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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPY VS. CITIZEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, very little, as it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER RUNNING SCARED IN THE PLAYGROUND OF DRAGONS

I love my country too much to be a nationalist. – Albert Camus

All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers…. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born. – Francois Fenelon

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling? – Bertrand Russell

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE PREY

As tragic as the deaths of the two soldiers were following Harper’s declaration of joining allies in the war against ISIL in Iraq, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo gunned down while guarding the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill, the events proved fortuitous for Harper and his gang. That is not to suggest Harper or any member of his party would have wished the deaths, I have no doubt they were as appalled and heartbroken as all Canadians by what happened. But they are also seasoned pros; opportunities are not to be ignored. As much as all of us would have it otherwise, nothing can be done to spare the soldiers or their families. With celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just a few weeks away, if any benefit could be gleaned from what happened, Harper and his gang would certainly prove themselves up to the task in running with it; they are not shy or tactful folks.

A few days after Harper had announced Canada’s entry into the war against ISIL in Iraq, he and his crew began to warn Canada had come under the sights of ISIL extremists. Their language was alarmist and demeanour somewhat smug as if to suggest the threats somehow validated them as members who had joined the big leagues even though our contribution, including Harper’s warmongering bluster, is modest and conditional. When in fact Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo were murdered, opponents to Harper might have been forgiven for wondering if he had been sitting on God’s lap; on the surface, his alarming claims of a possible terrorist offensive appeared to have been borne out. Or so Harper wanted us to immediately conclude, prepping those watching question period in the House October 20th. That morning, Canadians learned a hit-and-run driver had struck two soldiers, one of whom had died; there was a chase and, as the day wore on, we learned the driver had been shot and killed. In the House, Harper was asked by a Conservative backbencher if he had been aware of a possible terrorist attack. At the time, no one was fully apprised of what had happened. That did not deter Harper and the Conservatives who were eager to raise the spectre of terrorism and the possibility of a terrorist act on Canadian soil; they wanted to ensure Canadians had little doubt that what had happened had been a terrorist act though there was as of yet no evidence of terrorism. All that was known was a soldier had been killed and another injured. That was enough for the Conservatives. The police were guarded most of the day neither confirming nor denying the suggestion. But the seed had already been firmly planted. While Harper and his crew had been premature and irresponsible, the murder nevertheless provided Harper an opportunity that must have seemed heaven-sent and which he could exploit; he had no compunction in doing so. The second murder, that of Nathan Cirillo two days later, appeared to seal the deal: another soldier dead, shot twice. What more proof did Canadians need that terrorists had not only struck but struck at the very heart of our government! But had they? Were these acts really the product of terrorism and a terrorist movement or simply the criminal acts of two very troubled men operating on their own? Apparently, both had become bewitched by ISIL and its brutal, bloody atrocities committed in the name of Islam. That does not make them part of a terrorist group. The sad fact is the killers were misfits, loners, ill and unstable men who along the way began to believe society had failed and rejected them. Apparently they found in the ISIL blogs and videos something that appeared to answer their needs and feed their anger and justify their desire to retaliate. Whatever it was, the two killers, independently, responded violently and irrationally in retribution against society by targeting innocent Canadians who happened to be soldiers. They did not murder because of ideology or religious fervour but rather because they were deeply disturbed and deeply angry, perhaps seeing in the uniforms or in the Parliament buildings, the symbols of a society that had turned its back on them. Who can now really know? That doesn’t excuse them, but it may help explain and understand why they did what they did. Canadians should know this and understand it. But it is not this aspect with which Harper and his gang trouble themselves. As Harper once proudly admitted, Conservatives “…don’t practice sociology”. They prefer to concentrate on the fact that these two men had read from the Muslim scripture, were fascinated by ISIL, and had murdered two soldiers who had done them and no one harm. To extrapolate from this that they were terrorists and acting on behalf of an ideology is lazy thinking and allows for excusing this government’s failures and neglect of a large segment of society. For the Harper gang, examination of root causes of discontent, preventative action and rehabilitation are beside the point; it’s the punitive aspect of law and order they most care about (unless it’s one of their own). Moreover, this plays better for Harper with the public than acknowledgement that there might be a systemic failure in our society and governance that makes inevitable such terrible events. Who wishes to admit to apathy, to willful indifference, to active neglect, and to the misery of others, what right do they have to be so angry when, as the Conservatives are quick to tell us, we live in the greatest country in the world. We do, in one of the greatest countries at any rate, but how much greater without the Conservative boots on the necks of those less fortunate as they widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t. It’s easy to judge but what do we know of their stories? Shouldn’t we care enough to at least attempt to find out more before we condemn? I’ve heard it said that most of us are one pay cheque away from the street. With that in mind, hold back on your judgement of those less fortunate than you. You could as easily be among them.

