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KELLIE LEITCH ET AL: THE UGLY FACE OF FEAR & INTOLERANCE

Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated. – George Bernard Shaw

Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat. – Harry Emerson Fosdick

Frank Pelaschuk

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about Canadian values. We have heard it from the Liberals, Trudeau oozing, simply oozing sincerity as he puts to words, hand over heart, what we all want to believe of ourselves: welcoming, generous, tolerant, open, free, gracious, kind, polite, humble, not only the best country in the world but also recognized by Canadians at least if seldom declared above a whisper — superior to Americans – though this is something that Trudeau, so eager to win friends and please, would never, never, allow such thoughts let alone they be known. It’s a cozy Canadian picture if a bit overblown and slightly tainted by the aura of modest smugness.

But, while most of us have our own ideas of shared Canadian values, they have been dragged to the fore by Kellie Leitch and fellow conservatives contending for leadership of the party and recently by Tory MPs in the House who oppose M-103, the anti-Islamophobia motion by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, with fanciful and untrue claims that it will lead to changes in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and gives Islam preferential consideration over other, i.e. “Christian”, religions. From that one small step, they argue, will follow more steps including the imposition of Sharia law and the denial of the right to free speech. Such assertions, especially from the Conservative members, are patently absurd and might easily be dismissed as laughably hypocritical were the matter not so serious. Leitch and most of those vying for top spot were members during the Conservative reign of Error under Stephen Harper which, as many may recall, was a government that routinely shunned the “lickspittle” media, that labelled critics, particularly environmentalists, as “radicals” and “stooges” in the service of foreign interests, that broaden the powers of security agencies to spy on Canadians, that made possible charges of economic terrorism against peaceful protestors, that muzzled government scientists, that denied the most fundamental of right of free expression, the vote, to Canadians living abroad more than five years, that, through the CRA, targeted charities perceived as “left-wing”, and that tarred all critics of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians as anti-Jewish going so far, in one instance, as to rescind the thirty year charitable status and government funding of KAIROS, a multi-faith aid agency. On that occasion (2011), the agency had received approval for funding until then cabinet minister Bev Oda forged the government document with the insertion of the word “not” thus denying the charity’s funding and status. The Conservatives, with Jason Kenney leading the charge with claims that the Harper regime was cracking down on anti-Semitic groups, made the false claims that KAIROS had been spearheading the charge of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against the Israeli government. The truth is, KAIROS, while critical of Israel’s policies regarding Palestine, did not support BDS. But Jason Kenney, prone to partisanship, to using government letterheads for party fundraising, to smearing opponents with innuendo and falsehoods, to tweeting bogus images of a child bride with her “husband” and of chained women re-enacting an historical event as if they were “real”, has had a long history of demonstrating that, when it comes to truth, he is a happy stranger as are almost all those conservatives, especially those of the Harper era. As with KAIROS, they lie when they suggest M-103, a non-binding motion to study systemic racism, is a threat to “free speech”. While M-103 could have been worded with greater clarity to leave absolutely no room for the mischief-makers, liars and weasels, there is no secret agenda to undermine “Christian” faiths or to impose Sharia law. The threat comes not from the motion but from those political opportunists who are eager to exploit the ignorant and lazy who prefer to believe the lies that offer them comfort and the illusion of safety and security. Yes, there is danger in the world but, thus far, in Canada and in the US, since the twin towers, the terrorists have been lone wolves Canadian and American born.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

What Kellie Leitch and those of her ilk offer has less to do with Canadian interests than self-interest and self-aggrandizement by any means. It is about achieving power and influence by fair or foul means though, it is true, for some, the foul means seem bred to the bone, easier and more natural. In that respect, Leitch has much in common with Donald Trump with whom she wishes to identify and emulate: neither have much interest in truth or facts nor of the harm they are doing with their inflammatory messages of blame and hate. For that, they have much to answer. Little wonder those spewing vile messages on the social network, encouraging vandalism, offering threats and engaging in violence directed against Muslims, Jews and other marginalized members of our society feel emboldened: they have received the seal of approval from those who seek their votes and tell them exactly what they want to hear: it’s not your fault, we will fix things, we will heal you. As for how, save that for later.

So when Trump talks about security and seeks to ban immigrants from countries with large Muslim populations or when Leitch, particularly following the aftermath of her role in the odious Conservative snitch line debacle, talks about screening refugees for “Canadian values”, there is little reason to doubt that a racist and religious bigot and/or mean-spirited opportunist is at work pandering to the worst in us. Couched in any way she may wish, the message and intent cannot be mistaken. Leitch is referencing Syrians and Muslims in particular. This is not new to her or to the Conservative party but, until the last election campaign, was a relatively tepid political gambit fuelled by world headlines and several Canadian born lone wolf acts of terrorism.

About a month before the October 19, 2015 election, supposedly the last first-past-the-post Trudeau promised (that’s another topic for another time) Leitch and Chris Alexander, another leadership candidate for the Conservatives, stood before the media to announce the creation of a snitch line so that Canadians could report the Barbaric Cultural Practices of those niqab-, hijab-, burka-wearing you-know-who. Months later, the election over and the Conservatives out of power, Kellie Leitch appeared on CBC’s Power & Politics expressing regret with fake tears for her role in the snitch line debacle. Then, just months later, entering the leadership race, she reverted to the persona of the sewer from which she had briefly emerged. Following the murders of six Muslims in a Montreal mosque January 29, 2017, Leitch fell silent for a few days but not, it appears, to reflect on her leadership strategy for soon she was back at it spreading the message of her kind of Canadian values working up the elements of fear among those with the same values and questionable IQs against those, you-know-who, flooding our borders, even though the murderer, a young French-Canadian with an unhealthy interest in white supremacy (likely a characteristic common to her supporters) made a lie of her message. It didn’t and doesn’t matter. For the bigots, hysterics and those poisonous vipers fuelling the fires of racial and religious intolerance, it makes no difference that Canadians have far less to fear from the Muslim and Jewish communities than those communities have to fear from Canadians. Live a lie long enough one begins to believe it; it’s easier to accept you’re not to blame; you’re the victim and others are out for your job, your family, your faith – your life! It’s certainly easier than having to actually think and perhaps risk the niggling worm of doubt forcing you to question those feeding you this line: is there an agenda here?

The manipulators, the fear mongers, the exploiters and users, the power hungry and the power mad (autocrats, despots, and tyrants at heart), know this and they love it. It is not enough to have power but to wield it and wield it ruthlessly. That requires a compliant, ignorant and fearful populace, which seems to have grown in numbers in spite of the opportunities and advances offered by education and science. The dumber we are, the safer and the happier they are. Conservatives and their supporters will tell you that the non-binding motion, M-103, is dangerous but it is unlikely they would encourage you o actually read it for yourself (and it’s very unlikely their supporters in the rank and file have). M-103 clearly states, “the government should: (a) recognise the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination…” “Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Only an illiterate or someone with an agenda would see an agenda not there.

Contrary to the naysayers opposed to the motion, nowhere does Islam get preferential treatment. What this motion does is highlight what should be self-evident to anyone who possesses a modicum of integrity and common sense and is able to follow the news: Muslims and Jews are being targeted and the fear mongers, the racists and the lowlife panderers like Leitch and the Conservatives opposing the motion are exploiting this issue less because they believe in Canadian values, which they may well do whatever they are, but because they are more interested in seeking power and influence but suffer from a lack of will and desire to compromise and to be truly original and constructive in ways that will make for a better Canada.

Last year, the Conservative hypocrites suffered no qualms regarding threats to free speech when one of their members made a motion, supported by the Trudeau Liberals, condemning the BDS movement which stated: “That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the BDS movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.” The motion, as NDP leader Thomas Mulcair noted, was a direct attack against the right of free speech and assembly. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals gave a damn. Evidently it’s some kind of crime to be critical of Israel or to suggest that Palestinians have been victims of unfair treatment.

BE AFRAID, YOU ARE THREATENED

So what Canadian values are Leitch, and those of her ilk or even Justin Trudeau’s cash-for-access, ethically challenged and bald-faced lying hypocritical Liberals talking about? While Trudeau and the Liberals have demonstrated many shared, unpleasant, questionable and deceitful traits with the Conservatives (placing trade before Human Rights, reneging on open nominations, and turning away from openness and transparency and from electoral reform, for examples), they, thus far, have demonstrated none of the openly vile tendencies of racial and religious intolerance espoused by Leitch and cohorts; Trudeau is about sunny, sunny, sunny ways, more interested in getting on everyone’s good books promoting trade and himself as a proud feminist but too timid to chid, even mildly, the vile comments of a misogynistic Trump when offered the opportunity to publicly prove himself.

On February 24, 2017, during the penultimate leadership debate at the Manning Centre in Ottawa, Leitch spoke of some of her “values”: generosity, freedom, tolerance. Those are the same values Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair and many Canadians would share yet, uttered by Leitch, seem to hold a different meaning. There is about her demeanour and pinch-faced expression and the way she utters the words a miserliness and mean-spiritedness that saps the words of any value. There are strings attached to her type of generosity, freedom, and tolerance, conditions that require a signature and a surrendering to another what it means to be of an independent mind with values of one’s own. Throughout her campaign, she has been shamelessly vocal in condemning the “elites” by that, I guess, she means the media and those who disagree with her, while, as during the debate and at every occasion, not shy of throwing out her credentials and appealing to prestige by reminding all that she has been published. Well she is a doctor which means she is highly educated but when one sees her eight plus minute campaign video and the message she offers, you may be left asking: what good did it do her?

