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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

 

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THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG AND THE APATHETIC CITIZENRY: THE UNDERMINING OF DEMOCRACY

The justification of majority rule in politics is not to be found in its ethical superiority. – Walter Lippmann

Along with responsible newspapers we must have responsible readers. – Arthur Hays Sulzberger

It is well to remember that freedom through the press is the thing that comes first. Most of us probably feel we couldn’t be free without newspapers, and that is the real reason we want newspapers to be free. – Edward R. Murrow

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE, THE ARCHITECT OF PAIN AND RUIN

If anyone has lately seen Pierre Poilievre, the architect of the egregiously mistitled Fair Elections Act, on television news defending his vile handiwork, it can immediately become clear why all Canadians should be deeply troubled for the state of their democracy. His appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, March 27, 2014, immediately following that of Harry Neufeld, former B.C. Chief Electoral Officer and author of the report of his, Neufeld’s, investigation reviewing issues of non-compliance of election rules, ceaselessly cited by Poilievre as justification for reworking the Elections Act, provides the clearest evidence, and just another example of many, of Harper’s extreme lack of judgement. Placing Poilievre at the helm of the Ministry of Democratic Reform makes him the unlikeliest and most unpleasant candidate for the post, particularly in light of the campaign he and another vicious conservative sidekick, Dean del Mastro, now facing four charges for election irregularities, waged war in the House of Commons against Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for their investigations of the Conservative Party’s role in the robocalls scandals and voter suppression. Poilievre, hardly non-partisan, poses the greatest threat to our democracy and to our electoral process. Not many, I suggest, were that surprised by the appointment. As has been demonstrated in the past, Harper is quite willing to poke his finger into the public eye as he did with his appointment of Joe Oliver, former Minister of Natural Resources, another partisan and vile adherent to a political ideology that denies and ridicules not only the opinions of others, but also the facts. It was he, on behalf of the Harper gang, who labelled environmentalists opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline as “radicals” and stooges to foreign environmental groups and who has persistently denied global warming and climate change. Speaking in Washington, DC, last year, he savaged renowned NASA scientist climatologist James Hansen accusing him of “exaggerated rhetoric” for his position regarding development of the Alberta tar sands. Poilievre is of that ilk, only much, much more offensive and dangerous. The Conservative Party must draw these folks as naturally as road kill does carrion.

How is it possible that Bill C-23, a Bill that will alter the electoral system in such a profoundly fundamental way, be even considered without real, meaningful consultation with, or agreement from, the opposition parties, from Elections Canada and past and present Chief Electoral Officers, legal experts, academics, and the public? Imposing one’s will with the brute force of a majority is no way to operate in a democracy. That is not open, honest, transparent governance; that is control.

No one, absolutely no one, other than conservative partisans, agrees that this is a good revision of the Elections Act. This is not just the opposition opposing everything as the Harper thugs would have you believe, it is opposition by almost every segment of society except, sadly, the sleeping, indifferent, parochial, narcissistic public that seems to be reluctant to awaken to the hazard facing it.

The so-called, cruelly misnamed Fair Elections Act is unfair, discriminatory and clearly aimed towards benefitting the party in power. When Robert Fife of CTV’s Question Period asked Poilievre March 30th, 2014, why he hasn’t been listening to the critics, Polievre offered the smile of the cat swallowing the canary, saying, “We are listening.” My impression was that he didn’t believe it and didn’t care if we did or not. When Fife asked him if he would have supported the bill if the opposition had presented it, he replied, remarkably without even a hint of a smirk, “I would”!

I just hope no one hearing that was eating at the time.

To my mind, both Oliver and Poilievre are thoroughly unpleasant individuals and both are perfect emblems of the worst in the Harper regime but they are by no means alone: they are just emblematic of the rot that infuses this group. But Poilievre is even more troublesome because I believe him to be that much glibber, that much smarter, that much more shamelessly partisan; he has his own unique version of the “facts” and the “truth”. I do not know if he is an ideologue; that suggests an individual holding a set of beliefs and principles; he is certainly a partisan and a nasty one at that. Holding the position of power he does, he is about to impose on the public one of the most important changes that threatens to undermine our very democracy and he is about to do so happily and with utter equanimity. This is no exaggeration, no scare mongering. This is a man who refuses to listen to the opposition because, as is Harper, he is uninterested in the opinions of others, righteous in his own certitude; Pierre Poilievre knows best and all the rest are just whiners out to get the Conservative Party. And, because he knows best, and because the world is out to get the conservatives, he will rig the game and he will do so by changing the Elections Act. If successful, what he plans will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. According to some, those who will be disenfranchised are the least likely to vote for the conservatives and the conservatives know this. If true, if that is not fixing the game, nothing is.

