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STEPHEN AND JUSTIN: BILL C-51, OPPORTUNISM AND SUBMISSION IN THE AGE OF FEAR

A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterwards. – John Paul Richter

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his convictions. – Robert G. Ingersoll

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

When Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in April, 2013, some sneered at the Liberals dismissing their choice merely as a shallow, photogenic youngster, inexperienced and riding on the coattails of his father’s name. For the Liberals, however, that was enough: they had a winner and they knew it.

The goal, of course, is to attract new, younger voters to the Liberal fold. In the age of superficiality, of selfies and narcissism, it was hardly necessary that those drawn to the Liberals be particularly knowledgeable; the draw was all that mattered, someone young, handsome, articulate, and charismatic: he was one of them, he understood them, he knew where they were coming from: besides, he was cute, had great hair, and had won much admiration for defeating the brash, handsome, controversial Conservative Senator, Patrick Brazeau, in a charity boxing match when the odds had the senator wiping the floor with the lanky Liberal MP. Too, it did not hurt that his deceased father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Liberal and Prime Minister, larger than life and polarizing at the time, was still enough of a draw to earn some support from the elderly, those who harken back to the days of the late 60s and 70s and early 80s through the prism of nostalgia: memories not of what was but rather of what should have been. Compelling, charming, abrasive, intellectual, dashing, reckless, Trudeau père had married a vivacious, slightly insecure, and much younger woman, perhaps not quite up to his intellectual capabilities, but she was beautiful, endearing, fun loving, and naïve if a bit reckless and self-destructive. They had three children, all boys, the perfect family if briefly with it’s share of grief, a disintegrating marriage and later the death of the youngest at 23. It is not surprising that among Liberal supporters today, women outnumber the men.

Unfortunately, memory is an unreliable friend, the Trudeau era no Camelot. While it is true Pierre Trudeau gave us the Canada Act which included the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, we also had the FLQ and the October Crisis in1970 that clearly delineated a leader who, in the name of public security, squandered his reputation as a lifelong advocate of civil rights by placing the nation in lockdown with the imposition of the War Measures Act. The following excerpt of a seven-minute exchange with CBC’s Tim Rafe did nothing to help:

Trudeau: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is ‘go on and bleed’ but it’s more important to keep law and order than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of…”

Rafe: “At any cost, any price? How far would you go? To what extent?”

Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.” (CBC Digital Archive)

It looked good to the timid, easily swayed and easily frightened, showcasing a leader at his best and worst and who was prepared to act decisively and at any cost. But not all were impressed. Imposition of the Act was akin was akin to “using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut” quipped NDP leader Tommy Douglas

So here we are 44 and 45 years later, this time with the Conservatives leading the government and another Trudeau leading the Liberal party. Again, to hear how Harper and his gang tell it, Canada is besieged, in crisis, its citizens in direct danger not just because of the lickspittle, anti-Conservative media or an “activist” (i.e., anti-Conservative) Supreme Court, and not just from the murderers and mad dogs roaming our streets: terrorists are everywhere and they are pounding on Canada’s doors. Those who downplay those fears as alarmist and extreme urging caution in how we react are dismissed with innuendo their loyalty questioned.

It should surprise no one that a government, particularly one as secretive, mean-spirited and anti-democratic as this one, would play to our nightmares and appeal to our bigotry during its slumping fortunes. It’s been done before. But how far is Harper willing to go?

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

Long before ISIL entered the scene, Harper and his party have proven themselves quite willing to label critics in the environmental movement as radicals, stooges for foreign interests. Government employees have been fired, threatened with jail time, stonewalled, smeared, their reputations tarnished and medical records leaked. We have Conservative McCarthyite Mark Adler offering a bill that would require employees of watchdog agencies to swear loyalty oaths; employment will no longer be based on merit but on which political party you supported, or worked for years ago. If that passes, cronyism as played by Peter MacKay will be commonplace and accepted practice. But of what is this government afraid that it works to deceive Canadians by means of such dirty tricks, the frequent attempts to slip in spying legislation into omnibus bills and, when caught, hurling charges accusing critics of “siding with pornographers”.

Crime has always been a good bet for Conservatives, always eager to feed the fears, ignore the facts, and give the public what it wants: punish, punish, punish, one size fits all. The world is dangerous, full of bad guys and no one is redeemable except, perhaps, those Conservatives who subvert electoral rules, hold secret, illegal, fundraising events and pad their expenses.

But these days, even get-tough-on-crime measures aren’t enough. So thank God for ISIL and those horrific images of mass slaughters and videos of beheadings and a burning offering Harper and his Conservatives glimmerings of how they could reverse their sliding fortunes in time for the next election. Without debate, discussion or consultation, Harper joins coalition forces and involves Canada in the war in Iraq with the promise Canadian soldiers would play strictly advisory and support roles. The public approved, his fortunes immediately rose. Where was the downside in joining the forces of good to stop those Islamic monsters?