Clearly, there are some politicians who believe it really doesn’t take all that much to get voters on their side. Trump appears proof of that. For some, all you have to do is make a lot of grand promises without even a pretence of keeping them; you’ll worry about the fallout later and, if you are Trudeau, with a pretty face, nice hair, if you are named the best-dressed leader in the world and if you declare yourself a feminist and interfere in nominations to ensure that your preference, a woman, is selected, if you ooze, simply ooze sincerity, well, it doesn’t matter, the public will forgive all because you are golden. Or you can be famous, famous for being loud, brash, egotistical, and rich, rich, rich. That might be enough. No need to be a full-time Canadian; ideas are needed here either, just a promise to save the country and bluff, loud talk and self-congratulatory bluster.

For some, all it takes is the right message to win the vote. Pander to the fears, greed, and stupidity of the hateful and brutish. Everyone’s out for the main chance so promise anything, you don’t have to deliver. Next time do it all again. Fear, hate and greed are all you need to worry about. If you’re a politician, that will make you a winner, if not today, next time.

As for now, go about your business of getting elected, brag about your wealth or your credentials and hammer home the message that the world is a dangerous, dangerous place, that the voter is the victim and the barbarians with frothing mouths are pounding at the door wanting you and yours. Ignore the hateful, violent messages scrolled on school blackboards threatening harm to our Muslim and Jewish neighbours, ignore the firebombed mosque, the swastikas painted on synagogue walls, and the Muslim and Jewish tombstones overturned by the vandals, ignore the victims harassed and threatened and beaten on the streets. Ignore all this and say: I didn’t do this. I didn’t contribute. I’m not responsible.

Well, Leitch, if not you and those like you, who is?

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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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CASTRO, TRUDEAU AND THE RABID FURY OF THE CONSERVATIVE MOB

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

Frank Pelaschuk

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where the hell were the conservative voices of outrage then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KELLIE LEITCH AND STEVEN BLANEY: BOTTOM FEEDERS AND THE POLITICS OF DIVISION, PART TWO

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 Lukacs

 

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

Frank Pelaschuk

Part One, of course, began when Stephen Harper called the last election. His was an era of governance in a league of its own when it came to trolls, bottom feeders and sewer rats. A few of them, but not enough, were turfed out with the last election. Among those was Chris Alexander, the Conservative minister of immigration who, perhaps suffering from the pressures of office, began to show signs of a increased brittleness of character over time occasioning exhibited by unbecoming outbursts of impatience, partisanship, meanness, and anger before finally becoming unhinged, most notably when pressed by Carol Off host of CBC’s As It Happens June 11, 2014, with this question: “What has happened to the 200 government-sponsored refugees from Syria that you’ve committed to bringing into Canada?” Rather than responding, as he should have, the furious Alexander hung up on Off and the radio audience. For many, this was exceedingly strange behaviour from one who had earned a respected reputation for his many years in the Canadian Foreign Service and as Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.

Later, in October 1, 2015, during one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history, just days before the vote was cast, Alexander stood shoulder to shoulder with Conservative MP Kellie Leitch in Ajax, Ontario, to announce that the Harper gang would create an RCMP task force to enforce the mouthful Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act pushed through by the Conservatives. Further, appearing to almost salivate with anticipation by the prospect, they announced the Conservatives would also create a special snitch line to assist the RCMP to stem the massive wave of Barbaric Cultural Practices perpetrated by – well, we all know who. Evidently Harper and gang feared that 911 emergency lines would be overwhelmed by reports from vigilant Canadians once they were made aware of the extent and the dangers posed by those immigrants lurking behind closed doors. Conservatives had their bogeyman and they weren’t about to let it go unnoticed.

Perhaps it is indicative of the company they keep that gave impetus for the need of the legislation but the only barbaric practices I am aware of are those practiced by politicians of the ilk of Leitch, Alexander and the rest of the Harper gang for whom no dirty trick was too dirty or too vile to not be employed whether forcing through legislation or while running for office. Not only were the Conservatives eager to pander to the worst in us with innuendo and by exploiting our ignorance and fears, they were the very instruments fomenting the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance while, at the same time, suggesting a morally superior worldview possessed by Canadians, particularly Conservative Canadians who apparently love Canada more than I do.

YOU WANT TEARS? I’LL GIVE YOU TEARS

In April of 2016, the election over, the Liberals victorious with a massive majority and the Conservatives replacing the NDP as official opposition, Kellie Leitch appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics offering what appeared to be a brave attempt to shed a tear while voicing regret for her role in the snitch line debacle. Her words and demeanour struck me as sincere and warm as the love Donald Trump holds for ordinary blue collar working stiffs and, apparently, for women. If those watching believed it bad theatre and the only things authentic Leitch’s phoniness and hypocrisy, their suspicions were validated when she launched her Conservative leadership bid October 15th with the hallmark of her campaign: she would toughen up the screening process by ensuring that all immigrants interviewed (again we know to whom she refers, don’t we?) harboured “anti-Canadian values”. Now this may appeal to the dunces who live in perpetual fear, hatred and are proud of their ignorance, but the proposal is impractical and unworkable as well as vile. It would not only delay the immigration process but, surprise, the interviewee, particularly with something to hide, can simply lie.

So what values are we talking about? What would Leitch accept and not accept? Clearly in a celebratory mood over the Trump victory, she proudly reaffirmed her “platform” during the first candidate debate for the leadership. With the exception of Steven Blaney, another leadership aspirant and of the same stamp as Trump and Leitch, other candidates vying for the same position quickly disavowed Leitch’s proposal as impractical, unworkable and just plain wrong. It doesn’t matter. She pushes on as she did in the second debate November 13, mouthing similar lines employed by Trump talking about “elites” in politics and the media. On that day, following the debate, she abruptly left without taking questions from the audience as scheduled to attend a family crisis from the day before (a series of alarms triggered by a faulty system). Her campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, the man responsible for the success of the vile Rob Ford, made this observation, “This is how the left operates and we know that” (National Post, Nov. 14, 2016). Do we? I have questions regarding that event myself but it made good play and gave Leitch more publicity. I felt I had seen this movie before. That movie happened when Trump was briefly ushered off stage because of a perceived threat. As an audience member attempted to pull out an anti-Trump banner, someone hollered, “Gun!” The brave but foolish protester was beaten for his efforts. If this is all she and her manager have to offer in the way of originality and a platform, she will almost certainly capture the attention of trolls, the imbeciles who derive great pleasure in scapegoating others, who point fingers (as did Kouvalis), who whine about being “victims”, who likely may even believe her an “outsider”, and who see biases in every opinion not shared by them. Everyone’s out to get him or her, the media has rigged the game and the Muslim threat is pervasive in Canada. Such as these is fodder for Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney; having had many years of practice with the Harper team they are quite willing to roll in the filth of blame, harassment and just plain meanness. Leitch will have the added advantage of being coached by expert Kouvalis who evidently knows all about such. As with lowlifes everywhere, when opportunity knocks, however odious, they will seize upon it. The opportunity provided by Trump’s victory cannot and will not be squandered.

But which is the real Leitch? The one pushing the snitch line, or the one struggling hard to shed a single tear on CBC, or the one sneering at the “elites” even as she holds fundraisers at $500 a plate, or the one who so quick to congratulate Trump and his “exciting message” to Canada? Probably all and none of them though I would guess the hypocrite, phony and opportunist fits more comfortably than the individual struggling to offer some sign of shame or regret. She’ll be what she has to be for the occasion and if that means talking out of three sides of her mouth, she’ll find a way to do it.

Now I have merely touched upon Steven Blaney and for good reason; I see in him a lesser threat than Leitch. His platform is similar to hers. He is most notable for being one among many of Stephen Harper’s “yes” men. As public safety minister, he introduced C-51, the Conservative anti-terrorism bill that jurists, scholars and ordinary citizens believed was too wide-ranging and heavy handed as to threaten the security of the very citizens the Harper gang claim to want to protect. The Liberals at the time expressed some concerns regarding aspects of the bill and the NDP rejected it outright. Thus far, the bill stands as is. It’s strange how the allure of power corrupts and erases all concerns one may have possessed when in the role of opposition. The bill provides little oversight of CSIS and raises the possibility of criminalizing advocacy and peaceful disruption under the banner of “economic terrorism”. It also allows CSIS power to act within and outside of Canada for any perceived threat with limitations so ill defined and sweeping as to raise the spectre of abuse for almost any act ranging from civil disobedience to idle expressions suggesting agreement or sympathy for some of the concerns raised by those deemed terrorists. Under the Act, judges will be asked to issue warrants not only on the grounds that evidence suggests an act has been committed or reasonable grounds that a search of a place will provide evidence of commission of a crime or evidence of the possibility of an act being committed. Judges must not only look at evidence but now be oracles as well. For those citizens travelling abroad, there would be no assurance of privacy or that information would not be shared with foreign agencies. There is also the very real possibility that innocent Canadians will be placed on no-fly lists on mere suspicion (or dislike). For individuals wishing to challenge the no-fly status, they must prove that the safety minister acted unreasonably. As well, the minister can hold these challenges before the court in secret. The government needs not prove its case but the accused not knowing his accusers or the evidence must prove his innocence. That’s hard to do under C-51. Now, this man, much like Leitch, offers as the highlight of his leadership bid a single issue: he would ban the niqab for those voting, taking the oath of citizenship and for those working in the public service. If the courts move to strike down the measures, he would invoke the notwithstanding clause a section in the Charter that allows federal or provincial legislatures to exempt certain basic freedoms.

If Blaney has ever had an original thought, I have yet to be convinced. He was Harper’s loyal stooge and now he’s just a stooge harbouring the same winning-by-any-means mentality adopted by all bottom feeders, including rival Leitch who appears to be garnering considerable attention. That’s not a good sign for Canadians.

