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JUSTIN TRUDEAU: THE REAL DEAL OR BEST-DRESSED PHONY

Callous greed grows pious very fast. – Lillian Hellman

I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double cross that bridge when he comes to it.” — Oscar Levant

Frank Pelaschuk

While Trudeau was on the campaign trail he was very much like Donald Trump promising whatever he believed the audience before him at the time wanted to hear. The voters lapped it up. Almost a year into his mandate, he has kept a few of them going so far with one promise as to seem to be washing his hands of his role as Prime Minister of Canada.

The promises he did keep were easy because most Canadians supported them: welcoming over thirty thousand Syrian refugees; bringing back the long-form census; raising taxes on those making over two hundred thousand and lowering taxes for the those in the middle class; following through with the promise to set up an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; allowing government scientists to speak; forming a committee to look into electoral reform; pulling Canada out of bombing missions against ISIS; and, because so patently unfair, prejudicial, offensive, and often ignored, the punitive Conservative mandatory victim levy which placed a greater burden on poor offenders than on those with money. These were good promises when made and good promises when kept. But they were also easy promises because so widely embraced.

But it’s the other promises, the big promises, the promises not kept, easy to make when one has no intention of keeping them or not on the public radar thus easily ignored or unnoticed when quietly dropped, that must be reckoned with. How faithful has he been to honouring those promises, the promises of more honesty, openness, and transparency?

Well, not very.

What is certain is this: On the big promises, the ones that really matter, Human Rights, climate change, the anti-terrorism bill, the disability pension for our vets, Trudeau has failed. He misled, lied and fudged offering examples aplenty of clear failures and a willingness to equivocate, to make excuses, to justify and to blame. While we are seeing many younger faces, we are subjected to the same-old same-old that caused the Liberals so much difficulty and left them in the political wilderness for almost ten years. Yes, many new and younger faces but all pros, already, at playing the game. We saw it then from the Liberals and we see it now from the Liberals: the shameless hubris and belief of entitlement. That it happened so quickly and so easily, this slippage into bad habits and behaviour is almost shocking. Almost. Watch Trudeau closely. When he walks, it is not confidence one notices but swagger, the strut of arrogance and smugness: Here I am, look at me.

It is not enough to look at him; one must see him, really see him.

MONEY FOR THE TAKING

Early in the Liberal mandate we saw signs of equivocation when it came to transparency and honesty. That was when the newly appointed Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould attended a fundraiser put on by a prominent law firm. She said that she attended as a Member of Parliament not as justice minister. That’s splitting hairs and they are not, they cannot be, mutually exclusive. That, notwithstanding Trudeau’s approval, was a clear breach of conflict of interest guidelines. It didn’t bother the justice minister and it didn’t bother Trudeau who merely shrugged it off. It bothered me. It should you.

We have a Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, who attended a climate conference in Paris who had no difficulty in claiming expenses for a professional photographer that cost Canadians over $6K. Press from around the world covered the event; even so, McKenna needed her own private photographer. Why? Because she could and on the public dime?

We have the health minister, Jane Philpott who several times attempted to stiff the public with expense claims, which, upon coming to light, were repaid. First it was $3700 for luxury limousines (she quibbled over the word “luxury”). Then she charged $520 for a pass to Air Canada executive lounges. And then $202 for a suitcase and $178 for a Nexus pass. I suspect she will keep on trying until she gets it right and no one notices or no longer cares.

We have Chrystia Freeland, International Trade Minister, who cancelled a government plane that was to take her home to make a detour on another plane to LA for an appearance on a TV show. That cost taxpayers almost $20K. While campaigning, she charged Canadians $500 for her grooming. A few years ago, Freeland wrote a book on plutocrats. Now she acts like one, another on the public dime.

And then we have the cost of relocating 49 government staffers for $1.1 million. Two staffers to the PMO cost a total of $220K for relocation expenses including “discretionary” costs. Both of the staffers, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford are personal friends with Trudeau. While both repaid some money, saying they did not feel comfortable with some of the claims to which they were entitled (if so, why make the claims and why the discomfort only when the expenses became public?). Trudeau’s attitude regarding these claims was one of justification and fingerpointing. They were allowed to make the claims and they were simply following the rules set up by Harper’s government. Besides, others did the same in the past. That was Trudeau’s response. That is the kind of response I expect of a man who has issues with ethics (for himself and his), a man all too willing to resort to legalese to justify questionable behaviour. If I can, why shouldn’t I? And why not for as much as I can and as often as I can?

THE BIG PROMISES NOT KEPT

During the Harper years, the Temporary Foreign Workers Program enraged Canadians when it was revealed that the government allowed foreign workers to be paid 15% less than Canadian workers, that 200 workers from China were granted permission to work a mine up north while Canadian miners were turned away because they couldn’t speak Mandarin, and that RBC had Canadian workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be exported overseas. The Liberals appeared incensed and the NDP really were. The Harper gang, bowing to public pressure, made changes promising to scale back the cap of low-income workers from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. Once in office as prime minister however, Trudeau ignored the Harper cap and kept the level of foreign workers to 20 per cent. In other words, Trudeau, as did Harper, is working with business. As if Canadian workers do not have enough to worry about than having the added burden of their own government working with Big Business to suppress their wages. That disturbs me deeply. It should you as well.

Remember veterans? Remember how Trudeau, riding the wave of support for better treatment of our vets, promised to reopen the nine offices closed by Harper and to return the life-long disability for vets and do away with the one-time lump sum payment? Well, the government has opened some offices and may open all though that is still unclear. What is not unclear, however, is how badly the Liberals betrayed vets with disabilities as a result of their service. Instead of reinstating the life long disability pension, the Trudeau welshers have simply increased the amount of the one-time lump sum payment. Once again veterans have experienced the bitter sting of betrayal by their own government. Liberals and their staffers pillage the coffers with outrageous expense claims and sorrowfully nickel and dime military men and women. Nice.

When Harper’s regime introduced Bill C-51, it was loudly condemned by almost every sector including the NDP, jurists, lawyers, scholars, activists and concerned citizens. The BC Civil Liberties Association points out the bill expands the definition of “terrorism”, it gives security agencies too much discretion, it “criminalizes speech acts that have no connection to acts of violence”, it will allow sharing of personal information with agencies having nothing to do with security (BCCLA, March 11, 2015). The Liberals supported the bill on the whole but expressed some concerns regarding certain aspects. But, in power, they are doing absolutely nothing. Well, not quite accurate. They are consulting with Canadians online. But the information offered and the questions asked are insufficient for uninformed respondents to give any other outcome but one that is skewed and likely to satisfy the Liberals, i.e., allow the bill to remain almost as Harper’s Conservatives envisioned it.

