clever, and dishonest, as we have seen. They will use any trick, the viler the better, to defeat their foes and flog their economic agenda, which includes squelching dissent, appeasing Big Business and suppressing worker wages.

In the past few weeks, we have learned that the fix Jason Kenney and the Harper gang promised to stop employers from exploiting foreign workers at wages 15% below that of Canadian workers was all smoke. For almost a year after the news was made public of wage suppression, Alberta companies were still allowed to exploit foreign workers at below rate. The Harper gang knew this. The Harper gang allowed it to happen. Another flap, and more promises by the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism. This government has aided and abetted corporations in their war against Canadian workers. They have kept silent about corporate wage suppression speaking out and acting only when the news once again made headlines.

Harper and gang have a lot for which to answer.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SECRET COURT AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD

Recently, the secretive House of Commons multi-party committee, the Board of Internal Economy, made up of four Conservatives, one Liberal and two NDP members, found the NDP guilty of misusing parliamentary resources with satellite offices and mass mail-outs. For many, myself included, the judgement is extremely questionable smacking more of payback by Kangaroo Court, the Liberals still smarting over their loss of Official Opposition status to the NDP and the Conservatives from Tom Mulcair’s effective questioning of Stephen Harper over his knowledge of the Duffy/Wright scandal. If the NDP committed wrongdoing, they must, of course, do the right thing.

The problem with the mail-outs, it appears, was a matter of a technicality: they were partisan in nature, that is, were not messages from individual MPs but mail designed to benefit the party according to Conservative John Duncan. Well, I don’t know. Almost every month I receive one or two mailings from the Conservative MP in my riding. True, there is lots of information about the accomplishments of the MP (not much) accompanied by many photos of him (too many). The messages clearly promote the party and it’s agenda often with claims proven to be untrue as with the Conservative Economic Action Plan, touting programs that didn’t even exist. The cost of advertising non-existent came to $2.5 million for taxpayers. The flyers also boast of Conservative support for the veterans. Well, we have witnessed what veterans think of this regime and its treatment of them.

There is, however, cause for concern on the matter of the satellite offices. The NDP claims it sought permission from the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, to set up the offices; they also claim Scheer gave his approval. The Speaker, however, denies that he did so. Who does one believe? Scheer is a Harper appointee to the position. That doesn’t make him biased. But that he sat on requests from Elections Canada to suspend Shelley Glover and James Bezan for refusing to submit a full account of their expense for the 2011 campaign likely does. At the time, Scheer made the disingenuous claim there was no indication that the requests addressed to him were meant for the House. Elections Canada reports to the House, therefore any correspondence directed to the Speaker concerning members of parliament must, perforce, be also for the members of Parliament. His response on that occasion leaves me to doubt his version regarding the satellite offices and it certainly leads me to question whether he meets the standard of non-partisanship required of that post.

It is not the first time I have asked that question. Conservatives are not shy about politicising offices and agencies that have been and should remain, non-partisan and independent. Even with the Supreme Court, this gang could not stop itself from attempting to malign it when it lost its bid to appoint Mark Nadon to the high court. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, clearly unhappy with that outcome and with other decisions from the Supreme Court, set out to sway public opinion against the court by openly attacking the decisions, the court, and its members, engaging in contemptible efforts to smear Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin with charges of political interference regarding the Nadon affair. Their attempts failed because their story was an outright lie. Judging from the reaction from the public, few fell for the Harper/MacKay smear job.

Ethical? The Harper gang are as morally bankrupt as any political group can be. A few years back the Conservatives paid a $52000 fine after a plea bargain that allowed four upper echelon members to escape appearing before the courts over the “in-out” scam during the 2006 election that allowed Conservatives to illegally transfer monies that cost Canadians $2.3 million according to figures offered by Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher of Postmedia (April 10, 2012). That is money that belongs to Canadians but somehow ended up in the Conservative coffers.