But the truly disturbing thing is, Poilievre and the conservatives cannot do this without help. And that is were the public comes in. The conservative thugs obviously believe they can get away with it and the public silence appears to bear that out.

Apathy may be fine for the dead, but it has no place in the life of anyone who believes himself a sentient, living, breathing being. To ignore what Harper and his crew are doing is to be among the narcissistic living dead; it is not enough to simply eat, work, sleep and excrete, take selfies, twitter OMG! or tweet Facebook followers about the latest inanity as if one were the sun around which the earth orbits. Harper and his gang, indeed, too many politicians, rely on such as these as do maggots on a corpse; the egocentric airheads upon whom the Harper gang seem to rely appear to give permission to the likes of Harper and Poilievre and the rest to behave as they do, pulling fast ones in the hope that no one is listening, looking or caring. Self-absorption and self-love, the “what’s in if for me” attitudes, have no value and deserve no place in a vibrant, democratic society and yet, unlike voter fraud, it really is rampant. And it is this, the maggot of apathy, feeding on the body of democracy. It is numbing, distancing, and irresponsible. If this sounds like a lecture, it is; I am sick and tired of people boasting about not voting or whining about their one vote making no difference, or screaming over taxes while whining about hospital wait lines, deteriorating roads, crumbling overpasses as if none of these were linked. No one lives in a vacuum and none should be excused their indifference to their surroundings or insisting that other shoulder their responsibilities while they, these self-lovers, reap the rewards. But even they, the shirking nonentities, cannot sleep forever unaffected. Surely they will wake up, for isn’t democracy more valued, more sacred, than the loss of their favourite “reality” TV show that would almost certainly elicit screaming outrage and savage letter writing campaigns? Surely they are more than dazed, brutish oxen? But, how long will they sleep? Before long, it will be too late, the conservative Harper monsters will have won and fragile democracy reduced to the substantiality and hope of a soap bubble.

THE CONSERVATIVE END RUN ON DEMOCRACY

From day one, Harper and his crew have demonstrated their concerns were more on clinging to power than in offering sound, honest, open, and free governance. They have abused their majority with gross negligence and savage partisanship to promote a brutal laissez-faire Capitalism that is well on its way to creating a new world of “haves” and “have-nots”, those that “deserve” and the rest. That’s you and me, folks.

What the hell is wrong with us? Why are we letting this happen?

In the past, we have had many instances of conservatives skirting the rules. We have had Shelly Glover and James Bezan fighting Elections Canada over their failure to fill full reports regarding their 2011 campaign. We have had Peter Penashue resign for accepting illegal corporate donations during the same campaign. We have had Dean del Mastro facing four charges regarding breaches in the Elections Act for failing to report expenses in the 2008 election and for filing false documents. We have had the Conservative Party paying fines for the robocalls scandal, for workers posing as Elections Canada officials and directing voters to non-existent polling stations. That’s voter suppression. We have had Eve Adams making expense claims for spa treatments while campaigning and, even as I write this, facing allegations of abusing membership information to win a nomination bid in a new riding. Recently Shelly Glover again made the news for questionable ethical behaviour for attending a fundraiser in which the organizations of those in attendance stood the possibility of gaining from decisions made by her department. These are just some of the unethical, illegal, and contemptible abuses of the Elections Act that the conservatives have been caught at. In fact, contrary to what the Harper gang, and Pierre Poilievre in particular, would have us believe, it is not voter fraud with which public needs be concerned, but fraud committed by the Conservative Party, its members, and its supporters.

If Poilievre and the Harper gang succeed, Bill C-23 will not only disenfranchise voters, it will also entrench election fraud.

Almost all experts agree there is neither systematic nor rampant election fraud. In fact, they believe there is no problem of election fraud but, rather, a problem with administration and training of election workers. But, for Poilievre, that is too easy and it doesn’t help his cause. He has to justify the changes to the Elections Act; he offers them, as fixes to a non-existent problem he wants us to believe is real. The critics are wrong. As for rethinking, amending, or even cancelling Bill C-23? Not chance in hell. You just have to trust the Harper thugs.

But how can one? It’s not just how the conservatives have behaved during past campaigns. One needs only harken back to this past February when conservative MP Brad Butt stood in the House of Commons and vividly described, even acting out, what he personally saw, with his own two beady eyes, what happened to voter information cards discarded by tenants in an apartment building. He saw opposition campaign workers pick up the discarded cards with the purpose, he said, of handing them over to others who would then pose as the cardholders to whom those information cards were addressed while others, opposition supporters, of course, vouched that those people were who they said they were.

