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CHEAP POLITICOS AND GOOD COMPANY MEN (AND WOMEN): POLITICS HIJACKED BY NEO-LIBERALS AND RACISTS

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.– Leonardo da Vinci

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. – Confucius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

While we might believe or hope it otherwise, politics is not a career for grownups with character. Character requires integrity and the ability to experience shame. We see little of that from members of the two major federal parties and their leaders, Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer. Jagmeet Singh, of the NDP, and Elizabeth May, of the Green Party, have not had the opportunity to prove themselves before the voters as members and leaders of a governing party. Maxime Bernier, one-time Harper conservative and so-called libertarian and leader of the portentously and somehow ominously named Peoples’ Party is a panderer of the worse sort, appealing mostly to the simplistic laissez faire mindset of the extreme right who often draw support, as do most conservative groupings, from the racist and religious bigots in the brutish white supremacist movement.

It is not just that folly, farce, pride, greed, ambition, pettiness, hypocrisy, vice, and venality all too often come into play in the service of special neo-liberal interests, it is that whole governments all too frequently can be bought to heel in the service of those special interests placing in jeopardy the very institutions meant to safeguard the nation and its citizens. Trust in a politician or a party is almost always misplaced and inevitably ends in betrayal. It happens because, while a very few provinces appear more open to change, federally we limit ourselves to inviting into our house and handing the keys to the only two parties we have since Canada became a nation. Others knock at the door pleading just to be acknowledged, listened to and heard; to them, NDP and Greens, thus far, we remain deaf, dumb and blind at the time we should be most receptive unable to adjust our thinking or break the stranglehold of the liberals or conservatives. It is foolish, if not insane, that we play along with the game of hope and betrayal in the full knowledge that the parties to whom we pass the keys can be trusted only to betray us and yet refuse to even consider the possibility of the NDP, my preference, or the Greens, proving more capable, more trustworthy, more reliable. Until that happens, and though I do believe it mostly true of the liberal and conservative parties, I cannot side with the cynics who insist of politicians: They are all the same.

They may be, I’m just not certain.

Still, when I look at those conservative leaders, Andrew Scheer, Doug Ford, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister, Jason Kenney, Blaine Higgs, I cannot help but despair. These folks, with their parochialism, their closed mindsets regarding the environment and social responsibility, their willingness to appeal to the worst of us with messages of racial and religious intolerance are representatives of the truly ugly underbelly of Canadian society. They are spiteful, petty, amoral, ideologically partisan, and dangerously blindly angry people preoccupied with achieving power and tearing down the accomplishments of their opponents regardless of how good, intelligent, successful, popular, and sanesimply because these fail to mesh with their blighted philosophy of angry, bitter, victimhood. Further evidence, if any is needed, that it is not just cream that rises to the top.

So, sometimes even doing so sick at heart, we vote for conservatives and liberals, occasionally vaguely aware that there are other parties out there but dissuaded from considering them with messages that voting for one of them will split the vote and lead to the victory of the party and leader you dislike most. Is that really how we should vote? For conservatives, federally and provincially, governance is simply opposing every progressive idea out there, especially those ideas coming from the federal liberals. That’s the mindless hysteria of the truly desperately stupid.

This tactic works well with the soft voters of no deeply held ideological bent and no fixed loyalty to either conservative or liberal and who have, perhaps, even boldly in the past, voted for the NDP or Green Party. We vote as we do often because we buy the message of fear and tell ourselves: Maybe it will be different this time.Of course, in our heart-of-hearts, we know it won’t be. It’s silly, stupid, destructive, this wistful faith. Only sometimes it does work out, the voter is rewarded. It doesn’t happen often; the rigged slot machine that wins; the player gets the noise and flashing lights and a few coins but it’s the house that walks away with the purse. If there is any real public benefit, it is likely accidental, very little and always crafted in such a manner to assure the beneficiary gaining most is the governing party and those special interest lobbyists to whom those conservatives and liberals are so closely wedded.

GOOD COMPANY MEN (AND WOMEN)

Politicians are cons. Every word they utter must be taken with a grain of salt for they can lie as easily and smoothly as any huckster defrauding Aunt Nelly of her life savings. Every promise made must be greeted with skepticism. Voters are pawns, props for politicians and fodder for special interests. Politicians are users, manipulative, liars, evasive, hypocritical, dull, stupid, dishonest, and always, always, shameless gasbags. Watch Question Period in Parliament. They seldom if ever answer a question directly put to them in many iterations by members of the opposition. When they do so, the response is a circuitous and lengthy non-response or, when read from a script, repeated so often the benumbed viewer is able to offer the response as fluently and as cleverly as that ignoramus blowhard he is looking at.

Politicians will portray themselves as different from those of other parties. That’s true but the differences are often too slight their tastes, loyalties and ideas making it almost impossible to differentiate one from the other.