Nevertheless, Harper and gang continue to assert they ran a clean, honest and ethical campaign in each of the last few elections. This is the party that threw a young staffer, Michael Sona, to the wolves for the robocall scandals, which led to investigations of voter suppression by Conservatives. Though Sona was the only one charged and found guilty for that, it was clear that the presiding judge, Justice Gary Hearn, did not believe he acted alone. This is significant and is at variance with a decision reached earlier by Yves Coté, Commissioner of Canada Elections, whose job it is to investigate election fraud. Coté’s investigation had found no evidence of involvement of voter suppression by others in the party. How Yves Coté, responds to the decision by Justice Hearn will be a good indicator of his independence especially since his office has been moved from Elections Canada, which reports to parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This move was clearly meant to handicap the Commissioner and leads to suspicions of a real probability of political interference by the government, particularly this government. It is a legal truism that investigators and prosecutors must work independently of each other. That can never be truer than in this instance when a government attempts to rig elections, as has the Harper gang. If there is no further investigation of the robocalls scandal, Canadians should be very concerned; Harper will have accomplished what he set out to do. That’s not good for democracy and it’s certainly not good for Canada.

Clean and ethical? Well we have Harper’s one-time parliamentary secretary, Dean del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now before the court facing four counts of election fraud during his 2011 election campaign. It was del Mastro, along with Pierre Poilievre, who viciously savaged Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for the investigations into election irregularities, in the majority of which Conservatives figured prominently. Clean? Ethical? Conservative Peter Penashue resigned for accepting illegal corporate donations for his campaign. We have Shelly Glover caught on camera attending a fundraising event attended by the very people who stood to gain from decisions made from her office. The same happened with Leona Aglukkaq, minister of economic development for the North, who sneaked into a fundraising event by a side door rather than face the cameras waiting at the front door. Yeah, they are clean all right.

There are few sinners as interesting as hypocrites.

So, when the Conservatives are demanding that NDP repay money, pardon me for asking questions of my own. Will the Harper gang reimburse Canadians the $2.5 million for the false advertising in their Economic Action Plan? Will the Conservatives repay the $2.3 million owed for the “in-out” scam between May of 2007 and the fall of 2011? Will Tony Clement give a full accounting of the $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 and G20 conferences? Will the government explain why it was necessary to spend close to a billion dollars for security for the same conferences and will it apologize for the mass arrests of peaceful protesters leading to only a handful of charges and few, if any, convictions? When Jason Kenney illegally used the government letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party, did he repay what was owed to the taxpayer? If the NDP owes money, and they may well do, make them pay. But, in the interests of justice and fairness, perceived and real, the Conservatives must also repay what they have pillaged from Canadians and it’s a lot, lot more than supposedly owed by the NDP. As Harper is fond of saying, If you throw mud, some is bound to stick to you.

THEY SIMPER, SHY AWAY AND PLEAD IGNORANCE

If governments lie, operate in secrecy, spy on citizens, defame one’s reputation, and abandon the basics of democracy, how worried should we be? Should we be concerned with the politicization of once independent government watchdog agencies, of attempts to disenfranchise voters, of efforts to turn the highest court into political organs enforcing government goals? Does it matter that our government masks legislation in omnibus bills and limits debate, refuses to consult with opposition members and feels no need to respond to questions in the House except to obfuscate, prevaricate or utter scripted nonsense having nothing to do with issues at hand? Must we accept a government that imposes its agenda because of its majority, that deregulates for the interests of Big Business against the interests of the public, and that blithely refuses to accept responsibility when things go terribly wrong?

For Harper and the gang, with the exception of getting power and clinging to it, nothing is more sacred than the market and their economic agenda.

Earlier last week, the Transportation Safety Board released its report on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which cost 47 lives. It’s a harsh indictment not just of the rail company involved, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A), but also of the Harper gang with it’s laissez-faire approach to Big Business which, as we all know, are honest brokers more than capable and more than willing to regulate themselves. They are all honourable companies run by honourable people, you see. So Big Business and their stooges (Harper and gang, if you don’t know it by now) would have us believe.