Should we be concerned that Canadians are asked to have input on the bill when experts in security and the law have denounced it? What does Joe or Jane Average know that those in the field don not? It’s insane. Trudeau and his government want lull Canadians into believing they are offering meaningful input and that they will be listened to. Not so. This is Trudeau’s away of absolving himself when the bill eventually creates real problems and it will. It’s not me, he can aver, it’s the citizens who made the final decision. He is a coward and certainly no leader.

Trudeau did promise to consult. And he has ad nauseam on almost everything one can imagine even when the public likely has little to no knowledge and experience regarding the issue at hand. That’s not governance, that’s abdication of responsibility.

But if Trudeau has proven himself shifty regarding some of his promises, he has also demonstrated he is as hypocritical as any other politician. He had, while campaigning, declared his desire to regain Canada’s seat on the UN Security Council. To that end, he made clear that Human Rights were a priority of his government. Well, that was an absolute load of rubbish, which he proved with his government’s signature completing the trade deal initiated by the Conservative government allowing for the export of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. He not only went against UN but also Canadian regulations regarding international trade with Human Rights abusing nations. Saudi Arabia is among the world’s worst offenders.

When the Canadian Streit Group allowed for shipment of LAVs to Libya from its facilities in the Mideast, breaching an international embargo, the Liberal response from Global Affairs was that the vehicles, while manufactured in Canada, were shipped from the United Emirates “which is outside of Canada’s export-control jurisdiction” (The Globe and Mail, Steven Chase, April 5, 2016). Legalese again. Cowardly and dishonest. But when money is at stake, the Liberals are quite willing to place Human Rights at the back of the line for consideration “at another time”.

And then we have the environment.

Trudeau’s commitment to the environment and climate change seems about as steadfast as his commitment to Human Rights as demonstrated by his willingness to trade with rogue abusers such as Saudi Arabia and China.

Not only did Trudeau approve permits for the go-ahead of the Site C dam in northern British Columbia, he has also given the green light to the Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal off the BC coast at the mouth of the Skeena River. Yes, it will create jobs and will certainly go over big with Christy Clark the premier of British Columbia who grants private meetings to special interests provided they hold in their hands $10K, $20K, $30K and whose Liberal government will be facing an election during 2017. But, if the project creates jobs and helps another Liberal government get re-elected, it will also be a vast emitter of carbon waste thus seriously undermining Trudeau’s much vaunted commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The project, which will be operated by natural gas rather than electricity, will pose a huge risk for the salmon habitat and industries in the area.

Nothing like friends helping friends, eh.

There are folks out there who love Trudeau. Well, he’s personable, why not? The thing is, his behaviour and his acts suggest he’s a phoney. He’s bogus. Oh, yes, he’ll keep his undertakings on the small things but, when it comes to the big prize, getting re-elected, gaining power and keeping it, when it comes to entitlements and getting away with what one can, well, Trudeau is your man all the way. The Liberals, the profligate Liberals are back. And we are lapping it all up, the handsome prince mixing with the gushing public who are only interested in snapping selfies with his arm around them. They have met the prince and he has touched them. They do not think; they react. They stare at him with mouths gaping and lips drooling but, I suspect, failing to notice he has no clothes, that there is no there there. He is straw and air. Oh, it’s a beautiful chimera but reach out to touch it and – poof – it’s all air. Nothing.

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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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LIBERALS VS CONSERVATIVES: THE THINGS ONE SEES IN THE POLITICAL ZOO

We’re born princes and the civilizing process turns us into frogs. – Eric Berne

Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age. – Albert Einstein

 Frank Pelaschuk

WEASELS

Stephen Harper appealed to certain types. He was sly, closed, petty, vindictive and all too willing to exploit the worst in us. He was a prime minister possessive of a narrow, exclusive vision; when he spoke of creating wealth and jobs few appeared to understand that he meant creating wealth for special interests groups and that when he spoke of jobs his primary concerns seemed to be in working with Big Business in suppressing wages of Canadian workers through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. His message was one, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, and his efforts of building the economy focused solely on one industry while neglecting manufacturing and other sectors of society. As PM, for at least half of his time in office, he blamed the Liberals for all the things that went wrong, the global market collapse of 2008 for one, and was shameless in hectoring world leaders for not having their collective houses in order. Over time, taking personal credit for the health of our banking system while neglecting to admit to his role in attempting to dismantle the very regulations that made the system healthy, his crowing and badgering grew tiresome, even to Canadians. When Canada began to suffer it’s own economic slump some global leaders must have experienced a grim feeling of schadenfreude. Controlling, incapable of ceding ground or admitting to ever being wrong, he was a pygmy in many ways seeming to imagine himself a giant among men but when it came to generosity of spirit he was graceless and lacking proving himself cowardly several times when he prorogued Parliament rather than answer questions regarding his budgets. He blamed the Liberals for the stagnant economy and not his own preoccupations regarding Alberta oil and certainly not his own ineptitude. He inherited a huge surplus from the Liberals and quickly squandered it creating a deficit of $158 billion while spreading the myth that he and the Conservative squad were the greatest money managers since history began.

For most Canadians, even his supporters, he was not viewed as a warm or caring individual.

But how much worse, if worse, than Justin Trudeau? Oh, Trudeau looks good, I guess, appeals to more than Harper ever did what with his charm, his reputation as best-dressed world leader, his eager efforts to pose with all and sundry seeking selfies with him. There isn’t a camera that doesn’t like him or he a camera. And is it so bad boosting his “sunny, sunny ways”? Yet, there’s something missing. His is a fuzzier, harder image to grasp; many still embrace him because there is not yet enough there to dislike. It will come.

As opposition leader, he largely supported Harper’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, “with some reservations”, a bill that allows for little oversight of spy agencies, that allows for individuals to be accused anonymously, that allows sharing of information of all Canadians travelling to the US, and that could result in charges of economic terrorism for those staging peaceful protests against pipelines, transportation of oil etc. But why is Trudeau “consulting” with Canadians regarding this Harper initiated bill? It’s all show. C-51 has been universally condemned by jurists, educators, judges, lawyers, and activists and even ignorant lay people as myself as bad law that will be challenged in the courts and almost certain to suffer setbacks; as it stands, C-51 appeals to the frightened, uninformed and bigoted. Consultation with the public is only a feel-good measure allowing them to be heard, to voice their concerns and be likely a large enough segment to convince the Liberals to make little, if any changes. Trudeau can claim he gave Canadians an opportunity to be heard and he listened. No doubt he’ll win a few extra votes simply for doing nothing meaningful with C-51. And I am convinced that that is his strategy with electoral reform; many want a referendum and he appears to be having second thoughts even thought he has gone through with his promise to set up a committee to investigate reforms. If he takes the referendum route, the electoral reform will be defeated unless the Liberals make a concerted effort to educate voters. If he goes through with his pledge to make the last election the last first-past-the-post ever, he will likely opt for his preferred choice: the ranked ballot. PR will not make it, of that I am convinced.