Naturally, this bolstered Poilievre’s claim voter fraud was a fact, even rampant. The story, however, was an outright fabrication. It was a lie. The only fraud committed, it appears, was the story told by Butt. There is no supporting evidence of widespread voter fraud, Butt’s fiction notwithstanding, nor has Poilievre produced evidence of it though repeatedly asked to do so by reporters. As for Butt the shameless liar? The conservative majority denied opposition moves to have him appear before a House committee to explain why he stood up in the House and gave that ridiculous performance and misled the opposition and the public. They want to know why he lied? But the conservatives don’t want you to know. But why do they worry? The majority of citizens are apparently asleep or indifferent, too busy exploring their navels or fretting about Justin Bieber or frozen into awed silence because they might have had a thought.

But why did Butt and the conservatives feel the necessity of the charade? Was it merely to bolster a claim that had absolutely no merit? It appears so. We do know this, the elimination of the vouching system is no harmless tweak; those who rely on vouching are likely to be those in the transient community, students, seniors, aboriginals, and seniors or those with severe disabilities, including blindness. If you don’t drive, you likely don’t have a driver’s license. If you just moved, your address may not yet be on record. The 39 documents that Poilievre harps on that can be used for ID at the polling stations are not all that easy to come by for many, especially those of no fixed address. Most of us will be unaffected; but does that justify our silence, excuse our indifference. Because we are unaffected, should we stand idly by while others lose their right to vote?

While the merits or not of vouching can be endlessly debated, what cannot be doubted is this government’s determination to ram Bill C-23 through without amendments and without meaningful consultation. Yes, they will pretend to listen, they may have their public hearings, but the Harper thugs will do what they want. That’s not consultation. That’s not even listening. Even if the Harper gang relent on amendments, it is almost a certainty that there will be another cost.

It’s the negative accumulative effect of many aspects of this Bill that makes it exceptionally bad. Eliminating vouching could possibly take away the vote of 120 thousand (Harry Neufeld says the numbers could go as high as 500 thousand!). The Bill also strips the Chief Electoral Officer of the power to investigate instances of election breaches. Nor will he be allowed to inform the public of such examinations without informing those being investigated and obtaining their permission to do so. The cheats have the upper hand. And who have been the cheats? Why the same folks who make the laws. What a surprise. Had this been in place before the last three elections, we might never have known of the conservative attempts to subvert our electoral process. Is that what we want? Is that what we are seeking?

Keep silent. The death of democracy as we have known it is approaching.

Of course, it gets worse, if possible. Elections Canada will no longer be allowed to promote and encourage voters to vote. Just think of that. So who does this affect? Likely the young, the elderly, aboriginal, the transient, the homeless, and the disabled. Nice touch. Again the least likely to vote conservative. As well, the investigative arm of Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, the Commissioner of Canada, has been forced to move to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This is extremely significant and troubling; with this regime, it would almost certainly lead to political interference should there be more instances of conservative voter suppression and election fraud. We will never know of it. That is, if conservatives were involved.

The revised Act would also allow parties to escape accountability for the “misuse” of party databases “used without party permission”. In other words, party bosses could do what Harper and his gang always do: claim they didn’t know and blame others. Too, incumbents will be allowed to name polling station supervisors in their ridings to handle matters of dispute on Election Day. This is another important wrinkle because it introduces another element of partisanship that benefits the winning candidates of the past election. Further, candidates will be allowed to donate more for their campaigns. As well, the act allows campaigning Parties to call past donors (anyone who gave $20) without having to count them as part of the telephone marketing costs of election campaign expenses. This allows the richer parties, again the conservatives, to actually circumvent election-spending limits allowing parties to spend more on phone calls, marketing and advertising. Furthermore, Elections Canada will have no way of gauging the accuracy of the reports presented by the parties because there is no requirement that robo-marketing companies record the numbers they call. So, we just have to trust the richest parties or the ones most likely to cheat.

Bill C-23, as created by Poilievre and his boss, Stephen Harper, not only provides an incentive to cheat, it entrenches cheating. When there is almost no possibility of being discovered, why would not candidates and their powers cheat? Especially if lying, cheating, dishonesty, and lack of integrity doesn’t bother one at all.

