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LOVE ME, LOVE ME, LOVE ME, I’M A LIBERAL: Trudeau Gropes With Hypocrisy

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe — the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. — Immanuel Kant

Sure, once I was young and impulsive; I wore every conceivable pin,
Even went to Socialist meetings, learned all the old Union hymns.
Ah, but I’ve grown older and wiser, and that’s why I’m turning you in.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal. — Phil Ochs

Frank A. Pelaschuk

He ran full of boastful swagger and showy humility declaring his would be a different and better government, not only cleaner and with set of self-imposed ethical mandates but also truly representative with a gender-balanced cabinet with women playing significant roles. He was a feminist, you see, and wasn’t shy of reminding us — endlessly. As well, without any great public demand for it, with smug self-congratulatory defiant fanfare, he declared 2015 would be the last ever first-past-the-post Canadian election. Sounded good and the public voted; the pure of heart defeated the forces of darkness. Goodby Stephen Harper, hello Justin Trudeau.
The rodomontade promises were excessive, magnified hope and the big-rock-candy-mountain future; in his own words, “sunny ways, sunny ways” were here again, Trudeaumania revived, more potent than ever: peace and love reigned over the world. Well, Canada at the least, Trudeau’s no Trump. But fairy tales are for kids; even so, too many adults wanted to believe, buying in and still do; “give him a chance, give him a chance” say those to the doubters and critics. For some, however, the shock of recognition and disappointment quickly hit, hitting hard, the hopeful wavering, faltering, struck numb: They’re all the same after all, aren’t they.
Trudeau was no naïf nor his crew inexperienced. He knew exactly what he was doing. Most didn’t care but a few did and do. The scales began to fall from the eyes and hands began to wave away the cobwebs. The portrait of the handsome saviour prince and crew slowly emerges, a little clearer and more realistic, of consummate schemers, wheelers and dealers oozing, simply oozing charm, smarm, buzz words tripping off the tongues and attitudes and promises deployed as skilfully as any con baiting traps for lonely, befuddled, gullible prey; when challenged concerns are blissfully brushed aside…”it’s legal”, “we didn’t know the full picture”, deceptions, broken promises, the failures of ethics and stricken expressions of betrayed believers ignored.
Within months if not weeks, there was news, “sticky fingers”, and Trudeau instructing cabinet ministers to repay expense claims to which they were not entitled and defending those routinely breaking conflict of interest guidelines again and again, the justice minister once ludicrously justifying a fundraiser paid for by lawyers with the claim she had attended the event as a member of the Liberal party and not as the Justice Minister! Oh, it may be risible were it not so predictable and offensive; Trudeau, the handsome prince, was to be the exemplar but, as often happens in fairy tales, the prince is not always what he seems, the toad part of him increasingly exposed with each question tossed his way and denial hurled back.
There are always those who believe they are entitled to a free pass and those who always get it. Trudeau is apparently one such. Unfortunately, far too many are willing to play along.
Why?
Time and time again he and his gang broke his own loudly ballyhooed ethical mandates. Apparently no one noticed or cared: a flash of smile, furrowed brows, fingers tapping over the heart, and eyes oozing, simply ooze sincerity is all it takes for Trudeau and others like him, those guileful manipulators who know how to work the mob of innocents and/or fools. And Trudeau does. Still, with Trudeau, the “mistakes” occur far too often; one would think that even the half awoke would ask themselves, “Should we trust a man that careless and, if so, how much?”
Well, not much.
If he was to be the shining beacon, he demonstrated that not all pretty packages are that pretty though far too many still refuse to see beyond surface. While I was never convinced by him, I was, if sceptical, still willing to give him a chance. Many of us were. However, his easy dismissal of real concerns regarding conflicts of interest by the newly appointed justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, his own attitude regarding secret fundraising events and his undermining of electoral reform were more than sufficient evidence his promise of “sunny ways” had been a hoax. I find it incomprehensible so many refuse to see him as the charlatan and phony he is. What do they see that I don’t?
When he was forced to rejig the committee looking into recommendations for electoral reform after being called out for stacking it with liberals, we saw clear signs of the machinator at work. Then, several weeks into its mandate, with the committee revealing early signs of a likely endorsement for proportional representation, Trudeau began to pointedly muse that the public was no longer interested in electoral reform. It wasn’t true, of course. What was true was that he was setting the stage without having yet informing the public of his preferred option: the ranked ballot system. Eventually, Trudeau’s preference became public. When it became clear that the committee would deny him what he sought, a voting system that would ensure that only two parties would govern until Canada ceased to be, the public began to stir suddenly aware that what they had long wanted and sought, fair elections, was chimera, a pipe dream. Not all options were on the table and PR was definitely not a possibility for consideration by the liberals. In Parliament, following the reform committee’s recommendation, minister of democratic institutions Maryam Monsef publicly berated the committee in Parliament for “not doing” its job, i.e., giving Trudeau what he wanted. The furor was instant, loud and public, Canadians furious by the shoddy treatment handed the committee. Seeking to repair the damage, the liberals set up a phone-in poll to look into electoral reform. That, too, as with Trudeau’s first attempt to stack the committee, had been designed to lead to a specific desired outcome. So obvious and outlandish was the move orchestrated by the PMO, public rage and the minister’s incompetence led to her removal. It was left to Karina Gould, Monsef’s replacement, to drive the stake through the heart of electoral reform.
While this had been from day one Trudeau’s baby, he had neither the stomach nor the decency to do the dirty deed himself. As a result, this self-declared feminist had left it to two neophyte female MPs to not only discredit the work of the committee but the project itself. Monsef and Gould would be associated with the failure of the reform he had set in motion and then worked to undermine. What a man!
Later, battered from the fallout of free gifts, secret fundraisers, conflicts of interest, and electoral reform, he set about to refurbish his image with town hall meetings across the country. He swaggered before the crowd loudly and defiantly boasting of not regretting walking away from electoral reform (and those countless others whose hopes he had destroyed). Shame? Not a whit. His brainless supporters lapped it up. None of them saw that smiling, smiling toad prince facing them with thumb to nose and fingers waving: SUCKERS!
So, does Trudeau believe in anything? Probably only in the things that serve him and his interests. He easy bromides appear to comfort those seeking comfort. This is a man who cares. Until he doesn’t. He believes human rights is a priority unless it conflicts with Canadian business interests as he demonstrated by signing off on Harper’s Light-Armoured Vehicle deal with human rights abuser Saudi Arabia; he believes conflicts-of-interest are major issues except when he or members of his party routinely engage in the practice. The Aga Khan Foundation still receives millions from Canada while Trudeau receives a lukewarm warning from the ethics commissioner for breaking the rules and a minor fine for accepting a pair of expensive sunglasses. Trudeau receives a pass and there’s not even a hint of shame.
But what about his feminism? We know he’s a feminist; he screams it out at every opportunity. Yet, when offered opportunities on several occasions by reporters to denounce Trump’s misogynistic comments which were made public as Trump ran for the presidency, Trudeau remained tellingly mute except to declare, “Canada does not comment on American politics” and “Everyone knows I’m a feminist”. But do we? Does saying something make it so? And why, in god’s name, does he conflate standing up against misogyny as interference in American politics? Some have suggested that his stance was “prudent”. What they meant is this: For god sakes, don’t jeopardize NAFTA by annoying Trump. That’s the stand of cowards and for folks with fluid ethics: do the right thing only when there is no possibility of it biting you. That about sums up Trudeau. Unfortunately, kissing ass isn’t always a winner with Trump; he could still dump on you. Ask Trudeau.
I have always been wary of those who noisily insist we accept their public persona of themselves as the real deal. Perhaps that is why I have never bought into Trudeau’s “feminism”; it was too showy and utterly unconvincing. It’s much like Trump’s insistence he is a smart man; where’s the evidence?
Even so, I was mildly surprised by recent reports of a nearly 20 year old groping allegation which led to a community newspaper editorial at the time. Not only does the Creston Valley Advance piece cast doubt to the strength and sincerity of Trudeau’s claim to feminism, it also suggests the feminism may be dependent on the status of the parties involved. In the opening lines of the editorial, Trudeau had apologized, if that’s what it was, with the following, “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” According to the young reporter at the time, who was also on assignment for the National Post, she had been groped by the future world’s most famous self-declared feminist. Mind you, in those days, all she likely knew then was he was just the son of a more famous Trudeau. It was the PMO that responded to the allegations. Trudeau could not recall any “negative interactions” at the time words, as some have pointed out, with a lawyerly ring to them. Days later, on July 1, he spoke for himself. He could not recall any “negative interactions”. Sounded familiar. Feeble, certainly, and no outright denial. On July 5, perhaps aware that his response was inadequate, following a meeting with Doug Ford, Ontario’s new premier and Trumpian-lite cretin clone of the North, he responded more fully. Said he, “I do not feel I did anything untoward. Often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate and a woman, particularly in a professional context can view it differently (CBC National, July 5, 2018). Weaselly legalese. Inadequate. And no firm denial.
Clearly Trudeau holds himself to a standard less than he demands of others as when, upon taking leadership of the party, he swiftly and brutally booted two members from the caucus. Not only had he offered them no opportunity to a fair hearing, he had named them and kept from the public the allegations made against them. Trudeau would later claim that his zero-tolerance policy would even apply to him. Really? Judge for yourself. He gives to himself an exemption denied Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, the two Liberal MPs against whom the allegations were made. Look again at the opening statement of the Creston Valley Advance editorial: by his own words, if the reports are accurate, he thought a reporter of a small community paper was fair game as opposed to one from a national paper. That statement years ago may be forgiven as an ill-conceived apology by a young man but when coupled with his July 5th statement, one cannot help but wonder if his is indeed a deep-rooted belief regarding women and status. “Often a man experiences an interaction as being benign or not inappropriate and a woman, particularly in a professional context can view it differently.” Why “particularly in a professional context”? Perhaps menials as well as the less educated and sophisticated, as with small town reporters, are viewed as not only incapable of awareness of sexual harassment when inflicted on them but also as fair game: all hands on board!
The reporter of years ago has made clear that Trudeau did apologize as reported. She has also made clear that, for her, the matter is closed, a part of her past she has no interest in revisiting.
But voters do have a right to know of this episode and to question and challenge Trudeau’s credibility regarding his feminism and apparent double-standard regarding zero-tolerance when it comes to harassment.
He has set himself up to holding a standard that he has demanded of others. When they have failed or have been seen as failing, he has punished them. Yet he apparently is immune; for him, the bar is lower if non-existent. He is fond of legalese and weasel words and they, as much as his failures in ethics and keeping promises and his oozing, simply oozing sincerity, tell us all I need to know about the man. I see no charm, no saviour prince, no man of deep-rooted integrity. I see a phony. I see a toad.
Folk with fluid ethics and easy virtue almost always resort to legalese: “what I did was legal”. Is it really too much to demand that they also be honest and ethical?
Evidently 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