But, if the boost wasn’t as much as Harper expected or wanted, the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent shortly after allowed him to quickly frame the narrative and raise the spectre of terrorism. The death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill two days later, in a separate incident, was a godsend lending credence to the speculation and giving him an extra bounce after Canadians watched events unfold on Parliament Hill on television while media wildly fuelled speculation about the number of gunmen and victims. The initial confusion and reaction is understandable. However, Harper’s exploitation of the tragedies, working up hysteria to win public support for new, draconian, anti-terrorism legislation for his own political ends, is not.

And if all this helped Harper, the war, the deaths of two fine men, how much more could he have gained if, when reports came out of Canadian soldiers engaging ISIL in combat, one or two Canadian casualties were added. He could throw that into the campaign speeches he’s been giving across the country for an election yet to be declared, evoking jihadists with every other word and having us imagine the rest: bloodthirsty savages slathering at our doors wielding bloodied knives and leaving behind a trail of headless corpses. Still, even without dead Canadian soldiers in Iraq, he’s doing well. Almost daily we hear reports of more arrests, of plots foiled. My God, we are under siege!

So it’s working, this pandering to our fears and emotions, providing impetus for Harper’s Bill C-51, the new anti-terrorist legislation, with no public blowback and with little to no resistance from the opposition, particularly the Trudeau Liberals who have promised to vote for the bill regardless of its shortcomings. When the bill passes, and it will, CSIS will be given broader powers without any parliamentary oversight. Harper doesn’t trust the opposition members we elect and do. In fact, oversight will be almost none existent, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), an “independent” government agency empowered to investigate and review CSIS, has proven itself ineffective, it’s members government hack appointees and itself prone to controversy with chairs Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, forced to resign in 2014 for lobbying activities and Arthur Porter (2008-2011), facing charges for fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, receiving secret commissions, and money laundering while also in the role of director general for McGill University Health Centre.

The bill is dangerous with real potential for abuse. So why is Justin Trudeau so eager to sign off on it? There are no terms of reference. Who defines what makes a terrorist or a criminal act. The Act prohibits “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism. But how are these terms defined? As Terry Glavin pointed out (Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 12, 2015), C-51 is not just about terrorism. Unions and activists will almost certainly be targeted, as they have been, if their actions have a negative economic impact, as when a union strikes or environmentalists set up roadblocks. Would these be deemed acts of terrorism? Almost certainly with this government. Bill C-51 grants CSIS sweeping powers to arrest and detain without warrant and for longer periods, allows CSIS to shut down Internet access of whomever it deems a threat, and denies accused individuals the opportunity of facing their accusers. This is not a bill for a free democracy but for a nation governed by an iron fisted despot.

Is this what Trudeau is willing to sign off on? How far is he willing to let Harper go?

SPY VS. CITIZEN

It’s easy to understand Harper’s motive for putting this forward. He is a demagogue, he is anti-democratic, his is the interest of corporate kleptocracy not the fair and just society that Pierre Trudeau talked about and then abandoned when it suited his needs.

As I stated many times, Harper and his gang are not above smearing their opponents. In trying to rally voters to his side, in whipping up the vision of terrorists banging on our doors, no one should be surprised that Harper resorts to planting the seed of the big, insidious and invidious lie: those who do not support him are against him. By itself, if used only in the rhetoric of campaigning, one party against another party, that may not seem so bad. But when used in the context of war, terrorism and electioneering for the purpose of stigmatizing opponents, of casting doubts to their loyalty, it becomes a weapon of potent danger. Only someone small, vicious, and corrupt would impugn another’s name and honour by questioning his loyalty, doubting his patriotism and by suggesting he supports the enemy in the full knowledge that it is not true simply to score cheap political points. Harper and gang are doing it now. Even as recently as today (February 17th), Harper was sowing division when, in a French-language interview, he said many employees of CBC’s French-language network, Radio-Canada, “hated” Conservative values. If by that he means his values, he may be right; I know I loathe them. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are swallowing that Harper poison. It’s not true, it’s not fair, and it’s destructive not just to the individual affected but also to society at large.

But how does one respond to the vicious smears, the innuendoes and the politics of division when there is always a whole population of the ignorant, bigoted and plain stupid ready to drink from the tainted Harper well?

A federal court recently ruled that Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim, should be allowed to wear her niqab while taking the oath of citizenship. Harper’s response before a gathering of faithful dolts was swift appealing to the lowest aspect of our nature. “I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family. This is a society that is transparent, open and people are equal.” It was a vicious statement, one of division and intolerance, meant to inflame, to isolate and to stigmatize the woman and her community by suggesting with the use of the word “hide” that there was a more sinister aspect behind her desire to wear the niqab. The niqab and burkha are not religious requirements but some Muslims have interpreted the Qur’an’s admonition for modesty as such. However, Zunera Ishaq stated she was quite willing to unveil herself before a government official but not to be unmasked in public. This should satisfy us. Not so for Harper. He must plant that vile seed of mistrust and suspicion. Personally, I would prefer to see the face of my fellow citizens and would wish newcomers embrace our mores. But I have family members who are unhappy that I wear T-shirts only instead of buttoned shirts, even at family celebrations and funerals. That Zunera Ishaq prefers to wear a niqab makes her no more suspect than wearing a T-shirt makes me a redneck. As well, the last part of the statement caused me to smile. Harper’s regime is as closed, secretive, distrustful, petty and vengeful as any tinpot dictator’s. He has invoked closure, refused to consult with opposition members, attempted to slip laws into omnibus bills, subverted electoral laws, engaged in cronyism, and thrown those no longer useful to him under the bus. As for being equal…tell that to the single parent who may want to know why she or he has been left out in the cold while the well-off become even richer by an extra $2,000 thanks to Harper’s income splitting bill. Tell that to the Canadian worker who has been replaced by a foreign worker thanks to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program or to the low income earners whose wages have been suppressed as a result of the united efforts of Harper’s gang and big business.