But on what is that belief based when, in the wake of the Maple Leaf tainted meat scandal that left 23 dead, the Harper crew cut the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber stampers of in-house testing results by meat producers. Even then, not long after that tragedy, it was American border guards who caught the tainted meat shipped to the US by XL Foods. Where was the government oversight? As a result of that failure, this led to the largest tainted meat recall in Canadian history. Recently, the Mount Polley Mining Corp. breach of the tailings pond dam occurred in British Columbia. Said the minister of energy and mines, Bill Bennett, “If the company has made some mistakes… they will have to bear the responsibility.” Nowhere in that statement is the acceptance that the government has failed to provide proper oversight. From all levels of government, the public is told that it can, must, and will trust Big Business. The thing is, it’s not the mine owners who bear the real costs when these catastrophes occur, and they inevitably do. It is always the innocent who pay, those folks who place their trust in the very governments who have sold them out to Big Business. This philosophy of hands-off, trust business, approach is based on a false premise that free enterprisers like Harper and gang are fond of spouting, a sophomoric cliché that we on the bottom rung are to embrace as fact. It goes something like this: It is in a business’s own self-interest to protect their workers, to be honest, to be good citizen, to be good wards of our environment. It’s an old, tired refrain and it’s absolutely untrue. With very few exceptions, the bottom line is always the final arbiter of what corporations believe to be true and good: profits and enriching the wallets of shareholders even at the risk of cutting corners is always for the greater good. Take your chances, cross your fingers and, if someone dies, pray like hell it’s your competitor who is to blame. As long as governments like the Harper gang are in power, as long as they are in the pockets of Big Business, workers will continue to be exploited and companies allowed to cut corners. The trust of citizens will be betrayed time and again and it is the public who will be left to clean up the mess and who will pay for the mess. Corporations and executives will continue to rake in the dough and their political stooges to pad their pensions and become company board members when they retire from politics far richer than when they first entered the dirty game.

Trust Big Business and the government whose lodestone is free enterprise? There are too many graveyards filled by trusting citizens and innocent workers who placed their trust in governments that sold them out for an economic agenda.

The Lac Mégantic catastrophe came about because MM&A performed the minimum required in following the regulations, even cutting corners. They did the minimum and time and time again were cited for infractions. But, as the report makes clear, Transport Canada knew of the violations and yet did next to nothing in the way of corrective action. The Harper gang did not follow up or ensure that MM&A complied with all of the rules.

Following the report, the government was peculiarly silent. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, emerged briefly from her warren to issue a statement that, typically from members of this gang, attempted to distance herself and her government from all responsibility. The rules are there, the railway company broke them. And that, apparently, is good enough, all that this regime intends to do. This sidestepping of responsibility is craven and abhorrent but, again, unsurprising. Why accept responsibility when staffers can be thrown under buses or, as in the rail disaster, companies can be fined and two or three employees scapegoated. The MM&A workers followed the rules; they did the minimum required of them and so did MM&A Railway and this Harper gang.

Where was the oversight? “Who is the guardian of public safety,” asked Wendy Tadros chair of the Transportation Board of Safety. Good question. Evidently no one.

WELCOME TO THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

So when I read that the government has quietly contributed $4 million of taxpayer monies towards a memorial commemorating the victims of Communism, I am not surprised. Nor am I surprised they attempted to do so with little fanfare. And yet, for free enterprising ideologues, it is odd that they haven’t pulled out the trumpets and sent them ablaring. The memorial is entitled Tribute to Liberty. The irony is rich. This is the government that has been linked to voter suppression, to robocalls, that has players facing election fraud charges. This is the party that has rigged the game with changes to the Elections Act that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and whose redrawing of electoral boundaries will likely garner them another twenty-two seats.

I want to ask, Where is the memorial for the victims of Capitalism? Where is the memorial for the 146 garment workers burnt to death in 1911 in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York because they were locked in and couldn’t escape? Where is the memorial for the 275 trapped in a Pakistan fire and the 1100 killed when a Bangladesh factory collapsed while making garments for European and North American companies? Where is the memorial for the thousands of men and women imprisoned and murdered by gun totting company thugs simply because they were unionists. Every day in every corner of the globe, workers die because management cut corners in the name of profit. It’s easier to replace workers than machinery. Miners, forest workers, first responders, military men and women, nurses, doctors, and countless others put their lives on the line daily to ensure that the economy runs smoothly. The appetite of Big Business is insatiable; there is never enough, the greedy pigs must be fed, the money shovelled into their open mouths as they step on the necks of those who have made them wealthy and successful. It is to such as these our government panders. So, no, there will be no national monument for workers.

Perhaps it’s a sign of naiveté, which should be surprising in someone who has reached the age I have, but I can still be shocked by the behaviour of others, this government in particular. I find it particularly offensive that those in positions of trust can lie, cheat, deny, blame others, and steal from the public purse time and time again without suffering shame and guilt. Why is that? Who is to be blamed? Well, I blame immoral, opportunistic individuals who enter politics for less than noble reasons, those folks who can spin the yarn and fake the warmth and win the brass ring to the road of enrichment, not of the self but of the bank account.