Stephen Harper’s governance was heavily criticized by opposition members for its reliance on and use of omnibus bills in which legislation having nothing to do with the bill was quietly slipped in with the hopes they would escape notice of the opposition and the public. Harper’s conservatives, with Pierre Poilievre leading the charge as Minister of Democratic Reform, introduced the Fair Elections Act (George Orwell?) which not only sought to erode the power of the Commissioner of Elections to investigate campaign irregularities and, even more egregiously, to disenfranchise thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of transient voters, including students away from home, members of the First Nations, and the very poor unable to secure fixed, safe, affordable accommodation. The theory was that these people did not vote conservative. Harper and crew, you see, were not content with just using robocalls to misdirect people to vote at non-existent polling stations but also to divert funds between ridings to hide illegal expenses. Now that Justin Trudeau’s liberals are in power, omnibus bills seem a good idea. For politicians, especially the knuckle and dime variety like Scheer and Trudeau and the provincial princelings mentioned earlier, a good idea is a good idea even if it’s probably not good for democracy and benefits no one but the governing party and special interests to whom so much is owed. But that’s likely true of most of us without character.

It was Harper who initiated the Light-Armoured Vehicle deal with murderous Human Rights abusing Saudi Arabia even though it contravenes UN and our own Canadian laws regarding international dealings with such nations. While the NDP vehemently opposed the deal, opposition liberal leader Trudeau, while declaring reservations, could not bring himself to state he would cancel the contract worth $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs. Just as well he did not, his supporters would then have had another reason to be disappointed in him. In spite of Trudeau’s tepid views and the harsh criticisms from the NDP and Human Rights activists and our own laws, Harper remained undeterred. This was business after all and he’s nothing if not a good company man.

But, out of office and replaced by liberal Trudeau, there was solace for Harper and the conservatives if not validation for their stand on corporate interests versus Human Rights. Trudeau was on the same page. It’s easier to talk about principles than having to live them. His government signed off on the LAV deal with Trudeau falsely claiming he had no choice, it was a done deal, his hands were tied and, even if he could intervene, Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner would lie in ruins. These were excuses, not reasons and none of them were valid. Trudeau, too, could be a good company man. Which goes to show that self-interest is a greater incentive than lofty ideals.

While it is true many had doubts about Trudeau, they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t take long to be tested again and again. He was not above accepting free, illegal gifts or flouting his own conflict of interest mandate edicts in letters to his ministers. Over the 2016 Christmas holiday with family and friends, he accepted a free helicopter ride from the Aga Khan. Coincidentally, it was announced that Canada, a major contributor to the Aga Khan Foundation since 1981 to the tune of $330 million, would donate another $55 million over the next five years.

More egregious were the many lies, denials, justifications, and final admissions of his many secret fundraising events attended by the well-heeled with claims that business matters were never discussed, that those doing or wishing to do business with the government were instructed to go through the proper channels, and that he, Trudeau, seldom knew beforehand who attended those events because he would often drop by at these private events without notice. That last is not credible if only because of security concerns. At one of these events, as reported by Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife and Steven Chase, April 7, 2017, 32 Chinese business men, a few of them billionaires, were in attendance. One of them was insurance mogul Shenglin Xian, founder of Wealth One Bank of Canada and president of the Shenglin Financial Group Inc. Shortly after that fundraiser, Wealth One Bank was given the final okay to open up a federally chartered bank in Canada.Too, weeks later, Mr. Zhang and another businessman, Niu Gensheng donated money parceled out to the university of Montreal and the Trudeau Foundation to the tune of $1 million. Coincidence? Questionable. But it was not just Trudeau but also his cabinet members holding such events with the well-heeled sponsored by drug and other companies, cronies and acquaintances in the business world not only enriching the liberal coffers but also rewarding those benefactors. Good company men are not only rewarded, they also give back.

On May 8, 2019, the case of breach of trust against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, charged with leaking information regarding the procurement of a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy, was stayed after two-and-a-half years, his reputation and career apparently in tatters. This was a case involving political interference, not only in the procurement process pitting the Davie Shipbuilding company based in Quebec which had won the sole-sourced contract under Stephen Harper effectively shutting out other bidders including the Irving Shipbuilding company in the east coast, and favoured by the liberals, but also in the judicial process, the government refusing to release documents to prosecution and defence. The charges came about because someone had leaked at least 12 times, the majority during the Harper years, that the Davie contract would be placed on hold and reviewed by the PMO, evidently at the insistence of Scott Brison, then President of the Treasury Board, with close ties to the Irving family. The liberals were not happy at the revelation and, embarrassed, quickly approved the original Davie deal to forestall accusations of political interference. Too late. The damage was done and someone would pay and it would be Norman even though it was determined by the Privy Council Office that at least 73 others were aware of the outcome of the November 2015 liberal cabinet meeting regarding the matter. It was a letter written sent to the House defence committee by three conservative and one NDP MPs accusing the PMO of political interference, that may have precipitated the stay when Norman’s defence raised questions about what they knew. Shortly after this, the prosecutor determined there was not reasonable expectation of conviction and, following that decision, former cabinet minister, Peter MacKay, stated that Norman had been authorized by the government to speak to Davie Shipbuilding and therefore could not be guilty of leaking to the company. The curious thing is the RCMP investigating did not interview any of the 73 witnesses. That is an astounding investigative lapse and needs to be looked into but begs the question: Why had conservatives, knowing this, waited this long before stepping forward on their own to clear Norman whose only crime, apparently, was a desire for the Royal Canadian Navy to get its much-needed ship? The behaviour of the liberals seems purely political but what of the delay by the conservatives who might have spared Norman many months of hanging in the wind? It seems to me they were making political capital from the very victim they were purportedly and loudly defending! (For the list of names, refer to the David Pugliese Dec. 4th, 2018 piece for the Ottawa Citizen (https://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/the-mark-norman-files-the-official-list-of-those-who-knew-about-cabinet-discussions-on-supply-ship-project).