The storyline Harper has framed is deeply disturbing. It does him no credit and it does Trudeau no credit when he appears to buy into it.

What has happened to the Liberal Party? Well, nothing really. It’s the same ole’ same ole’ not the new and better Justin promised. As has Harper, Trudeau has proven himself as venal as any cheap politician though, as one wit noted, there is no such thing as a cheap politician.

So it’s a tossup with the voters who cannot seem to count above two: Conservatives or Liberals, Liberals or Conservatives. It is as if the two parties, with public consent, really do believe they are entitled to rule by divine right. To the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP as official opposition is merely an aberration so they work together in the secretive Board of Internal Economy to temporarily change the rules in hopes of financially destroying the NDP for engaging in what they all do with taxpayer funded mailouts.

BACK TO THE WHIZ KID AND HIS STORY OF NEW LOVE, ETC.

So what do Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have to offer that is new and different from Harper and his gang?

Well, very little, as it turns out.

In August of last year, he said, “A Liberal government will ensure that every Canadian is included….My vision is for a strong, united Canada and for a strong, respectful government.” We’ve heard that speech before. “Inclusion”, “openness”, “transparency”, “honesty”, are the buzzwords. And that’s the problem, they’re just buzzwords. After almost ten years of governance, suffused with an inflated image of himself as an economic mastermind, Harper has long ago proven himself a failure in every way. Integrity? None. Honesty? None. Openness? Nope. Truthful? Economic genius? Who is kidding whom?

Early in his term, we saw how it would be with Trudeau. He spent more time working the crowd than working in the House. Except for Elizabeth May, who does not get to ask questions in the House every day, none of the leaders have a stellar record of attendance during question period, “once considered a crucible of democratic debate in Canada, but now increasingly heavily scripted political theatre” (Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 30, 2014). Of 125 question period sessions in 2014, Thomas Mulcair attended 74, while Trudeau, with 49 appearances vied with Harper’s 46 in the race to trivialize and diminish Parliament. On that basis alone, there is no reason to vote for either Harper or Trudeau. For the record, May’s attendance was 100 out of 125 question period sessions.

In January of 2014, Trudeau boldly booted 32 Liberal senators from his caucus. The move came in the wake of the Senate scandals and while clever and unexpected, was perhaps meant more to show that Trudeau, young and inexperienced as he was, could be as decisive and brutal as anyone when necessary. But what did it accomplish? If the ploy was to eliminate partisanship in the Senate, what did it do for the House? How do you tell a life-long believer and member he is no longer a Liberal? Just as easy order a member of Harper’s gang to develop ethics.

And while he has proven himself as adapt as Harper in flexing his muscles, can Trudeau really be trusted to keep to his promises? Well…no. Remember his much ballyhooed open, free from political interference nominations promise? That proved a bust from the start with allegations of Trudeau publicly supporting some nominees and blocking others, of changing rules and membership cutoff dates behind closed doors. New, different, better? Hardly.

So, if quite not all he promised, if slow in unveiling some of his platform and less than open in some of his actions, it is true he still has a way to go in matching Harper in pettiness, ruthlessness, vindictiveness, and hypocrisy; that will likely come with time, the hardness and meanness, though I do not really believe Trudeau will ever develop the taste Harper has for wallowing in the sewer. Even so, Trudeau has shown himself able to surprise and, in doing so, of occasionally being remarkably reckless and as opportunistic as any old pro when, as recently as February 9, he made an appearance at a news conference with Eve Adams trailing behind him. Was this a joke? Apparently not. It did, however, elicit as much conversation as John Baird’s sudden departure a few days earlier. What was Trudeau thinking?

