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POLITICIANS, PROLES, AND POPULISM: HYPOCRISY AND DEGENERACY AT THE POLLS

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. – Noël Coward

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

Frank Pelaschuk

I’ve never met a hypocrite who wasn’t a liar but I have met liars who were not hypocrites. What does it take to be a politician? Some may say it requires a tough hide, a willingness to serve, a belief that you have something to offer, perhaps some kind of “vision”; youth and good looks will certainly help for both offer the promise of something “fresh”, “new”. All of these may be true. Unfortunately, too many of our politicians are less interested in serving than in helping themselves. I am not simply talking about self-enrichment in the way of padded expense accounts though we have seen plenty of that but rather of serving special interests in the hopes that rewards will be forthcoming once out of office. We have seen plenty of that, as well, ex-politicians walking into corporate boardrooms willing to trade on the knowledge and contacts gleaned. Too, as well as possessing the zealot’s ambition and an almost unrealistic and all too often undeserved self-regard for oneself, it is likely many of them hold a deep level of contempt for voters. A newcomer, particularly the naïf who really does believe that politics is about serving others, about working towards a better society, is not likely to survive unless quickly proving himself flexible embracing the two, make that three, most important tools of politics, especially if one is not overly endowed with beauty, glibness, and a spouse of equal measure: shamelessness, the ability to lie with facility and the ability to seamlessly play the role of hypocrite (one may often find it necessary to quickly switch positions mid sentence). It is these three qualities that will allow him to survive and provide plenty of justification for the contempt he holds for voters: they will not notice or, if they do, care. Youth and looks may help extend one’s term but they will not be enough for long-term survival in the filthy world of politics; one must be adept and willing and able to change one’s position, course and beliefs immediately if not sooner and to revise one’s narrative without any hint of blush. If may be better not to believe in anything other than the belief one should have another drink; neither belief nor honesty is requisite. A moral compass combined with a pesky conscience is political death and will only prove a hindrance at best with few positive benefits except a reputation for being a “stand up” individual in some circles and a “sucker” in others. When ethics is raised, which should be rarely if ever, it should only be in reference to the failings of others and seldom if ever to elevate oneself as morally superior unless confident of one’s own superiority; in that event, strike fast, hard and without mercy. Destroy the opposition even if in bed with them; he, she or they are the enemy, but also be aware: hypocrisy is a two-edged sword which, when skilfully exposed, can redound to haunt one. Chances are, however, the accomplished politician can tread the landmines without fear especially if owed a lot of favours: he can lie, curry favour, pander to the worst in us and still be assured of re-election thus offering clear demonstration that contempt for the public, especially the voting public, is justified: voters are that stupid.

WHAT IS MY POSITION TODAY?

When Rona Ambrose as Conservative interim leader announced her picks of Denis Lebel for deputy leader and Andrew Scheer for Opposition House leader, she said, “Denis and Andrew bring not only a wealth of intelligence and parliamentary experience, but they bring the right tone, in helping build a strong, vigorous and respectful Opposition” (CBC News Nov. 18, 2015). Now that sounds good from a shining light in the Harper cabinet which over the years relentlessly demonstrated its contempt for strong, vigorous and respectful opposition invoking closure and ramming through legislation with the might of their majority. With little effort and no embarrassment, Ambrose thus demonstrated the utility of another useful tool: a faulty and selective memory.

For those who may not recall, Andrew Scheer spent four years as Speaker of the House one of whose roles is to have the government answer questions as well as maintaining order and decorum. In both areas, he failed miserably proving himself far too often partisan, weak, incompetent. During his tenure, the House often offered viewers of Question Period a spectacle of fractious, raucous, and mean-spirited behaviour with members of the government publicly lying in the House, performing charades of events that later proved to be fabricated (remember Brad Butt?), and allowed to go unchallenged histrionic displays of crude evasions by various Conservative members most notably Paul Calandra. Government members of Harper’s regime almost never answered questions posed to them and when they did respond it was with non-answers, non-sequiturs, evasions and/or outright lies none of which were addressed by Scheer. But, if Scheer was a failure in keeping decorum, he was no failure when it came to partisanship. In May of 2013, Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, sent Andrew Scheer the Speaker letters regarding the failures of Shelly Glover and James Bezan to provide completed and corrected campaign claims for the 2011 election. Wrote Mayrand, “The (Canada Elections) Act provides that an elected candidate who fails to provide documents required…may not continue to sit or vote as a member until the corrections have been made.” What did Scheer do? He sat on the letters for two weeks without informing Parliament, as he was required to do. Meanwhile, Glover was promoted, having by now submitted the corrected papers after, like Bezan, refusing to do so. Scheer thwarted elections Canada and, in doing so, abused his office with his show of support for two members who broke election rules and thumbed their noses at the public. To add to the insult, the public has enjoyed, if that is the word, the spectacle of watching this former Speaker of the House, who should know better, wearing a perpetually smarmy smirk heckling other members of the governing party as if he were some immature punk. This is what Ambrose means by “respectful opposition”?

Were it not so serious, it would be fun watching the Conservatives demanding of the Liberals what they themselves refused to offer and watching the Liberals denying what they themselves demanded of the Conservatives. At times, it’s almost difficult to recall which party has formed government until one recalls that, unlike Harper, this prime minister and his wife have never met a camera they didn’t like or let pass any opportunity that allowed them to strut their stuff especially with cameras clicking away as at the Press Gallery Dinner with the beautifully attired Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau performing song and the “two-legged sage” yoga pose as a nod to her husband’s “peacock” pose earlier this year. The media laps it up but who can blame them after the years of being unloved, ignored and, when noticed, noticed only as “media lickspittles”.

Now I can understand voters going for something new. Let’s face it, anything other than the Harper gang just had to be better. And it is, if only marginally. Unfortunately, voters didn’t go for change, they didn’t go for new and they certainly didn’t go for substance. Instead, they opted for the status quo with glamour. True, they went for something that sounded new, looked new, that made big, bold promises but could never work up the courage for something really new and different convincing themselves that Trudeau was the real deal. He was fresh. He is glib, charming, the man to make the difference. Most wanted to see the end of the Harper reign of error. There were the Liberals, of course, but the leader was young, inexperienced and many remembered his old man some with the fondness of time-dimmed memories and others not so fondly. And there was the NDP riding the Orange wave on the memory of Jack Layton. Unfortunately, something happened; only two parties were really in play.

