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SEE HARPER RUN, RUN, HARPER, RUN

The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man. – Roy L. Smith

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them. – Aristotle

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE THINGS MIKE DUFFY SAID

On October 21, the day before the Senate was to vote on the suspension without pay of Harper appointees to the Senate, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy came out swinging with his lawyer, Donald Bayne, doing the damage. On the second day, October 22, it would be Duffy, speaking in the Senate, who would drop the bomb.

It was clear, if what Bayne was saying was true, the PMO’s office certainly knew more than Harper admitted to and certainly casts doubt on Harper’s credibility which has already been stretched pretty thin as it is. Duffy, according to Bayne, had met all the residency requirements and had even approached the government Senate leader at the time, Marjory LeBreton, who had informed him that he could claim his home in PEI as his primary residence and thus place a claim for his secondary residence in Ottawa. Duffy then asked the PMO about his living expenses and was informed, by Wright, he met them and was further informed that other senators had similar arrangements.

According to Bayne, Duffy, previously informed he had followed all the rules, had then, at the time of the scandal outbreak been pressured to repay the money he had claimed for housing for four years once it became clear that he was now a liability to the Conservatives and their core base of supports. The deal was made for Wright to ink a cheque for $90,000. For Duffy, according to Bayne, it was play along or pay the consequences. Apparently, Duffy played along his reputation easier to shrug off than a seat on the Senate. Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, overseeing the Deloitte audit of Duffy, also played along changing the report to whitewash Duffy’s image, which, with the promise of repayment, allowed LeBreton to declare the matter closed. At that time, the public was led to believe Duffy had repaid the money from his own wallet. When asked by Mulcair in the House what he knew, Harper claimed not to know of the deal. He also stated no one else in the PMO knew. We now know that was false. Much later it was revealed by an RCMP document that senator Irving Gertstein, was prepared to pay from a party fund he controlled when he believed the amount owed to be about $32,000. We also learned others knew, including David van Hemmen, Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management for the PMO. Did Harper know? He says not. Knowing his reputation as a control freak, it stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper would not know of the deal. But he denied knowing and there it stands.

Bayne spoke at length in a truly extraordinary meeting with news reporters. While he asserted that the PMO’s office had resorted to blackmail in dealing with his client, he appeared to be resorting to the same tactic with Harper and gang, saying he had much more than the three emails he read from during the event and would not hesitate to use them.

If Duffy, through his lawyer, is to be believed, then it certainly exposes Harper to risk of charges of either lying in the House last spring about others in the PMO knowing or of having been deceived by his staff regarding the Duffy/Wright deal. Either way, Harper needs to explain himself.

An hour and a half following that media event, there was an even more disheartening display, this by Harper (who had failed to appear in the House on the first day of the Fall session) and his parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, who appears to offer a prime example of the Peter Principle whereby individuals rise to their level of incompetence.

After evading opposition questions in the House for over 160 days, Harper finally made an appearance and, in a sickening display of hubris, again displayed not only his utter disregard for the opposition, but also his contempt for Parliament, the Democratic process, and for the voters of this country when he was asked what he knew of the Duffy/Wright deal. Harper’s response was telling and appalling. Several times, to repeated questions, his non-response was repeated almost word-for-word to each question posed. Said he, with variants to the script: “Mr. Wright has accepted full responsibility for his decision in these matters. The position of the government as I’ve said repeatedly is that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the rules regarding expenditure, not just the letter but the spirit of those rules, and if they don’t respect those rules they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable.”

A non-answer. Nothing. It is true that Harper did attempt to deflect attention to the new trade deal with Europe; a deal everyone says will be his legacy. Perhaps, but I suspect his legacy will lie elsewhere and it will lie tarnished in the trash bin of history where it justly belongs. If there was ever a shine to Harper’s regime, I must have missed it, blinded by the sheen of an out-dated, shabby and mean-spirited amalgam of Conservative/Reform/Alliance politics.

Then it was Paul Calandra’s turn. He’s the new parliamentary secretary to Harper. Not wishing to be outdone in sticking to a script, Calandra responded to similar questions using almost identical words about what the PMO knew by saying and iterating that Harper had already answered the question and then went on to quote the party line about the economy and jobs. Then, in response to a variant of the same question, what did the PMO know? He veered into a mind-blowing off-the-cuff tangent proceeding to give a befuddling and impressive if lengthy non-response response stating absolutely nothing, which caused Charlie Angus to accurately remark, “Now, that was bizarre.” Clearly, Paul Calandra is well-suited for the role of bobblehead, one of those doll-like figures which play so prominently in the Conservative Party the roster of which include such figures as Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierre Poilievre, all now promoted for, no doubt, diligently following the party line. Evidently, Harper has also become a member of the club, at least, for that day. Unfortunately for Calandra, the string controlling the message must have snapped producing that silly performance from him. It was entertaining if nothing else. In any case, Harper’s non-responses followed by the mimicry of Calandra are disturbing, disheartening and disgusting and do little to enhance the image of either.

Yet, anyone could have a bad day. But when bad behaviour is repeated, you know there’s more to it than that. The next day, Oct. 22, when Thomas Mulcair asked Harper if he regretted anything in his own actions, Harper did the same as the previous day, answering with the same response of the day before in almost identical language. It was confirmed. He was a flesh and blood talking doll, a BOBBLEHEAD! Not a flesh and blood man, not a prime minister, just a talking shell of something resembling life. It was the same with Calandra, bobbing his head, saying what he had said the day before: a true bobblehead. What made it worse, even more offensive, was that when asked a question that only Harper could know the true answer, it was the bobblehead who responded without the insane performance of the previous day with standard non-answers saying, as he had the day before, that Harper had answered the questions, that they would focus on the economy and jobs.

The script is wearying, especially when it appears every member of Harper’s gang has learned it and employs it for the umpteenth time and at every opportunity in attempts to divert public attention away from the Senate to the “greatest” trade deal in the history of Canada if not the world.

But, if those performances did not rile anyone, perhaps what happened that evening did, when, under privilege of the Senate, Duffy spoke in defense of himself and, in doing so, lobbed a grenade that doubtless woke the nation, even if only momentarily, and possibly signalled the beginning of the end for Harper and his Conservative thugs.

Not only does Duffy say that Harper had ordered him to repay the money, he also suggests that Harper was in the room with Wright and himself when he did so. If that is true, then Harper lied in the House on May 5, when Mulcair asked him if anyone else knew of the deal. The deal was between Duffy and Wright, Harper had said. Duffy then spoke of the new chief of staff, Ray Novak, at that time senior aide to Harper, and Marjory LeBreton, calling him at home in PEI, ordering him to resign or appear before an ethics committee with the likelihood of being expelled from the Senate. We have heard Harper’s version. This is Duffy’s. Who can we believe, if either?

