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THE CORPORATION AND TRUDEAU’S LIBERALS: THE BETRAYAL OF PROMISE AND THE RETURN OF THE ERA OF ENTITLEMENT

 

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. – Voltaire

The aim is not more goods for people to buy, but more opportunities for them to live. – Lewis Mumford

Frank Pelaschuk

THE OLD

Can our elected politicians be trusted? I do trust them to make and break many grand promises but not with much else; I do not expect perfection of them, but I do expect them to possess the honesty, integrity and the ability to experience shame, as I would expect of my family, my friends and myself. People do make mistakes but making easy promises and breaking them easily and often are not mistakes any more than is lying routinely and with the ease of a con man. Making excuses for every misstep, blaming others for every blunder, and denying our own failings suggest a failure if not lack of character. I prefer to judge and trust a man by what he does rather than what he says and I would hope they the same of me. We see too little of that from our politicians and we still see it in the detritus from the previous Conservative government running for the party leadership most notably from those who continue to pander to the vilest instincts under the guise of Canadian values and security as espoused by the likes of the odious Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney the former minister of public. These are the people who would buy our vote by exploiting our fears and, in the process, encouraging the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance. The cost is too high. They will likely not win the leadership, but they will have infected the political landscape with a rot that will only spread as time goes by. That is probably the best we can expect for some time from that quarter: divisiveness, scapegoating, the scraping of the barrel rather than any hope of elevation and enlightenment. Leitch and Blaney and all of their ilk are bottom feeders best left in the filthy swamp that is their natural habitat.

THE NEW

But times have changed; we have a new, Liberal government with a new, young, charismatic leader and a slew of young, fresh cabinet ministers all swept into office by voters eager for change and eager to believe. We’ve seen this picture before, too many times, change that wasn’t change at all, the same old same old: the revolving door made for two parties only and a vast number of voters left unrepresented in the cold.

Better? Can these mostly new faces be trusted? Are they honest? Have they kept to their promises of openness and transparency? Do these Liberals really stand apart from the Conservatives or are they just as so many of us believe of politicians: little better than those con artists who will woo and dine and win your heart only to break it once they have gained what they want from you?

It is clear that voters can be bought. We swallowed holus bolus all the promises, many of them so excessive and extensive as to stretch the credulity of those calmer folks who have witnessed it all before and stood by the sidelines sadly shaking their heads knowing of the headaches and disappointments that would eventually befall those silly addle heads moved by gleaming surface and hollow hope offered by Trudeau and the Liberals. And if a few of the sceptical fretted wondering if they were doing the right thing, the doubts didn’t last, they allowed themselves to be charmed and bought and gladly gave the Liberals what they wanted. Anything was better than the Harper gang they were told and told themselves.

We live in hope and high expectation and are all too easily swayed by the same tired lines. Things really will be different this time we tell ourselves. And they, the politicians tell us that too. Sunny days, sunny ways are coming. We believe in them because we want to believe in them. But what makes them special, different, more believable better than any other politician. Their youth? The grandeur or extravagance of their promises?

I look at this new bunch and see what I expected but hoped not to see. I didn’t expect to see it as quickly as I did but I see it nevertheless.

We can be bought easily, cheaply and just as easily betrayed. The Conservatives and now the Liberals have demonstrated that time after time. But what of them? Can politicians be as easily and cheaply bought?

Of course they’ll say not. No, not a one of them is for sale. And I’ll believe them as much as I believe in the tooth fairy or that Kevin O’Leary cares about the homeless almost as much as he does about M-O-N-E-Y. I know this: when anyone, especially a politician, justifies a questionable act by claiming, “it’s allowed” and “others have done the same”, I know I’m in the presence of a man or woman I can not trust. In fact, I see a scoundrel. These are people who rely too much on legalese, what they can legally do and get away with seeming not to possess enough in the way of judgement and character to even ask themselves a simple question: Because I can, should I? These are opportunists, the self-enrichers who seek every avenue and seize every opportunity to find benefit in their every deed and word. I do not like such people. I prefer the honest thief; we both know what he is and what our roles are.

Now these people, such as shameless premier Christy Clark, will meet with anyone clutching $5, $10, $20, $30K in their hot hands and swear with eyes crossed that they are not and cannot be bought. That may be true. I don’t know. How can I know when almost all of these meetings are unannounced, are secret, private and often exclusive? We just have to take them at their word. But why should we? When they break promises as easily as they dip into the public till, how can one trust them when it comes to access for pay? We can’t, of course, and we shouldn’t.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould, our justice minister for god sakes, makes the ludicrous assertion that she had attended a fundraising event put on by lawyers not as a justice minister but as an MP, what are we to make of that? The roles of MP and minister are inextricably linked there is no separation. She, backed by Justin Trudeau, then asserted that the conflicts of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, that she was cleared. What a crock. In a letter, the commissioner stated, public office holders “including ministers and parliamentary secretaries,” are allowed “to personally solicit funds if the activity does not place them in a conflict of interest” (Vancouver Sun, Peter O’Neil, April 13, ’16). She has also stated that unless regulations are put into law, she can not enforce them. Bardish Chagger, government House Leader and, I suspect, minister of the newly created department of circular thinking, says legislation is not necessary because there are already rules holding them accountable. Say what? If a private meeting between a justice minister and a babble of lawyers doesn’t make for conflict of interest or, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest, what does? Can the justice minister reasonably expect the public to believe that these lawyers were quite willing to accept that only the MP was in attendance but not the minister of justice? It stretches credulity and cannot be believed by anyone but a dolt.

And then we have other Liberals, newcomers seeming born to the role of skimming from the public trough. We have environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna’s stiffing taxpayers $17K for photographers for 15 events including $6,600 for a private photographer as she attended a Paris climate summit where news photographers were aplenty and free. And who can forget health minister Jane Philpott’s several forays into charging and reimbursing taxpayers for unseemly claims. I guess she hopes to get it right which will be the day no one will notice. But these are pikers next to Chrystia Freeland who thought nothing of cancelling a government jet waiting to take her home from a business trip to Manila so that she could make a side trip to LA for an appearance on a talk show with Bill Maher. But if she went big, she was not above going low as well. While campaigning, she charged us $500 for her grooming. Now I can hear some screaming this is small stuff. Well, Eve Adams got into a lot of hot water over the same issue. Nickels and dimes add to dollars. One man’s meat is another man’s poison I guess.

But what is acceptable behaviour? Surely not access for pay. It seems the Liberals, provincially as well as federally, disagree. We have the Globe and Mail (Globe & Mail, Robert Fife and Steven Chase, Oct. 19, ’16) reporting that Bill Morneau was at a fundraiser at $1500 a plate attended by business executives at a private waterfront mansion of Fred George, a one time mining bigwig turned land developer. Those in attendance, numbering “about 15”, included Jim Spatz, chairman and chief executive of Southwest Properties. Spatz, as the article points out, is the partner of Fred George, host of the party, and was recently appointed to the board of Halifax Port authority “on the advice of federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison, the Liberals’ power broker for Nova Scotia.” Nothing fishy going on? The finance minister at the private home of a partner to a government appointee attended by like-minded individuals? Now CTV news has reported that Morneau has taken in part in several such meetings and is due to attend a gathering at a private home sponsored by an executive of Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs licensed to lobby Morneau’s department. If these are all innocent fundraising tea parties, why the secrecy? Again, we have to take these people at their word that everything is above board. Well, I don’t have to and I don’t.