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THE PEACOCK PRINCE AND THE HOPE THAT NEVER WAS: JUST ANOTHER SLIMY POLITICO

Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise. – G.K. Chesterton

Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. – Eric Hoffer

Frank Pelaschuk

For diehard Liberal supporters, Justin Trudeau was the swaggering handsome young prince who would sweep the party back into office where they belonged with his charm and many loud grand promises of real change, of newer, better and brighter in the way of honesty, consultation, openness and transparency. The diehard Liberals likely didn’t believe that part, they know the party and its people too well but they did believe in Trudeau, he was a winner and that’s what matters in the end. For the young voters, they saw in Trudeau not only the son of a one-time political star but also a star in his own right; he was young, confident, he had the words and god he was handsome, graceful, with a beautiful wife and kids and there was no doubt, no doubt at all, he was a winner and that’s all that matters in the end.

THE PEACOCK STRIKES

Oh the promises were many and grand. In all, there were over 200 promises (according to the non-partisan TrudeauMetre.ca website); among them he would: make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election (dead); make Human Rights a priority (only when convenient and when it doesn’t conflict with trade deals); amend the Access of Information Act so that all government date was made “open by default” (pending, likely will not happen); unmuzzle government scientists (done); gender parity in cabinet (done); restore the long-form census (done); ban partisan ads (pending, likely will not happen); provide resources for Elections Canada to investigate electoral fraud and other abuses (pending, likely will not happen); eliminate omnibus bills (doubtful, some claim recent Budget is an omnibus bill); restore the right of the Commissioner of Elections Canada to report and be accountable to Parliament and not to the government (removed by the Harper Conservatives, may happen but doubtful); review spending limits of political parties during and between elections (will not happen); restore home mail delivery (dead); introduce pay equity (will happen just in time for next election); restore life long disability pensions for veterans (did not happen though he did increase one-time lump sum payment); reopen nine Veterans Affairs offices closed by Liberals (done and/or pending); bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees in timely fashion (done if delayed by a few months); run deficit of $10 billion (done, but tripled to $30 billion); legalize marijuana (done); restore age of OAS eligibility to 65 (done); amend Harper’s anti-terrorism bill C-51 (dead, powers to spy on Canadians and share information with foreign security agencies increased); reduce taxes for those earning between $45K and $90K (done, cut by 1.5 percent; Trudeau was all about the middle class but never heard him talk much, if at all, about homelessness, education, the plight of the young and elderly).

To voters hearing them for the first time, many of the promises were appealing particularly pot for the young, pay equity for women, and electoral reform for those who believe democracy is less about outcomes of votes than the fairness of the outcomes; in this, our present system fails. On the surface, just with the few examples above, Trudeau seems to have done not too badly. Unfortunately, those promises kept were relatively easy because largely supported by the public as with the Syrian refugees, reopened Veterans Affairs Offices and legalization of pot. It’s where he fails that is significant. If anything, Trudeau is mostly surface, candy for the eyes and ears that appeal to the easily distracted and those who want only to hear what appeals and conforms to their worldview; challenges, a different point of view, hearing the other out rather than shouting them down, embracing new contrary ideas, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone are too difficult requiring the ability to empathize and exert the energy of actually having to think. Beneath the surface, under all that Trudeau charm, that dazzling, smirking smile, and that cloying, oozing, simply oozing sincerity, lies something much darker, a calculator, a schemer willing to demonstrate, when it suits his purpose and promises gain, a ruthless edge with the occasional bloody gesture meant to burnish his image as one not shy of revealing his mettle. He did that when, in January 2016, as one of his first acts, he publicly, and loudly, expelled Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus. As far as he was concerned, the Liberal senators would now sit as independents. As if declaring a thing makes it so. It was a clever exhibition, a bold, unexpected, and public show that stunned senators and observers alike and informed the world that Trudeau was more than a pretty face with hair. It was a gesture that played well but didn’t mean much except to his fans who became legion following his 2012 whupping of Senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match and the photo-op of him performing the yoga Peacock Pose. The expulsion of the senators provided further affirmation of Trudeau as an action figure super hero.

If he was capable of surprising with ruthless efficiency, he was also, that January, able to surprise again with his appointment of neophyte MP Maryam Monsef, as minister of democratic institutions and placing in her hands the matter of electoral reform which he had affirmed would go ahead. But, it was in May of 2016, there occurred two troubling events that may have alerted some to the darker side of Trudeau as a sneak and plotter less interested in the power of democracy than of the power of victory. What happened then did not and does not bode well for Canadians or for Canadian democracy.

Motion 6, introduced by then Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc without fanfare and limited, if any, real consultation was a Liberal attempt to seize control of the House, as if his majority wasn’t enough, by weakening the tools of opposition members to debate, filibuster or force a surprise vote to catch governments flatfooted as the NDP had days before when they put forward an amendment to another bill which left the Liberals scrambling to find enough members to defeat the amendment. Motion 6 was eventually dropped but not after a raucous fracas on the floor of the House which led Trudeau to swagger across the floor and inadvertently elbow a female NDP member in the chest as he manhandled opposition whip Gord Brown by grabbing him by the arm to drag him to his seat in hopes, Trudeau said, of speeding up the vote on Bill-14, the physician-assisted dying legislation being delayed by MPs milling about the House floor. For that incident, Trudeau rightly apologized…twice…but the apologies had less, I suspect, to do with the bill or the manhandling of the two MPs than with seeking to restore the public’s perception of him as a fine, extremely likeable young man rather than the impatient, strutting, bullying peacock to which the world was treated. He may have lost that power grab but it gave Canadians, if they were paying attention or even interested, the first real hint of what governance and democracy meant to Trudeau and his gang and it was not all that dissimilar from Stephen Harper’s and the Conservatives: control, fulfilling the agenda, power, and the keeping of that power.

Rigging the game has nothing to do with democracy. Trudeau was just getting started.

The second occurrence that May was the announcement by Monsef regarding the formation of the Electoral Reform Committee. It began simply enough but not so innocently with disclosure of the committee makeup: 6 Liberals, 3 Conservatives, 1 NDP member and 1 each from the Green and Bloc parties with non-voting rights. The opposition and public outcry was instant and loud for it appeared to confirm what the sceptics had been saying for some time: electoral reform would not happen or happen only if the outcome supported Trudeau’s preferred choice: the formation of a Liberal dominated committee was his effort to make that outcome happen.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, public fury proved too much, they retreated rejigging the committee in June 2016 to more closely reflect the popular vote granting the Green and Bloc parties a vote each, increasing the NDP vote by 1, keeping the Conservative votes at three and reducing the Liberal vote from 6 to 5. As the committee travelled the country hearing from citizens, Trudeau began to show a restive and distant attitude towards reform admitting to his preferred choice of ranked or preferential balloting. During an interview with Le Devoir, he mused that Canadians had no appetite for electoral reform. You could see where this was heading. With the release of the committee’s report December 1, 2016 recommending some form of proportional representation, Monsef mocked and lectured the members derisive of their efforts for failing “to complete the hard work we expected them to”. On Dec. 5, the Liberals announced the creation of an online survey that would accept Canadian input for six weeks. The survey was widely derided because designed to achieve a desired outcome.

Monsef had faltered from the first with the formation of the committee and, with plenty of help from Trudeau, had bungled the portfolio throughout. In January of this year, Karina Gould, another neophyte MP, who replaced Monsef as democratic institutions minister during a cabinet shuffle, would make the official announcement February 1, 2017 that electoral reform was dead as Dickens’s Marley. It had been a test by fire for Monsef who failed and Gould who passed admirably but left some wondering why Trudeau, who had made electoral reform a key element of his platform, had left the dirty task of killing it to a relatively inexperienced and untested member of his caucus. It was the little sister fighting the battle that was her big brother’s. If there were to be a public backlash, she would bear the brunt. There was no backlash for this; Trudeau and the public had other things to fret about and it had everything to do with Trudeau’s Christmas vacation and another rap to his image.

As for electoral reform? It had been shot dead and stomped into the earth. The party that had garnered 54% of the seats with just 39% of the popular vote, the same percentage that gave Harper his majority, had opted for the status quo. Disappointing yes, but no surprise unless you were among those that really, really, really believed Trudeau said what he meant and meant what he said. Poor innocents.