While campaigning, Trudeau promised to make Human Rights a priority. He demonstrated he didn’t mean it. Well, not yet. Contrary to what he would have us believe, it is his government that has finalized the $15 billion Light-Armoured vehicle trade deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes, Saudi Arabia, even though it violates Canada’s own as well as UN laws regarding international trade with those Human Rights abusing nations. Liberals claimed they had no choice, their hands were tied, and it was already a done deal by Harper. Not true. Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, had quietly signed off on the export of LAVs. That was the final seal to the deal. Unlike the Dutch who had banned trade deals with Saudi Arabia, the Liberals use weasel words to justify honouring a contract and in the process make a mockery of their claims for Human Rights as a priority. Breaking a deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation as a trading partner, Trudeau claims. Utter nonsense. In the past, Liberal leader Jean Chretien held no such qualms when he cancelled a helicopter deal brokered by the Conservatives. There were penalties for that, but Chretien did not care. He should have. Human Rights were not at issue then.

Trudeau, no doubt thinking of the 3,000 Canadian jobs and the $15 billion deal has apparently made a commitment to trade regardless of the cost to the victims of those trading partners and, in doing so, has made Canadians complicit to any atrocities that may be inflicted by its trading Human Rights abusing partners. Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money.

The Streit Group, Canadian manufacturers of light armoured vehicles, once called “jeeps” by Trudeau, has a plant in Ontario. Recent revelations have shown that vehicles made in Canada have been shipped to South Sudan and Libya where they were then armed with weapons by the military regimes. The practice is called diversion and it is illegal under international law and has led to UN investigators criticising the deals and some concerned groups to ask the government if the deals have violated sanctions against South Sudan and Libya. The sad fact is the vehicles have been sold with the full knowledge that they would later be retrofitted elsewhere. The manufacturers know it; this government knows it. But not a peep of condemnation. See, hear and speak no evil. Instead, the Liberals claim the vehicles fell out of the purview of Canada once they were shipped from a company’s branch in the United Arab Emirates and are no longer any concern of the Canadian government. That’s legalese, a loophole, a weaselly cop-out, that the Liberals believe absolves the Canadian company and Canada: we make them, ship them to an outside branch and then wash our hands of them watching from the sidelines as they are sold to lawless states. Nothing to do with us.

Equally troubling is Trudeau’s commitment to closer ties with China at apparently any cost. Again, Human Rights is a factor. He appears set to cement trade relations with the Human Rights abuser by entering “discussions” (the Chinese call it “negotiations” a not too subtle difference) around an extradition treaty though, when asked directly, sidestepped the matter except to say that Canada has always had “extremely high standards when it comes to extradition treaties”. At one time, yes, but as far back as 2007 Harper had dropped opposition to the death penalty paving the way for extradition to the US. China executes more individuals than all the nations of the world combined including dissidents, students, educators, artists, as well as economic, underworld and everyday “thugs”. Personally, I have no sympathy for those “free enterprisers” in China who cut costs by adulterating milk and other products with poisonous substances such as melamine. Nor do I have sympathy for fraudsters who rip off consumers and exploit and endanger labourers and then flee to Canada seeking shelter. But I do opposed capital punishment and believe Trudeau must obtain a guarantee from China before he inks anything. Even then, I will oppose the deal because I do not trust the Chinese government It’s not enough to mouth support for Human Rights; Canada must demonstrate its support of them. In the crunch, Trudeau appears all too ready to pick and choose when to take a stand. Not good enough.

PIGS, HOGS, SWINE—TAKE YOUR PICK

Trudeau promised better and kinder and of course people believed him. It’s true, he did accomplish a few things Canadians easily support: he kept his promise on Syrian refugees; he did create an inquiry commission into the missing and murdered indigenous women file; he brought back the long-form census; he cut taxes for the middle class and raised them for those making over $200K; he created a task force to look into electoral reform but, unfortunately, while he kept to his promise to consult with Canadians, he has overdone it; there comes a time when a prime minister must lead, must rely on experts in the military, legal and almost every other area of governance rather than on currying favour by consulting with those who may know nothing of a subject. It’s the big promises that are often the hardest to keep. And in the biggest and hardest, Human Rights and trade, Trudeau has not fared well at all. As for the poor, the meanest among us, I have heard nary a word from him. While eager to help the middle class, he has done nothing from what I can see for the single parent holding two or more jobs.

He was going to be fair, open, and transparent and has failed in all three though, it is true, he does seem to be eager to be seen as transparent. Not so with the NDP. During the Harper reign of error, the highly secretive and partisan Conservative and Liberal dominated board of internal economy had determined the satellite offices created by the NDP (offices set up in ridings without NDP representatives using parliamentary staffers as pooled resources working out of town in Quebec) were illegal. The BOIE had changed the rules, which, a year from then would revert to what they were, for the sole purpose it seems of bankrupting the NDP. The BOIE demanded the NDP pay back $2.75 million with allegations of improperly using government resources for partisan purposes, something staffers of all parties presumably do. The NDP, believing they have done nothing wrong, attempted to reach a settlement with the Liberals without going to court. Justin Trudeau vetoed the effort so the matter is headed for the courts. Said Dominic LeBlance then Liberal House Leader, “It is the NDP who decided to begin frivolous judicial proceedings and subsequently asked for settlement negotiations. We have always been of the view that the NDP misused public funds and should therefore reimburse taxpayers” (Joan Bryden, Canadian Press, March 11, 2016). If the NDP is guilty of misusing public funds as the highly secretive and questionable board of internal economy maintain in this particular instance, than so are the Liberals and Conservatives for doing the same. But they, a vile cabal of self-interested pigs will, to no one’s surprise, have none of that. As Harper had proven himself a vindictive bully in the past, Trudeau appears as ready and willing to take on the same role. If the NDP has done wrong, they must, of course pay; but so must the Conservatives and Liberals.

Troubling as this is, this image of a leader bent on bankrupting a party for purely partisan purposes, a sure sign of a smallness in the man, there are other issues of equal concern and they, too, have to do with money.

