RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Harper

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE SHAMELESS CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY

 

“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” – Oscar Wilde

“After all, we have all eternity in which to despair.” – Enrique Vila-Matas

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

HARPER AND THE ART OF PETTY PARTISANSHIP

To really gain some appreciation of how shameless is Harper and his regime, just consider this: out of the 60,000 Diamond Jubilee medals handed out to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne, Tory hacks, partners, and supporters, including two anti-abortionist extremists who spent time in jail for their illegal picketing of abortion clinics, and Jennie Byrne, Conservative Campaign manager, as well as Lauren Harper, Stephen Harper’s wife, were among the recipients.

While even among Conservatives there may be worthy individuals whose contributions and achievements have been significant, there is something indecorous about a regime distributing these trophies to members of its own family: it stinks and is suspect, appearing to be more reward for services rendered on behalf of Harper’s Tory Party than for services and achievements in volunteerism, charitable works or contributions to the Sciences or Arts and Culture. Awarding medals to party loyalists, friends, and spouses, for no other reason than they are party loyalists, friends, and spouses, diminishes and taints in the most offensive way the honours given those who truly deserve them.

It is apparent that Harper and gang are willing to debase almost anything for purely partisan purposes. For example, we have recently learned that the Harper gang has determined that Canada must finally recognize veterans who served in the Second World War in Bomber Command operations in Europe. Now that is good news for those few remaining survivors if a little late after over seventy years of being ignored. Unfortunately, the new veterans’ minister, Julian Fantino, had determined that some of those very veterans being honoured, now in their late eighties and nineties, would have to wait a bit longer to receive their medals. Incredibly, the reason for this delay had to do with scheduling conflicts that would interfere with this government’s ability to exploit this to the max in photo ops! Fortunately, and not for the first time in matters involving veterans, the government and Fantino beat a hasty retreat after a public backlash of shock and anger. This is the same government of thugs that had clawed back the disability pensions of veterans, the same government led by Stephen Harper who had once said, “All too often we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” Well, for Harper, those were just words as we now know. That claw back was an act that was despicable and indefensible. Nonetheless, he did say something that could become true and bears repeating: This shame will end with the election of a new government.

Let’s take him at his word.

HARPER & CREW: THE SHAMELESS BARBARIANS

Now Harper and his crew, whatever I might think of them, are not dummies. It is difficult to imagine that anyone in that party with a shred of self-respect might not be troubled by the optics of such blatant partisan largesse. Not a bit of it with this misbegotten group.

Over the years, Harper’s Conservatives have demonstrated an absence of a moral compass; with their absolute majority they are like untutored children who neither respect themselves or others enough to not undervalue or to not dismiss such simple constructs that make for good citizenship and sound governance: ethics, integrity, honesty, openness, transparency, fairness. Untutored, undeveloped, petty, mean-spirited, they are also sly and full of tricks; though outnumbered, they are the schoolyard bullies protected by a flawed electoral system that allows them to torment, threaten and abuse with a ruthlessness and shamelessness that suggests religious zealotry. Only Harper and his crew can save this nation and by God they’ll do it regardless of who opposes or questions the need for salvation.

The Conservatives have their hardcore band of supporters and they have their majority. That is enough – for them.

I suspect they seldom, if ever, are troubled by self-doubts or pause to reflect on some of what they do. If you have ever watched Power and Politics over the past year, you have seen the likes of insufferable Pierre Poilievre, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander, Shelly Glover, and Kellie Leitch mislead, obfuscate, and point fingers rather than deviate from the script of the day to respond honestly and openly to direct questions and you know, just by watching them that, when it comes to the Conservative message, they have never had a moment of doubt, have never felt a need to reflect on how they come across: they are true believers and, as such, shameless in their adherence to the Party line. And it is their apparent inability to question, to doubt, to experience a sense of shame that most troubles me about these Tory dogmatists.

A developed sense of shame is one of many characteristics that elevate man from his fellow creatures. To know shame requires a conscience, which allows us to recognize and experience feelings of unease, embarrassment and guilt with a readiness to atone. Unfortunately, far too many of us, and that includes those in politics, are incapable of experiencing embarrassment. When threats of exposure or when actual exposure takes place eliciting much public hand wringing and loud mea culpas, and we see examples of such in the news almost daily, what is often witnessed is not true remorse, not genuine signs of shame, but rather grief that one has been found out and fear of what comes next. However, for the shameless, as in the instance of Harper appointee Senator Pamela Wallin who recently repaid well over a hundred thousand for expense claims to which she was not entitled, there is no apology, no admission of wrongdoing, not even fear, but a clear display of grief, not for the taxpayers who were rocked and ripped off by members of the Senate, but for herself. In fact, this once much admired and respected journalist has tastelessly opted to play the role of victim. Here is part of her statement as excepted in the Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 14, 2013:

“I wish to make it clear. I was not treated fairly by the Deloitte review, which was not conducted in accordance with generally accepted accounting principle, nor have I been treated fairly by the Senate Committee. Evidence that casts doubt on the correctness of the amounts owing was either ignored or disregarded during the review.

Unfortunately, the Senate succumbed to a ‘lynch mob’ mentality. There was no regard to procedural or substantive fairness. I am disappointed and angry about the way in which this matter was handled, and any implication that I behaved dishonestly.”

Poor Pamela. Apparently she knows all about generally accepted accounting principles and yet somehow fell victim of the system. Well, you have to give her credit for chutzpah if nothing else.

It would be refreshing if, just once, someone in Harper’s coterie of sanctimonious hypocrites would just stand up, man up, and freely admit they had defrauded, lied to, cheated, and abused taxpayers: perhaps one of those Harper appointed Senators or one of those ex-ministers forced to resign for padding expense accounts or accepting corporate donations while campaigning; perhaps someone like Vic Toews who accused opponents to omnibus bills of “siding with pedophiles”; maybe Joe Oliver who called environmentalists “radicals”, or those members of the Conservative Party who attempted to subvert Democracy with robocalls and directing voters to non-existent polling stations or those who sought to skirt the rules regarding election campaigning with “in-out” schemes or who doctored campaign expense reports before handing them in to Elections Canada and now hold ministerial posts. But that is wishful thinking, for we have seen how Harper rewards those MPs who act contrary to the party line or wishes: they are dumped, thrown under that ruthless Conservative bus.

Even when it comes to investigating allegations of voter suppression, the Conservatives manage to imbue the process with a stench of rottenness. Why, for example, was the Conservative Party lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, in attendance at the Elections Canada hearings of witnesses into this issue? That this has only come out months after the fact raises serious questions about the independence of the hearing and of Elections Canada. Certainly there is a suggestion of intimidation, particularly since one of the witnesses was Michael Sona, the young staffer so cold-bloodedly discarded by Harper and the Conservative gang of thugs for his reputed involvement in this matter. To believe the Harper gang, this bright, capable but very young man was the mastermind of the plot to subvert the electoral process.

Do the right thing? Harper’s Conservatives? It will not happen, not voluntarily, and certainly not when there is no potential for political and/or personal gain. With this group, respect for the allure of power and all its corruptive promises are more enticing than the value of a good name. For politicians, especially of this stripe, the first natural instinct seems to be to evade, to deny, to lie, to distort, to point fingers, and, when all else fails, to cut and run. When such, as Harper and gang, do not value themselves, imagine how little they value those whom they represent.

However, even if any one of their member did resort to self-abnegation, to public mea culpas and grovelling admissions of guilt with pleas for understanding and forgiveness for “mistakes” (they are always mistakes, aren’t they?), such exhibitions would appear merely self-serving and unseemly and ring hollow. How sincere can any apology be after whatever offence is exposed by whatever means? Still, some try; sometimes it works; people buy into it.

But what can one do with the shameless, those who claim victimhood, who believe that repaying what they were not entitled to in the first place is more than sufficient punishment and that, in doing so, however reluctantly, they have earned redemption if not the mantle of virtue? Perhaps all we can do is be awed at the magnitude of such extraordinary hubris.

HARPER AND THE ETHICALLY CHALLENGED

I began with questioning how the Diamond Jubilee Medals were handed out. This may seem a paltry issue to some, but it does illustrate what is symptomatic of the partisan rot that has infected this regime.

It is one thing to have members of the Senate and House who rip off taxpayers by making fraudulent expense and housing claims whether by “mistake” or with deliberation. And it is another thing for this government to shamelessly self-promote every day with its Canada Economic Action Plan ads to the tune of over $300 thousand, which are more about promoting Harper and his crew than about job creation. In fact, some of the Canadian taxpayer money went into advertising Tory programs and grants that don’t even exist. Probably most disheartening, at least from the Tory perspective, is the knowledge that this expenditure of funds has proven an absolute waste; that ads have flopped as Tory propaganda. No one is looking at them.

And if, for some, my pointing out some of the partisan nature of the Diamond Jubilee Medal distribution and the $300 thousand plus in self-promotion comes across as churlish, a curious focus on the relatively paltry, they would do well to recall what happened to MP Bev Oda. She was more than a minister who had, or had a staffer, forge a government document and yet had managed to keep Harper’s trust and support; she was also a repeat offender when it came to padding expense claims amounting to thousands of dollars and then being forced to repay them. Most revealing, it was only after public outrage for claiming a $16 glass of orange juice that Oda was finally forced to resign. Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things that can trip you. Perhaps from this episode there is a lesson to be drawn: If you want to get away with something, go big; it appears that, for the Canadian public at least, there’s something chintzy and in your face about that overpriced orange juice that made the whole thing unbearable.

But there are other things that were not so trivial. There was Peter Penashue forced to resign for accepting corporate donations during his election campaign. Of him, Harper said, “This is the best Member of Parliament Labrador has ever had.” There was sanctimonious Dean Del Mastro, the loud, bullying Conservative defender in the House against those robocalls questions who has suddenly fallen silent due to troubles of his own with allegations of campaign irregularities. And we have Christian Paradis, still in cabinet, still supported by Harper in spite of several allegations of ethical breaches including political interference and spending a weekend with lobbyists at a retreat. There are more from others, Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin in the Senate with fraudulent expense claims, Tory senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen doctoring the Deloitte report on Duffy, Nigel Wright in the PMO, now gone, writing a $90 thousand cheque, and Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu facing allegations of attempting to obtain greater job benefits for his girlfriend and having to repay $900 for “mistakenly” claiming housing expenses to which he was unentitled. Harper threw his support behind Boisvenu pointing out that he was a “tireless supporter of the victims of crime.” While it is true that Boisvenu has suffered terribly with a daughter murdered and another killed in a road accident and deserves our sympathy, it does not entitle him a free pass on the allegations against him.

When accumulated, these and other breaches present an extremely disturbing picture of Harper and gang’s high tolerance for breaches of ethics. They are clearly untroubled by them, their concerns no doubt on loftier pursuits like ramming through the Keystone XL pipeline and worrying about the economy and fulfilling the promise to get rid of the debt just in time for the next election. It is astounding the number of “mistakes” Conservatives make in money matters and even more astounding that the public swallows that swill of them as fiscally responsible. I still want to know from the president of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement of the $50 million slush fund, what happened to the missing $3.1 billion from the treasury. If anything, these “mistakes” should lay to rest the myth of Conservatives, as they keep reminding us, as inherently superior fiscal managers.

HARPER’S TWISTED VIEW OF DEMOCRACY

But even all that pales to what should really offend Canadians. Harper and his gang pose a real threat to Canadian Democracy.

It is a truism that citizens of any nation can only be assured of a free society if there is a free press and an open, honest, and transparent government accountable to its people. Five years ago, Harper and thugs set out to restrict if not destroy the Access to Information database. In the process, his has become the most secretive, manipulative, paranoid, and ethically challenged regime in Canadian history. Canadians have difficulty in getting answers from anyone in government. Canadian civil servants and scientists have been muzzled under threat of losing their jobs and the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, was stonewalled at every turn when trying to obtain documents regarding government expenditures and projections.