THE THINGS PAMELA WALLIN SAID

Perhaps Pamela Wallin can shed a little light and she did, like Duffy, speaking in the Senate under privilege levelling the basic same charge against Harper as Duffy and employing almost the same arguments. For Wallin, particular targets were Marjory LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen who, she states, had “orchestrated” leaked documents apparently because they “could not abide” her criticism of their leadership and the praise she had earned from Harper! “These were targeted leaks,” she said, “many of them incorrect, designed to cast my conduct in the worst possible light. They were personal and vindictive –and violated all the rules of this place.” She also claimed, as did Duffy, that LeBreton and Ray Novak, had called her claiming to speak on behalf of Harper, demanding she resign from the Senate. She further claimed they came to an agreement whereby she would recuse herself from caucus, not resign but, “less than 10 minutes later, Senator LeBreton broke the deal and publicly declared that I had resigned.” Does anyone look good in this? Immediately following Wallin’s speech, LeBreton spoke under privilege of the chamber refuting Wallin’s claims as baseless. Who can we believe?

What we are witnessing has moved beyond tragedy to farce. It has become a spectacle with performers who, on one side have appeared to have sold their reputations, now tattered, for the price of joining an elite club and those on the other side willing to exploit at any cost the influence and prestige of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and the potent symbolism at the time of a controversial young Patrick Brazeau, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples which had assisted the Conservatives during the 2006 election. The performances have brought disrepute on all offering a show that is shabby, shameful, and enduring. Harper and his crew could as easily play the roles of comic mimes for the white noise of denials that spews from their mouths say nothing and mean nothing providing only a constant din that is far from comic and leaves nothing to the imagination about them as representatives of a Democracy. It is not good.

PROVE YOU’RE STUPID; VOTE FOR CONSERVATIVES – AGAIN!

That Harper and his crew are still able to garner support is astounding to me and clear evidence that there are some in society who will support liars, thieves, dishonest ideas, unethical behaviour, anyone and anything, in short, for promises of shiny trinkets, of easy cures, and quick fixes as offered in the throne speech along with the announcement of a tentative major trade deal with Europe, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Harper believes he knows his people and I fear he may be right. He believes that little matters to voters other than cutting fees for paper bills, ending bundling by communications giants, reducing roaming fees and passing laws forcing governments to balance budgets in normal times which he does not define and which is laughably untenable. The world is fluid and little can be certain and even less controlled. But it is not on those few baubles that Harper pins his hope. Rather, it appears, he has placed them on CETA with its promises of 80 thousand jobs and infusion of $12 billion into the economy. But even here, critics say, Harper has misjudged, exaggerated the expectations.

The figures, they claim, are from a joint study between Canada and Europe based on a computer model that is five years old. A lot has happened since 2008. Can the numbers be believed? According to Harper they can, for these are the figures he relies on. But a 2011 European study suggests otherwise, that the figures might be closer to one third to one half of those estimated from the 2008 study. Further, the numbers of that 2008 study were arrived at before the economic crisis shattered the global economy and before negotiations had even begun. In other words, the numbers just don’t stand up. Harper and thugs would have you believe otherwise. However, knowing how well this government is with figures, I will trust the critics. I remember too well how Conservatives turned a huge surplus left by the Liberals to a record Conservative deficit. And I still haven’t heard a reasonable explanation from Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, an account of what has happened to the missing $3.1 billion. Nor have I heard how government cutbacks in the Canada Revenue Agency will resolve the issue of recovering over $29 billion from offshore accounts of tax evaders. In fact, do we even know, can we be assured, this government is pursuing those wealthy individual and corporate tax fraudster scofflaws?

How can we trust a leader and his crew that runs, evades, obfuscates and just outright lies about almost everything we should know and have a right to know, but which they don’t want us to know (which is almost everything). How can we trust a leader, if Duffy and Wallin are to be believed, who lied about what he knew and how much he knew? As for Harper’s numbers regarding this new deal, they strike me as wishful thinking plucked from air. As for job creation, critics suspect that the reverse can be expected, that the result in job losses will be anywhere from 30,000 to 150,000. If Harper is so confident of this deal, why are Canadians not able to have access to the details? It may well be a good deal, but it could also be a chimera, smoke and noise and not to be trusted.

But for Harper and his gang, Duffy’s speech, Wallin’s speech and even Brazeau’s speech, in the Senate, it is all bad news that not even this promised trade deal can ameliorate. The Senate scandal is there, it will stick, and Duffy’s and Wallin’s version, if true, if accepted, will likely spell the end to this highly secretive, vindictive, mean, and dismal regime.

Unfortunately for Democracy, there are still voters who will not experience shame or despair, those voters who are quite willing and are even eager to be bought for mere pennies a day or with large, shiny, but ultimately empty promises. Harper and gang know this and those on the sideline who disapprove can only gape in astonishment that none of them, the bribers or the takers, experience anything closely resembling shame. Those people, the bribers and takers, do not value themselves, so why should they value others, why should they value the Democratic process? For them, rules, ethics, integrity are all hindrances; they don’t matter, they never have, they never will. It’s all about the main chance: What’s in if for me?

I would hope the tactics employed by Harper and thugs would not work and certainly not as often as they have. Unfortunately knowing Canadian voters I cannot help but wonder: how is it possible that so many, so often, can be so dangerously indifferent and so outrageously stupid?

With the Duffy bombshell, followed by Wallin’s, it is just possible that some of those voters will wake up.

But I will not hold my breath. I will hope for better, but I will not expect better. Too many voters think with their wallets. And even more simply do not think.

Vote for Harper; get more of the same. Prove you really are stupid – again.

***

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

HARPER ON WALLIN: “I HAVE LOOKED AT THE NUMBERS”

MARJORY LEBRETON AND THE ART OF CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRISY

With the release of the Pamela Wallin audit, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, was immediately out there, not for the first time, front and centre releasing a statement that fairly bellowed with faux indignation, a showy display of outrage and near rapturous sanctimony. Aaron Wherry, (MacLean’s, Aug. 12, 2013) quotes:

“Our government will not tolerate the waste or abuse of the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians. We expect that any inappropriate expenses will be repaid. Senator Wallin is no longer a member of the Caucus and must be held accountable for her actions.”

“These issues are coming to light because of actions we took to publicly release Senators’ expenses when we gained a majority in the Senate in 2010. We have subsequently taken steps to toughen rules governing Senate expenses.”

“Our Government will continue to advocate for meaningful reform of the Senate – including elections, term limits and tough spending oversight. Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change, or like the old Upper Houses of our provinces, vanish.”

LeBreton, like Stephen Harper and the rest of the Conservative ideologues, is not shy in cutting her loses and throwing another of a long list under the proverbial bus. Nor is she shy in claiming, on behalf of her party, the mantle of righteousness taking credit for the exposure of the rot infecting the Senate. It doesn’t faze her that this is at odds with the facts; for Conservatives history is meaningless unless it can be distorted to suit their story. In that respect, she is an ideal Tory and is fully cognizant of the value of the revisionism to which Conservatives are not loath to indulge. That what she claims is absolute rubbish is of no consequence. Repeat the lie often enough, those docile voting sheep out there will eventually fall in line perhaps with the need of a little sweetener thrown in, another tax cut, or better yet, a promise of greater things (never mind what) coming down the pike. However, while they may have you accurately pegged, before you swallow that drink she’s offering, if you haven’t keeled over from laughing, you might want to have it analysed. You never know what those Conservatives will serve you but it’s seldom the truth and often unpleasant, an amalgam of wishful thinking, half-truths, outright lies and fairy dust, an imagining of the world not as it is, but as they would have you believe.

