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

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

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

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

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

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

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

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

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

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

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

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

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

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

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

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

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

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know. And so do you.

***

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

 ***

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

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

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

Because I was not a Socialist.          

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

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

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

Because I was not a Jew.

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

 

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

DO SHEEP BLEAT? THE PUBLIC SURRENDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMAGOGUES

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

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

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

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

HARPER’S LUCKY WAR

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

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

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

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

Harper is betting a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RAT IS A McCARTHYITE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER, AN EARLY VOTE, AND VETERANS BETRAYED – AGAIN

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

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

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

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The Dirty Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luck, War, Terrorism, Fear

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

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

But had they?

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

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

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

So, why is he rising in the polls?

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

Tricks And Treats

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

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

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

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

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

Angry Vets And Fantino’s Spurious Announcement

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

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

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

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

Well, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can that be?

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

Do you really not care?

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

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

 

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