There are many questions remaining regarding this issue, not only with the role Trudeau’s liberals played but also by the role Stephen Harper’s conservatives played in changing the procurement rules from open bidding to sole source a fact that opposition conservative critics curiously gloss over. Harper was clearly playing for the Quebec vote just as Trudeau was the east coast vote. For Vice-Admiral Norman, whose only crime seems to be concern for the welfare of the Canadian navy, Trudeau’s role would prove itself to be as brutal, vindictive and, ultimately, inept as the Harper regime in its heyday.

But there is another matter that is equally troubling could prove fatal to Trudeau’s reign. Again, Scott Brison was to play a pivotal role and that was with his resignation who, according to reports, wanted to be with family. The departure of Brison triggered a cabinet shuffle leading to a surprising move of one MP to another cabinet post who, clearly disgruntled, tendered her resignation in a public forum setting off a scandal with suggestions of political and judicial interference by the PMO. This, of course, is the matter of Jody Wilson-Raybould and SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based construction giant facing charges of corruption and bribery which has had Trudeau and gang behaving in ways resembling that of cheap politicos owing favours which is exactly what they were and are. Not only did the liberals bow to the lobbying efforts of SNC-Lavalin by inserting a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) clause in the omnibus 2018 Budget, they sought to undermine the independence of the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) by pressuring Jody Wilson-Raybould, at the time Attorney General and Justice Minister, to lean on Kathleen Roussel, the DPP, to stop the proceedings against the company that faced the possibility of a criminal conviction that would bar it from bidding on lucrative government contracts for ten years. While claiming his primary concern was preserving 9,000 (mostly Quebec) jobs, the PMO denied judicial interference: no one, they claimed, had “directed” her to intervene in the trial. For days Trudeau and cabinet members would use that word. She was never “directed” to intervene in the matter. That’s legalese or, as some might say, legalese for weasels. What we are to infer from that is that Jody Wilson-Raybould, as independent Attorney General, could independently conclude Canadian interests might best be served through the use of the DPA. While I may believe he was concerned about possible job losses, Trudeau and his liberals were likely more focused on last year’s Quebec election and this year’s federal election. The liberals would not want a Quebec-based company to be negatively impacted especially during an election year particularly if there were threats by the company to move its headquarters elsewhere. Clearly unhappy with the letter of resignation after her move to Veterans Affairs, the PMO engaged in a smear campaign against the former AG seeming to question her loyalty, her role as minister, as leader, and as boss. The public did not buy the unseemly and unfair attempt to smear her any more than they bought the charge against Vice-Admiral Norman apparently under the apprehension that bullies playing the role of good company people were working to protect Big Business and the PMO with claims that DPAs are used in other jurisdictions and that it is legal (even though, in this instance, lobbied for by the very company under investigation).

With the DPA in place, all the company had to do was admit wrongdoing, pay a hefty fine, reorganize the company structure and reimburse any illegal benefits. Jody Wilson-Raybould refused to play along saying the DPP as an independent body had made its decision. That was the right, decent, required move. The fallout of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation resulted in the resignation in solidarity of the very capable Jane Philpott. She had recently been shuffled to the position occupied by Brison, that of President of the Treasury Board. Fallout from this debacle resulted in the early retirement of Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, and resignation of Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s lifelong friend and Principle Secretary so as not to be a “distraction”. While it’s difficult to accept that it may happen with all the attendant negative publicity, it’s very possible that SNC-Lavalin, a company with a dark and checkered history, might still benefit from the DPA it fought so hard to pass into law. Further to this story, it recently came to light that SNC-Lavalin, hoping to influence the outcome of elections between 2004 and 2011, made illegal contributions to the liberal and conservative parties by having employees make donations as if their own and then reimbursing them. Canada’s election commissioner at that time, Yves Côté, offered no punishment for the criminal acts by the company executives eliciting from them only the promise to sin no more, an option denied conservative Dean Del Mastro charged with breaching the Canada Elections Act during the 2011 elections for which he spent a month in jail, four months of house arrest, and eighteen months of probation for doing the very same. Now I have no sympathy with Del Mastro for whom I have no liking, firmly of the belief he deserved even more time in jail. But he is right when he whines that SNC-Lavalin, a serial offender, got off scot free. The company, protected by politicos, has not only been given too many breaks only to reoffend rather than reform, it apparently does so without any show of repentance or in change of behaviour.