Of course, it didn’t help that the NDP, leading in the polls and wanting so desperately to win, had lost its nerve and sought to play it safe; it opted for the middle road and, in so doing, had turned its back on its own socialist roots. And it certainly didn’t help that Mulcair was less than stellar in the debates and Trudeau, well, Trudeau simply surpassed the expectations of those who thought him immature and weak and unready. He did more than show up in pants. For too many, Mulcair had suddenly transformed to a hairier version of Stephen Harper; but actually, it was much worse – Mulcair had abandoned the old guard stalwarts of the NDP.

CHANGE, REAL CHANGE. WELL, NOT SO FAST.

Looks and youth can carry one for a time, in Trudeau’s case, for some time clearly. But it will eventually come crashing down because the voter who went for the same old same old will eventually tire of it convincing themselves, as they always do, that this time things really will be different buying the old arguments replacing one with the other but never going for the third choice for the same reasons: they can’t defeat__; I want__gone; my heart’s with the NDP but they can’t win. Wet logic.

On the surface, the Liberals seem to be a little more open and to have accomplished more of what they promised than the Conservatives in their best days. But, of the promises kept, the important and meaningful items appeared to have been sidelined or weakened. While campaigning, Trudeau vowed he would attempt to regain a seat on the UN Security Council with human rights as a priority. But, in carrying through with the light-armoured vehicle (LAV) trade deal with Saudi Arabia, he has revealed himself a true politician who not only failed those who believed he really did care about human rights but also his supporters who, incredibly, are still, often angrily, defending the Trudeau betrayal with the party line: it was a done deal, he had no choice. Of course he did but the ninnies will believe what they want because they are ninnies. Human rights would be a priority next deal, Trudeau vowed. That the Saudi deal violates Canada’s own rules regarding trade with nations who violate human rights is of no consequence for Trudeau who offers several excuses not one of them valid and one we already covered: the deal can’t be broken; cancelling the deal would tarnish Canada’s reputation; Canadian jobs would be lost. One would think placing human suffering second place to Canadian jobs and a $15 billion contract would tarnish Canada’s reputation. The thing is, it was Foreign Affairs minister Stéphane Dion who signed off on the export permits not Stephen Harper! According to the department of Global Affairs memo, “there have been no incidents where they (Canadian-made LAVs sold to the Saudi’s in the past) have been used in the perpetration of human-rights violations” (The Globe and Mail, Steven Chase, April 12, 2016). To victims, it likely doesn’t matter whose gun kills them but does that make selling weapons to one of the most brutal regimes morally acceptable? When the Liberals, after opposition hounding, finally did release the Department of Global Affairs report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, something the Conservatives refused to do, the document was heavily redacted (thus breaking Trudeau’s promise of more transparency) but offered enough to inform the public of appalling abuses including mass political executions. This is the Conservative playbook and the Trudeau Liberals signed off on it.

What does it take? Does a nice smile and warm hugs make the abuses disappear from the Canadian psyche or the crimes any less brutal? With Harper, one at least knew where he stood. He didn’t care about issues like this. He should have, Canadians should have, but he didn’t, we didn’t and neither does Trudeau.

But it’s still a shock to watch the Conservatives, now in opposition, with Tony Clement, as foreign critic, demanding the Liberals release the report on Saudi Arabia rights abuses before they complete the deal, something the Conservatives and Clement had absolutely no interest in doing when in government! Tony Clement, probably with leadership aspirations, is the same Clement who, as Treasury President, created a $50 million slush fund, spent $1 billion during the G-8 and G-20 summits for security which led to hundreds falsely detained and few charges, the same Clement who described some public servants as “dead wood”. Said this mountebank, “So don’t take the signal from the last government. If you want to be true to your principles and values, which the Conservative Party under new leadership shares, let’s move forward” (The Huffington Post Canada, Ryan Maloney, January 12, 2016). Not only did he appear to disavow his part in the Harper regime, effectively skewering Harper in the process, he skilfully demonstrated his adeptness in employing the essential tools required for success in politics: complete shamelessness and a profound facility for lying and hypocrisy.

Clement isn’t the only one of that gang so gifted.

Canadians over the past few months have been treated to the spectacle of the likes of Rona Ambrose, Pierre Poilievre, Michelle Rempel, Jason Kenney, Tony Clement, Maxime Bernier etc. speaking of co-operation, respect, and I find myself feeling trapped in a Kafkaesque world: how can these bastards who raised the spectre of fear and relentlessly worked at fomenting racial and religious intolerance still continue to hold office and so shamelessly ignore their own past behaviour?

I’M A LEADER. NO, I’M A LEADER. WRONG. I’M A LEADER.

There was Kellie Leitch standing next to Chris Alexander, gone for good one hopes, talking about a snitch line to encourage the reporting of BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICES. Months later, evidently chastened, remorseful, sorry, saddened, rueful, regretful, she appeared on Power and Politics clearly on the verge of faux tears, eyes welling, voice and lips trembling expressing that it had been a “mistake” to have been party to that vile campaign. Now this woman is a professional. She’s not dumb. She knew what she was doing then. Today, running for the Conservative leadership, she has determined that humble pie, especially with tears, might do some good. It was a shameless performance that has by now become familiar whereby celebrities and politicians publicly plead for forgiveness with copious amounts of tears and self-pity. Evidently, as so many politicians seem to be doing of late, Leitch has attended the same school offering the course Remorse, Tears and Forgiveness: The Art of Hypocrisy On The Comeback Trail After Losing An Election. Personally, I’m all for dumping those lying, cheating, stealing, pandering scoundrels into the garbage dump of history where they belong. Fortunately for them, there are always some willing to lap up the tears and forgive.