But I blame the voter even more. They continue to vote the same slime in again and again. I am puzzled as to why people stand in line for hours so that they can take Selfies of themselves with Rob Ford, that lying, amoral clown who deserves ridicule and contempt rather than the glow of admiration you see in the faces of those simpletons who apparently care nothing about morality, decency, honesty, law, order, and judgement. When is enough enough for these people? Have these politicians no shame? Have those voters lost all discernment? Are they blind, stupid, indifferent or all of these? I suspect it is the latter. When asked about Ford, those people speak proudly of him as the man who has saved them money (they never explain how), who is just like them (god help us), just ordinary folks (they forget he comes from a fairly wealthy family). They appear to find it amusing that he smokes crack, that he has lied, lied, lied and lied some more. They appear to be deaf to his misogynistic potty mouth, indifferent to his buffoonery, blind to his cartoonish version of the modern man. That he is an object for scorn, that he is dishonest and consorts with criminals does not deter these folks: he’s a celebrity, a folk hero.

These folks, the supporters of the likes of Harper and Ford, are truly frightening. It’s all a lark. Why worry, be happy. Who cares about the stench of corruption and moral decay, it’s all about the main chance and aren’t we all playing the game. So offer us shiny political bribes; we can easily and cheaply be bought and distracted with a few dollars in tax cuts and by cheap tinsel celebrities. Why worry, be happy, indulge the excesses, the vacuity, the vulgarity and the inanity of those narcissistic zombies.

In some respect, Harper offends me more because he is the bigger threat. He is smarter than Ford and meaner. He is petty and vengeful and he uses his majority as a club to ram legislation through. He is anti-democratic and not above rigging the game. His fixations at times appear to be from a world of unreality, as if wishing to to mark his reign of error by convincing himself that his is the Age of Triumphalism.

Not quite. It is true, we have entered a new era but it is far from glorious. It is a sad, dismal age, the Age of Infantilism.

 ***

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 HARPER THUGS, THE McCARTHYITE AND THE LIAR

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

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. – George Jean Nathan

The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality. – Dante Aligheiri

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them—the apathy of human beings. – Helen Keller

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE McCARTHYITE

Just when one might begin to believe that the Harper gang could not sink deeper into the morass of slime, along comes Conservative Mark Adler to prove otherwise. Adler, some may recall, was a member in Harper’s entourage on the trip to Israel who was recorded whining about not being allowed to join Stephen Harper and other dignitaries at the Western Wall so that he could be photographed. “It’s an election…This is a million dollar shot.” He is also the same Adler who denied Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, an internationally known human rights lawyer and activist, entry into an event he, Adler, had co-hosted with an Israeli charity. Cotler was not party of the Harper entourage (Liberals and NDP were not invited), but he was in Israel at the time. The Jewish community was not impressed with Adler, but then, who could be? That bit of notoriety, however, evidently gave Adler an appetite for making more news and the opportunity to demonstrate even more clearly what a nasty tool he really is.

His latest attention-seeking foray provides additional ammunition of why the Harper gang is so dangerous to Canada, Canadians and Canadian democracy. Adler, it appears, has determined that some public servants may not be loyal enough to suit him. As a consequence, he is at work on a private member’s bill that has set its sights on the past political activities of civil servants, more specifically those working for our Canadian Parliamentary watchdogs. These include: Auditor General of Canada; Chief Electoral Officer; Official Language Commissioner; Privacy Commissioner; Information Commissioner; Senate Ethics Officer; Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; Lobbying Commissioner, and; Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (the list from The Ottawa Citizen, March 6, 2014). This move is a wholly partisan attack against civil servants. Worse, it is poisonous, a clear attempt to intimidate, browbeat, and subjugate. He is suggesting that any investigation of alleged Conservative wrongdoing by any of these agencies is likely politically motivated: public servants are out to get Conservatives. We’ve heard that whine before. Conservatives are not only bullies, they are cry babies.

Immediately upon learning of his member’s bill, I was reminded of another group from another era, fat-faced witch hunting thugs spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy, screaming and jabbing stubby fingers, spittle flying, into the faces of Americans while television cameras, rolling, captured the ritual of public shaming. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?”