Marc Mayrand, in his appearance before a Commons committee, said that his reading of the Neufeld report states that any irregularities in voting had to do with administration missteps by elections officers rather than voter fraud. As reported by the Canadian Press (March 7, 2014), Poilievre, standing in the House of Commons, challenged Marc Mayrand with this response: “This is what page 10 of his (Harry Neufeld’s) own report says: ‘The Supreme Court made it clear that such errors in other circumstances could contribute to a court overturning an election.’ That sounds serious to me.” Serious indeed. But the thing is, it is what Poilievre deliberately omits that is significant when he reads that. What is meant by “such errors”? If voter fraud is meant, why not say so clearly? No, Poilievre does not do that because he cannot. Neufeld’s report clearly estimated that an average of 500 “serious administrative errors” were committed in each of the 308 ridings. He further states, “Serious errors of a type the courts consider irregularities that can contribute to an election being overturned were found to occur in 12 per cent of all election day cases involving voter registration and 42 per cent of cases involving identity vouching”. There were many reasons for the errors, including “complexity, supervision, recruitment (of poll officials), training, updating the list of electors” (Canadian Press, March 7, 2014). Neufeld never claims that there are deliberate attempts to cast illegal votes. In fact, on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon on CBC, Harry Neufeld states categorically that Poilievre, in citing Neufeld’s report, was “selectively picking” and “selectively quoting” what was in the report. Poilievre would have us believe otherwise. But he did not write the report but he sure knows how to abuse it to his advantage. Poilievre apparently prefers to forget the many investigations the conservatives have endured for voter fraud, including illegal spending, illegal expense claims, in-out scams, robocalls, and four charges laid against conservative Dean del Mastro. For Harry Neufeld, voter fraud is akin to an “urban myth”.

Even Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former Chief Electoral Officer, who had originally given Bill C-23 an A minus rating, changed his tune after closer examination, saying to the Commons committee, “This will directly affect the constitutional right to vote for a significant number of Canadians without justification,” and “I have no problem whatever with vouching the way it is structured under the Canada Elections Act at this present time” (Canada.Com, Glen McGregor, March 25, 2014).

THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

It is true; we have a free press. But how free can it be when it is denied the right to do its job, which is to inform the public and protect society by taking on the role of watchdog. An informed society is probably the best protected. Harper, apparently, does not believe that. Or, more likely, he does, and that is what terrifies him. An informed society is a threat to him and his gang.

When was the last time that Harper has stood before a scrum of reporters and answered all questions thrown at him in an environment that has not been heavily controlled, the questions unscripted, the “message” set aside, the “journalists” real? It has been years.

The relationship between Harper and the media has become poisonous. Talking bobbleheads give their relentless messages of the day and hardworking journalists struggle to break through the plastic façade of smiles, faux equanimity, phoney indignation, and the endless litany of denial and fingerpointing. If only they could get a straight, honest, unscripted, answer to even one hard question!

But even this iron curtain of defence against a press is not enough for Harper and his gang. They don’t mind using the media when it’s clear the message is one most Canadians would support, as in Stephen Harper and John Baird’s strong denunciation of Russian incursion into the Crimea. But it’s the other things, the Senate scandals, Harper’s apparent lack of judgement in appointing Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau to the senate, or his recent hiring and firing of Dimitri Soudas, robocalls, the in-out scams and on and on. One can only take so much and besides, does the public really want to hear about this? Who cares? Harper and his gang have had enough so they push back: the press is out to get them. They have a message and by God, the world is going to get it.

So 24 Seven, a video, online, taxpayer funded propaganda organ, is born, initially to provide Canadians with insight into the weekly life of Harper and family and gang. Unfortunately, it morphed into something more, staffers or supporters, posing as journalists asking Harper soft questions before a friendly crowd getting his message out. The viewer is expected to take all this seriously, as “real” news, “real” exclusives. It’s clumsy, heavy-handed, and might be laughable if not so serious. Avoid accountability; create your own Ministry of Propaganda. Truth takes another blow and democracy another cut.

It’s not insignificant. There is a level of distrust, suspicion, and animosity from a government that views knowledge, truth, openness and transparency as things to be feared rather than embraced.

Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated a keen willingness to betray the trust of Canadians. Moreover, it is clear they do not trust Canadians, especially Canadian voters. They point fingers at others in the world and pontificate about democracy. But, to conservatives, democracy is only a nine-letter word. Because it holds so little meaning to them, they are willing to debase and corrupt it to their own ends. With the arrogance of the truly ignoble, Harper has shown a profound lack of judgement in his appointments and his appointees. As a leader, he has, I believe, presided over one of the most arrogant, dirtiest, most corrupt, most secretive, most mean-spirited, most vicious and most anti-democratic regime in the history of Canada. He have conservative Mark Adler working on a bill to force employees of Canadian watchdog agencies to disclose past political activities. This is a free society? Staffers in the PMO must sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. Binding for life! His contempt for Canadians and democracy is writ large in almost everything he does. He appears to detest the thought that Canadians possess knowledge. Apparently, he feels he has reason to.

