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CAN THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG REALLY LIE, TERRIFY, CHEAT AND BRIBE ITS WAY TO VICTORY?

There is a destiny that makes us brothers, none goes his way alone. /All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.Edwin Markham

The Conservatives want to lay off civil servants when it’s the uncivil servants we should get rid of. – Irene Peter

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

When a group of political scoundrels in power run out of ideas, if they ever had any in the first place, they inevitably resort to playing the cards they know best and rely on most: they pander to the worst in us, to our bigotry, fears, and greed measuring us all against their own standards of conduct which, all too often, are low, venal, amoral and completely without honour. Stephen Harper and his gang are such a group. And while they may appear to be off the mark in their assessment of Canadians and those who vote, they are not that far off: the Conservatives won their present majority with the support of 40% of those voting.

That there are still those willing to vote for them, that the core base of thirty to forty percent appears untouchable and unteachable is, while baffling, a clear indication that the Conservatives really do know their supporters.

WHY DO YOU VOTE AS YOU DO?

But what is it that moves that base? What persuades them, time and again, to vote for a group as vile as this? It certainly cannot be intelligence; how could any thinking person possibly swallow the Conservative myth of them as masterful economic wizards? Maybe it’s Harper’s skill as a great, STRONG PROUD FREE leader that earns him his votes. But that, too, is a myth, the slogan more an Americanism than any Canadian reality. We have seen too much of his posturing, tie off, shirt opened at the neck, swaggering across the stage before a pliant gaggle of supporters and talking big and evoking images of ISIS coming for us while wagging his finger at the rest of the world for not doing enough. We have Harper and Jason Kenney in Iraq for a photo-op, Harper, statesmanlike apparently at the front peering through binoculars, the great leader overseeing his men and women, and we have both on a ship harassed by a Russian ship and jet during their visit to the Ukraine. But that, too, is mythmaking, both Harper and Kenney attempting to inflate themselves as worthy, heroic figures by inflating the dangers (which were non-existent according to the military; such harassment is apparently routine and engaged by all nations; a thumping of chests and load roars). I find it impossible to imagine Harper as mighty warrior; all I have is an image of him cowering in a broom closet on Parliament Hill on a murderous October day last year.

But are strutting and bombast enough to justify voting for him? While I have no doubt of the courage of those men and women who serve us, how proud and how assured can they be of their own futures when they see how this government has mistreated veterans, especially our disabled veterans, with clawbacks of disability pensions, with closures of nine veterans offices across the country, with unspent (“lapsed” in Harperese) $1.1 billion designated for veterans but returned to the public treasury, and with its shabby treatment of surviving family members? How confident can our men and women really be in a government that talks big (STRONG PROUD FREE) yet stints on equipment forcing them to work with gear that is old and inadequate and more handicap than benefit for modern warfare? Now we know Harper is always talking about cutting taxes and saving money and by God it appears to work, he gets those votes, but, do voters really want to save money off the backs of our military personnel and veterans? We have a navy with three of four second-hand submarines finally operational after twenty years of breakdowns and failures. We have a navy with over half of the ships in for repairs or upgrades and an announcement by Kenney of a plan to retrofit a commercial ship to serve temporarily as a naval supply ship because the one on order has been delayed, once again, with a cost of $55 million ballooning to $78 million. We have an air force with creaky jets about to be retired and supply planes so old that spare parts can only be bought on eBay. It’s true the Conservatives have ordered two more C-17 military transport planes and have had delivered two helicopters but all at twice the cost other nations paid. Worse, the two helicopters, according to experts, are underpowered for the duties they are expected to perform rendering them all but useless (does any of this cause you to pause and question the Conservative myth of sound fiscal Conservative management?). STRONG PROUD FREE. It’s sloganeering and empty rhetoric and does not reflect well on Canada; Harper is the emperor without clothes reproving the world for not doing enough while our own contributions in the way of money and materiel remain woefully inadequate at best with one aerial refuelling plane, two surveillance planes, six war planes, sixty-nine military trainers in Iraq and six hundred personnel in Kuwait. It’s even more offensive when the Minister of Defence, Jason Kenney, lies, as he is prone to do, when he justifies Canada’s extension of the war by claiming, as he has done, that Canada and the USA are the only nations with precision bombing capability.

Such leadership, coupled with the despoliation of the military as well as of other government agencies, cuts to jobs and services, the beggaring of Peter to pay Paul to achieve a perception of capability and fiscal soundness, of strength and success, of balance and fairness is hardly indicative of responsible, efficient and/or wise governance.