THE PEACOCK RUFFLED

Even as electoral reform played out, not dead yet, but soon to utter its last gasp, Trudeau and his family, with friends Tom Pitfield, of Data Sciences Ltd., and his wife, Anna Gainey, were spending Christmas with long time family friend, the Aga Khan, generously paying for the helicopter ride from the Bahamian mainland to his private island. Now no one, no one begrudges the Trudeaus taking time off for the holiday season. But there are several issues here. Firstly, while rules regarding gifts can and should be tightened, members of parliament, including the prime minister, are not allowed to accept gifts above $200 without publicly declaring them “unless they are routine expressions of hospitality or protocol” (The Canadian Press, June 11, 2015) while those above $1000 must be forfeited to the Crown. By way of explanation, Trudeau had claimed the helicopter ride was the only method possible of accessing the island. Not true. The Privy Council Office technician who usually accompanies the PM for audio and visual technical services had hired a chartered seaplane for $6,695 (National Post in Ottawa Citizen, April 12, 2017). When challenged as to why he accepted the helicopter ride, Trudeau then claimed that the RCMP made decisions regarding the safest way for the PM to travel. Not content with breaking conflict of interest rules and his own mandate regarding openness, transparency and conflict of interest, Trudeau fudged, again. Know a person who lies on the small things, don’t trust him with the big. Canadians picked up the tab for security and the Challenger jet on standby and for “per diems” for the tour technician. Including the cost of the chartered plane, the trip cost $133,882 mostly for security, lodging and overtime and the Challenger jet on standby. That’s fine, part of the package necessary when one is prime minister. Still, one wonders why, apart from the questionable helicopter ride, there were reimbursements of funds to the Aga Khan as reported by CBC news for the cost of meals for “at least one government employee” (Elizabeth Thompson, CBC News, April 4, 2017) to the tune of $1602 USD for the 12 days especially if the technician was doing government business. Was the government trying to hide something? Accepting gifts, even in the way of food and accommodation from a personal friend and head of a foundation that has, since 2004, received government grants of $310 million with another $55 million pledged by Trudeau for the next five years, and failing to report them, is a clear conflict and is presently under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson.

It was this that likely precipitated Trudeau’s cross country tour, called by some the cowbell tour, doubtless to draw attention away from this serious ethical lapse along with numerous other distractions including Trudeau’s cash-for-access grabs. There was probably no need for these photo-op affairs and that’s what they were, Trudeau talking to Canadians, doing well with some tough questions thrown his way but none raising the holiday debacle and one or two expressing concern over his killing of electoral reform. On that Trudeau, clearly unrepentant, even close to boastful, responded: “It is because I felt it was not in the best interests of our country and our future that I turned my back on that promise.” He then went on to say, “If we were to make a change or risk a change that would augment individual voices, that would augment extremist voices and activist voices…I think we’d be entering an era of instability and uncertainty” (Kristy Kirkup, the Canadian Press, Feb. 10, 2017). The suggestion of course was that proportional representation would lead to extremism and extremist, unstable governments. It was ridiculous and unworthy of someone in that position and that intelligent. It’s a lie, it’s untrue, it’s a gross misrepresentation of proportional representation. Trudeau did not get his way regarding preferential voting so he presents a storyline that is incredibly vile as well as stupid. Most nations in the Western world have a form of PR and most have proven stable and effective. That moronic utterance was just another sign that Trudeau is a schemer, untruthful, and a phony. If Kellie Leitch is the hysteric on the Conservative side with her outrageous racial and religious intolerance, what can one say of these comments by Trudeau? The words were not just nonsense they were revelatory.

The java tour accomplished little for the public really engaged in such issues as electoral reform, in honesty in government and in our politicians but it did allow Trudeau to lard on, and I mean lard on, that smarmy charm and oozing, simply oozing sincerity.

At the time, little attention was paid to the friends who accompanied Trudeau on that Christmas jaunt. And Trudeau wasn’t talking. Tom Pitfield’s company has been awarded contract work for the Liberal party offering digital and support services to enhance its voter contact database capabilities. Trudeau and the Liberal party refuse to discuss how much is being paid for the services. This is important because, the other member in that party of happy holidayers, Pitfield’s wife, Anna Gainey, is president of the Liberal party. Further, two members of Pitfield’s company, one a sister to Trudeau’s press secretary, also sit on the Liberal party’s board of directors. Pitfield’s wife will recuse herself from any party decisions made regarding Data Sciences Ltd. Yeah, right. For the president of the party, that might be difficult.

Does anyone smell cronyism yet? Does anyone recall Adscam or sponsorgate?

Can Trudeau or his cabinet be trusted? Depends who’s trusting it seems.

THE PEACOCK’S CONFLICT

This man came into office promising real change, more openness, transparency, and honesty. Neither he nor many of his MPs have delivered.

Early on we saw minister of health Jane Philpott reimbursing taxpayers for expense claims, minister of environment and climate change claim thousands for a photographer to follow her in Paris during a climate change summit and we had then minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland, cancel a government plane flight home at the conclusion of a business trip to the Philippines to attend a TV talk show with Bill Maher at a cost between $17K and $20K for Canadian taxpayers according to the Conservatives but which her office pegs at close to $14K. The Global Affairs website lists several meetings that day with the L. A. Chamber of Commerce and California’s Office of Business and Economic development which likely explains why she did not feel the need to reimburse the public. What do you think?

In April 2016, MP Kamal Khera, parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, accepted a free trip to Tanzania by lobbyist World Vision that, since 2015, has received $50 million from Canadian taxpayers.

Another Liberal MP, Arif Virani, took a free trip to England paid for by the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation. Not troubled yet?

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould attended a fundraiser sponsored by lawyers. Conflict of interest? You bet. But neither she nor Trudeau see it that way. She claimed that she attended as MP not as justice minister! Go figure. She and Trudeau must have laughed at all us dummies who swallowed that. What a bunch of simps.

No doubt she laughs at this, as well. Her husband registered as a lobbyist immediately after the election victory. He was partner with her in a business, which she left to campaign as a Liberal candidate. He continues on as consultant for two clients, one of which is a wealthy First Nations band in Kelowna and the other the not-for profit First Nations Finance Authority that offers financial and advisory assistance to First Nations members. Her husband, as a lobbyist, could conceivably do business with the justice department on behalf of his clients, which places his wife in a real conflict of interest position. It is not enough she recuses herself. Her husband must quit as lobbyist or the minister resign. Again no movement by the justice minister who continues to hold the confidence of Trudeau and still hasn’t a clue about conflict of interest.

But if the justice minister appeared naïve at best or disingenuous at worse, what can one say of finance minister Bill Morneau’s secretive meeting at a private home with developers in Halifax one of whom had been appointed to the board of the Halifax Port Authority by the Liberals? Again conflict of interest rears its ugly head.

And of course, we mustn’t forget Justin Trudeau’s many, many forays into the fundraising field many at private homes and unadvertised. In one event at a private home attended by about 30 Chinese millionaires and billionaires, there were two who donated $50K towards a stature of Justin’s father, $200K towards the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation and $750K for the University of Montreal law faculty scholarships. About a month later, one of the attendees won government approval from regulators to operate Wealth One Bank of Canada. Coincidence?

With Trudeau, ethics, transparency, and truth are rather a loosey-goosey mishmash. When questioned about these meetings, Trudeau and his gang made clear they could not be influenced, that no business was ever discussed, that whenever any attendee attempted to raise business they were directed to go through the proper government channels. Trudeau and his staff would also claim that Trudeau often just happened to drop by at these events and often did not know who were in attendance. Really? When he has security glued to him 24/7? Later, Trudeau would admit that business was discussed at some of these meetings.

Can Trudeau really be trusted?

Why, even when given the opportunity more than once by reporters to actually demonstrate his oft self-proclaimed feminism, he stood mum, mute, unable to bring himself to condemn Trump’s vicious misogyny, And when Trudeau was presented with the opportunity to demonstrate that his campaign pledge of making Human Rights a priority was more than mere words after Trump laid out his travel ban on Muslims, he again fell short demonstrating that there was no there there.

Motion 6 gave us the first real taste of Trudeau as a plotter and sneak just as capable of slimy politics as the worst of politicos. The cash-for-access manoeuvring, the cronyism, the treatment of the ballyhooed electoral reform and sundry other displays have cemented my opinion of him as surface only. There is little to respect because, of the things he has accomplished that are good, sometimes even very good, there have been a diminishment because they seem more illusory than substantive, meant more to enhance his image and stature than as concrete, meaningful acts to fully commit to the openness, transparency, and integrity he had promised. His lack of candour bespeaks deceit, calculation, and contempt.

Last month, with Bardish Chagger leading the charge for Trudeau and gang, the Liberals resumed their efforts begun with Motion 6. They have released a discussion paper that Liberal Scott Sims proposed be adopted by June 2, 2017 outlining their desire to make wide-ranging change to the rules of Parliament quickly and with real possibility of going against custom by doing so unilaterally. That opposition response was immediate and hostile should surprise no one except for the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Conservatives who, should any need reminding, sought to disenfranchise voters and remove the ability of Elections Canada Commissioner to investigate election fraud with the so-called Fair Elections Act.

The Liberals wish to reduce the number of sitting days to four, leaving Fridays open for members for “Constituency” days. Yeah, right. As it is, most members leave for their ridings on Thursday evenings taking turns to sit on Fridays. They also want to allow one day a week, based on the British model, where only the PM responds to questions during Question Period. He will not be expected to show in the House other days. Too, as with Motion 6, the move is clearly designed to limit debate. Both the NDP and Conservatives believe that changes as extensive as these must require all party agreement. The Conservatives, now official opposition, believe this with absolute sincerity…today. Next time they form a majority they’ll be doing what they have in the past and what the Liberals are doing today. It’s a dirty power grab played in a dirty game.

Those who voted for Harper mostly knew what to expect and what they were getting. Harper was ruthless, petty and vindictive. His was a narrow vision: tax cuts, tiny, shiny baubles in the way of promises, Alberta oil and Keystone, fear and security, the free market, aligning with business to suppress wages, more prisons, more jail time, and treating welfare recipients as fraudsters and bums.

In many ways, Trudeau’s betrayal is more significant than anything pulled by the Harper gang because Trudeau played on the hopes, decency, innocence, and generosity of those he relied upon for votes by making grand, grand promises that at times seemed too good to be true. Well, they were. He offered a vision that was grander than the Liberal party, which promised more than they intended to give, and that was largely stolen from the NDP playbook. He offered the Big Rock Candy Mountain and, in doing so, confirmed our image of ourselves as good people, generous people, welcoming people.