If Democracy holds no true value for them, there is another word that does, that means more to them, which they hold in higher, if not the highest, esteem. That word is POWER.

Why are Canadians untroubled by all this? Where are their voices of outrage?

When a government fears an informed public, when it fears the truth, when it sneaks legislation into omnibus bills without consultation or debate, when it acts to subvert democracy and the electoral process by “tilting” the field in their favour as Harry Neufeld has suggested with the Fair Elections Act, when it charges that the press is out to get them, it should surprise no one that the end result would eventually be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Canadian must wake up. What Harper, Poilievre and the gang are proposing with Bill C-23 is nothing less than an assault on democracy. We can sit by and do nothing or we can fight back.

I chose to fight. How about you? Even as I am writing these words, there is news that Poilievre may consider amendments to the vouching items. That’s not enough. He and the Harper gang cannot be trusted. Bill C-35 must be thoroughly examined with considerable consultation. It must be amended with the agreement of the opposition parties or, better still, simply scrapped. Despots may rule, but they never really conquer.

Tyranny does not happen overnight. It’s often a slow, incremental process of rights removed and voices silenced while a public looks away.

What will you do when they say to you, “You cannot vote”?

In Germany, they came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up. – Martin Niemoeller

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER RIGS THE VOTE

The wolf in sheep’s clothing is a fitting emblem of the hypocrite. Every virtuous man would rather meet an open foe than a pretended friend who is a traitor at heart. –H. F. Kletzin

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. – Confucius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE CONSERVATIVE WHINE: I’M A VICTIM TOO

Harper and his cretinous gang have set out to rig the next election. Oh, it’s not as obvious as stuffing the ballots or party faithful posing as folks long dead; it’s more insidious and, if all goes the conservative way, and they will, the methods of rigging will become entrenched into law. Not only will skirting election rules and cheating be easier, and those involved have less reason to worry about being caught and prosecuted, the changes will most benefit the liars, the cheaters and the vote riggers who form our present government.

Unlike as in the past, when the public was informed of conservative attempts to subvert democracy and the electoral process, circumventing rules through in-out scams, robocalls, illegally accepting corporate donations, fudging campaign expenses, illegal overspending, passing themselves off as Elections Canada officials, redirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, this Harper regime of vile bodies intend to make it possible to do even more of that. When that happens, and it will be soon, the public may never learn of breaches to the Elections Act or of those involved unless, of course, the offenders are from the side of the opposition. The new Bill, C-23, invites corruption because there is almost no possibility of discovery, charges or penalty when the election rules are breached. Had this bill been in effect the last two elections, we might never have known about any of the ethical violations by members of Harper’s gang. The bill will pass and pass with few, if any, amendments, because Harper has his majority and he is far from reluctant to wield it like a club. Once it does, it is likely we will never know if Shelly Glover goes for the hat trick in attempting to skirt election laws.

C-23, is concerned with reforms to the Elections Act. In a page stolen from Orwell’s 1984, the Harper Tories have embarked on a campaign where nothing means what it says. Thus Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform would be, in the real world, and in the real sense, the Minister For Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression. Bill C-23, in Harper’s world, is called the Fair Elections Act; in the real world it would be called the Screw Democracy Act. This is no exaggeration however outrageous it appears.

Bill C-23 appears to be a direct response to recent investigations by Elections Canada spearheaded by the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand. The result, especially if passed as is, as Harper clearly intends it to be, will almost certainly lead to the absolute corruption of the election process. While there may be some worthwhile aspects to Bill C-23, it is the not so good that is most worrying and which offers clear evidence of the partisanship, pettiness and vindictiveness which permeates and poisons almost everything this regime does.

Portraying themselves as victims of a conspiracy by Elections Canada, Poilievre, in announcing the proposed bill to the media, was moved to say, “the referee should not be wearing a team jersey”. With those few words, Poilievre chose to carry through with his unwarranted and unsupported character assassination of Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada. Smearing opponents is not new for Harper’s scummy crew; they have resorted to it many times in the past and always against someone or some group who dared to question the Harper gang decisions. If Poilievre has evidence that Elections Canada is out to “get” the conservatives as he suggests, why doesn’t he present evidence of such? He will not because he cannot. He spews filth and hopes it sticks. And it will for some, especially those cretins who fantasize about governments out to get them.

