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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

FROM AN NDP SUPPORTER TO JUSTIN TRUDEAU AND HIS FANS

What can I know? What ought I do? What may I hope? – Immanuel Kant

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” – Robert F. Kennedy

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals must be congratulated for an effective campaign that gave them their majority. I would also like to congratulate those whom I suspect were Liberal fronts advocating strategic voting. Not only did they frighten folks into voting for second choice, they managed to convince folks to get rid of outstanding individuals who served their communities and Canada extremely well, individuals such as Megan Leslie, Peter Stoffer, Jack Harris, Andrew Cash, Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar. Lastly, I’d like to congratulate the voter who listened to the polls, heard the strategic voting advocates and stampeded to the Liberal side. There was no need for the split vote; the Harper gang would likely have been finished anyhow. But what can one do with a nation of sheep?

Even so, I am ecstatic that the Harper gang is gone, though I would have preferred their annihilation. But I am unhappy at the price paid by so many good people from the NDP. I would have been fine with a Liberal minority with the NDP holding the balance of power. That is what I expected. I did not expect the NDP to govern, but I also did not expect so many to abandon them because of fear or because they bought a package with prettier wrapping believing it was new.

Harper and his gang were a destructive, nasty force. We all watched, a few of us horrified as he raised the spectre of terrorism in every corner of our country exploiting the worst in us with his politics of division, his fomenting of racial and religious intolerance. A few of the Harper gang are gone, the incomparably incompetent Leona Aglukkaq, the nasty Chris Alexander, the inarticulate Joe Oliver, but the worst of them, the insecure bully Stephen Harper, the oleaginous Pierre Poilievre, the shrill Michelle Rempel, the inveterate tweeter and conflater Jason Kenney continue to hold office, sewer rats still plaguing the House.

Now I will be accused of sour grapes. I will not deny there may be some of that in what I feel. But I will also attempt to be fair, certainly a lot fairer than the Harper gang ever were.

I do not doubt Justin Trudeau’s good intentions. And I have no reason, yet, to doubt his integrity. But he is the leader of the Liberal party, the party that was booted out of office for its many acts of corruption, most notably the sponsorship scandal. Some will say that was long ago and far away, times have changed and so has the party. Well, has it?

For over 140 years, the Liberal and the Conservative parties have governed the country: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals, a revolving door that allows for no other but the two parties that have, for many years, given notice of the belief that they, they alone, as if by Divine Right, are entitled to govern this nation. Evidently, the voters feel the same for time and again they, too, have refused admittance to any other option but the Liberals and Conservatives though once, from 2011 to the present, allowing the opposition the faintest taste of power by granting the NDP status as Official Opposition. For voters, it is too much a stretch to conceive that the NDP or the Greens, however well-meaning the folk, however progressive their platforms, are capable of providing good governance even though, provincially, the NDP has had better records as stewards of public funds than either the Liberals or Conservatives. It doesn’t matter; facts don’t interest these voters; they would sooner swallow the poison myths and idiotic lies and surrender to the fears offered by those who pander to their ignorance and intolerance and their fears.

What are particularly troublesome were revelations a week before the election regarding the co-chair of the Liberal national campaign, Dan Gagnier. He wrote to TransCanada Corporation advising the company on how to lobby the new government, presumably Liberal. He was also working for TransCanada. Initially, Trudeau and the Liberals defended him, saying he did not break any rules. Then, 24 hours later, he resigned after he and Trudeau sat down and had a talk. Trudeau was now saying Gagneir “had acted in an inappropriate way”. Then Trudeau and the Liberals began to boast about how quickly they had handled the problem. Really? Well, some will shrug it off and say it’s a small thing. Not to me. You’re either clean or your not. If you fudge on the small, what will you do on the large things? Even before winning, the Liberals were acting like winners, and in doing so, engaging in questionable behaviour. The move Gagnier made was not innocent. Trudeau and the Liberals knew of his role with TransCanada but claimed the work he did for the party was kept apart from his role with TransCanada. We have Trudeau’s word on that. Unsurprising though dismayingly, no one cares, probably relying on that moral equivalency argument: the Conservatives have done worse for ten years. I hope I am wrong, but the Gagnier business, plotting how to lobby a government before it has even been elected reveals a troubling arrogance and a worrisome harbinger of things to come. I cannot shake the sponsorship scandal from my thoughts.

The evidence is clear: for many, strategic voting played a role. But was it necessary? It is likely that enough people were pissed with the Conservatives that they would have lost without folks running scared from the NDP. Nevertheless, the wafflers were evidently persuaded and their own fears took over. In previous posts, I have said that those voting for Stephen Harper and gang had turned off their thinking caps. The same is true of those who moved en mass to the Liberals. If ethics matter, surely they would have paused and reconsidered when the Gagnier story came out. They did not. The herd mentality is alive and well.

Can we hope for better from Trudeau? How, when they are not all that different from the Conservatives in what they support? The Liberals supported the war in Iraq against ISIS and then backed the Conservative extension of the war. The NDP opposed military intervention, let alone extending the war. The Liberals supported the Harper gang’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, almost universally condemned by citizens, scholars, jurists and activists as anti-democratic, dangerous and a real threat to human rights. As well, Trudeau and the Liberals supported the Harper gang in passing Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act with it’s despicable and very explicit tarring of certain segments of society i.e., the Muslim community. We already have laws for both terrorism and violence against women but Harper and Trudeau preferred to appeal to the worst in us. In his victory speech as prime minister designate, he regaled the audience with the story of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab handing her daughter to him. He quoted her saying, “She said she’s voting for us because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life and that her government will protect those rights” If that really happened, she went to the wrong person and the wrong party for solace. It was the NDP and the Green parties that voted against C-51 and S-7.

But, if the Liberals won big because of the strategic voting gambit, it is also true the NDP lost big as well. A large part of that misfortune was of the NDP’s own making. The shift to the centre did not go down well with the old guard. That shift has been going on for years and many have spoke out against it. But it was even harder for some to hear Mulcair’s promise to balance the budget not just the first year in office but for three more years following. It wasn’t the balanced budget, many old guard members opposed, for the NDP has a good record in that area, it was the guarantee of doing so which was hard to swallow. It was a foolish commitment that did not allow for unforeseen events that could make the fulfillment impossible. And it was pandering to soft-core Conservative supporters. Too, the NDP was harmed by Mulcair’s flat-out statement that he would abolish the Senate. Well, most experts agree that it can’t be done. These were missteps that certainly did not help the NDP.

And then there was the issue of the niqab. Mulcair strongly defended the courts ruling regarding the right of Zunera Ishaq to wear a niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony. Mulcair and the NDP made the right decision but, with time, it proved to be a costly one with the loss of voter support, especially in Quebec. It is not enough to talk about beliefs and principles; one must be prepared to act upon them and defend them if called upon to do so. Mulcair did exactly that. The niqab was a shamefully divisive issue and we can thank Harper and his gang for that. What is astounding is that Harper and 98 others of this vile gang were re-elected. What does that say of the voters who were not troubled by this fomenting of racial and religious hatred? Outsiders must be shaking their heads wondering: What has happened to Canada? Zunera Ishaq was and is no terrorist and posed nor poses no threat yet the Conservatives waged war on her; she was a Muslim woman merely exercising her rights. Unfortunately, too many were persuaded by the Harper gang. Bigotry and hatred evidently did not matter and so many of that filthy gang, having been re-elected, will sit as vile reminders of the discredit with which they have tainted their roles as MPs. There is nothing honourable in what they did; if I write about any of them, I will never refer to them as that Honourable Member of Parliament; they are not entitled. If they are disgraceful reminders of what was vile in the Harper gang, that they are still polluting the air of Parliament Hill, the shame must also be borne by those who voted for their return. Of course, none of them, the Conservatives and those who voted for them, are capable of shame. That requires decency.

Even more shameful is that Thomas Mulcair and his NDP members were penalized because they stood up and defended the law and the rights of those two women to wear what they wanted. Harper suggested that Zunera Ishaq did not represent Canadian values. Neither does he nor all those who supported his stand. How many politicians put themselves and their party on the line for simply standing up for what they believed was right? Very few. For that, Mulcair deserves our praise.