Access to Information is, as it should be, the hallmark of a free, open society. This is what people are willing to die for the world over. They do not sacrifice themselves for the right to vote, but for the promise carried in that right to vote. A vote in a dictatorship means nothing if the end result is the same old same old: the same old dictator, the same old secrecy, the same old abuses of human rights, the same old subversion of the electoral process. Citizens and journalists have a right, if not a duty, to be informed and to hold their governments accountable; that means governments, in turn, have a duty to be accessible, open, and honest to the press and its citizens in the full knowledge that they, these governments, will, and must, be held accountable. Except in the interests of national security (yes, there are exceptions even in a free society), and these exceptions must be rare, almost non-existent, a nation’s citizens and press must never be denied access to any, any, information pertaining to its governance. Governments do not have the right to keep from its citizens the true costs, for example, of government procurements. Governments do not have a right, to slip in legislation without informing its citizens and opposition members and allowing for debate. Yet Harper and thugs, notably Peter MacKay, then Minister of Defence, kept lying about the real costs of the F-35s during its last campaign. And Harper and his thugs created massive omnibus bills, which were rammed into law in which information and debate was limited and legislation passed without either the opposition or Canadians knowing what they were. This is a government that does not listen to its own citizens. Don’t believe it? Let’s take one example. The majority of Canadians supported the long gun registry. Even police chiefs across the nation supported it. Harper and thugs, however, preferred to hear and listen to special interests groups who make up much of the hard core base that supports the Conservative party. Again, there are more examples. Just look around, read the papers, look back. And remember.

When a government scapegoats members of society, as Harper and gang have, that government undermines all of society. When a government smears, spies on, and questions the patriotism of opponents, as Harper and gang have, that government undermines Democracy and poses a real threat to that society.

By its own admission, this government’s priorities have everything to do with the economy and jobs but little to do with better working conditions, raising the minimum wage, and improving the lot and well being of the poorest and meanest amongst us. This is the government that has consistently attacked workers and yet has gone out of its way to give every tax break, every benefit of doubt possible to big business including the hiring of temporary foreign workers for less pay and allowing, even encouraging, companies to ship jobs overseas. How do these measures better the lot of working Canadians and how do they improve the economy? Harper does not care about the health of the economy of individuals but rather the health and welfare of the economy of big business. Never forget that.

Look at Harper and gang’s efforts (at times extremely offensive in the form of Joe Oliver) on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline that may create many jobs but only for shortterm while certainly offering long-term gain for a very, very few. Theirs is the plundering Capitalist mentality of Al Capp’s General Bullmoose: What’s good for General Bullmoose is good everybody. It ain’t true, folks.

But for Harper and gang, Capitalism always trumps Democracy.

HARPER CUTS AND RUNS – AGAIN

By the time Parliament resumes, October 16th, Harper will have made just five appearances in the House over a period of six months. That is an absolute disgrace for a leader of any nation. After the spring session and over the summer, he has moved, like the sneak and snake he is, to prorogue Parliament for the third time. As in the past, it was to avoid answering questions and to rebuild his party’s fortunes. This is the regime that has worked tirelessly on behalf of Keystone XL and yet cannot bring itself to work on the business of governing Canada too fixated on its own problems than on the health and welfare of the nation.

H.L. Mencken wrote, “Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.” Sadly, Harper gives credence to that sentiment. We can change that by heeding the words of Ralph Nader: “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”

Amen.

Advertisement

STEPHEN HARPER’S SHUFFLE HUSTLE

He [the Emperor] is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders. – Jonathan Swift, The Voyage to Lilliput

Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed. – Irene Peter

Frank A. Pelaschuk

NEW! IMPROVED! YOU GOTTA BUY THIS!

“New faces, experienced hands”. That is the message we are to take from Stephen Harper’s latest cabinet shuffle. Well, is it?

We have the same old guard with the same old, tired Harper message: economy, tax cuts, jobs.

James Flaherty is still minister of Finance.

Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle and the missing $3.1 billion (does no one out there even care?) is still Treasury Board president.

John Baird is still minister of Foreign Affairs, still belligerent, still loud and still angry, just slightly less so.

Peter van Loan is still government leader of the House. Always a dedicated partisan, his most notable achievement of late has been the role of would-be brawler when, finger wagging, he charged across the floor of the house cursing opposition NDP members in a vivid display of the level of decorum and discourse he and his colleagues have unleashed upon the House since Harper took power.

Troglodyte Joe Oliver also retains his position as minister of Natural Resources. Combatively unpleasant, mean-spirited, ignorant, and partisan as they come, clearly the kind of person Harper likes, he has endeared himself to oil lobbyists with his free wheeling ad hominem attacks against environmentalists and scientists who warn of climate change and the dangers posed by the XL Keystone project.

Unfortunately, we still have Christian Paradis, in a reduced role, one of only four elected Tories from Quebec, Paradis who has himself been embroiled in several allegations of ethical “missteps” in the past. As a performer, he has proven himself to be ineffectual, inconsequential and as dazzling as a bowl of cold porridge.

Too, we have Gerry Ritz, still minister of Agriculture, the same minister who was there during the tainted meat scandal of 2008, the same minister who quipped of the listeriosis outbreak that this was akin to a “death by a thousand cold cuts”. Hundreds fell ill; twenty died. And he was there in 2012 when the Americans came to the rescue initiating one of the largest meat recalls in Canadian history upon finding tainted meat shipped from the Alberta XL Food plants. No quips that time. This is the same Ritz who will tell you that Conservatives have increased the number of food inspectors. It may be true that there have been more hires for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it may be true that they are called “Food Inspectors” but, thanks to Harper’s Conservatives, the role of meat inspectors have been reduced to that of rubber stampers of in-house testing results performed by meat producers.

And we have two, two! ministers who have simply swapped positions, weak, vain, Progressive Conservative sell out, Peter MacKay, moving to Justice and tough, stats-be-damned, twin to Toews, scapegoating panderer Rob Nicholson moving to Defence. A straight swap where everyone loses but those two.

And, finally, we have Leona Aglukkaq who has simply moved from Health to the Environment. As minister of health, she has proven time and again that she really took her job of health seriously going out of her way to ensure the health and well being of Big Business over that of Canadian consumers. Hell, with her in place, she made certain we did not even get a decent labelling program for our food products. Gotta love her.

So those, I guess, is what Conservatives mean by “experienced hands”. The same old same old.

ENEMIES

Changes? A few. Peter Kent is gone. No loss there. As Environmental minister, he was more effective as a Harperite stooge than as watchdog for Canadian interests against the depredations of Big Business. During his term, he has slashed environmental regulations, gutted the environmental assessment process, walked away from Kyoto Accord, and lied time and again about the reduction of Canadian environmental standards. Unfortunately, with Aglukkaq replacing him, Canadians and environmentalists have little reason to celebrate though I expect there may be more than a few business types out there gleefully rubbing their hands as they eye the resources of our National Parks. Also gone is shrill Conservative loyalist Marjory LeBreton, once government leader of the Senate and overseer of the whitewashed Duffy audit by two Conservative Senators. She, too, will likely be unmissed except by those Liberal media lickspittles who may have a soft spot for her. Vic Toews is also gone. That is good news. I know nothing about his replacement Steven Blaney so will refrain from saying anything more than this: I suspect he will be hard pressed to match his predecessor for unpleasantness and bile and sincerely hope he doesn’t try. Harper has enough of that type around him already. But, if Toews was of a blindly partisan mindset disturbingly parochial in meanness, spite and fury, he wasn’t alone; almost any member of Harper’s gang could have sprung up from the same vile, dark, dank woodwork that smacks of paranoia where everyone who opposes them is not only stupid, but a threat, a danger, something to be condemned and destroyed: they are the enemy.

And to prove that they would not suffer them easily, Harper and gang had little difficulty in working themselves into attacking their critics. Some were ridiculed as radicals, stooges for outside environmentalist interests; others had their patriotism questioned, reputations smeared and endured brutal innuendo regarding their mental competency; opponents of the online spying bill were ridiculed by Vic Toews with suggestions they sided with pedophiles and were soft on crime. And if you were unemployed, collecting welfare, well, you are naturally suspect: you are a fraudster, a liar, a druggie, an illegal, a lazy lowlife leech if not all of that. The Conservative staple? If you ain’t one of them, if you ain’t for Harper and his gang, you’re against them. It is that simple.

For those who believe this an exaggeration, they would do well to wake up and pay attention to the news. They would have learned on July 16 that the “newcomers” to cabinet posts were given a ten-point checklist kit direct from the PMO which included information not only of the bureaucrats to avoid who could not take yes or no for an answer but also “who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders” i.e., anyone who has dared to speak out against them.

That there is a list, that it would be long, should surprise no one. The only thing shocking about this revelation is that the secretive, underhanded Harper gang would submit such a list so baldly. That is either hubris or enthusiasm gone overboard.

This behaviour by Harper and gang is grossly wrong. It is undemocratic and bespeaks a sick paranoia that is the real threat to our Democracy. It is also shallow, lazy, and just plain irresponsible. And it all rests with Harper.

Even so, even as offensive as it is, there are some, however, who by some peculiar reasoning process find this attitude of meanness and scapegoating appealing and justified. For them, they really are beset by enemies and they are called them. These are Conservative supporters who cannot or will not think things through, who would rather buy into the view that the world is rife with danger, that thieves, rapists, pedophiles freely roam amongst us and that crime is constantly on the rise and that harsher sentences and more jails and further stigmatizing of the mentally ill are the just solution to all that troubles them rather than listening to this bare, simple fact: it just ain’t so. For such as these, confirmation of their fears by panderers and exploiters such as Harper and his gang are sufficient. Gut feelings, the truthiness first propounded by comic Stephen Colbert, are the things to rely on, not facts, and certainly not scientific facts. Irene Peter must have been thinking of these types when she said, “Ignorance is no excuse – it’s the real thing.”

TALKING BOBBLE HEADS BROUGHT TO LIFE!

Anyone who follows politics and watches the news will have almost immediately realized that, at best, Harper and gang have simply pulled a con game, the old switcheroo where faces may have shifted but the ideas, what there are of them, remain stuck in the same old sewer. The speakers may be different, but the words and message are the same and are already just as tired and trite when the past robotic parliamentary secretaries, Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierrie Poilievre first spouted them before their elevation to cabinet where they, no doubt, will continue to spout them. In their ubiquitous appearances in the media, including CBC’s Power and Politics, they have clearly earned Harper’s approval demonstrating their fidelity with daily, programmed performances of slavishly repeating set responses to questions asked a dozen ways in the vain hope of getting even one honest answer. Expert at evasiveness, at obfuscation and outright lying, these talking, lifelike mannequins have suddenly come into their own, Harper kissing them with the breath of life, soaring into the stratosphere approaching but never quite attaining the freedom and independence they so hungered for; we will witness them in the House, we will hear the party line and talking points and we will note the standard non answers to even the simplest and most innocuous of questions; we will admire their performances. Even blessed with life, it will be as good, if not better, as the good old days when they were mere bobble heads on Power and Politics; they have been inoculated against openness, against truth, against integrity, against independent thinking, and against any sensation resembling the emotion of shame. Shame? Have any of them known the experience and, if so, have any of them been humbled. Likely not.

“New faces”? Turns out, not so new and not so fresh after all when it comes to ideas.

Now I have read and heard on the news that these people are “smart”. Well, I don’t know. What I have seen of them in their performances in the House, on Power and Politics and other news items, convinces me not of their intelligence but that when it comes to partisanship, to mindless adherence to the party line, when it comes to sticking to and endlessly repeating the Harperite talking points of the day, these live talking dolls are non-pareil.