It’s is not our underfunded and poorly equipped men and women, nor their courage and loyalty that must be doubted but the leadership of their government which places them in harm’s way often to score cheap political points and to win elections while it lies about its intent, exaggerates its contributions, lectures its allies and attacks its own citizens with Bill C-51, the Conservative’s own act of terrorism, which threatens to create a police like state with its lack of oversight. Now the Conservatives deny this pointing out that SIRC (Security Intelligence Review Committee) will provide all the necessary oversight. That’s rich coming from a government as secretive and slyly deceitful as this one with it’s relentless efforts to escape scrutiny by slipping legislation into omnibus bills having nothing to do with the main thrust of the bill itself. Besides being short-staffed and underfunded, the powers to oversee CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Services) have been severely limited by C-51; CSIS members will be allowed to break laws and violate charter rights and to do so with impunity thanks to “disruption warrants” set in place by C-51 which allows CSIS to take illegal actions to ‘”disrupt” a threat if they can get a judicial warrant to do so” (iPolitics, Amanda Connolly, Jan. 30, 2015).

WHAT IS A PROMISE IN THE MOUTH OF CONSERVATIVES? MOSTLY EMPTY WORDS BUT, WHEN HONOURED, A REWARD TO FRIENDS AND REVENGE AGAINST ENEMIES

When he first campaigned for his run as Prime Minister, Harper had promised a clean, honest, open and transparent government. But those were just promises. Immediately upon election, he quickly and brutally rejected them; evidently such goals are unworkable especially for such as those not prone to respecting or living by such. But, still, the question must be: Given that he broke these promises, how was it possible that he and his gang could be elected again and again by the same folk who demanded open and honest governance in the first place?

Well, for some folks, a clean, honest, open and transparent government is of less interest than a government that can promise and deliver on shiny promises: harsher punishment for the bad guys (unless you are Conservative), less taxes and more for the good guys. What does it matter to these thoughtless, clueless, narcissistic jerks that healthcare suffers, roads crumble and overpasses crush cruising vehicles passing below. All that matters is the personal gain – today; a tax cut here, another there. For such as these, tomorrow is another day and far off and votes are easily sold and cheaply purchased. The promise of a shiny bauble is enough to turn off the brain and quash any moral qualms. Harper understands the hand out and greasy greedy palm. He counts on that. He really believes we are that stupid and that greedy. He and his gang are, in many ways, merely a reflection of those who support them; unlike them, he and the gang recognize this and exploit it. Alas, he’s right – of some of us. We are dolts and we are greedy. He has given us opportunity to prove it time and time again and we do so willingly.

So when Conservative MPs appeared in droves July 20 alerting the public that that was the day everyone with children would be receiving Christmas in July in the way of fat, lump sum retroactive cheques of $420 per child, no one could honestly claim to be surprised. Lest there was any doubt to whom the families should be grateful, there was Pierre Poilievre, the most odious and partisan member of the Harper cabinet, leading the pack, not only pushing the Universal Childcare Benefit increases in TV ads but also at some public mall before the media wearing a Conservative golf shirt breaching good taste while shamelessly offering a public endorsement of the Conservative Party’s efforts to win another election by outright bribery.

In the old days, it used to be beer that did the trick.

Unfortunately, what oily Poilievre and the other Conservative lowlifes neglect to mention is that this largesse is not quite as it seems. For one thing, the Christmas gifts of July are taxable. Too, the Conservatives are just giving back to those families what was theirs (as well as ours) in the first place. Too, they ignore, and hope we are too thoughtless to notice, that while the sudden riches will surely help some in desperate need, the poor will still not do as well as wealthy two income families who will earn an additional $2000 a year for no other reason than that they already have more. Of the money earned from income splitting, 15 % of those will be high-income beneficiaries: they will take 49% of that money while 85% of the population will receive the remaining 51%. But, if you are a single parent holding down two or three jobs, if you are a one-income family, if you are poor and homeless, young and helpless or old and helpless, none of the benefits will flow to you.

Well, who cares? Certainly not Harper and thugs, certainly not the greedy and mean who really believe the poor deserve to be poor and they, those who already have, really deserve to get even more. While the hungry homeless poor and ill, while the hard working single parent worry about feeding themselves and their loved ones, the greedy worry that they didn’t get enough in tax breaks, in bonuses for having children, and simply for being better than the riffraff for whom they scarce give a thought except as folk to be feared when encountered on the street. Perhaps a coin thrown at them as they scurry away is enough to assuage the conscience if not erase the fear.