Oh, yes, he delivered some. But he lied with more. Sunny days, sunny ways was all a crock. There is nothing beneath the surface of that oozing, simply oozing sincerity.

Trudeau is not a bad man; he is just not a good enough man. He is like many of us, easily corrupted when offered too much and wanting and expecting more. Apparently, for such as he loved by all and with a majority government, love is not enough; what good is power if not wielded for benefit? For others, it is bitterness that corrupts, the belief we are unrecognized, have been denied, and that the world is unfair. Both camps should give it a rest.

What is so difficult about keeping one’s word and doing one’s best, about owning up to mistakes or admitting failure? What is so important about you that you would throw away your honour, tarnish your name, betray those who place trust in you, you, for the sake of power and glory?

And you, what do you see in that peacock? What is there about him that has numbed your brain and disabled your senses? What is there about you that paralyses you, forces you to sit back, to do nothing, to accept no responsibility?

In the end, we are all dust. In the meantime, we are all accountable and complicit.

***

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

 

PSSST! WANT TO BUY A PARTY? JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S CASH-FOR-ACCESS or HOW TRUDEAU BETRAYED THE PUBLIC TRUST

I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments, and I expect all ministers to do their part – individually and collectively – to improve economic opportunity and security for Canadians.

We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds. I expect you to embody these values in your work and observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do. When dealing with our Cabinet colleagues, Parliament, stakeholders, or the public, it is important that your behaviour and decisions meet Canadians’ well-founded expectations of our government. I want Canadians to look on their own government with pride and trust.

As Minister, you must ensure that you are aware of and fully compliant with the Conflict of Interest Act and Treasury Board policies and guidelines.  You will be provided with a copy of Open and Accountable Government to assist you as you undertake your responsibilities.  I ask that you carefully read it and ensure that your staff does so as well. I draw your attention in particular to the Ethical Guidelines set out in Annex A of that document, which apply to you and your staff. As noted in the Guidelines, you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.  Please also review the areas of Open and Accountable Government that we have expanded or strengthened, including the guidance on non-partisan use of departmental communications resources and the new code of conduct for exempt staff. – Excerpt from Trudeau Government Mandate

General Principles

  • Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.
  • There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
  • There should be no singling out, or appearance of singling out, of individuals or organizations as targets of political fundraising because they have official dealings with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, or their staff or departments. – Excerpt from Trudeau Open and Accountable Government Guidelines

Frank Pelaschuk

Justin Trudeau is a certain type of individual. The breadth of his appeal is easy to understand: he has youth, looks, charm, supreme confidence, and intelligence. He has won the hearts, if not necessarily the minds, with many and great promises. With swaggering sureness and grating fanfare, he strode on the stage vowing his would be the transformative federal government, bringing new and better to all Canadians. Not only would his government be one of openness, transparency and change, immediately visible in the House during question period not only with a government responding to questions put to it but with the introduction of a new era of civility and accountability. As well, Trudeau promised, there would be more public consultation, more listening and less top down governance, which would, in turn, result in increased public confidence in the government voters had elected. Canadians would not only have a say, they would be heard. It was wonderful, easy, the dazzling, glib Prince Charming taking on the staid, buttoned-down, dour, ungainly bean counter ogre. Canadians lapped it up. What’s not to love?

THE HUCKSTER PRINCE

Of course, we have seen this kind before everywhere, those convincing messianic pitchmen on TV selling religion or the newest miracle cure-all or the everything-in-one kitchen gadget, the one-and-only real-deal gottahaveit answer-to-our prayers solution to all ails, aches and pains. And yes, we may have heard it all before but this time, this time, folks, I’m telling you and ready to guarantee it with my personal smile on the line that, yessiree Bob, this time, this time will really be different. And, we listened, spellbound, mouths open and minds numbed by the slickness and the grandiosity of the claims as we forked over our votes and trust, doing as we always have, believing, sucking it in because we want to, we have to, believe: This time it will be different it will be better.

And, for a time it seemed that it was so.

There was the Prince doing exactly as he said. Not only were his words and message inspirational, unbelievably hopeful and promising, but we were also provided evidence of getting something special. There he was, the day after the votes were in, the new prime minister shaking hands with Montrealers in the subway and thereafter allowing well-wishers and adoring fans and curiosity seekers to drag him aside, not with any difficulty, to have selfies taken with him. Available? He was and is everywhere. And, of course, we also have plenty of evidence of his sincerity. There are countless images of him looking intently into the face of someone as he patiently hears him out, his expressive brow furrowing, his lips trembling and an occasional tear trickling down his cheek while his fingers lightly tap over his heart, his whole bearing one of sympathy and oooozing, oooozing sincerity. This is a man who cares we told ourselves, the real deal. Even some of the sceptical reluctantly came around albeit prepared for an overdose of sugar.

Well, that was the promise and the hope. Oh, yes, over a year later there’s still plenty of sugar, but for some there’s something off, a bitter aftertaste of something not quite right.

The Hero has kept a few of the promises some of them even good if not particularly difficult or likely to upset too many. He has consulted, god how he has consulted and, when it comes to holding media scrums, he is likely among the most accessible leaders in recent Canadian history. Now that would seem good and it is when he’s just talking to Canadians and journalists.

But is Trudeau and those on his team all that different from those they replaced?

In some ways, yes.

But where it really should count, in the promises kept and broken and in the area of ethics, not at all. Trudeau succeeded as prime minister because he was an excellent pitchman, Snake Oil salesman, and pied piper of gloss, glamour and gossamer for his party. Ethically, he is challenged, mostly slight, insubstantial, and empty.

Oh, he was grand at making promises, wasn’t he? Yet, even as he appeared to give in fulfilling some of the promises, he also appeared to take at the same time, an illusionist distracting with one hand while pricking the balloon with the other.

On April 20th, for example, health minister Jane Philpott announced at the UN that her government would legalize marijuana early next year. However, until they did, there would be no steps to decriminalize its use. That’s an odd stance to take and is unduly punitive because it makes criminals of users of a product that will be legal a few months from now. Go figure.

He promised to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Harper gang and he also promised to reinstate the life long disability pension that Harper replaced with a one lump sum payment. Trudeau has thus far kept to the first while sticking it to vets by merely increasing the amount of the one lump sum payment. That was a nasty betrayal worthy of Harper and gang.

He promised to make Human Rights a priority as he sought to regain Canada’s seat on the UN Security Council lost by Harper. Instead, against an international embargo and Canada’s own rules regarding international trade, he signed off on a Light Armoured Vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia one of the world’s most repressive regimes. He has kept to his promises to unmuzzle government scientists, to bring back the long form census and to withdraw fighter jets from Syria and Iraq. He had promised to restore home mail delivery. Didn’t happen. Won’t happen. He promised to increase expenditure for infrastructure spending and has done so threefold. He has created an infrastructure bank to lure foreign investors to do work on infrastructure projects. This will not only lead to the privatization of roads, bridges and other construction projects, but also almost certainly lead to tolls and, as it always does when the government is paying, to costly overruns, padded bills, bribery and corruption as every contractor fights to get into the game of greed and greased palms. Contractors will do well, those working for them will do well, the Liberals will do well and Canadians? Well, they just get screwed five ways to Sunday. As NDP interim leader Thomas Mulcair pointed out, Trudeau is a Conservative passing himself off as a Liberal who stole ideas from the NDP during his election campaign.

THE DARK KNIGHT

It is not just the broken promises that are cause for concern. It is also the method by which they are broken that should worry us. There are many, myself included, who believe electoral reform is long overdo but not as practiced by Harper which was, with C-23, the so-called Fair Elections Act, an exercise designed to rig the vote by disenfranchising large segments of society. I was hopeful when Trudeau announced he would go ahead with electoral reform and appointed Maryam Monsef as democratic institutions minister. She set up a committee to look into electoral reform but it quickly became clear by the makeup of the committee that if there were to be reform it would be one favoured by the Liberals and likely to offer little if any real improvement towards making it truly representative. Later, responding to public rage, the committee was rejigged to be more representative by allowing the seating representatives of the Green and Bloc Québécois parties a voting role.

The Liberals prefer the ranked or Alternative Vote (AV) system, which favours parties in the centre. By itself, AV is not proportional and has the same effect as FPTP benefitting the same two parties that have benefitted since confederation. With proportional representation (PR), every vote counts and some systems work well with AV mixed in (for an excellent overview of proportional representation and of the ranked ballot go to Fair Vote Canada http://www.fairvote.ca/. As time passed, Monsef and Trudeau gave every indication of being less eager about reform than they were before the election Trudeau, not long ago, making the observation that electoral reform was not on the minds of many Canadians. You knew where this was going.

Sure enough, when the committee finally tabled its report and recommendation of holding a referendum, a recommendation not supported by Liberal committee members, and that the system be a form of proportional representation, the Minister of Democratic Reform stood up in the House and excoriated the committee members for not coming up with a specific recommendation of PR (that was not their mandate) accusing them of not doing the hard work and of taking “a pass”. Of course it was not true. Even before the report was delivered, the government had already signalled its intent to find ways to quash, crush, and make disappear the promise to rid us forever of first-past-the-post elections. They sent out postcards just days after the report was tabled (which seems to lend credence they had already made a decision) urging Canadians to participate in an online survey which asked questions that appear to demand a certain outcome but fails to even address the issue to which we were to respond: do we support electoral reform and, if so, what kind. The Liberals have rigged the game just as surely as the Harper gang attempted with the so-called Fair Elections Act.