New faces? New ideas? These six mouth the Conservative refrain with an aplomb that is frightening because they are never, never in doubt and because they are never, never in doubt, they never, never answer questions directly or truthfully, preferring evasion, diversion, historical revision, dishonesty, and pointing fingers to the offences of other parties that often date back years and are beside the point. Occasionally, they have displayed signs of actual life with flashes of anger and frustration but never, never of shame. Of all of them, Chris Alexander strikes me as the least offensive and the smartest. He steps in for Jason Kenney as Immigration minister. Michelle Rempel, for whom a new post was evidently created, always appears wide-eyed and startled as a deer caught by headlights. Whenever one of the opposition members who usually appears with her and the others on Power and Politics speak, she invariably interrupts, talks over them, shakes her head and rolls her eyes determined to drown out the other. She is determined, lest it missed it the first dozen times, that the audience will hear her talking point for the umpteenth time.

Watching Kellie Leitch on Power and Politics is always interesting. Whenever her counterparts speak, she sits there, shaking her head a smirk pasted on her mug and, as Rempel, has little trouble in trying to addle the other member by talking over, interrupting, and hectoring.

And there is Candice Bergen, tireless lobbyist for paranoid gun lovers with her successful bid to get rid of the long gun registry, her unblinking eyes wide, wide, to connote sincerity I suspect, and Shelly Glover, rigid and imperious (of whom more will be said), both equally stupefyingly unpleasant and just as rude as the others.

But, of all of them, the most cringingly obnoxious is the oleaginous Pierre Poilievre, the new minister of state for Democratic Reform. Certain, viciously arrogant and obstructionist, he is the-takes-no-prisoner adherent who, along with Peter van Loan, offers the clearest testament to how little things have changed with Harper’s shuffle. This is the fellow who has waged war against Elections Canada during its investigations of allegations of Conservative attempts to subvert the electoral process by means of robocalls, redirecting of voters to nonexistent polling stations, and of election overspending employing the “in-out” scam. This is the fellow who had praised Mike Duffy for doing “the honourable thing” when everyone thought Duffy had repaid the Senate with his own money for illegal housing claims and then, as easily, shamelessly switched gears and praised Nigel Wright for “doing the exceptionably honourable thing” when he wrote out a $90,000 cheque to pay off Duffy’s debt. Those are weasel shifts and Poilievre is the master of such shifts. And he is going to be in charge of election reform? We should be worried, very worried.

Changes? Yes, a few of the faces in cabinet may be “fresher” but the message and those passing it are as stale as last year’s joke. Partisan, secretive, dishonest, dismissive, dismal, evasive and abusive, these six will be little more than carryovers of what we have endured from Harper and vile gang over the years. They are a perfect fit because, as is the rest of the Harper crew, these six are utterly lacking in shame, scruples and charm.

BUT WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Change? Well, Rempel was given a post created just for her it seems. But wasn’t Harper about smaller government as well as changing the Senate? It appears, under Harper, bloated government is here to stay. However, with Poilievre as minister of Democratic Reform, there may be some move to reform the Senate. Even so, the move will be less about reform than ensuring Conservatives salvage something for themselves from the Senate debacle. An elected Senate? Revised rules for housing allowances? Abolishment? Oh, if only. One thing is almost certain. There will be more erosion of our Democracy in the way of attacks against our electoral process.

But of particular interest is the curious case of Shelly Glover, our new Minister of Heritage and Official Languages. This “fresh” face, straight-backed and haughty, is the same Shelly Glover who, along with fellow Conservative, James Bezan, had been investigated by Elections Canada for illegal overspending and claims. This is the same Shelly Glover who refused to submit a proper audit of her campaign expenses, the same Glover who, along with Bezan, Marc Mayrand of Elections Canada had recommended be suspended until they made things right in letters he wrote to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer. The Speaker, however, sat on the letters for two weeks, allowing Glover and Bezan time to take the matter to court while Poilievre (see above), ran to their defence in the House renewing his attacks of Elections Canada. When news of the letters and the recommendations came out, the opposition were further enraged when Scheer stonewalled, refusing to act on Mayrand’s suggestion offering the excuse that the matter was before the court! Could this be partisan politics at play from a Speaker who is supposed to be unbiased? Perhaps.

But then, something changed; Glover, the outraged ex-cop who should have known better, who should have behaved better, suddenly reconsidered and agreed to submit a revised report. Instead of being fired, or urged to resign – anyone remember Penashue who resigned over campaign irregularities? – Shelly Glover is rewarded with a significant portfolio. Why is less demanded of Glover than of Penashue? She deliberately broke the rules, she sought to wage war with Elections Canada. She cheated. But no punishment. Once again Harper has demonstrated that, when he favours one, no sin, no foul deed is so egregious that it cannot be forgiven or overlooked. This is a government of many foul deeds and as many foul people.

IT’S ALL ABOUT NOTHING

Can anyone still believe this shuffle amounts to change? If so, shame on you. This is the same old Harper and the same old ethically challenged gang. The Conservatives may have lost a few faces, but they remain thugs, they behave as thugs. The message remains the same: the economy and jobs. A sense of shame, ethical behaviour and sound moral judgment is still wanting in this group of vile bodies. The bullies and guttersnipes still rule the roost. It’s all a game and, come next election, there will still be some among you who will still insist that Harper is the most capable, the best leader for the country. You will not care about ethics, integrity, or decency. Perhaps you never did. You will only care about what’s in it for you and will be bought easily and cheaply. If Harper is a threat to Democracy, so are those who support him.

Change? Ironically, just hours after the cabinet shuffle, CTV reported that the RCMP have been stonewalled by the PMO in its investigation of Duffy, Wright, the cheque and what the PMO knew. Unsurprisingly, the PMO issued a denial though they did admit to there being an email of the deal which, not that long ago, Harper denied existed. The PMO claims it wishes to co-operate with the RCMP but that the RCMP had not placed a request for the document. Incredible. And this from the government of “law and order”? Weasel excuses. Poilievre must be proud.

On July 15, Harper shuffled his cabinet. What has changed?

In my first posting, Harper: The Beast In Him, I began with these words: I dislike Stephen Harper; I dislike his gang.

I have never liked this crew. I have not changed in that opinion. I dislike them still.

How do you feel? Will you ever wake up?

STEPHEN HARPER, CONSERVATIVES, AND THE QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his political life. – Jeremy Thorpe

Frank A. Pelaschuk

LOVE ME, BELIEVE ME; I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Is Harper a liar or is he someone just as out of touch with his office as he is with the majority of Canadians? Either way, it’s bad for us.

It’s difficult to believe the man when every word he and his misbegotten crew utter promotes an agenda that is self-serving, self-promoting and self-deluding. They are right, always right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, always wrong.

Harper’s Conservatives listen to no one and apparently believe themselves answerable to no one. Why should they be, they have the majority, they can do no wrong. Robocalls, campaign overspending, accepting corporate donations, and directing voters to non-existent polling stations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process during the last two campaigns, are mere blips. No one cares. What matters to Canadians are jobs, the economy, low taxes; if Democracy takes a kicking, if voters are used, misused, abused, if senators and MPs dip into the public purse, who cares, these are small costs for sound economic growth. And, if the economy and jobs and lower taxes aren’t enough to lull voters into acceptance, or if they don’t perform as expected, there’s always fear and bigotry; crime, abuses in immigration and unemployment insurance, the threat of powerful unions, and endless possibilities of terrorist attacks from every quarter are sufficient to divert those simple-minded voters who haven’t a clue, who’d rather talk about hockey, Justin Bieber and Breaking Bad than about the governance that affects their daily lives by politicians who lie, steal and defraud; after all, what can they do, they’re only one person. That’s what Conservatives believe of us. Do you accept that? If so, prove them right. Next election, vote for Harper and gang again and, once again, prove you’re stupid.

What is it with Canadians? Why are so many asleep? Why do so many still put their trust in a man and his crew who has lied to them from the very first even before they took office? And why do so many now, prepared to reject Harper, appear so blindly eager to turn to an untested young man who appears to have it all, looks, wealth, a pleasant personality and a famous name and, yet, so far, has failed to offer any substantial alternative vision for this nation? Surely there’s more we should be seeking, wanting and needing than the superficiality of an attractive but empty package. How about experience, ideas? Why are these considered novelties today, quaint and old-fashioned? Is it image only; are the youth of today that shallow? The Liberals appear to believe so.

But there is another view of voters that is even worse for it is a view that is negative, without hope, cynically devoid of compassion and humanity. It is the view that believes Canadians really do not care about substance, depth, perception, honesty, integrity, ethics, decency, shame or about any of the ongoing Conservative scandals. That is the Conservative vision; it is a bleak and contemptible vision with the sole apparent goal of gaining and holding power for the benefit of self and special interests. Will we continue to allow the schemers, liars, and plain old sons of bitches rip-off artists to have the edge? Are we Canadians okay with that? Clearly Harper and his gang believe so.

Being young is no crime. I hold no brief against Trudeau and I don’t fault him his good fortune. Would that we were all so fortunate. I just believe he is too young, too inexperienced, too, innocent (?) to be what we need at this time. Surely it is time for Canadians to look elsewhere, to take a risk, to try something new. It wouldn’t be that much of a risk, the only challenge called for being that Canadians rid themselves of the hidebound fears and prejudices born of ignorance. Canadians should look at Thomas Mulcair and the NDP and seriously give them a closer look. As a politician, he certainly has the experience and the smarts. And he does have substance; we’ve seen it on display in the House this past year. And the NDP is really not the Party of the CCF. It is certainly not the party I have supported all my life, but it is better than what we have. In fact, for those who really want a change and yet no earthshattering shift, preferring the middle ground, the NDP should be their choice for it is closer to the centre than either the Liberals or Conservatives if centrism is what you seek.

Tories and Whigs have had their way for far too long. Haven’t we had enough? Surely yes. We do not need more of the arrogance, deceit, dishonesty, secrecy, and abuse of power practiced by Harper and his crew of malignant toads. We need leaders, champions of citizens rather than of business, cronies, and entitlement. Mulcair and the NDP could be those agents of change if offered a chance. But the force of timidity is not enough.

In truth, regardless of what happens today or tomorrow, regardless of what we see, hear or know, Harper and his gang will always have their singular version of themselves and their history; the rest of us will simply have to be content with the facts.

The last two elections and the recent senate scandal, particularly the Duffy matter, offer prime examples of Harper Conservatism at play and at its worst. There is no best.

When Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, after much protestations of having done nothing wrong, finally agreed to repay $90 thousand back for false housing and expense claims and the Senate internal Economy Committee received the Deloitte audit report on him, Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader of the Senate, ecstatically claimed, that the matter was closed. As far as the world was led to believe, Duffy had repaid the debt with his own money. Conservatives, including Harper, loudly praised him for doing the “honourable thing.” Evidently they were untroubled that he had acted dishonourably in the first place. There is no hope for such as these.

Almost immediately after the report was released, it turned out that the Deloitte document released for public consumption had been doctored, the harshest criticisms in the original Deloitte report cleaned up and removed. Those who did the whitewashing were Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen members of the Senate’s internal Economy Committee. But that wasn’t all. Another bombshell: good ol’ Mike Duffy hadn’t paid off the debt after all. Nigel Wright, at that time Harper’s chief of staff, wrote the cheque for $90 thousand.

Now, in the House, Harper had denied any knowledge of the Duffy/Wright affair. He did not know of the cheque, there had been no negotiation with the PMO, and no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. So he claimed. As well, the Conservative Party had not been involved. Nevertheless, Harper and his crude brood in the House initially and loudly and proudly praised Nigel Wright for “doing the honourable thing” going so far as to claim that he had done this to spare the taxpayers the burden of the cost of Duffy’s false expense claims! It was a ridiculous assertion completely unbelievable and without merit. As they did with Duffy, Conservatives across the land were now singing the praises of Nigel Wright. They abandoned Duffy. And, when it was his turn, they abandoned Wright. But of course, no one in the PMO knew of the deal. Harper said so and we were to believe him. In fact, according to him, there had been no deal. Wright was doing this on his own, a generous friend helping a friend in need. But, again, we now know that wasn’t true.