The Senate revelations came about not by dint of Conservative or Liberal efforts. In fact, Conservative senators released a doctored audit report for public consumption and the PMO denied all knowledge of the cheque Nigel Wright wrote to pay off Mike Duffy’s debt. They were underplaying and underselling the whole debacle. The thing is, four senators, three of them Conservatives, got caught with their hands in the cookie jar! Yet, to the worthy LeBreton, Harper and the Conservative are heroes! As for those alleged fraudsters, well, they should be commended for returning their ill-gotten gains! Yeah, right. They did the honourable thing. You have to weep that politics has sunk so low into the swamp of self-enrichment rather than the welfare of the nation.

So we ask: How do you think the Conservatives would behave if Liberals alone had ripped off taxpayers? We’ve seen their reactions in the past: the outrage would be there, as would the accusations, slanders and distortions. And if it was just Joe Blow? Hell, jail wouldn’t be enough!

As an historian, LeBreton is as credible as any Conservative stooge in the same way Bernie Madoff was as financial handler reporting on how the funds of those he bilked were doing. Unreliable at best. Regardless of how LeBreton and other Conservatives spin it, and oh, how they are spinning it! those alleged fraudsters got caught and want us to believe that, because they got caught and are willing to return what they fraudulently claimed, that they are somehow blameless and honourable. In fact, by returning the money, it is as if they want us to believe no offence, no fraud, was committed! Rats, unless like these folks, who happen to walk on two feet, are more trustworthy. Conservatives have a penchant for revision (remember Penashue, “the greatest MP ever” from Labrador who resigned for illegally accepting corporate funds for his campaign?). LeBreton’s response to the release of Wallin’s audit is just another prime example of it. Of course, to call Conservatives up on any of this is likely to lead to labeling as Liberal media lickspittle by shrill LeBreton with muted “huzzahs” from Tories. Think it, believe it, but not say it too loudly.

PAMELA WALLIN, THE AUDIT AND THE EXCUSES

If Conservatives were slapped by integrity, ethics, truth, facts and shame, they would doubtless be confused if not utterly alarmed fearing they have been rendered impotent by invading foreign bodies.

Recently, there have been whispers that Harper and his gang may do more than move to reform the Senate. The may set out to abolish it, something the NDP has been demanding for years though Harper’s gang, as is typical of them, will claim it was their idea spinning some elaborate story as to why they are the only ones to work in the public interest. No doubt, some of the gullible public will gladly swallow the swill.

Wallin wants to stay in the senate. She wants to work for the public. She will pay back the more than $140K, with her own money, a clear barb meant for Harb and Duffy who did not. Nowhere does she admit guilt or accept responsibility. She made “mistakes”, the “system” is at fault, the Deloitte audit “report is the result of a fundamentally flawed and unfair process” (Joanna Smith, The Star, Aug. 12, 2013). She further states the expense forms are confusing. If so, then Wallin, clearly not unintelligent, would have turned to an accountant. One would think. As to being unfair, who the hell is the victim here if not taxpayers.

She also claims that changes made to the data on her calendar when she learned she was about to be audited were on the advice of David Tkachuk. Naturally Tkachuk, who along with Carolyn Stewart Olsen had whitewashed the Duffy audit for public consumption, denies this. But a question needs asking: Regardless of whose advice, if any, why alter data in your Microsoft Outlook calendar detailing your activities after the fact if you have done no wrong? Is Wallin that stupid or gullible? According to the audit report, Wallin made many expense claims related to purely partisan fundraising activities having nothing to do with Senate business. Wallin is the same senator Stephen Harper defended in The House when he stood up and claimed he saw her travel claims and found them comparable to those of others doing government business. Really? Perhaps it’s time auditors do a complete examination of all the books of senators and MPs. Hands up, those in favour.

No admission of wrongdoing from Wallin. Nor does she talk of resigning. Shame? Not a whit of it. These people believe they are above it; rules don’t apply to them, that’s for the little people; they are major players and are entitled to their entitlements and all the rewards that come their way and they will continue to nickel and dime Canadian taxpayers as is their divine right to do so. Do you like that? If so, how can you?

So, the next time you hear Harper and the rest of his lousy Conservative gang have a go at public servants, attack science and scientists, punish whistleblowers, seek new ways to destroy unionists and smear enemies, just remember what these people are and how they act and how they betrayed your trust. And remember in particular that, of the four senators investigated, three were Harper appointees. Nor should you forget that Harper not only did not reform the Senate as he promised, but he also turned it into rubberstamping machine for government policies with over half of those in the Senate Harper appointees. These are his people, his stooges, his greedy little soldiers. Abolishment, not reform is needed.

A QUESTION FOR YOU

If you don’t mind what has happened, if ethics, truth, integrity, principles, and honesty are of less importance than tax breaks for Big Business, then continue to support Harper and brag about doing so because you are among the shameless and should be known.

And every time Harper attempts to sell you something new and you feel tempted and about to weaken, when you hear Tony Clement attack public servants whom you envy and hate comparing many of them to dead wood, think of Clement’s $50 million slush fund and of the $3.1 billion mislaid while he was president of the Treasury Board. He’s still there. Then think of Bev Oda, her false expense claims, Peter Penashue, Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Liberal Mac Harb.

Ask yourself: Do we need the Senate? And, while you’re thinking on this, ask yourself a more important question: Do you believe in the Democratic process? If so, ask another question: Do we really need or want more of Harper and his gang? If you think we do, I suggest you question your own ethics. Something’s missing.

STEPHEN HARPER’S SHUFFLE HUSTLE

He [the Emperor] is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders. – Jonathan Swift, The Voyage to Lilliput

Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed. – Irene Peter

Frank A. Pelaschuk

NEW! IMPROVED! YOU GOTTA BUY THIS!

“New faces, experienced hands”. That is the message we are to take from Stephen Harper’s latest cabinet shuffle. Well, is it?

We have the same old guard with the same old, tired Harper message: economy, tax cuts, jobs.

James Flaherty is still minister of Finance.

Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle and the missing $3.1 billion (does no one out there even care?) is still Treasury Board president.

John Baird is still minister of Foreign Affairs, still belligerent, still loud and still angry, just slightly less so.

Peter van Loan is still government leader of the House. Always a dedicated partisan, his most notable achievement of late has been the role of would-be brawler when, finger wagging, he charged across the floor of the house cursing opposition NDP members in a vivid display of the level of decorum and discourse he and his colleagues have unleashed upon the House since Harper took power.

Troglodyte Joe Oliver also retains his position as minister of Natural Resources. Combatively unpleasant, mean-spirited, ignorant, and partisan as they come, clearly the kind of person Harper likes, he has endeared himself to oil lobbyists with his free wheeling ad hominem attacks against environmentalists and scientists who warn of climate change and the dangers posed by the XL Keystone project.

Unfortunately, we still have Christian Paradis, in a reduced role, one of only four elected Tories from Quebec, Paradis who has himself been embroiled in several allegations of ethical “missteps” in the past. As a performer, he has proven himself to be ineffectual, inconsequential and as dazzling as a bowl of cold porridge.