Justin Trudeau knows the company’s history as do all other members in the Canadian political and business landscape. David Lametti has replaced Jody Wilson-Raybould as Attorney General and Justice Minister. We can only wait and see how good a company man he is. We all know what Trudeau wants for SNC-Lavalin. I’m sure Lametti does as well.

So, how good a company man is Trudeau?

During the Harper era, Peter MacKay, at that time Defence Minister, with Stephen Harper leading the charge, had set about to purchase fighter jets setting their sights on the F-35s made by American Lockheed Martin, the most expensive and best flying machines in the market. Unfortunately, Harper and MacKay bungled the procurement process never able to satisfactorily settle on what the costs would be for the purchase of the 65 jets except to guesstimate anywhere from $9 billion to $19 billion though critics were doubtful saying the costs were likely in the $25 to as high as $125 billion range. The liberals were outraged, Trudeau loudly declaring, as is his wont, he would “never” as prime minister, do the deal. Well, in early May, he was reconsidering, planning to hold an open bid to replace the creaky CF-18s. The move however left US officials warning Canada that as one of the F-35 partner signatories of 2006, there was no requirement committing signatory nations to reinvest in Canada using Canadian suppliers for parts which, at present, is the standard for most military procurements. Trudeau, admitting Canada could not consider an open bid with one bidder (Lockheed Martin) effectively shut out, has hinted he is prepared to make changes to the procurement requirements. It seems that even this good Canadian company man has fallen under the spell of the Cadillac of jets in the same way as did the Harper gang and may be prepared to throw Canadian parts suppliers under the bus. It should surprise no one.

When it comes to the neo-liberal agenda, conservative and liberal politicians really are the same.

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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.

***

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

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JUSTIN TRUDEAU, ANDREW SCHEER, JAGMEET SINGH: COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA

Politics offers yesterday’s answers to today’s problems.– Marshall McLuhan

A Liberal is a man who leaves the room when the fight begins.– Heywood Broun

Frank A. Pelaschuk

A few days ago, a young Saudi woman asylum seeker, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, came to Canada. She had barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel and took to the Twitter-verse in an effort to fight off deportation to Kuwait where, she stated, her brothers, family and the “Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait. They will kill me. My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things” (Independent, Richard Hall, Jan. 7, 2019). She was seeking asylum, hopefully with Australia but, unsurprisingly, it was Canada that was able to respond with a rapidity Australia could not match. This was too good an opportunity for the Trudeau regime to miss. 

And exploit.

When Ms Qunun landed in Toronto, she was not only greeted by reporters and well-wishers, she was ushered out to face the public by Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, with the minister’s arm proprietorially draped over the teenager’s shoulders as she welcomed this “brave new Canadian”! That’s how easy one becomes a Canadian, evidently.

This event, and this image, about sums up what all one needs to know of this liberal government. I did not like what I saw, a young Saudi woman used as a photo-op. While I have no reason to doubt, and I don’t, the dangers outlined by Ms Qunun, Saudi Arabia is, after all, a notorious human right abusing nation and we are well aware of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi case, I do have grave reservations regarding the motives of the Trudeau government in this particular instance; we’ve seen this before by him. With Freeland’s presence at the airport, I saw what I’ve seen too often, shameless politicians seizing an opportunity for a grand photo-op to promote themselves under the guise of doing the right, the decent, the noble thing. For the liberals, Ms Qunun’s plight was fortuitously ancillary to burnishing Trudeau’s image and they did not hesitate to exploit that opportunity. It was cynical and cheap and even mean. They could have allowed Ms Qunun a day before sinking their filthy claws into her. 

I welcome Ms Qunun and just hope she meets better people than the one she met in Freeland acting on behalf of Trudeau’s government. 

ONE TERM FOR THE PRINCE?

This new year might well see the end of the liberal reign after one term with Trudeau at the helm. That is neither good news nor bad news; just more of what Canadians have known since Canada became a nation. Whichever party wins or loses, the beneficiaries of the election are from the same coin and remain as unlikable, untrustworthy and undeserving as any gang of bigoted, mean-spirited and stupid group of people inflicted upon Canada: conservatives and liberals, sewer rats out only for the main chance. Whatever happened to the goal of truly serving Canada and the people who elected them?

For Trudeau, glibness, fake sincerity and mean-spirited cynicism are lodestones masqueraded by charisma and simple-minded public tolerance and good will. Political correctness offered with smarm and charm: feminism, tolerance, human rights, the things that all decent folk profess to believe in but, as does Trudeau, will turn their backs upon as easily as he can call up a tear when it suits provided a camera is nearby to catch that single effortlessly milked saline drop. 