The recent release of the court documents by the RCMP tells a different version of what we have been told by Duffy, Wright, Harper and his churlish band of knaves.

We now know that the Conservative Party not only knew of Duffy’s difficulties, it was quite willing to pay the tab in the belief that it was only $32 thousand (though David Tkachuk had notified Duffy in February, a month before the investigation began due to public outrage, that he owed over $90 thousand; is it possible, or even credible, neither Duffy nor Wright notified the Conservative Party before this came out?). When the sum rose to $90 thousand, the party balked; it would not pay Duffy’s debt.

The person who could sign off on the debt for Duffy was Senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada. When the party refused to pay that amount, the obliging Nigel Wright stepped in. He brokered a deal with Duffy in which Duffy was to immediately repay the $90 thousand and not to talk to the media. As well, the Deloitte report would be absent of harsh criticism. Clearly, this deal, as well as that in which the Conservative Party initially considered paying off Duffy’s debt, was meant to be secret. Did Harper know? He said not. In fact, he claimed their had been no negotions. In any event, Canadians should be seriously troubled by these machinations and the secrecy surrounding them. There is no doubt that there was a concerted effort to deceive the public. For this gang, however, that is neither new nor news though it is puzzling why the Conservative Party would be so reticent in disclosing its willingness to help one of its own. But then, it may not be all that puzzling. With Conservatives, one thing is true: once you’re out, you’re out. And Duffy is out.

Now Harper had claimed that no one else in the PMO had known about the Duffy/Wright deal. He was either mistaken or misleading when he made that assertion. Clearly Senator Gerstein became aware of the deal once Wright interjected himself into the affair. But who else knew? According to the RCMP report, three others, and all in the PMO: Benjamin Perrin, the PMO legal advisor, David van Hemmen, executive assistant to Wright, and Chris Woodcock, the PMO director of issues (i.e., troubleshooter of crises). So, once again, we have Harper contradicted. But did he, himself, know of the deal? Well, I know what I think and I know what Harper wants us to believe. He apparently wishes to rely on that political standby of plausible deniability. He did not know. It is likely, in the eventuality that something like this should crop up, he had made it clear that he did not want to know, did not want to be told, and would not be told. Whether or not one believes Harper and those Conservatives, you’ve got to hand it to those endearing cretins, don’t you? They’ve got nerve if nothing of the scruples I would wish in a person.

Plausible deniability. When they resort to this, politicians resemble adult children who push from their mind the fact that they were conceived by their parents having hot, sweaty sex, who refuse to imagine their parents even having sex, who wish to ignore the possibility of their parents still being frisky, and who most certainly don’t want to know that their parents might actually still enjoy it.

The thing is, Harper and gang are not those adult children. They know exactly what they are doing. So do most of us. And we don’t like it.

THE FIVE DOLLS AND PROMOTION

With news of several high profile resignations in the government, including that of LeBreton, who plans to relinquish her position as Government Leader of the Senate and who will no doubt be missed by many of the Liberal media lickspittles, there is speculation regarding a cabinet shuffle and who the winners and losers will be.

Among the contenders expected to move up are Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander, Candice Bergan, Kellie Leitch and the particularly odious Pierre Poilievre who seems peculiarly adept at tossing slime. To those who follow politics, these five are familiar as point persons for Harper’s gang making frequent appearances in all media. They are most notable for being rude, overbearing, dismissive and arrogantly certain of every utterance as they talk over, shout down and point fingers at their opposites in the Liberal and NDP parties who appear with them. Unfortunately, from my many viewings of them on Power and Politics, I am left with the impression that they are more like talking dolls or, at most, barely sentient beings who, in their regular appearances, spout the message of the day apparently downloaded into the microchip that must surely be secreted somewhere into their moulded bodies. I say this because, whenever they make an appearance on Power and Politics, they never deviate from the message, often repeating it word for word each time a question is posed regardless of how it is framed or how often it is asked. I can almost imagine someone waking them in the morning by pulling the string in the middle of their backs. I can see them abruptly sitting up, swaying slight, and saying, “Hello, my name is Michelle (Chris, Kellie, Candice,Pierre) and I am ready for my daily assignment. Hello, my name is…”

Not quite alive, they still manage somehow to work up enough life to occasionally express faux high indignation, to be evasive, to point fingers at others, and to utter many words without saying anything.

When the public was supposed to believe Duffy had paid off his debt with his own money, they glowingly praised Duffy for “doing the honourable thing” and then did the same with Wright when they learned the truth. They can switch that easily from one gear to another without any sign of embarrassment or shame. Just like a talking doll. Watching them, I can almost believe that brains and mouths are interchangeable and regardless of which brain or which mouth, it would all be one.

They, Poilievre more so, are dislikeable bobble heads now and offer every indication of being the same as members of the cabinet. They will take questions and regurgitate the response of the day. When the question is asked another way, they will repeat the message and continue to do so regardless of how the question is framed or how many times. And we’ll continue to go round and round, never getting answers to anything by anyone on anything. The only difference between their appearances in the House from that of Power and Politics is they’ll be standing on their feet.

I’ll be looking for the strings. (edited, July 8, 2013)

STEPHEN HARPER, THE VINDICTIVE NEANDERTHAL

How many people eat, drink, and get married; buy, sell, and build; make contracts and attend to their fortune; have friends and enemies, pleasures and pains, are born, grow up, live and die ― but asleep! – Joseph Joubert

Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER SUFFERS A BLOW BY REASON

Occasionally, those in politics can surprise you in the most unexpected of ways: against all expectations and all hope, they do the right thing. When that happens, and it rarely does these days, one inhales deeply and wonders how, why, can it happen again, will it happen again.

June 26, 2013, was such a day. On that day, twenty-two Tory senators surprised the nation and clearly poked the malignant eye of Stephen Harper and his sorry crowd of scoundrels. Sixteen senators, led by Hugh Segal, voted with the Liberals to block the odious anti-union bill, Bill C-477, which had passed in the House last December and was now having it sent back. In abstaining, six Tories made the defeat a certainty. It was a stunning setback for Harper, a remarkable event especially from a legislative body that has, since Harper and thugs achieved their majority, routinely and with markedly little reflection, approved most, if not every, piece of Conservative legislation passed in the House, many as questionable and some as odious as C-377. Evidently, even for certain stalwarts who are unquestioningly loyal and partisan, there are just some things that are too much, too unreasonable, too patently unfair to be endured.

Whatever their motives (I do hope personal integrity and a desire for fairness played a bigger role than concern over the constitutionality of the legislation), C-377 was blocked and sent back with amendments. It was a good day for the Democracy. It was a good day for the Senate. And it was a good day for people who have found themselves vindicated in the Quixotic belief that people (politicians!), are capable of holding, and acting on, principles. More sceptical, I admit to being pleasantly surprised; when it comes to Conservatives, I always expect the worst and am seldom disappointed.

Undoubtedly, those opposing Tory senators considered the bill unfair and an invasion of privacy. They are right, but it is more. It is a mean-spirited unjust scapegoating attack against workers and to their right of association solely designed to satisfy Harper’s anti-union agenda of placating his corporate masters by making things as difficult and onerous on the union movement as possible. The bill is harassment pure and simple, crafted by Harper and his despicable group to force unions to publicly do what they already do for their members, which is to disclose the costs of all salaries, benefits and expenses of their employees, including those towards political and lobbying efforts. Taxpayers do not fund unions; they do not pay the salaries and benefits of union employees and, because they do not, are not entitled to have access to union books. C-377 says otherwise. Anyone with a sense of fair play, even if a modicum, would acknowledge this as heavy-handed and prejudicial legislation, a purely parochial attack against unions and unionized workers demanding of them what Conservatives do not demand of their corporate friends and other organizations.

Those twenty-two Tory senators must be commended for voting and abstaining as they did, whatever their motives. Defying Harper often results in brutal reprisal for offenders. That takes a certain amount of courage, for this is a regime of bullies and plain, old-fashioned thuggery. Bill C-377 is unambiguously unfair and discriminatory. But Harper’s Conservatives, as we well know, have never been about fairness any more than they have been about ethics and integrity; for this loathsome group, those concepts are for mugs.

Doubtless enraged, Harper and his gang immediately vowed to reintroduce the bill as is; no one is going to thwart them if they have their way. That attitude, petty, vindictive, and just plain malicious, is hardly surprising and totally in character for this group of amoral narcissists who actually act as if they have swallowed their own mythmaking bull. However, thanks to those Conservative senators, the public might get a second, clearer look at this foul bill and, perhaps, agree that Harper, this tin-pot tsar of mediocrity, had indeed, crossed the line, which he has – time and again.

While I will not hold my breath, I look forward to the day when those same members, perhaps joined by others in the governing majority, stand up again against all ensuing bad, punitive and unjust laws that these intellectual midgets are bound to craft. And if it happens a third time and a fourth and fifth, I might yet be convinced that some people, even politicians, are capable of doing the right thing for the right reasons. Until then, I will take this. It is more than I expected.

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: BUMS, THUGS, & BOTTOM FEEDERS

We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. – Eric Hoffer

It is hard to look up to a leader who keeps his ear to the ground. – James H. Boren

Leadership is action not position. – Donald H. McGannon

Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: BUMS

To anyone who follows politics, even if superficially, it must be clear by now that Harper and his crew, and that includes their handlers, have little respect for the concept of openness, accountability and transparency with which they ran and which, along with the false figures offered by Harper regarding the F-35s, helped win them their majority last election. This is a government so far removed from integrity and ethics that I consider it a greater threat to Canada and Canadian parliamentary democracy than any dissenting voice. The only terrorists plotting against us appear to be Harper and his sycophantic, mendacious, and amoral crew who daily sit in the House posing as Parliamentarians while refusing to respond to pointed, legitimate questions from the opposition. They are not parliamentarians; to suggest they are taints the word and diminishes its meaning. Where is the debate? Harper and his crew are thugs, and thugs only.

What kind of leader is Harper when he and his enthusiastic toadies sit in the House and face questions regarding the recent scandals without even the pretence of attempting to answer them? Why no leader at all. Instead, this mean-spirited, frightened and evasive rabble dodge, spin and point fingers, too busy trying to undermine the credibility of the questioners with immaterial side issues than to honestly and forthrightly respond to issues that need answering and must be answered and will be answered. Thomas Paine said, “But such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks and all it wants is the liberty of appearing.” It will happen. If not today, tomorrow, but it will happen.

Harper is a charlatan, a faux leader; a man who was elected on promises that have never been fulfilled, his words proven empty, meaningless and untruthful. He has determined that he has no need to be guided by the principles of a Parliamentary Democracy. He has his majority and it has gone to his head; he wields it as a club to ram, beat and enforce without listening to the input, interest or concerns of others. Those who doubt what I am saying need only review how this group of vile bodies behave during Question Period. They have taken your vote and squandered it for no other purpose than to obtain power and, once having grasped it, clinging to power. In light of recent scandals, we have a clear image of how Harper and his gang govern and it is not a pretty picture but rather a grotesque dance of Tory MPs flying in all directions at once as they desperately seek to elude the shining light of Truth weaving among them.

RATHGEBER: HEROIC LONER, CHUMP OR SELF-AGGRANDIZER

How many times and for how long must we be deflected with side issues having nothing to do with what is the real matter, the rot that has infected Harper and the PMO? Harper’s penchant for endless denial, avoidance and obfuscation can only be effective for so long. Eventually Canadians will have had enough and do as one of Harper’s own backbenchers, Brent Rathgeber, has done; they will walk away having had their fill sickened by what they have been fed by this bullying prime minister and his gang.