THE TRAP

It is not surprising that Harper pounced with news of the murders: hadn’t he warned us?

That the murders and murderers were not linked, that there was no evidence of a concerted conspiracy was of any concern to Harper and those quick to accept what they had been prepped to accept. Two of our bravest had been murdered. But, once thrown out there as a possibility, it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle; if you were Harper, why would you wish to? The enemy was no longer over there but here, on Canadian soil murdering young, brave Canadians. How well it all played before the public; it was just the thing needed for a troubled, scandal plagued Conservative party lagging in the polls threatened by that upstart youngster, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Here, at last, was something Canadians could understand and rally around: Canada at war in Iraq, terrorists targeting Canada, terrorists killing two fine Canadian soldiers. That it happened days after Canada’s entry into the war in Iraq and with the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just around the corner made it even better. So play up the threat, warn citizens of further possible attacks and while fanning the flames of fear, why not, while Canadians were in an angry, pliant mood, push for and rush through legislation expanding the powers of CSIS to eavesdrop, detain, and arrest without any clear defining of the terms of reference for doing so. And, just to make it more palatable, to make it that much easier for good, honest, decent citizens to step forward and report “suspicious” behaviour, perhaps the neighbour you don’t like for his anti-Harper comments, accusers, or informants if you prefer, will be protected, the accused unable to confront his accuser and the accuser granted immunity. This is not the first time Harper and his gang attempted to expand the powers of our spy agencies; previous attempts were in secrecy, legislation slipped into omnibus bills dealing with the budget without consultation of the public and its representatives in the opposition. Fortunately, a vigilant press and a vocal and scrupulous segment of society thwarted the government loudly exposing its dirty tricks and forcing it to retreat somewhat. But today it is evident the murders of soldiers and the Harper gang crying “terrorist” has made the public more amenable to the passing of new “anti-terrorist” laws even if it means more intrusive spying on Canadians and greater restriction in movement. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire may be how the thinking goes.

Canadians should reconsider this and do so very carefully. Such new, even more repressive measure should alarm all Canadians. It is too late to save Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent and it is too late to help their killers. But what of the future, the others like them out there? How do we protect our future victims? Do we continue to do as we always do, elect governments that simply ignore the ill and alienated? Do we turn a blind eye to the inequities of our society; do we just sweep them under a rug; do we continue to turn our backs on our own failings as members of a society to provide the understanding and care the marginalized need? Where will it end? What will be the determinants of who poses a threat? Do public expressions of dislike for police or loathing for political figures ignoring environmental ravages committed by corporations make one suspect? Do peaceful marchers decrying corporate greed and homelessness really signify would-be terrorists? What about the person who opposes Canada’s entry into the Iraqi fray? What is acceptable and what not in a nation that declares itself democratic and yet whose government rigs election laws that benefit a particular party and disenfranchises a particular segment of society? Must we embrace a government that asks its citizens to report any and all suspicious behaviour? Spying on neighbours and friends and family. What next? That has happened in the past, children denouncing teachers and parents, parents denouncing in-laws, churchgoers, atheists, and businessmen rivals. Humphrey Bogart once remarked of the witch-hunting House of Un-American Activities Committee, “They’ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem”. Is that the road we want to take? What is suspicious behaviour? Is it the person who is solitary, prefers his own company to yours? Perhaps it’s that homeless individual on your street haranguing passersby about the evils of society or claiming the CSIS is loaded with Martians? Or is it the student questioning the government’s indifference to poverty or the high cost of tuition? Perhaps it’s the environmentalist slamming Big Oil. What about the woman asking the government why it’s taken no action regarding the disappearances of aboriginal women? Experts claim the laws are already in place to combat terrorism. I believe that is true. They also claim what is needed is not more laws but a government spending more on resources to implement them. We have a government that spends freely on self-promotion but begrudges veterans the benefits to which they are entitled and considers those tossed on the wayside to be of little worth. Do we really believe Harper has set the right priority for Canadians?