Too, we have Gerry Ritz, still minister of Agriculture, the same minister who was there during the tainted meat scandal of 2008, the same minister who quipped of the listeriosis outbreak that this was akin to a “death by a thousand cold cuts”. Hundreds fell ill; twenty died. And he was there in 2012 when the Americans came to the rescue initiating one of the largest meat recalls in Canadian history upon finding tainted meat shipped from the Alberta XL Food plants. No quips that time. This is the same Ritz who will tell you that Conservatives have increased the number of food inspectors. It may be true that there have been more hires for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it may be true that they are called “Food Inspectors” but, thanks to Harper’s Conservatives, the role of meat inspectors have been reduced to that of rubber stampers of in-house testing results performed by meat producers.

And we have two, two! ministers who have simply swapped positions, weak, vain, Progressive Conservative sell out, Peter MacKay, moving to Justice and tough, stats-be-damned, twin to Toews, scapegoating panderer Rob Nicholson moving to Defence. A straight swap where everyone loses but those two.

And, finally, we have Leona Aglukkaq who has simply moved from Health to the Environment. As minister of health, she has proven time and again that she really took her job of health seriously going out of her way to ensure the health and well being of Big Business over that of Canadian consumers. Hell, with her in place, she made certain we did not even get a decent labelling program for our food products. Gotta love her.

So those, I guess, is what Conservatives mean by “experienced hands”. The same old same old.

ENEMIES

Changes? A few. Peter Kent is gone. No loss there. As Environmental minister, he was more effective as a Harperite stooge than as watchdog for Canadian interests against the depredations of Big Business. During his term, he has slashed environmental regulations, gutted the environmental assessment process, walked away from Kyoto Accord, and lied time and again about the reduction of Canadian environmental standards. Unfortunately, with Aglukkaq replacing him, Canadians and environmentalists have little reason to celebrate though I expect there may be more than a few business types out there gleefully rubbing their hands as they eye the resources of our National Parks. Also gone is shrill Conservative loyalist Marjory LeBreton, once government leader of the Senate and overseer of the whitewashed Duffy audit by two Conservative Senators. She, too, will likely be unmissed except by those Liberal media lickspittles who may have a soft spot for her. Vic Toews is also gone. That is good news. I know nothing about his replacement Steven Blaney so will refrain from saying anything more than this: I suspect he will be hard pressed to match his predecessor for unpleasantness and bile and sincerely hope he doesn’t try. Harper has enough of that type around him already. But, if Toews was of a blindly partisan mindset disturbingly parochial in meanness, spite and fury, he wasn’t alone; almost any member of Harper’s gang could have sprung up from the same vile, dark, dank woodwork that smacks of paranoia where everyone who opposes them is not only stupid, but a threat, a danger, something to be condemned and destroyed: they are the enemy.

And to prove that they would not suffer them easily, Harper and gang had little difficulty in working themselves into attacking their critics. Some were ridiculed as radicals, stooges for outside environmentalist interests; others had their patriotism questioned, reputations smeared and endured brutal innuendo regarding their mental competency; opponents of the online spying bill were ridiculed by Vic Toews with suggestions they sided with pedophiles and were soft on crime. And if you were unemployed, collecting welfare, well, you are naturally suspect: you are a fraudster, a liar, a druggie, an illegal, a lazy lowlife leech if not all of that. The Conservative staple? If you ain’t one of them, if you ain’t for Harper and his gang, you’re against them. It is that simple.

For those who believe this an exaggeration, they would do well to wake up and pay attention to the news. They would have learned on July 16 that the “newcomers” to cabinet posts were given a ten-point checklist kit direct from the PMO which included information not only of the bureaucrats to avoid who could not take yes or no for an answer but also “who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders” i.e., anyone who has dared to speak out against them.

That there is a list, that it would be long, should surprise no one. The only thing shocking about this revelation is that the secretive, underhanded Harper gang would submit such a list so baldly. That is either hubris or enthusiasm gone overboard.

This behaviour by Harper and gang is grossly wrong. It is undemocratic and bespeaks a sick paranoia that is the real threat to our Democracy. It is also shallow, lazy, and just plain irresponsible. And it all rests with Harper.

Even so, even as offensive as it is, there are some, however, who by some peculiar reasoning process find this attitude of meanness and scapegoating appealing and justified. For them, they really are beset by enemies and they are called them. These are Conservative supporters who cannot or will not think things through, who would rather buy into the view that the world is rife with danger, that thieves, rapists, pedophiles freely roam amongst us and that crime is constantly on the rise and that harsher sentences and more jails and further stigmatizing of the mentally ill are the just solution to all that troubles them rather than listening to this bare, simple fact: it just ain’t so. For such as these, confirmation of their fears by panderers and exploiters such as Harper and his gang are sufficient. Gut feelings, the truthiness first propounded by comic Stephen Colbert, are the things to rely on, not facts, and certainly not scientific facts. Irene Peter must have been thinking of these types when she said, “Ignorance is no excuse – it’s the real thing.”

TALKING BOBBLE HEADS BROUGHT TO LIFE!

Anyone who follows politics and watches the news will have almost immediately realized that, at best, Harper and gang have simply pulled a con game, the old switcheroo where faces may have shifted but the ideas, what there are of them, remain stuck in the same old sewer. The speakers may be different, but the words and message are the same and are already just as tired and trite when the past robotic parliamentary secretaries, Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierrie Poilievre first spouted them before their elevation to cabinet where they, no doubt, will continue to spout them. In their ubiquitous appearances in the media, including CBC’s Power and Politics, they have clearly earned Harper’s approval demonstrating their fidelity with daily, programmed performances of slavishly repeating set responses to questions asked a dozen ways in the vain hope of getting even one honest answer. Expert at evasiveness, at obfuscation and outright lying, these talking, lifelike mannequins have suddenly come into their own, Harper kissing them with the breath of life, soaring into the stratosphere approaching but never quite attaining the freedom and independence they so hungered for; we will witness them in the House, we will hear the party line and talking points and we will note the standard non answers to even the simplest and most innocuous of questions; we will admire their performances. Even blessed with life, it will be as good, if not better, as the good old days when they were mere bobble heads on Power and Politics; they have been inoculated against openness, against truth, against integrity, against independent thinking, and against any sensation resembling the emotion of shame. Shame? Have any of them known the experience and, if so, have any of them been humbled. Likely not.

“New faces”? Turns out, not so new and not so fresh after all when it comes to ideas.

Now I have read and heard on the news that these people are “smart”. Well, I don’t know. What I have seen of them in their performances in the House, on Power and Politics and other news items, convinces me not of their intelligence but that when it comes to partisanship, to mindless adherence to the party line, when it comes to sticking to and endlessly repeating the Harperite talking points of the day, these live talking dolls are non-pareil.

New faces? New ideas? These six mouth the Conservative refrain with an aplomb that is frightening because they are never, never in doubt and because they are never, never in doubt, they never, never answer questions directly or truthfully, preferring evasion, diversion, historical revision, dishonesty, and pointing fingers to the offences of other parties that often date back years and are beside the point. Occasionally, they have displayed signs of actual life with flashes of anger and frustration but never, never of shame. Of all of them, Chris Alexander strikes me as the least offensive and the smartest. He steps in for Jason Kenney as Immigration minister. Michelle Rempel, for whom a new post was evidently created, always appears wide-eyed and startled as a deer caught by headlights. Whenever one of the opposition members who usually appears with her and the others on Power and Politics speak, she invariably interrupts, talks over them, shakes her head and rolls her eyes determined to drown out the other. She is determined, lest it missed it the first dozen times, that the audience will hear her talking point for the umpteenth time.