But what about that other member, Leitch’s snitch line sidekick who lost his seat and is now running for the Conservative leadership? What does Chris Alexander make of her campaign? Well, he seems to have regretted the snitch line effort; it was not the strategy for the time, evidently. He slammed her during the second debate November 13 for importing anti-immigration Trump-like ideas. Said he, “I don’t think it is right to import, for crass political purposes, the genuine anger that Americans are feeling and to say we have the same situation here. We do not” (CBC News, Nov. 13, ’16). As well, he did go after Blaney saying he didn’t believe in bans on clothing or in Blaney’s threat to use the notwithstanding clause on this issue. My, how things have changed; who would have guessed that last year? Perhaps a year out of office allowed him time to rethink his position? Perhaps. Politics is, after all, often the practice of shifting positions and accommodation; people do learn, grow and change. However, when shifting positions is just a strategy for winning, and far too many politicians concern themselves only with winning, such changes are often fleeting and unreliable demonstrating that politics is also mostly the practice of hypocrisy. The Conservatives and Liberals are masters at the game and they have fooled the voters every time.

BOTTOM FEEDING AS A WAY OF LIFE

It was the Conservative party under Harper that, most disturbingly, campaigned by raising the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance, blaming the media, stoking the flames of fear as wedge issues. We saw how it worked for Donald Trump.

But why has politics descended to where it has? Is it all the fault of those seeking office? I think not. We are willing dance partners, one side eager to lead and the other to follow. So we sink to exploiting fear, despair, ignorance, anger, rather than elevating ourselves. We have ignored and drowned out the voices of reason to such an extent that we can no long trust them viewing them with suspicion; it is much easier to trust the honeyed words of the charlatan validating our biases than the staid voices of reason that don’t. We expect less of politicians because we have accepted the view there is no possibility of better than what is offered to us. That is our fault. Trudeau was elected on the promise of being better. He isn’t and will not be. Oh, yes, there are glimpses of what he could be, but they are simply that, glimpses of possibility. With each day, he disappoints even more.

When you have politicians like Liberal Bill Morneau saying Canadians must lower their expectations, then you can be certain that those politicians who swept in on a wave of hope have never been with us. They have our vote. They, Conservatives and Liberals have always won using the same emotive words and methods touching upon our fears and hopes if for a different audience with one goal: to capture the vote. For 150 years they have broken with their supporters at every turn. Over time they have grown used to winning and trading places; at times, it is almost impossible to determine the difference if any. No wonder there is real anger and real danger; it doesn’t matter who is doing the promising, the only certainty is that the promises will be broken or abandoned eventually. So you go with the one you want to believe. Trudeau fed us the blarney about hope and expectations and the likes of Trump, Leitch and Blaney have gone the other direction continuing the dark journey initiated by the Harper regime. In the end, the working stiff is always left abandoned with, perhaps, a few crumbs thrown his way fuelling the anger the eventually turns to fury. But where is that anger directed? In Canada, it is never directed at the political parties that have governed this nation for almost 150 years. If it were, we would never have elected the same two parties for 15 decades when we have other options. Of late, it has become even more difficult because we have succumbed to our own unwillingness to question, challenge, demand, and expect better. The same political rats who have created this mess are always waiting at the gate to knead that fury and point the finger at someone else: it’s them who are to blame, the blacks, the Muslims, the Mexicans, the foreigners. Sometimes it’s the Welfare State they blame for having created the lazy welfare bum or the worker who wants too much but possesses the poor Canadian work ethic. No one accepts responsibility.

Leitch, and Blaney and their kind are always there to misdirect. They wish to be leader of their party and eventually of the country, but where were they during the Harper years of error and misrule? Where are the jobs they promised? What had happened to the good life, the brighter and better? They were too busy then, as Trudeau is right now, working on the bigger global projects, trade deals that really do create “wealth” but not for those at the bottom who are told time and again to lower their expectations, that the era of full-time jobs has passed, that workers must adapt, must share jobs, accept the norm of part-time work with more hours and lesser pay. Benefits? Forget it, you’re on your own.

Where were Leitch and Blaney when their government conspired with corporations to use the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to suppress wages by hiring outside workers rather than assisting Canadian workers with gaining a higher education or improving or learning new skills through free training? Where, in fact, is Trudeau? When he was in opposition, he was highly critical of the abuses of the TFWP. Now, the well-dressed phony has expanded the program.

So, really, what can we expect from Leitch or Blaney or the others campaigning for the Conservative leadership? Well, scapegoating if nothing else. I don’t recall one member of the Harper gang speaking out against the war against the two women vilified for insisting on their right to wear the niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony. Where were their voices of protest when the Harper gang got rid of the life-long disability pension for vets and replaced it with a one-time lump-sum payment? The Liberals and NDP bitterly opposed it and vowed to reinstate the pension but, of course, not surprisingly, the Liberals had broken that promise shamelessly adding salt to the wound by adding a few dollars extra to the lump-sum payment when all the vets wanted was their hard-earned due. But of course, who really ever believed the Liberals were all that different from Conservatives?

And where were Leitch and Blaney, or any of the Conservatives, when the nine veterans offices across the country were shut down. Liberals and the NDP had screamed bitterly and vowed to reopen them. Thus far, the Liberals seem committed to honouring that promise at least. For that, I commend them. But why did they have to make it in the first place? Leitch, who talks of Canadian values, clearly demonstrated what she meant by them by remaining silent on that issue too. Even now, where are Leitch and Blaney and others of the Conservative party when it comes to homeless vets or homelessness in general? Where are the Liberals? From neither party have there been cries of outrage or shame regarding the poor and most miserable among us. There are not even promises from the Liberals; it is all about the middle class. So, instead of fostering hysteria and bigotry, why haven’t Leitch, Blaney, and the rest been at the forefront working to find shelters for those unfortunates living, if that’s what it can be called, lives of poverty and desperation, many of them ill physically and mentally? It’s clearly not a winner for either party to concern themselves with the marginal. It’s easier to get elected by blaming rather than offering hope and promising for promises kept often come with a price. No, it’s cheaper and easier to get elected employing the Leitch/Blaney method. That’s their Canadian values.

There is nothing hopeful or redemptive in what they do or want; it’s about them, about playing to our fears and preying on the innocent and helpless.

Kellie Leitch wrote on her Facebook page, “Tonight, our American cousins threw out the elites and elected Donald Trump as their next president. It’s an exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada as well. It’s the message I’m bringing with my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada” (Andrew Russell, Global News, Nov. 9, 16). On CTV’s Question Period with Evan Solomon, Leitch said she would be disappointed that people inferred she is a racist. One doesn’t have to infer. It’s there with her leadership platform and the snitch line she proudly rolled out with Alexander. She and Blaney are clearly targeting a segment of society from which to garner votes. No matter how one dresses it, theirs is a message appealing to the ugly face of racial and religious intolerance. And we see echoes of the legitimatization of such appeals with the increased incidents of racist posters asking “whites” to join the Alt-Right blogs and swastikas painted on sides of homes, business and mosques. The vermin, Clearly believing themselves granted permission by the messages of the Trump victory and of the bottom feeders, Leitch and Blaney, the vermin are emerging from the swamp.

Neither Leitch nor Blaney offer hope. Theirs is the opposite of hope, a concerted effort to avoid real ideas that are original, inspiring or that contribute positively to the health and well being of society. It is easier to blame, to tear down, to foment and fan the flames of ignorance, intolerance and mean-spiritedness. There is nothing authentic in what they do except their ambition and hubris. They have embraced the cheapening of politics to demonstrate how they are at one with the “ordinary” folks. It’s an act and some will pay for the ticket.

Hope? Better trust a cobra than either Leitch or Blaney for theirs is a poisonous mixture of anything, anywhere, anytime by any means. Shame and decency hold no place with them. Politicians have always been Democracy’s problem children. But what we see today had its beginnings long ago, long before the Conservative party under Harper embarked on that dark journey to cheapen themselves and politics with bigotry as the hallmark of their campaign. I expect many years of dark days ahead.

And the Liberals? Well, they are busy opening the doors for private foreign companies to invest in government infrastructure projects. Think the workers had it bad under Harper?

Well, that’s a topic for another time.

***

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

 

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

 

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

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

Frank Pelaschuk

THE OLD

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

THE NEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO REALLY REALLY LOVES YA, BABY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what has changed?

Nothing, really.

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

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

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

Just don’t get caught.

The world hates losers.

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

***

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

***

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

LIBERALS VS CONSERVATIVES: THE THINGS ONE SEES IN THE POLITICAL ZOO

We’re born princes and the civilizing process turns us into frogs. – Eric Berne

Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age. – Albert Einstein

 Frank Pelaschuk

WEASELS

Stephen Harper appealed to certain types. He was sly, closed, petty, vindictive and all too willing to exploit the worst in us. He was a prime minister possessive of a narrow, exclusive vision; when he spoke of creating wealth and jobs few appeared to understand that he meant creating wealth for special interests groups and that when he spoke of jobs his primary concerns seemed to be in working with Big Business in suppressing wages of Canadian workers through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. His message was one, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, and his efforts of building the economy focused solely on one industry while neglecting manufacturing and other sectors of society. As PM, for at least half of his time in office, he blamed the Liberals for all the things that went wrong, the global market collapse of 2008 for one, and was shameless in hectoring world leaders for not having their collective houses in order. Over time, taking personal credit for the health of our banking system while neglecting to admit to his role in attempting to dismantle the very regulations that made the system healthy, his crowing and badgering grew tiresome, even to Canadians. When Canada began to suffer it’s own economic slump some global leaders must have experienced a grim feeling of schadenfreude. Controlling, incapable of ceding ground or admitting to ever being wrong, he was a pygmy in many ways seeming to imagine himself a giant among men but when it came to generosity of spirit he was graceless and lacking proving himself cowardly several times when he prorogued Parliament rather than answer questions regarding his budgets. He blamed the Liberals for the stagnant economy and not his own preoccupations regarding Alberta oil and certainly not his own ineptitude. He inherited a huge surplus from the Liberals and quickly squandered it creating a deficit of $158 billion while spreading the myth that he and the Conservative squad were the greatest money managers since history began.

For most Canadians, even his supporters, he was not viewed as a warm or caring individual.