Then we have self-referential and self-reverential Michelle Rempel, another leadership potential, who, during the Harper years, made herself so obnoxiously present on political panels faithfully mouthing the party line and script. Believing herself leaps and bounds ahead of her colleagues and everyone else, she felt compelled to pass on this information to the world in a series of late-night tweets last October coming across as a hubris-driven rambling soak: “I’m a 35 year old chick. We are not supposed to do these sort of things, you know.” “I mean, I’m too brash, impetuous and abrasive, right?” “I am competent, proven, and ready. Here’s the question – are you ready for someone like me?” Far from being unique, she was just another loud, offensive, Harper loyalist who now, apparently, appears suddenly engaged in presenting the other side of the Conservative coin, the softer, nicer – hypocritical – side to which all politicians eventually succumb. There she was at the Conservative convention, held the same week as the Liberal Convention, ecstatically clinching her fists when her party voted to remove the ban on gay marriage. For her, it seems, this was the clincher that her party had caught up with the times. Rubbish. But where was her voice when the party last election waged war against two Muslim niqab-wearing women and fanned the flames of racial and religious intolerance? Where was her voice or any Conservative voice condemning the Conservative Party attempting to subvert the electoral process during elections with robocalls and changes to the Elections Act? Yeah, the Conservatives are willing to change with the times and are willing to shed the tears and ooze sincerity, but how much saccharine phoniness must we endure from them and the narcissist Rempel who imagines herself leader of the Conservatives and the country and the narcissist Liberal who, to connote sincerity, taps a palm against his heart at every tender opportunity and who actually is the leader of his party and does “govern” this country? Said Rempel of the vote, “Yes, it took us 10 years to get to this point, but I think this is something that is a beacon for people around the world who are looking at equality rights. Canada is a place where we celebrate equality.” Suddenly she and the Conservatives have discovered equality rights. Tell that to the Canadian Muslims, to unionists, to those victim citizens of brutal human rights abuses inflicted on them by Saudi Arabia with whom Harper signed the fifteen billion dollar deal. I don’t recall Rempel voicing objection when Harper announced $3.5 billion in funds for global maternal and child health care while at the same time refusing to fund charities offering family planning. I can understand opposition to abortion but I cannot understand abandoning child brides and victims of war to a life of subjugation, misery and poverty. Nice.

These people are jokes. We have Maxime Bernier, another Conservative leadership entry, a libertarian who supports smaller government and the free market economy (you know, the market version of Darwinisim where those that have get more and those that don’t, well, I guess we just get less) who, as Minister of Foreign Affairs resigned after spending a night with his girlfriend, once affiliated with a Hell’s Angels member, leaving behind highly sensitive documents. Yeah, he’d be good for the country as long as he’s not preoccupied with the real things that make life worth living.

Another possibility for leadership is Jason Kenney though there are rumours he may resign his Federal post for a leadership role in his home province of Alberta. Now some may recall him as the MP who has proven himself rather careless with the use of government letterheads when fundraising and, to put it delicately, proven himself a stranger to truth more often than a man in his position should as when he attempted to suggest Trudeau seemed sympathetic to terrorists and when he tweeted pictures last year to celebrate International Women’s Day depicting women in chains and a young bride with her ISIS “husband” which the public was to take as proof of ISIS brutality. He just neglected to inform us that the first picture was a ceremonial re-enactment of an ancient historical event and that the second photo was an absolute fake. No one doubts the brutality of ISIS but it serves no cause to embellish or fake reports. But what can one expect from a fellow who also oversaw the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which, until the story came out, allowed Canadian companies to pay foreign workers 15% less than Canadian workers. In other words, Kenney and the Harper gang conspired with big business to undermine Canadian workers. And jobs were lost because of this. But if offensive and untruthful, for some, the Liberals in particular, there appeared in his behaviour a carryover of the racism dogging the last Conservative campaign. I don’t believe racism was at play when Jason heckled defence minister Harjit Sajjan as Sajjan attempted to explain the government’s plans regarding ISIS allegedly saying MPs needed an “English-to-English translation”. Liberals, however, demanded an apology and accused Kenney of racism. Was it? He may not have intended it as such but I have little doubt Kenney meant to be offensive. It’s comes naturally to him apparently.

Recently, Kenney has been all over the Liberals for demonstrating reluctance to denounce the acts of ISIS against the Yazidis as genocide. The reluctance by the Liberals was inexplicable but the Liberals finally agreed: ISIS acts against the Yazidis were indeed genocidal. But there is dispute about that. Vile and brutal as they are, some do not believe that the criterion of genocide has been met. To the victims, it doesn’t matter: death is death. But again, where was Kenney’s voice on human rights when Harper signed the deal with Saudi Arabia? No doubt, Kenney is an excellent politician: when it comes to the tools, lying and hypocrisy, he’s got them down pat and then some. There are facts and then there are Jason Kenney facts.

I’M NEW BUT AM I REALLY DIFFERENT?

It is not necessary to enumerate all the Conservative betrayals, the list would be too long, and I have covered many of them enough to be justly charged with being tiresomely repetitive, but it may still help to remind some that, when they finally did achieve the majority the Conservatives routinely abused the privilege wielding it as a club alienating environmentalists, jurists, educators, scientists, public service workers, unionists, military veterans, and the media while also working to dismantle the electoral process that would and could hamstring Elections Canada while effectively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. Unfortunately, we are seeing signs of similar failings from the Trudeau Liberals and not just with LAV. Motion 6, introduced and just as quickly rescinded last month, a bill some observers have suggested as being even more regressive, vicious and draconian than any put forward by the Harper gang during their worst days, not only gave the Liberals absolute control of the House, it stripped the opposition of any opportunity to do its job. Though rescinded, Motion 6 hovers like an evil spectre that, having been raised once can be made to rise again. The Liberals may be a younger crowd but they play hardball as seriously as any experienced politico thug.

In fact, the Liberals have learned a lot from the Conservatives. They have certainly learned that as long as people still support them, they can get away with anything.

Honesty; transparency; truth. Trudeau’s Liberals, as have the Conservatives, have betrayed all three with the same casualness. We have justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould unapologetically breaching what must surely be conflict of interest guidelines by attending a private fundraiser by lawyers. No matter; who cares except a few lousy journalists, idiot bloggers and concerned citizens?