We are entering another era of Liberal governance. Canadians have opted not only for the same old: they have opted for the same old with a majority. We all saw how Harper abused his huge mandate wielding it as a bludgeon to not only subdue his opponents but also to inform all others that he preferred force over persuasion, fear over co-operation, intimidation over accommodation. I hope Trudeau is more generous than Harper ever was and does not squander his majority by refusing to include opposition members and seeking their input and advice when proposing new legislation. I hope omnibus bills are things of the past. I hope he never invokes closure and that he allows for healthy debates of all his proposed legislation. He has committed to democratic reform. I hope he sticks to that and that we do see some form of proportional representation. If he goes through with that, he will rise highly in my estimation. I do not really expect he will. How many people would get rid of a system that has worked so well to their advantage and replace it for one that may cost them dearly? If Trudeau listens, hears, acts and does away with the pettiness that has been the hallmark of the Harper years, then he will have easily proved himself a better prime minister than Harper, perhaps even one of the best. Trudeau has a solid majority; he is articulate, intelligent and confident. He has the goodwill of the voters behind him and presents a reassuring possibility. I do not know if what he offers will be real change or not. If he wields his majority as a club to ram through legislation, if he resorts to omnibus bills to slip in legislation with hopes of escaping detection, he will have failed and proven himself no better than the gang Canadians have just turfed.

I see in Trudeau a young, charismatic man full of potential saying all the things we like to hear about ourselves. That does not interest me. What does is what he does.

I know what we are not: we are not as good as we say we are. We are not as good as we pretend to be. We are not as tolerant as we imagine. The niqab issue is proof of that. We can be better and we will be if Trudeau puts an end to secrecy; if he governs with openness and integrity; if he honours his promises; if he brings an end to the scapegoating of the poor, of public servants, of scientists, of environmentalists, and of the courts; if he respects all citizens and works for the interests of all rather than the privileged few and, most importantly, if he believes honesty and decency are worthy adjuncts to governance, not to be dismissed or trotted out occasionally but embraced and nurtured.

Canadians have placed their trust in Trudeau. I hope he respects that and respects them. One way of demonstrating that respect is to scrap Bills C-51 and S-7.

It is not enough to spout platitudes. He must follow through with his promises. I will be looking to see if he honours his pledge for democratic reform. It’s easy to make promises. Let’s see if he keeps them.

The voters did their part. It’s up to him to do his.

***

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

HOW TO DESTROY THE HARPER GANG: STOP BUYING THE STRATEGIC VOTING LIE

It is not necessary to hope in order to undertake, nor to succeed in order to persevere. – Charles the Bold

Frank A. Pelaschuk

I will cede no ground to others when it comes to opposing the Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper is no leader to be admired, respected or even acknowledged. He has betrayed Canadians in the vilest of ways, not only by abusing our electoral processes but also by undermining our very democracy. This is a man and a group who find no dirty trick to dirty or too low to not be used. As a result, Harper and his gang work at our basest natures fomenting fear and appealing to racial and religious intolerance. He has disgraced himself. Worse, he has disgraced his office sinking to depths that has brought discredit to our nation thereby winning the opprobrium of outside observers. Years ago, when Harper was in the US speaking to a right-wing group, he said, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it”. He was right.

But there is another group for whom I also have strong loathing. These are the so-called “strategic” voters. This is the group targeted by several special interest organizations claiming to be non-partisan with only one goal in mind: to get rid of Stephen Harper and gang. Perhaps, but they act more like fronts for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party.

They are the same Snake Oil salesmen found in the Conservative camp, the ones who evoke images of terrorists pounding at our door and wage war against two niqab wearing Muslim women. Their targets and arguments may differ, but their methods are similar. They will tell you, and they have done so in the past, that a vote for the NDP or the Greens is a wasted vote, that voting for either party will only ensure another term in office for the Harper thugs. They will also tell you that the only party able to defeat the Conservative party is the Liberal party. Well, we’ve heard this in the past and as in the past this tactic appears to be working. It’s the appeal of the “status quo” to the dumb and witless rather than a support for real change. To be shed of Stephen Harper is a goal I easily support, but not the method offered. Strategic voting is dishonest and anti-democratic; it plays on fear and asks you to set aside your beliefs and hopes and to support a choice contrary to your own. In other words, they are asking you to vote for someone you believe may be second best at best. They obviously don’t think much of you or your opinion. But then, if you buy into their arguments, you don’t either.

In the 2011 elections, there were 308 seats. Conservatives won 159 seats, the NDP 95 and the Liberals 36. That the Conservatives could win the majority of seats with just 39% of the vote should alarm us all. Yet it apparently doesn’t. It does bother Elizabeth May and the Greens who support Proportional Representation. It also bothers Thomas Mulcair and NDP who also say they will bring in PR. Even Trudeau made noise about offering some kind of electoral reform. We know where the Conservatives stand on this. While the Liberals talk, chances are they will do nothing to change from first-past-the-post. Why would anyone feel emboldened to make changes to a system that works to his advantage? It may be the decent thing to do, the just thing to do, but who wins by being decent or just? The voters? Who cares about them once the election is over? One can always make the same promise the next time we go to the polls.

So why would anyone support something he or she does not really believe in? Not only do we risk getting a government we do not necessarily believe in, we may elect candidates we really believe incompetent. Going second best is surrender not victory even if it does remove Harper and his gang. Look at the numbers. While it’s true in theory the parties all start at zero seats during an election, realistically, they do not. There is something about incumbency. If nothing has happened to change your opinion of the opposition parties, what is the motivation for voting against your first choice for second best, from NDP to Liberal? In fact, with more candidates with experience as MPs, it makes more sense to support the NDP than to vote for Liberals. Assuming the vote for incumbents held, it would be much easier for the NDP to gain the extra seats to make the majority of 170 from 95 seats than it would be for the Liberals from 36 seats. Of course, for all parties there will be gains and losses but, if voters kept to their votes and preferences and those wafflers who claim to want to cast their ballots for the NDP actually did so, there would be no reason for Canadians to be restricted to another round of Liberals and Conservatives as we have been since the first vote over 140 years ago.

Voting Liberal is not a vote for change. It’s a vote for the same old same old. The party’s past history of corruption, cronyism and incompetency has proven them to be no more trustworthy than the Conservative party they replaced the same corrupt, dirty, petty, mean-minded, punitive, vicious, and anti-democratic party that, in turn, replaced them under the Harper banner. Different leaders, same parties.

If people succumb to the fear factor outlined by those parties advocating strategic voting, they are succumbing to the same kind of fear as those who will cast their votes for the Harper gang. In doing so, the frightened and ignorant will have extended the reign that excludes the possibility of true democracy and inclusion. They will have validated the continuance of the revolving door that only allows admittance to two parties. Is that what we want? Voting NDP or Green is not a wasted vote. It’s liberation, the smashing of chains that says, at last, you can and will make a difference. You just have to believe and then act.

Strategic voting? It’s for the dumb, witless and frightened, a strategy offered by con men and connivers who believe in nothing but power and the gullibility of voters.

UPDATE: October 15, 2015

Shortly after I published this post came news of the resignation of the Liberal national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, following reports of his efforts via email to assist those involved in the Energy East pipeline project by offering detailed instructions of how and when to lobby a minority government led by Trudeau. Does anyone recall the sponsorship scandal? That’s the scandal that got rid of the Liberals and gave us Harper. Yeah, vote strategically, vote Liberal and when you’ve had enough vote Conservative and keep repeating this until the end of time. Why go for something new when you know what you’ve got and what you’ll get. Don’t vote for real change. And don’t you dare take a chance with the NDP because you never know what you’ll get. Why risk the possibility of something foreign and new, the possibility that the NDP might actually provide good, open, honest government? Go with what you have and with what you know, cronyism, corruption, padded expense bills, corporate lobbying, members of parliament in corporate pockets. Vote Liberal, vote Conservative, and repeat it forever and hope for different outcomes each time. Prove your insanity. Why bother with real change? Everyone wins except the ordinary citizen of Canada. Happy days are here again!

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPY VS. CITIZEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, very little, as it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE VOTER IN THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

 Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the Majority share in it. – Leo Tolstoy

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience. – George Bernard Shaw

Avoid revolution or expect to get shot. Mother and I will grieve, but we will gladly buy dinner for the National Guardsman who shot you. – Dr. Paul Williamson, father of a Kent student

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE: THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

John Baird’s condemnation of the UN Human Rights council and the appointment of Canadian William Schabas to head a commission examining possible war crimes in Gaza should surprise no one. The Harper regime has, almost from the first, been vocal in its antipathy to the United Nations. Too, anyone who voices criticism of Israel, as has Schabas and others at times, inevitably risks condemnation by Harper and gang with suggestions of being pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Jewish.

Such a stance is offensive if not surprising and indicative of a stubbornly blind mindset that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of more than black and white. This digging in of one’s heels and refusing to tolerate or even consider dissenting opinions is neither admirable nor productive and suggests the profound weakness of insecurity. It’s the fear similar to that experienced by bullies who, knowing deep within themselves they have wronged, wait for the bullied to strike back. They behave as they do because they believe themselves righteous besieged by enemies when none may at first exist. Eventually, however, it becomes fact, the enemies real. The bullying escalates and so does the bully’s fear as the resentment of the bullied intensifies.

Harper’s gang is made up of that kind of bully, frightened of what they have wrought for themselves, brave as a vindictive group but too cowardly to seize the opportunity to co-operate, to listen, to discuss, to be transparent, to include and to accept and even adopt the ideas of others. Instead, they brandish their majority as a club. For Harper and his gang, the velvet glove, the ability to admit to being wrong or to apologize, is less appealing than sneering dismissal and exclusion; they mistakenly perceive generosity, openness and tolerance as weakness. If you ain’t for us, you’re ag’in us. But how can one be for them with such an attitude? It may work for a time but it poses its own risks. The enemies grow in number and so does the fear from the bullies’ camp. It is a poisonous mixture: power, abuse of power, fear and more abuses of power. Add to that the ingredients of intolerance, the willingness to pander, degrees of bigotry, ignorance, arrogance and a propensity towards deceitfulness, the mixture becomes downright toxic.

If Harper occasionally shares the same doubts as the rest of the world on any matter, and that is not a given, they are surely of a fleeting nature not to be nurtured but, rather, excised as quickly and brutally as possible. The message is set in stone; it cannot and will not be changed. When things do go awry, it’s not Harper and crew, it’s the world aligned against them, the world of lazy public servants, egocentric scientists, ignorant students, leftist scholars, radical environmentalists, the mangy poor and helpless, just ordinary citizens, that is out of step. So when critics question Harper’s unwavering support of Israel and condemn Israel’s deadly response to the Hamas bombings in the West Bank, we cannot be surprised when the response is, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” That’s true. But what of its swift, brutal and at times apparently indiscriminate bombing of civilians that have resulted in massive numbers of slain Palestinians when measured against Israeli lives lost? There are brutes on either side, the naysayers, the don’t-give-a-damn-what-you think types, the zealots and cowards; there are also the hopeful, those live-and-let-live folks, good decent people who only wish peace. Every life lost through senseless slaughter is to be mourned, regretted and condemned. Again, however, the response is predictable: “Hamas is shelling bombs from schools and hospitals, using civilians as shields.” But is that true? Perhaps. However, I prefer evidence over taking the word of politicians with their own agenda. But such claims do add legitimacy for a response that is overwhelming and extreme, the forces of one side massively outmanned and outgunned by one of the most efficient armies in the world. I don’t know who is right. I know that Israel has every right to exist as a nation as any other. So, does Palestine. Whose story does one accept? I cannot help but be reminded of one episode during the Gulf War in which a young woman claimed to have witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in a Kuwait Hospital and leaving them on the floor to die. Naturally, the world was shocked and outraged. This added another layer of legitimacy for the invasion of Iraq and provided further justification for the ouster and death of a vile dictator. Unfortunately, two years later, the world learned the story was false. The witness had lied, not only about her name and the story but also about being in Kuwait at the time; in reality, the “witness” was the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador. It was all a vast propaganda scheme to add fuel to justify the invasion of Iraq and just another of a long list of atrocity propaganda dating back to the Crimea war when “heathens” and “Huns” ate babies. Israel may well be right about Hamas; we have witnessed how they murder their own. But surely there is nothing wrong with questioning what we are fed and demanding more information. Atrocity stories make it more palatable to accept the bombing of known UN-run shelters for displaced Gazans. The killing of innocent men, women and children on either side is insupportable. Harper should say that. Instead he stands fast: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Can’t we even ask the question?

It is not Harper’s support of Israel that troubles me; I support it, too, but not without reservation, without doubts. It is his refusal to accept that others have legitimate concerns about what they see as Israel’s disproportionate response to the Hamas bombings. Loyalty to a friend is one thing and it’s commendable; but acknowledgement that the friend can and may be wrong and, in the wake of such widespread condemnation, might do well to reconsider the extent of force in its response to Hamas, is probably a better test of friendship. To ridicule critics, to label them as anti-Israeli and of possibly questionable character, perhaps pro-Palestine and in need of monitoring is no way for a government claiming to be a democracy to behave. An enemy of my friend (or of those whose votes I’m pandering for) is my enemy. It is almost as if, in recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian victims, Baird and Harper and the rest of mob believe we are denying the humanity of the Jews. It may win votes, but isn’t the price too high?

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

Not all should be accepted on face value, especially when it appears to coincide with one’s own worldview. So, when the Harper gang, one of the most secretive, petty, angry and partisan regimes this nation has ever endured, offers its version of events, of facts, of what they believe, one must be particularly diligent. Are Harper and his crew attempting to inform, expressing a true belief, or are they intending to mislead with malicious intent? When a government goes out of its way to remove obstacles to governmental spying on Canadians under the pretext of going after child abusers and then condemns sceptics with charges of “siding with pedophiles”, can it rightly claim to be working in the best interests of Canadians? A government that prefers secrecy to openness, deceit over truth, and punishment over understanding is a government that fears its citizens. How can we trust it when it doesn’t trust us?

This is not new. For the Harper gang, all critics, regardless of the cause, are suspect, dangerous, anti-Harper, anti-Conservative. They are the enemy; as such, they are worthy targets of the smear.

In a recent fundraising effort, the Conservatives went after Justin Trudeau, a man for whom I have grave doubts as a leader. But they did so with a lie. They told a story but left out some details. The lie of omission. They attacked Trudeau for visiting the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque in 2011. He had, indeed. They further claimed, Jason Kenney even using his government email, that the US security agencies considered the mosque a recruitment centre for extremists. That, too, is true. However, what Kenney (who in the past illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for his party) and the other Harper gang omitted to tell us is this: That fact only became public when published in the New York Times a month after Trudeau’s visit. There is no doubt what Kenney intended with this vile, less than accurate attack. Too, nowhere in the email does Kenney acknowledge that just last year, two years after Trudeau, he had visited the same mosque, which, by then, presumably, he, and every member of the Harper gang, knew had garnered American interest. What makes the attacks so vile is that, knowing the truth, the Conservatives persisted in suggesting something even more sinister about Trudeau than doubts about his leadership abilities, innuendo that he supports extremists, terrorists, was, in fact, unpatriotic. That is vile stuff. It is also dishonest stuff. But it is also typical of the Harper thugs. When questioned about his visit, Kenney, a senior cabinet minister with Conservative leadership aspirations, claims he did not know that the mosque was suspect! The same excuse Trudeau used. However, the truth is on Trudeau’s side; he could not have known because the news had not yet been made public. What is Kenney’s excuse? Well, the Conservatives simply shrug, gloss over these facts and blithely continue fundraising and smearing Trudeau while ignoring his legitimate, to the point question: If the mosque is a known haven for terrorists, why hasn’t the government done anything about it? No answer.

But there have been other attacks against Trudeau and they, too, are misleading, dishonest, and partisan in the Conservative tax funded jabs against the Liberal leader.

The ads are aimed at parents, evidently in hopes of scaring up votes, and clearly more concerned with crushing Justin Trudeau and maintaining the health and wellbeing of the Conservative agenda than the health and wellbeing of their putative targets: children. In their efforts to add legitimacy to their propaganda, the Conservatives sought support from the medical profession in hopes they would give their stamp of approval to the Conservative anti-drug ads. Fortunately, the Canadian Medical Association, The College of Family and Physicians of Canada and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons quickly saw through the Conservative ploy refusing to sign on. The ads suggest that Trudeau is endangering children with his stand on marijuana, which is one of legalization. Julian Fantino, minister of veterans affairs, has issued a flyer stating that Trudeau’s “first order of business is to make marijuana more accessible to minors,” and the Liberals plan on making “buying marijuana a normal, everyday activity for young Canadians” (CBC News, Aug. 16, 2014). This from a man who used to be a cop! Well, for this gang, no trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be used.

That Harper failed this time to recruit three highly respected and influential health bodies to act as his stooges is no reason for us to simply heave a sigh of relief and sit back. The Harper Conservatives are devious, clever, and dishonest, as we have seen. They will use any trick, the viler the better, to defeat their foes and flog their economic agenda, which includes squelching dissent, appeasing Big Business and suppressing worker wages.

In the past few weeks, we have learned that the fix Jason Kenney and the Harper gang promised to stop employers from exploiting foreign workers at wages 15% below that of Canadian workers was all smoke. For almost a year after the news was made public of wage suppression, Alberta companies were still allowed to exploit foreign workers at below rate. The Harper gang knew this. The Harper gang allowed it to happen. Another flap, and more promises by the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism. This government has aided and abetted corporations in their war against Canadian workers. They have kept silent about corporate wage suppression speaking out and acting only when the news once again made headlines.

Harper and gang have a lot for which to answer.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SECRET COURT AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD

Recently, the secretive House of Commons multi-party committee, the Board of Internal Economy, made up of four Conservatives, one Liberal and two NDP members, found the NDP guilty of misusing parliamentary resources with satellite offices and mass mail-outs. For many, myself included, the judgement is extremely questionable smacking more of payback by Kangaroo Court, the Liberals still smarting over their loss of Official Opposition status to the NDP and the Conservatives from Tom Mulcair’s effective questioning of Stephen Harper over his knowledge of the Duffy/Wright scandal. If the NDP committed wrongdoing, they must, of course, do the right thing.

The problem with the mail-outs, it appears, was a matter of a technicality: they were partisan in nature, that is, were not messages from individual MPs but mail designed to benefit the party according to Conservative John Duncan. Well, I don’t know. Almost every month I receive one or two mailings from the Conservative MP in my riding. True, there is lots of information about the accomplishments of the MP (not much) accompanied by many photos of him (too many). The messages clearly promote the party and it’s agenda often with claims proven to be untrue as with the Conservative Economic Action Plan, touting programs that didn’t even exist. The cost of advertising non-existent came to $2.5 million for taxpayers. The flyers also boast of Conservative support for the veterans. Well, we have witnessed what veterans think of this regime and its treatment of them.

There is, however, cause for concern on the matter of the satellite offices. The NDP claims it sought permission from the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, to set up the offices; they also claim Scheer gave his approval. The Speaker, however, denies that he did so. Who does one believe? Scheer is a Harper appointee to the position. That doesn’t make him biased. But that he sat on requests from Elections Canada to suspend Shelley Glover and James Bezan for refusing to submit a full account of their expense for the 2011 campaign likely does. At the time, Scheer made the disingenuous claim there was no indication that the requests addressed to him were meant for the House. Elections Canada reports to the House, therefore any correspondence directed to the Speaker concerning members of parliament must, perforce, be also for the members of Parliament. His response on that occasion leaves me to doubt his version regarding the satellite offices and it certainly leads me to question whether he meets the standard of non-partisanship required of that post.

It is not the first time I have asked that question. Conservatives are not shy about politicising offices and agencies that have been and should remain, non-partisan and independent. Even with the Supreme Court, this gang could not stop itself from attempting to malign it when it lost its bid to appoint Mark Nadon to the high court. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, clearly unhappy with that outcome and with other decisions from the Supreme Court, set out to sway public opinion against the court by openly attacking the decisions, the court, and its members, engaging in contemptible efforts to smear Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin with charges of political interference regarding the Nadon affair. Their attempts failed because their story was an outright lie. Judging from the reaction from the public, few fell for the Harper/MacKay smear job.

Ethical? The Harper gang are as morally bankrupt as any political group can be. A few years back the Conservatives paid a $52000 fine after a plea bargain that allowed four upper echelon members to escape appearing before the courts over the “in-out” scam during the 2006 election that allowed Conservatives to illegally transfer monies that cost Canadians $2.3 million according to figures offered by Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher of Postmedia (April 10, 2012). That is money that belongs to Canadians but somehow ended up in the Conservative coffers.

Nevertheless, Harper and gang continue to assert they ran a clean, honest and ethical campaign in each of the last few elections. This is the party that threw a young staffer, Michael Sona, to the wolves for the robocall scandals, which led to investigations of voter suppression by Conservatives. Though Sona was the only one charged and found guilty for that, it was clear that the presiding judge, Justice Gary Hearn, did not believe he acted alone. This is significant and is at variance with a decision reached earlier by Yves Coté, Commissioner of Canada Elections, whose job it is to investigate election fraud. Coté’s investigation had found no evidence of involvement of voter suppression by others in the party. How Yves Coté, responds to the decision by Justice Hearn will be a good indicator of his independence especially since his office has been moved from Elections Canada, which reports to parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This move was clearly meant to handicap the Commissioner and leads to suspicions of a real probability of political interference by the government, particularly this government. It is a legal truism that investigators and prosecutors must work independently of each other. That can never be truer than in this instance when a government attempts to rig elections, as has the Harper gang. If there is no further investigation of the robocalls scandal, Canadians should be very concerned; Harper will have accomplished what he set out to do. That’s not good for democracy and it’s certainly not good for Canada.

Clean and ethical? Well we have Harper’s one-time parliamentary secretary, Dean del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now before the court facing four counts of election fraud during his 2011 election campaign. It was del Mastro, along with Pierre Poilievre, who viciously savaged Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for the investigations into election irregularities, in the majority of which Conservatives figured prominently. Clean? Ethical? Conservative Peter Penashue resigned for accepting illegal corporate donations for his campaign. We have Shelly Glover caught on camera attending a fundraising event attended by the very people who stood to gain from decisions made from her office. The same happened with Leona Aglukkaq, minister of economic development for the North, who sneaked into a fundraising event by a side door rather than face the cameras waiting at the front door. Yeah, they are clean all right.

There are few sinners as interesting as hypocrites.

So, when the Conservatives are demanding that NDP repay money, pardon me for asking questions of my own. Will the Harper gang reimburse Canadians the $2.5 million for the false advertising in their Economic Action Plan? Will the Conservatives repay the $2.3 million owed for the “in-out” scam between May of 2007 and the fall of 2011? Will Tony Clement give a full accounting of the $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 and G20 conferences? Will the government explain why it was necessary to spend close to a billion dollars for security for the same conferences and will it apologize for the mass arrests of peaceful protesters leading to only a handful of charges and few, if any, convictions? When Jason Kenney illegally used the government letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party, did he repay what was owed to the taxpayer? If the NDP owes money, and they may well do, make them pay. But, in the interests of justice and fairness, perceived and real, the Conservatives must also repay what they have pillaged from Canadians and it’s a lot, lot more than supposedly owed by the NDP. As Harper is fond of saying, If you throw mud, some is bound to stick to you.

THEY SIMPER, SHY AWAY AND PLEAD IGNORANCE

If governments lie, operate in secrecy, spy on citizens, defame one’s reputation, and abandon the basics of democracy, how worried should we be? Should we be concerned with the politicization of once independent government watchdog agencies, of attempts to disenfranchise voters, of efforts to turn the highest court into political organs enforcing government goals? Does it matter that our government masks legislation in omnibus bills and limits debate, refuses to consult with opposition members and feels no need to respond to questions in the House except to obfuscate, prevaricate or utter scripted nonsense having nothing to do with issues at hand? Must we accept a government that imposes its agenda because of its majority, that deregulates for the interests of Big Business against the interests of the public, and that blithely refuses to accept responsibility when things go terribly wrong?

For Harper and the gang, with the exception of getting power and clinging to it, nothing is more sacred than the market and their economic agenda.

Earlier last week, the Transportation Safety Board released its report on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which cost 47 lives. It’s a harsh indictment not just of the rail company involved, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A), but also of the Harper gang with it’s laissez-faire approach to Big Business which, as we all know, are honest brokers more than capable and more than willing to regulate themselves. They are all honourable companies run by honourable people, you see. So Big Business and their stooges (Harper and gang, if you don’t know it by now) would have us believe.

But on what is that belief based when, in the wake of the Maple Leaf tainted meat scandal that left 23 dead, the Harper crew cut the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber stampers of in-house testing results by meat producers. Even then, not long after that tragedy, it was American border guards who caught the tainted meat shipped to the US by XL Foods. Where was the government oversight? As a result of that failure, this led to the largest tainted meat recall in Canadian history. Recently, the Mount Polley Mining Corp. breach of the tailings pond dam occurred in British Columbia. Said the minister of energy and mines, Bill Bennett, “If the company has made some mistakes… they will have to bear the responsibility.” Nowhere in that statement is the acceptance that the government has failed to provide proper oversight. From all levels of government, the public is told that it can, must, and will trust Big Business. The thing is, it’s not the mine owners who bear the real costs when these catastrophes occur, and they inevitably do. It is always the innocent who pay, those folks who place their trust in the very governments who have sold them out to Big Business. This philosophy of hands-off, trust business, approach is based on a false premise that free enterprisers like Harper and gang are fond of spouting, a sophomoric cliché that we on the bottom rung are to embrace as fact. It goes something like this: It is in a business’s own self-interest to protect their workers, to be honest, to be good citizen, to be good wards of our environment. It’s an old, tired refrain and it’s absolutely untrue. With very few exceptions, the bottom line is always the final arbiter of what corporations believe to be true and good: profits and enriching the wallets of shareholders even at the risk of cutting corners is always for the greater good. Take your chances, cross your fingers and, if someone dies, pray like hell it’s your competitor who is to blame. As long as governments like the Harper gang are in power, as long as they are in the pockets of Big Business, workers will continue to be exploited and companies allowed to cut corners. The trust of citizens will be betrayed time and again and it is the public who will be left to clean up the mess and who will pay for the mess. Corporations and executives will continue to rake in the dough and their political stooges to pad their pensions and become company board members when they retire from politics far richer than when they first entered the dirty game.

Trust Big Business and the government whose lodestone is free enterprise? There are too many graveyards filled by trusting citizens and innocent workers who placed their trust in governments that sold them out for an economic agenda.

The Lac Mégantic catastrophe came about because MM&A performed the minimum required in following the regulations, even cutting corners. They did the minimum and time and time again were cited for infractions. But, as the report makes clear, Transport Canada knew of the violations and yet did next to nothing in the way of corrective action. The Harper gang did not follow up or ensure that MM&A complied with all of the rules.

Following the report, the government was peculiarly silent. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, emerged briefly from her warren to issue a statement that, typically from members of this gang, attempted to distance herself and her government from all responsibility. The rules are there, the railway company broke them. And that, apparently, is good enough, all that this regime intends to do. This sidestepping of responsibility is craven and abhorrent but, again, unsurprising. Why accept responsibility when staffers can be thrown under buses or, as in the rail disaster, companies can be fined and two or three employees scapegoated. The MM&A workers followed the rules; they did the minimum required of them and so did MM&A Railway and this Harper gang.

Where was the oversight? “Who is the guardian of public safety,” asked Wendy Tadros chair of the Transportation Board of Safety. Good question. Evidently no one.

WELCOME TO THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

So when I read that the government has quietly contributed $4 million of taxpayer monies towards a memorial commemorating the victims of Communism, I am not surprised. Nor am I surprised they attempted to do so with little fanfare. And yet, for free enterprising ideologues, it is odd that they haven’t pulled out the trumpets and sent them ablaring. The memorial is entitled Tribute to Liberty. The irony is rich. This is the government that has been linked to voter suppression, to robocalls, that has players facing election fraud charges. This is the party that has rigged the game with changes to the Elections Act that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and whose redrawing of electoral boundaries will likely garner them another twenty-two seats.

I want to ask, Where is the memorial for the victims of Capitalism? Where is the memorial for the 146 garment workers burnt to death in 1911 in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York because they were locked in and couldn’t escape? Where is the memorial for the 275 trapped in a Pakistan fire and the 1100 killed when a Bangladesh factory collapsed while making garments for European and North American companies? Where is the memorial for the thousands of men and women imprisoned and murdered by gun totting company thugs simply because they were unionists. Every day in every corner of the globe, workers die because management cut corners in the name of profit. It’s easier to replace workers than machinery. Miners, forest workers, first responders, military men and women, nurses, doctors, and countless others put their lives on the line daily to ensure that the economy runs smoothly. The appetite of Big Business is insatiable; there is never enough, the greedy pigs must be fed, the money shovelled into their open mouths as they step on the necks of those who have made them wealthy and successful. It is to such as these our government panders. So, no, there will be no national monument for workers.

Perhaps it’s a sign of naiveté, which should be surprising in someone who has reached the age I have, but I can still be shocked by the behaviour of others, this government in particular. I find it particularly offensive that those in positions of trust can lie, cheat, deny, blame others, and steal from the public purse time and time again without suffering shame and guilt. Why is that? Who is to be blamed? Well, I blame immoral, opportunistic individuals who enter politics for less than noble reasons, those folks who can spin the yarn and fake the warmth and win the brass ring to the road of enrichment, not of the self but of the bank account.

But I blame the voter even more. They continue to vote the same slime in again and again. I am puzzled as to why people stand in line for hours so that they can take Selfies of themselves with Rob Ford, that lying, amoral clown who deserves ridicule and contempt rather than the glow of admiration you see in the faces of those simpletons who apparently care nothing about morality, decency, honesty, law, order, and judgement. When is enough enough for these people? Have these politicians no shame? Have those voters lost all discernment? Are they blind, stupid, indifferent or all of these? I suspect it is the latter. When asked about Ford, those people speak proudly of him as the man who has saved them money (they never explain how), who is just like them (god help us), just ordinary folks (they forget he comes from a fairly wealthy family). They appear to find it amusing that he smokes crack, that he has lied, lied, lied and lied some more. They appear to be deaf to his misogynistic potty mouth, indifferent to his buffoonery, blind to his cartoonish version of the modern man. That he is an object for scorn, that he is dishonest and consorts with criminals does not deter these folks: he’s a celebrity, a folk hero.

These folks, the supporters of the likes of Harper and Ford, are truly frightening. It’s all a lark. Why worry, be happy. Who cares about the stench of corruption and moral decay, it’s all about the main chance and aren’t we all playing the game. So offer us shiny political bribes; we can easily and cheaply be bought and distracted with a few dollars in tax cuts and by cheap tinsel celebrities. Why worry, be happy, indulge the excesses, the vacuity, the vulgarity and the inanity of those narcissistic zombies.

In some respect, Harper offends me more because he is the bigger threat. He is smarter than Ford and meaner. He is petty and vengeful and he uses his majority as a club to ram legislation through. He is anti-democratic and not above rigging the game. His fixations at times appear to be from a world of unreality, as if wishing to to mark his reign of error by convincing himself that his is the Age of Triumphalism.

Not quite. It is true, we have entered a new era but it is far from glorious. It is a sad, dismal age, the Age of Infantilism.

 ***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER AND JUSTIN TRUDEAU: TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE AT WAR

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

    Agreed to have a battle;

For Tweedledum said Tweedledee

    Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,

    As black as a tar-barrel;

Which frightened both the heroes so,

    They quite forgot their quarrel

                        – Lewis Carroll

I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others. – Thomas Jefferson

Our inequality materializes our upper classes, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class. – Mathew Arnold

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE SLAUGHTER

For some, Justin Trudeau’s sudden and totally surprising decision to expel the 32 liberal senators from the federal liberal caucus at the end of January, following months after his announcement that MPs would post expense travel and hospitality claims, was the clearest evidence to them that he had the true makings of a leader: he could keep a secret, make decisions, and act upon them in a ruthless fashion. Others are not so sure. It was true the move took almost everyone by surprise, not only because of its brutal suddenness, but also because of its sweeping implication of indictment, judgement and verdict: none of the senators affected, most of them liberal loyalists to the core, were consulted, and all were treated with equal shabbiness without regard to stature, status, and quality. Repudiated by Trudeau and the liberal party, tainted, Trudeau’s denials withstanding, apparently for drinking from the same public well poisoned by conservative Harper appointees Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and liberal Mac Harb, the senators were no longer welcome. Stunned, bloodied, tarred and abandoned by their own, still calling themselves liberals, they must have wondered what had hit them.

What was the message intended in that massive expulsion? Was it a George W. Bush moment, Trudeau saying, “I’m the decider” and flexing his muscles lest there be any doubt? Or was the move, as Trudeau suggests, the first step towards eliminating partisanship and returning the chamber to the days of sober second thought. Don’t bet on it. Some have offered that the move was merely a pre-emptive strike, in anticipation of the senate report to be released by the auditor general, Michael Ferguson, Trudeau’s desperate effort to dissociate himself and the liberal party from the seemingly endless Senate scandal in expectation that revelations would show that skimming from the public trough is not merely the purview of the three Harper appointees and the lone liberal prodigal. I would bet on that. Almost certainly, even if inadvertently, the move has effectively stigmatized the reputations of all liberal senators in the eyes of the public. What does Trudeau know or anticipate? It was neither right nor just but it was dam clever. The ball was thrown in Harper’s court. The buzz was immediate: “bombshell’ (National Post), “tactical masterstroke” (The Province). Trudeau was indeed the decider, the boss, the man in control. To Andrew Coyne, Trudeau “is the liberal party” (National Post, February 23, 2014). Some claimed it to be the most significant change to the senate since its inception. Bold it was; Trudeau had achieved the buzz he craved and needed; he had proven himself one tough bastard. Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP, the only party that has consistently sought the abolition of the Senate, had apparently been caught flatfooted. The gadflies, those lovers of eye candy over substance, were in love with Trudeau all over again, only more so; his ratings soared. He had done something exceptional; they just didn’t know what or its significance, but it looked and sounded good.

THE SPIN

Smearing and sacrificing others for one’s own ambition is not new in politics. Harper has made an art of such behaviour throwing scores of individuals under buses, some deserving, some not: if you’re not for them, you’re the enemy. Trudeau has not reached that stage; nevertheless, in aping Harper in the manner with which he dispatched the senators, he demonstrated that liberals and conservatives are both sides of the same coin, each as self-serving and as single-minded in the pursuit of raw power as the other: get in the way, you’re toast. If it’s legal, if it’s effective, if it’s headlines and boosts one’s image, anything goes. This is war; there are always casualties.

From the day he decided to run and was elected liberal leader, it has always been Trudeau’s party. While there had been a few naysayers within and without, liberal fortunes almost immediately reached new, dizzying heights: few had doubts this was the new saviour of the Party even though it appeared he had little to offer except charm, youth and inexperience; for the public, this apparently is enough. Few had doubts those soft Tory supporters, disenchanted with the Harper gang, would eventually drift back to the liberal fold. Thus the cult of personality, with the name of another Trudeau, had been reborn. Still, there were those niggling, irritating, doubters, the pragmatists who wanted only to know what he offered that was new and different, what were his party’s policies, what new ideas he brought, and where he stands on certain issues: abortion, assisted suicide, proportional representation, unions, public servants, healthcare, power sharing between federal and provincial governments?

Policies? Ideas? Well, they can wait. Enjoy the moment, let the world love him.

For liberals, any glimmer of appearing to be open, transparent, and honest, is seized upon and brandished with the smugness of righteousness. When that glimmer happens to be from Trudeau, that sparkling darling of the media and the public, as when he “reported” on himself for a “mistake” in claiming $840 to which he was not entitled, the liberals went into paroxysm of self-congratulatory ecstasy. He had put himself on the line, revealed that he, too, was capable of weakness, of making mistakes, was close to being just like them; it was risky; what if others saw him as just another politico taking the high road only because he was about to be caught or exposed. Not to worry; the risk paid off, Trudeau was a hero, a virtuous, self-effacing young man in the dirty world of politics. He was willing to suffer the slings for admitting to making expense claims he should not have made. Oh, how everyone loved this, especially the liberals; what further proof of integrity was needed?

But how had this happened in the first place? As reported by CBC’s Leslie MacKinnon, these were “errors” “inadvertently” made when he used “one of his parliamentary travel points to pay for a trip to a paid speaking engagement in 2012…” The mistake was “due to a ‘human error’ by his staff”. How could that be when Trudeau had, in June of 2013, stated unequivocally he had not used parliamentary resources for his public speaking events? As Mulcair pointed out, in that same CBC report, “he’s stolen a page from Stephen Harper’s playbook – deny, deny, deny – until you get caught and then you apologize” (CBC, Leslie MacKinnon, Jan. 16, 2014). Errors. Inadvertence. We’ve heard it all before from Harper and his crew time and again when caught in a lie or breaking the rules: “it’s an opposition smear campaign”; “it never happened”;  “I made a mistake”; “someone on my staff messed up”. No one owns anything, least of all his or her own wrongs.

I have never held any hope for better from Harper and have not been disappointed. There was just something about him I have never liked and it had more to do than with him being a conservative, intransigent and relentlessly partisan, though these were and are more than reasons enough for me to detest him; it was the folks with whom he surrounded himself, Pierre Poilievre the architect of the odious so-called Fair Elections Act meant to rig votes and disenfranchise tens of thousands to the advantage of the conservatives, and Dean del Mastro, Shelly Glover, Vic Toews, Rob Nicholson, Peter MacKay, Joe Oliver, Rob Nicholson, and on and on. Vicious, partisan, self-serving, mean-spirited and, more than a few, truly ethically challenged.

We all know about Harper’s loud denunciations of the liberals for their lack of openness and transparency when they held power and we know of his avowals to do better if elected. Well we have learned over the years that those were just words, his fingers crossed and his tongue forked. Instead of openness and transparency, we have in Harper and his regime the most secretive, deceitful, vicious, corrupt and anti-democratic government in recent memory. Most shocking is not that he and his conservative crew had early on shown signs of holding the electoral and democratic processes in contempt, but that they have actively and systematically acted on that contempt without any appreciable drop in their core base of support: the “in-out” scam; robocalls, illegal campaign claims, illegal corporate donations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process; had the new Bill, C-23, been in effect, it is doubtful we would have learned of these. But even all that is not enough for the conservatives. Devoid of shame, decency and credibility, in the full, proud awareness of their own vile corruptness and clearly content to spread their poison, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of these hypocritical, anti-democratic monsters, not content with the gerrymandered extra seats they will gain with the redrawn boundaries have, with the recent, offensively misnamed Fair Elections Act, set out to completely rig the game in their favour, striping Elections Canada of the right to investigate campaigning fraud and inform the public.  Still, even that is not enough for them. Having eliminated as acceptable IDs the election information card and vouching, that is, declarations by others that you are who you and the card say you are, in place for decades, conservative Brad Butt, to buttress the justification for doing so, made the claim that he had seen campaign workers pick up voter cards discarded by recipients in an apartment building. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to other people who would then be vouched for at a polling booth. There he was, standing up in the House offering, while miming the actions of those nefarious workers that would have done the Gong Show proud, a vivid description of what he, personally, had witnessed. The implication was clear, based on that one sighting, voter fraud was rampant and he had seen it with his own two crooked eyes. The thing is, it was all a lie. Bogus. A fabrication. An untruth. Fiction. Later, in the House, by his own admission, he stated he had witnessed no such thing. He said he had “misspoke”, he had been “mistaken”. Misspoke! Mistaken! About what he had publicly and loudly claimed to have personally witnessed with his own lying eyes? Butt’s ludicrous but damaging story may have changed but not my opinion of him; to me, he will always be a lying horse’s ass. If it’s not a staffer’s fault, and it usually is with conservatives, it’s a “mistake”. But this was no error. It was a deliberate attempt to deceive and mislead in order to bolster conservative claims of widespread voter fraud as justification for the changes to the Elections Act. Come hell or high water, the conservatives would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, those least likely to vote for them. When asked in the house about the figures regarding voter fraud, Harper could give no concrete answer to the amount saying that Elections Canada, the very body he intends to muzzle and deprive of investigative powers, could give the numbers. The conservatives just know, they have this gut feeling, this thing Stephen Colbert called “truthiness”, that the poor, the elderly, those on the margins are cheats, liars, fraudsters. They never, ever look into their own befouled nest. Bill C-23 will be the real Harper legacy for future generations: it is a template of vileness and corruption to be admired and emulated by like-minded politico scum. Deceitful, dishonest, detestable! For conservatives, all that is beside the point; to them, all that matters is that we believe they are economic wizards. They promise to erase the debt and have a surplus expected to be of about $10 billion just in time for the 2015 election. And they will, off the backs of 19,000 public servant jobs and public service retirees, with closures of Veterans’ offices across the country, by withholding $3.1 billion from the DND (to be paid back later by future generations), by slashing services and ignoring the infrastructure. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Economic wizards? Yes, economic with the truth, economic with the facts, economic in ethics and integrity.

THE SEARCH

On most things, we know where Harper’s conservatives stand and for whom (not you and I). We know they are self-serving, venal and absolutely ruthless; theirs has been a quest for POWER and, having achieved it, keeping it, by any means. We know all critics are viewed, not just with suspicion, but also as enemies. We know Harper’s ambition has been to exterminate the liberal party. There is nothing admirable or noble in any of this though one would not know this by the strength of core conservative support.

But where does Trudeau stand? Where are the liberal ideals, vision, and policy? Referencing Jack Layton more than once, Trudeau talks of hope. Hope is not enough. Where is the beef?

Ask that of any of his supporters. Oh some might speak of his promise to legalize marijuana and the liberal wish to legalize assisted suicide, but most would simply blink before the lights went out. They don’t know because Trudeau himself doesn’t appear to know or, if he does, he’s keeping it to himself. Even his stand on assisted suicide is uncertain; it seems to be the position of liberal members rather than of Trudeau who, according to reports, had left the convention during the vote.

Blinded by the brilliance of his smile, supporters might have also become deaf to the emptiness of his offerings. To quote Gertrude Stein, “There’s no there there.” Stein was referring to her home in Oakland, California, which had been razed and, to all intents, no longer existed for her. I believe Trudeau is a decent man, but that is it: as of yet, there is no there there. Harper and his crew, on the other hand, have lots of substance, but it’s all in the form of meanness, spite, vindictiveness, and self-serving venality. No, nothing admirable about them.

Perhaps, in time, Trudeau will prove there is more to him than I believe; as he stands today, there’s nothing that suggests he should be the next prime minster any more than Harper should be now. I bear no grudge for Trudeau, he seems a likable fellow, but I do not see the maturity and depth one should expect, nay, demand, of a leader. Anyone who goes for a cheap laugh, as he did on a Quebec program with the referencing of the troubles in the Ukraine, with the loss of many lives, tying it to the Russian hockey game at the Olympics, needs to grow up. Now I do not for a moment believe that was callousness on Trudeau’s part. Rather, it was the callowness of youth and inexperience. Of course, Conservative Chris Alexander and other conservatives were quick to leap on their high horses indignantly harrumphing against Trudeau as clear evidence that, in the world of global politics, he would be a lightweight disaster. Maybe. But this comes from members of a government whose “economic diplomacy” allows them to do business with regimes notorious for human rights violations and where child brides are legal. These are the members whose government will not fund organizations that provide safe abortions for war rape victims and forced child brides. That is the obscenity, not Trudeau’s careless attempt at levity.

To his credit, Trudeau publicly apologized and he did so again to the Ukrainian ambassador. But only after much noise from the other parties though liberal MPs staunchly declared he had no reason to apologize. When he did so, they appeared uneasily subdued. But Trudeau did apologize and that should not be diminished. I can’t image Harper or his thugs doing so as easily. Truth, doubt, self-criticism, self-examination. Useful for the children of light but meaningless for Harper and his gang.

THE STAR

Trudeau promises to be different and better. Last summer, he and the liberals proudly declared that they, MPs and senators, would voluntarily post their travel and hospitality expenses and challenged the other parties to do the same. Supporters immediately trumpeted the move as a seismic leap into openness and transparency. The conservatives accepted the challenge but the NDP dismissed it as a stunt insisting that such postings would be meaningless without verification, which would necessitate the involvement of the auditor general. As it stood, the NDP correctly pointed out, the Trudeau “stunt” allowed MPs and senators to cherry pick what would be declared and revealed. On Monday (Feb 24), when the liberals released their expenses for the period from September to December 31, that’s exactly what was revealed: the NDP had it right, the postings were incomplete and did little to inform the public of the true costs of the travel and hospitality claims. Surprisingly, when the conservative senators posted their claims, they had done better than the liberals; they had included the costs of their spouses. The ex-liberal senators did not saying the information included were based on what MPs currently release. Liberals promise to add spousal costs in the future. Different? Better? Certainly meaningless if meant to demonstrate openness and transparency. But what is revealed should give pause to taxpayers. Do we really need the Senate? What does Trudeau think?

Well, Trudeau had a chance to let us know his thinking on many issues last weekend with the liberal party policy convention. Unfortunately, it got off to a rocky start.

Among the stars at the convention was one on whom Trudeau appears to pin much hope, his senior advisor on foreign policy and defence, retired, much decorated, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie considered a shoo-in liberal candidate which may disturb some liberals who took Trudeau at his word when he said that nominations for candidates would be open and free. He was to speak at the convention introduced by retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, another much respected veteran and one-time liberal senator until he and his colleagues were booted from the liberal caucus. Leslie did get to speak but Dallaire did not do the introduction . He was no longer wanted or needed. Shades of Harper. Is this the road to take with one of Canada’s heroes?

But, if Trudeau and Leslie were expecting an easy ride, the conservatives had a surprise for them. The day before the convention began, the government had leaked documents revealing that star Andrew Leslie might prove a problem for the liberals. Taxpayers had funded his move to a new home within the same city and only a few blocks from his first home for a cost of $72,000. Clearly this was no ordinary move, no ordinary bill. Given the Senate scandal and the public’s sudden concern for how their tax dollars was being spent, the conservatives saw their opportunity and took it and pounced; the NDP joined in. Leslie was just another big spending liberal living high on the public trough. Immediately, the liberals were screaming foul and defending their man. ‘“It’s quite clear that this government is ready to be vicious and ruthless with anyone, even with a Canadian hero, that dares disagree with their ideology and their approach,” Trudeau told reporters…’ (CBC, February 18).

Leslie’s move was not illegal. He considers it a “benefit” for his years of service in the military. Perfectly right, he’s entitled to his entitlements would say those more concerned with the niceties of legalese than the naïve niceties of perception. For them, judgement, optics, even the ethics, of claiming such an entitlement for a move of only a few blocks within the same city at such an exorbitant cost to taxpayers, is of little concern. The liberals, however, see this as a concerted conservative smear campaign. Of course it is. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that there is something unseemly about accepting such largesse at taxpayer expense. Seventy-two thousand dollars. Seven years ago, my wife and I moved from Richmond, B.C. to a small town in Ontario east of Ottawa. We hired a reputable trucking company that estimated the total weight of our goods to be slightly over 8000 lbs. The charge for the move, three months storage, for our flight, and final delivery to our new home came to slightly over $13,200. For an additional $1,100, we also shipped our car. Even accounting for inflation, even taking in that Leslie’s belongings may have exceeded the weight of ours and that there may have been costs that we did not incur, it is difficult to imagine how the $72,000 move in the same town can be justified or excused. Yet the liberals did exactly that. Their surprise and indignation, while clearly political posturing, is misplaced and should lead them to look at Andrew Leslie in a new light. This was the new and better? It was a “benefit” to which he was entitled, he claimed. Maybe so. However, because one is entitled to something doesn’t always make it right that he take it. The hypocrisy all round, from the conservative leak to the sputtering liberal outrage, is breathtaking and unseemly. Everyone seems to be in on the take. What’s in it for me? With what can I get away? One needs only look at the behaviour of conservatives Bev Oda and Peter Penashue, both gone, of Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Deal del Mastro and the three Harper Senate appointees. Offensive as it may be, Leslie’s moving claim was legal at the least.

Leslie and the liberals have their supporters. These charge that going after Leslie on this issue is tantamount to going after our military veterans. Give me a break. We know that’s what conservatives do; this is another matter entirely. Canadians should be more concerned about equity rather than defending what is clearly questionable. There is the letter of the law and there is the spirit of the law. Unfortunately, Leslie opted to follow the letter rather than the spirit. And that is a shame. Canadians should be asking themselves this: Why are certain military retirees like Leslie entitled to make outrageous moving claims while hundreds of other military personnel are suddenly thrust into bankruptcy selling homes for tens of thousands of dollars less than their value because of forced transfers? These military men and women have been abandoned by the government, the military and the public. It is this that should elicit howls of outrage rather than a rush of support for Leslie.

THE SCAM

Leslie and the liberals have accused the Tories of going after Leslie for purely partisan reasons because of his role as Liberal advisor to Trudeau. No kidding. From day one, Harper’s gang has demonstrated that no vile, dirty trick is too vile or too dirty not to be used including vote rigging, making it easier for wealthy parties (i.e. the conservative party) to make more telephone calls without claiming them as expenses, and striping Elections Canada of the power to investigate campaign fraud and reporting on them. Harper’s thugs, in effect, have entrenched the right to cheat during elections. So why the (gasp) surprise? Even before the convention was to begin, the Toronto Star had released documents outlining Conservative plans to undermine Trudeau. And they did, with Leslie. That is in their nature. For Tories, smearing opponents is a Pavlovian response; to criticize them is to immediately have them slavering and straining against the chain to get at you. In this instance, reprehensible as the tactic is, vile as their motives may be, which have nothing to do with informing Canadians or saving them money but everything to do with discrediting Leslie, the public has every right to know of these expenses. But, we should also be aware of the source and of the reason why it was made public. No one walks away clean on this.

Yet there is something else about Leslie that is just as telling as his claiming of his entitlements. While speaking at the convention, he had suggested that the conservatives had courted him and he had rejected them. But that wasn’t quite the story. According to the oily anti-democratic minister of democratic reform, Poilievre, it was Leslie who had approached them, which Leslie appears to confirm. Surely Trudeau could not have been happy with this turn. On CBC’s The House with Evan Solomon, Trudeau, while claiming there had been “no active courting” of Leslie, had this to say of Leslie: “He had a range of conversations with different people, different political parties and I’m quite pleased that after reflection…he chose to serve his country through the Liberal Party” (CBC, February 22, 2014). Even with something as straight forward as this, those politicos have to spin: where is the pride in being second choice or in having a star candidate who is clearly shopping for the best deal – for himself? Leslie is no kid; one would think he would know which party most represented his philosophical/political leanings. Apparently not. Perhaps he had difficulty in differentiating between conservative and liberal ideology, which is easy enough considering how much they agree on when it comes to the Keystone XL Pipeline and helping themselves to their entitlements. Of course it could just be as simple as this: Leslie sees the liberals as the sure bet for next election, and he’s a winner. Or so the liberals are betting. Political philosophy? That can wait.

Leslie “chose to serve his country through the Liberal Party” Trudeau said. Leslie was a victim of a smear, Trudeau said, because he “dares disagree with their ideology and their approach,” It’s painfully obvious and sad because so patently untrue. This is to what politics has come, a star candidate willing to palm himself off to the highest bidder and the buyer gilding the lily. If a rookie to politics, Leslie sure acts like a pro: he may not know what he believes but he certainly knows what he wants. Crass opportunism has degraded politics to its present state. It has less to do with serving one’s country than serving one’s self. And that is a shame.

We have seen too much of that from the conservatives, those who cherish no belief but the economic Darwinism of capitalism: What’s in it for me? With the certitude of their own superiority, Harper and crew are not prone to doubt or self-examination, why should they accept such from others? They don’t. The liberals show every sign of following the Harper example and that, too, is a shame.

Hope. Different and better. Nice sentiments. Even rumblings of the rebirth of the Just Society invoked by father Pierre Trudeau. Platitudes and public stupidity appear to be the winning combination conservatives rely upon. It appears the Liberals do as well.

Would Trudeau be a better leader than Harper? I don’t know. I know this: turning a blind eye to the failings of one of your own while zeroing in on the same failings in others is nothing but hypocrisy. Too, demonstrating the ability for ruthlessness is not necessarily a quality of leadership but, rather, a demonstration of power fuelled by fear and the desire to impress. That’s a sign of weakness.

I dislike Harper. I don’t like what he and his crew have done. As a leader, I don’t believe he is fit to lead an outhouse brigade. But then, there I go, wrong again. He does. They govern this nation.

I do believe Trudeau a better person than anyone in Harper’s gang, but how much better do you have to be to eclipse bottom-feeders?

We need a change, a real change. Conservatives and liberals rule as if by divine right; they have been the only parties that have governed since Canada became a nation. We need to change how we vote so that the results are truly fair representation. Though Harper and gang would have us believe otherwise, there is more to governance than “economic diplomacy” and rigging the game. Nor is it enough to turn to Justin Trudeau’s liberals with the same platitudes we heard from Harper; liberals are just a softer image of the same message Harper offers. Surely we have had enough of that.

We could do a lot worse than Mulcair and the NDP. We have done. We still are.

***

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

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: MAN OF DESTINY?

This time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. – Lewis Carroll

Frank A. Pelaschuk

You can tell a lot about a person by how well he handles defeat. But it is how well he handles victory that can, at times, be more revealing of his character. We had a good glimpse of this with Justin Trudeau. It wasn’t pretty.

Trudeau likes to talk about himself as “authentic”. And we saw how authentic at the by-election victory party in the Montreal riding of Bourassa. I have no doubt that was the real person we were seeing and hearing. Instead of taking the opportunity to congratulate his opponents, he could not rise above the partisan fray even in the face of victory, seizing the moment, instead, to sidestep magnanimity to wag his finger and rail against the NDP for running a negative campaign. This is no way to win new friends; the response was petty, churlish, and ungenerous, hardly the behaviour one expects of a leader, especially a leader who has had a good night. Instead of reaching out in an attempt to mend fences, his immediate instincts were to tear them down. For Trudeau, bonhomie is a mask for public viewing; incivility is the real thing. That type of behaviour signifies an aspect of Trudeau that is unpleasant and suggests a closer kinship to Stephen Harper, the most ungenerous, most petty, most unworthy and ignoble of any public official, than some would have imagined. The truth is, no election campaign is completely positive; sniping and fabrications and cheap shots are part of the package; they are not new, not good, should be, and can be, avoided, but they are a fact. Some one of character might have allowed the opportunity to snipe pass. It’s too easy to be mean and small; Trudeau opted for the easy.

The hectoring was bad enough; it was disingenuous and hypocritical, the NDP and Tories no doubt having stories of their own about how the Liberals ran their campaign. But for some in the NDP, the most hurtful aspect of Trudeau’s mean-spirited victory speech was the appropriation of parts of Jack Layton’s final communication written on his deathbed. It’s allowable, but in the context of his victory, it was merely shabby, using Layton’s words to club the party for which he gave his all; a rubbing of salt into NDP wounds.

Trudeau says he admired Jack Layton. But there was none of that at all, that night. He knew exactly what he was doing and later said he had no regrets. It was obvious he had a clear understanding that many Canadians from all walks of life had grown to love and embrace Layton if not his politics. It was to that emotional memory that Trudeau was attempting to hitch his wagon and his star. It was unseemly and very tawdry.

Many still remember that final, famous message, a message full of love, generosity, humaneness, and optimism that Layton left for us. It was this love for Layton that prompted Trudeau, this cheap, withered offshoot of liberalism, to adopt those words and exploit them as a rallying victory cry for the Liberal Party; Trudeau was attempting to feed off the reflected glory of a dead man. He was standing in Layton’s light and diminished himself in the doing. What he did was not admiration nor admirable; it was the opportunism of cynicism. Trudeau knows this; Layton’s words, especially their meaning, are simply too large for him. Trudeau knows that, too, is true, as do most who admired Layton. Trudeau has no philosophy and, as of yet, has no vision. So why not steal another man’s words and meld them to suit your own needs. They sound good. And they are good. The thing is, Jack Layton, exemplified the best of the NDP philosophy, his final words reflecting more accurately the values of the NDP than the “economic diplomacy” of the Harper Conservatives or the fuzzy, picayune glamour of the Trudeau Liberals. In truth, judging from the public response, the words Layton wrote apparently reflect the hunger, if not the values, of many Canadians.

It is easy to quote words that are eloquent and full of meaning. It is also easy to take their meaning and distort them. It is believing them and living them that is the trick. If it is true that people believed in the words of Jack Layton or, at the least, wish them to be true, then Justin Trudeau is not the man who will ever live up to the promise or the hope of that vision. The Liberal party has long ago lost its way. Trudeau is no modern day Moses; his appeal may be broad, but it is limited; an empty box, wrapped nicely, offers nothing but an empty promise.

Jack Layton, good and generous as he was, was but one man. But his vision was a shared vision, an inheritance from the CCF, J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, Ed Broadbent, and the men and women of the past and present who make possible the NDP vision of today. Jack Layton was a part of that vision. He believed in it and he lived it and, because he did, he was able to put those words on paper. But he knew he wasn’t the only one; it was not a one-man show. He shared the vision with countless others and they made him possible just as he made the vision and the possibility real. He was not alone; they were not alone. Dying and in death, he did not abandon them nor they him. But he, as do most of the NDP, wanted more for those others, those who felt marginalized, excluded, of value only when their votes were needed. He knew that too many deserved more and better and were all too often left behind. He, and his beloved NDP, wanted and want to change that. He knew that as they struggled to feed themselves and their families they also struggled with hope and ideas, inchoate and raw, perhaps a little unfocused; they just needed a little guidance, a nudge and reasons for hope. As leader of the NDP, Layton was prepared to do that. He knew they needed to be reached and moved, but not with high-minded words and empty promises, but with the recognition of the truth of their own desires, an acknowledgement that their doubts, fears, needs and concerns were real, were heard and needed attending to. His final words are a reflection of the legacy of those who actually lived and live those words.

The NDP is not perfect; nothing is except, perhaps, Justin Trudeau’s hairdo. Nevertheless, it is the party of hope, not of fear. Usurper Trudeau may look a better package than Mulcair, and he may appropriate Layton’s words, but if that is all the Liberals have, than why not go with Justin Bieber who could probably earn a few more votes from the young and scatterbrained? And to anyone doubting the substance and experience of Thomas Mulcair, I suggest they tune into Question Period in the House. He is by far the most effective weapon against the Harper gang.

True, he is no Jack Layton. He is his own person, a man of substance, knowledge and integrity and he stands alone with others in a shared, honest, and positive vision. Even so, substance apparently accounts for little with the public: it’s either tax cuts or glamour. The limited versus the limited. That Harper, for all his missteps, for all the scandals, for all the corruption, is still ahead of Mulcair in the polls is astounding. Notwithstanding reality, the myth of Conservatives as better money managers somehow still lives! Will someone please ring a bell.

What does it take to rouse those public members who are in thrall of Trudeau or who still support Harper and his knavish thugs? What does it take to rouse the public from its hellish version of life, its narcissistic, zombielike pursuit of self and self-interest with its fixation on glitz, sham, and shallowness to the exclusion of all else, resembling life of some sort, suggestive of movement and doing but, in the end, as sentient as a grain of dust?

Harper is a pox. Trudeau is a terrible joke. Both are bad for Canada. Watch Harper. Judge for yourself. But, the next time you tune in to Question Period in the House, look at Justin Trudeau. Watch what happens when he poses his questions to the Conservatives. If he thinks it a particularly good question, and he often does, he will become a little taller, smiling smugly as he slowly scans the House and gallery when done reading from his cheat sheet. You will notice the slight pause, the curl of his lips, and then, as if satisfied, the abrupt nod as he returns to his seat. He appears to be waiting for applause and asking of the world: Am I not beautiful? Am I not clever? It could be though, that those are the words he tells himself, the abrupt nod signalling a happy concurrence with himself.

Yes, one can occasionally learn much from how well an individual handles his victories. Authentic? In Trudeau’s case, it is chimera, as substantial as a shimmering ephemeron. A puff of wind, poof! nothing there.

That’s all we need. More straw men, more magical thinking, more nothing. And you are to blame. Instead of demanding more and better, you accept less and that is exactly what you are getting with Harper. Trudeau will be no different.

Poof! Nothing there.

***

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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