Trudeau wants this behind him and may let it simply die. If not, having outsmarted himself, he may go through with the reform but a reform of his choosing. His was the work of the shyster, appearing to do one thing while at the same time working to undermine it. People and political parties do and can change their minds. People of integrity feel no shame in doing such provided they can offer reasonable justification. For Trudeau, there is almost certainly no risk in doing so because this public appears to still be entranced by him. For them, thus far, the Prince can do no wrong. The Liberal’s unnecessary poking of a stick into the collective eye of the committee who had worked so hard and with real, if mistaken, belief that their effort would bring the promised change of making every vote count is unconscionable and it was dishonestly applied. This is an improvement?

The Liberals, thrashing about on this issue, then received an unexpected but doubtless welcomed gift from the Conservatives who had all along opposed electoral reform or at the very least demanded that reforms only be approved by referendum. Rona Ambrose suggested that Trudeau simply “park” the whole notion.

Well, what a surprise, the Conservative beneficiary of FPTP rescuing the other beneficiary. Ain’t life sweet.

So, yes, another promise likely done away with but Canada’s best-dressed phony still oozes, simply oozes, and the people still don’t seem to notice the little whiff of Liberal rot. Or they just don’t care.

Oh, yes, Trudeau and gang were going to do better, be better.

DECEITFUL PRINCE

He promised to end sole source contracting and yet, given the opportunity, did exactly what he vowed not to with the purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornets on an “interim basis”. Too, the Liberals announced plans to go ahead with the Harper sole source procurement process of war ships. However, instead of seeking custom design ships and systems, as was the Harper initiative, the Liberals would modify already designed ships in hopes of saving costs and time. This leads, however, to the possibility of shutting out Canadian businesses and security risks. Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax would continue to be the primary contractor and a key player in determining who wins the bids for sub-contracts in the $26 billion effort (other sources say the costs could be as high as $40 billion). But, because Irving, the primary contractor, has partnered with BAE, a British firm bidding for the contract to maintain the new arctic patrol and supply ships, there are real concerns of conflict of interest. To allay fears of such, Irving and BAE will create separate work teams (for the maintenance contract and warship design competitions” (The Canadian Press, Nov. 16, 2016) to avoid appearances of conflict of interest. Yeah, right. Irving wins big, building the ships and getting fees from the sub-contractors. And so will the east coast, which gave Trudeau a sweep last election. And so will the Liberals who have paid back big with jobs for Irving. A nice, cozy circle. Trudeau and his gang are different all right. And we’ll just wear silly grins knowing that it’s all on the up and up. Right?

Of course it is. The Liberals have told us so. They’ve done all the vetting; they’ve taken every precaution. No problem. We have to take them at their word.

But this is not a completely hopeless or hapless government though one has to wonder why they have gone for the Christmas break leaving such an unpleasant feeling behind. They have been active on the climate change front and appear determined to meet their Paris Climate Change Summit agreement. However, for better or worse, they have approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through Vancouver and Enbridge’s proposal to replace the Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to the US which will double the capacity of oil and greatly increase the level of carbon emissions. How that will square with the Liberal commitment to meet its own climate goals by 2030 is difficult to foresee. They have also passed the doctor assisted dying legislation with agreement from all sides and, until Monsef’s damning of the electoral reform committee, demonstrated itself willing and able to work with all parties.

That said, however, this government fails big in the question of ethics and fundraising and real and perceived conflicts of interests.

Trudeau’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, comes from the world of business. His human resources firm has done business with the government. He has created an economic advisory group made up of business managers from various sectors. Friends helping friends. In my April 8 post, I noted that Sharan Kaur, a former TransCanada communications expert works for Morneau as a Senior Special Assistant. Our natural resources minister, Jim Carr, hired a former executive of Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. I wrote then, “The plutocrats are going to do very well with Trudeau at the helm.” In light of recent events one wonders how well and how far the benefits extend. I keep thinking pipeline.

In April, Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister, tipped the hand as to how things would be with the Liberal gang when she attended a $500 a plate fundraiser hosted by attorneys. Neither the minster nor her boss could see anything wrong in attending the event she asserting she had attended as an MP not as the minister of justice. Are we missing something here? Were those hosting the events made aware of that distinction? My name’s Tucker, not sucker, thank you, minister.

Jody Wilson-Raybould again piques one’s curiosity not only because she is the first First Nations member appointed justice minister but also because her husband registered as a lobbyist for two First Nations organizations. Again questions of conflict of interest, lapses of judgement and ethics must be raised. What is happening here?

Robert Fife & Steven Chase (The Globe and Mail, Nov. 29, 2016) have reported that Bill Blair, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary and former Toronto police chief, had attended a Liberal Party fundraiser last spring at a Toronto law office that advises clients in the cannabis business. Blair is responsible for seeing to the legalization of recreational marijuana. A group of marijuana lobbyists, members of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, were also in attendance. Although the Liberals claim, as they always do, no breaches of ethics occurred and no laws were broken, the party would refund the money. Now why would they do that if everything was on the up and up? One would think that a justice minister and one-time top cop would be on top of any concerns regarding conflict of interests real or perceived. One would think.

And then we have Bill Morneau again, who, when not hiring members from lobbying groups, frequently attends Liberal Party fundraisers as he did in Halifax at the private home of a land developer in October of this year. According to Robert Fife and Steven Chase (Globe & Mail, Oct. 19, 2016), there were about 15 in attendance at the home of Fred George who is a business partner of Jim Spatz, Chairman and chief executive of SouthWest Properties, a Liberal appointee to the Halifax Port Authority board of directors on the advice of prominent Liberal MP and Treasury Board president, Scott Brison. The cost to attend: $1500 a plate ($22.5K total). When pressed on the issue, the Liberals have again determined no laws were broken (legalese) and, as Trudeau keeps reminding us every time the issue comes up, Canada has one of the strictest limits on fundraising. While it may be true no laws were broken, what about Trudeau’s own rules regarding conflict of interest and appearances of such (see above). But Morneau does not stint in offering himself for Liberal fundraisers. Unfortunately, one executive from Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs, had pulled out from one such event evidently frightened off by media attention. Now Apotex was the company that had played a big role in hosting the BC Liberal Party convention. Christy Clark, the Liberal premier of BC, is herself a shameless believer in cash-for-access, charging, in some instances thousands for the privilege of later boasting of having tea with the Great Lady premier and admiring the landscape through the window. Because she raises so much money for the provincial Liberal party, she is rewarded with yearly bonuses ranging from $30K to $50K to top up her salary of $192K. Got to love those Liberals. Charm and smarm, they always seem to have a very good working relationship with those who can pay. It is doubtful that the withdrawal of Apotex from the fundraiser damaged either Morneau or the Liberal Party financially. If everything was on the up and up, why did the Apotex executive pull out? Curious that.

And while I could go over the same ground regarding excessive and egregious expense claims by Liberal ministers Jane Philpott, Catherine McKenna (three efforts at padding the tab) and Chrystia Freeland, I wish to turn to the Prince himself.

THE PRINCE OF THE BALL

Now, while it is true that the Liberals do post fundraising events, Canadians must rely on news sources when it comes to knowing those attending. Of the 100 plus fundraisers, Trudeau attended over 20; well, he is the main attraction.

In May of this year, Trudeau attended an event at the private home of a Chinese-Canadian executive. In attendance were 32 millionaires and billionaires and a few other of the well heeled. The cost per plate was $1500, the maximum allowed under the elections act. In attendance was “one insurance tycoon, Shenglin Xian,…who was seeking final approval from federal bank regulators to operate a domestic bank here” (the Star, Tonda MacCharles, Alex Boutilier, Nov. 22, 2016). Two months after that, the bank received a final approval. Further, just weeks after the event, two of the attendees, Mr. Zang and Niu Gensheng offered to donate $200K to the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation, $50K towards the statue of Pierre Trudeau and $750K to the University of Montreal Faculty of Law for scholarships. They were honouring the legacy of China’s great friends, it appears. But, if such an admirer of Trudeau, why not donate when the Conservatives were in power. Oh, well, not to look a gift horse in the mouth…

When questioned on all these, especially with regards to clear conflict of interest breaches, Trudeau remained steadfast in stating, “We have the strongest rules in the country regarding fundraising.” He further stated that he never talked business. He never, ever touches on the ethical aspects or on his own mandate letters requirements.

When pressed, his staffers made the claim that he never knows before hand who attends these affairs. That seems hardly credible since security would not allow him to go anywhere without first vetting the guests to ensure there was no risk for him. They also state that when approached by someone wishing to do business with the government, Trudeau firmly urges them to go through the proper channels. Well, that was the line for weeks until, suddenly on Dec. 12, Trudeau admitted in the House that he does talk to all Canadians, even those who lobby him at these affairs. But what about those foreign lobbyists? Further, he stated that these discussions never effect his decisions because his only concern is doing what is best for Canada. So now the story had changed slightly. The questions must be asked. Was he lying then when he said he never discussed business at these events? Or was his staff lying?

On December 13, during Question Period in the House, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose asked Trudeau about his fundraising efforts. This was his response: “Canadians know that wherever I am and whomever I am speaking to I talk about our challenges to bring economic growth to the middle class and about the fact that we increased taxes to the 1% of the wealthiest so that we can lower them for the middle class. I also talk about the fact that we stop child benefits to the wealthiest so that we can give more to the families that really need it. We talk about creating growth for the middle class and that’s what animates us every day.”

Nowhere in that statement does he address the issue directly. When asked by Ambrose and Thomas Mulair, interim NDP leader, the same question in various forms, Trudeau’s response for those nine minutes and forty seconds was the same almost word-for-word.

The next day, Trudeau was absent but the finance minister, Bill Morneau, was there to answer questions in his stead. Both the Conservative and NDP opposition posed the same questions in various as the previous day. Morneau’s response was almost verbatim to Trudeau’s from the day before.