But how much worse, if worse, than Justin Trudeau? Oh, Trudeau looks good, I guess, appeals to more than Harper ever did what with his charm, his reputation as best-dressed world leader, his eager efforts to pose with all and sundry seeking selfies with him. There isn’t a camera that doesn’t like him or he a camera. And is it so bad boosting his “sunny, sunny ways”? Yet, there’s something missing. His is a fuzzier, harder image to grasp; many still embrace him because there is not yet enough there to dislike. It will come.

As opposition leader, he largely supported Harper’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, “with some reservations”, a bill that allows for little oversight of spy agencies, that allows for individuals to be accused anonymously, that allows sharing of information of all Canadians travelling to the US, and that could result in charges of economic terrorism for those staging peaceful protests against pipelines, transportation of oil etc. But why is Trudeau “consulting” with Canadians regarding this Harper initiated bill? It’s all show. C-51 has been universally condemned by jurists, educators, judges, lawyers, and activists and even ignorant lay people as myself as bad law that will be challenged in the courts and almost certain to suffer setbacks; as it stands, C-51 appeals to the frightened, uninformed and bigoted. Consultation with the public is only a feel-good measure allowing them to be heard, to voice their concerns and be likely a large enough segment to convince the Liberals to make little, if any changes. Trudeau can claim he gave Canadians an opportunity to be heard and he listened. No doubt he’ll win a few extra votes simply for doing nothing meaningful with C-51. And I am convinced that that is his strategy with electoral reform; many want a referendum and he appears to be having second thoughts even thought he has gone through with his promise to set up a committee to investigate reforms. If he takes the referendum route, the electoral reform will be defeated unless the Liberals make a concerted effort to educate voters. If he goes through with his pledge to make the last election the last first-past-the-post ever, he will likely opt for his preferred choice: the ranked ballot. PR will not make it, of that I am convinced.

While campaigning, Trudeau promised to make Human Rights a priority. He demonstrated he didn’t mean it. Well, not yet. Contrary to what he would have us believe, it is his government that has finalized the $15 billion Light-Armoured vehicle trade deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes, Saudi Arabia, even though it violates Canada’s own as well as UN laws regarding international trade with those Human Rights abusing nations. Liberals claimed they had no choice, their hands were tied, and it was already a done deal by Harper. Not true. Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, had quietly signed off on the export of LAVs. That was the final seal to the deal. Unlike the Dutch who had banned trade deals with Saudi Arabia, the Liberals use weasel words to justify honouring a contract and in the process make a mockery of their claims for Human Rights as a priority. Breaking a deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation as a trading partner, Trudeau claims. Utter nonsense. In the past, Liberal leader Jean Chretien held no such qualms when he cancelled a helicopter deal brokered by the Conservatives. There were penalties for that, but Chretien did not care. He should have. Human Rights were not at issue then.

Trudeau, no doubt thinking of the 3,000 Canadian jobs and the $15 billion deal has apparently made a commitment to trade regardless of the cost to the victims of those trading partners and, in doing so, has made Canadians complicit to any atrocities that may be inflicted by its trading Human Rights abusing partners. Human Rights is a honey if it don’t cost money.

The Streit Group, Canadian manufacturers of light armoured vehicles, once called “jeeps” by Trudeau, has a plant in Ontario. Recent revelations have shown that vehicles made in Canada have been shipped to South Sudan and Libya where they were then armed with weapons by the military regimes. The practice is called diversion and it is illegal under international law and has led to UN investigators criticising the deals and some concerned groups to ask the government if the deals have violated sanctions against South Sudan and Libya. The sad fact is the vehicles have been sold with the full knowledge that they would later be retrofitted elsewhere. The manufacturers know it; this government knows it. But not a peep of condemnation. See, hear and speak no evil. Instead, the Liberals claim the vehicles fell out of the purview of Canada once they were shipped from a company’s branch in the United Arab Emirates and are no longer any concern of the Canadian government. That’s legalese, a loophole, a weaselly cop-out, that the Liberals believe absolves the Canadian company and Canada: we make them, ship them to an outside branch and then wash our hands of them watching from the sidelines as they are sold to lawless states. Nothing to do with us.

Equally troubling is Trudeau’s commitment to closer ties with China at apparently any cost. Again, Human Rights is a factor. He appears set to cement trade relations with the Human Rights abuser by entering “discussions” (the Chinese call it “negotiations” a not too subtle difference) around an extradition treaty though, when asked directly, sidestepped the matter except to say that Canada has always had “extremely high standards when it comes to extradition treaties”. At one time, yes, but as far back as 2007 Harper had dropped opposition to the death penalty paving the way for extradition to the US. China executes more individuals than all the nations of the world combined including dissidents, students, educators, artists, as well as economic, underworld and everyday “thugs”. Personally, I have no sympathy for those “free enterprisers” in China who cut costs by adulterating milk and other products with poisonous substances such as melamine. Nor do I have sympathy for fraudsters who rip off consumers and exploit and endanger labourers and then flee to Canada seeking shelter. But I do opposed capital punishment and believe Trudeau must obtain a guarantee from China before he inks anything. Even then, I will oppose the deal because I do not trust the Chinese government It’s not enough to mouth support for Human Rights; Canada must demonstrate its support of them. In the crunch, Trudeau appears all too ready to pick and choose when to take a stand. Not good enough.

PIGS, HOGS, SWINE—TAKE YOUR PICK

Trudeau promised better and kinder and of course people believed him. It’s true, he did accomplish a few things Canadians easily support: he kept his promise on Syrian refugees; he did create an inquiry commission into the missing and murdered indigenous women file; he brought back the long-form census; he cut taxes for the middle class and raised them for those making over $200K; he created a task force to look into electoral reform but, unfortunately, while he kept to his promise to consult with Canadians, he has overdone it; there comes a time when a prime minister must lead, must rely on experts in the military, legal and almost every other area of governance rather than on currying favour by consulting with those who may know nothing of a subject. It’s the big promises that are often the hardest to keep. And in the biggest and hardest, Human Rights and trade, Trudeau has not fared well at all. As for the poor, the meanest among us, I have heard nary a word from him. While eager to help the middle class, he has done nothing from what I can see for the single parent holding two or more jobs.

He was going to be fair, open, and transparent and has failed in all three though, it is true, he does seem to be eager to be seen as transparent. Not so with the NDP. During the Harper reign of error, the highly secretive and partisan Conservative and Liberal dominated board of internal economy had determined the satellite offices created by the NDP (offices set up in ridings without NDP representatives using parliamentary staffers as pooled resources working out of town in Quebec) were illegal. The BOIE had changed the rules, which, a year from then would revert to what they were, for the sole purpose it seems of bankrupting the NDP. The BOIE demanded the NDP pay back $2.75 million with allegations of improperly using government resources for partisan purposes, something staffers of all parties presumably do. The NDP, believing they have done nothing wrong, attempted to reach a settlement with the Liberals without going to court. Justin Trudeau vetoed the effort so the matter is headed for the courts. Said Dominic LeBlance then Liberal House Leader, “It is the NDP who decided to begin frivolous judicial proceedings and subsequently asked for settlement negotiations. We have always been of the view that the NDP misused public funds and should therefore reimburse taxpayers” (Joan Bryden, Canadian Press, March 11, 2016). If the NDP is guilty of misusing public funds as the highly secretive and questionable board of internal economy maintain in this particular instance, than so are the Liberals and Conservatives for doing the same. But they, a vile cabal of self-interested pigs will, to no one’s surprise, have none of that. As Harper had proven himself a vindictive bully in the past, Trudeau appears as ready and willing to take on the same role. If the NDP has done wrong, they must, of course pay; but so must the Conservatives and Liberals.

Troubling as this is, this image of a leader bent on bankrupting a party for purely partisan purposes, a sure sign of a smallness in the man, there are other issues of equal concern and they, too, have to do with money.

Following a platitude-laden speech at the UN September 20, 2016, Trudeau answered questions from reporters. Good so far. However, when asked about relocation expense claims by two senior members of his staff and personal friends, Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, for a total of $220K, his response was this: We were just following rules set up by the previous government. What! That’s his response? After hearing the same from Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and MPs from all parties regarding expense claims, campaign expenses, haven’t we had enough of these lame excuses? When asked for the names of the two, Trudeau kept mute. Why? As taxpayers footing the bills, haven’t Canadians the right to know who may or may not be abusing the system? The Globe and Mail (September 21, 2016), reports that someone in Global Affairs charged $119,825 for moving. In total, the government spent $1.1 million in relocation costs for 47 (I’ve seen another figure of 49) individuals. As well, communications staff from all departments have run up a tab of $2.3 million in overtime during the first seven months of his governance. This is the new, different? From what? When Liberal prize candidate Andrew Leslie retired from the military, he charged $72K to move just a few blocks; Canadians were justly enraged. The above relocation costs should enrage them as well. For the Liberals, ho hum, we didn’t make the rules. But, even as I write this, both Telford and Butts, have offered to pay back about a third of what they claimed with offers of apologies. That’s how it works in politics. Do everything you can to get what you can; if caught, pay back some, say “Sorry”.

Trudeau’s response from the UN is what we have heard too many times from the Conservatives. It is inadequate. Just because one is allowed to make these extremely generous claims, should one milk it dry without a detailed public accounting? If we pay for it, surely we are entitled to know exactly for what we paid. This is not only pushing the envelope, it smacks of grabbing all you can when you can Otherwise what are we to his smacks not only of pushing the envelope but also of seizing the opportunity to feather one’s nest. It’s contemptible. As was Trudeau’s response. Legalese. The rules allow this. While I am on this, was it really necessary for taxpayers to foot the bill for seven staffers who accompanied him?

Nine years ago, my wife and I moved to Ontario from British Columbia. We hired a reputable moving company for our belongings including our vehicle and purchased plane tickets for less than $15K. Even accounting for inflation, and hotel accommodations, real estate fees and other allowances for government compensation, it is difficult to believe the costs of moving can be justified without crossing one’s fingers.