Often, they were assured that, if they confessed and/or named others, they could return to their lives of normalcy. Many, frightened, facing loss of jobs and livelihood, the ending of careers, of friendships and families, broke down, confessed and named names even though many, many of them had done nothing wrong, were loyal Americans and had not been members of the Communist Party even when it was legal to be so. It didn’t save them. Men and women, soldiers, educators, scientists, writers, actors, directors and on and on were named, almost always without evidence, as communists in a pamphlet called Red Channels. That was the era of the communist witch hunt that began in the 1930s and culminated in the 1950s with a period of true darkness, of hysteria, of paranoia, suspicion, intimidation, self-abnegation, imposed loyalty oaths, and naming names. That was the period of McCarthyism, a period of heightened frenzy when men and women, in public and private lives, suddenly found themselves blacklisted, careers, livelihoods, friendships and families destroyed.

Many like Philip Loeb, an actor, committed suicide. Larry Parks, an up and coming actor, begged not to be forced to name others, but did so after prolonged abuse; his career was destroyed. Many Hollywood writers never worked again those who did were forced to write scripts under pseudonyms for a fraction of what they had previously earned though Hollywood moguls, American politicians and major news and television networks denied the blacklist existed. Some were haunted for life overcome by guilt for naming others. Some did stand up against the committees, refusing to answer questions put to them and questioning the right of the inquisitors to do so. Pete Seeger was one. He was blacklisted for decades. Playwright Lillian Hellman was another; she had been a communist, but refused to apologize and denounce others saying, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions…” Scores defiantly went to jail. Some fled to Europe. In 1965, a blacklisted screenwriter, Millard Lampell in accepting an Emmy was the first to publicly speak of what all of America denied, saying simply as he took the award: “I think I ought to mention I was blacklisted for ten years” (from Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky).

What Adler is proposing is the return to that political era of terror. To even suggest such makes him beneath contempt. He is not even a man; he is a chigger. What’s next? Loyalty oaths to the Conservative Party and public shaming? Hopefully, before we get that far, Mark Adler and his like-minded ilk will suffer the same ignominious fate as McCarthy and those filthy inquisitors he wishes to emulate.

This is the sewer in which the Harper gang, or one member at least, now intends to wallow as it investigates public servants. I can see the weasel Adler heading a committee, jabbing his stubby fingers into the faces of public servants screaming, spittle flying, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the NDP (Liberal, Green) Party?”

THE HARPER GANG

I should not be surprised. And yet I am. For this is not the first of such behaviour from the slimy Conservative nest. We have witnessed them engage in vile smear campaigns against such critics as Pat Stogran, past Veterans Ombudsman, and against Linda Keen, past president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. We have witnessed Joe Oliver assail environmentalists as “radicals” and “stooges”, and have heard ordinary Canadians who opposed the Conservative on-line spying omnibus bill accused of “being on the side of pedophiles.” Too, PMO staffers have been compelled to sign lifelong non-disclosure agreements that will silence them from ever discussing their time working for the PMO. Remember, this muzzling is for life.

This is not the free, open society Harper promised. This is Harper’s crew wearing jackboots. This must stop. Turning a blind eye will not save you or me. Reread those words by George Orwell with which I began this post. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever.”

You think it can’t happen here? It can and it has. There was a time when we had our own interment camps. They not only housed German and Italian prisoners of war but also loyal Canadian and immigrant unionist activists, conscientious objectors, as well as Canadian citizens of Japanese, Italian, German, and Ukrainian extraction targeted by the RCMP. Mark Adler’s private member’s bill should terrify you.

Alarmist? Perhaps. But staying silent should not be an option for those who believe in Canada and democracy.

What does it take to stir you into saying you’ve had enough, you don’t like what the Harper thugs are doing?

Apparently, that this regime is closed, secretive, abusive, and undeniably shameless in its partisan lust for power, is not enough to rouse you to make your voices heard. What of the fact that Conservatives have set out to ensure that the game is rigged in their favour come the next election? In the past, the Conservative Party has paid fines for violating the Elections Act and individual Conservatives have abused and ignored the rules, all this in aid of subverting the electoral process. Canadians have endured the Conservative “in-out” scams during elections, which allowed the Conservative Party to play a shell game that, illegally, made it possible to spend more during elections. We have had Conservative MPs who have refused to submit full expense claims to Elections Canada. One was Shelly Glover, promoted to minister of Canadian Heritage and Official languages. She was also caught attending a fundraising event in her riding where those in attendance were players in the arts and cultural community representing organizations which stood to gain from funding from her department. This is not mere pushing of the boundaries, but an outright violation of the rules.