This is the man who promised to clean up the House and question period, who berated the Conservatives for scripted responses now doing exactly what he condemned. Harper was notorious for missing Question Period. Trudeau appears to be competing with the Conservative record. It is clear that, as did Harper, Trudeau has contempt for the House, Question Period, his opposition colleagues and for the public at large. His behaviour in the House regarding questions raised about clear conflict of interest breaches is disgraceful. But it is his attitude towards fundraising that should most shock and dismay those who have placed their trust in him. He has betrayed them. Trudeau is a phony. We must take him and his kind at their word when they say they have broken no laws. That is legalese. Weasel words. It is also an assault on our intelligence. The Liberals have broken their own ethical guidelines. That’s the rub; they are guidelines, not law. Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson wants to talk to Justin Trudeau. She also wishes to speak with Bill Blair. It appears she has already decided that there is insufficient evidence Trudeau has breached any conflict of interest laws. Ethics evidently are of no concern except to those who do care about such things.

Yes, as promised, Trudeau has made himself accessible. But how many of those taking selfies with this charming prince could image that he would sell himself so readily for cash? He reminds me of the girl who gets the nice young man to pay her way to the dance and then ditches the fellow for the charmer buying all the drinks. Well, he’s just another type of whore but also the worst kind.

Harper must be smiling. How about 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

 

 

 

 

 

CASTRO, TRUDEAU AND THE RABID FURY OF THE CONSERVATIVE MOB

A man’s dying is more a survivors’ affair than his own. – Thomas Mann

Frank Pelaschuk

 

There are times when a death is able to reveal another’s true character. The revelation can be positive and salutary offering an opportunity for reflection and assessment of that departed life and its impact; what are we able to learn from that life and what are we able to set aside of our own biases with regard to that life. For those left behind, the death is final occasion to offer a little grace and magnanimity towards one with whom we may have violently disagreed, whose attitudes, beliefs and acts we may have detested. That is not to embrace what we cannot nor to gloss over that which most offends but opportunity to perhaps find a way to understand and find common ground. It cannot always be possible the differences too great, too difficult and too important to allow for a relenting even if only to demonstrate our understanding of the fallibility that affects us all: forgiveness and understanding do not always come or blend easily.

Unfortunately, for doctrinaire survivors, when it comes to foes real or imagined, there is often little need nor desire to seek ways to forgive or understand; the rot of personality is fixed, immured by a worldview parochial to the extreme allowing for no examination of the larger picture because it is unable and unwilling to see it. Because of this blindness, willed and sometimes not, the dogmatic is almost always incapable of pausing even long to reflect upon or even contemplate the possibility that, because a life and belief does not jibe with our own view, there may be something of value to be gleaned or missed. For the doctrinaire, there is abiding aversion to sympathy or generosity for those with whom we disagree unless there is something to be gained; blindness is preferable than admission to the possibility that the one we have loved and desired or hated and shunned may not be all that we have imagined and believed. Facts and truth are ignored, distorted or airbrushed to fit one’s own hopes, understanding, and biases. We are all guilty, some at all times, others more than we would wish and a few, aware and struggling, very seldom because they work at attempting to remove the obstacles that blind and distract. It is our humanity that undoes us and it is our humaneness that saves.

The doctrinaire sees no need for saving; they are imbued with the certitude of their rightness, the goodness of their beliefs. Thus, what they can condemn in one, they are able to embrace from another: it depends what is at stake and who gains.

We saw that with America’s Donald Trump. We saw it with the Conservative campaign last election and we see it now with the surviving remnants of that malefic group now seeking leadership for the next election run. These are not the kind of folk one can possibly admire; we do not concern ourselves with their “goodness” nor do we concern ourselves with their ethics; it is the main chance that draws us together. We all lose in holding such mindsets.

But, win or lose, the doctrinaire is predictable. He is an opportunist who preys upon our fears and pettiness and gullibility: wave a few shiny promises and we are hooked. He may at times even prove flexible when he believes there is gain, but he is seldom flexible or generous in thought: there is always the end goal. Nuances are elusive to such as these; it is all black and white and white neither symbolic of hope or good but rather them vs. us.

Conservatives, whether of the Harper stripe and those survivors of the last election or those pedagogic pundits of puffery and indignation who daily stain almost every section of our dailies, are such as these, gargoyles of meanness, intolerance, spite, and biases always unpleasantly vicious and even more so these past few days when offered the opportunity to flash the claws of their malice and contempt at the haplessly naïve Trudeau who seemed genuinely to believe that Castro, revered and reviled and a friend of his father’s, had earned the right to a few kind words from the leader of a country that had stood fast in friendship with Cuba. That was respect and a sign of civil decency from a young leader of an independent nation and not of sycophancy and servility as the railing conservative mob, spitting blood and bile, would have us believe. Trudeau’s kind words were relatively innocuous, but the reaction from the right was untoward and unseemly, bordering on hysteria offered in ways that were histrionic, dishonest, opportunistic, and without regard for any acknowledgement of the significant role Castro played on the world stage.

That is not to gloss over Castro’s record, for there were terrible and brutal excesses, but rather to point out that there was much the Cuban dictator had accomplished that made the lives of Cubans better. Look at the crowds gathered grieving for the man they lovingly called el commandate; they were not there at the point of a gun. The grief and sense of loss is genuine. This is the man who had led the revolution that ended the status of Cuba as an American puppet state, that ended the gambling paradise controlled by organized crime, that put an end to the Batista dictatorship controlled by criminals, plantation owners, American businesses and the American government. It was the Castro regime that smashed the dictatorship reign of terror that had encouraged the subjugation of workers, that destroyed unions, and that not only imprisoned dissenting unionists, students, scholars and ordinary citizens, but also formed death squads to silence the most vocal among them. For critics of Castro, the decades of oppression and death squads by a dictatorship directed against all citizens and activists critical of the regime, is somehow acceptable, to be forgotten or dismissed as lies by communist sympathizers. For critics of Castro who now rail against the poverty of the tiny island state, for its failure to provide for an open democracy, there is a complete failure to acknowledge the contribution the role the six decade embargo played towards that poverty and towards making it impossible for the Cuban government to offer that democracy. When besieged on all sides, how should a tiny nation have acted against those mercenaries hired by Cuban expats with the sponsorship of the US government who were sent to overthrow the Castro regime in hopes of reinstalling a dictatorship of its own during the Bay of Pigs fiasco? Yes, those involved were put to the firing squad and called “heroes” and “liberators” by ex-plantation owners and the US government while the Cubans called them for what they were, “foreign agents”, “provocateurs” and “criminal invaders”. Since the Bay of Pigs, there have been many other CIA-sponsored coup attempts as well as many, many assassination efforts directed against Castro. How should the Cuban citizens have responded? With kisses and flowers? Castro brought an end to years of dictatorship and, yes, he created his own. But for the citizens, the majority of them, there was no longer requirement they live on their knees. If the socialist experiment failed, it was largely because the American efforts ensured that it failed. That is how America operated throughout the Latin Americas. The US of A could not defeat Cuba or its peoples and that is what drives those fee enterprising exploiters so crazy: It’s not them who are doing the exploiting.

Well, the exploiters had their opportunity and they blew it. Under the puppet dictatorship, the literacy rate never rose beyond 60%. With the revolution, it rose to 99.8%. Castro introduced free education; free healthcare, among the best in the world. Right-wing nuts always, always, give a free pass to the depredations of American sponsored dictatorships closing their eyes and mouths when the US governments funds the overthrow of democratic socialists governments as happened with Chile or Nicaragua. And they always, always, find ways to justify trade and handshakes with the bloodiest and must brutal of despots. Yeah, these folks who so loudly condemn the legacy of Castro are honest, all right.

As when the Conservatives suddenly discover Human Rights as an issue of concern when dissing Trudeau for his words on Castro. But where were their voices when Harper happily shook hands with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is widely suspected of involvement in the 2002 massacre of an estimated 2000 protestors. And where were the voices of those Conservatives as their party under the Harper gang’s initiative worked a deal, finalized by Trudeau, to sell light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes? And what about Harper’s efforts to trade with China, hardly a bastion for Human Rights? Where were these voices of sanity and decency when Harper, and Trudeau, broke UN sanctions and their own country’s regulations regarding trade with Human Rights abusers? And where were those Harper gang members when they campaigned by waging war against two women for wearing niqabs and promised to create a snitch line so Canadians can report the Barbaric Cultural Practices of we know whom? Both the Conservatives and Liberals talk of Human Rights, but, on this, neither has a leg on which to stand.

Even so, the hypocrisy of Conservatives continues to shock with its breathtaking opportunism and shamelessness. Harper, in acknowledging the death of Saudi Arabia’s king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz last year, sent words of condolences just as warm and sympathetic as Trudeau’s regarding Castro. Said Harper, “He also undertook a range of important economic, social, education, health, and infrastructure initiatives in his country…. We join the people of Saudi Arabia in mourning his passing.” This, by Harper, regarding the leader of one of the world’s most repressive regime!

Where the hell were the conservative voices of outrage then?

While I agree Trudeau can be criticized for broken promises and his equivocation regarding Human Rights and business deals, while he can be criticized for the Liberal fundraising access-for-cash efforts with billionaire Chinese businessmen, I find no fault with his moderate words regarding Castro. I do, however, find the criticism of him on this to be churlish and petty, the work of the small, mean, hypocritical minds of politicos, such as Kellie Leitch, Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt, and of those pontificating purveyors of punditry, Michael de Tandt, Colby Cosh, Andrew Cohen et al who offer daily nostrums of the same message: progressives are well-meaning but evil, Conservatives are good, right, and perfect – and they’ll cut our taxes!

I am no fan of Trudeau, but I am less of a fan of those who allow their own prejudices to distort and present pictures that suit their agenda and take no account, as with Castro, of why or how Castro and the revolution came to be. But, of course, they are not interested in historical facts or truth, but rather in presenting their own hysterical versions and haven’t the wit or decency to acknowledge such.