Watching Kellie Leitch on Power and Politics is always interesting. Whenever her counterparts speak, she sits there, shaking her head a smirk pasted on her mug and, as Rempel, has little trouble in trying to addle the other member by talking over, interrupting, and hectoring.

And there is Candice Bergen, tireless lobbyist for paranoid gun lovers with her successful bid to get rid of the long gun registry, her unblinking eyes wide, wide, to connote sincerity I suspect, and Shelly Glover, rigid and imperious (of whom more will be said), both equally stupefyingly unpleasant and just as rude as the others.

But, of all of them, the most cringingly obnoxious is the oleaginous Pierre Poilievre, the new minister of state for Democratic Reform. Certain, viciously arrogant and obstructionist, he is the-takes-no-prisoner adherent who, along with Peter van Loan, offers the clearest testament to how little things have changed with Harper’s shuffle. This is the fellow who has waged war against Elections Canada during its investigations of allegations of Conservative attempts to subvert the electoral process by means of robocalls, redirecting of voters to nonexistent polling stations, and of election overspending employing the “in-out” scam. This is the fellow who had praised Mike Duffy for doing “the honourable thing” when everyone thought Duffy had repaid the Senate with his own money for illegal housing claims and then, as easily, shamelessly switched gears and praised Nigel Wright for “doing the exceptionably honourable thing” when he wrote out a $90,000 cheque to pay off Duffy’s debt. Those are weasel shifts and Poilievre is the master of such shifts. And he is going to be in charge of election reform? We should be worried, very worried.

Changes? Yes, a few of the faces in cabinet may be “fresher” but the message and those passing it are as stale as last year’s joke. Partisan, secretive, dishonest, dismissive, dismal, evasive and abusive, these six will be little more than carryovers of what we have endured from Harper and vile gang over the years. They are a perfect fit because, as is the rest of the Harper crew, these six are utterly lacking in shame, scruples and charm.

BUT WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Change? Well, Rempel was given a post created just for her it seems. But wasn’t Harper about smaller government as well as changing the Senate? It appears, under Harper, bloated government is here to stay. However, with Poilievre as minister of Democratic Reform, there may be some move to reform the Senate. Even so, the move will be less about reform than ensuring Conservatives salvage something for themselves from the Senate debacle. An elected Senate? Revised rules for housing allowances? Abolishment? Oh, if only. One thing is almost certain. There will be more erosion of our Democracy in the way of attacks against our electoral process.

But of particular interest is the curious case of Shelly Glover, our new Minister of Heritage and Official Languages. This “fresh” face, straight-backed and haughty, is the same Shelly Glover who, along with fellow Conservative, James Bezan, had been investigated by Elections Canada for illegal overspending and claims. This is the same Shelly Glover who refused to submit a proper audit of her campaign expenses, the same Glover who, along with Bezan, Marc Mayrand of Elections Canada had recommended be suspended until they made things right in letters he wrote to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer. The Speaker, however, sat on the letters for two weeks, allowing Glover and Bezan time to take the matter to court while Poilievre (see above), ran to their defence in the House renewing his attacks of Elections Canada. When news of the letters and the recommendations came out, the opposition were further enraged when Scheer stonewalled, refusing to act on Mayrand’s suggestion offering the excuse that the matter was before the court! Could this be partisan politics at play from a Speaker who is supposed to be unbiased? Perhaps.

But then, something changed; Glover, the outraged ex-cop who should have known better, who should have behaved better, suddenly reconsidered and agreed to submit a revised report. Instead of being fired, or urged to resign – anyone remember Penashue who resigned over campaign irregularities? – Shelly Glover is rewarded with a significant portfolio. Why is less demanded of Glover than of Penashue? She deliberately broke the rules, she sought to wage war with Elections Canada. She cheated. But no punishment. Once again Harper has demonstrated that, when he favours one, no sin, no foul deed is so egregious that it cannot be forgiven or overlooked. This is a government of many foul deeds and as many foul people.

IT’S ALL ABOUT NOTHING

Can anyone still believe this shuffle amounts to change? If so, shame on you. This is the same old Harper and the same old ethically challenged gang. The Conservatives may have lost a few faces, but they remain thugs, they behave as thugs. The message remains the same: the economy and jobs. A sense of shame, ethical behaviour and sound moral judgment is still wanting in this group of vile bodies. The bullies and guttersnipes still rule the roost. It’s all a game and, come next election, there will still be some among you who will still insist that Harper is the most capable, the best leader for the country. You will not care about ethics, integrity, or decency. Perhaps you never did. You will only care about what’s in it for you and will be bought easily and cheaply. If Harper is a threat to Democracy, so are those who support him.

Change? Ironically, just hours after the cabinet shuffle, CTV reported that the RCMP have been stonewalled by the PMO in its investigation of Duffy, Wright, the cheque and what the PMO knew. Unsurprisingly, the PMO issued a denial though they did admit to there being an email of the deal which, not that long ago, Harper denied existed. The PMO claims it wishes to co-operate with the RCMP but that the RCMP had not placed a request for the document. Incredible. And this from the government of “law and order”? Weasel excuses. Poilievre must be proud.

On July 15, Harper shuffled his cabinet. What has changed?

In my first posting, Harper: The Beast In Him, I began with these words: I dislike Stephen Harper; I dislike his gang.

I have never liked this crew. I have not changed in that opinion. I dislike them still.

How do you feel? Will you ever wake up?

STEPHEN HARPER, CONSERVATIVES, AND THE QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his political life. – Jeremy Thorpe

Frank A. Pelaschuk

LOVE ME, BELIEVE ME; I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Is Harper a liar or is he someone just as out of touch with his office as he is with the majority of Canadians? Either way, it’s bad for us.

It’s difficult to believe the man when every word he and his misbegotten crew utter promotes an agenda that is self-serving, self-promoting and self-deluding. They are right, always right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, always wrong.

Harper’s Conservatives listen to no one and apparently believe themselves answerable to no one. Why should they be, they have the majority, they can do no wrong. Robocalls, campaign overspending, accepting corporate donations, and directing voters to non-existent polling stations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process during the last two campaigns, are mere blips. No one cares. What matters to Canadians are jobs, the economy, low taxes; if Democracy takes a kicking, if voters are used, misused, abused, if senators and MPs dip into the public purse, who cares, these are small costs for sound economic growth. And, if the economy and jobs and lower taxes aren’t enough to lull voters into acceptance, or if they don’t perform as expected, there’s always fear and bigotry; crime, abuses in immigration and unemployment insurance, the threat of powerful unions, and endless possibilities of terrorist attacks from every quarter are sufficient to divert those simple-minded voters who haven’t a clue, who’d rather talk about hockey, Justin Bieber and Breaking Bad than about the governance that affects their daily lives by politicians who lie, steal and defraud; after all, what can they do, they’re only one person. That’s what Conservatives believe of us. Do you accept that? If so, prove them right. Next election, vote for Harper and gang again and, once again, prove you’re stupid.