POILIEVRE: DEMOCRACY? WHAT ABOUT IT?

This vendetta with Elections Canada goes a long way back. It dates from the 2006 elections when Elections Canada began, in 2007, to investigate the conservative ‘in-out’ scam whereby parties shuffle funds between ridings and the party to rip of taxpayers with illegal refunds. For that escapade, in a deal reached with federal prosecutors, charges were dropped against four Conservative Party officials, including Senators Irving Gertstein, proud conservative bagman, and Doug Finley and the party paid a maximum fine of $52,000 and returned $230,000 for illegal claims. The conservatives hailed the agreement as a great victory in that “no individuals were found to have done anything wrong” (National Post, April 10, 2012, Glen McGregor & Stephen Maher). That’s legalese by the way. Something happened: a deal was made, money handed over and folks walked away unpunished. Laws were broken and ethics discarded. With conservatives, ethics are easily tossed aside.

Since then, when the investigations began, Poilievre and loudmouth Dean del Mastro had embarked on a smear campaign that was loud, vicious and always under the protection of privilege because waged in the House. Mayrand and Elections Canada were accused time-and-again of bias by the whining pair after Elections Canada received many complaints of irregularities during the 2006, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. As a result of these investigations, the public learned about the in-out scams, the robocalls scandal, of Shelly Glover and James Bezan refusing to submit full reports on their campaign expenses. Eventually, del Mastro himself became caught up with his own scandal, facing four charges relating to the 2008 campaign with allegations that he had failed to report $21,000 in expenses and for filing a fraudulent document. I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude on hearing that. The Tories, caught in their own webs, cry foul, del Mastro even shedding actual tears of self-pity in the House. You could see it then, the claws were out: the Harper gang would strike back.

Meanwhile, Poilievre, that partisan toad, and today’s Minister of Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression, finally answering the call from Elections Canada for reform, after ignoring it for years, does so, but in so blatantly and prejudicial a manner that Tories on the sidelines must have felt a warm glow of pride swelling in their sere, tiny, vengeful hearts: Gotcha Mayrand and Elections Canada.

Canadians, however, should be extremely troubled and enraged. While the Chief Electoral Officer says of the bill that he and Elections Canada have not been consulted, Poilievre, however, asserts that, “I did meet with the CEO of Elections Canada some time ago, and we had a terrific and a very long meeting, at which I listened to all his ideas” (Macleans’s, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Feb. 3, 2014). One needs only examine aspects of the Bill to know Poilievre may have listened, but that’s about it. He certainly didn’t hear and heed. When Chief Electoral Officer Mayrand finally did respond to Poilievre’s intimations of bias on his part, he was to the point and particularly pertinent: the referee had been kicked off the ice.

Bill C-23 will certainly pass rammed down our throats with debate limited by the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Note that is not the majority of the popular vote; they only won 40% support from those who voted. But that 40% was sufficient to give them the majority in the House. And make no mistake: Harper’s governance, with limited debate, with multi omnibus bills, with legislation sneaked in without consultation or discussion, is nothing less than a tyranny. Perhaps not of a Putin or Pinochet kind, but sufficient to eventually lead to serious consequences for Canadians down the road. It’s a system that needs changing but, as we shall see, one that is not likely to happen thanks to Bill C-23 and the Liberals who apparently support aspects of this anti-democratic reform.

OKAY, LET’S TALK. THAT’S ENOUGH. ALL IN FAVOUR? PASSED.

But why this reform now; and why the haste?

Since Harper’s gang won its majority, they have been all but unstoppable in achieving their goals. They want something passed in the House, be it omnibus bills and hidden legislation, they ram it through. Every time. There is no consultation and only mere nods to a semblance of debate. What listening there is is just pretend listening and sometimes not even that bone; the results are as inevitable as the Harper thugs smearing Kevin Page while he was the Parliamentary Budget Officer or slamming Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada simply for doing their jobs: enforcing the laws and keeping Canadians informed. But the days of informing Canadians and enforcing election laws are about to end.

By the next election, there will be an additional 30 new ridings, the boundaries redrawn with the conservatives the happy beneficiaries. If Harper’s core of supporters hold, and there is no reason to believe they will not, these changes will almost certainly give a gerrymandered additional 22 conservative seats to the conservatives increasing their majority substantially and alarmingly. No doubt anxious, if only for the sake of appearances, not to be judged as too overt and greedy in their gerrymandering efforts, the conservatives will surrender the bone of 8 ridings for the opposition to fight over. It’s a rigged game. With even less of the popular votes than they have already, the conservatives could end with an even larger majority in the House. The thought is terrifying.