The loss of Baird, capable, partisan, and adroit as he was, is certainly more significant for Harper than that of Adams but the damage to Trudeau in embracing the defector may be greater. Which may explain why the Conservatives are still rubbing their hands and smiling. Not only had they rid themselves of a troublesome and toxic MP, Trudeau had, in welcoming her to his party, proved himself truly lacking in judgement. If he had failed to recognize the move by Adams for what it was, the last desperate gasp to salvage her political career and fulfill her personal ambitions, other Liberals did. If he had been under the perception he had made a coup, it is not all that surprising Trudeau would spring Adam’s defection before a clearly shocked media; what was surprising is that he would also spring it on his own supporters. It quickly became apparent that only a few members of his inner circle knew about Adams’s sudden conversion to the Liberal fold. Had more been informed, Trudeau may have been persuaded to withdraw the welcome mat thus saving him from embarrassment over the unseemly show. His failure to understand she was no great prize, certainly not of the calibre of John Baird, and that she had nothing to offer, in fact, might prove a liability, poses a real problem for him and the Liberal Party. How could he not see that Adams, by her own reckoning “25 years a ‘progressive’ conservative’”, was not a good fit for his goal of rebranding the Liberals as united, inclusive, honest, open and transparent? Had the ambitious Adams snookered an opportunistic Trudeau? Maybe. Other than baggage, what does she bring? More than one reference has been made of her telegenic looks. Is that the sum of her gifts? Well, turn about is fair play; the same has been said of Trudeau. I can just see it, Trudeau on the hustings, smugly offering platitudes while the cameras frantically shift from Adams to Trudeau to Adams ad nauseam: who cares about substance when you’ve got all that beauty? But, really, did Trudeau even pause to reflect?

Just days before her defection, she stood in the House staunchly defending the government in her role as parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Yet, as she and Trudeau sat side-by-side facing the media, she was able to claim without offering so much as a smirk that, “after a long and very difficult period of reflection” she could no longer support Harper’s “divisive”, “mean-spirited” leadership. It was enough to make one cringe. She also wanted to “better the lives of all Canadians.” Well, one Canadian in particular. “We need a kind, generous and strong leadership that champions shared vision for how to made Canada work for anyone,” she went on to say. Of income splitting, she had these words, “As a government, we were given a tremendous opportunity with the purported surplus to do right by folks. Instead the government is still about to roll out policies like income splitting which will devour the surplus without benefiting most Canadian families or creating a single job….I cannot support mean-spirited measures that benefit only the richest few.” As if this was news to her! Yet, in December 2014, she was loudly and extravagantly praising income splitting in the House, calling it a “simple, time-tested plan” and suggesting that all families would be better off.

Which is the real Eve Adams? I guess the phoney one.

But it is for her achievements outside of the House for which she has drawn most attention and which should have given Trudeau reason to pause if her 25 years as a Conservative wasn’t reason enough. During the 2011 election, Adams attempted to claim $2,777 in personal expenses including spa treatments and dry-cleaning costs. In December of 2013, she was caught on camera blocking cars at the pumps of an Ottawa Esso station throwing a hissy fit over a $6 carwash. There were allegations of misconduct against her and fiancé Dimitri Soudas with accusations they had paid for party memberships to build support for her nomination bid for the new federal riding of Oakville-North Burlington. As well, Soudas, a confidant of Harper’s and executive director in the PMO, was ordered by Harper not to interfere in Adams’s campaign. He did and was fired. In March of 2014, Adams angered a crowd of Conservatives attending a board meeting in the Oakville-North Burlington riding. She was asked to leave, she refused, more angry words before she finally left. When the Conservative Party finally cleared her to run in the riding, the party was forced to put a halt to the nomination process in order to investigate claims of dirty tactics by Adams and her opponent, Natalia Lishchyna. Due to an injury, which resulted in a concussion, Adams withdrew from the race in August. On February 9th 2015, Adams crossed the floor to join the Liberals. During the public unveiling, Adams neglected to reveal that, two weeks before, the Conservatives had informed her by letter she would not be allowed to run as a candidate for the Conservative Party. That was fine, the Conservatives were eager to help with that bit of news.

This is a woman of ambition who clearly feels entitled and doesn’t mind the perks while riding on the taxpayer dime. So what was the upside for Trudeau except to claim that he had poached a member from the Harper gang, a member who was already on the way out? This had all the hallmarks of gamesmanship as some have posited, nothing new, nothing different, certainly nothing better.

Now Adams had declared her intention to run against finance minister Joe Oliver in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. She would have to prove herself by “earning” the nomination in a process that would be free and open, Trudeau said. He said the same before and broke the promise in three other races. If Trudeau places a thumb on the scale in Adams favour, it could do irreparable harm to him with his own base. Some Liberals in the riding are already extremely unhappy with the idea of a parachute candidate and have made it clear they did not want nor would they support Adams. Is the risk of alienating lifelong Liberals worth it? Yes, if Adams turns giant killer by defeating Joe Oliver. But then Trudeau would be stuck with her, her overweening ambition and overwhelming sense of entitlement. If she lost, well, that’s one problem and one gigantic headache removed. But, what of the bitter aftertaste for those loyal, ignored, Liberals, Trudeau doing what all leaders apparently do all too often, opt for the expedience of one-upmanship, the cheap and easy short-term gain, lofty words and principles tossed aside for the photo-op, the telegenic booby prize. The same ole’ same ole’.

But it could be that Soudas, not Adams, is the real draw. As a close confidant of many years to Harper and as an insider in the PMO, he doubtlessly could provide much insight of Conservative strategy. But then, could he be trusted? Unlikely. He is poison, his career as a political insider surely over. And, if he did it all for love as some have suggested, even more foolish. If Adams loses, will true love conquer all?