What is it with Canadians? Why are so many asleep? Why do so many still put their trust in a man and his crew who has lied to them from the very first even before they took office? And why do so many now, prepared to reject Harper, appear so blindly eager to turn to an untested young man who appears to have it all, looks, wealth, a pleasant personality and a famous name and, yet, so far, has failed to offer any substantial alternative vision for this nation? Surely there’s more we should be seeking, wanting and needing than the superficiality of an attractive but empty package. How about experience, ideas? Why are these considered novelties today, quaint and old-fashioned? Is it image only; are the youth of today that shallow? The Liberals appear to believe so.

But there is another view of voters that is even worse for it is a view that is negative, without hope, cynically devoid of compassion and humanity. It is the view that believes Canadians really do not care about substance, depth, perception, honesty, integrity, ethics, decency, shame or about any of the ongoing Conservative scandals. That is the Conservative vision; it is a bleak and contemptible vision with the sole apparent goal of gaining and holding power for the benefit of self and special interests. Will we continue to allow the schemers, liars, and plain old sons of bitches rip-off artists to have the edge? Are we Canadians okay with that? Clearly Harper and his gang believe so.

Being young is no crime. I hold no brief against Trudeau and I don’t fault him his good fortune. Would that we were all so fortunate. I just believe he is too young, too inexperienced, too, innocent (?) to be what we need at this time. Surely it is time for Canadians to look elsewhere, to take a risk, to try something new. It wouldn’t be that much of a risk, the only challenge called for being that Canadians rid themselves of the hidebound fears and prejudices born of ignorance. Canadians should look at Thomas Mulcair and the NDP and seriously give them a closer look. As a politician, he certainly has the experience and the smarts. And he does have substance; we’ve seen it on display in the House this past year. And the NDP is really not the Party of the CCF. It is certainly not the party I have supported all my life, but it is better than what we have. In fact, for those who really want a change and yet no earthshattering shift, preferring the middle ground, the NDP should be their choice for it is closer to the centre than either the Liberals or Conservatives if centrism is what you seek.

Tories and Whigs have had their way for far too long. Haven’t we had enough? Surely yes. We do not need more of the arrogance, deceit, dishonesty, secrecy, and abuse of power practiced by Harper and his crew of malignant toads. We need leaders, champions of citizens rather than of business, cronies, and entitlement. Mulcair and the NDP could be those agents of change if offered a chance. But the force of timidity is not enough.

In truth, regardless of what happens today or tomorrow, regardless of what we see, hear or know, Harper and his gang will always have their singular version of themselves and their history; the rest of us will simply have to be content with the facts.

The last two elections and the recent senate scandal, particularly the Duffy matter, offer prime examples of Harper Conservatism at play and at its worst. There is no best.

When Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, after much protestations of having done nothing wrong, finally agreed to repay $90 thousand back for false housing and expense claims and the Senate internal Economy Committee received the Deloitte audit report on him, Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader of the Senate, ecstatically claimed, that the matter was closed. As far as the world was led to believe, Duffy had repaid the debt with his own money. Conservatives, including Harper, loudly praised him for doing the “honourable thing.” Evidently they were untroubled that he had acted dishonourably in the first place. There is no hope for such as these.

Almost immediately after the report was released, it turned out that the Deloitte document released for public consumption had been doctored, the harshest criticisms in the original Deloitte report cleaned up and removed. Those who did the whitewashing were Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen members of the Senate’s internal Economy Committee. But that wasn’t all. Another bombshell: good ol’ Mike Duffy hadn’t paid off the debt after all. Nigel Wright, at that time Harper’s chief of staff, wrote the cheque for $90 thousand.

Now, in the House, Harper had denied any knowledge of the Duffy/Wright affair. He did not know of the cheque, there had been no negotiation with the PMO, and no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. So he claimed. As well, the Conservative Party had not been involved. Nevertheless, Harper and his crude brood in the House initially and loudly and proudly praised Nigel Wright for “doing the honourable thing” going so far as to claim that he had done this to spare the taxpayers the burden of the cost of Duffy’s false expense claims! It was a ridiculous assertion completely unbelievable and without merit. As they did with Duffy, Conservatives across the land were now singing the praises of Nigel Wright. They abandoned Duffy. And, when it was his turn, they abandoned Wright. But of course, no one in the PMO knew of the deal. Harper said so and we were to believe him. In fact, according to him, there had been no deal. Wright was doing this on his own, a generous friend helping a friend in need. But, again, we now know that wasn’t true.

The recent release of the court documents by the RCMP tells a different version of what we have been told by Duffy, Wright, Harper and his churlish band of knaves.

We now know that the Conservative Party not only knew of Duffy’s difficulties, it was quite willing to pay the tab in the belief that it was only $32 thousand (though David Tkachuk had notified Duffy in February, a month before the investigation began due to public outrage, that he owed over $90 thousand; is it possible, or even credible, neither Duffy nor Wright notified the Conservative Party before this came out?). When the sum rose to $90 thousand, the party balked; it would not pay Duffy’s debt.

The person who could sign off on the debt for Duffy was Senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada. When the party refused to pay that amount, the obliging Nigel Wright stepped in. He brokered a deal with Duffy in which Duffy was to immediately repay the $90 thousand and not to talk to the media. As well, the Deloitte report would be absent of harsh criticism. Clearly, this deal, as well as that in which the Conservative Party initially considered paying off Duffy’s debt, was meant to be secret. Did Harper know? He said not. In fact, he claimed their had been no negotions. In any event, Canadians should be seriously troubled by these machinations and the secrecy surrounding them. There is no doubt that there was a concerted effort to deceive the public. For this gang, however, that is neither new nor news though it is puzzling why the Conservative Party would be so reticent in disclosing its willingness to help one of its own. But then, it may not be all that puzzling. With Conservatives, one thing is true: once you’re out, you’re out. And Duffy is out.

Now Harper had claimed that no one else in the PMO had known about the Duffy/Wright deal. He was either mistaken or misleading when he made that assertion. Clearly Senator Gerstein became aware of the deal once Wright interjected himself into the affair. But who else knew? According to the RCMP report, three others, and all in the PMO: Benjamin Perrin, the PMO legal advisor, David van Hemmen, executive assistant to Wright, and Chris Woodcock, the PMO director of issues (i.e., troubleshooter of crises). So, once again, we have Harper contradicted. But did he, himself, know of the deal? Well, I know what I think and I know what Harper wants us to believe. He apparently wishes to rely on that political standby of plausible deniability. He did not know. It is likely, in the eventuality that something like this should crop up, he had made it clear that he did not want to know, did not want to be told, and would not be told. Whether or not one believes Harper and those Conservatives, you’ve got to hand it to those endearing cretins, don’t you? They’ve got nerve if nothing of the scruples I would wish in a person.

Plausible deniability. When they resort to this, politicians resemble adult children who push from their mind the fact that they were conceived by their parents having hot, sweaty sex, who refuse to imagine their parents even having sex, who wish to ignore the possibility of their parents still being frisky, and who most certainly don’t want to know that their parents might actually still enjoy it.

The thing is, Harper and gang are not those adult children. They know exactly what they are doing. So do most of us. And we don’t like it.

THE FIVE DOLLS AND PROMOTION

With news of several high profile resignations in the government, including that of LeBreton, who plans to relinquish her position as Government Leader of the Senate and who will no doubt be missed by many of the Liberal media lickspittles, there is speculation regarding a cabinet shuffle and who the winners and losers will be.