When the Harper Conservatives became fixated on securing F-35s, Liberal and NDP opposition members were justly harshly critical of his failure to move towards an open bidding process and for his secrecy regarding costs and for his personal attacks against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer at the time. While the Liberals have not quite decided what to do with the F-35s, they have set their sights on purchasing Super Hornet jets labelled an “interim measure” without consultation apparently the matter too urgent to be delayed. While our present force of CF-18s is due for retirement in 2020, there is no evidence provided of the sudden urgency to move now. However, these are the best fighter jets for Canada we are informed. Didn’t the Harper gang say the same regarding F-35s? The F-35s are single engine while the Super Hornets two-engine; if I were a pilot I know what I would prefer. However, recently there was news of trouble with the oxygen supply for the Super Hornets. The Liberals might do well to pull back a little and investigate further with the possibility of looking at other jets. The Conservative secrecy they once decried suddenly seems acceptable. Ah, politics. Give me the honest liar.

Now the Liberals have announced they would return the prison farms considered a very good rehabilitative tool for convicts. The Conservatives, preferring punishment to rehabilitation, had scrapped the program. Bringing back the prison farms is a good move as is the Liberal decision to alter the make up of the electoral reform committee to reflect the proportionality of the vote rather than the number of seats won. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives squeal, “back room deal” between the Liberals and NDP. As good phoney hypocrites they, naturally, chose to ignore their own failures to consult with Canadians and the opposition when they rammed through Bill C-23, the so-called fair elections act, and their many attempts to slip legislation into omnibus bills. Regardless, all that wheeling and whining may prove unnecessary. The Liberals may not go through with the reform or simple ignore the recommendations opting instead for their preferred choice, which will favour them forever, the ranked ballot system.

The Liberals have also kept another promise with the formation of an oversight committee to be watchdog over our spy agencies. That, too, is good. It was also another easy commitment and will silence critics. It will consist of two senators and a maximum of four governing members and the rest from the opposition, one assumes. The committee will have the ability to scrutinize all intelligence and security operations and expected to protect the rights and security of Canadians. There will be some restrictions but even these can be publicly appealed.

The Liberals and eight provincial governments must also be congratulated for having committed to an agreement that, if it goes through, will benefit the young workers of today thirty years from now with expansion of the CPP program. It could be better with more for the poorest and meanest among us but it’s something, a start that hopefully will include those now left out.

But this is no love-in for the Liberals. There are plenty of reasons for Canadians to be unhappy.

Health Canada plans to allow for the sale of irradiated ground meat. A few years back, over twenty consumers died from tainted meat poisoning. The Conservatives followed the tragedy by reducing the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber-stampers of in-house testing by meat producers. Since the deadly outbreak, there have been several massive recalls of tainted meat all of them caught by American food inspectors at the border. Where is Health Canada?

On May 30, 2016, I wrote an email to minister of health, Jane Philpott, with copies to the agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau expressing my outrage and concern regarding irradiation particularly in the area of hygiene and safety. There will be a further erosion of both. Because of irradiation, meat and other products will be deemed “safe” because zapped. Meat and other food producers will feel emboldened to increase productivity at the expense of safety and sanitary procedures. Workers, particularly in kill plants and processing, will become even more careless which will eventually result in meat products becoming laced with fecal matter, piss, puss, snot, blood and other offal matter. But that’s okay. The products may be unpalatable but will be “safe” enough to eat. Just don’t think about what you’re putting into your mouth. The products will be labelled as meat (or garden fresh fruit, lettuce, etc.) but fail to list the other tantalizing ingredients to which consumers may be subjected. Yum, yum, dig in.

But why has Health Canada, as it has over the years, and the Liberal government, as have all governments over the past twenty to thirty years, become more interested in the health of big business rather than the health of consumers. The answer probably lies in the type of people government ministers have on board as advisors and assistants. For example, we do know agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay has employed as chief of staff one Mary Jean McFall whose family, as owners of Burnbrae Farms, is one of Canada’s biggest egg producers in the country. She was also a former member of the Egg Farmers of Ontario Board as well as a recent Liberal Candidate. Does any of this make you pause perhaps wondering what kind of relationship Health Canada may have with other agricultural or pharmaceutical interests? And then we have Bill Morneau, finance minster, who has hired folks from TransCanada. The truth is, this government is riddled with past, present and doubtless future employees of Big Business.

So whose interests are really being served? With the Conservatives, we had no doubt. The question is: How good do the Liberals look to you now?

Still uncertain?

We have minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland who has or is about to sign off on various trade deals. We’ve covered the LAV deal and the despicable Liberal response to it coated with lies and hypocrisy. We also have CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) described by Freeland as a “gold-plated” deal. I guess she likes it. And we have the highly secretive TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) deal that the Americans have called “Made in America”. Gosh, I wonder who they expect to come out the winner? Must Canadians silently believe and accept that their governments will act in the interests of all Canadians? I guess so. Only when the deal is sealed will Canadians get a glimmer of what has been traded, sold, or betrayed with threats of severe sanctions to anyone revealing any part of the deal before then.

With NAFTA, Canadians saw how easily Conservatives surrendered sovereignty to corporations; with TPP we can only expect a further diminishment but this time with the Liberals at the helm. Business interests, i.e. the maximization of profits, supplant Canadian laws meant to protect its citizens. This is better? Is this what Canadians heard when Trudeau talked of more openness, more consultation and more transparency?

Perhaps we should ask our veterans those brave men and women how they feel about this “new”, “better” regime. Abused by the Conservatives and now by the Liberals, veterans must be wondering when the nine veterans offices will be reopened. Too, what happened to the reinstatement of the lifelong disability pension? Gone, the promise sweetened only by an increase to the lump sum payments. Well, better than a lump of coal. Too bad. Suckers! Isn’t it enough to be called a hero?

Is this what our governments have become? Mean-spirited bullies jerking veterans around? Seems so.

Oh, yes, there have been some give by the Liberals, but on the small things.