The final straw for Rathgeber was the gutting of his private member’s bill, C-461, by fellow Tories calling for full disclosure of the salaries and expenses of public bureaucrats earning $188 thousand plus. The Conservative amendments raised the figure to $444,461 plus. While the merits of the bill are questionable, salaries of public employees are public, it was clear that Rathgeber believed Harper was bent on protecting senior management. He resigned from the Tory caucus on the evening of May 5 and the next morning, outlined his reasons for doing so and, in the process, offered a scathing indictment of Harper’s management style.

I will take Rathgeber at his word when he says he resigned on a matter of principle, unhappy with Harper for failing voters by not honouring his commitment for a fully transparent, open, and accountable government. It is unfortunate that it took an exceedingly long time for his principles to waken to the endless abuses committed by his government. Brent Rathgeber was manifestly unhappy that Harper and his unelected staffers wielded too much control over his caucus; he was tired of MPs having to bow to “masters half his age” telling him how to vote and when to speak as if they were “trained seals.” Not a trained seal, he had had enough. Said he in his blog (brentrathgeber.ca/brents-blog), “I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.” That is almost accurate. Harper and his crew were never what they imagined themselves and never what they want us to believe. They did not morph, they already were, only much worse today. These days, it is seldom enough to simply take a person, let alone, a politician, at his word. Too many voters fell under the spell of Conservative promises rather than looking for their crossed fingers and forked tongues. Rightly, Rathgeber is one unhappy MP. But he came to the party too late. Where were his principles when Joe Oliver labelled all environmentalist activists as radicals and stooges for foreign interests? Where was Rathgeber when his leader muzzled scientists and civil servants, when his government slipped unheralded legislation into omnibus bills, when Vic Toews labelled critics of his online spy bill as “siding with pedophiles”, and when his government decided all those collecting UI were to be treated as potential fraudsters? Where was Rathgeber’s voice when his regime lied about the F-35 figures, when they stonewalled the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, at every turn and questioned his integrity?

I do believe Rathgeber had had enough of Harper and his control. But that he can say in his blog, “I still support and greatly respect the prime minister…” hardly makes for a heroic figure. But I’ll take him at his word that he quit the Tory caucus on the matter of principle.

STEPHEN HARPER: HYPOCRITE

With Rathgeber’s resignation from the caucus, Harper and thugs have demanded that he resign his seat as well and run for re-election pointing out that he had been elected as a Conservative. Rathgeber naturally pointed out the hypocrisy of such a stand by harkening back to the 2006 election when Harper clearly had no such concerns for those who voted for a Liberal, David Emerson, who, just days after winning his seat, crossed over to the dark side, joining the Conservatives who promptly rewarded him with the posting of Minister of International Trade. When it comes to hypocrisy, no one can call Harper a slouch.

Right now, Harper and his party, are allowing two Conservative members, Shelly Glover and James Bezan, to sit and vote in the House even though the Chief Electoral Officer has written letters to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, requesting they be suspended for failing to file complete election returns for 2011. Scheer, a Conservative member appointed to this role, has ignored the request. In fact, he had not even disclosed the request to the House, a curious position, to say the least, for the Speaker who is supposed to be non-partisan but appears not to be. The Harper rot is everywhere.

Which finally brings us back to his office. It has recently come to light that Harper has a slush fund in his office of about a million dollars. While it appears all parties have a similar fund set aside to be called upon for party leaders to pay for expenses having to do with party affairs, it is unclear why the matter was kept secret and why Nigel Wright, Harper’s ex-chief of staff, had access to it. Naturally, in light of revelations of Wright paying for Duffy’s $90,000 debt, a question has been raised: did Wright expect to be reimbursed from this Conservative slush fund? Harper and the Conservatives deny that Wright was reimbursed or that he would be. If true, Nigel Wright is out of pocket by $90,000. He is a good friend indeed.

No, I do not like Harper. Evasive, deceitful, he can be trusted only to look out for the main chance. He cares nothing about you or me and, worse, cares nothing for Democracy.

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE ROAD TO PERDITION

The death of democracy is not likely to be a death by assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment. – Robert Maynard Htutchins

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHAT? WHO? ME?

In times of trouble, Stephen Harper makes it abundantly clear the buck does not stop with him. Instead, when it comes to blunders, breaches of ethics, and plain old-fashioned malfeasance, when accountability and transparency are called for, this hulking bully and his gang of arrogant asses, prefer to cut and run, to scapegoat, to smear and question the patriotism of critics or, failing all else, throw staffers and redundant allies under buses. They deflect, obfuscate, and flat out lie, gleefully pointing to the faults of others while denying their own, tongue in cheek, eyes and fingers crossed.

Harper and his crew are spineless. Incapable of introspection or of experiencing shame, poisoned by arrogance, smugness, malice, and the corruptive allure of power, not one of them appears to have the moral fibre of even a besotted drunk, unwilling to step forward, to own up to mistakes or to condemn the deliberate acts of wrongdoing committed in the name of their party, preferring instead to resort to the role of vile pit dog savaging all those who dare question or challenge them; they cannot even contemplate the possibility of ever being wrong, wayward and/or just plain stupid.

Even when confronted and cornered, trapped by truth and evidence, even when left with no place to run, no sewer drain to ooze into, can they stop themselves from cravenly squealing with the anguished self-pity of the guilty accused, “I know nothing”. The only outrage Harper and thugs can muster seems always to be the pathetically childish lament one hears in schoolyards, “But you did it too”!

SHILLS

Perhaps simply exhausted by the Senate expenses scandal, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, government leader and defender of the Senate, provided a glaring demonstration of this oft employed, unworthy, and inexcusable political dodge used for so long and with some effect by Harper and his cadre of knaves, bursting into a hissy fit tirade against Tory critics “populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles…”. Whatever the cause for the outburst, it was an embarrassingly scant defence for the imbroglio that threatens the very body, which she chairs. The fact that four greedy senators, three of them Harper appointees, have brought disrepute to her house, the fact that the report released for public consumption on one of them, avaricious Mike Duffy, was scrubbed of its harshest criticisms by two members of the Conservative dominated economy committee, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, that LeBreton herself had declared the matter on the same individual closed after the declaration by Duffy that he would repay $90,000 of the illegally claimed expenses, appears to neither trouble nor offend her. To LeBreton, these are asides and immaterial; it is all the fault of the Liberals and “their media lickspittles”. It was enough that double-dipping Duffy, Harper stooge, former media superstar darling and major Conservative fundraiser, was repaying the fraudulently obtained claims. Conservatives across the land loudly sang his praises: he had done “the honourable thing.”

LeBreton, characteristically of Conservative shills, perhaps of all shills of any stripe, accepts no responsibility for fostering the public perception that allegations of fraud can simply be cleared away with repayment or, worse, the suggestion that with repayment, no crime has been committed in the first instance. She and the Conservative dominated senate economy committee had ignored repeated calls to have the RCMP brought in. The Duffy file was closed. And the world was happy and went to sleep believing that Duff, good ol’ Duff, had repaid the debt with his own, hard earned money.

In fact, it was only much later, long after Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff had resigned, exposed as the one who actually cut the $90,000 cheque for Duffy, when Duffy was a no show at a public hearing in a second review held by the same Conservative dominated committee that had investigated him earlier, did LeBreton take a breather from attacking media lickspittles to express something akin to dismay and an acknowledgement of something awry, even that, it should be noted, with a self-pitying whine: some members of the senate “had betrayed us.” The egocentrism or wilful blindness is jaw dropping but hardly surprising. By “us”, I have no doubt she meant Conservatives. Had she displayed similar anger over the fact that Canadians had even more reason for complaint, after all, they’re footing the bill, I might have been able to work up a modicum of sympathy for her.

But, when the Senate did act, only after Duffy’s no show at the second hearing, the Conservative dominated economy committee, the very committee that had released the whitewashed report on Duffy, caving in to the public outcry and growing resentment, appeared ready to act at last, reinstating the original unexpurgated report and agreeing to hand it and other documents to the RCMP. Clearly they had had enough of Duffy; angry now with what he had wrought, they would not just let him go, they would toss him. As we know from past experience, once Conservatives determine someone expendable, the toss under the bus is often brutal and swift, though, for Duffy, the Conservatives certainly showed considerable restraint and a puzzling, and unusual, desire to appear more than fair before calling in the police and even then only pushed to do so by Duffy’s own odd behaviour. One needs only contrast his treatment with that of Helena Guergis, another disgraced Conservative member, who was extended none of the courtesies or support offered Duffy. When her problems surfaced, she was not only expelled from the Conservative caucus, the police were immediately called in and Harper, with his inimitable style, abetted by his lowlife crew, set about to methodically wage a vicious and vindictive campaign that effectively ended her career as a politician.

Now that Duffy has been dispensed with, and with the recent leak of an email to a Conservative insider from Duffy (possibly leaked by the PMO) clearly outlining his desire to maximize the benefits of his Senate appointment, even angling for a position in cabinet, it is all but certain that he will meet a similar fate to Guergis if not worse. One thing is certain: notwithstanding concerted Conservative efforts to protect themselves by protecting him until he became a liability, good ol’ Duff’s reputation has been destroyed. If tears are shed, it’s likely by Duffy.

I’M SORRY, I DON’T KNOW WHY, IT’S YOUR FAULT

But, while it is the Harper pit dogs, Pierre Poilievre, Eve Adams, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, et al who usually and with relish do the dirty work outside of the House, seldom varying from their script of the day and, only occasionally, showing signs of discomfort from swimming in all the muck, Harper himself is not above joining them though it’s clear he doesn’t like the idea of dirt sticking to him. When the story of the Mike Duffy/Nigel Wright deal broke, Harper was asked about what he knew of the $90,000 gift. Immediately one could almost hear the massive Conservative cog shift gears. Harper and his stooges across the Conservative landscape blinked, loudly sang the praises of Wright, Poilievre, that unlikable, oleaginous hack, almost breathlessly reverential, claiming Wright had done “the exceptionally honourable thing” and Harper reaffirming his full confidence in his chief of staff. Well, that confidence lasted all of two or three days. Wright was gone and Sen.Tkachuk was talking to those media lickspittles admitting that he had spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office and to Nigel Wright while Duffy was under investigation. Had he talked to Harper? That was the question in need of answering.

But Harper wasn’t taking questions. After addressing his Conservative senators and MPs with an invited media in attendance May 21, still not answering questions, Harper flew to Peru and Colombia on a trade trip. While in Peru, he did reiterate his anger over the crisis at home adding something new and, for Harper, something that must have come particularly hard because so unfamiliar to him: he uttered the word “sorry”. And I bet he was. But not sorry enough to own up to any of this.

When he returned to the House, May 28, nine days after Wright had resigned, still not having answered questions, Harper finally respond to intense questioning by an effective Mulcair and Trudeau. As expected, he denied all knowledge of the $90,000 gift to Duffy, the deal negotiated and whether or not there were documents. It was the classic plausible deniability defence that no one could refute yet any really bought. That Wright, Harper’s chief of staff in the PMO, could engage in this deal without Harper being made aware stretches one’s credulity. How was that possible?

This is the man, after all, who maintains strict control of his office, his caucus and his message. He did not know what had happened in his own office by his own right hand man and yet, on questions regarding Pamela Wallin’s expenses, he was able to say months ago, and with a straight face, that he had seen her documentation and they were “comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” That he would know more about Pamela Wallin’s expenses than about the machinations in his office is rather remarkable to say the least and certainly very difficult to believe. Two months later, still under investigation and just days after Duffy had left the Conservative caucus, Wallin did the same, forced to do so by Harper. In question period, when asked why she had been asked to resign and what had changed that made him ask for her resignation, Harper evaded the question. Same old, same old.