Following a platitude-laden speech at the UN September 20, 2016, Trudeau answered questions from reporters. Good so far. However, when asked about relocation expense claims by two senior members of his staff and personal friends, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, for a total of $220K, his response was this: We were just following rules set up by the previous government. What! That’s his response? After hearing the same from Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and MPs from all parties regarding expense claims, campaign expenses, haven’t we had enough of these lame excuses? When asked for the names of the two, Trudeau kept mute. Why? As taxpayers footing the bills, haven’t Canadians the right to know who may or may not be abusing the system? The Globe and Mail (September 21, 2016), reports that someone in Global Affairs charged $119,825 for moving. In total, the government spent $1.1 million in relocation costs for 47 (I’ve seen another figure of 49) individuals. As well, communications staff from all departments have run up a tab of $2.3 million in overtime during the first seven months of his governance. This is the new, different? From what? When Liberal prize candidate Andrew Leslie retired from the military, he charged $72K to move just a few blocks; Canadians were justly enraged. The above relocation costs should enrage them as well. For the Liberals, ho hum, we didn’t make the rules. But, even as I write this, both Telford and Butts, have offered to pay back about a third of what they claimed with offers of apologies. That’s how it works in politics. Do everything you can to get what you can; if caught, pay back some, say “Sorry”.

Trudeau’s response from the UN is what we have heard too many times from the Conservatives. It is inadequate. Just because one is allowed to make these extremely generous claims, should one milk it dry without a detailed public accounting? If we pay for it, surely we are entitled to know exactly for what we paid. This is not only pushing the envelope, it smacks of grabbing all you can when you can Otherwise what are we to his smacks not only of pushing the envelope but also of seizing the opportunity to feather one’s nest. It’s contemptible. As was Trudeau’s response. Legalese. The rules allow this. While I am on this, was it really necessary for taxpayers to foot the bill for seven staffers who accompanied him?

Nine years ago, my wife and I moved to Ontario from British Columbia. We hired a reputable moving company for our belongings including our vehicle and purchased plane tickets for less than $15K. Even accounting for inflation, and hotel accommodations, real estate fees and other allowances for government compensation, it is difficult to believe the costs of moving can be justified without crossing one’s fingers.

I should not be but I continue to be astounded by such behaviour. Is there no shame?

Clearly not. Until you’re exposed.

The Liberals were turfed out of office largely because of corruption and their sense of entitlement. Well, it appears that happy, sunny attitude is back. We saw to what extent early in their governance.

Our Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, supported by Trudeau, saw nothing wrong in attending a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers. What possible conflict of interest? Right.

We have Health Minister Jane Philpott continually pushing the envelope with questionable expense claims charging Canadians $3700 for luxury limousines, she paid that back. Then it came out she charged $520 for a pass to Air Canada executive lounges. Paid that back, too. Then it was $202 for a suitcase and $178 for a Nexus pass to allow for speedier passage across the border. She agreed to repay that as well. She did quibble over whether the Lexus she rented was a luxury vehicle. Chintzy. Keep on trying until you get it right and don’t get caught, I guess.

We have Environment Minister Catherine McKenna charging Canadians $6K+ to hire a professional photographer during the Climate summit in Paris. Media covered the event. She could have bought a few flattering photos from the press for mere dollars.

And then we have International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland who had been in Manila on government business. Instead of returning home on a booked government plane, she made a detour to appear on a TV show with Bill Maher. That sudden change of plans cost taxpayers close to $20K. She also charged Canadians $500 for grooming while on the campaign trail. When Conservative Eve Adams did the same, she got into trouble. Ah, well, you got to love the hypocrisy of politics.

Doubtless, there are many Canadians who recall Conservative Bev Oda. She had been caught several times making expense claims to which she was not entitled. She, too, had to repay. But the thing that finally forced her out of office was the tab for a $16 glass of orange juice. Evidently the public outcry was too much for the Harper gang. Oda was gone.

There appears to be a lesson to that story. If you are going to steal from the public, go big: Canadians don’t like pikers.

Maybe that’s why, when Mike Duffy was acquitted on all counts, the outrage was rather subdued. He went big and the judge accepted his excuses and that’s enough to absolve all grasping sins: the rules are unclear; the rules allow this; I was told I could do this; my staffer did this; it was an honest mistake; everyone knows me and I am an honest man/woman.

Yes, the Liberals are back and so soon in their mandate quickly proving themselves, with so many Bev Odas of their own, pros among the ethically challenged. And just like Harper, Trudeau will stand by them – until one buys the $16 orange juice. Susan Smith of Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. who is a Liberal pundit appearing regularly on Power and Politics dismisses the issue of costly expense claims as “pedestrian nonsense as opposed to substantive issues” and “junk and crap” dredged up by the opposition who would rather talk about this than the politics of Kellie Leitch or the falling fortunes of the NDP. Maybe Smith considers it small potatoes to charge taxpayers exorbitant, anything-you-can-get-away-with, expense. I don’t.

RODENTS –SEWER RATS

When Kellie Leitch made clear the ugly direction of her Conservative leadership aspirations, Canadians were treated to a glimpse of an outsized ego but one not quite confident enough to trust on her own experiences, talents, and merits to take her to the top. The circumspection seems warranted for, though she does have considerable experience with the Harper government, she is relatively unknown except for her enthusiastic endorsement of the Harper gang’s commitment to create a Barbaric Cultural Practices Snitch Line. At her side, equally enthusiastic, was Chris Alexander. He lost his seat and Leitch kept hers – go figure. Nevertheless, believing she has a winning formula, she has opted for a second kick at the can at trading in ignorance, fear, suspicion, and the collapse of moral character. She sees a scab she’ll pick at it; so it is with fear and ignorance, she’ll work it. She is simply another in a vast sea of Conservative bottom feeders eager to gain the attention and support of the imbecilic and hateful losers who derive a pitiful and grim satisfaction in making others pay for their miserable lot. Nothing is their fault. These are the folk envious of the success of others and embittered by the failures of their own banal lives, folks who prefer to work at pulling down rather than raising up, especially themselves, and for no other reason than the recognition of themselves as losers who will always be losers.

Kellie Leitch has offered them something, as had the Harper Conservatives last election. It didn’t work out to well federally but for the leadership race it might just fit the bill because she believes she knows her family, believes her appeal is what she offers this family of sad sack losers making up the core of the Conservative base: she offers the same sacrificial lamb that the Harper gang offered last election: the immigrant, the newcomer, the foreigner – the Muslim terrorist. Leitch will win some over because these folks are handicapped crippled by fear and suspicion and the certain knowledge and shame of their own weaknesses and cowardice; they possess no dignity because they have never understood the strength and worth of those they hate and fear; they are not worth a second glance except by those opportunists who would exploit them for all the poisons festering within. Leitch is not just one who feeds off the rot; she is the rot.