Said Trudeau in his mandate letters: “Government and its information should be open by default.” On CBC television and radio, I have heard some journalists say that the sums are too small to influence anyone. Come again? We have a hint of what it takes to gain access but how much does it take to buy influence? If the Globe and Mail number of attendees is accurate, that’s $22,500. Is that enough to buy influence? What if it happens ten times with the same number of people? And if the attendees of other events have the same interests and goals and if the numbers in attendance were larger, 50, 100, 200 well, that’s $75, $150K, $300K… How small is too small? It doesn’t wash. When should the public begin to worry? People will smash a car window for a loony. Imagine what a politician will do for a vote. No one, no one, forks over thousands of dollars simply for the pleasure of being able to boast about sitting with premier Christy Clark or finance minister Bill Morneau and chatting about the weather and smelling lettuce. Bill Morneau is from the business world and no doubt knows almost everyone who counts on major corporate boards. As finance minister, when he talks, they likely pay attention. When they offer money for access, I have no doubt it is his turn to listen.

It is not just in the appearances of ethical failure that disturbs me, though, in truth, that should be more than sufficient for any citizens. It’s the excuses: it’s legal; others have done the same; I made a mistake; my assistant did it. These are the words of chiselers and cowards. Even if true, the excuses must not be used as justifications for one’s own acts but a call to do something about another’s and for making changes.

WHO REALLY REALLY LOVES YA, BABY

More than once I have stated that I believed Harper and his gang were often working more for the health and welfare of Big Business than of Canadians. We saw evidence of that more than once by how they handled the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, when Chinese workers were allowed to work in mines in northern British Columbia while our own were turned away and when his regime worked with business to allow foreign workers in low-income jobs to be paid 15% less than Canadians and when RBC had its own workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be shipped overseas. The TFWP under Harper was more about working hand in hand with business in the suppression of Canadian wages and union busting than in fulfilling a need. Once the public got whiff of these scandals, and the Conservative role was scandalous, Harper and gang pledged to reduce the number of foreign workers companies could employ from 20% of the workforce to 10%. The Liberals appeared to be on side but now, in power, apparently have had second thoughts; instead of tightening the program, they have decided to let things stand. This was to allow fisheries in the east to hire more workers. Well, one can understand that, after all, the Liberals won every seat in the east coast and one good turn deserves another. Right?

But how do workers feel about the program or about Bombardier Inc. receiving $1 billion from Quebec and a possibility of $1 billion from the Canadian government especially in light of news that the company has announced a 7500 job cut but will hire 3700 in “low-cost countries”? That is, jobs for workers overseas. That’s Capitalism for you, Big Business claiming they want less government interference, let business do what it knows best…which seems to be extending it’s greedy collective hands into the public purse whenever things get tough.

So, are we better off with Trudeau or did we buy a bill of rotten goods?

Maybe Canadians should ask our veterans. The Liberals saw an opportunity when Harper and gang time and time again screwed those very people who were likely the staunchest of Conservative allies. Trudeau promised to reinstate the lifelong disability pensions and to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Conservatives. We have yet to see the final outcome of the second promise but we do know that the Liberals turned their back on the first. They reneged on reinstating the lifelong disability pensions opting, instead, to add to the lump-sum payment and to the sting with another betrayal by a country for which they have given so much.

This is a government that talks big and looks good when it “consults” on almost every topic under the sun and even produces results on the things with which most Canadians do not disagree. Unfortunately, as I have suggested in previous posts, this regime seems prepared to let die one of its major promises: that the last election was the last ever first-past-the-post election.

During an interview for Le Devoir, Trudeau said that the voters appeared satisfied with the present regime (Liberals) and that there was no pressing need to act on electoral reform. Said he on the week of Oct 17, “they (voters) have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling.” How things have changed. Now that is nerve, hubris and hypocrisy. Harper had won his majority with just slightly over 39% of the vote. While campaigning, perhaps out of sheer exuberance, Trudeau had promised loudly and often that there would be electoral reform. Surely he must have believed the present system of FPTP was unfair and too many voters unrepresented. Now, a year later, having won with the nearly identical popular vote of just over 39% and with even a greater number of seats than Harper ever had, Trudeau, after the formation of an electoral reform committee, has suddenly become convinced that the public is well served under our present system.

Now Trudeau may well have been simply musing aloud to gauge public response to this. Regardless, it is a cynical move and does him no credit for it was he, on his own, not the clamour of the public, who made this significant promise that “We intend to keep.” Well, politicians lie all the time and Trudeau is apparently no exception. Yet his behaviour suggests he would prefer to have us believe him unique among the breed. He’s not. If anything, he has revealed himself as just another sleazy politico out for the main chance. On electoral reform, he mouths the appropriate things: he wants to “judge” the peoples’ opinion, i.e., consult more with the public before letting finally allowing to wither on the vine that for which he had little appetite in the first place.

That is the old and new Liberal hat of entitlement. Things are right with the world and why should he, of all people, tinker with it? To be fair, he hasn’t quite ruled it out though I expect he will or, if not, go with his preferred choice which will have the same effect: the ranked ballot.

On this issue, I did hold out some hope but not much. I did hope he would surprise me in a pleasant way by actually shooting for real electoral reform that was truly proportionately representative. I no longer hope for that from him. Why should he commit to the remaining 60+% of the voters when, like Harper, he won the love and his massive majority with just 39+%?

But, of course, Trudeau and gang have betrayed us even more significantly than in revealing themselves willing to push ethical boundaries and breaking promises as easily and quickly as Liberals did in the past. And that is in the areas of Human Rights and the question of Canadian sovereignty.

As did Harper, Trudeau seems to have made signing on to trade deals an important if not essential cornerstone of his mandate. That’s too bad because he appears too eager to sign the deals at the expense of Human Rights. In fact, he has turned his back on Human Rights, which he had declared to be his priority while campaigning.

Not only has he signed off on the light-armoured vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the worlds most repressive regimes regarding Human Rights, he lied about it saying he couldn’t get out of it, that Harper had made it a done deal, that trading nations would not respect Canada if it broke the contract. They were phony excuses and lies, the deal actually “done” when Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion signed off on the export documents. To do this deal, Harper and Trudeau were quite willing to ignore UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with oppressive regimes. It’s easy to understand, $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are no small thing. But then again, neither are Human Rights. But, while Trudeau made an exception this time, he did promise Human Rights would be a priority next time. Reminds me of St. Augustine’s prayer when he was young, “Lord, make me chaste—but not yet!” And, of course, there’s no blood on our hands. No, no blood…. let’s keep telling ourselves that.

But if Trudeau has failed Canadians in so many ways, including protecting Canadians against the depredations began by the Harper regime with C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, he seems prepared not only to betray Canadians by freely exchanging information on all Canadians who may travel to the States or overseas, he has proven himself equally willing to betray Canadians and Canadian sovereignty on the altar of Capitalism and to fulfill Harper’s goal of turning Canada’s democracy into a corporatocracy.