Not content with just fluid ethics, his shamelessness is boundless as when, while first working to undermine his own promise of electoral reform, he proudly boasted of not regretting turning his back on it saying the public had lost interest. That wasn’t true, but what the hell, this is Trudeau, Trump-lite liar with a smile. Anything goes with him. Even his decency is prodded and primped for that photo-op public consumption. With his election, everything would be newer, better. Remember? Well, that didn’t happen. The same old politics as practiced by Harper. Trudeau could have called three by-elections months ago but, mimicking Harper in pettiness and meanness, he held off until he could hold off no longer without looking even smaller than he is; on January 6, he called the by-elections for February 25. It is Jagmeet Singh he really fears but not because Singh is a charismatic leader (he certainly is not) with a chance of winning (zero), but because he fears that the NDP, starving for funds under an absolutely weak and unprepared leader (this hurts; I have supported the NDP throughout my long life) will take away some of the votes from the disappointed who strayed to the liberal fold when they succumbed to shimmering image and grandiloquent, ultimately empty, promises. Trudeau’s is the substance of eye candy.  

But Trudeau didn’t just break promises. He broke trust. It is not enough to say words. You must believe what you say and promise and follow through. With First Nations people, he must surely be a disappointment. He makes grand declarations but cannot keep to them because he wants to be all things to all people. That’s wishful thinking, folks. Just as easy to believe in fairy tales and wishful thinking as did all those folks who elected him. First Nations members gave him the benefit of the doubt as did most Canadians and, for a time, he seemed to be up to his words. Maybe, just maybe. Communities would finally experience what it was like to have their own pure, clean, drinkable water. They would finally have homes they could live in, programs that their young could take towards better education, away from alcoholism, drugs, despair, suicide. Maybe never had a chance at “Yes!” So much for promises, communities still suffer, kids are still dying. Newer and better? Just words, wishful thinking, phony baloney.

We have First Nations members divided when it comes to pipelines. Almost everyone believes in climate change just no one wants to do anything about it. We have blockades set up by indigenous members and their supporters. The pipeline issue seems unresolvable without someone not just bending, but bending a lot. Climate change is here; the danger is real. But so is the need for jobs. Until one of the needs is met, there is no possibility of meeting the other need. We all have to change, not just our behaviour but also our mindsets. Change must happen quickly but it cannot happen overnight. But it must happen. 

Trudeau does not measure up to the job. Not only were his first two years plagued by conflict of interest issues and questionable secret fundraising efforts, there were the unwarranted expense claims by various ministers early in the liberal mandate including Catherine MacKenna, Chrystia Freeland and three by then education minister Jane Philpott who was embarrassed into repaying them. She now replaces Scott Brison who resigned as president of the Treasury Board and was alleged to have intervened in the procurement process of an interim supply ship rescinding a contract with a Quebec shipbuilding company in favour of the Halifax based Irving Shipbuilding company in Brison’s home province. There was some speculation that this was a thank-you present to the eastern provinces for giving the liberals a clean sweep in the 2015 election. It doesn’t help that the opposition and that premiers across the country are more bent on advancing their own causes than in fighting Trudeau and his party and their ideas with ideas of their own in a manner not so crudely self-serving. Do they really act in the best interests of the nation when they point fingers and then, when upon winning the brass ring, they do what they once condemned?

The conservatives, federally and provincially, are not builders of a nation while in opposition any more than were the liberals. The NDP have never governed federally. It is difficult to know if they would be any better unless they are giving the opportunity to do so. None of the sides show real signs of wanting to contribute through cooperation but all sides have shown clearly that they are out for the main chance: what’s in it for me?

I dislike Trudeau. I do not believe he is sincere or ethical; I believe him to be craven and weak. He does not stand up for what he says he believes because I don’t believe he believes in anything but saying the thing that will win people to his side. Scheer is another I dislike because he is from the old Harper gang and, in spite of his smile, absolutely charmless and brings with him the same meanness of his predecessor. His idea of being opposition member is that of whinging, tearing down and never, ever contributing something constructive because, you see, it just might help the liberals.

I support the NDP but not Jagmeet Singh. He is an ineffectual and unprepared leader. That’s too bad. His handling of the harassment allegations against Erin Weir brought against him by NDP member Christine Moore on behalf of others was poorly handled to the extreme and effectively destroyed the promising political career of one NDP member whose only real crime seems to be one of social awkwardness while Moore, herself a subject of predatory harassment allegations, escaped relatively unscathed. 