While I have absolute contempt for the anti-democratic Harper and his Conservatives, with their anti-unionist/anti-worker/pro-business stance and would never, ever, vote for them, it is not to Justin Trudeau or the Liberals I would turn. I see too much in both that suggest they are brothers in spirit. Both will say and do anything to win the upper hand even sacrificing many traditional values that differentiates the parties. At one time the Liberal Party was proud to declare itself progressive, which suggested some support for individual rights and freedoms, for social and political reform. But that is gone by the wayside, winning and power the end game. Harper and Trudeau are two faces on the same coin and that is an unhappy thought. Interfering in riding association’s nominations and embracing Eve Adams and just two examples of Trudeau’s profound lack of judgement, blatant duplicity, and shameless equivocal scruples.

Yet it is his declared intention to support Bill C-51 that is most offensive and puts the lie to the Liberal brand of old. His father did the same. Trudeau has surrendered to Harper and his gang to such an extent that he has allowed Harper to define him. At least Pierre Trudeau was his own man. We do not need more anti-crime, anti-terrorist legislation. We do not need a police state. But that is what we will end with if Harper continues as he has and refuses to allow for parliamentary oversight and amendments to the bill. Of all the leaders, Elizabeth May, as of this writing, has been the only voice foursquare opposed to C-51. For that, I applaud her. The bill is vile, it is dangerous, it is contemptible. Those who support it are opportunists, stooges, and/or cowards. The new bill will almost certainly result in abuses and be taken to the highest court and likely struck down.

Trudeau says he will support the anti-terrorist bill. The NDP appears to be leaning against support but have yet to declare themselves decisively. I hope they do vote against it. It will pass, regardless, thanks to the Conservative majority, but I would hope there are some politicians who will see this bill for what it is and find a bit of backbone.

Those who oppose Bill C-51 are soft on terrorists. That will be the Harper spin and some will buy it. It will not be true, of course. Only a simpleton would believe that.

Any politician, and I mean any, who supports C-51 out of fear that voters will buy into the Harper narrative has already lost; they have allowed Harper to define and shape them. They will not have my vote but they will have earned my contempt.

Andrew Jackson said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

Think of that. Where do you stand? What kind of person are you?

***

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

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE GANG THAT WON’T SHOOT STRAIGHT

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. – Edmund Burke

Frank A. Pelaschuk

If anyone today were to muse aloud about “ethical politicians”, it might elicit a loud guffaw. They do come along, but these days are as rare as fish falling from green skies and direct responses from any of Harper’s gang when asked a direct question on ethical matters. We had Conservative Robert Stanfield and CCF/NDP Stanley Knowles. But that was long ago and in another, unrecognizable country. Today, the phrase is a quaint oxymoron.

But why is it so difficult for Stephen Harper and his Conservatives? They appear to lack a moral compass and come across as simply greedy and stupid. Are they all simply husks of air, bombast and meanness?

Whatever it is that stirs them, lapses in ethical behaviour appears not to be among them. For them, critical self-examination is apparently too arduous and unrewarding; it’s easier to point at the moral lapses of others with one hand while digging in the public purse with the other. While such finger pointing does not absolve one, for these types, there is evidently something pleasurable, if childishly inadequate, in saying, “Well, you did it too,” as if hoping to convince bystanders with their faux and gleeful outrage that moral equivalency is at play, though that is seldom true and is never persuasive as an argument; pointing out the wrongs of another does not nullify one’s own and it certainly does nothing to enhance the image of the finger pointer.

POWER CORRUPTS. BUT DOES IT?

Harper and his gang have amply demonstrated the perils of entering into the shady world of politics. When individuals run for public office, they almost always offer a picture of themselves, as they believe themselves to be, that is, one of us, honest, engaged, reliable, knowledgeable, dedicated, a selfless, and tireless servant and defender of the people. They almost always disappoint. They would have us believe that they are out there working on our behalf, that they will act honestly and honourably in all their dealings. They may even believe it and convince us into believing that what we see is what we’ll get. But it almost never quite works like that.

Politics changes people. Power corrupts. I have heard such said many times and, I confess, in my younger days, I had accepted those as valid truisms. Too, I did not care, the world would run smoothly without my input, there were others who knew more than I did, who were wiser and better. To say that I was wrong is to understate it. Unfortunately, these days there are too many as I was then and yet, in some ways, much worse, too focused into their own narrow self-centredness of getting “things” to concern themselves with the travails of others. But old and grey, perhaps just tired, I no longer believe that of one. I do believe politics can change people, it can open hearts and minds and reward and transform some. But it can also shut them down, replacing hope with bitterness, trust with cynicism. For each, I am certain, the experience will be different; once you enter the murky world of politics, you can never be the same. But I do not believe power corrupts an individual. It only allows opportunities for acts of corruption. The corruption is already within a rotting soul.