Clearly Harper’s Conservatives do not care about “rules” any more than they do about integrity, honesty, democracy, or open government. We have had Conservative Bev Oda finally forced to leave because of questionable expense claims (made more than once). Conservative Peter Penashue resigned because of illegally accepting money from corporate donors while campaigning. This kind of election irregularity is not rare, certainly not rare for this regime; in fact, it appears to be standard practice for Harper’s Conservatives what with the robocalls misdirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, campaign workers posing as Elections Canada officials and charges laid against Conservative Deal del Mastro.

We know about these violations not because this thuggish Harper government was open, transparent and honest (as it had promised to be long ago; but then, that was long ago), but because these abuses were made public by our election watchdogs, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

But those, apparently, were the good old days. Those days of public accountability and public awareness are about to come to a screeching end. Unless we do something to stop the Harper gang, corruption and rigged elections will become an accepted fact of life as will the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Canadian voters, students, seniors, those unemployed with no fixed address, and the marginalized; in other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. This, along with redrawing electoral boundaries for 30 additional ridings, with a gerrymandered result all but guaranteed to garner another 22 seats for Conservatives, will almost certainly result in the return of this scummy crew with a voter support of even far less than what they had when elected last time, a little more than 39%.

One of the things Election Canada sought was the ability to compel witnesses to testify regarding knowledge of wrongdoing. That will not happen. In fact, Harper and his crew have set out to do the reverse. They have set out to severely weaken, if not eradicate, the investigative powers of Elections Canada altogether. Harper’s gang, with oily Poilievre, the vote-rigging architect of Bill C-23 taking the lead as the misnamed Minister of Democratic Reform, has moved the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which investigates fraud and reports to Parliament, from Elections Canada to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. This, too, should profoundly disturb Canadian citizens. There is a very real possibility, especially with Harper and his thugs at the helm, of government interference of the worst partisan kind that will ultimately cripple investigations and deny citizens the right to be informed. Harper and his gang could conceivably stop any investigation of alleged election fraud involving Conservatives while, of course, encouraging investigations of alleged fraud by members of the opposition parties. Think not? Think again.

Changes to the Elections Act means that the Canadian public need no longer be informed of investigations. For that to happen, the Commissioner of Canada Elections must first inform the object of an investigation he or she is being investigated. Then, in order to make it public, the Commissioner must ask the subject of investigation for permission to do so. How do you think that will turn out? True, penalties have been increased, even with threat of jail time. But those threats are meaningless when the risks of discovery and punishment are at near zero, when there is almost no likelihood of prosecution or of the public learning of the breaches to the Act. Pretty sweet, isn’t it, if you are a cheat? And we know this is a government with more than its share of cheats.

But, if you are a Conservative, especially an ethically challenged Conservative, you will love the new Act. Bill C-23 will no longer hold parties accountable for how party databases are used “without party permission.” That’s legalese (i.e., weasel words) for allowing party leaders to plead ignorance when their data is used to break the rules (and they will be). “Do what you have to, just don’t tell me!” Thus, if there is a repeat of the “Pierre Poutine” debacle, well, too bad, tough luck, sorry. Canadians will never know. Too, the Act will allow incumbents to appoint polling station supervisors during elections to handle disputes (presumably disagreements over vote counts and the voter fraud which Tories claim is rampant, etc.). Yeah, right. This is the Fair Elections Act. Designed by a committee of Conservative snakes. Poilievre claims that other candidates or their representatives can reject the polling station supervisor for another during disputes. Well, not likely. Volunteers helping to oversee the vote count are not likely to know this bit and, even if they did, might be hesitant to make waves especially if young and new to the game; these are usually volunteers, good citizens helping out because they believe in our system, not die-hard advocates or zealots. The thing is, why is that partisan provision there in the first place? As well, and this too should warm those stony, unethical Conservative hearts, 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. Elections Canada will have no way of knowing if what the parties report will be accurate or not because of systemic loopholes. This, of course, will help the richest parties. Can you guess which one? Too, while the revised Act allows for compliance audits, Elections Canada is barred from producing “documents proving that its financial statements are on the up and up” (The Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 2014)

Not worried yet? If not, why not?