As I write this, Wallonia, an area of Belgium, with a third of the population, appears to have agreed to sign off on CETA (Eu-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) after a few days as the lone hold out. Evidently, the left in Europe had problems with the deal seven years in the making. And so they should and so should Canadians and all citizens of the signatory nations. The deal, cited by Chrystia Freeland as the “gold standard” of trade deals, is precisely that: a gold plated deal for Big Business but not so golden when it comes to ensuring that the legislative powers of signature states will be able to pass laws effective enough to protect citizens against the depredations of polluters, chemical companies, agribusinesses, and Big Pharma. Under NAFTA, ushered in by the Mulroney government, Canada has become the most sued member as a result of a clause that allows corporations to sue governments. Any business believing its “right” to maximize profits has been negatively impacted by laws meant to protect citizens can challenge the law and sue the government. Canadian and American laws, the right to protect citizens from corporate abuses, take second and third place to that of corporate rights under NAFTA; Big Business are more powerful and have more rights than governments and consumers. Sovereignty has taken a brutal hit and citizens betrayed by the very people and governments that are supposed to protect and look after their interests. CETA, lobbied and supported by Harper with Trudeau eager to sign off on the deal, offers more, if not worse, of the same. While the deal does replace the dispute mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement with a permanent investment court system, the changes are window dressing with an end result that offers, for all practical purposes, little to no change. It allows, as it did with the old ISDS clause for three arbiters: one from the investor, one from the defending nation and one appointed by agreement of the parties involved all drawn from a panel of fifteen agreed upon by Europe and Canada, five of whom are from parties of countries not involved in the deal. The benefits, if any, are procedural, rather than substantive and in one direction only; General Bullmoose, Al Capp’s caricature of the greedy, ruthless, tyrannical capitalist not only lives, he has won, and he thrives. The thing is, though the changes are subtle, the effect is not: the mechanisms protecting the interests of corporations are still in place: laws can be mandated to accommodate foreign businesses. That is likely catastrophic news for Canadians in general and for those in the agricultural sector in particular. If it is such a good deal, why haven’t Freeland and her boss offered assurances that sovereignty has not been compromised? Let us see the details before finalization. This is what the Conservatives were prepared to sign off on and this is what the Liberals are eager to see to its completion. Can anyone be surprised that these deals are conducted in secrecy and the public often staggered and embittered when they finally are made privy to the details and fully understand the extent of betrayal and what they, as a nation, have given away? But, by then of course, it’s too late! Knowing that, it is easy to understand why those working on such deals, like Freeland and her counterparts in Europe, refuse to address the details regarding corporate regulation and Canada’s right to protect itself and its citizens preferring to quickly move on to other topics, the magnitude of the deal, for example, while loudly braying that “this is the best deal in the history of mankind”.

It’s only when finally inked that Canadian and European citizens will fully realize the extent of their betrayal. I admire Wallonia and its people not only for the stand they have taken but also for withstanding as long as they have what must have been enormous and unrelenting pressure from the 27 other signatories to the deal. Bullies win far too often and far to many of us stand on the sidelines wringing our hands doing nothing. If CETA goes through, and it seems it will, the only winners will be Big Business and those politicians who have sold us out. And that is exactly what they have done. They have responded to the bell ringing of their corporate masters, shameless lackeys out for the main chance. Once they leave office or are booted out, they will, and have, be free to walk into corporate boardrooms in droves welcomed with open arms and sporting huge grins; they, at least, got theirs.

As we have seen with his shocking betrayal of the promise to make Human Rights a priority, Trudeau has revealed an almost childish eagerness to pander and trade with anyone including China, another outrageous and aggressive abuser of Human Rights. Trudeau appears to be a younger, smarmier version of Harper with the same gluttonous appetite to sign trade deals at any cost. Regardless of what happens with CETA, we then come to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement including Canada, the USA, and 10 other pacific states. The Americans loudly touted TPP as a “Made in America” deal. That alone should alarm all would-be signatories. Guess who the Americans believe will come out the winner? If you said Canada, go to the outhouse.

So, what has changed?

Nothing, really.

When a prime minister seems prepared, even eager, to sign away Canadian sovereignty, when he can only offer excuses and justifications for the questionable behaviours of his ministers and staff, when he can dismiss disabled vets as easily and readily as he has, I question his judgement and integrity. This is the same man who, while MP thought nothing of charging a $20K speaking fee to a financially troubled charity for seniors. He promised to reimburse the charity and all other fees for similar public speaking events between 2008 and 2012. You see, he explained, he wanted to make it all right in the same way Jane Philpott does. Too bad both had to be reminded by news reports and public exposure before suffering from the malady of making things right.

Everyone loves Trudeau. Lately, however, a few have, literally, turned their backs on him, perhaps regretting their votes. Too bad, too late. Maybe he is a nice, sweet fellow but I too often see a smug, strutting camera-loving well-dressed phony who welshes on the big promises and believes Human Rights are a priority—just not yet, later, after the next big deal unless another, something better comes along…. It is truly sad for he is extremely capable and could accomplish great things.

But he’s a Liberal. Get it while you can, as much as you can, however you can.

Just don’t get caught.

The world hates losers.

No doubt about it, the Liberals and the era of entitlement are back; the party is on.

***

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

IDIOTS’ DELIGHT: TRUMP, TRUDEAU AND TRADE

There’s a seduction in fanaticism. It simplifies things. The leader decides everything for you and suddenly you have no more problems. – Elie Wiesel

The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience. – Lech Walesa

Frank Pelaschuk

VICTIMS

French President Georges Clemenceau once commented, “America is the only nation in history, which, miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneracy without the usual interval of civilization.” That’s a harsh judgement from many decades ago but, unfair or not, it could easily be the verdict of today’s generation of relentless self-reference and self-reverence, folks taking endless photos of themselves and reporting on Facebook every aspect of their lives as if each minutiae was of such transcendent beauty and meaning that the world must surely be as eager to lap up the offerings as the presenter is to share. Occasionally however, reality barges in with shockingly graphic images: cops shooting blacks for no apparent reason other than their blackness. On the whole, however, thus far, there really is no there there as we suck in bromides as pearls, oh and ah over every cute picture of kids and cats and drool over every silly image of celebrity stars including our prime minister and his wife for whom no camera must be ignored and offer thunderous applause for every ignorant hate-filled utterance that somehow elevates us with suggestions that we are not to blame for any aspect of our own miserable hate-filled lives: it’s them, foreigners, the leeches on welfare, the old who left us a mess – well, the list is endless. We ceaselessly troll the web looking for the beautiful because we are not, perhaps hoping somehow some of that beauty and good life will rub off on us. But it’s not all beauty; we also troll the web in search of victims, the poor and ugly with smaller even meaner lives in hopes of bullying and destroying them because they are less skilful, less adept and weaker than ourselves. If you’re that shallow why not be mean?

In a time of decay, we wallow in a pit of hedonism, of narcissism and of sadism where judgement, intelligence, examination, and integrity are viewed with suspicion and dread; bellicosity, superficiality, dishonesty and meanness fuelled by stupidity and the rhetoric of fear, intolerance and ignorance fomented by the ilk of America’s Donald Trump, Britain’s Nigel Farage, and France’s Marine Le Pen appear to be winning the day: the virtuous many, they would have us believe, are victimized by the corrupt elite few who can be defeated only if the common man recognizes the dangers and works together.