Look at how the Liberals handled C-14, the physician-assisted legislation he promised to introduce. He kept that promise. That’s good. However, he weakened it so drastically that it satisfies no one except, perhaps, to those shining Christian hypocrites absolutely opposed to assisted suicide regardless of the pleas of those suffering. That’s bad. Trudeau and his justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and health minister Jane Philpott, have arrived at a formula that will allow doctor-assisted suicide only for those near certain death. This does not address the mandate of the Supreme Court and certainly does nothing to comfort most Canadians and especially those not terminally ill suffering unendurable mental anguish and physical pain. Trudeau clearly did not spell out the terms of his proposed legislation to Canadians while he campaigned. He and his crew deliberately misled the public doubtless aware that it expected him to honour the intent of the Supreme Court. He did not. What he did was cruel and manipulative. But it helped win him the vote. For the sufferers, this is no hope, mercy or solution. Instead there is cruelty and mockery in a law that offers very cold comfort indeed.

Only when near death will those suffering from unendurable pain be allowed to receive the care they need. This is no accident. Everyone wins except those who wanted, expected and deserved more from this bill and from this government. The law will be appealed. That is exactly what Trudeau most likely hopes to happen. He can then say to those opposed to assisted dying he stood up for them while offering compassion for the dying. He can also claim he stood up for those wanting such legislation. He can say he stood up to the Senate and that he did his best to limit the effects of assisted dying; he may claim, without justification that everyone wins, those for, against and on the fence. It’s a lie, of course.

The Senate can also boast of doing its best claiming they had fulfilled their mandate, made amendments, which the government, in fulfilling its mandate, could accept or reject in passing the bill. Senators will have thus proved their utility to the public, perhaps even earning some goodwill for their stellar efforts in demonstrating that there may, indeed, be a need for this much-maligned chamber of sober second thought. Trudeau will have been vindicated and credited with creating a “truly” independent Senate and the bill, taken to the Supreme Court will no longer be his responsibility whatever happens. He did his best and whatever, if any, changes the Court makes has nothing to do with him now. He did his level best (is anyone thinking of the Harper gang now?) he can say perhaps going so far as to blame an activist court just as did Harper, an act he, Trudeau, had condemned at the time as wrong, offensive, disrespectful and irresponsible.

Even the Conservatives can draw some comfort perhaps even vindication: See, we warned you of the activist courts.

Everyone will have proven his hypocritical stripe including the voters who apparently care nothing for “real” change preferring instead to swallow the bilge of those they support.

When will it end? When will voters bring an end to lies and hypocrisy and the liars and the hypocrites? Why do we listen to the demagogues who pander to the worst in us and why do we accept the populist rhetoric of voter as victim rather than refusing to be either victim or victimizer? Education, being open to new ideas, listening, really listening and understanding what one sees, hears and does are the tools we need to combat ignorance, fear, wishful thinking, magical thinking, non-thinking. Since Canada became a nation we have heard the same two parties make and break promises and still we go on voting for the same two lying hypocritical groups rather than trying out the third party or even the forth party. When will we awaken to the fact that parties campaigning with fear rather than hope and “real” change, change that actually takes place, wage war against truth? We must stop being afraid. When we hear of terrorists, examine what is really being said and done and look at your fellow citizens and the multitude of examples that give the lie to those haters who would have us make decisions based on fear. When will we shun the demagogue who pushes our emotional buttons because he does not believe us capable of thinking, of reasoning, of discerning the true from the false? When will we stop allowing ourselves to be defined by others and when will we put an end to our own self-doubts about our own worth and humanity and the worth and humanity of our neighbours and those newcomers seeking the comfort and security we claim to provide? We cannot call ourselves a truly good people unless we accept and help the poorest and meanest among us and know we have no right to judge when we do not know their story.

Unfortunately, when I look across the line to America and when I look back on all the elections I fear that what I will see in the future will simply be an ugly mirror of the past. We will not get better. We will not be better. We will keep on saying: This time, it really will be different.

It won’t. Too many refuse to wake up.

I will ask as I have asked many times before: How stupid can people be?

Evidently the pool is limitless.

 ***

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

 

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

Frank Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

Contemptible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

POLITICS, POLITICIANS AND THE PUBLIC: THE ENDLESS SHAMELESS DANCE

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

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

SHALL WE DANCE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PARTNERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FEW GOOD STEPS, SOME STUMBLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: October 15, 2015

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPY VS. CITIZEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, very little, as it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER: THE COWARDLY LION

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. – Joseph Schumpeter

Idealists…foolish enough to throw caution to the winds…have advanced mankind and enriched the world. – Emma Goldman

Frank A. Pelaschuk

IS IT THAT TIME ALREADY?

You know Harper’s on the election trail when you see him tieless, checkered shirt unbuttoned at the neck, striding to and fro across a stage, his back to enthralled members of his caucus and playing to a camera and an unseen audience. His face glowing with the exultation of an ecstatic, he enumerates his government’s “achievements” loudly trumpeting that Canada is the envy of the world and Canadians are better off than ever under his leadership.

He’s talking to those whom you would think would know but, of course, he’s aware of the camera, it’s not to them he and his caucus are playing. One thing is certain, he has introduced an Americanism that appears here to stay: campaigning early and in earnest one full year before Canadian’s next go to the polls. That is if he keeps to his own fixed election agenda and doesn’t go sooner than the October 19, 2015 date. With this gang, one never knows; since he introduced the fixed dates, Harper’s never adhered to it. With the Mike Duffy trial now set for April 7, 2015 and the very real possibility of embarrassing revelations, voters might wonder if they can expect more of the same.

Maybe we do know after all.

Regardless of when, from now to the election, we are about to be flooded with even more of the triumphalist rodomontade, bombast, hypocrisy, lies, accusations, mudslinging, and bribery in the forms of taxpayer funded ads, hysterical hyperbolic speeches and shiny promises of tax cuts and a few other incidental baubles for the easily lead and the cheaply bought. Watching Harper work his MPs on the first day of the fall session (September 15, 2014), one cannot doubt his enthusiasm though he gives the impression of anxiety as he spins the Conservative mythology; he believes and wants us to as well: theirs is the best, wisest, and sanest government in the world and they are the best, wisest, and sanest money managers in the history of the mankind and he, Harper, is the best, wisest and sanest leader since time began. Clearly, and we must understand this, only he and his Conservatives can save us from the perils out there. Well, that is in their imaginings. All he really expects and wants of us, and many already have, is to park our minds, put them in neutral and swallow the swill holus-bolus. For some it’s a lot easier than for others.