The Harper gang is made up of a vicious, narrow, vindictive group of ideologues. It does not look for anything into the future except the next win. It is not Canada that concerns them but the free enterprise agenda: maximizing profits and keeping costs down. That they do not look beyond their self-interest and the interests of their cronies, that they refuse to consider a future without themselves at the helm, will ultimately lead to their destruction. Perhaps it’s just as well. If they did look into the future, would they like what they see? I think not. You can ignore people and their suffering for only so long. You can line the pockets of your friends and yourself and leave behind a wave of misery and broken humanity and believe yourself free, above it all. But you will not be free nor above it all. Too many people are being ignored, are being left behind, and tossed aside. Eventually, those ignored, spat upon, ridiculed and slapped down and neglected will have had enough of hunger and misery. John Steinbeck once asked, “Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?” The Harper gang should think of that. Even the timid eventually fight back.

Terrorism may be a real threat in Canada. If not today, tomorrow. It need not be. Poverty in Canada is a greater threat than those like the two soldier killers. It has arrived long ago. It is real and entrenched. An astounding 21% of our children live in poverty. That is the real threat and that will be the real cause for fear tomorrow. Poverty can, and will, lead to anger and anger to fury.

We’ve all heard the Conservative mantra: Business creates wealth. Or the variant, which makes most people feel better because of the hope offered: Business creates jobs. Conservatives take it further. Corporate tax cuts attract even more business, which in turn creates more jobs, which, ergo, creates more wealth. That is the free-enterprising assertion, the Big Hook. But it’s an assertion not based on evidence. If tax cuts and deregulation really created jobs, Ireland would not have gone bankrupt a few years ago and no Canadian or American would be out of work. Tax cuts and tax grants. Conservatives ignore, wanting us to do the same, that tax concessions are almost always made under duress with threats of moving business elsewhere. Certainly the Conservatives are partially right: wealth is created; the profit margins of corporations always seem to grow. Unfortunately the jobs never materialize as promised and working stiffs today are only able to purchase as much as they did thirty or forty years ago. It’s the trickle theory working both ways: wealth flows up, piss rains down. Of course, the Conservatives might dispute that and continue to sing their lying song: Tax breaks equal jobs equal wealth. It’s their myth and we, idiots or hopeful fools that we are, buy it time and again without even a thought of examination. In previous posts, I’ve asked this: Are we that stupid? That crazy?

Even when they make a profit, free enterprising pigs squeal if the profit margin does not match or is less than last year’s. Immediately, this “loss” calls for “restructuring”. That is, throwing thousands of workers to the wolves. That’s what happened November 4th when Scotiabank announced it was restructuring to the tune of shedding itself of 1500 workers because of a bad investment; it still made record profits, just not enough.

So, who’s your friend? Big Business knows. Do you?

Even when things don’t quite work as promised and governments begin to take a hit from doubters, there’s always a bogeyman to call upon to distract the voting public. In the past, it was Communism. Today it’s terrorism. Harper and his gang are counting on us not swapping horses midstream during a time of crisis, real or of their making. But, just to make sure, just to be on the safe side, it might be wise to throw a few shiny baubles our way. So they do.

Between attending the funerals of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent while continuing to stoke the fires of alarm and fan the spirit of hyper-nationalism (an extreme and unpleasant form of patriotism to which Canadians, thankfully, aren’t all that easily drawn) Harper and the gang made a “good news” announcement on October 30th. And it was all about the thing they really, really, really love: money.

THE BAIT

No doubt you have seen the images: Harper tieless, checked shirt open at the collar (indicative of openness, of being one of the “folks”), striding to and fro across the stage (thereby demonstrating a “take charge”, “can do” attitude) with a swagger (nothing wrong in showing a little braggadocio) before a crowd of Conservatives wearing pasted smiles and gazing in wide-eyed wonderment (all eager to applaud at cued moments thus confirming they were living, breathing dolls) while, to one side, a female “reporter” (representing the taxpayer funded faux “news” channel 24 Seven, which follows Harper everywhere and offers those who visit the government website, an endless supply of propaganda, fake “exclusives” and highly polished, if questionable, drivel), waits to ask softball questions. The news is momentous. Can an election be far behind? Well, yes, if Harper keeps to his own fixed election date of October 19, 2015. Harper had long ago embraced American-style politics with vile, mud-slinging ads; now he has gone the further step of starting the campaign a year early guaranteeing this to be one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history.