So, why did the NDP go with Singh. Well, he was young, handsome, articulate, intelligent and a visible minority. Trudeau-lite if you will. The NDP had shed its old image of being the conscience of the country as willingly as Trudeau his electoral reform initiative. Elections are about winning is the NDP song: the main chance. That must have been the thinking behind Thomas Mulcair’s election strategy. For decades, the call for balanced budgets won elections. The NDP was known as the spend and spend party with good intentions but poor budgetary skills. Not in 2015! Mulcair would run on the promise of a good heart and a balanced budget. Oh, dear, look where it got him. Trudeau veered to the left and, of course, won the election. People can always be bought with their own money. For old fools like me, it’s about roots and principles. In the past, the NDP has proven itself effective even without winning. But that’s the past, I guess. It’s not enough that a leader be “likeable”; for me, Singh never coulda been a contender.

And what can I say of Maxime Bernier who, as a member of Harper’s cabinet with extreme libertarian views, distinguished himself by leaving behind secret government documents after an overnight romp at the home of his then girlfriend, a one-time girlfriend to a Hell’s Angels member? Disenchanted with losing to Andrew Scheer in his bid for the Conservative leadership, Bernier left the party to form his own unimaginatively called People’s Party of Canada made up largely of constituents to whom he and the conservatives he left often pander: the ignorant, the disenchanted, the intolerant. Is this know-nothing to be trusted let alone supported?

Oh yeah, happy new year.  

***

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

THE NDP AND JAGMEET SINGH: THE PARTY THAT FAILED ME

A fraudulent intent, however carefully concealed at the outset, will generally, in the end, betray itself. — Livy

Since a politician never believes what he says, he is always astonished when other do. – Charles de Gaulle

Frank A. Pelaschuk

I have been a lifelong supporter of the NDP. Take my word for it, that’s a lot of years as a voter, sometime paid member, occasional volunteer worker, and donor. There have been times that I have wavered, unhappy with the direction of the party as when Ed Broadbent refused to step up with the majority of Canadians in opposition to free trade during the 1988 election. Even so, the NDP gained the most seats in its history up to that moment and the Conservatives, who favoured free trade, won notwithstanding the declared voter antipathy to “free” trade. I liked Broadbent as did many Canadians but as an individual rather than a leader. I believed him, and still do, decent, well-meaning but too middle of the road, definitely no Tommy Douglas.

But Broadbent seemed part of a trend as exemplified by British Columbia’s Mike Harcourt who had become provincial leader of the NDP in 1986 and Premier in 1991. It was Harcourt’s appearance on, I believe, CBC’s Crosscountry Checkup, that convinced me the NDP was heading in a direction that may have begun with Ontario’s Bob Rae in the early 70s that I found difficult to reconcile. When asked by the host if he was a “democratic socialist”, Harcourt offered the telling response, “I’m a democrat.” When the host repeat the question, he offered the same response. I found it shocking that a leader of a party based on democratic socialist principles, my party, would, publicly and on air, refuse to acknowledge the party’s socialist roots. Enraged, I immediately wrote him a letter and mailed it to NDP headquarters. A few weeks later, I received a phone call. It was Harcourt wanting to address my concerns. We spoke for close to thirty minutes and my remembrance of the conversation is that it was pleasant but unsatisfactory. I was surprised and pleased that he had taken time from his schedule to respond but I was dismayed that my party leader (I was a member then) would disavow his “socialist” roots. I don’t mean to suggest I believe Broadbent is of the same stripe, nor was he then; if asked the same question, he would have answered. But, unless called to, I suspect he and the party preferred not to draw attention the the “socialist” aspect. I realize now, that, as with Ujjal Dosangh and Bob Rae, the “roots”, if existent, were certainly not deep.

The Harcourt appearance on CBC not only exposed my naïveté, it also woke me up somewhat. The ground had shifted. It wasn’t belief, principles, ideas or ideals that really mattered to some; it was all about the main chance: What’s in it for me.

The idea of the NDP as the “conscience” of the nation had gone by the wayside; the party and its inner circle were, it seemed and still seems to me, less interested in seeing implemented the goals so long hungered for and fought for by grassroots members than snatching victory by compromise and capitulation as Mulcair sought to do in the last election when the NDP, incredulous at its good fortune, truly began to believe victory was within its grasp; for the jaded stalwarts there was hope and excitement, yes, but also wariness, they’ve been down this road before and were used at most to occasionally holding the balance of power in minority governments which allowed opportunity for a real way of leveraging a path towards accomplishing some of their important goals; it was better than nothing. But if satisfying, perhaps not satisfying enough.

It was a long, gradual road of decline, I guess: too many losses, weak leaders, weak platforms. And then Jack. Jack. Jack.

Oh, what might have been! What if…what if…

But Layton, decent, vigorous, dogged… and middle of the road… was gone and there was Mulcair and there was the NDP doing so well, thanks to Layton’s legacy, and all but certain fall of the Harper conservatives. And then, and then…god no! A bolt of lightening, the clap of thunder and THE HANDSOME PRINCE.