Among the contenders expected to move up are Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander, Candice Bergan, Kellie Leitch and the particularly odious Pierre Poilievre who seems peculiarly adept at tossing slime. To those who follow politics, these five are familiar as point persons for Harper’s gang making frequent appearances in all media. They are most notable for being rude, overbearing, dismissive and arrogantly certain of every utterance as they talk over, shout down and point fingers at their opposites in the Liberal and NDP parties who appear with them. Unfortunately, from my many viewings of them on Power and Politics, I am left with the impression that they are more like talking dolls or, at most, barely sentient beings who, in their regular appearances, spout the message of the day apparently downloaded into the microchip that must surely be secreted somewhere into their moulded bodies. I say this because, whenever they make an appearance on Power and Politics, they never deviate from the message, often repeating it word for word each time a question is posed regardless of how it is framed or how often it is asked. I can almost imagine someone waking them in the morning by pulling the string in the middle of their backs. I can see them abruptly sitting up, swaying slight, and saying, “Hello, my name is Michelle (Chris, Kellie, Candice,Pierre) and I am ready for my daily assignment. Hello, my name is…”

Not quite alive, they still manage somehow to work up enough life to occasionally express faux high indignation, to be evasive, to point fingers at others, and to utter many words without saying anything.

When the public was supposed to believe Duffy had paid off his debt with his own money, they glowingly praised Duffy for “doing the honourable thing” and then did the same with Wright when they learned the truth. They can switch that easily from one gear to another without any sign of embarrassment or shame. Just like a talking doll. Watching them, I can almost believe that brains and mouths are interchangeable and regardless of which brain or which mouth, it would all be one.

They, Poilievre more so, are dislikeable bobble heads now and offer every indication of being the same as members of the cabinet. They will take questions and regurgitate the response of the day. When the question is asked another way, they will repeat the message and continue to do so regardless of how the question is framed or how many times. And we’ll continue to go round and round, never getting answers to anything by anyone on anything. The only difference between their appearances in the House from that of Power and Politics is they’ll be standing on their feet.

I’ll be looking for the strings. (edited, July 8, 2013)

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE GANG THAT WON’T SHOOT STRAIGHT

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. – Edmund Burke

Frank A. Pelaschuk

If anyone today were to muse aloud about “ethical politicians”, it might elicit a loud guffaw. They do come along, but these days are as rare as fish falling from green skies and direct responses from any of Harper’s gang when asked a direct question on ethical matters. We had Conservative Robert Stanfield and CCF/NDP Stanley Knowles. But that was long ago and in another, unrecognizable country. Today, the phrase is a quaint oxymoron.

But why is it so difficult for Stephen Harper and his Conservatives? They appear to lack a moral compass and come across as simply greedy and stupid. Are they all simply husks of air, bombast and meanness?

Whatever it is that stirs them, lapses in ethical behaviour appears not to be among them. For them, critical self-examination is apparently too arduous and unrewarding; it’s easier to point at the moral lapses of others with one hand while digging in the public purse with the other. While such finger pointing does not absolve one, for these types, there is evidently something pleasurable, if childishly inadequate, in saying, “Well, you did it too,” as if hoping to convince bystanders with their faux and gleeful outrage that moral equivalency is at play, though that is seldom true and is never persuasive as an argument; pointing out the wrongs of another does not nullify one’s own and it certainly does nothing to enhance the image of the finger pointer.

POWER CORRUPTS. BUT DOES IT?

Harper and his gang have amply demonstrated the perils of entering into the shady world of politics. When individuals run for public office, they almost always offer a picture of themselves, as they believe themselves to be, that is, one of us, honest, engaged, reliable, knowledgeable, dedicated, a selfless, and tireless servant and defender of the people. They almost always disappoint. They would have us believe that they are out there working on our behalf, that they will act honestly and honourably in all their dealings. They may even believe it and convince us into believing that what we see is what we’ll get. But it almost never quite works like that.

Politics changes people. Power corrupts. I have heard such said many times and, I confess, in my younger days, I had accepted those as valid truisms. Too, I did not care, the world would run smoothly without my input, there were others who knew more than I did, who were wiser and better. To say that I was wrong is to understate it. Unfortunately, these days there are too many as I was then and yet, in some ways, much worse, too focused into their own narrow self-centredness of getting “things” to concern themselves with the travails of others. But old and grey, perhaps just tired, I no longer believe that of one. I do believe politics can change people, it can open hearts and minds and reward and transform some. But it can also shut them down, replacing hope with bitterness, trust with cynicism. For each, I am certain, the experience will be different; once you enter the murky world of politics, you can never be the same. But I do not believe power corrupts an individual. It only allows opportunities for acts of corruption. The corruption is already within a rotting soul.

The image we see and believe of those running for office is seldom an accurate image of those we elect. No one who enters politics a truly honest man and leaves corrupted can be said to have been truly honest in the first place. The bruise of corruption and venality had already infected him, in need only of the opportunity to reveal itself. A truly honest man may be tempted, but he never wavers, never succumbs. Too many of us, believing ourselves good and honest, guilty at most of “small”, “harmless” sins, say we want politicians much like ourselves. Sadly, we have them in spades, just like us. Contrary to our high opinions of ourselves, very, very few of us can legitimately make the claim to being totally honest, absolutely trustworthy and unequivocally incorruptible. How many of us have got away with something saying, “it didn’t hurt anyone,” “no one saw me.” “it’s only a small thing,” “it’s not going to break them”? Knowingly keeping the extra change the cashier mistakenly gave you. Running the red light when no one was around. Swiping that small sweet. Buying something from someone on the street that you suspect may have been stolen. Stealing that light bulb or paper roll from your company. It’s easy to excuse the “small” and to laugh them off as “lapses” and to dismiss the effects on others and yourself as “harmless”, which they may well be, but they are nevertheless signs of rot. Moral equivocation is not a virtue.

For too many of us, it becomes easier to take it to another level. When a person fudges while campaigning, makes promises he knows he cannot keep, who misleads and lies, who cooks his books and refuses to open them, we can know this with a certainty of that person: he or she bears watching; it is no longer a laughing matter.

THE INTOLERABLE CHINTZINESS OF THE PETTY TIGHT-FISTED CHEAT

By now all of Canada knows of the four senators investigated for illegal expense claims: fraud in other words. Liberal Mac Harb must repay over $230 thousand. Conservative Harper appointees, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, all removed from the caucus, were into the taxpayers’ pockets for tens of thousands of dollars. When it appeared that Duffy had repaid $90 thousand (in reality it was Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright, who gifted the money and then resigned, leaving other questions to be answered regarding the PMO), Marjory LeBreton declared his case closed and senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen doctored the Deloitte report on him. Those three, as well, have a lot for which to answer.

We have seen people appointed to the senate for no apparent reason than what they could bring to the fortunes of the Conservative Party, including two of the most efficient fundraisers, Wallin and Duffy, though of Wallin it can be said she did serve the nation as Canada’s consul general to New York. Both had entered the senate with sterling reputations as far as the public knew. However, their fall from grace has been considerable and deserved, the damage to their standing irreparable. But, for Duffy, his fall from grace was not that far, for it had begun before his appointment to the Senate when the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that he had violated broadcasting ethics during the 2008 election, misrepresenting the views of one of three liberal members on the panel of his CTV show as well as airing an interview with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion that was cruelly intended to bring ridicule upon the liberal leader in a manner that “was not fair, balanced, or even handed” (Wikipedia). That same year, Duffy was appointed to the Senate. The Conservatives clearly knew what they were getting and liked what they saw. He was their kind of person.