WHO’S THE HYPOCRITE? YOU ARE! NO, YOU ARE!

In Harper’s absence, Conservative MPs engaged in the familiar pattern of obfuscation, stonewalling, misdirection, and deflection. When questioned about how much Harper knew about the Wright/Duffy matter and the alterations to the audit report on Duffy, the MPs suggested that, if dissenting members to the senate economy meeting who had not signed off on the report were unhappy, they should have released a minority report of their own. Of course, Conservatives were playing to the public as they always do and without informing it that Senate rules do not allow for such reports.

As well, this nest of vipers, and Harper would pick up on this with his return, began to attack the credibility of Thomas Mulcair on two fronts perhaps smelling blood. They went after him for first claiming in 2010 he had never been offered a bribe and then disclosing, when approached by the police two years ago, the Mayor of Laval, Giles Vaillancourt, approached him in 1994 with an envelope suggesting he could help Mulcair. Mulcair states that he did not see the contents of the envelope and that he walked out and, because he had, there was no bribe to report, just a suspicion. The other issue is that of NDP member, Tyrone Benskin who had failed to pay provincial taxes to the tune of $58,000. For the gleeful Conservatives, these two events are clear evidence of Mulcair and NDP hypocrisy.

These are serious issues. Benskin was easily dealt with, Mulcair removing him from the shadow cabinet, stripping him of his deputy critic role when he found out. The other matter is not so easily explained and does need a more definitive response for Thomas Mulcair. If he thought a bribe was being offered, why not approach the police, even if he believed that there was not enough evidence at the time to charge and/or convict Vaillancourt? And why wait all these years before making it public? Clarification is needed from Mulcair.

That said, however, the Conservative attempt to make hay from this rather than answer questions regarding the Senate scandal, is just another example of deflection and diversion. This is where the Harper gang prove themselves unworthy of the positions and trust they hold. They cannot continue to bend the rules and play the playground bullies and then offer the cowardly whinge when confronted, “But you did it too!” It’s childish and we need more than children governing our country.

As well, there is no moral equivalency. Pointing to the crimes of others does not absolve one from one’s own crimes. In other words, the Conservatives have only pointed out that there is a reason to do something about the Mulcair issues but have offered no reason why something should not be done about the Senate scandal, the Duffy/Wright $90,000 “gift”, the doctored report, and the role Conservatives, Harper and the PMO played.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM

Just recently, the oily Tony Clement embarked on his own version of deflection. No doubt aware of the unjustly low esteem in which civil servants are held by the envious public and quite willing to exploit that, perhaps hoping this will be sufficient to distract voters, Clement announced his intention to have all public servants undergo rigorous performance reviews with the goal of ridding all government departments of “deadwood”. Those who agree with this may be ecstatic but they would do well to consider Tony Clement and his performance rating before they dance. This is the man, during the G8 and G20 conferences a few years back, who set aside $50 million as a boondoggle slush fund for his riding. This is the man who, as president of the Treasury Board, mislaid $3.1 billion in taxpayer money.

But this move against civil servants is mere distraction. Conservatives are hoping that voters are really as stupid as they believe. Voters, however, would do well to look at Harper and his performance, especially as a judge of character. Can it be trusted? Let’s look at a few examples:

Does anyone recall Harper’s contempt of parliament citation or that he cut and ran twice, shutting down Parliament?

Some in Harper’s gang still believe global warming is a myth.

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, called environmentalists “radicals” suggesting they were stooges for foreign interests. He still has Harper’s support

Despite evidence to the contrary, Harper’s gang would have you believe that crime is on the rise and that more jails are needed. Conservatives prefer to play to our fears and prejudices rather than to our hopes and generosity.

Harper has muzzled Canadian scientists with threats of job loss.

He misled voters during the last campaign about the true costs of the F-35s.

He also clawed back disability pensions of veterans.

Harper is the man who appointed three of the four senators involved in the Senate scandal.

He’s the one who had personally cleared Pamela Wallin though, we now know, she had to repay expenses falsely claimed and there is expectation we will hear much more about her.

He also loudly crowed Mike Duffy had done the “honourable thing” when we were all led into believing it was Duffy who had repaid the $90,000 to which he was not entitled and, when that went bust, said the same of Nigel Wright who was the one who had actually settled good ol’ avaricious Duff’s debt. And, of course, Harper knew nothing about it.

Too, this is the man who supported Bev Oda, the minster who forged a government document, who more than once had to reimburse the state for padded expenses and who was finally toppled because of a $16 glass of orange juice.

Harper threw his support for Peter Penashue, the MP forced to resign because of overspending and accepting corporate donations even calling him the best ever MP from Labrador. Clearly the voters didn’t think so in the by-election.

And our slush fund king, Tony Clement? Well, he still has Harper’s support, as does Jason Kenney who used government letterheads to fundraise for a Conservative advertising blitz.

And, of course, we mustn’t forget Arthur Porter, well-known Montreal oncologist, ex-head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) who became a fugitive and now awaits extradition in a Panama jail facing charges of fraud, money laundering, abuse of trust, and conspiracy to commit government fraud. And, yes, he was another Harper appointee.

See a pattern here? Well, it appears Harper and gang know their voters. Some couldn’t care less about any of this.

GOD YOU’RE STUPID!

That Harper and gang can still garner a support of 38% is astounding to me and clearly indicates something wrong. We need to reform the electoral system. Can it really be true that Harper, Hudak, and all Conservatives have accurately gauged the populace as replete with self-absorbed morons more interested in the main chance for themselves than in the greater good of society? Surely not. And yet, apparently so. For some, and they will always be with us, there will never be too much power, too much exploitation, too much having and too much taking. It’s the larger number of voters, however, who trouble me more. These are the ones who sell themselves so cheaply, bought for pennies a day, for whom the promise of lower taxes is apparently sufficient to continue electing manipulative, deceitful, and unethical politicos, such as Harper and his miscreant gang, who consider ethical behaviour, integrity, honesty, truth, fairness and Democracy mere hindrances to be overcome.

We have got to change this.

HARPER, THE TFWP, AND WINDOW DRESSING

Frank A. Pelaschuk

On April 29, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney flanked by Kellie Leitch, Human Resources Parliamentary Secretary and obnoxious CBC Power and Politics regular, announced changes to the outrageous and deeply flawed Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). While it is dropping the contentious 15% wage differential rule that allowed Canadian firms to hire foreign workers at a wage rate of 15% less than Canadian workers, it’s the backpedaling and revisionist maneuverings of Kenney and Leitch that most offends. As noted in previous entries (Workers And Harper’s Shame; Harper: The Worker’s Enemy), the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) as touted by this regime was meant to quickly meet the demands of of business for high skilled workers. As further noted, that didn’t happen, instead companies such as Tim Horton and Burger King, skirted the rules to hire foreign workers in the place of Canadian workers for jobs that, while respectable, hardly require specialized skills.

Said Kenney at the news conference announcing the change, “We are concerned about examples of the program not being used as intended.” No fooling! He continued to say, “Canadians must always have the first crack at available jobs in our economy.”

Words are easy and from the minister’s mouth, cheap and empty. The “concern” expressed by Kenney stretches credulity coming as it does only at the heels of public outrage when news leaked out that RBC employees, Canadian workers by the way, were training TFW to do their jobs for outsourcing. Also stretching credulity is the pretence that this government could not have foreseen the abuses that would ensue. Who, with a modicum of intelligence, could really believe that? Kenney’s statement, however, does indicate the mindset of Harper and his gang: Big Businesses is always honourable, always trustworthy, would never circumvent the rules, and would never, never do anything that was questionable or illegal cross their collective greedy hearts and hope to die.

Of course, that kind of blind faith is nonsensical wishful magical thinking based on pro-business, free enterprise ideology that has absolutely no basis in reality. No business worth its salt would ignore the opportunity to hire workers at cut-rate wages especially if that opportunity appears to be government sanctioned as the TFWP clearly was. Harper and gang know this. Their interest is not the welfare of workers, but of Big Business. And we know that.

 While I detest Harper and gang, while I believe them untrustworthy, malign and vicious, I would not say that they are, by and large, unintelligent, but I do believe more than a few wilfully ignorant, naturally ignorant and/or, several come to mind, downright stupid. Neither Kenney nor Leitch approach that as far as I can determine. Which suggests to me that the above statement by Kenney was disingenuous at best. The TFW program, as initiated by this government, made it all but a certainty that abuses would occur, that jobs would be outsourced, Canadian workers displaced, and wages deflated. Harper and gang had, in effect, given Corporate Canada the green light to exploit foreign workers with the goal of undermining Canadian workers, especially Canadian union workers.

When I wrote the entry, Workers and Harper’s Shame (April 12, 2013), I suggested Harper’s gang would make changes. I also stated the changes would be window dressing. Unfortunately, it appears I and others who predicted the same, are right; the changes have been announced but, as yet, the government clearly has in place no plan to oversee, investigate and punish those who circumvent the rules.

 You’ve got to love free enterprisers.

THE MISSING 3.1 BILLION

Today, in releasing the spring audit, Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, revealed that 3.1 billion of the anti-terrorist fund was unaccounted for. Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, commented on it basically saying we had nothing to worry about, that this was  merely an accounting issue. Really?

It is fitting, and interesting, that the President of the Treasury Board should speak on this because he most certainly could account for $50 million of the unaccounted for money. During the G8 & G20 conferences, it was Tony Clement who set aside that amount to create a slush fund for his riding. We know some of that went to a fake lake and a gazebo. For all we know, this government might have allowed similar diversions in other areas. If so, Canadians deserve a full accounting from this regime, a government that has managed to hoodwink voters into believing that, when it comes to taxpayer monies, they know what they are doing. Really?

The Auditor General further revealed that there were other major concerns and, from what was released, it is evident that Harper and gang haven’t as firm a grip on the budget and finances as they would have us believe. For one, Search and Rescue is in critical need of upgrading. If you’re on the East Coast just don’t ask for help after 4:00 pm. Of the taxes owed to the government, $29 billion is uncollected. Last year, over $2 billion was “forgiven” by this government. Well isn’t that nice. As well, Michael Ferguson revealed that $295 million was in overpayments to employment insurance. This from the government that has a grasp of our finances? Oh, really.

That this bit of joy came out on the day taxes are due must certainly give taxpayers reason to pause, reflect, and store until next election. Hopefully they’ll remember to vote Harper and gang out of office – for good.  

HARPER AND THE CORRUPTIVE ALLURE OF POWER

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it. – Thomas Cooper

Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous. – William Proxmire

HARPER AND THE REIGN OF ERROR

The best gauge of the measure of an individual is to give him power and then wait. By now, most Canadians have a clear picture of Harper and of his view of Democracy, of government, and of those who oppose him. It is not a pretty picture. For a man Democratically elected, it is apparent that he considers Democracy only a tool to be used and perverted for his own ends. Since his ascension to power, he has not been shy in demonstrating that. He has tested and abused our Parliamentary system time and again and when cited for contempt of Parliament, shrugged it off as casually as dogs shed fleas. It meant nothing to him then and means nothing to him now. Harper looks in a mirror and imagines he sees a general.

But what kind of leader is Harper? We have witnessed how he and his henchmen attack the unemployed and marginalized. We have watched as he and gang stifled debate, muzzled civil servants, masked legislation in massive omnibus bills, prorogued Parliament to avoid facing questions, and refused to give to the public the true costs of many of his pet projects. Why, no leader at all. He’s just a common thug, a lowlife schoolyard bully.

The perversion of power, cronyism and patronage, allegations of election overspending, of illegal corporate donations, a forged government document, padded expenses, intimidation, the vicious destruction of Helena Guergis, the throwing of aides under buses, and resignations have become the hallmarks of Harper’s reign of error. Most insidious and disturbing are allegations of the Conservative Party employing robocalls to further subvert the election process. Even as this is written, this government is preparing to redraw the electoral boundaries. If you don’t know what gerrymandering is, you’ll soon learn. Don’t be surprised, you’ve been warned. There is absolutely nothing Harper will not do to keep the Conservatives in power. That should frighten you.