Even so, there was a real shot of winning. Better programs, better ideas, better…well, okay, the NDP had no HANDSOME PRINCE but a solid performer in the House and a good grasp of his politics in Mulcair…god it smelled so good, you could almost taste it, feel it…victory! So tantalizing, so alluring, so insidious and corruptive. Mulcair knew it was his for the taking that brass ring, it was just there, just so, so close. He and his handlers wanted it to happen, wanted to ensure it would happen so they came up with a plan: Just promise Canadians what they claim is one of the most important items they want from government. Easy! So he and party did, not only veering right and ceding to the liberals what was generally considered NDP territory, he resoundingly snatched defeat from the jaws of an all but certain victory by promising balanced budgets during a slumping economy. Trudeau, sitting on god’s lap, shrewdly and ecstatically, seized the opportunity to declare he would run deficits to help Canadians recover from the depredations of the Harper regime. For me, the Mulcair declaration was stunning; for the NDP, that capitulation would prove mind-numbingly catastrophic.

Still, even then, I saw hopes of an NDP recovery because, while willing to give Trudeau a chance, I really did not believe he would go through with the electoral reform and many other of his grandiose promises uttered in the manner of a smug brat crossing his arms and puffing out his chest declaring: Look at me! Aren’t I the clever boy?

It wouldn’t take long, I believed, for disillusioned soft liberals and new democrats who bought the split vote nonsense to realize the errors of their ways and return to their usual state of torpor. When he proved himself willing to flaunt conflict of interests regulations time and time again I figured that was it, Trudeau would be toast. How much of the venal, opportunistic, cynical, and cloying phony would Canadians endure?

A lot, evidently.

The NDP fall has been swift and graceless. Mulcair was unceremoniously dumped as leader and replaced by Trudeau-lite Jagmeet Singh. I don’t like the real phony and had no issue with the facsimile except for the fact he was a facsimile. Is this what the NDP had fallen to, pinning hopes on the schmoozing Trudeau bandwagon of youth, looks and apparent charisma oozing, simply oozing charm of cloying sincerity proving himself a feminist, human rights, man-of-the-people of every colour, stripe, need, want, and self-identifying label crusader? Since I don’t buy the Trudeau brand of phony, feel-good hypocrisy why should I Singh’s? But, okay, give the man a chance, he deserves that at least.

Was the NDP membership seeking to offer in a turban-wearing Sikh proof of it’s progressiveness? Good, go with that. But what I also want is a leader who is effective, honest, and non-equivocal and loaded with ideas more than I want the charm à la Trudeau. Well, I haven’t heard much from Singh regarding ideas, programs, his stand on poverty, healthcare, pharmacare, education, homelessness, seniors, veterans. Hell, he is not even an elected member of parliament. If he hadn’t made headlines for reasons that cause me to really doubt the NDP choice to lead the party let alone the country, the NDP and Singh would be all but invisible.

Of particular concern to me are two issues. The first of these was a result of his appearance for an interview on CBC’s Power & Politics by Terry Milewski acting as guest host. When asked, four times, “Is it acceptable for Talwinder Singh Parmar to be held up as a martyr and have posters of him displayed in a positive manner?” (CBC, Power & Politics, Dec. 6, 2017) Singh refused to answer the question except in the vaguest of terms. The astonishing thing that came from this, apart from his non answer, was the blowback from the politically correct for Milewski with suggestions he was a racist. To the PCs, it was immaterial that Singh could not and would not respond to the question, Milewski was a racist. Then the Globe and Mail (March 13, 2018) reported that Singh had attended a San Francisco rally honouring Sikh separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who, depending on which side of the line one stands, is or is not, a terrorist. Singh did not answer questions from the Globe and Mail regarding why he attended. Vague answers to direct questions, poor judgement in whom he supports: these are not hallmarks of a leader let alone a merely adequate leader.

When I saw that interview with Milewski, I fired off an email to Singh making plain my unhappiness with his failure to respond to a fair question.

No response from Singh or the NDP.

The other episode which deeply troubles me is Jagmeet Singh’s mishandling, and that’s what it is, of the allegations of harassment of staffers laid against NDP MP Erin Weir by a third party, fellow MP Christine Moore. What the actual accusations are remain unclear but Weir was immediately suspended from caucus and a third-party investigation by University of Ottawa law professor Michelle Flaherty. Weir apparently welcomed the investigations but denied the allegations claiming them “trumped up” because of his stand in 2016 regarding carbon pricing. Until Weir spoke, there were signs he would be welcomed back to the fold but that changed. Weir was no longer suspended but expelled. Said Singh following those comments, and this may provide a hint of the real reason for his expulsion:“Yesterday, he challenged the findings of the investigation and attacked a person who came forward with the complaint. He also revealed details that could identify the complainant. So for that reason, I cannot be confident in his ability to be rehabilitated (Global News, May 3, 2018).”