However, not content with even that all but certain possibility, Poilievre, savvy if oily partisan guttersnipe that he is, has finally responded to Elections Canada’s call to reform the Elections Act after his government had ignored such demands for years. On the surface, it seems to be good news for Canadians. It’s not. Not content with the cheating of the past, they have embarked on a road that is dark, deceitful and dangerous, reforming the act, true, but rigging the outcome just the same but in a fashion that is truly malevolent; Harper and his thugs wish not only to steal your vote but also deny others theirs. Poilievre would claim it’s a new and improved Bill, but that’s the snake oil salesman talking. Bill C-23 offers no pretence to fairness, no nod to honesty, no blush of shame for its lack of moral decency. It bodes ill for all Canadians and entrenches even more firmly my detestation of this group; their version of democracy doesn’t match mine. If it matches yours, shame on you.

Among the items Elections Canada sought was for more investigative powers to enforce the Elections Act. One of the things that would help them in this would have been the ability to compel witnesses to testify. These are not suspects, but those who may have knowledge of wrongdoing. That is not going to happen. In fact, Harper’s thugs have done exactly the opposite: Bill C-23 takes power away from Elections Canada; it emasculates the body. The cheaters will have been liberated to cheat: free at last, free at last, free at last.

One way the conservatives will have achieved this is by moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is presently housed in Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which reports to the government. Now that is a huge step towards corrupting the system and denying Canadians the opportunity to be informed of any investigation of any party or individual suspected of breaching election laws. The mandate of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who, until the passage of Bill C-23, is an independent officer, “is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced” (Elections Canada). That independence, once the Bill is passed, will be stripped from him because it denies him of the right and duty to report directly to the public through their representatives in Parliament. He must approach the government of the day. If they don’t like what they hear, they can keep it out of the public eye. Yes, indeed, they have taken the referee off the ice.

Too, the Bill offers the real possibility of disenfranchising students, aboriginals and the truly marginalized. Incredible as it may seem, with voter turnout as low as it is, this government of tyrants has made it against the law for Elections Canada to place ads encouraging citizens to vote. Poilievre, that oleaginous shyster, would have us believe that political parties are the best means of getting people to vote. Yeah. I can easily imagine the Conservative Party placing ads where the marginalized live and urging them to vote. This is real chutzpah shamelessly flaunted and absolutely revelatory of the depths of Harper’s hypocrisy and contempt for democracy. He and his thugs have easily spent $136 million in promoting themselves in 2009-2010. Of that money, they spent millions promoting over-hyped, non-existent job programs. And yet Elections Canada cannot encourage voters to vote. Is that your version of democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 also goes after the voter information card. You know, the card Elections Canada mails you confirming your name and address and notifying you where to vote. Well, that, too, will no longer be used for ID purposes as it has been up to now. And if your name has been crossed off the electors’ list “in error” (or deliberately, who knows with this regime) you will have to take a written oath before receiving a ballot. For two elections, provincial and federal, my wife and I have been excluded from the rolls. And we own our home. If, for whatever reason, the voter is transient, has relocated to his parent’s home or moved in with a friend, neither the Elections Canada information card nor the word of family or friends vouching for you will be enough to allow you to vote. These, along with denying Elections Canada the right to remind citizens to vote will likely affect thousands, even hundreds of thousands, mostly students, aboriginals, the homeless, seniors and others who may be on the fringes. Do you believe this is democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 will also allow parties to fundraise from past donors while campaigning without having to count their telephone marketing costs as election campaign expenses. This is simple rejigging of the formula to allow parties to spend more without having to claim it for elections purposes. Naturally, this will greatly help the money-rich conservatives who have mastered, if often in the sleaziest of ways, methods of expanding the list of supporters with no extra cost to them. It’s like a tax break, the richer they are, the more people they know, the less they have to pay. Another rigged advantage.

Bill C-23 absolves parties of being held accountable for party databases used without authorization. If this Bill had being in effect when “Pierre Poutine” was wreaking havoc, the conservatives would have got off scot-free. We would not have known and they would not have been revealed as the sleaze they are. With Bill C-23, the message is clear; campaign managers and party brass have been given permission to inform staffers they can cheat: “If you’re using databases for cheating purposes, we don’t want to know.”