Of course, we Canadians are not immune to such simple-mindedness; we’ve had our Ford brothers and for nine years the vile Harper gang Conservatives who last election proved themselves as despicable as any group can be with their campaign of racial and religious intolerance and today sit as official opposition pretending, as did those who voted them in, they were never part of that vile history. The ugly frog has been replaced by the handsome Prince with his Princess wife and all the little princes and princesses in his cabinet and Canada all agog and agag wowed by all that breathless freshness, the handsome youthful faces of such enchantment that the hoi poiloi and elites alike behave as religious ecstatics with every princely appearance and for every easy promise kept while studiously ignoring those broken or watered down or simply shelved. Criticize at your peril.

Not surprisingly, that populist line doesn’t offer the whole truth, though there is some in it: there are folks, though few, in politics and the corporate world who do have real power, who do conspire to keep wages low, who do conspire to quell dissent, who do conspire to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of those who haven’t. But the thing is, many of those who see themselves as “victims” seldom admit the role they themselves play in their own victimization, rewarding those very folks who seek their vote with vague and/or extravagant promises (often broken) while at the same time meeting in secret, often for a price (let’s call it kickback) with those very special-interest folks who would suppress their (the voters’) wages, ship jobs overseas, destroy their social safety nets, and feed from the public trough with government handouts with assurances, almost always broken once they’ve got the money, that the jobs will be kept here. But if it’s our man or woman making the promises and screwing others even more disadvantaged than us, we will gladly turn a blind eye: We’ll get ours if not today, tomorrow – one day, maybe taking longer than we hoped for but one day. Yeah, they’ll get theirs – one day. Meanwhile they’ll stay “victims” living in eternal hope and swallowing the endless bilge: those that have it all did it all by themselves; work hard, we can all be kings; those who fail are stupid, lazy; unions are ruining and running the country; union workers are greedy, lazy, fat cats; everyone has to tighten their belt, work harder, expect less (but when was the last time corporate taxes were raised?).

ENABLERS

We can see it today, everyday, the “victims” as applauding enablers to the rude, crude, vulgar, ignorant, stupid, misogynistic, racist, bigoted billionaire because he, that billionaire, has convinced them he is one of them, and he often is in rudeness, crudity, vulgarity, ignorance, stupidity, misogyny, racism, bigotry; Trump is not only their man, he is the man because his wealth is somehow proof he has no vested interests, that he is immune to corruption and influence. These are not intelligent people. If they were, they would weep that this is all American Republicanism is able to offer as presidential candidate.

Whether Trump believes what he says does not really matter. What does is that he says them. When he talks of building a wall, of barring entry to Syrians and Muslims, when he voices admiration for Saddam Hussein “because he kills terrorists”, because “they [sic] didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk” one wonders if there are any limits to hate uttered under the banner of free speech. The “terrorists” that Hussein slaughtered were often his own citizens their only crime likely opposition or perceived opposition to his tyranny. That this individual imagines himself presidential material and yet routinely talks of “killing” the bad guys suggesting America is too concerned with protecting their rights beggars belief while also giving a good indication of his thoughts regarding protections offered by the American Constitution. Clearly, for Trump, it is enough to be “suspect”. The hell with due process, if he was innocent he wouldn’t be a Muslim or a Mexican.

Trump may be a lunatic but he is a dangerous one and cannot easily be dismissed.

He tells his fans he is successful, he is “smart”, but ignores, as do his supporters, the evidence of his many failures in his business and personal life. He boasted on television of walking away with millions from his Casino in Atlantic City while stiffing his creditors and workers saying that’s what businessmen do. Is that right? Is that what successful people do, wash their hands of any responsibility and stiff others, folks just like those very ones who identify themselves as Trump supporters and plain working class Joes trying to earn a decent wage? Is this the man they would want for their boss? Imagine him running the country with that attitude; he’d have America bankrupt in every way while, doubtless, lining his own pockets. Shameless, unconscionable, he has tapped the support of those possessed of such stupidity they may not even grasp the depth of Trump’s amorality. I apologize for the previous sentence: in putting depth and Trump together I appear to give him too much credit.

“Smart”? The ignoramus can barely articulate a sentence let alone a coherent thought. If he does say something remotely intelligent, you can bet it was by accident. Even so, we cannot easily dismiss him for all his ignorance and offensiveness. It is not enough to ridicule him, not enough to say he ate his brain the first time he picked his nose. We cannot trust that he will lose his bid for American president because voters find him more offensive and dangerous than Hillary Clinton. That’s a mug’s position and too much is at stake.

Yet, having said all of the above, as much as it pains me to admit this, I understand why he does draw some to his side.

TRADE

He would renegotiate or scrap NAFTA calling it the worst trade deal ever and do the same for TPP calling it “a disaster”. Now this is the part that hurts: He is right.

Now I am no isolationist. I am, however, as much a fan of Big Business as Big Business is of unions. On NAFTA and TPP, I find myself on Trump’s side. Now Big Business will tell us that everyone wins with globalization. Not so. There are winners but they certainly are not working stiffs; workers just get stiffed. Perhaps that’s why, giving his past comments, I have doubts about Trump’s stand on the trade agreements. For many workers, NAFTA is associated with the beginning of the new age of chronic hard times. Jobs lost and shipped overseas or wages kept low under threat of same. The despair is palpable; it is real and not easily healed. Workers feel powerless and voiceless because they are powerless and voiceless. Ignored by their own political leaders, workers watch from the sidelines as politicians and company CEOs work together to suppress wages, as did the Harper regime with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and work to destroy unions and rollback gains made by them for their workers. With NAFTA, Canadians experienced first-hand the loss of sovereignty as Canadian laws meant to protect Canadian consumers have been repealed or born dead because of corporate lawsuits brought against Canada with claims that laws to protect consumers interfere with the ability of corporations to make and maximize profits. In other words, Canadian laws have become subservient to corporate interests. For ordinary working Canadians struggling to survive with two or three jobs while feeding a family, there appears to be no protections against governments that collude with Big Business. This is not just a rant of an old delusional white geezer though I may be all three. No less an authority than Fortune Magazine has pointed out some of the missteps of the NAFTA trade deal. In a piece for Fortune on NAFTA’s impact on America (there is no reason to believe the same could not be said of Canada), Jeffrey E. Garten (Fortune, March 29, 2016) wrote:

We failed to see that the benefits of trade, like all other economic benefits, were not shared equitably by the population. We failed to gauge how fast trade patterns could shift, how quickly industries were transforming themselves, and how much of a gap was created by the evisceration of unions which could negotiate protections and benefits for their members. As a result, those at the top of the economic pyramid benefitted. The other 80% were hit with low wage competition, outsourcing, lower paid jobs, or unemployment. All this was made worse by job-destroying technology that the Internet and digitalization was spawning, not to mention the great recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis that extinguished most economic growth. The meteoric rise of China, with its vast industrious labor force, was the coup de grace for millions of US workers, as was the ascent of so many other emerging market nations.

The highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “Made In America” deal as the Americans themselves have crowed, threatens to be even worse according to The Council of Canadians (http://canadians.org/tpp-info), especially for Canadians, controlling how governments may regulate corporate activity, expand the sharing of personal information across nations, extend the life of pharmaceutical patents (thus placing limits on generic drugs and greatly increasing costs of government health plans) and, under the ISD (investor-state dispute) clauses, and allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals and fix the amount of compensation when government regulation interfere with profitmaking. Under NAFTA, Canada has been successfully sued several times costing taxpayers $160 million. Under TPP, corporate ability to sue governments has been expedited thus making the transformation of a Canadian democracy into a Corporatocracy all but a fait accompli. By the time Canadians actually do get to learn the details, it will already be too late.