The image we see and believe of those running for office is seldom an accurate image of those we elect. No one who enters politics a truly honest man and leaves corrupted can be said to have been truly honest in the first place. The bruise of corruption and venality had already infected him, in need only of the opportunity to reveal itself. A truly honest man may be tempted, but he never wavers, never succumbs. Too many of us, believing ourselves good and honest, guilty at most of “small”, “harmless” sins, say we want politicians much like ourselves. Sadly, we have them in spades, just like us. Contrary to our high opinions of ourselves, very, very few of us can legitimately make the claim to being totally honest, absolutely trustworthy and unequivocally incorruptible. How many of us have got away with something saying, “it didn’t hurt anyone,” “no one saw me.” “it’s only a small thing,” “it’s not going to break them”? Knowingly keeping the extra change the cashier mistakenly gave you. Running the red light when no one was around. Swiping that small sweet. Buying something from someone on the street that you suspect may have been stolen. Stealing that light bulb or paper roll from your company. It’s easy to excuse the “small” and to laugh them off as “lapses” and to dismiss the effects on others and yourself as “harmless”, which they may well be, but they are nevertheless signs of rot. Moral equivocation is not a virtue.

For too many of us, it becomes easier to take it to another level. When a person fudges while campaigning, makes promises he knows he cannot keep, who misleads and lies, who cooks his books and refuses to open them, we can know this with a certainty of that person: he or she bears watching; it is no longer a laughing matter.

THE INTOLERABLE CHINTZINESS OF THE PETTY TIGHT-FISTED CHEAT

By now all of Canada knows of the four senators investigated for illegal expense claims: fraud in other words. Liberal Mac Harb must repay over $230 thousand. Conservative Harper appointees, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, all removed from the caucus, were into the taxpayers’ pockets for tens of thousands of dollars. When it appeared that Duffy had repaid $90 thousand (in reality it was Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright, who gifted the money and then resigned, leaving other questions to be answered regarding the PMO), Marjory LeBreton declared his case closed and senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen doctored the Deloitte report on him. Those three, as well, have a lot for which to answer.

We have seen people appointed to the senate for no apparent reason than what they could bring to the fortunes of the Conservative Party, including two of the most efficient fundraisers, Wallin and Duffy, though of Wallin it can be said she did serve the nation as Canada’s consul general to New York. Both had entered the senate with sterling reputations as far as the public knew. However, their fall from grace has been considerable and deserved, the damage to their standing irreparable. But, for Duffy, his fall from grace was not that far, for it had begun before his appointment to the Senate when the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that he had violated broadcasting ethics during the 2008 election, misrepresenting the views of one of three liberal members on the panel of his CTV show as well as airing an interview with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion that was cruelly intended to bring ridicule upon the liberal leader in a manner that “was not fair, balanced, or even handed” (Wikipedia). That same year, Duffy was appointed to the Senate. The Conservatives clearly knew what they were getting and liked what they saw. He was their kind of person.

But if Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin were simply motivated by greed or had made mistakes, as Wallin claimed in an interview on The National with Peter Mansbridge of CBC (June 13) with the admission she had been careless in failing to perform due diligence, what must we make of Conservatives Shelly Glover, James Bezan and Eve Adams who also have problems of their own which, while not as egregious in scope, still need answering?

Not that long ago, the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand wrote two letters to Conservative Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of the House, recommending that both Glover and Bezan be suspended for failing to file complete campaign expenses. Glover and Bezan, having none of it, filed appeals in court. Incredibly, the Speaker of the House, who is supposed to be nonpartisan, not only denied the request, evidently falling for Peter Van Loan’s assertion he had no right to tender a decision on a matter now before the court, he had also refused to table the letters before the House, sitting on them for several weeks before they finally became public knowledge. Scheer’s was purely a political and partisan decision allowing the two Conservatives enough time to launch their appeals and thumb their noses at Elections Canada with the full support of the Harper Conservative gang. Once a Conservative, always a stooge. Such acts do nothing for Canadian democracy except add another wound. Still, no expressions of shame or regret. Just business as usual.

A question, of course, comes to mind: If everything is on the up and up, why is the Conservative Party and those two members, so reluctant to file full, accurate expense reports? It’s that simple. Come clean.

But what is even more alarming, and clearly indicative of how entrenched is the contempt harboured by Harper and his gang for even the suggestion of transparency and for the democratic process, is that Shelly Glover, has since been appointed to the five-person panel (Conservative dominated, of course) to advise the government in the next appointment for the Supreme Court. Instead of suspension for not following the rules, Glover is rewarded. For Harper and crew, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, the queen of mean, “Rules are for the little people”. Once again, they thumb their noses at process and Canadian taxpayers pay the price. Absolutely shameless and absolutely revelatory of the moral compass by which they operate.

And then we have Eve Adams, poor, pathetic Eve Adams, the bobble head who sits next to Glover in the House and occasionally appears on Power and Politics with the set responses for the question of the day firmly embedded somewhere in that brain. She, too, is under investigation for making illegal expense claims of $2777. Now Adams states that over $1800 went to childcare and suggests her $260 Shoppers Drug Mart tab went towards toothpaste and grooming for volunteers. Perhaps. But how does she justify her $400 plus spa treatments? Compared to the senate scandal, these numbers are not large but it could be that the thing that may most rile Canadians, however, is the fact that, after the election, Adams attempted to claim for $2.63 cupcakes and restaurant fare. It’s the small things that can trip one up because there is almost something sad about the cheapness and chintziness in claiming those cupcakes as expenses. The amount is so meagre and yet the behaviour so pathetically and appallingly parsimonious that one might wish to pity this example of unpleasant tight-fistedness. One might wish. But not this writer. How trustworthy can anyone be with the big things who fudges on the small things? Not very, I suggest. It’s the small things that can get you. Remember Bev Oda, the minister who may have forged, or whose staffer may have forged, a signed government document, the minister who twice had to repay false expense claims, the minister who was finally felled by a $16 orange juice?