POSSUMS

But, of the Harper crew, she is not alone. Just days after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals appointed Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, to take on the role of Leader of the Government in the House of Commons as well, the Conservatives, under interim leader Rona Ambrose, appointed Candice Bergen as party House Leader, to replace Andrew Scheer who is running for the Conservative leadership. He is another prize. Bergen’s most notable achievement as member of the Harper Conservatives has been her many appearances on various political programs including CBC’s Power and Politics as Parliamentary Secretary. She, along with many others, including the execrable Leitch and Rempel and the departed Chris Alexander served primarily as functional, near-lifelike appearing wind-up dolls (the dead playing alive) in appearing as their government’s intermediaries. With eyes glued wide open and mouths fixed in permanent grimaces halfway between smiles and sneers these breathing effigies of something human behaved appropriately when asked questions offering what seemed a recorded message of the day transmitted to a chip implanted in relatively small brains: the message was not “I love you” but some variation of the Harper mantra, “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts”. Whatever the message of the day, anything approaching coherence and openness did not play a part. Regardless of the question or its variations, the responses by these (one assumes) living, talking dolls, were unvarying and almost word for word. It was horrific watching Bergen and her confederates; at times I wondered if, at night, these creatures from Stepford were placed at charging stations for reenergizing awaiting the transmission of the next day’s script to that chip within them, somewhere. Evidently, despite the months away and now as opposition member, Bergen hasn’t quite shed her role as living Conservative dummy. On September 15, she appeared on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton. Not only did she make claims that Conservatives have demonstrated an ability to “really get along quite well with opposition members” (!!!!), she also said that her new role was to ensure they hold the “liberals to account, we have to ensure they respect parliament, that they don’t ram things through…”!!! Maybe it was my TV set, but when she uttered those words, I’m certain I saw, through tears induced by laughter, her face redden. In fact, immediately following that, she also appeared to hesitate. Had she suddenly suffered a flashback? Had she, if even briefly, recalled how many times the Harper regime, of which she was a proud, loyal and disdainful member, refused to consult with opposition members regarding legislation? Had she suddenly recalled the many closures of debate by the Conservatives, the ramming through of laws, and the endless efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection? Was there, on that day, from Candice Bergen, a hint of embarrassment, a Conservative robot somehow, miraculously, showing a teensy bit of life and, dare I say it, shame?

Not a bit of it. They are shameless.

JACKASSES

But this gives you a hint of the quality of what we had and have, Leitch, Bergen and all the other erstwhile luminaries: Michelle Rempel (notable for shrill appearances as parliamentary secretary and for what appeared drunken tweets where she wonders if the world was ready for someone like her – the answer is no); Clement (of the $50 million slush fund and deserving infamy for $3 billion missing while he was president of the Treasury); Deepak Obhrai; Brad Trost (who boasts of being right of Attila the Hun); Maxime Bernier (think secret documents, unzipped pants, ex-girlfriend of Hell’s Angels member); Andrew Scheer (ex-Speaker of the House notable for demonstrating his partisanship and indifference to impartiality), each as bad as the other sitting in opposition waiting for the day to offer more of the same some even imagining themselves not only leader of the party but of the country.

Jason Kenney, stalwart of the Harper gang will not be running for the leadership federally. Instead, he is galloping west to rescue Alberta from the socialist horde that has somehow, by some black arts, become the government with Rachel Notley leading the bloodthirsty gang. On September 20, 2016, Jason Kenney, interviewed by Rosemary Barton in celebration of his announced resignation as MP made this utterance “One thing I learned in politics is it’s much easier to tell a simple lie than a complicated truth”! He should know. He has proven that truth has been too complicated for him at times as when he attempted in a fundraising letter to suggest Trudeau was sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted a picture of a child “bride”, hands bound, with her “husband” and another of bound women we were to take as ISIS slaves without informing us the first was fake and the other of an historical re-enactment. This is the fellow who justified Canada’s expanded role in Iraq with the claim that only the US and Canada, of the allies, had precision-bombing capability. When truth threatens, he flees.

Sadly, nothing has really changed even with Kenney’s departure. Different government, the same kind of people: scoundrels, liars, whores. and a few honest folks elected by mistake. Trudeau has been more open, I will grant him that but he has proven himself to have the mettle to be secretive and shifty. All the warmth and fuzzy good feelings? It’s chimera. He seems ready to sign an extradition deal with China. If anything signalled how willing he was to turn his back on Human rights, it was the LAV deal with Saudi Arabia and the justifications he offered for doing so. If he signs the extradition treaty with China, there will be excuses but he he will have sealed the door on Human Rights as a priority so that he can open the door to trade and embrace the torturers and murderers.

***

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

POLITICS, POLITICIANS AND THE PUBLIC: THE ENDLESS SHAMELESS DANCE

Politics, n.pl. A means of livelihood affected by the more degraded portion of our classes. – n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers from the disadvantage of being alive. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Frank A. Pelaschuk

They are politicians. They are of a type often found in groups of the like minded holding sordid ambitions involving recognition, influence, expense accounts and lifelong pensions, who, in seeking office, hold firmly (often unjustifiably) to the belief they are the right person for the job which, unfortunately, is dependent on the votes of the fickle, greedy, gullible, and ignorant which they quickly establish, often successfully, by currying favour with offers of promises that are largely extravagant and unrealistic and unrealizable in the full knowledge the promises cannot be met, will not be met and were never meant to be met.

The individual, and the group to which he belongs, while not necessarily needing but always mindful of the advantages of such should the need arise, will, in his quest for office, often add insurance that will almost certainly garner a few extra votes: they will pander to the worst in us, exploiting our fears and our biases: scapegoats are of particular use for electioneering purposes whereas honesty, integrity, loyalty, truthfulness, respect, openness, transparency, and the ability to experience shame have little place and hold little value and are certainly not requirements of the job but must, nevertheless, be loudly acknowledged as virtues deeply ingrained to appease those for whom such things matter. In truth, however noble these qualities may seem and however loudly the public may proclaim its desire that those who run for office possess most if not all these traits, it would be best if they were left at the door. Conscience and decency are obstacles and will bode no good for the individual or the party for the truth is this: the voter rarely cares about scruples unless in some way he feels personally negatively affected. Occasionally, in this mixture, aberrations can be detected and seem almost a fault because such rarities: there are some who actually are good, decent, able, intelligent, non-partisan, and worthy of the office they seek. They do not always last. Megan Leslie and Peter Stoffer of the NDP were such. Unfortunately, too many are not of the calibre of Leslie or Stoffer possessing none of their talents, work ethic and certainly none of their decency. I am thinking in particular of those Harper Conservatives who, if capable, were and are more noted for their naked ambition, shrillness, spitefulness, vindictiveness, partisanship, aversion to truth, and just plain unlikablity. They are sewer dwellers revelling in muck.