Today, however, one senses something close to desperation, his declarations urgent, his warnings direr, Harper and his MPs making more appearances in the press though, it is true, Harper prefers to speak to the American press. Apparently he agrees with Senator Marjory LeBreton: the Canadian media is rife with lickspittle elites.

He’s worried, seems less convincing than as one trying to convince. Still, he looks more at ease then he does in that old picture of him wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest, hands on hips, his expression wary, shifty eyes shifted to his right, the smile a sickly grimace as if aware how dismal is his effort to appear one of the hoi polloi, a casual member of the masses. But that was a while back when he first sought to soften his image, to suggest that he was one of us, just regular folk, one who listens, cares. Did it work for you? To some, the transformation was convincing enough; he got his majority with less than 40% of the vote. So why does it seem, with all his claims to great achievement, the act of bonhomie does not come all that easily, that his exhortations appear a bit forced and his expression not all that inviting? Maybe it’s the cameras that intimidate. Whatever it is, there’s something false about it all, too stage crafted to appear natural and casual and convincing. He appears as comfortable as would the Duchess of Windsor mud wrestling before drunken males.

If Harper is running scared, and he should be given his propensity for secrecy, non-disclosure, bullying, ridiculing, smearing, and refusal to share information with Canadians and the opposition members who represent them, it is because he knows, come next election, he has a very good chance of losing to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. He certainly is not running scared because he has second thoughts about his policies or his goals, narrow to the extreme. He should, but he doesn’t nor do his supporters. Conservatives are not much given to second-guessing themselves; they are certainly not much given to reflection, to doubts. They are deaf to the voices of others, oh, no, not their friends, those lords and masters in industry or those generous donors to the Conservative coffers with off-shore accounts, but to the opposition members, the very people we elect to insure our interests are heard, considered and met. The sad fact is, the Harper gang, and that is what they are, thugs in suits, do not much care what we think: they have their majority. They believe their narrow base of core supporters will be enough and it well may be with the creation of thirty new gerrymandered ridings that will almost certainly garner them 22 more seats, provided the apocalypse doesn’t strike first or supporters switch on their brains. That will be a long wait.

SO WHO IS THE NEW(ISH) HOPE?

If Harper loses, and I hope he does and the whole gang are decimated to extinction, I am uncertain we will be better off even so; it will just be the Liberals swapping places and the NDP returning to their usual third place. It’s always been thus: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals. It’s a game chicken voters are too timid to end by trying something daring. Instead of booting both teams off the field and awarding the cup to the third team, Canadian voters would rather stick with the tried and true, the arrogant, cruel, corrupt and corruptible they already know and understand than risk the uncertainty of what they may believe competent and well-intentioned but fear because untested.

Untested. They would be wrong, of course. If any of them took the time to objectively watch the performances of the three parties in the House during Question Period, if they took the time and made the effort to fully appreciate how dismal the state of affairs has become, there is little effort required to discover this, they would know that the NDP is far from untested and, while imperfect in some ways, certainly has less baggage than the other two parties and is better placed to not only offer Canadians what we want but what we need: open, honest, ethical leadership.

It is not Justin Trudeau’s fault that he is young and relatively inexperienced, but it is that he is too eager in his ambitions to bide his time and gain seasoning before going for the leadership of the nation. Nor is it his fault that his name evokes rosy of flower children and Trudeaumania but false memories that gloss over the reality of the War Measures Act enacted by his father. Nor is it his fault that he is handsome and charismatic and draws the attention of the young and thoughtless who prefer celebrity to ideas or a clear vision. And it is not his fault a few of the old, perhaps harkening back to the days when they may have been “progressive’, will declare their vote for a change, something new, without really meaning it in the crunch, opting instead for the same ol’ same ol’. But it is his fault when he plays on these rather than offer Canadians valid reasons why he and his party would make a better choice to lead this nation.

If one watched Question Period in the House, he would note that Trudeau is absent more often than not, too busy raising funds and garnering support for his party. Too, he would note that, when Trudeau does make an appearance, he all too often throws his support to the Conservatives on such contentious issues as the Keystone XL pipeline or the Temporary Foreign Workers Program which allows companies to replace Canadian workers for foreign workers for less; Trudeau would tweak the program which allows for the suppression of wages rather than scrap it altogether as the NDP suggest. Too, without any apparent knowledge of what the full impact will be, Trudeau and the Liberals have thrown their support behind the secretive, costly free trade deal the Conservatives and the Chinese government cooked up over two years before ratifying it on September 9th. That’s when Canadians learned about the deal. What’s worse, the sellout takes effect this October 1st. That is three weeks after Canadian’s learned it was a done deal. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), locks Canada to it for 31 years and, according to experts, gives much to China, very little to Canada. The deal could cost Canadian taxpayers billions should China dispute a regulation any level of government might put in place that might place restrictions on how it conducts its business here. With their investments in the energy field, if they conduct business as they do in China, efforts to clean up the environment, which is already moving at glacial speed, thanks to the Harper gang who don’t believe it’s real, would be moot. FIPA is a Conservative effort conducted behind closed doors, with neither debate nor input from the opposition parties. While the NDP has called to put a stop to the deal before it takes effect, the Liberals have opted to support it without knowing what the full effect will be on Canada, the Canadian economy, and Canadians. If it was such a great deal for Canadians, why the secrecy, why the silence, why no debate? When Harper and gang are silent on a trade deal rather than shouting it from the rooftops, as is their wont, we should be prepared for the worst.

Trudeau seems a nice young man but surely we deserve better than this.

SO, IT WAS AN ELECTION, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

In 2006, Harper promised to usher in a “new era of accountability” if he was elected. He was, the promise broken, and the Conservatives laughing. Oh, that. That was just another election promise; surely Canadians knew that. If not, we quickly learned.

From the very first, Conservatives have openly and defiantly dismissed the concept of transparency when, in December of 2008, he prorogued Parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote when the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois joined forces threatening to defeat the budget. Since then, he has shut down Parliament, i.e., cut and ran, on three other occasions. That is one method of governance. Another is not to meet with Canadian media or to answer questions in the House by those people we elect to ask them. Harper and his gang have turned this form of governance into farce at times resembling performance art worthy of Dadaism if not a monkey house. Harper and his gang have made a mockery, not only of their offices, but also of the parliamentary process and of those who vote for them.