GAINS

Are Canadians better off? Well, some, just as in the United States, but they do not hold minimum wage jobs, do not work on factory floors, are, in fact, called boss, owner, shareholder. The losers, and there are losers, have been those who have always lost, the real workers, the men and women who are the backbone of every business and who are the real individuals that make a company a success, farmers, truckers, floor sweepers, janitors, nurses, doctors, technologists, educators, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers, public servants – well, you get the drift – the stiffs shafted, sold out and betrayed by the bosses and the politicians bought and paid for by those bosses.

Trudeau, if he had a speck of backbone, would look towards renegotiating NAFTA. If he had a speck of decency he would reject TPP unless significant changes are made that protect workers, create new jobs, opportunities and offer greater take-home pay. But first he must inform Canadians bout the deal itself: what’s in it, who gains, who loses, what does it mean for all Canadians? I expect nothing from Trudeau except that he, as did Harper, will make trade and business interests a priority. We have seen this already. So no one can really claim to be surprised that Justin Trudeau, who promised to do things differently from the Conservatives, spent July 6 at Sun Valley, Idaho attending the secretive meeting of 300 business and tech elites labelled the “Summer Camp for Billionaires”. For Trudeau, this may just be an opportunity to rub shoulders with global movers and shakers and to promote Canadian business opportunities and expertize but the secrecy is troublesome suggesting that nothing innocent is going on there. Is this the man who will give them what they want?

Probably. Likely. Absolutely!

One thing is certain. If things are better, it is not for the poor, not for the single parent holding down several jobs, not for minimum wage earners. Chances are things are not better for you. The world will go on and we will let it leaving it to others to worry while we do as we always have: nothing. We will not hear, we will not listen, we will not change.

But we will always listen to the shameless liars and opportunists, the Trumps of the world who have tapped into this well of resentment, tap into the worst in us, tap into our fears and bigotry milking and massaging the inarticulate rage offering the snake oil salesman’s promises of the all-in-one cure-all. And dolts that we are we’ll buy it because we have always bought it, bought the easy answers and quick fixes rather than looking around for those folks who really will listen, really will hear, really will work for us. It’s not quick fixes or easy answers that we need but politicians who will listen or be forced to listen. And those politicians are not the Christy Clarks who lend their ear to the highest bidder. Nor does solution lie with the likes of federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, barely in office when she’s attending a private fundraiser put on by lawyers, a clear conflict of interest if ever there was one. And the answer does not lie with Justin Trudeau who saw nothing wrong with the justice minister tending such an affair and who signed off on the Saudi Arabia LAV trade deal, a deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. No, the answer certainly does not lie with a single member of the old Harper regime who all, all, went along with the vicious Tory campaign of racial and religious intolerance including the promise to create the odious snitch line to report barbaric cultural practices by you-know-who.

If there will ever be a solution, it must come from voters who will no longer blindly swallow every line of bullshit because it sounds nice or jibes with their own biases, or because the speaker is glib and handsome or has wealth which surely must mean he or she is absolutely intelligent, honest and would never lie to you. The voter must take responsibility for his own destiny. When politicians have lied to you, deliberately misled you, when they hold secret meetings with special interests and accept funds in return, when they pad their expenses, refuse to answer questions, when they sneak in legislation, or break Canadian regulations regarding trade with nation states that abuse human rights, they must be punished, booted from office and shunned like the pariah they are. They are scum.

Trump embodies the worst of politics if not humanity. He promises everything to everyone. He panders to the worst in Americans. But he, at the least, has promised to do something about NAFTA and TPP. I don’t trust him to follow through on either but he has raised the issue. The first has already harmed American and Canadian workers. The second will inflict even more harm.

Trudeau? Can we trust him? He could step up and do what is right for Canadians. I don’t expect that. He’ll be preoccupied. There’s always another photo-op.

***

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

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, LIBERALS AND THE SAUDI ARMS DEAL: PHONIES, HYPOCRITES AND LIARS

Frank Pelaschuk

After today, with news of the Saudi Arabia deal with Canada and who really ratified it, it must be clear to even the most diehard Justin Trudeau fan that he has broken his promise of a clean, honest, transparent government on many fronts. In fact, it is safe to say he is a phony, a hypocrite and a liar.

Now I know from observing politics over the years, particularly the Liberals and the Conservatives, supporters of either party, with exceptions, actually do not care. In fact, they are indifferent to all but the things they want to hear and the shiny baubles promised. As a consequence, politicians are emboldened to lie encouraged by an apathetic public apparently to dim to be drawn to substance when surface will suffice. For politicians, the rewards and satisfaction of such are much greater than provided by either honesty and/or honour.

On my April 8th post, I wrote about politicians, Christy Clark and Kathleen Wynne and others, who can be accessed for a price and yet would have us believe that no influence was purchased, that they are moral folks who simply did what they were allowed and who cannot and will not be bought. We are expected to take them at their word just as we are to believe those lobbyists paying thousands for private meetings with provincial and federal leaders, MPs and MPPs are just generous folks seeking nothing more than to sit in the presence of greatness. They really do believe us stupid as made clear by federal justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who attended a fundraising event with an eloquence of lawyers (defended by Justin Trudeau as legal) saying she had attended the event as an MP and not as justice minister!

This is the state of politics today and the state of contempt those whom we elect hold for us. As if one is that easily able set apart her role as MP and justice minister likely the most important role in government next to the prime minister’s. That neither she nor Trudeau is troubled by the optics of this is extremely disturbing. They resort to legalese and weasel words: it was legal; I was not wearing my justice hat but my MP hat… That kind of speciousness clearly reveals a member of parliament who is totally unworthy of her office. She respects neither it nor those who are members of the public. Trudeau’s defence of her is inexcusable and reveals him to be as phony, dishonest, deceitful, and ethically challenged as is every politician who justifies an act because it “was legal” while shamelessly doing what “was questionable”. No laws were broken.

Contemptible.

In the April 8 post I had written: “Trudeau has made application to regain a seat on the UN Security Council for Canada. That’s another good move. In doing so, he declared Canada would promote peace and human rights. Well, he was less than truthful on that, I suggest, after announcing his government would honour the light-armoured trade deal with Saudi Arabia one of the world’s egregious violators of human rights. The deal, brokered by Harper is, itself, in contravention of Canada’s own human rights policy regarding international trade, which states that Canada must monitor and ensure that the other party to the deal does not violate human rights. That was expected of Harper, but Trudeau? The young prime minister offers several excuses for going through with it. Firstly, he says the deal was already signed and sealed and cannot be broken. Secondly, he claims no other nation would want to trade with us if we broke the contract. Those are excuses and they ring hollow. The Dutch had no qualms about breaking a contract with the Saudis over human rights. Liberal Jean Chretien had no qualms about walking away from a Conservative helicopter deal that resulted in severe penalties for Canada. As for the second excuse, well, that’s just ridiculous. Canada still signs global trade deals clearly suffering no fallout over the failed helicopter debacle, though, it must be noted, again under Harper, Canada has inked a deal with China another violator of human rights. Canada’s standing would almost certainly rise globally as a defender of human rights were Trudeau to cancel the deal likely leading to even more trade with better trading partners. Even if not, should human rights be of secondary consideration? Sometimes doing the right, moral thing does come with a cost; it could also pay dividends. Liberals, no doubt holding their noses will honour the deal because $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are at stake.”