I should not be but I continue to be astounded by such behaviour. Is there no shame?

Clearly not. Until you’re exposed.

The Liberals were turfed out of office largely because of corruption and their sense of entitlement. Well, it appears that happy, sunny attitude is back. We saw to what extent early in their governance.

Our Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, supported by Trudeau, saw nothing wrong in attending a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers. What possible conflict of interest? Right.

We have Health Minister Jane Philpott continually pushing the envelope with questionable expense claims charging Canadians $3700 for luxury limousines, she paid that back. Then it came out she charged $520 for a pass to Air Canada executive lounges. Paid that back, too. Then it was $202 for a suitcase and $178 for a Nexus pass to allow for speedier passage across the border. She agreed to repay that as well. She did quibble over whether the Lexus she rented was a luxury vehicle. Chintzy. Keep on trying until you get it right and don’t get caught, I guess.

We have Environment Minister Catherine McKenna charging Canadians $6K+ to hire a professional photographer during the Climate summit in Paris. Media covered the event. She could have bought a few flattering photos from the press for mere dollars.

And then we have International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland who had been in Manila on government business. Instead of returning home on a booked government plane, she made a detour to appear on a TV show with Bill Maher. That sudden change of plans cost taxpayers close to $20K. She also charged Canadians $500 for grooming while on the campaign trail. When Conservative Eve Adams did the same, she got into trouble. Ah, well, you got to love the hypocrisy of politics.

Doubtless, there are many Canadians who recall Conservative Bev Oda. She had been caught several times making expense claims to which she was not entitled. She, too, had to repay. But the thing that finally forced her out of office was the tab for a $16 glass of orange juice. Evidently the public outcry was too much for the Harper gang. Oda was gone.

There appears to be a lesson to that story. If you are going to steal from the public, go big: Canadians don’t like pikers.

Maybe that’s why, when Mike Duffy was acquitted on all counts, the outrage was rather subdued. He went big and the judge accepted his excuses and that’s enough to absolve all grasping sins: the rules are unclear; the rules allow this; I was told I could do this; my staffer did this; it was an honest mistake; everyone knows me and I am an honest man/woman.

Yes, the Liberals are back and so soon in their mandate quickly proving themselves, with so many Bev Odas of their own, pros among the ethically challenged. And just like Harper, Trudeau will stand by them – until one buys the $16 orange juice. Susan Smith of Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. who is a Liberal pundit appearing regularly on Power and Politics dismisses the issue of costly expense claims as “pedestrian nonsense as opposed to substantive issues” and “junk and crap” dredged up by the opposition who would rather talk about this than the politics of Kellie Leitch or the falling fortunes of the NDP. Maybe Smith considers it small potatoes to charge taxpayers exorbitant, anything-you-can-get-away-with, expense. I don’t.

RODENTS –SEWER RATS

When Kellie Leitch made clear the ugly direction of her Conservative leadership aspirations, Canadians were treated to a glimpse of an outsized ego but one not quite confident enough to trust on her own experiences, talents, and merits to take her to the top. The circumspection seems warranted for, though she does have considerable experience with the Harper government, she is relatively unknown except for her enthusiastic endorsement of the Harper gang’s commitment to create a Barbaric Cultural Practices Snitch Line. At her side, equally enthusiastic, was Chris Alexander. He lost his seat and Leitch kept hers – go figure. Nevertheless, believing she has a winning formula, she has opted for a second kick at the can at trading in ignorance, fear, suspicion, and the collapse of moral character. She sees a scab she’ll pick at it; so it is with fear and ignorance, she’ll work it. She is simply another in a vast sea of Conservative bottom feeders eager to gain the attention and support of the imbecilic and hateful losers who derive a pitiful and grim satisfaction in making others pay for their miserable lot. Nothing is their fault. These are the folk envious of the success of others and embittered by the failures of their own banal lives, folks who prefer to work at pulling down rather than raising up, especially themselves, and for no other reason than the recognition of themselves as losers who will always be losers.

Kellie Leitch has offered them something, as had the Harper Conservatives last election. It didn’t work out to well federally but for the leadership race it might just fit the bill because she believes she knows her family, believes her appeal is what she offers this family of sad sack losers making up the core of the Conservative base: she offers the same sacrificial lamb that the Harper gang offered last election: the immigrant, the newcomer, the foreigner – the Muslim terrorist. Leitch will win some over because these folks are handicapped crippled by fear and suspicion and the certain knowledge and shame of their own weaknesses and cowardice; they possess no dignity because they have never understood the strength and worth of those they hate and fear; they are not worth a second glance except by those opportunists who would exploit them for all the poisons festering within. Leitch is not just one who feeds off the rot; she is the rot.

POSSUMS

But, of the Harper crew, she is not alone. Just days after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals appointed Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger, to take on the role of Leader of the Government in the House of Commons as well, the Conservatives, under interim leader Rona Ambrose, appointed Candice Bergen as party House Leader, to replace Andrew Scheer who is running for the Conservative leadership. He is another prize. Bergen’s most notable achievement as member of the Harper Conservatives has been her many appearances on various political programs including CBC’s Power and Politics as Parliamentary Secretary. She, along with many others, including the execrable Leitch and Rempel and the departed Chris Alexander served primarily as functional, near-lifelike appearing wind-up dolls (the dead playing alive) in appearing as their government’s intermediaries. With eyes glued wide open and mouths fixed in permanent grimaces halfway between smiles and sneers these breathing effigies of something human behaved appropriately when asked questions offering what seemed a recorded message of the day transmitted to a chip implanted in relatively small brains: the message was not “I love you” but some variation of the Harper mantra, “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts”. Whatever the message of the day, anything approaching coherence and openness did not play a part. Regardless of the question or its variations, the responses by these (one assumes) living, talking dolls, were unvarying and almost word for word. It was horrific watching Bergen and her confederates; at times I wondered if, at night, these creatures from Stepford were placed at charging stations for reenergizing awaiting the transmission of the next day’s script to that chip within them, somewhere. Evidently, despite the months away and now as opposition member, Bergen hasn’t quite shed her role as living Conservative dummy. On September 15, she appeared on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton. Not only did she make claims that Conservatives have demonstrated an ability to “really get along quite well with opposition members” (!!!!), she also said that her new role was to ensure they hold the “liberals to account, we have to ensure they respect parliament, that they don’t ram things through…”!!! Maybe it was my TV set, but when she uttered those words, I’m certain I saw, through tears induced by laughter, her face redden. In fact, immediately following that, she also appeared to hesitate. Had she suddenly suffered a flashback? Had she, if even briefly, recalled how many times the Harper regime, of which she was a proud, loyal and disdainful member, refused to consult with opposition members regarding legislation? Had she suddenly recalled the many closures of debate by the Conservatives, the ramming through of laws, and the endless efforts to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection? Was there, on that day, from Candice Bergen, a hint of embarrassment, a Conservative robot somehow, miraculously, showing a teensy bit of life and, dare I say it, shame?

Not a bit of it. They are shameless.

JACKASSES

But this gives you a hint of the quality of what we had and have, Leitch, Bergen and all the other erstwhile luminaries: Michelle Rempel (notable for shrill appearances as parliamentary secretary and for what appeared drunken tweets where she wonders if the world was ready for someone like her – the answer is no); Clement (of the $50 million slush fund and deserving infamy for $3 billion missing while he was president of the Treasury); Deepak Obhrai; Brad Trost (who boasts of being right of Attila the Hun); Maxime Bernier (think secret documents, unzipped pants, ex-girlfriend of Hell’s Angels member); Andrew Scheer (ex-Speaker of the House notable for demonstrating his partisanship and indifference to impartiality), each as bad as the other sitting in opposition waiting for the day to offer more of the same some even imagining themselves not only leader of the party but of the country.

Jason Kenney, stalwart of the Harper gang will not be running for the leadership federally. Instead, he is galloping west to rescue Alberta from the socialist horde that has somehow, by some black arts, become the government with Rachel Notley leading the bloodthirsty gang. On September 20, 2016, Jason Kenney, interviewed by Rosemary Barton in celebration of his announced resignation as MP made this utterance “One thing I learned in politics is it’s much easier to tell a simple lie than a complicated truth”! He should know. He has proven that truth has been too complicated for him at times as when he attempted in a fundraising letter to suggest Trudeau was sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted a picture of a child “bride”, hands bound, with her “husband” and another of bound women we were to take as ISIS slaves without informing us the first was fake and the other of an historical re-enactment. This is the fellow who justified Canada’s expanded role in Iraq with the claim that only the US and Canada, of the allies, had precision-bombing capability. When truth threatens, he flees.

Sadly, nothing has really changed even with Kenney’s departure. Different government, the same kind of people: scoundrels, liars, whores. and a few honest folks elected by mistake. Trudeau has been more open, I will grant him that but he has proven himself to have the mettle to be secretive and shifty. All the warmth and fuzzy good feelings? It’s chimera. He seems ready to sign an extradition deal with China. If anything signalled how willing he was to turn his back on Human rights, it was the LAV deal with Saudi Arabia and the justifications he offered for doing so. If he signs the extradition treaty with China, there will be excuses but he he will have sealed the door on Human Rights as a priority so that he can open the door to trade and embrace the torturers and murderers.

***

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

***

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

KELLIE LEITCH’S BARBARIC POLITICAL PRACTICES: THE POLITICS OF DIVISION, FEAR, INTOLERANCE, BIGOTRY AND HYPOCRISY

 

America needs fewer men obsessed with erecting fences of hate, suspicion and name calling. – William Arthur Ward

Joe….was ignorant enough to feel superior to everything. – John Ciardi

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. – Jonathan Swift

He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. – George Orwell

Frank Pelaschuk

NEW REGIME, OLD STORY

Having observed politicians for some time, I have not found any reason to hope that Trudeau and gang would fulfill many of the campaign promises of newer and better than the Harper fare Canadians endured for the past decade, they were too many and too lavish. But there are some things that are refreshing and offer signs of hope, the prime minister and his crew showing a willingness to engage with the media, answering questions and offering responses that are not always scripted something that became the crippling hallmark of the Harper regime; it’s clear that Trudeau has confidence in his ministers and trusts them enough to carry the government’s message without coming across as living dolls incapable of independent thought. As well, I do appreciate that the Liberals have made an effort to consult with the public but have my doubts about the necessity of doing so on almost every conceivable item many best left for those who really do know what they are doing.