How much effort does it take to be fair? Evidently, for such as these, it’s much harder than being a hypocrite.

Trudeau is young; he will grow. He has, unfortunately, succumbed to the allure of power and is too easily distracted by the adoration of his followers. He has brought about the return of the politics of entitlement. We see that in how his ministers abuse their privileges and how the party goes about fundraising. I do not see in Trudeau a man of real substance or character or principle. He appears too heavily invested in the milking of the public perception of himself as fresh, charismatic, accessible, and better than the Harper gang (a small achievement indeed). But, when there are signs of the image going sour, he appears unable to withstand the tide as when facing calls from Ambrose and Raitt and those poltroons of punditry that he not attend the Castro funeral: he cravenly caved in. His schedule will not allow it, is the story. It may even be true. Too bad, he missed another of many opportunities to demonstrate he really was a leader to be noticed.

No, I am no fan of Trudeau but, thus far, he has proven himself better than any and all members of the conservative tribe, particularly Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney: they are sewer rats.

Yeah, for these people, the Post Media pundits of puffery and those remnants of garbage from the Harper days, hypocrisy and fingerpointing is always the easier, preferred route.

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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

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

POLITICS, POLITICIANS AND THE PUBLIC: THE ENDLESS SHAMELESS DANCE

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

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

SHALL WE DANCE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PARTNERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FEW GOOD STEPS, SOME STUMBLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

 

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S PROMISE OF HOPE VS. HARPER’S LEGACY

Have you ever heard the wind go “Yooooo”?/”Tis a pitiful sound to hear!/It seems to chill you through and through/With a strange and speechless fear. – Eugene Field

For as children tremble and fear everything in the blind darkness, so we in the light sometimes fear what is no more to be feared than the things children in the dark hold in terror and imagine will come true. – Lucretius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Though it cannot all be laid at Stephen Harper’s door, he and his gang did campaign relentlessly to convince Canadians the world was a dangerous place and Canada, in particular, targeted by ISIS. He attempted to bolster his image at home as saviour and warrior by inflating Canada’s role and his own image in the fight against terrorism suggesting none were more dangerous than Muslims and none more a threat to Canadian “values” than two Muslim women wearing niqabs and none, other than himself, equal to the task in combatting the dangers. The niqab debacle in particular apparently served him well in Quebec and in other regions; for his many abuses and relentless efforts to undermine and make a mockery of our Parliamentary democracy with discreditable and dishonourable conduct in the House, he and his Conservatives were rewarded at the polls with second place position as the official opposition rather than the justly earned total annihilation. Not bad considering his years of abusive relationships with scientists and public servants, veterans and First Nations peoples, Elections Canada and environmentalists, critics and the media and even the public whom he refused to keep informed evidently in the belief that an ignorant populace was easier to handle. If that was the case, he was probably unto something there.

That the Conservative defeat was not resounding must surely put to rest the self-reverential myth we hold of ourselves as a nation deservedly loved for its generosity, tolerance, acceptance and humbleness. Oh, yes, just ask us, we’ll gladly regale you with endless stories our modesty and generosity. However, with the recent violent terrorist acts in Paris just a few days old, we have clear evidence that, even with the Conservative ouster just weeks ago, the fearmongering and racist and religious intolerance the gang so diligently worked at fomenting has firmly taken root in some quarters. We can tell ourselves we are a good people and by and large it’s true. But self-praise is really no recommendation; there is a rot within and too many infected.

If we are judged by our deeds, and we should be, we would likely understand we are no better and no worse than others just like us. We Canadians, often in jest, are particularly harsh on our neighbours to the south whom we have often mocked and held as object lessons of what we are not. It may have been fun, but it is a conceit of empty hubris. Do not misunderstand me, I love my country and I would not trade this land for any other. But, I also know this: as a people we are all too often complacent, there are times we, as individuals and as a nation, have fallen short and been found wanting. We are not as too many of us imagine ourselves and it certainly did not help that Stephen Harper was able to expose that ugly side when he and his gang set out to poison a nation with fear, exaggerating the terrorist threat and playing to the worst in us by fomenting racial and religious intolerance. Far too often, we are less than we imagine and it’s not a pleasant image. It is also true, that there are many, many, who do this nation proud never succumbing to the worst that others would foist upon them.

Recent events and our reaction to them offer evidence of the Harper legacy.

In October of this year, just days before the election, a pregnant Muslim woman is attacked by two teens on bikes. She was wearing a hijab, which they tried to forcibly remove, knocking her to the ground.

The Paris tragedy; the whole world weeps. Even so, above the tears, almost before the sound of gunfire has abated, voices have been raised here, at home, expressing concern and hostility to the new government’s plan to follow through with its efforts to introduce 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end. Not long ago, the image of a dead child on a beach roused Canadians to demand more of their government. We not only wanted to help Syrians fleeing their war-ravaged home, we wanted to help them NOW. But Harper was prime minister and he would not be rushed; this flow of fleeing people has been going on for years. We had to be careful, weigh the security risks against our natural urge for a generous response. But the haunting image of the dead child and mounting pressure from Canadians did cause him to change his mind as the election came to a close promising: he would allow 10,000 refugees into the country as soon as possible. But he made no bones about it: there were security concerns.

Then the Harper regime came to an end.

And then, mere weeks later, Paris happened. And, oh, how the world has changed, and Canadians with it. There are still those eager to help but there all also voices clamouring for Trudeau to slam the door shut.

One can almost hear the old gang and their supporters gloating: Well, we warned you didn’t we? Harper was right and you didn’t listen and this is the price we pay. Well, that’s the response of fear and ignorance; he wasn’t right then and he isn’t right today, but it’s hard to convince the frightened and cowardly and all but impossible to reason with the racists and scapegoaters who are always with us: for them, there’s always the need for the fall guy, someone to be feared, blamed and held accountable. And, for them, the timid and the bigots, the evidence is there, in Paris, with brutal ISIS claiming responsibility for the 129 dead, mostly young, all beautiful and innocent beaming lights extinguished far too soon and the 352 wounded, many critically, again mostly young and beautiful and innocent. As well, for them, the haters and bigots, there is further evidence and it is found among the terrorist dead, one of who purportedly carried a Syrian passport (possibly fake) and believed to have hidden among the many hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in Greece. There it is. Proof! How can we even contemplate bringing in possible terrorists? How can we be certain, how can we feel secure when they, the terrorists, possessing no shame, knowing no decency hide among innocent men, women and children passing themselves off as one of the persecuted and desperate just bidding their time to strike at the Canadian heart? For the easily swayed, the easily frightened, this may appear to be reason enough to bar our doors. The racists don’t need a reason: hate is enough. For them, the frightened and the haters, Harper, for all his prescience and wisdom, is the prophet unjustly punished October 19th and Paris, bleeding and mourning in a fever of terror and defiance, the sad, irrefutable reminder of what could happen here and of the huge mistake Canadians made in electing the young and inexperienced Trudeau over a tried and experienced Harper.

So, November 14, in Peterborough, Ontario, a cowardly nobody torches a Muslim mosque and shines a light on his ignorance.

The Syrian crisis is not our problem.

Then whose is it? To whom can those poor people turn if not us and our allies?

Should we all close our eyes, minds and hearts to what’s going on out there?

When then do we become involved? Do we insert ourselves only when our neighbour is in difficulty? Maybe not even then, it’s best to mind one’s business. Perhaps we only help when it’s a member of the family.

No? Then when?

Some, like premier Brad Wall, have called on Justin Trudeau to suspend his plans to welcome Syrians into Canada. He is worried about security concerns, he says, but how does suspending aid to refugees make the world more secure? What happens to those in desperate need for help? The suggestion appears to be that we are rushing into this, that we cannot bring in that many people that quickly without incurring risks. While it may be true that Trudeau’s goal may not be possible in the time allotted, there is no reason to suspend the program or to listen to Wall and others victimize the victims again by labelling them all as risks. Of course the moves must be done securely with newcomers properly vetted. But what evidence is there that security would be any less rather than greater? Canada has had a shameful history of turning people away in times when they most needed help. Only 5,000 Jews were allowed into Canada during Hitler’s 12 years of terror. In 1945, when asked how many would be allowed into Canada, a Canadian official said, “None is too many.” But we also have a history of responding quickly, with generosity and benefitting greatly as a nation because of it. In less than a year, 37,000 Hungarians were accepted in 1957. In the 1960s, tens of thousands of Vietnamese were welcomed. In none of these instances was security reason enough to deny access to Canada and, from the evidence, most of those accepted, proved themselves productive, decent, loyal citizens. There is no reason to believe the Syrian refugees will be any different. In all likelihood, the vetting process will likely be more rigorous given ISIS and what happened in Paris. Even so, there is a probability of mistakes just as there had been in the past. No system is perfect and nothing can be guaranteed. That doesn’t mean one shuts the door; you do the best you can as securely as you can and as quickly as you safely can. To live in fear of what might be is not to really live. The world is full of terror and much of it in our imaginings. But this is no imagined horror: In Toronto, a Muslim woman waits for her children outside a public school. Two men approach, rob and beat her screaming obscenities and telling her to go back where she came from. She was born in Canada.

When the execrable Conservatives Jason Kenney and the defeated Chris Alexander were immigration ministers, only about 1500 (numbers vary, some say 2500) Syrian refugees were accepted over a period of three years. Both, Kenney as Minister of Defence, speaking for the Harper regime made clear their reluctance to accept refugees, particularly those from “safe” countries (the Harper gang, evidently ignoring historical reality, holding the belief that any nation with which Canada traded must treat its minorities as well and as kindly as does Canada). As a result, applicants were rejected and those considered illegal immigrants denied the most basic of healthcare. It should surprise no one that Harper had committed to a secret arms deal with Saudi Arabia a nation internationally condemned for its Human Rights abuses. For Conservatives, it’s just business, after all and has nothing to do with Human Rights. And it should surprise no one that Romas, persecuted in Hungary, considered a “safe” country, have been routinely rejected by the Harper gang which had even set up billboards in Hungary warning that Romas would be deported if they came to Canada. Why the Romas in particular? What was at play here? What did the Harper gang know of them and fear? Did they hold visions of an influx of horse drawn caravans travelling through the country, of colourfully dressed exotic women dancing as children moved through the crowd picking pockets and of swarthy moustachioed men sticking knives into ribs while others played gypsy music to drown out the screams of bloody murder?