But, if you were watching him that day and if you were paying attention, you would have immediately understood two things: not only was this an election stump speech but also, if you were a single parent earning a modest income, if you were single, young, elderly, homeless, a student, ill, disabled, a veteran, there was absolutely nothing for you. It was all about Conservative values I guess, marriage, children, family values (that the NDP and Liberals don’t fully appreciate or condone), and healthy doses of hypocrisy. In fact, you would have immediately understood yourself to be one of the 85% of Canadian households (according to the C.D. Howe Institute) who would not benefit from the income splitting scheme Harper was proudly unveiling. True, the income splitting plan has been watered down because of loud opposition (including from the deceased Jim Flaherty, Harper’s finance minister) to its patent unfairness. But Flaherty’s gone and the plan, albeit not as Harper and gang envisioned, will go ahead. Immediately, those families with two incomes will get a $2000 tax credit. That leaves out all the rest and hits hardest the single parent. But not to worry. Lest you feel left out as a single parent, Harper also included news of a raise to child benefits.

Even with the increase in child benefits, Harper could not resist playing games. There is a catch. It is in how the Harper gang plans to implement the new benefits that most clearly reveal his contempt for voters, particularly those in the low-income bracket. In January of 2015, the child benefits will go up from $100 to $160 a month. However, and this might clue you into understanding what Harper and gang really think of you: households will not see the benefits until July, just three months before the next election. Then, every household with children will receive a cheque of $420 per child aged six to seventeen with a retroactive payment including the first six months (it makes a total of $720 taxable by year’s end). So, while you as a single parent with one child will receive a total of $720 a year, a two-income family will receive $2835. For 2015-216, the cost for the income splitting and child benefits will be $4.5 billion. Canadian families earning more than $140,000 will get the lion’s share of the benefits estimated at 43%. As a single parent, that must really make you feel good. Does that seem fair to you? Really? Now you know if you didn’t already, what Harper thinks of you. He and his gang believes your vote can be bought for $60 a month per child; just to be sure, he believes a one-time only lump sum, just before election of a gargantuan $420 per child will be enough for you to remember who to vote for when at the polls. Not only does he believe you can be easily bought, he also believes you to be stupid. Come next election, take the money then prove him wrong. It might help if, just before you cast your vote, you recall this Yiddish proverb: “God loves the poor but he helps the rich.” Conservatives do not even love the poor.

If you are a voter from a two-income family and stand to gain while 85% of Canadians do not, it might be time to think about what you value when you vote. Instead of looking to have your pockets lined with money you really will not miss when others are neglected, could you not take a little time to reflect about what your role in society? Is it, as Harper would have us all believe: everything is reducible to dollars, that those who have deserve more, that the poor deserve to be poor. We certainly do not need the spectre of terrorism raised because of the acts of two disturbed, angry individuals. Nor do we need more laws to quell dissent, to silence critics, to arouse suspicion and fear. Laws are already in place. We do not need a leader like Harper who boasts about his “accomplishments” when they are, in fact, inconsequential outweighed by the damage he has inflicted on the largest portion of society. When he first became prime minister, the country had a surplus of $13 billion. In a few years he squandered it, much of it in tax cuts and tax funded self-promotion touting his Economic Action Plan and non-existent job creation through non-existent programs. He has cut 35,000 public service jobs, over three thousand from the Canada Revenue Agency. If there is any surplus, it was on the backs of those civil servants and low-income earners. As a consequence, billion dollar corporations and millionaire pikers are allowed to avoid paying taxes by funneling money to off-shore accounts while Harper has the now politicized CRA hound left-wing charities. Harper has cut services to veterans and closed down offices serving veterans while commemorating historic military achievements and loudly declaring his respect for our men and women who have served this nation. He has ignored the environment, lectured others on fiscal restraint and has almost bankrupted his own nation with tax cuts and giveaways to corporations. He has conspired with Big Business to suppress low-income wages and offer Canadian jobs to temporary foreign workers. He talks loudly of Canada’s contributions on the world stage and yet had for years ignored and condemned the United Nations. He has been bombastic and belligerent in his triumphalism and boastful of his support of our military personnel and yet parsimonious where it counts. Too many military families are forced into bankruptcy or on the brink because they must sell homes at a loss when suddenly relocated to another post; but military brass are often granted huge moving allowances when just moving a few blocks in the same town. We have an air force that has been neglected, the C-18s old, tired, due for retirement in 2015. Many of our ships are also old, out-dated, and ill-equipped, in desperate need of repairs and replacement. He ramps up the fear when he talks of terrorism but our military and police are wanting, their budgets slashed. Recently, the leaked pentagon document reviewed that Canada may purchase four F-35 jets. When Harper ran for the last election, he talked about buying 65 such jets. Originally he said the cost would be $9 billion. He lied on that. When challenged on that figure by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Harper regime waged a smear campaign against him. Harper was re-elected with Canadians never learning the true costs of what those purchases would be. Figures have varied from $45 billion to $125 billion. Apparently, without fanfare, Harper set aside any plans to purchase the 65 jets with the exception of the four leaked by the Pentagon.