We will always have liars, knaves and thieves; but there is something wrong with us that we not only elect them, but we elect them again and again and often for the same promises made time and again and broken time and again. Remember Harper’s promises to clean up, to be honest, open, transparent, to put an end to corruption and patronage? On June 18 and 19 of this year, Stephen Harper made 98 appointments to various government departments including 40 judicial appointments. He has done this before with 59 Senate seats going to Conservatives (Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Patrick Brazeau most notable among them) and before that 111 pals since 2006 given jobs in various government departments. All were Conservative loyalists including two failed candidates. With this latest round, patronage appointees got key jobs with the immigration and refugee board, the CBC (probably with the goal of seeing to it’s demise), the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the National Capital Commission. The five appointees to the NCC are particularly disturbing because they were put in place just in time to vote on the status of the anti-communist monument in Ottawa which many Canadians oppose because of its proposed location which is donated government land originally set aside to house additional judicial buildings. The government strongly supports the monument and it’s ideological message making the claim that the cost is only $5 million (and, for $1,000, the chance to add your name as a donor) much of it in private donations. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s a lie, in fact. The government contributed $2 million and, of course, donated land worth $30 million! While I have nothing against some kind of memorial (located elsewhere) to all victims of all “-isms”, I do oppose this monument because it appears to exclude victims of other tyrannical and economic systems with the implicit suggestion that some forms of totalitarianism and murder are more acceptable than others. It is likely the victims of such did not and do not fully appreciate the finer distinctions of such a view as they are led to slaughter. Yet, for Harper and gang, their support of the monument seems crucial. I suspect it has less to do with victims of communism than with the support of the ideology of free enterprise and currying the vote of Canadians of Ukrainian and Polish extraction. The real issue is this: In spite of his loud denunciation of patronage appointments while he was leader of the opposition, Harper has made cronyism as much a part of Conservative values as attempting to subvert the electoral process.

A CONSERVATIVE IS A HYPOCRITE OFFERING CURE-ALLS WITH SNAKE OIL

But if Harper can’t do enough for his friends, and if Poilievre can’t do enough to help his Conservative Party’s fortunes by rejigging the Elections Act to disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult for the Chief Electoral Officer to investigate election fraud, and if adding 30 gerrymandered ridings aren’t enough to win the next election, there are still a few things they can do to improve their fortunes at the polls.

They can deliver a surplus. And they have, so they told us, but, oops, looks as if they miscalculated according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). Harper and the finance minister, the dithering Joe Oliver who, as environment minister labelled all environmentalists “radicals”, were proud to announce that their government had achieved a modest surplus. This happy news allowed them the opportunity to announce even “better” news. The long promised income splitting initiative would be introduced (albeit in a more modest form) allowing families with two incomes to claim an additional $2000 in tax breaks. Very good news for the wealthy but not so good for the struggling single low-income family. Too bad, how sad. But the rich, at least are richer for it. But there was even more great news; parents would see increases to universal childcare benefits, which would take effect January 1, 2015, but held in trust until July 20, 2015, so that everyone would receive a nice fat cheque just months before the election. On that day, the treasury became poorer by $3 billion dollars and millions richer by hundreds with a return of their own money, which will then, damn! be taxable again. Oh, it was good, good, FANTASTIC news for all the mothers and fathers but again not so good for the poor, the homeless, the lost and ill. Too bad, how sad. But it was good, good, FANTASTIC NEWS, until that PBO went and spoiled it all saying that there would be no surplus, that, in fact, there would be a deficit of $1 billion. Not good news for Conservatives, the greatest financial wizards since the dawn of mankind. Wizards of spin and lies anyway. They still claim there is nothing to worry about; the surplus will be there. Well, it’s clear enough: they all believe their own myth.

PROVE YOU’RE STUPID, VOTE CONSERVATIVE – AGAIN

Even with the bad news, they still might win the next election. Harper and gang have another card to play. There is the terror card. Now we all know about ISIS, we’ve all seen or heard about those brutal mass murders and beheadings of foreign journalists and workers and civilians. And everyone knows about those two disturbed individuals last October who, in separate incidents, struck out and killed military personnel. The first to die was Warrant Office Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Quebec parking lot and the second, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo shot dead on parliament hill. While these were acts of murderous lone wolves, these were not acts of terrorism linked to ISIS even though many, particularly the Conservatives, have attempted to make the link. But the dead soldiers and Canada’s entry into the war against ISIS was enough for Harper and gang to exploit. Murdered soldiers always help in fomenting fear by raising the spectre of bloodthirsty savages pounding on the doors. The deaths were all the justification Harper and gang needed to enact Bill C-51 and win the support of the Liberals.