The Conservative reluctance to accept Syrian refugees seems based on something similar, the reluctance made even clearer (not only by the small numbers accepted into Canada during their watch) and no less unpalatable when, speaking in code easily understood, both Kenney and Alexander made known their preference for acceptance of refugees saying they would “prioritize” persecuted Syrian religious and ethnic minorities. By that, of course, they meant Syrian Christians would be given the advantage of our hospitality and generosity. Recently, many state governors in the US made clear they were reluctant to accept Syrian refugees, some vowing to bar them from their state. A few even expressed the same sentiment expressed by Kenney and Alexander, albeit more directly than did the Harper crew: if refugees must be accepted, make them Christian refugees. They call it protecting America. I call it religious intolerance.

This from the land of liberty and opportunity. This from a nation founded by folks fleeing British religious persecution. Well, so much for the self-reverential delusion from which the Americans suffer. Clearly, we are not all that different. And Obama only wants to bring in 10,000 refugees! It’s astounding really that those governors are worried about a few terrorists slipping into the country when they have an army of gun loving whackos bumping each other off with guns to the tune of 32,000 dead a year! Fear and stupidity are an ugly combo.

In this day and age, when so many are in desperate need, can such sentiments be tolerated? Of what are the Canadians and Americans who would bar the Syrians afraid? Do they even know? I doubt it. They are informed by ignorance, they know nothing of the culture or the Muslim faith and they prefer to remain ignorant for it leaves their tiny minds unencumbered by the need to think. It is easier to scapegoat. And it is vile. This is fear and ignorance in full display masquerading as caution, the same fear and ignorance that the Harper gang fomented and exploited and that Brad Wall and others, with memory of Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks still fresh, now seem bent on exploiting even more. At the heart of it, of course, is plain, simple racial and religious intolerance. That is unacceptable and that is part of Harper’s legacy. This, too, is no fancy: Again, in Toronto, anti-Muslim graffiti is sprayed inside an apartment building.

There have also been calls from some that Trudeau reconsider the Liberal position on C-51 which he has promised to amend but which I believe should be repealed. As it stands, C-51 does not provide more security for Canadians or minorities and, if kept, even with amendments, may prove to be costly to Canadians in the long run. Read the Benjamin Franklin quote at the end of this post and ponder it. What kind of society do we want? As it stands, almost every dissenting voice could be a target for suspicion, any act of protest grounds for a charge of economic terrorism. I hope the Liberals scrap the bill but do not expect they will.

There have also been calls for Trudeau to reconsider pulling Canadian warplanes from bombing missions. Thus far, he has stuck to his promise saying Canada’s involvement in the war in Syria and Iraq will be in other areas for which we are better equipped and better suited. Among those setting off alarm bells is Rona Ambrose, Conservative interim leader, who has, apparently as have a good many other Conservatives, suffered something akin to a religious conversion, demanding of the Liberals what they, the Conservatives, refused to offer Canadians: accountability, transparency, honesty. Ambrose not only wishes Trudeau to commit to the war against ISIS with continued warplanes support, she joins the likes of Wall in wanting Trudeau to put the refugee plan on pause. That latter may happen on its own: the logistics of bringing in 25,000 refugees by year’s end may prove insurmountable. No one will fault Trudeau if he does not meet his target date which he well may not but he must meet the target numbers and as quickly as possible.

The response of the Conservatives since losing the election has been remarkable. Harper seems to have disappeared. Some of the Conservatives who have lost their seats behaved as they always did, blaming the media. Others have uncharacteristically fallen silent. Where is Poilievre, unwanted, unloved, unmissed by this writer? His re-election is difficult to understand and stomach and concrete evidence that the vile legacy of intolerance is thriving in some areas. Some have discovered a kinder, gentler version of themselves. They want to make nice. But where were they all the years they attempted to slip legislation into omnibus bills? Where were they when they reworked the Elections Act to disenfranchise voters? Where were those voices of reason when their own party and members attempted to subvert the democratic process during elections? The Harper era was one of the most secretive, corrupt, abusive, anti-democratic, partisan, vindictive, petty, and mean-spirited in Canadian history. Yet where were Rona Ambrose, Candace Bergen, Diane Finley, Rob Nicholson, Erin O’Toole, Mike Lake, Michelle Rempel and Denis Lebel, those folks who ran for the position of interim leader, when Harper, Pierre Poilievre and Dean del Mastro were smearing the Chief Electoral Officer or rigging the Elections Act or imposing C-51? They may want to convince us they are a nicer gang but they are still a gang, and still the same old Harper gang of thugs.

Sure, they are almost gone but not gone enough for me. So, from me, there is no “let bygones be bygones”. Justin Trudeau is the prime minister now and he, too, has a large majority. I hope he looks upon the Harper years and ponders on the corruptive allure of power. He has the majority and I hope he wields that power with more wisdom than did Harper and with a greater measure of fairness. We all saw how the Harper gang treated those weaker than themselves. That was not governance but despotism.

Trudeau is the new man. I did not vote for him. I harboured no hostility towards him, I just preferred my own party (and if you think it is the Conservative party, you have not been reading very carefully).

Nevertheless, I like some of what I have seen by Trudeau. It’s the small, but significant gestures I like. I liked that he took time out the day following his election to greet riders in a Montreal subway station. I liked that he has brought an end to branding of the Canadian Government: it is now as it should be, The Government of Canada. He has reinstated the long form census. Government scientists have been told they can speak up regarding their research. I like that Trudeau will scrap the F-35 jets for other, more practical jets. The Liberals have dropped the case against Zunera Ishaq bringing an end to the Harper gang’s war on her. That is the right, the decent, thing to do. There are other signs of openness and transparency, Trudeau making public “mandate letters” to his ministers outlining what he expects from them (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/ministerial-mandate-letters). How rare is that? How welcome. The ministers themselves have been allowed to speak to the media, and that is refreshing and promising. Thus far, I am, while disappointed the NDP did not win, favourably disposed towards Justin Trudeau; he appears to be one who will not be pushed or rushed into precipitous action; I really do wish him well and have no doubt of his desire to be inclusive. I do not know if I can expect this goodwill to last: that’s up to him. I will judge him by his deeds and not just his words. I am still troubled by the appointment of Bill Morneau as finance minister. I have no reason to believe him other than honest and honourable but his company, from which he has parted as executive chair, Morneau Shepell, one of the largest human resources firms in the country has had business dealings with the federal government. True, he has placed his holdings under a blind trust, but I am sceptical of these kinds of programs suspecting them of offering more optics than anything substantial to protect the public interest and Mr. Morneau at the same time; it’s a device, a tool, meant more to convince the public that things are on the up and up. In the end, we will simply have to trust Mr. Morneau to recuse himself in government decisions regarding matters of pensions, insurance and taxations. For now, it appears trust is all we have to go on.

Too, I am concerned by the appointment of Kirsty Duncan as minister of science, who, it appears was, and remains, a strong supporter of the so-called “liberation therapy” a discredited treatment for MS. If she still supports it, I have strong misgivings, for the evidence is out there: it doesn’t work, it’s junk science. What would her thoughts be of the smoker who discounts all the scientific evidence proving smoking causes cancer yet embraces the one study, by the cigarette manufacturer, that the evidence is still out?

Aside from the two appointments, which do raise red flags for me, I like what I see in Trudeau and his mostly young cabinet. I am also happy to see some older, more experienced faces in key positions. It gives this old fogey some comfort to know the youngsters, should they need to, may be able to call upon the experiences of Ralph Goodale, Stéphane Dion, Scott Brison, Marc Garneau and Carolyn Bennett. There is hope but, even then, another living nightmare pops up: In Montreal, a masked man is arrested for making online threats against Muslims.

Paris attacks notwithstanding we Canadians have many reasons for optimism. Hopefully we will never see another Harper gang. This is the promise of a new, young government. Let us hope Trudeau brings out the best in us and that we all discover we prefer that to partisanship, pettiness, meanness, and self-interest that has dogged us these many years. We are all part of the family of man and, regardless of what happens. In the end, we are all dead. So, for the time being at least, let us enjoy the promise Trudeau offers. I do believe we will, at least until the next election, see less vindictiveness, less fearmongering, less pandering to the worst in us, less posturing, and more of wisdom and hope.

Yes, Trudeau does have nice hair and it is clear he is popular with the young, particularly the women. That will pass, I hope. I did have my doubts, but with some experienced people around him, I see a young man who is ready.

In London, an elderly man pushes a Muslim woman unto subway tracks. She hits side of incoming train and bounces back on to platform. She survives.

We do live in a great country. But it’s fine to admit we may not be the best and it’s equally fine to know that we are not the worst. But not being the worst is not sufficient. It does not mean we should not strive to be better. It’s okay to be cautious. It’s not okay to live in fear and to allow our fears to dictate how we act.

But don’t quietly accept my inadequate words for what I believe to be true. Instead, I urge every reader who may not have heard of it to visit the following link and listen to the heart wrenchingly beautiful tribute Antoine Leiris, husband and father, made public on BBC as tribute to his wife, murdered in Paris November 13 https://www.facebook.com/antoine.leiris?fref=ts. To those who hate, open up your minds and hearts and listen to this grief-stricken man who knows about and the power of love. You may learn something and begin to believe there is more to life than hating others. The rest know that already, but they, too, should hear his message: it may reaffirm what they already believe: they are on to something.

***

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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