Now, Trudeau, you will note, did say he would ensure that human rights were a primary consideration in future deals. That’s like the man telling his wife “I’ll stop cheating – next month.” But he also said the deal was a done deal; it was out of his hands, he couldn’t stop it. Well, he lied on that we learned today. It was Justin Trudeau’s liberals who ratified the deal. Remember, they had attempted to saddle the Harper gang with the deal. Not only that, there was Stephane Dion, foreign minister offering the same reasons Trudeau offered for going through with the deal! Well, two faces on the same coin.

I will say it again. Justin Trudeau is not only a phony and a hypocrite he is a goddamn liar. When it comes down to it, lives and human rights have as much value to him and his gang as they did for the Harper gang. It’s all about jobs and money and buying the next vote.

When they were elected, I had little expectation the Liberals would be much better than the Conservatives.

Sadly, the Liberals have confirmed my worst fears; they are no better because they offer no better. Morally and ethically, Justin Trudeau and his gang are as bankrupt as the Conservatives.

Last post I said politics is a filthy game. I was half right. It’s the filthy folks playing the game.

 

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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

BOUGHT AND SOLD: POLITICIANS AND THE TRUE COST OF DEMOCRACY

Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen. – Pretty Boy Floyd by Woody Guthrie

But the banks are made of marble,

With a guard at every door,

And the vaults are stuffed with silver,

That the farmer sweated for.Banks Are Made of Marble by Pete Seeger

Einstein’s theory of relativity, as practiced by Congressmen, simply means getting members of your family on the payroll. – James H. Boren

 

Frank Pelaschuk

 

If any group was emblematic of the filth of politics in recent years, it was the Harper regime. For them, as I have often said, no dirty trick was too low, too vile to not be used and no target was off limit when it came to the smear campaign or fomenting fear and racial and religious intolerance as played by the likes of Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, Pierre Poilievre, Peter MacKay, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander (gone), Dean del Mastro (gone, serving a month in jail for election fraud), Michelle Rempel, Shelly Glover (gone), Maxime Bernier, Tony Clement, and Leona Aglukkaq (gone) to name a few of the worst in that vile pack.

Today, playing second fiddle without the majority with which they abused their offices and wielded as a bludgeon against opposition members, they are hard at work attempting to present a kinder face and gentler manner in the form of Rona Ambrose at the helm; it doesn’t work, the nastiness and arrogance by which they comported themselves came too easily to be anything but bred in the bone. That is what they are.

The Liberals replaced them, sweeping into office with fresher younger faces, more energy, with many promises including more openness and greater transparency. The last regime promised the same and immediately ushered in close to ten years of secretive, corrupt, bullying governance. The Liberals were convincing; I would have preferred the NDP but I didn’t really begrudge Trudeau his win. However, just a few months into their mandate, the Liberals appear to be offering less than voters may have hoped and more than they may have bargained for.

THE BIG REVEAL

When finance minister Bill Morneau released his budget declaring a plan to run a deficit of $29.4 billion the first year, critics raised serious concerns that Morneau had deliberately lowballed incoming revenue by pegging oil prices at $25 rather than stabilizing at $40 a barrel as most economists predict. The Liberals dismiss the charge calling this approach “prudent” while others call it hocus-pocus, the familiar shell game of lowering expectations and then taking credit for sound fiscal management when expectations are exceeded even if barely. Mostafa Askari, assistant parliamentary budget officer, has informed us that the Liberal budget was not as transparent as it could be because the numbers projecting cost estimates for the next five years have been marked as “confidential”. As a result, the PBO could not give a complete report on the first Liberal budget. According to the Ottawa Citizen’s Kathryn May (Citizen, April 7, 2016), this had not happened over the past 12 years under Paul Martin and Stephen Harper though, it is true, the PBO had been forced to take the Conservatives to court to get access to information regarding budget cuts and the impact as a result. Barring a catastrophe, no one should be surprised if the Liberals balance the book or arrive at a surplus by next election. We’ve seen this game before. It’s ugly, deceitful and has unfortunately become accepted practice. That still makes it wrong and it’s certainly not all that transparent which seems to put a chink in the Liberal promise of openness and disclosure.

Sure, I understand why the voters bought the youth and vigour, but surely they wanted more than the end of a regime of mean-spirited negativity, of partisan cheap shots, of fudged numbers, of smear campaigns, of targeting critics as enemies, and of laws furtively slipped into omnibus bills. Surely they wanted more than the hope and optimism promised by Trudeau’s “Sunny ways”. Voters wanted a government that acted humanely and decisively on the Syrian refugee crisis. They got that, probably not as quickly as promised but they got it. That was good, very good. More importantly, it was right.

In 2006, Harper abolished disability pensions for veterans forced to retire from the military because of injuries. He replaced the pension with lump sum payments. Trudeau and the Liberals campaigned on bringing back the pensions. They also vowed to bring back the nine veterans offices closed by the Harper gang and, now elected, have promised the offices will reopen by year’s end. That’s a good, wise, move which most Canadians likely support. However, they will not reintroduce disability pensions. Instead, they will increase the amounts of the lump sum payments. That’s not only an extremely bad move, it’s a broken promise. It’s a betrayal of those who sacrificed and will sacrifice so much for this country. For the veterans, the Trudeau win was preferable to Harper’s return but it’s still a mixed bag of win, loss and betrayal.

Trudeau has made application to regain a seat on the UN Security Council for Canada. That’s another good move. In doing so, he declared Canada would promote peace and human rights. Well, he was less than truthful on that, I suggest, after announcing his government would honour the light-armoured trade deal with Saudi Arabia one of the world’s egregious violators of human rights. The deal, brokered by Harper is, itself, in contravention of Canada’s own human rights policy regarding international trade, which states that Canada must monitor and ensure that the other party to the deal does not violate human rights. That was expected of Harper, but Trudeau? The young prime minister offers several excuses for going through with it. Firstly, he says the deal was already signed and sealed and cannot be broken. Secondly, he claims no other nation would want to trade with us if we broke the contract. Those are excuses and they ring hollow. The Dutch had no qualms about breaking a contract with the Saudis over human rights. Liberal Jean Chretien had no qualms about walking away from a Conservative helicopter deal that resulted in severe penalties for Canada. As for the second excuse, well, that’s just ridiculous. Canada still signs global trade deals clearly suffering no fallout over the failed helicopter debacle, though, it must be noted, again under Harper, Canada has inked a deal with China another violator of human rights. Canada’s standing would almost certainly rise globally as a defender of human rights were Trudeau to cancel the deal likely leading to even more trade with better trading partners. Even if not, should human rights be of secondary consideration? Sometimes doing the right, moral thing does come with a cost; it could also pay dividends. Liberals, no doubt holding their noses will honour the deal because $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are at stake. Not all that much different from Harper really when it comes to the bottom line. But, for those seeking consolation, Trudeau did promise that he would, in the future, consider human rights when brokering a trade deal. It doesn’t help the citizens of Saudi Arabia nor does it do anything to curtail human rights abuses but, what the hey, there are 3,000 Canadian jobs saved if not Saudi lives. No, the Liberals will not lose any sleep over abuses. Principle’s a honey if it don’t cost money. If the voters expected more and better from this government on this issue, they did not get it.

Nor did they get what they might have hoped for when they look at some of the Liberal hiring practices.