Now, for those who don’t know, if that’s possible, C-51 is an anti-terrorist bill. It grants CSIS more power to search, seize and arrest almost anyone they decide to target. Even the RCMP opposes this bill because of the sweeping powers granted CSIS, which may hamper their own security efforts domestically and overseas. As of this writing, two groups plan to challenge the bill saying that it infringes on the charter rights of citizens. As reported in the Ottawa Citizen (July 22, 2015), ‘”Bill C-51 is a grave threat to our rights in Canada. It will lead to censorship and a massive chill on free expression, and enables a potentially widespread abuse of power” CJFE (Canadian Journalists for Free Expression) executive director Tom Henheffer said in a news release.” In the same article, “Sukanya Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Bill C-51 ‘creates broad and dangerous new powers, without commensurate accountability, and this can result in serious mistakes.'”

Just think of that. Environmentalists could be charged as economic terrorists under this act should they take a notion to block shipments of oil. Critics of the Harper gang could, conceivably, come under scrutiny simply for writing negative commentary regarding them or for defending someone the Conservatives or CSIS has determined may be a terrorist. This is no joke. The dangers are real. This bill could be the making of a police state.

There is an election coming on. People must think seriously about what they want from a government. If it’s only about less taxes and getting benefits, put out a sign that says, “I can be bought”. You are worth nothing and do not interest me except as a curiosity.

If the secrecy, lies and rigging of the Election Act, if Conservative robocalls and efforts to subvert the electoral process with “in-out” scams for which the Conservative Party paid a $52,000 fine, if Harper’s appointment of the recently deceased Arthur Porter as head of SIRC and alleged to have had inappropriate business and international dealings including fraud in awarding of a hospital construction project and money laundering, if allegations of illegal lobbying activity by Bruce Carson a former senior advisor to Harper, if the resignation of Bev Oda for false expense claims and the resignation of Peter Penashue for accepting corporate donations during an election campaign, if slipping questionable laws secretly into omnibus bills in hopes of avoiding discovery, if refusing to answer questions in the House, if squandering money on partisan ads, if squandering money on military equipment by paying twice the value, if watching Dean del Mastro walking in chains for election fraud, if witnessing Michael Sona, a young Conservative staffer and scapegoat being sent to jail, if learning of Harper appointees Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau abusing expense privileges, if taking all credit for the economic good but blaming “outside” influences for the bad, if blaming “activist” courts for overturning ad hoc punitive and unfair laws, if smearing Supreme Court Justices, if bribery with your own money, if questionable fundraising events by the likes of Shelly Glover and Susan Aglukkaq with those who stood to gain by their decisions in attendance, if taking office with a $13 billion surplus and squandering it to a deficit of hundreds of billions with seven, going on eight, deficits in a row, if the imbecility of BC Conservative backbencher Wai Young who claimed that not only was Jesus Christ on the side of the Conservatives but also that CSIS “knew or heard” about the bomb on Air India thirty years ago and could have prevented it if allowed to share information had C-51 been in place, if government ministers ordering bureaucrats to come up with three terrorism related stories a week, and if any other innumerable depredations by the Harper gang are not enough to stop you from voting Conservative again, then nothing I or anyone say will persuade you, you have a brain that thinks with the stolidity and morality of stone.

It’s one thing to be stupid, but to insist on proving it again and again borders on lunacy.

Do yourself a favour: Don’t vote for the same old same old. Try something new. Take a chance.

There is no risk to getting rid of a bad, corrupt, secretive and anti-democratic government.

But there is real danger in not doing so.

***

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

***

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

 

 

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPY VS. CITIZEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, very little, as it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER: THE PAPER LION

To the surprise of no one, Harper has announced that he would approach the Governor General to prorogue parliament until October. This is mere formality. The GG will go along with whatever Harper seeks and Harper will do as he has done all too frequently in the past: thumb his nose at the democratic process. To some, the sleeping, the brain dead or Tory supporters, who make up both camps, this will be acceptable. A few folks will be incensed, a few will speak out and the rest will shrug, claiming it’s no big deal; it’s been done before.

That is true. Unfortunately, when Harper invokes it, suspicions are naturally aroused. This is the man who, when faced with tough questions regarding budgets, omnibus bills and scandals, resorts to prorogation of Parliament as a matter of routine in the hopes that, with time, out of sight, sound and opposition fury, the public will forget. It’s worked before.

When he finally got his majority, clearly relying on public apathy, a short attention span as well as playing on fears, ignorance and resorting to outright lies, Harper did not hesitate to prove himself the anti-Democrat he is wielding his majority in the way of bullies wielding a club. He not only sneaked in legislation through massive omnibus bills, he satisfied the thirst of his base by scapegoating the poor and helpless, criminalizing those collecting EI, stigmatizing the mentally ill, ignoring supporters of the long-gun registry, and smearing all critics, seeking neither to accommodate nor to consult. Why should he, he has the majority and, as are most bullies, not shy of publicly revealing his petty and vindictive side; as the elected victor, he was typically ungracious, the lout who would never let his enemies forget that he was now the man. And who are his enemies? Why everyone who disagrees with him and his gang.