I don’t know about those who support the Conservatives, but I believe in democracy, in the right of citizens to be informed and believe that governments must be held accountable; that includes answering questions put to them in the House. Harper and gang flatly disagree routinely resorting to non-sequiturs, fingerpointing, evasion, diversion, derision, outright lying, and just acting up. And this is the sanest government in the world?

However offensive their antics and stubborn in their refusal to be accountable, it quickly becomes apparent that they are not indifferent stewards of our nation; no, they are too far gone for that. Theirs is the mindset of the corporatocracy; they govern on the behest of corporate interests in the core belief that it is business and money that keeps the world moving and that anything can and should be bought and sold for gain. They have long ago become corrupted by power and by the desire to cling to it. While their ideology may lead them to reject the Darwinism of evolution, they are not averse to passing legislation to make it easier for industry with their distorted free enterprising Darwinism of survival of the fittest. If the Conservatives were absolutely free to do what they would, they would doff their hats and sing in the streets, “Anything Goes”. They have become fixated with creating surpluses, selling off Canadian resources and cutting corporate taxes at the expense of public service jobs, social programs, our infrastructures and the environment. Let the next generation worry about the devastation left in their wake.

They talk about tax cuts, boasting of it how much they have saved consumers while thinking nothing of spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on ads informing us, much of it on Facebook! Really.

While Harper and John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, strut upon the world stage loudly and belligerently trumpeting their support of Israel and Ukraine, condemning Russia’s incursion into the Crimea, and hedge their bets on Iraq, they do so ignoring the screaming voices demanding answers and declaring them all bluster and hot air hoping the public will not notice. Yes, their voices are loud, but the sabres they rattle are very, very small plastic toothpicks indeed.

Talk and noise, while allowing our military resources to suffer greatly. Our men and women are ill equipped with old, out-dated gear. Half of Canada’s Naval ships are either being repaired or sold for scrap. The four used British submarines purchased 20 years ago have never properly performed and have been in constant repair. Canada’s air force C-18 planes are due for retirement in 2020. Unfortunately, the F-35s, upon which the government has set it’s sights while deceiving the public as to the real costs, will not be ready by that date. Remember Harper and MacKay campaigning, feuding with the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, regarding the true costs of those Cadillac of jets? Harper and MacKay boasted the figure was only $9 billion for 65 jets. Page disputed this saying the figures were closer to $45 billion. Harper and gang refused to show him the books, preferring instead to smear Page and his reputation and refusing to renew his contract. To this date, the true costs remain unknown though $45 billion appears to be the number many critics have settled on though some claim a much higher number: $125 billion. Nevertheless, the Conservatives won the vote. But, if that, if the misleading numbers regarding the F-35s doesn’t rile you, this might. Search and rescue has taken a beating; there was a time, I don’t know if it still applies, when someone needing help found himself talking to a call centre in Spain! The Search and Rescue team are saddled with obsolete planes that daily imperil our brave responders. Shockingly, it was recently revealed the Royal Canadian Air Force had to raid the aviation museum in Trenton for parts for its search and rescue planes. Scavenging for parts when the Harper gang spend millions advertising programs that don’t even exist! Lord help us. Lord help those poor folks who must rely on those planes.

Yeah, Harper and gang are the best and wisest money managers in the world; just ask them. They’ll tell you.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Harper’s is a government of loudmouths and blowhards. Harper talks tough, and he is, when it comes to civil servants, to the poor, elderly and young. It’s easy when you’re a coward and a bully and your opponent is defenseless. But he’s not so tough with his corporate friends who don’t pay their fair share, who hide funds offshore, as if they didn’t pay little enough as it is; indeed one gets the impression that the Harper gang plots with their business friends to suppress low income wages by replacing Canadian with foreign workers.

They are monsters of indifference not only when it comes to ethics, transparency, but also in how little respect they hold for voters, opposition members and for the House itself.

This week, Harper was in the United States. He was in New York but not attending the UN Summit on Climate Change (he could not care less). One hundred and twenty-five world leaders were in attendance. President Obama was there. Not Harper. After losing Canada a seat on the UN Security Council, after years of trashing the UN itself, after four years of shunning the opportunity to speak at the Assembly, he was there, finally, to give a speech. An election must be approaching. But he was not there to speak on climate change, terrorism or Canada’s role in Iraq. No, he was there to speak on something totally different, laudable and important: combatting preventable deaths of mothers and children. However, he undermines his own message somewhat with his government’s denial of funding to charities practicing family planning, including abortion for war rape victims and child brides forced into marriages in these war-ravaged, poverty-stricken areas of the world. He further diminishes his message by outlining his solution to preventable deaths of mothers and children by pushing the same message he does at home: Free enterprise. For Harper, everything is reducible to free trade and the free flow of capital. Prosperity and wealthy will naturally follow. He can’t give it a rest. Even doing the right thing, like saving lives, must be monetized.

Just prior to that, he attended an event sponsored by Goldman Sachs answering questions by a Wall St. Journalist. It was only then, on foreign soil, before a foreign press, that Canadians learned that Obama had sent Harper a letter requesting more help in combatting ISIL. We already have 69 “advisors” in Iraq whose presence there would be evaluated after 30 days. Harper stated he would consider the request after consulting with his cabinet. There is nothing in that appearance about seeking advice from the opposition or debate or holding a vote. What is very disturbing about this is that Canadians and their representatives did not learn of this first; they had to hear it from foreign journalists on foreign soil. Too, CTV reported on the late evening National News September 25th, the story didn’t quite unfold that way. According to the report, sources from the White House stated it was Harper who approached the President, writing to ask in what way Canada could help. This may appear small, and it is, but, if true, says something about Harper’s character, which would surprise no one following him. By having one of the most important leaders on the world stage turn to him for assistance, Harper inflates his own significance in hopes of convincing Canadians that he is, indeed, a world player. This is typical Harper. As is his making of significant announcements when he is out of the country because he is too cowardly to face his Canadian audience and because he has determined that the Canadian media is out to get him (all that is except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong).