Weir was booted from caucus found to have failed to pick up on “social cues”. He accepts that may have happened. While the investigation found evidence of one count of harassment and three of sexual harassment based on hearsay and, from some accounts, misunderstandings, none seem to suggest sexual harassment the way I see it: sexual overtures, groping, touching, suggestive gestures and the like; Weir is a big man and evidently intimidating in appearance. He admits to being socially awkward and did apologize to those he may have discomfited. He agreed to attend remedial treatment with the understanding he would be allowed to return to caucus. He did and from reports, his trainer cleared him saying Weir “gets it”. If there is evidence of inappropriate behaviour, not just “heated” arguments over NDP policy, they must be made public. What is indecent is the public lynching of a man for unspecified crimes open to broad interpretations by anonymous accusers working through a third party. Weir deserves better and Singh and the NDP should have done better beginning with a formal complaint.

Since his expulsion, Weir has sought to be reinstated in the NDP caucus only to be informed by Jagmeet Singh on Sept. 6, 2018 that that would not happen. Not only was there no fair hearing or procedure applied, evidently there is no redemption as far as Singh and the NDP is concerned.

So what is really going on? What was hinted at in Singh’s comments above, seems to be fully developed by Sheila Malcolmson, NDP Women’s Equality Critic, in an appearance on CBC’s Power & Politics on the same day Weir’s expulsion was made final. On the program, she says that Weir, in originally speaking out against the expulsion May 1st, shortly after the allegations became public, had said “some outrageous things about our caucus leaders and the complainants”. In doing so he had sealed his own fate. In other words, you don’t criticize the leadership of the party (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/jagmeet-singh-ndp-erin-weir-1.4812955). And that’s what likely did Weir in.

Over the span of this sordid affair, I have written to Singh and the NDP voicing my concern over the lack of due process accorded Erin Weir. There wasn’t even a formal complaint put forth! I have received no response. That seems to be the standard with the NDP these days.

Christine Moore, the third party who had brought all this about, was herself faced with a sexual harassment allegation by ex-soldier Glen Kirkland who met Moore when testifying at hearing in which she was a member. She was suspended, cleared, though admitting to a sexual encounter. Different outcome. The records are sealed. The finding was the encounter was consensual. That’s good for Moore. But what of Weir who was cleared as “getting it” and, as far as is known, only crime seems to have been of being a big man standing too close to people who may have felt uncomfortable. That’s no justification for the public character assassination and lynching that took place.

I make no claim to knowing the whole story, but I know this: I am very unhappy with the way Jagmeet Singh handled this. If there is more to it, make it public. If not, for decency’s sake, bring an end to Weir’s misery. What I don’t understand is this: After all that Singh, Moore, the NDP leadership has put him through, why would Weir wish to rejoin the NDP? To me, the leadership seem to live by a double standard that is hypocritical and unworthy of a party that I have long supported.

Singh has not only succumbed to the allure of political correctness; he and the party have followed a grossly unfair process in handling sexual harassment claims. Weir may be socially awkward. He may have made mistakes. He admitted to them. He may even be guilty of terrible things. But we don’t know. There is a veil of secrecy that serves neither the NDP, the accusers and certainly not Weir. My knowledge of him is that he has been a decent, hardworking member of the party since he was thirteen years of age. His appearances on TV suggest a young, intelligent, sincere, and earnest individual. The fact that a letter signed by 68 NDP members demanding he be reinstated surely must indicate something of his character and the NDP process they believe flawed.

If that letter receives the same response as mine have over the last nine months, the signatories can expect zero response. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

As long as Singh, Sheila Malcolmson and all the others behind the public lynching of Erin Weir remain, I am through with the NDP.

The party has lost its way. In fact, I feel that no party or politician speaks to me or for me; the conservatives are just mean and the liberals, well, they are just like everyone else I guess, out for the main chance. I am saddened that my party is losing money and that next election at least seven MPs will not run including, David Christopherson, Helené Laverdière, Roméo Saganash, Linday Duncan, and Irene Mathyssen. Is it all on Singh? I think not. Party strategists must be held accountable. One has to wonder about a leader who removes party stalwart David Christopherson for voting against Trudeau’s initiative requiring those applying for funding for Canada Summer Jobs program to disavow their opposition to abortion on religious grounds. Christopherson, a pro-choice proponent, clearly believes one should not be punished on matters of conscience. Phony, feel-good politically correct push-button issues may be for Trudeau and Trudeau-lite but what about integrity, respecting those who actually understand what it means to stand on principle?

The next time a politician or a party asks for your input or ideas, see what happens when you take them up on it. It’s not ideas or input they want. What they want is your gullibility, your vote and your dollars.

Well, those days of giving are over for me. I am tired of being conned, lied to, and treated as a sucker by all parties. I am not surprised that liberals and conservatives treat voters that way; I am that the NDP has joined them.

I am not leaving the party; the party has abandoned me. I am not fearful of the word “socialism” as in “democratic socialism”. Cowards and snobs turn their backs on their roots. And I am not shamed by the thought of a party with a conscience, that believes in decency. Under Singh and today’s NDP leadership, even fairness has taken a beating. That’s just not right.

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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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