The crew of the last regime, many still MPs if only as official opposition, were and are exemplars of this group as were the Liberals of the past until chastened by their ouster from first to third place recovering after years of exile for one too many excesses involving scandal and corruption. Regardless of the party, once having gained power, the winning group, with shovelfuls of hypocrisy, invariably quickly loses interest in the voter and the public in general breaking many of the promises with demands the public lower expectations their attention now focused on the special interests groups that contributed greatly to their victory. The victorious party invariably offers familiar excuses pointing fingers at the previous government for having left the cupboard bare or in some otherwise fashion imposed constraints that make it impossible for them to fulfill all they promised. In this regard, the Liberals have good cause for such claims, Harper overspending in procurement of planes and ships, often at double cost, and cutting taxes for the wealthy and, shortly before the election, renewing contracts of bureaucrats long before their terms expired. The victor will repeatedly remind voters how bad it was with the previous regime. It’s doubtful anyone will quickly forget. Meanwhile, those suddenly out of power, let’s call them losers, armed with equal amounts of hypocrisy and with a proclivity for revisionism regarding their behaviour, seek every opportunity to punish the new government with demands and expectations they themselves had refused to honour in the firm conviction that the opposition’s first duty is to oppose, obstruct and undermine rather than work with the government of the day. None of this can be unexpected, even if disheartening, for much of the Tory gang with the same level of meanness, spite and hypocrisy still hold office, ugly people with ugly mindsets. They are doing exactly what the previous Liberal governments have done when they, too, were booted out of office.

Once in power, the party, whether Liberal, as it is today, or vile Conservatives as it had been for close to ten years, will always offer small demonstrations of making efforts to honour their promises; these are usually largely insignificant measures with, perhaps, one or two major initiatives loudly trumped to suggest great importance, movement and impact. The public always embraces them initially and with great enthusiasm – This is what we voted for! – acting surprised and pleased, just as the governing party intends. Eventually, as noted above, rather quickly in fact, the ruling party will move on preoccupied with fulfilling its own agenda including paying off debts to major donors and backers with various forms of favourable legislation, government jobs, business contracts or various forms of public recognition often with a cost borne by the citizenry. The voter thus dismissed and unheeded until once again called upon to partner in the same squalid political dance four or five years down the road, will quietly step aside and observe a sad truth no other party demonstrated more clearly, loudly and viciously than Harper’s Conservatives: the primary duty and function of any governing party, seemingly, is to survive. Towards that end, the governing party, having obtained power, must work diligently at clinging to it for as long as possible by any means possible even at the expense of democracy exacting vengeance against opponents and critics while also resorting to deceiving the public, lying to the public, cheating the public, and changing laws and electoral processes to their advantage. Who can blame them: What use is power if it cannot be wielded and abused?

But a politician is nothing without an audience and is even less without his voters just as a dancer is without his partner. He is fully aware it is not often the dull, decent honest man or woman or the visionary with true ideas, ability, and integrity or even the steady, reliable truthful plodder who occasionally gets things done who are most rewarded but rather the hustler, the smooth talker with bold, flashy promises, and the panderer who appeals to our greed, vanity, fears and ignorance. He knows it doesn’t take much: push a button, any button, the selfish button, the bigoted button, the religious button, the patriotic button, the ignorance button, the stupid button, the fear button but, for god sakes, never, never, press the wake up button, the thinking button: that’s the road to certain ruin. The politician knows that voters will always, always, claim to want honest, decent, truthful individuals running for office and he knows voters will always, always, aver they want change, real change, but he also knows it’s just hot air, knows that many of them, enough to allow him and his group to lead and mislead a nation over the years, are primarily concerned with one thing: What’s in it for me? So he tells them, fingers crossed, offering the familiar uplifting homilies and vague outrageously extravagant undertakings as if new, never before promised or heard the player and played partners in deceit and self-deception. It’s all about winning and losing, of suasion and deceit, of pandering and being bought. It’s about power, image and perception. This is politics. Governance apparently has been relegated an ancillary role.

SHALL WE DANCE?

Well, that is politics as played by Harper and his gang who introduced Canadians to a soulless era of authority and dogma rather than guidance and wisdom.

Harper as prime minister is gone but his husk haunts the Hill. We have a new government. Under Trudeau, we may take a step back to kinder, gentler and possibly even effective governance, but it is likely the Harper rot and methods will win the day in the end. You can see it in the official opposition, many of the same people behaving in the same way slavering and impatient eager to witness if not bring about the downfall of the Liberals.

And the Liberals will fall. All parties and all leaders, however good and effective, fail over time and often for no good reason than the urge for change without real change. When that happens it will be the Conservatives once again back in power. Federally, it’s always been so.

Yes, after a long hiatus, the Liberals are back. They and the other parties made big promises for the middle class, more benefits, more money in their wallets, less taxes. Unfortunately, none were interested in focusing on poverty, homelessness, health, education, assistance for single parents holding down two, three jobs though, it is true, there was a nod towards First Nations members. It was all about the middle class, the marginalized marginalized even more. That was surprising from the NDP, less so from the Liberals and expected from the Conservatives. So, yes, there are new, fresh faces and among them, a few familiar battle-scarred veterans to offer comfort of wisdom and experience but it’s the same old ground, the same beneficiaries and the same losers at the bottom. Occasionally, a bone is thrown to the losers. It didn’t matter, Trudeau, won the voters. Sunny days, sunny ways.

After Harper, any change would seem a seismic shift and for the better. But is it?

Within weeks of the election, Stephen Harper renewed the contracts of many of his bureaucratic appointees. Some of these renewals were made well in advance of the expiration date and were clearly intended to tie Trudeau’s hands with Harper appointees in senior positions. This was a filthy, mean-spirited move by a scheming prime minister who likely suspected his days were numbered but still wanted to have some say in government or at least to make things difficult for the Liberals. Trudeau, denied the opportunity to put his own people in the bureaucracy, wrote letters to the appointees requesting they step aside and reapply for the positions. It’s not clear how many have obliged (if any) if only for the appearance of decency and to eliminate the suspicion of cronyism run amok. Thanks to Harper, the taxpayer faces the real possibility of paying millions to buy out these bureaucrats if Trudeau goes that route. He will be held to blame, the Conservatives will see to that, and possibly accused of cronyism with his replacements. For some, that appears to be acceptable, a few journalist stooges admiringly labelling the Harper manoeuvre a creative use of his authority. Creative it certainly was, but vile and abusive as well. Had the Liberals or the NDP done such, one can imagine the howls of outrage from those hypocrites. The thing is, Trudeau might have been better served by first reviewing the appointees to determine for himself if they were indeed all Harper hacks or whether they were capable men and women able to work with his regime in a non-partisan manner. They should not be disqualified simply because they are Harper appointees but because they are incompetent or clearly too partisan to do their jobs effectively on behalf of the Liberal government. If the lesson was rough on Trudeau, hopefully he has learned from it and works to bring an end to that kind of shabby, cheap chicanery. There is nothing admirable in what Harper did. He was clever, yes, but devious, shameless and contemptible as well revealing as much about his character as many of his other questionable past actions and deserving of nothing but contempt. While I do not support the Liberals, I do not believe Justin Trudeau is of the same dirty cloth nor do I believe his caucus of the same snarling, partisan, mean-spirited, parochial vacuity so openly exhibited by such Conservative stalwarts as Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Jason Kenney, Peter van Loan, Kellie Leitch, and those booted out of office Chris Alexander, Dean Del Mastro, Paul Calandra etc. In that respect thus far, the differences are obvious and hopeful.