The support they have garnered is still extremely high. Perhaps that accounts for a few missteps since their massive victory. In less than a year, they have revealed themselves as susceptible to hubris, to a sense of entitlement and to questionable ethics as they have in the past and which their Conservative successors and predecessors have embraced under the Harper banner. Many of the Trudeau cabinet are new to politics but their behaviour in some instances is reminiscent to that of the old politico guard with years of experience revealing, so early into the mandate, troubling signs of rot. There is Jody Wilson-Raybould, just months into her office as justice minister showing a complete failure of understanding or simple disregard for public perception of her attendance of a fundraiser put on by prestigious lawyers from prestigious firms, the very entities who stand to benefit most from the decisions made by her ministry. For some, myself included, this is a clear example of conflict of interest revealing a justice minister of poor judgement, questionable behaviour and a careless indifference to either. Such fundraisers or other methods, including private access for loot, have become common, accepted practice among politicians such as Kathleen Wynne, Christy Clark and other premiers, ministers and backbenchers. They should not. It does not look good and it’s not good. Wynne, when questioned by the media, acknowledge such and has since made moves to scrap such practices. But how sincere or effective are such displays when some, as Clark, see nothing wrong in holding private meetings with those who can afford it: it’s about privilege and money. We just have to take the word of Christy Clark and her fellow politico hacks that access for money does not mean everything is not on the up and up. I don’t accept that and I cannot believe that. Access for cash is by its very nature corruptive; something is being bought and sold and apparently it’s our politicians.

And then we have politicos, who are pikers, the cheesy nickel-and-dime types who pilfer from the public trough with bogus claims in the belief the amounts too small to earn notice or the public fury. When caught, they will often apologize, claim they had done nothing wrong, that everything they did was allowed under the guidelines and, if the noise becomes too loud for too long, still claiming innocence of wrongdoing, some will offer to reimburse the treasury. Three recently elected Liberals who apparently had no trouble not consulting Canadians regarding the picking of their pockets immediately come to mind. There is Catherine McKenna, environment minister, who charged the pubic well over $6K for photos from a professional photographer to highlight the work she was doing on our behalf while at the Paris climate change conference. Surely that was an unnecessary expense since the media following the event must certainly have been as eager to showcase this new and highly photogenic cabinet member as she was to be photographed. Jane Philpott, health minister, is another who had little difficulty charging Canadians for costly limousine services and for access to Air Canada’s executive lounges across North America and Europe. When the first story broke regarding limousines, Philpott quickly agreed to repay taxpayers though there was some quibbling as to what constitutes a luxury vehicle. Again, when news broke of her signing up for the executive lounge pass, she offered to repay the tab. The question is: Why do these things in the first place? Perhaps it’s the thrill of pushing the envelope in hopes of seeing with what one can get away; if caught, there’s always the public apology for it’s seldom that something ever comes of such abuses. Finally, we have Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, who had been in Manila on government business and had already been booked to return home on a government plane. However, she booked another plane to make an appearance on a TV show with Bill Maher. The cost to taxpayers? Close to $20K. Even if she had committed to government business as she claimed, surely that should have been planned for ahead of time rather than appearing to be a sudden change of plans that the Conservatives were quick to pounce upon as a “vanity” trip to L.A. Too, while she was campaigning to get elected, she charged $500 as grooming expenses to the public. Evidently Freeland and the Liberals and their supporters see nothing wrong in this. Yet, Conservative Eve Adams suffered considerable grief for doing the same in 2013. When you’re as loved as the Liberals anything is allowed it appears.

These are behaviours, however, easily remedied by these very people if they possessed a sense of shame and the desire and integrity to do so. Regulations, detailed and not too complex regarding expenses can be made explicit so that even the most ignorant among them with the comprehension of a preschooler can be made to understand and follow them. Should the rules be broken, punishment should be instant, public and severe; neither apologies nor repayment should be considered sufficient. People who can’t be trusted with the little things certainly can’t be trusted with the big.

These are not deadly blows to the Trudeau gang, but they are telling. I do not like that Trudeau has broken his promise of making human rights a priority by going through with the LAV trade deal with Saudi Arabia. Nor do I like that he is in China signing trade deals without taking a stronger stand and making such deals conditional on China’s own problems with human rights. These are in contravention of Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with nations that violate human rights. These should be more damaging but apparently are not. The broken promises and unethical behaviours suggest a culture of entitlement, a cold disregard and insensitivity for the realities by which most Canadians and citizens of the world live, and an attitude that the suggests because something is not forbidden by law it becomes acceptable and therefore allowable because doable. Offensive and egregious as they are, and to me they are egregious, such attitudes can ultimately be remedied by the voter if not the folks he or she elects: boot the bums out. MPs can be made to act ethically even if reluctantly if the punishment is certain, swift and public. MPs can be made to repay padded expense claims as had Jane Philpott (unfortunately, only when her extravagant ways became public). Rules need to be rewritten so as to remove all possibility of pleading ignorance, of claiming misunderstanding because the guidelines are too difficult to understand. They must be rewritten so that even the stupidest, the sharpest, and the most corrupt can know for a certainty, without exception, the consequences of breaching ethical guidelines. The buck stops with the MPs and not with sacrificial staffers or the use of legalese as a refuge: the rules allow it; the rules were not clear; others have done this in the past; I was told this was allowed. That is the response of the coward, the man or woman who accepts no responsibility for his or her own acts. Those who blame others or who resort to legalese have no right to hold office.

THE SHAMEFUL AND SHAMELESS

I did not vote Liberal. Nor did I vote Conservatives. Both parties have histories of corruption and have ruled as if entitled. Nor do I much admire a party a couple so besotted by cameras and adulation of the public as the Trudeaus. I find their sincerity fulsome and believe it more show than genuine. It may be real; I have just to be convinced. I have never much trusted actors who can put on the sad faces on cue or who express warmth and authenticity by furrowing their brows and tapping their fingertips on their breasts to convince me of their sincerity. I have met a few like that over a long life and none have later proved themselves the real thing.

That said, the one thing I have yet to see from the Liberals, and hope to never see, is the utter debasement of politics as practiced by America’s Donald Trump and Canada’s Conservative party last election when they warred against two women over the niqab and then announced the Conservative plan to create a snitch line so that Canadians could report the BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES OF YOU KNOW WHO! as proudly trumpeted by their own Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander. Astoundingly, only a few paid a price for that debacle, one of them Alexander. Leitch, as we all know by now, and many of the prominent figures of the old Harper gang of mean-spirited, petty, shrill, lying, and hypocritical members still holding office as Official Opposition, are running for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

With Leitch running for office, there is no need to look south at Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton and not so quietly trumpet our own moral superiority. We have our own sewer rats.

When the Conservatives were ousted from power to become official opposition, months after the election, April 21, 2016 in fact, Leitch appeared with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Power and Politics making a big show of penitence for the party decision to create the snitch line and her role in happily making the announcement at the time. As she spoke, she appeared to be struggling to squeeze a few tears. That’s the trend these days, politicians going to the same school learning how to offer their “Sorry’s”, some even going so far as if to offer concrete proof of their rue, dabbing their eyes as if there really were tears or actually shedding and wiping a few drops of the real thing likely induced by onion juice rubbed into their knuckles. That’s all that’s needed they believe; hollow regrets, a few tears, real or faux.

So, almost a year from the snitch line announcement and a few months after her weepy appearance on CBC, we have Kellie Leitch emailing a survey to her constituents asking: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigrants?

Now what Canadian values is she talking about? She doesn’t say. Are they the same Canadian values of the Conservatives who waged war against the poor and sought to disenfranchise them by rigging elections with the misnamed Fair Elections Act. Perhaps it’s the same values exemplified by Harper’s Conservatives as time and again they attempted to slip legislation into omnibus bills in hopes Canadians wouldn’t notice. Perhaps it’s the Conservative values of smearing Supreme Court Justices the way Harper and Peter MacKay did when their choice for Supreme Court Justice was rejected. Perhaps it’s the same Conservative values that, during the last election, raised the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance as they worked at warring against two niqab-wearing women and evoked images of slathering bloodthirsty Muslim barbarians pounding on our doors. Are her values the same as mine? Yours? Kellie Leitch was a proud, vocal supporter of that gang and that campaign. So, which person is the real Kellie Leitch? The teary-eyed one on April 21 or the one on September 1st so closely resembling the Leitch who so proudly announced the snitch line? Maybe she wasn’t even weeping for her role in the snitch line debacle, after all. Anyone with a jot of self-respect would have walked away from it instantly. She did not. My guess is that she was sorry for the loss the Conservatives sustained October 19, 2015 rather than for role in fomenting racial and religious intolerance. Regardless of how one looks at it, she has proven herself totally unfit as an MP especially one with leadership aspirations. If the Conservatives had any decency, any sense of pride and shame, they would demand she withdraw her candidacy and resign her seat. She contributes nothing to the dialogue. She vows to continue in this vein saying, “In my bid to become the prime minister of Canada, I will be putting forward policies that will make Canada safer, stronger and that will enhance a unified Canadian identity” (CTV News, Sept. 2, 2016). Safer? Stronger? Unified? This is racism, plain and simple, the Leitch emulation of Trump and for no other purpose than to garner votes from the frightened and the racist lowlifes among us. Well, we have more than a glimpse of how far she will go to satisfy her ambition and ego. But what a way to do it!