And because Harper has begun his campaign so far ahead of the projected date, voters might do well to remember and think of the following. It was Harper who appointed disgraced Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin to the senate; they are the high-flyers who padded living and travel expenses. Duffy apparently was confused which of his homes was his principal residence. He also secretly accepted a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s Chief of Staff, to repay the fraudulent claims. Conservative members of the Internal Economy Committee in the Senate altered the Deloitte audit to give Duffy a free pass for the transgressions. In April of 2015, he will be facing the courts. Perhaps, to forestall any bad news emerging from the trial, the Conservatives may call the election early. If that does occur, voters should ask why.

Voters should also remember another Conservative who also believed she was entitled and who was twice forced to repay expense claims fraudulently made. Bev Oda was finally forced to resign because of public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice. Nor should voters forget Peter Penashue who Harper called the “best MP Labrador ever had”, who also was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions. Too, voters should be reminded the Conservative Party pleaded guilty of breaking election laws; they paid a fine of $52,000 thus saving themselves the embarrassment (if capable of such) of high level members facing prosecution. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan who fought Elections Canada regarding overspending during the 2011 campaign. Glover finally submitted a full campaign expense report. She was promoted to a ministry. Early this year, Glover made the news again when attending a fundraising event in her riding where the guests were those who stood to gain from decisions made by her department. She later refunded the money, again no consequences for the minister who appears to have a penchant for ethical lapses. Voters should also be mindful of Michael Sono, the young Conservative staffer thrown to the wolves and facing jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. And of course, no one should forget Dean del Mastro, who along with another nasty partisan, Pierre Poilievre, smeared Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada for having the effrontery to investigate allegations of Conservative involvement in the robocalls scandal. Allegations later confirmed. Del Mastro was found guilty of three counts of voter fraud and overspending. He maintains his innocence but just hours before he was to be expelled as a member of parliament, he resigned his seat thereby saving his pension. And, of course, we have the aforementioned Pierre Poilievre, the minster and architect of the so-called Fair Elections Act, which allows the Conservatives to hold an advantage come next election by promising to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and restrict the powers of Elections Canada to investigate voter fraud.

This is a party rife with bad people and bad behaviour.

When will you have had enough?

It is time Canadians refuse to accept Harper’s version of voters as easily led and bought, as too dumb and too self-interested and greedy. Let him know that you cannot be easily bought, that you do care about honesty, integrity and good governance. Do not let him convince you that the world out there is all menace and only he can save you from the bogeyman. It’s no truer than the myth that giving tax breaks to the wealthy creates jobs. The bogeyman does exist. It is Stephen Harper and the Conservative party.

The deaths of Vincent and Cirillo were tragic enough. But it does no honour to their memory to exploit their deaths by fomenting and xenophobia. Because a murderous, barbaric group of zealots in the Middle East running under the banner of ISIL have hijacked and perverted the teachings of the Qur’an, because some young Canadians have succumbed to ISIL’s vile lure, it is irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous to encourage public suspicion, fear and misunderstanding of Muslims. We must not succumb to panic and fear.

Instead, Canadians should concentrate on the rot in our own society and reject a government that refuses to excise it. Yes, there are enemies out there. But the greatest threat comes from what we refuse to acknowledge. Fomenting fear and mistrust to justify increased surveillance of its own citizens is hardly the work of a responsible, thoughtful, regime that respects democracy and nurtures its citizens.

For this regime, democracy and sensibility to the needs of the disadvantaged and troubled are ancillary considerations, distractions best left for another time and for another regime. Nothing must interfere with the agenda of boosting the economy – of the wealthy at least – and getting re-elected.

One day, almost certainly not in my lifetime, Canadians will have had enough of the kind of governance to which we have been subjected since Canada became a nation. We cannot tolerate the same game of cutting taxes, ignoring our infrastructure, of scapegoating unions and public servants and abandoning veterans and their families. We are a better people than Harper would have us be. It’s time Canadians really think about riding itself of this rotten crew. Going back to the Liberals is not the answer. For our whole history we have opted only for the two, Conservatives and Liberals. The game of simply batting the ball to and fro between two cheaters is boring. Canada needs something new and fresh. It needs a change. Set aside your fears, prejudices and doubts. It’s not a question of what can we lose, but rather, what we may gain.

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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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

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