Bill Morneau, a powerhouse in the private sector as executive chair to one of the largest Canadian human resources firms, has created an economic advisory council made up mostly of upper management from such diverse private corporate sectors as Canada’s GE branch; Cenovus a tar sands company; Linacare a Vancouver-based cosmetics company; two executives from Starfort Investments; and from Mohr Davidow Ventures (Rabble.ca, Karl Nerenberg, March 21, 2016). Now, the Trudeau government would want us to concentrate on the fact that, of the fifteen members to the Council, 8 are women. That part is good. However, as Karl Nerenberg points out, absent are representatives from Labour and the Indigenous communities. Now that’s not good. Apparently Big Business has as strong an ally with Trudeau’s regime as it had with Harper’s. So much so in fact, representatives from the corporate world can be found working for, or with more likely, various ministers. Sharan Kaur a former communications expert for TransCanada, works for Morneau as Senior Special Assistant. Jim Carr, natural resources minister, has hired a former executive of Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Janet Annesley. So what has really changed with this change of government? Well, it seems, it’s a bit of a mixed bag but not when it comes to business. The plutocrats are going to do very well with Trudeau at the helm.

Welcome back, Liberals, they missed you. Sort of.

In the trade area, Canadians can expect little to change. By now, we have come to accept NAFTA apparently untroubled that it allows corporate interests to supersede the sovereignty of the trading nations. The Europeans, having taken note of this, have insisted upon changes to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), called “gold plated” by Canada’s international trade minister, Chrystia Freeland. It is all but a done deal. The changes are to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause allowing for appeals, a putatively independent 15-member permanent trade tribunal that will make it slightly more difficult, but not impossible, for companies to challenge the laws of a nation that may impact corporate profit-making. “Gold-plated”? Absolutely. Corporations for some time have become more powerful than some nations with corporate interests superseding the laws of a nation. If that worries you, the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Canada and eleven other nations including the US, which calls it an “American Made” deal, will prove even more problematic. Negotiated under a cloak of secrecy, with severe penalties for anyone revealing details of the deal, Canadians have little to no knowledge of what will be gained or, more likely, lost until the deal is ratified which Trudeau appears ready to move on. For some critics, the TPP is one of the worst deals ever granting multinationals even greater powers over a nation’s right to introduce laws protecting their citizens from the depredations of Big Business. How different are the Trudeau Liberals from the Harper Conservatives? Not much. How far are we now from a true Corporatocracy? Not far.

YOU’RE A HYPOCRITE. NO, YOU ARE!

Most of us are familiar with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and the numerous abuses allowed under the Conservatives that encouraged the suppression of Canadian wages of low-income earners. In 2015, Trudeau and the Liberals demanded the program be scaled back, that there be greater transparency, compulsory workplace audits etc. (go to http://ntfw.ca to find out more on the Liberal stance on TFWP), all laudable. However, the governing Liberals, clearly cognizant of the debt owed to the east coast for its sweep of 32 seats and hounded by its own elected east coast MPs working on behalf of seafood processors, have very, very quietly removed the requirement that companies file a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) form. Foreign workers are now free to work for the processors. The Liberals claim this is a temporary measure. Well, we heard that before.

The truth is, Canadians have always suspected it, felt it in their bones: the rich are treated differently from us and better; they have more advantages, more tax loopholes, and more government ears eager to hear what they have to say particularly when the speaker is waving a wad of bills. Recently, surprise, surprise, there has been much in the news seeming to confirm that suspicion. Corporations and wealthy individuals do get more and better and more and more again.

Fintrac (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada), a federal anti-laundering agency, has recently revealed that a Canadian bank has been fined $1.1 million for failing to report suspicious activity, including transfers of money. Of particular interest is the federal agency using its discretionary powers to withhold the name of the bank. The fine, a pittance that can likely be written off through some loophole, will, Fintrac claims, act as deterrence by sending a strong message. How? Where is the deterrence when the offender escapes public notice and possible censure? In the past, Fintrac has fined smaller companies without hesitating to name them. Why did this bank get special treatment? True, this is a first fine ever imposed on a bank. Strangely enough, I derive no solace from this bit of information because I find more worrisome the fact that a government agency, in not naming the bank, appears more interested in protecting the interests of the bank, which may or not be assisting gangsters or tax evaders, rather than that of its customers or of Canadians in general.

That appears to be the trend with Canadian governments. The previous government under Harper appeared loath to pursue tax evaders with offshore accounts though it has been estimated corporations and wealthy individuals have stiffed Canadians to the tune ranging from $7 to $9 billion a year. Yet, instead of going after possible tax cheat ripping off billions, the Harper gang laid off over 3,000 CRA workers and proceeded to politicize the agency by ordering it to audit and harass “left” leaning charities purely on a partisan basis. When Trudeau became prime minister, he said targeted audits of charities would cease but those already under investigation would continue. Nothing then about tax cheats or offshore account.

So, how serious is this government when it comes to tackling offshore accounts and tax evaders? Probably not at all serious.

On March 8, 2016, CBC reported a story straight out of spy school in which a member of their team received a brown envelope containing documents revealing CRA amnesty offers, with a confidentiality clause, for wealthy tax dodging “high net worth clients”, fraudsters in other words, of KPMG, provided they pay back what is owed. KPMG is a huge auditing firm that has allegedly helped individuals and corporations set up shell companies in the Isle of Man (CBC News, Mar. 8, 16, Harvey Cashore, Dave Seglins, Frederic Zalac, Kimberly Ivany http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/cra-kpmg-anger-at-secret-deal-1.3479792   https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2752975-May-2015-CRA-amnesty-offer-to-KPMG-Clients.html ). What makes this news even more difficult to endure is the fact that other Canadians, ordinary and unsophisticated, have been innocently caught up in similar scams by unscrupulous firms. The CRA not only went after them, they went after them with a vengeance with penalties grossly disproportionate to the offence levying fines ranging from $50,000 to $70,000 for illegitimate claims between $10,000 and $20,000. Even recently, KPMG and members of the CRA have been caught meeting at the Chateau Laurier. When CBC’s Frederic Zalac attempted to speak to the new Canada Revenue minister, Diane Lebouthillier, she refused to respond to his questions. Said Trudeau regarding the leaked news, “It is a concern to us that Canadians – all Canadians – pay their fair share of taxes, and we will ensure that that continues to be the case in the future. (italics added FP) (CBC).” In the future… that’s rather telling isn’t it? There have been some who say the cost of trying to recover money owed would be too costly. How’s that? Some politicians have said the same, as have some columnists. Even some ordinary coffee drinking folks, those law abiding tax-paying suckers buy it. That argument can be made when we spend many thousands to punish and imprison petty criminals, but when fraudsters stash billions in foreign havens, the argument is specious. If the object is to punish criminals, tax evaders, who are cheats, fraudsters, and thieves, have a greater and wider impact on all citizens. And those who abet them, those politicians who write laws making it easier for people to funnel their money elsewhere, to evade paying their fair share, to rip off and gouge Canadians, are as culpable. What the CRA has offered with the secret document is tantamount to a reward: Go thou and sin; if caught, apologize, pay up what you owe and sin no more, all is forgiven. Hysterical isn’t it?