A leader who does not hear, who does not listen, who does not bend is unworthy of respect and will not receive it. Sadly, Harper has no interest in earning respect; he prefers the respect of power or, more accurately, the effect of fear. As a consequence, he has no interest in listening to others let alone in reaching consensus. He and his gang have the majority and they know more and better than anyone else. Those who disagree are dismissed and ridiculed when not smeared and having to defend themselves when their patriotism is questioned or their histories distorted by Conservative hacks employing cut and paste sound bites with the delicacy of a butcher. Such is the corrupting influence of power.

Even so, even knowing this, Harper will never cease to amaze. While he has long established himself as the most secretive and shifty of government leaders, it must still surprise and gall some that he compounds his disgrace with shameless cronyism and patronage appointments. As the King of Hypocrisy, he is nonpareil. We saw that when he loaded the senate. Last week, we were treated to another example, but how many noticed?

THE RETURN OF DEB GREY

While much of Canada sat transfixed before their television sets as the RCMP announced the arrests of two terrorist suspects accused of planning to derail Via Rail, some sceptics found the timing extremely suspicious. In the wake of the Boston bombings, images still hauntingly fresh, Harper and regime had decided to reintroduce the anti-terrorist bill, S-7, for debate, a bill they had ignored for years. The arrests, coming at the heels of the Boston tragedy and just before debate of S-7, left little doubt about the outcome of the bill, especially since the Liberals would support it. Again, when questioned about possible human rights violations, Harper, Toews and the rest of the thugs merely shrugged. Who cares?

While this was happening (April 22, 2013), few noticed that CSIS, our security agency, was missing from the televised event. Apparently, it hadn’t been invited. That was strange, for surely this was a security matter. Eventually word leaked out that the government had, that day, quietly announced the transfer of the agency’s head, Richard Fadden, to the Department of National Defence effective May 13. As well, amidst all the government hoopla surrounding the arrests, few noticed the appointment of lobbyist Deborah Grey to the agency’s watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) joining her old buddy heading it, Chuck Strahl, another Conservative hack appointment. The NDP, while praising her previous life in government, opposes her appointment citing her lack of experience in security and in Canadian and International law. No matter, it appears to be a done deal. No consultation. No advance notification.

Deborah Grey’s claims to fame are several. She was loud, brash, and confrontational, which is apparently an endearing trait if you are of the right: people often erroneously confuse loud, brash and confrontational with being a straight shooter. She became the first Reform member ever to be elected MP (winning a 1989 by-election). She often boasted that she would never buy into the MP pension plan while loudly ridiculing those who did. Later, she changed her mind leading former Prime Minister Joe Clark to label her “the high priestess of hypocrisy”. But, never mind, she was a straight shooter otherwise. Interestingly (or ominously), Stephen Harper had been, at one time, her legislative assistant.

The Reform Party eventually morphed into the Alliance Party and it was as members of the Alliance that Grey and Chuck Strahl eventually led a revolt, which allowed Harper to unseat Stockwell Day as leader of the party. Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives had problems of their own in looking for a new leader, which led one of the candidates, David Orchard, a progressive, to offer his support to the frontrunner, Peter MacKay, both reaching “a gentleman’s agreement” according to Orchard. MacKay, now leader of the Progressive Conservatives, in a move that would have made Quisling proud, then betrayed David Orchard and the progressives by merging with the Reform/Alliance to form with what we are now saddled: CRAP (Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party). Harper, clearly repaying a debt, rewarded MacKay with his present position as Minister of National Defence. Well, we all know how that has turned out. Yet Harper, for all his many egregious faults, and they are egregious, can sometimes be loyal to friends. That sometimes leads to reward, thus the patronage appointments of Strahl and Grey to SIRC. Cronyism? No doubt. Worrisome? You bet. But, just as important is this: How much trust should we place in the Conservative Party of today emerging, as it has, from the dung heap of hypocrisy and betrayal?

JOE OLIVER: MINISTER OF IGNORANCE

“Joe…was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything.” – John Ciardi

Now we have a minister of natural resources as nasty and ignorant as they come. No, it’s not Vic Toews. His name is Joe Oliver. Except for Harper, there is probably no more a vocal supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline in the federal government. Where he distinguishes himself from Harper is this: he is refreshingly open with his quick temper and nasty disposition, two characteristics, along with the willingness to be bellicose, rude, loud, abusive, arrogant, oppressive, picayune, and ignorant, requisite, I suspect, for admission to Harper’s inner circle. As unlikable and as untrustworthy as Harper is, even he compares favourably when judged against them. Oliver can always be relied upon to rile people if riling is what you want. Over a year ago, when speaking of opponents of the pipeline, he accused them of being “radicals” and suggested they were stooges for, and funded by, foreign interests. That he had no evidence did not matter. What did was the innuendo, the smear. Some of it, false or not, will always stick.

Recently, Oliver spoke in Washington presenting the government’s case for the sale of Canadian oil (and Canadian jobs, according to some). Before the carefully screened audience, he seized the opportunity to slam James Hansen a highly regarded scientist accusing the climatologist of crying wolf and exaggerating environmental concerns. Not only was his language abusive and offensive, his hostile tone suggested a personal motivation, revealing another trait characteristic of Harper and gang: no truth or fact will be accepted or tolerated that does not coincide with theirs. For this group, ignorance and the Big Lie is preferable to differing opinions, to ideas, to science.

What was it about Hansen that had set off Oliver? Evidently it was statements regarding the development of the oil sands, such as the following as quoted by Paul Koring (The Globe and Mail, April 24, 2013): “there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 (parts per million), a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control”. Oliver’s response was typical of him: “It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in facts.” Oliver went on to say that Hansen “should be ashamed”. Even worse, for this minister, was the fact that Hansen was (gasp!) “an activist!” As if that bit of knowledge should be sufficient to sink Hansen’s reputation. This from a minister of a government that is anti-science, anti-knowledge, anti-openness and anti-Democratic only recently and with great reluctance publicly coming around to the position that global warming might be a possibility (if only to get the critics off its back). That Global warming has been, for some time, considered an accepted fact by the majority of scientists clearly matters not a jot to Joe Oliver or Harper et al. Instead, he prefers to rely on the discredited “science” of deniers of global warming. It that respect, he reminds one of those pathetic smokers who, in spite of the overwhelming preponderance of evidence on the dangers of smoking, embrace the one study that says, “the evidence is not yet there” so they can continue to smoke themselves to death. It’s foolish, self-deluding, and dangerous. One can almost admire Oliver’s passion. It would be more effective, however, if that passion was matched by credible facts, credible emotion and a modicum of intelligence rather than cheap noisy political pro-business ideological grandstanding.

Unfortunately, however, Vic Toews and Joe Oliver (brothers-in-bile) are emblematic of what is wrong with this regime. But so are the likes of the oleaginous, evasive, Pierre Poilievre, the Harper mouthpiece who speaks much and says little whenever he appears on CBC’s Power and Politics. In that respect, Poilievre is much like all of the few bubbleheads allowed to speak on behalf, always in defence, of this regime. Dean del Mastro, that bombastic windbag who was such a staunch defender of the Harper gang when the robocalls scandal broke out, was another such voice until he, too, suddenly fell silent, sidelined by troubles of his own concerning questionable overspending during the last election.

THE RCMP AND STATE CONTROL

But it is Harper, Minister of All, who sets the tone and direction of this government. Not only has patronage and cronyism exploded during his tenure in office, but, more ominously, so has his mania for the muzzling of public servants, scientists, and MP backbenchers. Now, as if that wasn’t troubling enough, recent revelations suggest that Harper has made the move to politicize, and muzzle, the RCMP (though I wonder if that hadn’t already occurred when it was busy rounding up unionists as communist suspects during the 20s and 30s) by attempting to deny MPs access to senior members of the force. We have learned that Commissioner Bob Paulson had sent emails to senior officers instructing them not to meet with MPs without prior approval from him and the minister of public safety, Vic Toews, the same Toews who notoriously and vilely tarred all critics of his online spy bill, Bill C-30, with this egregiously offensive charge: “either you stand with us or you stand with the pedophiles.” This is not a mindset unique to the Minister of Terror or to Harper, Minister of All, but appears throughout the Conservative cabinet of cretins.

With a government as clearly anti-Democratic as this one, we should be worried. What next? Well, we’ve just learned that the press has been denied access to interview Omar Khadr, the boy soldier who went to Guantanamo at 15 for war crimes and now sits in Millhaven at the age of 26. While it appears that the warden gave permission for the interview, Harper and Toews, that vile minister of terror, evidently torpedoed the visit. What do they fear? Khadr was a boy when he was taken and charged with a war crime for killing an American soldier. But he was under the influence of his fanatical father and doubtlessly believed he was fighting a “just” war. He has been imprisoned for eleven years. Isn’t that enough? At the least, let his story be told.

When the press and the public is denied access to information, when public servants are silenced, when our police have lost their independence to government interference, when our MPs are denied access to information, and when our citizens are routinely attacked simply for speaking out, can we really claim that Harper is all that much different from those cheap, tin pot dictators that occasionally pop up in Latin America?

Look at Harper and his gang. Examine them closely. Look again.

And then think about these words by Benjamin Franklin: “They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

 

HARPER, BOSTON AND THE CHEAPNESS OF EXPLOITATION

Frank A. Pelaschuk

On the day Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal party, it appeared there was little that could divert the attention of the public and the press. For members of CRAP (Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party), this was worrisome. He was getting all the attention and most of it favourable. Then, on the following Monday, April 15th, there occurred in Boston the murderous bombings that claimed three lives and over 170 wounded. Harper and his gang must have said a prayer of thanks for this gift.

Of course, it is not a gift Harper and gang would have wished or sought. No one would. But it was there and of all the things one can say about Harper and crew, none would be the accusation of shame, shyness or of failing to seize the opportunity. It was there, and because it was there, ripe for exploitation. That’s what any good politico would do. Just business.

As a consequence, the tremendously cruel tragedy could not be wasted. Not only was Trudeau ousted from the headlines and robbed of the chance to bask for any length in the publicity of his great achievement, Harper and gang saw this as an opportunity to deflate the Trudeau juggernaut even more and they would do so with the characteristic meanness and pettiness that is the Conservative trademark.

The bombings occurred on Monday afternoon during Question Period. It was also Justin Trudeau’s first appearance as Liberal leader in the House. When asked to comment on the event after QP, Trudeau said, “Well, I think we have to be very, very careful about politicizing troubling news immediately” (Aaron Wherry, Maclean’s, April 17th). About two hours after the Boston bombings, in responding to a question by Peter Mansbridge of CBC, he stated, “ We have to look at the root causes. Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, okay, where do those tensions come from?” There was something in those two comments that Harper and thugs did not like. Immediately they were out for blood apparently sensing something in Trudeau’s words that made him vulnerable. That others, even supposedly astute political observers, felt the same is puzzling.

Trudeau was as shaken and unprepared for what happened that day as most of us. When he did speak, unlike most of those in the media, it was thoughtfully, sympathetically and, I thought, considering the hysteria surrounding the event, emblematic of what Canadians like to believe of themselves: a call for a reasoned response. At that time, he did not, could not, have had all the facts. Nor did Harper or the rest of us. Because he did not, Trudeau was asking us for calmness and to not rush to judgment. Yes, the bombings were acts of terrorism. But, none of us, when he spoke, knew if these were the acts of mad individuals or a plot by criminals or an organized effort by political or religious zealots. There was nothing unreasonable with Trudeau’s response. That Harper and members of CRAP would make it so, is. Harper’s response was crass and cheap and hard to accept as anything but pure, partisan, political opportunism. He should be ashamed but he is shameless as well as cheap and petty.