If there’s any justice in this world, one can only hope Eve Adams, Shelly Glover and James Bezan will eventually go the way of Oda and Peter Penashue. They evidently don’t experience the sense of shame that would move honourable individuals to do the right, decent thing. Innocent or not, they are judged by their behaviour. Fairly or not, they cannot be trusted. Nor should they. An open book is all that is required and yet they refuse those who pay that right.

BASHING PUBLIC SERVANTS AND ANYONE ELSE IN THE WAY

And while Conservatives on one side are busy not explaining themselves, we have those Conservatives on the other side, Tony Clement and James Moore, happily looking for a scrap with federal government employees. From the very first, smearing others and scapegoating has been the favourite pastime of Harper and thugs. This is the government, after all, that assumes all those collecting EI are fraudsters, that all critics are enemies, of questionable patriotism or of siding with criminals, pedophiles or of being radical stooges of foreign environmentalist groups. Even veterans collecting disability pay were not immune to the mean-spirited niggardliness of Harper who, before he was elected as prime minister in 2006, had declared, “All too often, we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” He won and made changes all right, clawing back the disability pensions of veterans (reinstated years later; refer to March 28th post). His troubles with veterans, however, are not over. Recently, Cpl. Glen Kirkland, against the wishes of senior military brass, appeared before a committee of MPs regarding the treatment he suffered at the hands of the military when trying to claim health benefits. This was a soldier who fought and nearly died in Afghanistan while in the performance of his duty. Defence Minister Peter MacKay had made a loud declaration that Kirkland would not suffer as a consequence of his appearance before the panel. That assurance was as good as his word to David Orchard a few years back when the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance Party. Shortly after his appearance, Kirkland was issued release papers from the military to take effect in six months. With the ensuing uproar that followed, the military brass and MacKay met. MacKay ordered the papers torn up and the military busied themselves admitting there had been “a colossal mix-up”. While the military clearly did not like what Kirkland had to say, they cared even less for the public backlash. This was just another betrayal of veterans by the Harper regime and the public did not like it. While the outcome appears to be satisfactory for Kirkland, we are left wondering about the treatment of those other walking wounded by the military and this government.

But, not satisfied with just scapegoating ordinary, but discerning and critical citizens, we have the Conservatives, with frontmen Tony Clement, the man behind the $50 million slush fund boondoggle for his riding, the president of the treasury board which has “mislaid” $3.1 billion, and James Moore, minister of historical distortion and Conservative revisionist propaganda, doing their dirty work stigmatizing public servants with suggestions that they are slackers, dishonest, and incompetent and embarking upon a campaign to bypass the bargaining process in the case of border guards. While these are cynical, despicable diversions, and they are despicable when lives are played with for personal gain, meant to deflect public attention away from the many troubles of this scandal prone regime, with its predilection for padding expenses and fraud, it could be there is more at play here, both men of immense egos priming themselves for the role of Conservative leader when Harper leaves the stage.

But before excited Harperite voters, especially those envious anti-unionists jump on the federal public servant bashing bandwagon, they should pause to reflect on this regime’s proclivity for avarice, mendacity, obfuscation, hypocrisy, and unethical and anti-Democratic behaviour. Unfortunately, when it comes to swallowing Harper poison, Harperites are nonpareil in suspending credulity. Promise them the moon. That’s sufficient. Buy them off with tax cuts. That’s sufficient. Tell the Big Lie. That too is sufficient. Feed them another lie, any lie; repeat the process time after time; do it again and again. It doesn’t matter. Just get the enemy, it doesn’t matter who, and destroy them. And for Harper and crew, the enemy is anyone who criticizes. Those true believer misanthropic Harperites are always there ready and eager to blindly swallow any crap dished out by this group. An incredibly nice and perceptive bunch.

BUT WHO IS WITHOUT SIN?

While this regime has many serious problems and all of them have to do with the secretive, closed, paranoid nature of its governance bolstered by an attitude that is highhandedly convinced of its infallibility and its right to be answerable to no one, Harper and gang, sadly, are not the only party, though by far the worst, that needs looking at.

The Liberals had their own scandals in the past, and Mac Harb, the same Harb who has been told to repay over $230 thousand, was their man in the senate. It does Justin Trudeau little credit to say that Harb will be allowed to return to the Liberal fold if he repays what he owes and faces no criminal charge. Since when is it sufficient to simply pay back what you have illegally obtained? There must be real consequences. It is no justifiable excuse to claim the rules were unclear. If unsure, hire a lawyer or accountant.