Laughably, the CRA denies there are special deals. If that were so, why insert a confidentiality clause? Trudeau initially promised to set aside $90 million a year for five years ($444.4 million) for “special added” tools to combat tax cheating. A good start would be to hire back the 3,000 CRA accountants fired by Harper. Then they might take a look at look at the activities of some of the large accounting firms and our banks, RBC for one. Among the 11.5 million leaked documents from Mossack Fonesca a Panamanian law firm exposing the world of offshore accounts, RBC was named as creating at least 370 foreign corporations on behalf of clients. Now, offshore accounts may be legal but making up a corporation seems to be a tax avoidance dodge. With the leak of the so-called Panama Papers, politicians of all stripes have expressed faux outrage, mock surprise and offered platitudes and promises to look into the matter. The sad thing is, this has been going on for decades. It’s not news nor is it new. Tax cheats are no secret. What may have been is the role government plays in passing laws making it easier for corporations and the wealthy to cheat. One thing is certain: corporations and wealthy individuals caught cheating must pay the severest penalties, including jail time. Now that may be a deterrent.

HAPPY HOUR

And then, when it seems things couldn’t possibly get worse for the average taxpayer, it does.

For most of us, the closest we get to politicians may be on television or, when running for office, they knock on doors begging for support and money. A few of us may write letters seeking help or to scold or to offer suggestions on some issue; even fewer receive anything but a form reply.

But there are a privileged few able to access politicians at any time – for a price. Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about this but it’s a practice likely as old as politics. As long as there is money, politicians will always listen. Everyone once-in-a-while, there are flurries of reports of politicians in on the take. Politicians will parade before the media expressing shock and outrage hastening to add that such breaches are rare, most who serve the public are honest, hard working members of parliament. The public will awakened momentarily, they’ll huff and puff and quickly go back to sleep and it will be business as usual.

It shouldn’t be.

For a price, one could meet Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario or any member of her cabinet. We have the report by Adrian Morrow for the Globe and Mail March 29, 2016, of two Ontario provincial ministers, Charles Sousa, Finance Minister, and Bob Chiarelli, Energy Minister, attending a fundraiser at $7,500 per individual December 7, 2015. The Liberals raised $165,000. The event, promoted by the Bank of Nova Scotia, one of the banks behind the privatization of Hydro One, took place a month after the initial public offer (IPO), which resulted in 15% of the government company being sold for $1.8 billion earning the syndicate $29.3 million from the privatization deal. Very cozy. Regarding the secret fundraiser, Sousa simply commented this was “part of the democratic process”. Say, what? Morrow also notes there had been another fundraiser with Wynne and, again, Chiarelli meeting lobbyists at $6000 per individual. So that is Sousa’s version of the democratic process. It’s not mine.

Following the revelations, a rattled Wynne called off all private fundraising events and hoped her ministers, who, she admitted, had been instructed to raise up to $500,000 a year, would do the same. You see she wanted to take the lead in setting an example. That might have had merit had she done this on her own rather than nudged by blaring headlines. Further, she vowed she would change regulations regarding fundraising. Corporate and union donations would not be allowed or accepted. There would be changes regarding third-party advertising. And there would be limits for individuals (it’s $100 max in Quebec). But, and one likely expected this, there was a caveat: the changes would be phased in over time and not be completed by next election. Presumably this provides enough warning and time for lobbyists to pour money into the party coffers and party shakedown artists to get to work on others.

It has been reported that Christy Clark, the premier of British Columbia, can be met privately for $10,000 and $20,000. Unlike Wynne, Clark says there will be no changes in how she and her party raise funds. She governs for everyone, she says and owes no favours. Maybe so. But we’ve heard all this before, bags of money waved before politicians and not a single one of them influenced. Yeah, right. The dough raised by the Liberals and the profit made by the syndicate at the fundraising event just happened to be a coincidence. They really do believe we are that stupid.

Then we have federal justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould attending a fundraiser held by a prestigious law firm for $500 a head. Which makes her a piker next to Clark. That she did so is unseemly fairly shrieking conflict of interest. When asked about it, she said she was there as a Liberal minister not as Justice Minister. Incredible. Did I neglect to mention they really, really do believe us that stupid? This incident seriously leads to questions regarding her judgement. Her response is legalese, a weasel’s plea that makes her contemptible. Yet Trudeau, her boss, sees nothing wrong with it. This is the man who promised to introduce a new era of brighter, better, more transparent governance; he has just demonstrated he is as phony as Harper who promised exactly the same when they took over from the Liberals.

Now there are folks who will defend such conduct. There are folks who will defend offshore accounts saying they are legal while ignoring ethics. Ethics are for suckers. There are folks who will also defend fundraising efforts where those with money buy access to politicians. I’m not one of them. Politicians will say no favours are bought. They will say they cannot be bought and claim they can look themselves in the mirror. That’s because they possess no shame. We are to take them at their word. After all, they are referred to as Honourable members. But why should we? How can we? Meetings held in secret do not offer affirmation of integrity. They certainly do not offer reason to not doubt. I know this, when I offer money, I expect something in return. Even when I give to charity, I expect to feel better. And I know when someone offers me money he wants and expects something in return. Politicians will not even admit that.

Not all politicians are bad or corruptible. But neither are they all good, decent, truthful, and trustworthy. The revelations we have been plagued with recently have cast a harsh glare on those in whom we place our trust. The news regarding those who have held and are presently holding office, mostly Conservatives and Liberals, even the NDP, both federally and provincially, provide the clearest evidence of the certainty that politicians, some even handsome and youthful, and relatively inexperienced wear many masks, all ugly. Over the years, I have seen the masks of Shamelessness, of the Liar, of Hypocrisy, of Cravenness, of Avarice, of the Panderer, of Complacency, and of Deceit. Almost every member of the Harper gang wore those faces, some all at once. The Liberals before them were the same but, probably, with a bit more flare. Even today, with a relatively new mandate, we can see signs of the old Liberal party habits that eventually led to their exile for ten years. How long has it been since the public has set eyes upon the faces of Nobility, of Integrity, of Decency? These are characteristics that need no masks. A few may recall Tommy Douglas, Stanley Knowles, and Robert Stanfield; occasionally we have sightings of Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent who offer hints of the better part of nature.

It’s one thing for politicos to make large promises and then scale them back or even break them. But I would prefer it if they did not offer the same excuses: the other guys made the mess, the other guys left the cupboard bare, the other guys do it so why can’t I.

Politics is a filthy game. Whatever nobility may have been are now distant, not even memory.

So what are we to make of politicos who craft laws that benefit the wealthy and corporate interests, who can grant themselves raises four times higher than they grant public servants? We have heard a lot about offshore accounts and those taking advantage of them and those holding office saying they are legal. So what if they are legal? Why are appearances and ethics dismissed? Why should corporations and the wealthy be allowed special private access to politicians and granted loopholes denied most Canadians to maximize their profits and minimize paying their share? Why are tax cheats offered special, secret deals by the CRA?

Perhaps the answer lies with those politicians who meet in secret with individuals with fistfuls of cash.

Yes, I’d rather meet a con than a politician because the politician’s likely both.

On a Personal Note: I wish to honour the memory of my dear, dear friend, Gunther Voigt. To those of us who knew and loved him, he was simply “Dutchie”. He was loud, brash, sometimes crude but he was also much more. He was always kind, generous, truthful. He was always there for you. For the past few years, we did not meet as often as we wished but when we did, it was as if we had never been away. He was the brother I never had. I will always cherish his memory and my thoughts will be with his match and his love, Ingrid. Our thoughts are now with her and his two daughters.

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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

 

 

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.

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

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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