Immediately Harper and gang took Trudeau’s comments and set about to differentiate themselves from him. They were the seasoned veterans best able to deal with terrorism and all emergencies whereas Trudeau was inexperienced and callow somehow untrustworthy. Apparently, what really upset Harper, Toews and the rest of the thugs was the fact that Justin Trudeau was not elbowing everybody aside so that he could match the Harperites in indignation, outrage and sheer offensiveness. Evidently, if you were measured, calm and thoughtful, rather than screaming loudly for blood, anyone’s blood, you were someone to be mistrusted, weak, and perhaps even sympathetic to “the enemy”. They’ve done that before. Remember Vic Toews during the online spying bill debates, such as they were, Bill C-30, when he said, “you either stand with us or with the child pornographer”? Typical of Harper and gang. Following Trudeau’s comments, they must have had an “Ah ha!” moment believing they had the young Liberal leader. But did they? Do they? Only the dullest of Harper supporters could really believe that.

What struck me most about the Mansbridge/Trudeau interview was the surprise I experienced. I had, as so many, dismissed Trudeau as lightweight and shallow. He may yet prove himself that. But on that day with Mansbridge, Trudeau came across as thoughtful, sincere, and not at all interested in scoring cheap political points with attempts to frighten the population of by whipping up a frenzy of blame against the usual suspects. In fact, when I consider his comments against Harper’s attack ads, I find reinforced my long-held belief that Harper and gang will politicize anything and everything and that, for that gang, no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile not to exploit. They are shameless.

But the horrific bombings provided Harper another opportunity to exploit. Here was the chance to show nervous, on-edge Americans and Canadians that his government was serious about countering terrorism. Before the week was over, he had announced that there would be a debate on an anti-terrorism bill, Bill S-7.

Now this bill has a strange history. It was first introduced by the Liberals in 2001 and set aside in 2007. In October 2012, Harper and gang announced they would reintroduce S-7 but again it had been set aside only to be resurrected with Harper’s announcement that debate would be on Monday and Tuesday (April 22, 23). The timing is interesting and, again, reveals the mindset of this regime. The Liberals were scheduled to introduce a motion at that time to allow MPs from all parties the right to speak on any issue they wished without the constraint of party or leadership. This came about, as we know, because of a near revolt by Conservative backbenchers unhappy that Harper would not allow them to open debate on the contentious issue of abortion, which they oppose and the majority of Canadians support. Harper wanted none of that and denied his party members the opportunity to speak. The Liberals decided to take up their cause. Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader, would have us believe that the move to bump the Liberal motion has nothing to do with trying to discredit Trudeau but everything to do with terrorism! Perhaps, but the timing is peculiar given the number of years Bill S-7 sat in limbo.

Then, of course, another godsend, this on April 22, the day the anti-terrorism bill was to be debated. The RCMP announced the arrest of two suspected terrorists believed to be plotting a major offensive against Via rail or Amtrak in Canada. The Harper gang must have fallen on their knees in gratitude no doubt convinced by now that God was, indeed, on their side.

Certainly the timing of the arrests on the day Bill S-7 was to be debated could not have been more fortuitous. Coincidence? Perhaps. First we had the Boston bombings knocking Trudeau from the headlines at what should have been his greatest moment. What better time to move ahead with the bill. The clincher to the argument was the Canadian arrests. Harper could now show Canadians were under threat. He and gang could now boast that this was proof that they were on top of things, that his was the only government prepared and capable of protecting Canadians. That the bill means risking human rights violations is of little apparent concern to Harper and gang. In the past, when in opposition, it was. But, in those days, as we now see, it was all political posturing.

As for critics of the anti-terrorist bill, critics because they believe the bill too broad, too inclusive and certainly subject to abuse, they will, of course, be labelled as “soft on terrorists”. That is the way of Stephen Harper, Vic Toews, Peter Van Loan, Pierre Poilievre, Lisa Raitt, Rob Nicholson, John Baird, Tony Clement and mouthpieces Candice Bergen, Kellie Leitch et al. A nasty, bullying group and certainly not shy when it comes to stealing from the public purse for partisan cheap shots. Those Conservative anti-Trudeau flyers? Paid for by the public.

Irritated yet? How much before you become angry? Harper is an anti-Democratic bully and thug. It’s time to stand up to him.

If you are not with Harper, if you disagree, if you question, if you speak out, you are the enemy. Wear it as a badge of honour. It is.

THE NDP: THE NEW DISSEMBLERS

Frank A. Pelaschuk

“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

What does it mean when a party attempts to rebrand itself? The NDP did that over the weekend (April 12-14) making a few changes to the preamble of its constitution. In doing so, the NDP has set out to distance itself from its Socialist roots. For those lifelong supporters, some of it must have hurt. They had been told, more or less, that the ideas they had brought to the party and the ideas they had fought for were now old and tired. Or course there is denial that that is so. Said Mulcair of the changes, “it’s a way of communicating the modernization of the party.” He further stated that it was not a move to the centre but a way of  “bringing the centre to the party” (Citizen, April 15, 2013). That is one way of looking at it. It’s also a crock.

For good or ill, the NDP has, from its CCF days, been a distinct voice. It has never governed the country, but its influence has been enormous and we are a better nation for it. However, over the years, something has happened to the party. There were some working from the inside that were not content that the NDP be relegated to the sidelines while Conservatives and Liberals often stole and took credit for their ideas. Perhaps most galling was the thought that the public might actually believe the party was “fringe” (i.e., unelectable as a governing party). So, today, we have a slightly different NDP. Having reached official opposition status, having smelled power without tasting it, it is heady stuff indeed and leaves the party and its supporters wanting more. In fact, they want it all. Therein lies the problem for the “government in waiting”. So close to achieving its goals, perhaps forgetting or simply in denial that the present NDP success was largely the success of one man, the late, much loved Jack Layton, NDPers appear to actually believe they will form the next government. In initiating the changes, they will claim they are continuing the work of Layton. I do not doubt they believe that. But why should it necessitate turning its back on its Socialist roots? Must ideas and ideals play second fiddle to the more ambitious goal of winning?

 Socialism is neither a dirty word nor a dirty idea. Free market lovers like Harper and his thugs will tell you otherwise throwing up a trail of fairy dust lies that are meant to confuse and frighten. They will tell you that Socialism is to be feared, that it is Communism, that it is godless, that it advocates murder through abortion, that it will lead to dictatorship, that it’s anti-market, that it means confiscation of property and the privatization of everything, that it will lead to the end to individualism, that it cares more for criminals and pedophiles than victims, and that it leads to laziness and welfare bums living high off the State. Too many of us are buying it. It’s nonsense, a big lie. Of course, those Harper free enterprisers would have us ignore those corporate welfare bums to whom they are so beholden, those leeches with their ceaseless demands for lower taxes, increased tax deferments, and even more gifts of public funding even as they hypocritically demand that governments not interfere in the market. They would have us ignore that those same bums demand, and get, public funds to set up business and hire workers with the implicit threat of pulling stakes if they don’t get their way. And the likes of Harper and gang would have us ignore that in times of crisis, as in 2008, those corporate blackmailers, those unpunished pieces of garbage who created the crisis in the first place and ruined the lives of millions, would have the public bail them out with billions of taxpayer monies in the full, smug certainty of knowing that they are “too big to fail.” Yet calls for regulation is labelled “Socialistic” and “Communistic”.

Still, the suckers vote for Harper and gang, swallowing the bilge that they are superb money managers, that they know what’s good for the country. Capitalism is the answer; what’s good for Business is good for Canada. Tell that to Canadian workers displaced by foreign temps or whose jobs are outsourced by CEOs who make millions off the backs of cheap labour and Canadian taxpayers. All of this happening with the help of Harper and thugs.

So why do voters keep buying that old Conservative line when the gap between the wealthy and the poor keeps widening, when the wages of workers has the same purchasing power of the 70s? For such as those, the words of Irene Peter would appear to fit: “Ignorance is no excuse — it’s the real thing.” The thing is, for those willing to listen and understand and be persuaded, ignorance is not necessarily a permanent state. It is, alas, for others, those individuals who refuse to listen or will not be persuaded, preferring the blindness of darkness to the wisdom of light: that’s stupidity and for stupidity there is no remedy. So why is it that even the NDP seems bent on buying, if even only a little, into the myth of Harper Conservatism. Well, it could be it helps win votes.

It is not that the NDP is jumping whole hog into the swill. Rather, it’s tepidly inching its way into the barrel. It is not totally denouncing its Socialist roots, its simply muting its voice, as if ashamed. Mulcair and the NDP have bought into the lie that Socialism is a bugaboo word and, in doing so, have all but guaranteed they will never be the governing party of Canada. How can any party be taken seriously when it turns its back on its own pioneer people and their core beliefs? Mulcair says nothing has changed, that the NDP is, at the core, the same party. But how can that be? How can the party still be a party of conscience and principle when it has decided those beliefs and values of the past are not quite good enough for today’s politics?

The changes to the NDP constitution preamble may seem harmless and insignificant. They have been initiated to soften the NDP image, to make the party appear less threatening, less “radical”, more “business friendly”. It may work in today’s world, appealing only to the young or the ignorant, the know-nothings, the kind of people who haven’t a clue and swallow everything that the likes of Harper have to offer. Ignoring evidence and science, Harper appeals to the basest instincts in us preying on our fears and ignorance when it comes to crime and panders to the worst in us when he attacks the unemployed, the mentally ill, and refugee claimants as abusers of Canadian generosity. And it may work for those who turn on a dime to a famous name and a younger more attractive package. For the bubble-headed know-nothings, it’s glitz and noise that’s important, not what the package has to offer or to say. Appealing to such may be good for votes but not much else. Those voters are thoughtless and reckless and cannot be relied upon. The NDP would do better to seek the thoughtful constituent, the voter who wants to be informed, who is willing to try something new provided he is given enough reason to do so. Appealing to the lowest in us may get you elected, but don’t we already have enough of that with Harper and anti-Democratic crowd.

There is nothing wrong with the NDP or any party reaching out in hopes of attracting more supporters. What is wrong is a party that sells itself short to do so. It is dishonest and disrespectful of members. It also does little to respect those thoughtful supporters it hopes to gain. Instead of distancing itself from its Socialist roots, the party should embrace and celebrate it and set about educating the public about what it means to be a New Democrat and a Socialist.

It’s a mug’s game to pretend to be what you are not. It only works for the ignorant and uninformed or truly stupid. This “do-anything-to-win” attitude belongs to the likes of Harper and his fellow snake oil salesmen. For him and his gang, no dirty trick is too dirty, too low, or too vile not to be used. A day after Justin Trudeau was elected as Liberal leader we were treated to an example of this with attack ads on the young man. One of the ads was simply silly and reveals a Conservative party that is unimaginative and desperate. But the other was far, far more serious because the ad was a complete and utter lie of the same vile tripe used against Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. It was from an old file depicting a young Justin Trudeau speaking on something his father had said. It was offensive and it was an absolute distortion. And it was deliberate. But that is how Harper and his gang of knaves work. He believes in the market and he is convinced that voters are really, really stupid. Thus far, on the last, the voters have proven him right.

Eventually, the electorate will have enough of Harper and gang and will throw them into the garbage bin of history where they belong. But where will the NDP end?

Why would anyone now vote for it? Moving to the centre may earn it more votes, but it is a diminished party, a party that has compromised itself. It appears the NDP no longer wishes to stand fast with its old supporters. For years, the NDP accomplished much without getting elected. No doubt it could accomplish more if it became the governing party. But what price should it pay for that end? For years, the NDP had drifted more and more to the right. For this writer, it has become increasingly more difficult to vote for it. Now, it is almost impossible. Holding one’s nose is hardly satisfactory.

%d bloggers like this: