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Tag Archives: Kathleen Wynne

FORD, SCHEER AND CONSERVATIVES: NUT BARS OR FRUIT CAKES?

There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of “little guy” or “silent majority” rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves. – Christopher Hitchens

Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan. But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism, too, is less racist than is populism. A patriot will not exclude a person of another nationality from the community where they have lived side by side and whom he has known for many years, but a populist will always remain suspicious of someone who does not seem to belong to his tribe. – John Lukas

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Doug Ford and his shrill sidekick, Lisa Macleod, in fact, the whole gang of Ontario MPP neanderthals and their federal and provincial counterparts, seem to be following the path loved by certain types of politicos of the day: parochial, dishonest, mean-spirited, ignorant, craven, self-serving, hypocritical, abusive, lying, media-hating, science-denying, thought-aversive, punitive, vindictive, petty, dogmatic, autocratic, and fossilized.
Ideas, if they have any, are so immured in locked minds that not a hint of light is discernible as if a requirement that not a ray be allowed to penetrate — ever. They swept into office and immediately set to work dismantling every liberal piece of legislation put in place by the Kathleen Wynne government; it doesn’t matter if the ideas were good, bad or indifferent, they took office in the way of thugs swinging metal bars and bats bent on the destruction of anything they don’t like, don’t understand and don’t support. Doug and his gang don’t like much, understand even less and support only that which plays to the worst instincts held by their supporters: that they are victims of Big Government and Liberal elites; that asylum-seekers are not only to be feared but receive preferential treatment over “legitimate” border crossers and Canadian-born citizens; that those on low income deserve even less and should get off their butts. They whine, really whine, about the decline of our infrastructures: failing roads and overpasses; the state of our education; and they whine, really whine about the shortage of doctors, hospital closures, the interminable wait times in emergency rooms while whining, screaming, that taxes are too, too, TOO, high. The Progressive (now talk about misnomers!) Conservatives have made an art out of playing on stupidity and fear encouraging the concept of victimhood and finger-pointing: it’s not them, it’s them. So they target opponents as liberals and socialistic elites but, if pressed as to what they mean by either, will often prove themselves ignorant on both or offer the usual bromides: soft on crime, tax-and-spend, pro-refugee, anti-life baby-killers. Everyone apparently needs his or her bogeyman. For Ford supporters, indeed for conservatives across the country it appears, the bogeyman is often new or reworked ideas progressives call progressive and conservatives find suspect, frightening, and foreign: too much emphasis on feminism and gender equality; too much tolerance of niqab-, turban-wearing newcomers; climate change isn’t proven; those on welfare are bums. And what about that Middle Eastern family next door who recently moved into the neighbourhood. Are they legal? Are they economic refugees? Are they asylum seekers? How do we know they’re not terrorists? Why don’t they dress like Canadians? Why are we allowing so many into our country? Grab the cell phone and record their movements. It’s that damn Trudeau’s fault; he just threw open the doors to anyone especially those Muslims.
Racism has always played a role in Canada, a fact we consistently ignore and too often deny, but the increasing tide of hostility towards newcomers appears to be the legacy of Stephen Harper’s last campaign (remember Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander and the Snitch Line) and with the rise of populists as reflected by Trump and Trump-lite Ford fanning the flames of suspicion and intolerance with unproven claims of crisis at the border to Liberal assurances that that is not the case. Fomenting fear is an unproductive distraction; it does nothing to solve the problem of refugee claimants if there is a problem. The Trudeau liberals certainly could have done a better job regarding refugees but making life more difficult for those already having a hard go of it is not a solution and is unworthy of a nation that often boasts of being one of the most welcoming and tolerant on earth. Recent polls suggest that is no longer true if it ever was. Behaviour by politicians exploiting and exacerbating reasonable concerns regarding asylum seekers along with recent videos of fearful, bigoted Canadians harassing identifiable minorities should be enough to safely put that myth of smug moral superiority to rest once-and-for-all.
As is often the way of small, mean people with an even smaller vision, provincial conservatives, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister and Doug Ford, as do their federal counterparts, almost always believe it necessary to point fingers and blame others whether merited or not for any failures in society especially if those blamed are liberals just booted from office. So, for them, as with Trump, the media, perceived by conservatives as a cabal of liberal elites, becomes the target because one thing liars and sewer rats detest is light of any kind: facts are often a hindrance to their worldview therefore unwanted and unnecessary to the cause. For them, as with all of a despotic nature, an informed, educated populace is a dangerous populace; best keep the ignorant ignorant; so, to that end, stoke the flames of fear, warn citizens against the invasion of asylum seekers and economic refugees and the extreme likelihood of terrorists slipping into the country; tell them at every opportunity they’ve been lied to by a press made up of elites passing on FAKE NEWS not wanting you to know that the government is corrupt, is out to take away your rights, and is stealing all your hard earned money to help those foreigners get into the country, get more than you, and take your jobs: in short, you are the victim of a vast conspiracy of bleeding heart liberal-socialists. Of course, the ignorant lap it up for it confirms what they have always known but never been able to articulate: thank God for Trump and Fox News in the US and for Scheer and Ford and Rempel and Macleod and The Rebel Media at home who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is or, at least, tell us what we want to hear regardless of how crazy. And crazy it is.
Conservative supporters are much like the smokers of my day who refused to except the thousand science studies proving cigarettes cause cancer preferring instead to embrace, gasping for breath all the while, the single tobacco-sponsored study refuting all such claims: cigarettes are safe. Today, it’s Climate Change; it’s not happening, even if it is, it’s not man-made and any government intervention is nothing more than a TAX GRAB. It’s twisted, but that’s how ideologues win support: facts are unimportant; just give folks what they want to hear: You’re not the problem; you’re a victim.
For Ford, as with his federal counterpart, Stephen Harper, now longer in office and making mischief elsewhere, it is not enough to twist, ignore and/or make up facts, it is not enough to demonize journalists and the press, it is far better to muzzle it and what better way to suppress the media than to use taxpayer dollars to create your own propaganda organ and call it “Ontario News Now”. Now you can not only get true fake news with fake “journalists”, you can get it 24/7. And guess whose paying for it, Sucker. The very person whose money Ford says he wants to save.
Yeah, he wants to save your money. So he cancels Kathleen Wynne’s carbon program and allocates $30 million to fight the federal government on the imposition of a tax on provinces that do not come up with a carbon price program of their own. Ontario and the other provinces will likely lose the case but they don’t care because their real concern is demonstrating to their supporters that they are fighting on their behalf with a federal government of elites out to screw them. Conservative supporters will lap it up, run to the Ontario government website and click on Ontario News Now for the “real” truth and walk away deeply content in having once again confirmed what they already know: conservatives are the only ones capable of telling the truth and the truth is they are victims of an insidious liberal government conspiracy. But you will never hear that from the liberal media.
Kathleen Wynne, the wicked witch may be gone but everything she and her government have put in place has not only been bad, it has been DISASTROUS. Now that’s bad.
So, if Wynne’s carbon plan, as well as Trudeau’s, was disastrous, terrible, bordering on CALAMITOUS, what else has she put in place that could be as bad, maybe even worse?
Perhaps the basic income pilot project that was to be tested over three years. Now that’s pretty bad because, well, not to be too churlish about it or to make too fine a point, it’s a program that’s reaching into my wallet, taking my hard earned dollars, to help a bunch of poor, low income people whom I don’t know and could care less about. Why? I’m not responsible for their miserable lives. And the Ontario conservatives agree with me. Hell, they even broke their campaign promise to see the program to the end and are cutting a planned three per cent increase to social assistance by half. Why? Because, Lisa Macleod says, it’s a “disincentive” to work.
The program started near the end of last year. Yet less than a year into the three year test period, certainly not enough time to make an informed decision as to its effectiveness, but enough time to attack the poor and desperate simply because conservatives have a propensity to meanness and for categorizing the poor as shiftless or not trying hard enough, it’s been cut. The program involved 4000 low income people in various Ontario communities; it was one of the largest test projects of its kind eliciting world wide interest. It didn’t and doesn’t matter to Ford and gang. Singles received up to $16, 989 a year while couples received $24,027. If they had a job, the government would clawback 50% of every dollar earned. Did the project work? Lisa Macleod claimed it was failing recipients from becoming “independent contributors to the economy”. How could she make that determination when the project was axed before it became fully functional? One thing is certain: Ford and gang where not interested in knowing if the program worked. It was gone as far as they are concerned. What was at play here was just pure partisan political malice directed against a liberal Wynne government program with only the very poor taking the bullet.
This was not just the act of an unkind group of people; it was the act of nasty people.
I have in my long life met many conservatives with whom I have had disagreements but who were and are kind and generous and open to ideas and truth. Sadly, in my opinion, they are too few. Too many are like Trump and his followers and like Maxime Bernier, Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford, Lisa Macleod and their supporters. They are too shrill, too angry, too invested in their own interests and peeves to be concerned in yours or mine. Harper was a petty individual with a despot’s heart. Ford and thugs are the same.
In a few weeks time, municipal elections are to take place. Last week, just hours before cutoff time for candidates to put their name forward, Ford, unilaterally, in a truly anti-democratic and vindictive move, went after Toronto and the incumbent mayor declaring he would cut the number of council members to half its size. There was no consultation.
It was a petty act by a petty man wrapped in a big body with a pea brain.
The world is harsh enough for far too many with little to no resources. No one, least of all these, need the added burden of cruel, spiteful, selfish, tight-fisted political mercenaries targeting them. What Ford and gang are doing is not fiscally responsible, not being tough on waste, and certainly doing nothing to solve very serious problems. It’s just a cruel slapdash way of governance that allows the petty and mean to crow about acting and then clapping their hands dismissively as they ignore the pain and bewilderment of the poor and disadvantaged disposed as easily as one does trash.
Truth is not a plaything. Truth may be played with, it may be used and abused and deployed for unholy and selfish ends by the unscrupulous and vile. Truth is a light towards justice. If we want both, it is up to us to be vigilant and protective of both. We must not blindly accept anyone’s truth as gospel nor should we be foolishly closed to any truth or idea because it is not ours. An open mind is called for. When presented a story, a fact, it is best to study what we hear, see and feel before we embrace it wholly. Denying what we don’t like doesn’t make something any less true than embracing what we like makes it more true.
I am no more a fan of Trudeau than I was of Harper or Scheer. He is dishonest and untrustworthy and I believe his feminism a prop and his public displays of empathy fulsome and too full of self-regard…is the public taking notice? Nor was I a fan of Wynne’s governance though I did like her personally. The Ontario liberals were incompetent and too many of their actions suggested not all members were as honest as I would have liked. But I never thought of Wynne as mean or vindictive or full of herself.
I cannot say the same of Ford, Macleod, and the rest in his gang. They are not people I trust. When he ran for office, Ford offered no platform, gave no information. He would cut taxes but not tell us how or what would be sacrificed. In office, he has dismantled programs and legislation for no other reason than Wynne’s liberals were behind them. He has even cut the Wynne school sex education program reverting to one from twenty years ago and which educators say is outdated. Going back and erasing the work of the previous government is not a plan nor governance when nothing is offered to replace what has been destroyed. Ford’s is the thinking of those behind the government Phoenix payroll debacle. Get rid of the old; we’ll worry about the new later. We can see where he may be heading. If you are poor, alone, in need of assistance, God help you. Ford and his kind will not.

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

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

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

Frank Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

Contemptible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

BOUGHT AND SOLD: POLITICIANS AND THE TRUE COST OF DEMOCRACY

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

But the banks are made of marble,

With a guard at every door,

And the vaults are stuffed with silver,

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

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

 

Frank Pelaschuk

 

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

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

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

THE BIG REVEAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU’RE A HYPOCRITE. NO, YOU ARE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY HOUR

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

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

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

It shouldn’t be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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