It’s the same old same old with Harper and his mob, an anti-democratic regime led by a bullying coward who, when riding high in the polls believes himself invincible and imagines himself master of all he surveys. At such moments, in the euphoria of public- and self-love, Harper is king and certainly, in all the world, no finer man to be found. But that is all will-o’-the-wisp, Tory fancy and utter rot; that is not the real man. The real man is the bully who throws his weight around at such moments and in others, in times of crises (robocalls and Senate scandals), thinks nothing of throwing loyalists under buses while he cuts and runs shutting down Parliament as if it were his own personal playhouse. That pending legislation withers and dies because of this means nothing to him. He can always push the reset button. Meanwhile, away from the House, he avoids answering opposition questions and sets his own storyline and plots with his despicable crew how to woo the public once again with the same old refrain of “jobs and the growth” without even a nod towards ethics, integrity, and Democracy. These are side issues and, for Harper and crew, have nothing to do with running a nation.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said of him, “He likes the power but he doesn’t like to govern.” Ain’t that the truth.

But, if Harper is gutless, he is also shameless. When he announced prorogation of Parliament, he was up north enjoying his annual pilgrimage of tokenism. That he made the announcement while away from the capital is typical of him; almost all major announcements are made away from Ottawa where questions are few, limited and all too unsatisfactorily answered (after all, these affairs are meant to be photo ops and the churlish liberal media lickspittle spoilsports appear maliciously intent on marring these good-news love-ins with real issues regarding Senate scandals and prosaic day-to-day governance).

As well as announcing prorogation, Harper reaffirmed his intent to lead the Tories during the next election. Whether he goes or not is immaterial, his replacement will certainly be equally odious having emerged from the same vile swamp that has nurtured Stephen Harper’s corrupted version of Democracy and governance of misrule. Among the contenders are James Moore (past Cultural Minister who appears to dislike culture), Jason Kenney (past Immigration Minister who illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for the Tories), Tony Clement (president of the Treasury, of the $50 million slush fund and missing $3.1 billion) and the least likely to succeed, sciolist Joe Oliver (and just one of the many ideological Cliff Clavens who make up Harper’s cabinet) who apparently knows more about science, climate, oil and pollution than any disagreeable scientist in the universe who dares challenge this regime.

During the brief five week spring session, Harper made five appearances in the House. One appearance a week. By the time the House will have reconvened in October, over five months will have passed and Harper’s appearances in the House will remain at five.

Is this a way to govern? Whose interests are served by prorogation, by refusing to answer questions, by denying the public the right to hold Harper and his miscreant rabble accountable? Certainly not the public’s. It is of no consequence that others have imposed prorogation of Parliament. What is of consequence is that Harper has all too often resorted to the easy out. In doing so, he has made a mockery of the Democratic process. He really believes that the public will forget and forgive his Party’s numerous attempts to subvert Democracy, that it was he who appointed Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin. and that it was he who broke his word on Senate reform and appointed over half of the senators now sitting.

As a leader of a nation, Stephen Harper is an abysmal failure. He and his party have no great vision. In fact, they have no vision at all. Instead, they appear to be infused with hubris for which there is no basis unless the arrogance and smugness of his majority are rated virtues. Power is all that matters but in the hands of a weak, frightened person, that power can be dangerous. Harper is such a person. He is weak; we see it in how he uses and abuses his majority. And he is frightened. We know this, too, by how he regards all opposition with suspicion and fear. Those who oppose him are seen as the enemy. And because he is weak and frightened, Harper and his crew are willing to pander to the worst in us because they actually believe that all of us are like them: venal, petty, self-interested. Many of us are, but not all.

Harper and his gang are quick to point to the motes in the eyes of others, but find intolerable the thought that they may be similarly afflicted. They are good and perfect and I have no doubt they truly believe that. Perhaps that is why they are so afraid of facing questions and challenges. Harper and his gang have no interest in serving the interests of the nation nor of all its people. They would, however, happily sell themselves to special interests and they have. They equate Capitalism with Democracy. In truth, Democracy doesn’t much interest them any more than the plight of the homeless. Money does. Power does.

Prorogation may be a legitimate tool in governance. However, when Harper resorts to it, it is just another abuse of power by a weak, frightened man.

He and his party have no business leading this country. And, right now, they aren’t.

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