Harper and his thugs have attempted to convince us that voter election fraud is widespread. Yet they have given no numbers to support that claim. However, because they say it is, and because they have the majority, the Bill passed in the House of Commons. There has been no public consultation, no listening to the opposition, just the ham-fisted ramming through of the Bill. The voter information cards and vouching (someone confirming you are who you and the card say you are) will no longer be accepted as sufficient for ID purposes at the polls. Tens of thousands will be denied the right to vote and they will include members of the student, aboriginal, senior, transient, and homeless communities.

It should, by now, be obvious to even the most ardent supporter of the Conservatives that this Bill is a blatant attempt to rig the electoral process with a desired outcome. That is a corruption of the electoral process. The game has been rigged, the unscrupulous and their supporters will feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity — and they will. Thanks to Harper and his gang, changes to the Act will ensure that cheating and corruption will become an entrenched, accepted fact of our electoral process.

Still don’t believe it? You still believe Harper and his gang good, honest, honourable folks?

THE LIAR

A few days ago, the NDP had tried to open up more debate on the Poilievre so-called  Fair Elections Act. Harper, with his majority, denied that option. The NDP also moved to have Brad Butt, Conservative MP cited for contempt of Parliament for misleading Parliament. Again, with their majority, the Harper thugs put an end to that.

So why is this important?

Well, for several reasons. Brad Butt is a Conservative MP who stood up in Parliament on February 6th and told a story of what he had seen. He even went through some of the motions of what he had witnessed from miming citizens in an apartment building throwing away voter information cards and campaign workers retrieving them. The story had the effect of bolstering Conservative claims of voter fraud. Remember, Butt said he saw this. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to others who would then be vouched for at polling stations (presumably by supporters of the opposition parties, never, never Conservative workers cross their stony hearts and crooked fingers). Brad Butt claimed, twice, to having personally witnessed the cards being discarded and picked up. So he said.

Two and a half weeks later, however, he recanted the story. He said he had “misspoke”.

But even that was not true. Regardless of the Conservative spin, Butt did not misspeak. He outright lied. He lied in Parliament; he lied to Canadians. Remember, he said he had seen this himself. Even so, the Conservative majority denied the NDP bid to look into the claims of Brad Butt, the self-confessed liar. Instead, they circled the wagon and protected the liar. This is the Conservative version of truth and transparency. For them, this passes for democracy. Lie about something, retract and suffer no consequences. In fact, Stephen Harper stood up in the House and said that Butt was to be “commended” for “voluntarily” disclosing what he did not have to disclose. In other words, he was saying that, thanks to Brad Butt, the liar, the public has learned that Brad Butt, the liar, had lied.

Are we in Alice in Wonderland? That is the Harper gang’s twisted version of morality. How can we accept anything Harper offers when it comes to matters touching upon ethics, integrity and honesty? This is the same man who, in the House last year, claimed to have looked at Pamela Wallin’s expense claims and said of them, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” We know how that turned out. Too, when acknowledging Nigel Wright had written a cheque to pay of Mike Duffy’s debt, Harper claimed that his then Chief of Staff had done an “honourable thing.” Snake oil salesman Poilievre went one better. Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing,” he said. So now we have an idea of what Conservatives consider honourable. Do wrong, deny, apologize when found out, move on. What is honourable about “owning up” to wrongdoing that should not have taken place in the first place? Or owning up because you have been caught lying? Or owning up because you fear you might be caught? Brad Butt is no hero. He is a liar; he said so. Harper and gang are no heroes; they back liars, they are liars. They lie, deny, move on.

There is nothing “honourable” about these people. They deserve all of my contempt and they have it.

The behaviour of Brad Butt and Harper’s response to it, clearly demonstrates the incredible disrespect Conservatives hold for Democracy and Canadians. If Butt had a shred of shame, an iota of decency, a jot of respect for the parliamentary system and himself, he would resign. It’s not going to happen.

And what can one say of Mark Adler, the narcissistic, pretentious, witch hunter who would emulate Joseph McCarthy? What he proposes is too vile too contemplate; it is contemptible, moronic and dangerous.

Lies, distortions, and the narcissism of self-certainty have led this Harper gang of jackals to the nadir of the cesspool. They have corrupted our electoral system. Far too many of us have been silent for far too long. They cannot be trusted with our democracy.

They have set out to rig the game. In doing so, they have betrayed Canadians.

And they have the nerve to point fingers elsewhere.

***

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: 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.

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