But limited. A few days from this writing, the PBO declared the Liberal plan for the middle class doesn’t add up and will reduce revenue by $8.9 billion over six years. Increasing taxes for the top 10% will only lead them to scurrying about to find and take advantage of other loopholes available to them. That’s a fail particularly when those at the bottom are completely shut out. And it’s an even more egregious fail when the middle class is defined as those earning between $45 and $90 thousand.

THE PARTNERS

Trudeau began well, however, fulfilling a commitment to form a cabinet with equal numbers of men and women. That was not mere tokenism for these are all people from all walks of life with real ability and accomplishments certainly suggesting a promise of great things to come. And he started moving on some of his promises, many of them small but not without significance to those affected. He has moved to look at pardons and the costs for applying for them which, under Harper had tripled. Trudeau’s minster of justice and attorney general of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, a First Nations member, will look towards reducing the time one can apply for pardons from five to ten years to three to five years. She will also be working with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to set up an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women as well looking into physician-assisted death. She is extremely impressive.

Too, the government will repeal CRA audits of charities, which, under Harper, targeted “left” leaning organizations for being “too political” such as Oxfam for wanting to end poverty. As well, in another great move, Trudeau has set out to depoliticize the public service by looking at ways to keep appointments of the clerk of the Privy Council at a remove from the Prime Minister’s Office. Small but promising moves. Unfortunately, so soon into the mandate, there are clouds that threaten the Trudeau honeymoon. The Liberals are at risk of falling into old habits. Politics has a way of doing that to even the best.

To all his minsters, Trudeau wrote “Mandate” letters outlining many of his goals, desires and expectations. I recommend all Canadians read them and take him at his word when he says, “I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments…. We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government” (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/ministerial-mandate-letters).

Trudeau has chosen very good men and women with his appointments but there are also glitches that are not insignificant.

His pick of Jane Philpott as Minister of Health who very early in her term appears well on the road to mending fences with provincial leaders in working for an accord on pharmacare, the sharing of patient information between doctors, long-term care, and funding, is a particularly good choice. Hopefully, there will be a time we see increased funding, less reliance on the private sector, and standardized treatment and care between provinces and a consistent, long term plan for training of nurses and doctors and the end of health and education being used as political footballs often resulting in cuts and demands for doing more with less. But I will not count on that happening soon.

We have the impressive Catherine McKenna who, within days of her appointment as Minister of Environment and Climate Change, was in Paris playing a significant role during the climate change summit. This is a formidable and talented member who managed to unseat another formidable and talented member of parliament, NDP’s Paul Dewar.

Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions, seems another extremely good choice. Young, bright, energetic, she has the task of overseeing the reform of the Senate. The committee of prominent Canadians formed under her guidance, however, suffers from the inclusion of Heather Bishop, a talented folksinger with a great voice, who engages in hypnotherapy, a form of “new-age” quackery popular in the ’70s discredited by reputable scientific bodies. Hers is a very odd choice for a government proclaiming itself determined to make policy that is evidence-based. Monsef will be the minister looking at electoral reform. This was a major promise by Trudeau when he declared last year’s election the last first-past-the-post. But, if he opts for the ranking system, well, nothing will have changed; it’s another rigging of the game.

Another possible good choice, which has yet to be demonstrated, is Harjit Singh Sajjan, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Armed Forces with combat experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan, as Minister of Defence. The Liberals had vowed to pull Canadian planes from the ISIS mission in Iraq without saying when while at the same time hinting at involvement in other ways. However, their dithering on the role they would play in the war against ISIS in the future has likely been the reason for Canada’s exclusion from the summit by allies meeting in Paris to determine how to best combat ISIS. Sajjan claims this is not a snub. Really? This is not a good beginning for the defence minister nor does it indicate a government fully embraced by the US-led coalition combating ISIS.

A FEW GOOD STEPS, SOME STUMBLES

John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, is an old experienced hand for the Liberals. He is responsible for overseeing Canada’s efforts to resettle refugees into Canada. Unfortunately, it has not gone as smoothly or as well as the Liberals had hoped and promised. When campaigning, they had vowed to introduce 25,000 refugees to Canada by year’s end in just a little over a two-month period. There were sceptics saying it could not be done and there was the NDP making a much lower but clearly more realistic commitment of bring in 10,000 during the same time frame. Even so, the Liberals insisted they were up to the task. The tally by year’s end turned out to be 6,000. The difficulty is not the number of Syrians taken in; any number is better than none. The difficulty is the extravagance of the promise in the first place and that so many wanted to believe it possible they were willing to overlook that the Liberals had over promised and failed to deliver and likely knew they would fail. It didn’t matter. People preferred to believe in hype and hope especially when presented by a young and sincere Liberal leader with a famous patronym. What made it even worse, in spite of repeated delays in meeting the challenge, the Liberals vowed to bring in thousands more by the end of 2016. The first was a foolish promise, the timeline impossible. It was a promise that could not be met or kept observers warned yet Trudeau and the Liberals went ahead ignoring them trusting in the generosity and compassion of Canadians to forgive and forget because the promise was made with the “best” intentions. That was something Harper did all too often. Thus far, Canadians appear willing to give the Liberals a pass excusing the delay as a result of an enthusiastic grand gesture. But should the Liberals get off that lightly? Does anyone really enjoy being played?

Still, the Liberals know how to score points at little cost. One of which was to make a quick decision on the so-called Monument to Liberty to honour the victims of Communism. Not only would this monstrosity be moved and downsized, the government would reduce by half Ottawa’s contribution towards it. These are good moves but not good enough. The project should have been scrapped. At the very least, it should be renamed: The Monument for Victims of Tyranny perhaps. It is an offensive travesty that memorializes the victims of one tyranny over the victims of others as if mass murder were more tolerable when committed by free enterprisers in the name of Nazism, fascism, despotism, or capitalism. The Harper gang offered strong support for this eyesore with donated crown land and taxpayer monies evidently holding to the belief victims of any –ism do not deserve equal consideration. By not insisting that the project be scrapped or renamed, the Liberals appear to agree. That is disappointing.

So, how new and fresh are the Liberals when one looks at the party rather than the young, bright faces? Overpromising, as with the Syrian refugees, may strike some as quibbling. People were brought in; lives were saved and transformed for the better. But it was the cynicism behind the promise that disturbs me. It’s not new; this kind of tugging at the heartstrings has been practiced probably since politics began.