Even as I write this, the Conservatives, especially propaganda minister James Moore, are in paroxysms of ecstasy over news that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had breached Parliament Hill security by blowing by the security guard and ignoring the flashing lights of the police car pursuing him until he found his parking spot. It is alleged, and there is no evidence for this, that he turned on the officer and reportedly said, “Do you know who I am?” and threatened to report him to his superiors. If true, that was cheap, arrogant and evidence that some people probably believe their own press. But it is really stretching it for the Conservatives to hope or believe that this issue should be enough to get the public to forget the senate scandal, Mike Duffy, the $90 thousand gifted cheque by Nigel Wright. With hundreds of thousands of dollars ripped from Canadians, this failure to stop at a security station, while serious, hardly compares to the Conservative obfuscations, evasions, lies, and failure to answer questions. Now that the RCMP are looking at the matter of the Wright cheque, there is little doubt that Harper and gang will now use this as a subterfuge to continue to refuse to answer questions.

The NDP, however, has another more problematic issue that could severely erode whatever support they may have. It is their failure to back Liberal motions to make public online all MP expenses. If unhappy with the motions, the NDP should have presented their own proposals or made amendments. Instead, they simply said that the Liberals were grandstanding and nixed the propositions. It is hard to love a party that demands openness and transparency from others while refusing the same for itself.

While I will never, ever vote Conservatives, believing them the most dishonest and dangerous to Canadian Democracy and to Canadian citizens, I am hard pressed to say that I will continue to vote NDP. I am reminded of these words of G.K. Chesterton: “My country right or wrong is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober!’” My party right or wrong is not something I can do. I cannot imagine being desperate enough to vote for what I don’t believe. If I am missing something, I wish the NDP would explain what it is.

WHY SHOULD I BE INTERESTED?

There is something seriously wrong with Canadian politics. It has become corrupted by the slothful and ignorant where winning for the sake of winning appears to be the goal and getting what you can, when you can, the only purpose. It has become about compliance, about partisan sniping and satisfying the wants, rather than the needs, of special interests instead of a uniting of opposing forces to combat the common problems that afflict us all: poverty, inadequate housing, mediocre health care, failing education, crumbling infrastructures, hunger, and the despair of knowing that the greedy haves will always keep a boot on the base of your neck. There are few visionaries and fewer men and women of principle and courage. Too many in politics are like most of us, believers of nothing and out for the main chance: what’s in it for me?

Recently, Conservative Dean Del Mastro has emerged from whatever hole after eighteen months, under investigation by Elections Canada for overspending while campaigning and then covering it up. Appearing in the House June 13, reading from a statement and near tears of whinging self-pity, he had, he said, “been subjected to unfounded hatred, contempt and ridicule as the result of a leaked document belonging to Elections Canada…” (Ottawa Citizen, June 14, 2013). I was totally unmoved recalling him during the robocall scandal, his loud, relentlessly abusive assaults against opposition members as he finger-wagged, shifted and dodged in a contemptible effort to protect his party while refusing to respond to questions deserving answers and, at the same time, smearing others with innuendo under the protective shield of the House. Not surprisingly, he often resorted to the childish “Well, you did it too!” Some defence. Now, emerged from his warren and clearly unrepentant, Del Mastro’s pitiful display should move no one who recalls his merciless behaviour in the past. As ye sow, so shall you reap.

Those who lie, who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others, those people who change fashion with every breeze and who believe that, having gained power, they must wield it as a club, are craven and detestable. Yet I see such people every day as well as the arrogant and smug when I watch Question Period or Power and Politics on TV when the Conservative bobble heads appear on screen and mouth the same words time and again without answering a single question honestly and openly. The sly and weaselling are there too, abhorrent toads who worm their way out of difficulties by resorting to legalities rather than to what is ethical and honest. As well, there are the venal, such as we have seen of late, those lowlifes who fudge expense accounts, who nickel and dime us at every turn, who will not come clean with their expense claims and who claim what is not theirs to claim. They are fraudsters, liars, untrustworthy and unworthy and the worst of all are those who sell themselves for so little and who hold no beliefs except the belief that they are somehow better and more deserving and who are pitiless against those who fail, who are weak and in need of intervention rather than incarceration in the firm belief that those people, those lowlifes, have brought it on themselves. They are the feral zombies who float through life in awe of themselves firmly believing that their every accomplishment is noteworthy, cosmic, and solely by their own efforts.

I see all the things I do not like on Parliament Hill, the liars, shills, snake oil salesmen, charlatans, and weasels. I do not believe Harper is an honest man and I do not believe him kind or generous. But I do believe him small and petty and believe the same of his unworthy crew. I have seen little sign of integrity; if it is there, it is as smoke, no more, a puff of air, poof! and it is gone. They would not, could not, behave as they do otherwise.

I would not trust them in my house. I would not shake their hands. If I were locked in the same room with them for an hour, I would feel a need to shower because they are not clean. How can anyone who is in power be clean when he perceives his only duty is to achieve his ends and interests, help his friends, line his pockets, and views all dissenting voices as enemies to be destroyed and treats the concepts of ethics, integrity and Democracy merely as hindrances to be endured rather than lived.

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