Too, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections cannot inform the public of investigations without first informing the parties and then obtaining the permission of all parties involved, including those very individuals and/or parties accused of breaking the law and under investigation! That means there is almost no chance of prosecution and certainly no chance of the public learning of breaches to the Act. Just think of that. Bill C-23 effectively protects the villains against the good guys (Elections Canada and the public) and denies citizens the right to fair, honest elections. It actually appears to encourage cheats to break the laws. Yes, fines will be increased, and there is threat of even jail time but when the risks of discovery and penalty are placed at near zero, it should not surprise anyone that unethical politicians and their supporters would feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity. For that, we can thank Harper and his gang of chisellers. Poilievre is, in effect, saying to the cheats: “Go thou and sin more; there is no punishment.” Except perhaps for the truly wicked, the New Democrats or the other conservative party disguised as Liberals.

Harper’s thugs have set out to make Elections Canada impotent and they will have succeeded with the passage of this Bill. Not only must the Commissioner of Canada Elections be required to inform the subject of an investigation when it starts, MPs found to have violated the rules will be allowed to continue to sit while they appeal their cases. Now the cheats can continue to rig the laws in the House while, at the same time, dragging out lawsuits at public expense. Public scrutiny of election campaigns will have been brought to a grinding, undemocratic halt thanks to the conservatives and this Bill. Elections Canada will no longer have the power to enforce laws and inform Parliament and the public. If that doesn’t concern you, why doesn’t it?

While the irony of imposing debate limits on such a sweeping Bill named the Fair Elections Act is impossible to ignore, can anyone really claim to be surprised by the depths to which this sordid band of vote riggers have lowered themselves?

Well, there are a few more things.

There is another very serious troubling aspect of the Bill, one that demonstrates the egregious level of contempt Harper and gang hold of Parliament and of Canadians revolted by the shenanigans of the Senate. Bill C-23, while permitting the Chief Electoral Officer to seek approval to test a different voting method, i.e. one truly representative of the vote, say proportional representation, he “must first obtain the approval of the Senate and the House of Commons” to do so. Guess who controls the Red Chamber and the House? This is the conservative thug poking a stick into the eye of the outraged voter.

When pressed about the troubling aspects of the bill, Poilievre offers no satisfactory explanation and, when pressed about limiting debate, he doesn’t pretend to consider the question. This is vote rigging. This is a government that has set out the rules with full knowledge of an almost certain outcome. This is not by accident, not through misadventure or by inattention or oversight: this is by calculated design and from pure malice.

WHAT? ME WORRY? NOT NOW. I’M IN AND YOU’RE OUT.

Embroiled as they have been and are in scandal after scandal, one would think that Harper and his gang of lowlifes would wish to offer a semblance of adhering to democratic principles. Not a chance. That’s the perspective of a sentimentalist longing for the good old days, not that long ago, when politicians actually believed in the virtue of serving others rather than themselves. But such virtues went by way of the Dodo bird with the Liberal sponsorship scandal; Harper and his crew have simply entrenched the rot of corruption: with Bill C-23, they have sabotaged the democratic process. Shameless sleaze and slime have become the order of the day. With this gang of fixers and riggers, it is all about winning at any cost. How do you feel about that?

For Harper and thugs, truth and examination are dirty, fearful concepts only to be applied to all those who oppose them but never themselves. Thomas Cooper had it absolutely right when he said, “Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.”

This week, while the world is watching the Olympics, the Harper gang will be putting forward its budget. As with Bill C-23, there will be little, if any debate. The budget will be rammed through because of the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Among the items in place is the government’s plan to audit all charities involved in some way with environmental concerns. Flaherty, the finance minister, had warned that charities involved in politics should be careful. That was a threat. By law, his department is not allowed to direct the CRA about who should be investigated. Because the CRA often acts on complaints, it is interesting to note that one of the complainants has been Ethical Oil.org, a creation of Alykan Velshi, Director of Issues Management for the PMO. We all know Harper and gang, along with the Liberals support the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Charities are allowed to use 10% of their monies for political purposes. Yet the Harper gang has set their sights on them.

And we know that Tony Clement, he of the $50 million slush fund and president of the Treasury which is missing $3.1 billion, has not only targeted public servants, he has set his sights on unions as well.

Finally, convinced that the “elite” media is conspiring against them, Harper and his gang have staff, for which taxpayers pay, that play the role of journalists questioning cabinet members about the great things his government is doing? Yeah, everyone is out to get them.

Does any of this concern you? If not, why not?

Of what are the conservatives, Harper and his rat crew afraid?

Everything it seems, including the truth.

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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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