While Harper was in New York, and before his conference in the with the press, Thomas Mulcair, at home, struggled for two days to get answers to legitimate questions: How long would those 69 advisors be in Iraq; when did the 30 day evaluation period begin and when would it end; would Canada be asked to do more; would there be feet on the ground in Iraq? Canadians have every right to know the answers to these questions. Well, not so according to Harper’s Conservatives.

When Mulcair posed these questions in the House, Paul Calandra, either Harper’s immoderately idiotic parliamentary secretary or Harper’s voluntary whipping boy and sacrificial lamb, responded on behalf of the government for the absent Harper. He stood up and read from a script a reply that had nothing to do with the question but would have done Lewis Carroll proud. After several more attempts to get a straight answer to direct questions, Calandra responded in the same ridiculous vein reading from the same sheet of paper. Mulcair, angry now, addressed the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, pointing out he had an obligation to enforce rules and compel government members to respond to questions put to them. When Mulcair once again tried to get an answer from the government side, Calandra again read from the script, prompting an exasperated Mulcair to address the Speaker with this: “Well, Mr. Speaker, that does not speak favourably about your neutrality in this House.” Scheer immediately retaliated by denying Mulcair the final question to which he was entitled, moving on to the third party leader, Justin Trudeau.

All this happened on September 23, before Harper spoke to the American press and before his speech in the UN. That evening, on CBC’s Power and Politics, Conservative James Bezan laughed off the episode with a dismissive and well-worn phrase, “It’s called question period, not answer period”! If that is not contempt for Parliament, nothing is. Pardon my naiveté, but I expect an answer when a Member of Parliament puts a question to the governing party. The next day, Scheer responded to Mulcair’s charge, saying there was nothing he could do, that, if members wanted to change the way things are done, they would have to do it themselves. He could not, he said, direct the question nor direct a response. Then he repeated the same facetious line Bezan had the day before, “That’s why it’s call question period, not answer period”! That Scheer said this with a smirk should have made the blood of all Canadian’s boil. This from the Speaker of the House who is supposed to be neutral. Immediately after Scheer spoke, both Conservative and Liberal members stood up and gave Scheer a standing ovation! To their credit, the NDP kept to their seats.

If it is as Scheer states, if it’s true his hands are tied, then perhaps it is time the Speaker be given more power to ensure that government response are relevant to the questions posed. As it stands, his function is little more than to rise and shout over the bedlam, “Order. Order!” If one of his duties is to impose decorum, he has failed miserably. Since Scheer has become Speaker, all pretence to decorum in the House has vanished. Is he really that weak, that powerless? I think not. I sense that the Conservatives feel emboldened to make Asses of themselves because Scheer has taken the easy route; he simply washed his hands of the matter and Question Period. His neutrality has been questioned in the past as when he sat for two weeks on requests by Elections Canada to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan for not filling out proper expense claims during the 2011 campaign. Both finally did so, Glover when learning she was to be promoted and Bezan with claims to having been “vindicated” after he submitted an accurate report and Elections Canada dropped the matter.

What we are witnessing in the House today is a perversion of democracy, a mockery wherein government members could as easily be baboons for all their antics and their non-responses. For this, I blame Stephen Harper and his gang. It’s not entertaining except, it seems to the Conservative members, who jump up and enthusiastically applaud and thump each other on the back whenever Harper or one of his members opens his or her mouth to offer a non-response or, when someone like Calandra, the sacrificial Fool in the House, likely acting on instruction from Harper’s handlers, retorts with nonsensical innuendo by reading from a script in hopes of smearing the opposition NDP with something so obscure that even most Conservative members don’t know what’s going on. These are apes enamoured by their own idiocy. I am not amused nor should you be. If Question Period in the House does not give members of the public answers to their concerns, it does give them ample opportunity to witness for themselves how completely underserving Harper and his gang are of holding public office. They certainly don’t deserve the pay and the padded expense accounts.

Scheer, too, must be held accountable for much of antics we see in the House. He has lost or surrendered control of the House. He could censure members who refuse to offer responses relevant to the questions put to them by naming them or having them removed. He can do the same when government members evade, obfuscate, lie or ignore the question altogether. As it stands now, he has washed his hands of the whole affair and refuses to accept responsibility. We all are familiar with that story. It’s a spectacle unworthy of those who have the nerve to call themselves Parliamentarians. Something needs to be done; somehow, someway, the Speaker’s role must be enhanced and his partisanship eliminated as much as possible. But members of parliament, too, must change. They are not answerable to their party or their leader but they are to the people.

If the behaviour in Parliament we have been subjected to doesn’t repel you, nothing will; you are indifferent to ethics, to democracy and deserve the contempt of all those who do believe governments must be accountable to those who elect them. When the Speaker of the House simply shrugs his shoulders and repeats a silly statement that is specious and dishonest, you can only despair. Is this what we expect from our leaders? Do we not deserve better?

One can almost forgive Calandra if his was the only act of buffoonery and he was dumb enough to offer himself for the role assigned by Harper; if he was acting under instructions, he should simply have said, “No”. Why would anyone set himself up to be the laughingstock of Canada?

Interestingly, the next day, perhaps realizing that the Calandra show might have gone too far, the Minister of Defence at least made an attempt to appear as if he was answering questions on Canadian troops in Iraq while in fact not doing so. The result is the same and just as bad, just as offensive and yet better than what we witnessed the day before. Today, September 26, even as I am writing this, Paul Calandra, teary-eyed and voice breaking, stood up and apologized to the House.

Too late.

Perhaps it was from the backlash from the public. Perhaps his own fellow Conservatives were embarrassed. Nevertheless, too late.

Shame on Stephen Harper and his government.

Democratically elected, the Harper Conservatives are absolutely the least democratic party in the past few decades. By their very behaviour in the House, they have degraded Parliament and threaten our democracy. They are unworthy of this country, of our support, and of our trust; they have consistently and persistently degraded their positions with the élan of monkeys and the truly stupid, cruel and thoughtless: Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre, Kellie Leitch, Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, Chris Alexander, Brad Butt, Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Leona Aglukkaq, Colin Carrie, Andrew Scheer, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Jason Kenney, John Baird, and, of course, Stephen Harper are the most notable wallowing in that foul swamp.

These are the people you folks want in office?

Even greater shame on you.

Yes, yes, and yes again…they belong in the trashcan of history.

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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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

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