In fact, there is not much that’s new though what we now have is much, much better than what we had with Harper.

Nearing the end of the campaigning, the Liberals removed the Liberal national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, one-time lobbyist for TransCanada following reports of him offering detailed advice via email on how to lobby a minority government led by Trudeau. Looked like Trudeau was on top of it. Only, it appears, the energy sector had nothing to worry about. Janet Annesley, former executive from Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was hired as chief of staff for Jim Carr, Minister for Natural Resources. As well, Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, one-time executive chair of one of Canada’s largest human resources companies, Morneau Shepell, hired Sharan Kaur, former communications expert for TransCanada, as senior special assistant.

And then we have Lawrence MacAulay, agricultural minister, hiring as his chief of staff, Mary Jean McFall, who ran for the liberals. This is an extremely problematic promotion because of the very real possibility of conflict of interests. Her family owns one of the largest agricultural businesses in the egg-laying and egg-grading sector. She was a former Egg Farmers of Ontario board member. Friends in high places, debts being repaid with jobs in high governmental positions – this is the old-style cronyism practiced for decades by the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Is this new? Is this fresh? Is this better? These should worry Canadians who recall the many Liberal scandals of the past. And the Liberals are just into their fourth month!

It will be interesting how much Liberal support TransCanada will garner in light of recent reports the energy giant is suing the US government for shutting down the XL Keystone project. Under NAFTA and other trade deals, notably the EU-Canada deal, CETA (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement), and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), companies can sue democratically elected governments for passing laws Big Business does not like leaving taxpayers footing the costly bills if decisions favour business. American businesses have been very successful in going after Canada for laws they claimed interfered with their ability to earn profits (or profiteering). Such rights, referred to as ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement), handicap governments even in protecting citizens from harm in matters of health and in protecting the environment. A few years back we saw this at work when Canada attempted to remove a gasoline additive deemed harmful and banned in the states. Faced with a lawsuit, Canada cravenly backed down. But they had done that earlier when they became signatory to Chapter 11 of NAFTA and surrendered Canadian sovereignty to American Big Business interests. But it works both ways, as well. Canada, under Harper and now Trudeau, has consistently opposed labelling origin of country in meat products. The US insisted on that until pressured by Canada and hoping to close the TPP, it scrapped that requirement. For them, it’s a small concession when the benefits are huge. This is unconscionable when Harper insisted on this and is still unconscionable under Trudeau. When people die from tainted meat as they did a few years back, there will be no way to trace meat products to their source. Profit over lives. How can Canadians trust any leader who places the health of Big Business over the health of consumers?

This is a big deal and should worry all Canadians. In truth, it should worry all citizens of signatory states. CETA, which has yet to be ratified, apparently poses some problems for Europeans who are less prone than Canadian governments to roll over as they did for the Americans with NAFTA and TPP. Americans have no doubt who will benefit more from TPP for they call this the Made In America deal. As of this writing, Canada and European Union Officials are in secret talks to rewrite a clause that protects businesses from “arbitrary” government legislation, i.e., anything Big Business doesn’t like. Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, refuses to call the talk “negotiations”. What is it then? Clearly the EU has concerns about sovereignty. Perhaps they have seen what has happened to Canada under NAFTA. Canada has been at the losing end of innumerable lawsuits. Is that what Europeans want? Was that what Canadians signed for when they voted for Mulroney? The deals now pending, CETA and TPP, promise to be much worse and more effective in eroding Canadian sovereignty. Canadians do not know what the deals offer, what is being surrendered and lost. Trudeau’s mandate to Freeland was to quickly close these deals. I suspect she will and to Canada’s detriment. Trade deals cloaked in secrecy were the hallmark of the Harper era. Look at the trade deal with China locking Canada in for thirty years. One certainty is this: Canadian sovereignty is imperiled to corporate interests. The plutocrats, which Freeland warned against in her book, Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, will have won if Trudeau and Freeland stand by and allow the takeover by the corporate elite. So secretive is TPP that those involved in the negotiations risk arrest if they leak any part of the agreement. Is this for what Canadians voted? The Conservatives have begun the process of replacing our democracy with a corporatocracy. Will Trudeau continue on that path? Signing these deals without removing the ISDS clauses will be an absolute betrayal of Canadian interests to Big Business and the Plutocrats. What does Trudeau or Freeland who literally wrote the book on the dangers we face under a plutocracy have to say?

Finally, on the issue of trade, we have to question Trudeau’s commitment to human rights when he insisted days after a mass execution of political prisoners the $15 billion military equipment Arms deal with Saudi Arabia would go ahead as planned. It’s business as usual and 3,000 Canadian jobs saved at the price of human rights and lives lost in a deal with one of the world’s biggest violators of human rights. Supporters of the highly secretive deal have said Canadians and the Saudis share the same values. Really? Do Canadians really share values that deny women the right to drive, opt for abortion or to vote? Do we share values that call for public stoning of women and hanging of men for adultery? Harper, who signed the deal, refused to track human rights violations in Saudi Arabia as required by Canada’s own trade policies before any deal can go ahead. The Liberals initially refused to release the report and then relented promising the public an edited version of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Why are Canadians kept in the dark regarding this deal? What did Harper and now Trudeau want to keep from us? What guarantees has Canada that the Saudis will not use the equipment against its own people? It has in the past.

So what really differentiates Trudeau from Harper? You either believe human rights matter or you don’t. Harper believed more in business and profit. What about Trudeau? Canada is the only member of NATO to refuse to sign the Arms Trade Treaty to control and regulate the global arms trade. As a result, Canada, mostly because of the Conservative pro-business at any cost attitude, has sided itself with South Sudan, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Saudi Arabia all of whom visit gross human rights indignities upon their own people. Under Harper, Canada has even opposed having guns stamped identifying origins of manufacture. That is not something to be proud of. Yet the Liberals will go ahead with the deal. As with the Conservatives, it all boils down to money and those you prefer to sleep with. While the Conservatives, foul as they were, never disguised where their interests lay, the Liberals offer hand wringing lip service saying they are locked into the deal. That’s hypocrisy. What is even more laughable if not so tragic is Tony Clement who for years worked with one of the most secretive and mean-spirited governments in Canada now calling on the Liberals to release in full the report on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. https://www.opencanada.org/features/ten-facts-about-canadas-arms-deal-with-saudi-arabia/

Trudeau better? Maybe. But relative to what? It’s easy to say “Yes,” after Harper. I see a few things I like. As of yet, I’m uncertain they are enough. I see a few too many reminders of the bad old days of the Sponsorship era.

Politics, you gotta love it. Better yet, we gotta change it.

***

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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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