Vile.

This passes for politics. Swimming in filth and offering nothing, the triumph of the mean, ugly, reckless, ignorant; the ultimate ignominy of Conservative values. Is this the best the Conservatives can offer? Here are some of the other contenders: there’s Maxime Bernier who is best recalled for leaving behind classified documents after a night with his then ex-Hell’s Angels girlfriend; there’s Tony Clement who still hasn’t explained what happened to the missing $3 billion when he was president of the Treasury. He’s also the guy who called public servants deadwood and during the G8 and G20 Summits in 2010 created a $50 million slush fund for his riding. There’s Brad Trost who likes to boast of being to the right of Attila the Hun. There’s Deepak Obrai. Who? Enough said. There’s Michael Chong, a relatively decent chap, I suspect, and relatively unknown. And then we have those yet waiting to declare themselves: shrill hysteric Michelle Rempel who wondered in what appeared to be drunken tweets if the world was ready for someone like her. She’s right; we’re not. We have Andrew Scheer who, as Speaker of the House, abused his role with too many bad decisions including keeping from the House requests by Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan until they submitted full, corrected, campaign expense claims. And, of course, we have the possible entry of Peter MacKay, the man who betrayed to Progressive Conservative Party by joining with Stephan Harper’s Reform party. You get the drift. There is one possible decent candidate in the mix but how many really know Michael Chong.

Unfortunately, one notable member is not running for the leadership. That is Jason Kenney who months ago has announced he would run for the leadership of the Alberta PCs. He also announced he would keep his MP seat, which he has, and continue to collect his pay, which he has, as a lame duck member of parliament until the Alberta Conservative leadership race becomes official. That, too, is another abuse of office and the taxpayers’ wallet. Others have done the same, he says. So what? Does their unethical behaviour absolve his? Evidently he believes so. But Kenney is a man of fluid ethics. In the past he has used government letterheads to fundraise for his party. He has thought nothing of smearing Justin Trudeau with fundraising letters by attempting to suggest he was sympathetic to terrorists because he had visited a mosque in Montreal that, after the visit, had been declared a recruitment centre for al-Qaeda by American intelligence. Nor did Kenney have any qualms of tweeting photographs of women in chains and a young “child-bride” with her hands bound with her “husband” with the clear intent of inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments; he just neglected to inform the public that the first photograph was that of an historical re-enactment and the second a faked document. And it was Kenney who made the false claim that, of the allies, only Canada and the US had the capability of precision bombing to justify Canada’s expanded role in the war against ISIS. No doubt, he will work up a complete set of new fiction to smear his opponents and inflame his supporters as he campaigns in Alberta. Had he stayed, however, he might have given Leitch a run as she plays in the sewer so familiar to every member of the Conservative party.

While no supporter of the Liberals and holding the Conservatives in contempt for their narrow, mean-spirited, pro-corporate parochialism, I prefer the NDP and even the Liberals who at least attempt to offer solutions and ideas that for the lowest and meanest among us offer at least a glimmer of hope. The Conservatives offer none; not ideas, certainly not hope; theirs is a commitment not to citizens but to special interests. It’s about the bottom line, dollars and cents and the myths of free enterprise and trading on fear: lower taxes, the infrastructure will take care of itself; corporate tax breaks are good for the country; tax breaks create jobs; the homeless and poor are to be feared; those collecting welfare are fraudsters, lazy bums; more jail time is the only answer to crime; every foreigner must be viewed with suspicion; every Muslim is a potential terrorist; every aboriginal a drunk; every person of colour suspect. The Liberals were swept into power not by the politics of fear but by offering many of the things that the Conservatives offered but also the possibility of hope and renewal. The Liberals have not fulfilled and likely had not even intended to fulfill all the commitments they made; that is the cynicism that has infected politics. It should not happen.

We, as voters, are too ready to forgive. We should not be. We must demand and expect more from those we elect. The least we can expect is that they be honest, ethical, open. We do not need politicians who will seize every opportunity to enrich themselves simply because they can. Nor do we need the likes of those who foment hatred and fear and target strangers as suspect. As voters, we have a responsibility to know for what we vote. We must educate ourselves and we must question and challenge rather than blindly accept every promise from a politician’s mouth as a promise fulfilled. As voters, we must not fall into the same traps we have always succumbed: that of acceptance and acquiescence. Politics should not be about getting power and then clinging to it by any means. And it should not be about voters asking, “What’s in it for me?” but rather, “What’s in it for us?”

But, as long as we keep electing those who pander to the worst in us, nothing will change.

Just how stupid are we?

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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

 

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE SHAMELESS CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY

 

“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” – Oscar Wilde

“After all, we have all eternity in which to despair.” – Enrique Vila-Matas

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

HARPER AND THE ART OF PETTY PARTISANSHIP

To really gain some appreciation of how shameless is Harper and his regime, just consider this: out of the 60,000 Diamond Jubilee medals handed out to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne, Tory hacks, partners, and supporters, including two anti-abortionist extremists who spent time in jail for their illegal picketing of abortion clinics, and Jennie Byrne, Conservative Campaign manager, as well as Lauren Harper, Stephen Harper’s wife, were among the recipients.

While even among Conservatives there may be worthy individuals whose contributions and achievements have been significant, there is something indecorous about a regime distributing these trophies to members of its own family: it stinks and is suspect, appearing to be more reward for services rendered on behalf of Harper’s Tory Party than for services and achievements in volunteerism, charitable works or contributions to the Sciences or Arts and Culture. Awarding medals to party loyalists, friends, and spouses, for no other reason than they are party loyalists, friends, and spouses, diminishes and taints in the most offensive way the honours given those who truly deserve them.

It is apparent that Harper and gang are willing to debase almost anything for purely partisan purposes. For example, we have recently learned that the Harper gang has determined that Canada must finally recognize veterans who served in the Second World War in Bomber Command operations in Europe. Now that is good news for those few remaining survivors if a little late after over seventy years of being ignored. Unfortunately, the new veterans’ minister, Julian Fantino, had determined that some of those very veterans being honoured, now in their late eighties and nineties, would have to wait a bit longer to receive their medals. Incredibly, the reason for this delay had to do with scheduling conflicts that would interfere with this government’s ability to exploit this to the max in photo ops! Fortunately, and not for the first time in matters involving veterans, the government and Fantino beat a hasty retreat after a public backlash of shock and anger. This is the same government of thugs that had clawed back the disability pensions of veterans, the same government led by Stephen Harper who had once said, “All too often we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” Well, for Harper, those were just words as we now know. That claw back was an act that was despicable and indefensible. Nonetheless, he did say something that could become true and bears repeating: This shame will end with the election of a new government.

Let’s take him at his word.

HARPER & CREW: THE SHAMELESS BARBARIANS

Now Harper and his crew, whatever I might think of them, are not dummies. It is difficult to imagine that anyone in that party with a shred of self-respect might not be troubled by the optics of such blatant partisan largesse. Not a bit of it with this misbegotten group.

Over the years, Harper’s Conservatives have demonstrated an absence of a moral compass; with their absolute majority they are like untutored children who neither respect themselves or others enough to not undervalue or to not dismiss such simple constructs that make for good citizenship and sound governance: ethics, integrity, honesty, openness, transparency, fairness. Untutored, undeveloped, petty, mean-spirited, they are also sly and full of tricks; though outnumbered, they are the schoolyard bullies protected by a flawed electoral system that allows them to torment, threaten and abuse with a ruthlessness and shamelessness that suggests religious zealotry. Only Harper and his crew can save this nation and by God they’ll do it regardless of who opposes or questions the need for salvation.

The Conservatives have their hardcore band of supporters and they have their majority. That is enough – for them.

I suspect they seldom, if ever, are troubled by self-doubts or pause to reflect on some of what they do. If you have ever watched Power and Politics over the past year, you have seen the likes of insufferable Pierre Poilievre, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander, Shelly Glover, and Kellie Leitch mislead, obfuscate, and point fingers rather than deviate from the script of the day to respond honestly and openly to direct questions and you know, just by watching them that, when it comes to the Conservative message, they have never had a moment of doubt, have never felt a need to reflect on how they come across: they are true believers and, as such, shameless in their adherence to the Party line. And it is their apparent inability to question, to doubt, to experience a sense of shame that most troubles me about these Tory dogmatists.

A developed sense of shame is one of many characteristics that elevate man from his fellow creatures. To know shame requires a conscience, which allows us to recognize and experience feelings of unease, embarrassment and guilt with a readiness to atone. Unfortunately, far too many of us, and that includes those in politics, are incapable of experiencing embarrassment. When threats of exposure or when actual exposure takes place eliciting much public hand wringing and loud mea culpas, and we see examples of such in the news almost daily, what is often witnessed is not true remorse, not genuine signs of shame, but rather grief that one has been found out and fear of what comes next. However, for the shameless, as in the instance of Harper appointee Senator Pamela Wallin who recently repaid well over a hundred thousand for expense claims to which she was not entitled, there is no apology, no admission of wrongdoing, not even fear, but a clear display of grief, not for the taxpayers who were rocked and ripped off by members of the Senate, but for herself. In fact, this once much admired and respected journalist has tastelessly opted to play the role of victim. Here is part of her statement as excepted in the Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 14, 2013:

“I wish to make it clear. I was not treated fairly by the Deloitte review, which was not conducted in accordance with generally accepted accounting principle, nor have I been treated fairly by the Senate Committee. Evidence that casts doubt on the correctness of the amounts owing was either ignored or disregarded during the review.

Unfortunately, the Senate succumbed to a ‘lynch mob’ mentality. There was no regard to procedural or substantive fairness. I am disappointed and angry about the way in which this matter was handled, and any implication that I behaved dishonestly.”

Poor Pamela. Apparently she knows all about generally accepted accounting principles and yet somehow fell victim of the system. Well, you have to give her credit for chutzpah if nothing else.

It would be refreshing if, just once, someone in Harper’s coterie of sanctimonious hypocrites would just stand up, man up, and freely admit they had defrauded, lied to, cheated, and abused taxpayers: perhaps one of those Harper appointed Senators or one of those ex-ministers forced to resign for padding expense accounts or accepting corporate donations while campaigning; perhaps someone like Vic Toews who accused opponents to omnibus bills of “siding with pedophiles”; maybe Joe Oliver who called environmentalists “radicals”, or those members of the Conservative Party who attempted to subvert Democracy with robocalls and directing voters to non-existent polling stations or those who sought to skirt the rules regarding election campaigning with “in-out” schemes or who doctored campaign expense reports before handing them in to Elections Canada and now hold ministerial posts. But that is wishful thinking, for we have seen how Harper rewards those MPs who act contrary to the party line or wishes: they are dumped, thrown under that ruthless Conservative bus.

Even when it comes to investigating allegations of voter suppression, the Conservatives manage to imbue the process with a stench of rottenness. Why, for example, was the Conservative Party lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, in attendance at the Elections Canada hearings of witnesses into this issue? That this has only come out months after the fact raises serious questions about the independence of the hearing and of Elections Canada. Certainly there is a suggestion of intimidation, particularly since one of the witnesses was Michael Sona, the young staffer so cold-bloodedly discarded by Harper and the Conservative gang of thugs for his reputed involvement in this matter. To believe the Harper gang, this bright, capable but very young man was the mastermind of the plot to subvert the electoral process.

Do the right thing? Harper’s Conservatives? It will not happen, not voluntarily, and certainly not when there is no potential for political and/or personal gain. With this group, respect for the allure of power and all its corruptive promises are more enticing than the value of a good name. For politicians, especially of this stripe, the first natural instinct seems to be to evade, to deny, to lie, to distort, to point fingers, and, when all else fails, to cut and run. When such, as Harper and gang, do not value themselves, imagine how little they value those whom they represent.

However, even if any one of their member did resort to self-abnegation, to public mea culpas and grovelling admissions of guilt with pleas for understanding and forgiveness for “mistakes” (they are always mistakes, aren’t they?), such exhibitions would appear merely self-serving and unseemly and ring hollow. How sincere can any apology be after whatever offence is exposed by whatever means? Still, some try; sometimes it works; people buy into it.

But what can one do with the shameless, those who claim victimhood, who believe that repaying what they were not entitled to in the first place is more than sufficient punishment and that, in doing so, however reluctantly, they have earned redemption if not the mantle of virtue? Perhaps all we can do is be awed at the magnitude of such extraordinary hubris.

HARPER AND THE ETHICALLY CHALLENGED

I began with questioning how the Diamond Jubilee Medals were handed out. This may seem a paltry issue to some, but it does illustrate what is symptomatic of the partisan rot that has infected this regime.

It is one thing to have members of the Senate and House who rip off taxpayers by making fraudulent expense and housing claims whether by “mistake” or with deliberation. And it is another thing for this government to shamelessly self-promote every day with its Canada Economic Action Plan ads to the tune of over $300 thousand, which are more about promoting Harper and his crew than about job creation. In fact, some of the Canadian taxpayer money went into advertising Tory programs and grants that don’t even exist. Probably most disheartening, at least from the Tory perspective, is the knowledge that this expenditure of funds has proven an absolute waste; that ads have flopped as Tory propaganda. No one is looking at them.

And if, for some, my pointing out some of the partisan nature of the Diamond Jubilee Medal distribution and the $300 thousand plus in self-promotion comes across as churlish, a curious focus on the relatively paltry, they would do well to recall what happened to MP Bev Oda. She was more than a minister who had, or had a staffer, forge a government document and yet had managed to keep Harper’s trust and support; she was also a repeat offender when it came to padding expense claims amounting to thousands of dollars and then being forced to repay them. Most revealing, it was only after public outrage for claiming a $16 glass of orange juice that Oda was finally forced to resign. Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things that can trip you. Perhaps from this episode there is a lesson to be drawn: If you want to get away with something, go big; it appears that, for the Canadian public at least, there’s something chintzy and in your face about that overpriced orange juice that made the whole thing unbearable.

But there are other things that were not so trivial. There was Peter Penashue forced to resign for accepting corporate donations during his election campaign. Of him, Harper said, “This is the best Member of Parliament Labrador has ever had.” There was sanctimonious Dean Del Mastro, the loud, bullying Conservative defender in the House against those robocalls questions who has suddenly fallen silent due to troubles of his own with allegations of campaign irregularities. And we have Christian Paradis, still in cabinet, still supported by Harper in spite of several allegations of ethical breaches including political interference and spending a weekend with lobbyists at a retreat. There are more from others, Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin in the Senate with fraudulent expense claims, Tory senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen doctoring the Deloitte report on Duffy, Nigel Wright in the PMO, now gone, writing a $90 thousand cheque, and Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu facing allegations of attempting to obtain greater job benefits for his girlfriend and having to repay $900 for “mistakenly” claiming housing expenses to which he was unentitled. Harper threw his support behind Boisvenu pointing out that he was a “tireless supporter of the victims of crime.” While it is true that Boisvenu has suffered terribly with a daughter murdered and another killed in a road accident and deserves our sympathy, it does not entitle him a free pass on the allegations against him.

When accumulated, these and other breaches present an extremely disturbing picture of Harper and gang’s high tolerance for breaches of ethics. They are clearly untroubled by them, their concerns no doubt on loftier pursuits like ramming through the Keystone XL pipeline and worrying about the economy and fulfilling the promise to get rid of the debt just in time for the next election. It is astounding the number of “mistakes” Conservatives make in money matters and even more astounding that the public swallows that swill of them as fiscally responsible. I still want to know from the president of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement of the $50 million slush fund, what happened to the missing $3.1 billion from the treasury. If anything, these “mistakes” should lay to rest the myth of Conservatives, as they keep reminding us, as inherently superior fiscal managers.

HARPER’S TWISTED VIEW OF DEMOCRACY

But even all that pales to what should really offend Canadians. Harper and his gang pose a real threat to Canadian Democracy.

It is a truism that citizens of any nation can only be assured of a free society if there is a free press and an open, honest, and transparent government accountable to its people. Five years ago, Harper and thugs set out to restrict if not destroy the Access to Information database. In the process, his has become the most secretive, manipulative, paranoid, and ethically challenged regime in Canadian history. Canadians have difficulty in getting answers from anyone in government. Canadian civil servants and scientists have been muzzled under threat of losing their jobs and the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, was stonewalled at every turn when trying to obtain documents regarding government expenditures and projections.

Access to Information is, as it should be, the hallmark of a free, open society. This is what people are willing to die for the world over. They do not sacrifice themselves for the right to vote, but for the promise carried in that right to vote. A vote in a dictatorship means nothing if the end result is the same old same old: the same old dictator, the same old secrecy, the same old abuses of human rights, the same old subversion of the electoral process. Citizens and journalists have a right, if not a duty, to be informed and to hold their governments accountable; that means governments, in turn, have a duty to be accessible, open, and honest to the press and its citizens in the full knowledge that they, these governments, will, and must, be held accountable. Except in the interests of national security (yes, there are exceptions even in a free society), and these exceptions must be rare, almost non-existent, a nation’s citizens and press must never be denied access to any, any, information pertaining to its governance. Governments do not have the right to keep from its citizens the true costs, for example, of government procurements. Governments do not have a right, to slip in legislation without informing its citizens and opposition members and allowing for debate. Yet Harper and thugs, notably Peter MacKay, then Minister of Defence, kept lying about the real costs of the F-35s during its last campaign. And Harper and his thugs created massive omnibus bills, which were rammed into law in which information and debate was limited and legislation passed without either the opposition or Canadians knowing what they were. This is a government that does not listen to its own citizens. Don’t believe it? Let’s take one example. The majority of Canadians supported the long gun registry. Even police chiefs across the nation supported it. Harper and thugs, however, preferred to hear and listen to special interests groups who make up much of the hard core base that supports the Conservative party. Again, there are more examples. Just look around, read the papers, look back. And remember.

When a government scapegoats members of society, as Harper and gang have, that government undermines all of society. When a government smears, spies on, and questions the patriotism of opponents, as Harper and gang have, that government undermines Democracy and poses a real threat to that society.

By its own admission, this government’s priorities have everything to do with the economy and jobs but little to do with better working conditions, raising the minimum wage, and improving the lot and well being of the poorest and meanest amongst us. This is the government that has consistently attacked workers and yet has gone out of its way to give every tax break, every benefit of doubt possible to big business including the hiring of temporary foreign workers for less pay and allowing, even encouraging, companies to ship jobs overseas. How do these measures better the lot of working Canadians and how do they improve the economy? Harper does not care about the health of the economy of individuals but rather the health and welfare of the economy of big business. Never forget that.

Look at Harper and gang’s efforts (at times extremely offensive in the form of Joe Oliver) on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline that may create many jobs but only for shortterm while certainly offering long-term gain for a very, very few. Theirs is the plundering Capitalist mentality of Al Capp’s General Bullmoose: What’s good for General Bullmoose is good everybody. It ain’t true, folks.

But for Harper and gang, Capitalism always trumps Democracy.

HARPER CUTS AND RUNS – AGAIN

By the time Parliament resumes, October 16th, Harper will have made just five appearances in the House over a period of six months. That is an absolute disgrace for a leader of any nation. After the spring session and over the summer, he has moved, like the sneak and snake he is, to prorogue Parliament for the third time. As in the past, it was to avoid answering questions and to rebuild his party’s fortunes. This is the regime that has worked tirelessly on behalf of Keystone XL and yet cannot bring itself to work on the business of governing Canada too fixated on its own problems than on the health and welfare of the nation.

H.L. Mencken wrote, “Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.” Sadly, Harper gives credence to that sentiment. We can change that by heeding the words of Ralph Nader: “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”

Amen.

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