But if Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin were simply motivated by greed or had made mistakes, as Wallin claimed in an interview on The National with Peter Mansbridge of CBC (June 13) with the admission she had been careless in failing to perform due diligence, what must we make of Conservatives Shelly Glover, James Bezan and Eve Adams who also have problems of their own which, while not as egregious in scope, still need answering?

Not that long ago, the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand wrote two letters to Conservative Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of the House, recommending that both Glover and Bezan be suspended for failing to file complete campaign expenses. Glover and Bezan, having none of it, filed appeals in court. Incredibly, the Speaker of the House, who is supposed to be nonpartisan, not only denied the request, evidently falling for Peter Van Loan’s assertion he had no right to tender a decision on a matter now before the court, he had also refused to table the letters before the House, sitting on them for several weeks before they finally became public knowledge. Scheer’s was purely a political and partisan decision allowing the two Conservatives enough time to launch their appeals and thumb their noses at Elections Canada with the full support of the Harper Conservative gang. Once a Conservative, always a stooge. Such acts do nothing for Canadian democracy except add another wound. Still, no expressions of shame or regret. Just business as usual.

A question, of course, comes to mind: If everything is on the up and up, why is the Conservative Party and those two members, so reluctant to file full, accurate expense reports? It’s that simple. Come clean.

But what is even more alarming, and clearly indicative of how entrenched is the contempt harboured by Harper and his gang for even the suggestion of transparency and for the democratic process, is that Shelly Glover, has since been appointed to the five-person panel (Conservative dominated, of course) to advise the government in the next appointment for the Supreme Court. Instead of suspension for not following the rules, Glover is rewarded. For Harper and crew, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, the queen of mean, “Rules are for the little people”. Once again, they thumb their noses at process and Canadian taxpayers pay the price. Absolutely shameless and absolutely revelatory of the moral compass by which they operate.

And then we have Eve Adams, poor, pathetic Eve Adams, the bobble head who sits next to Glover in the House and occasionally appears on Power and Politics with the set responses for the question of the day firmly embedded somewhere in that brain. She, too, is under investigation for making illegal expense claims of $2777. Now Adams states that over $1800 went to childcare and suggests her $260 Shoppers Drug Mart tab went towards toothpaste and grooming for volunteers. Perhaps. But how does she justify her $400 plus spa treatments? Compared to the senate scandal, these numbers are not large but it could be that the thing that may most rile Canadians, however, is the fact that, after the election, Adams attempted to claim for $2.63 cupcakes and restaurant fare. It’s the small things that can trip one up because there is almost something sad about the cheapness and chintziness in claiming those cupcakes as expenses. The amount is so meagre and yet the behaviour so pathetically and appallingly parsimonious that one might wish to pity this example of unpleasant tight-fistedness. One might wish. But not this writer. How trustworthy can anyone be with the big things who fudges on the small things? Not very, I suggest. It’s the small things that can get you. Remember Bev Oda, the minister who may have forged, or whose staffer may have forged, a signed government document, the minister who twice had to repay false expense claims, the minister who was finally felled by a $16 orange juice?

If there’s any justice in this world, one can only hope Eve Adams, Shelly Glover and James Bezan will eventually go the way of Oda and Peter Penashue. They evidently don’t experience the sense of shame that would move honourable individuals to do the right, decent thing. Innocent or not, they are judged by their behaviour. Fairly or not, they cannot be trusted. Nor should they. An open book is all that is required and yet they refuse those who pay that right.

BASHING PUBLIC SERVANTS AND ANYONE ELSE IN THE WAY

And while Conservatives on one side are busy not explaining themselves, we have those Conservatives on the other side, Tony Clement and James Moore, happily looking for a scrap with federal government employees. From the very first, smearing others and scapegoating has been the favourite pastime of Harper and thugs. This is the government, after all, that assumes all those collecting EI are fraudsters, that all critics are enemies, of questionable patriotism or of siding with criminals, pedophiles or of being radical stooges of foreign environmentalist groups. Even veterans collecting disability pay were not immune to the mean-spirited niggardliness of Harper who, before he was elected as prime minister in 2006, had declared, “All too often, we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” He won and made changes all right, clawing back the disability pensions of veterans (reinstated years later; refer to March 28th post). His troubles with veterans, however, are not over. Recently, Cpl. Glen Kirkland, against the wishes of senior military brass, appeared before a committee of MPs regarding the treatment he suffered at the hands of the military when trying to claim health benefits. This was a soldier who fought and nearly died in Afghanistan while in the performance of his duty. Defence Minister Peter MacKay had made a loud declaration that Kirkland would not suffer as a consequence of his appearance before the panel. That assurance was as good as his word to David Orchard a few years back when the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance Party. Shortly after his appearance, Kirkland was issued release papers from the military to take effect in six months. With the ensuing uproar that followed, the military brass and MacKay met. MacKay ordered the papers torn up and the military busied themselves admitting there had been “a colossal mix-up”. While the military clearly did not like what Kirkland had to say, they cared even less for the public backlash. This was just another betrayal of veterans by the Harper regime and the public did not like it. While the outcome appears to be satisfactory for Kirkland, we are left wondering about the treatment of those other walking wounded by the military and this government.

But, not satisfied with just scapegoating ordinary, but discerning and critical citizens, we have the Conservatives, with frontmen Tony Clement, the man behind the $50 million slush fund boondoggle for his riding, the president of the treasury board which has “mislaid” $3.1 billion, and James Moore, minister of historical distortion and Conservative revisionist propaganda, doing their dirty work stigmatizing public servants with suggestions that they are slackers, dishonest, and incompetent and embarking upon a campaign to bypass the bargaining process in the case of border guards. While these are cynical, despicable diversions, and they are despicable when lives are played with for personal gain, meant to deflect public attention away from the many troubles of this scandal prone regime, with its predilection for padding expenses and fraud, it could be there is more at play here, both men of immense egos priming themselves for the role of Conservative leader when Harper leaves the stage.

But before excited Harperite voters, especially those envious anti-unionists jump on the federal public servant bashing bandwagon, they should pause to reflect on this regime’s proclivity for avarice, mendacity, obfuscation, hypocrisy, and unethical and anti-Democratic behaviour. Unfortunately, when it comes to swallowing Harper poison, Harperites are nonpareil in suspending credulity. Promise them the moon. That’s sufficient. Buy them off with tax cuts. That’s sufficient. Tell the Big Lie. That too is sufficient. Feed them another lie, any lie; repeat the process time after time; do it again and again. It doesn’t matter. Just get the enemy, it doesn’t matter who, and destroy them. And for Harper and crew, the enemy is anyone who criticizes. Those true believer misanthropic Harperites are always there ready and eager to blindly swallow any crap dished out by this group. An incredibly nice and perceptive bunch.

BUT WHO IS WITHOUT SIN?

While this regime has many serious problems and all of them have to do with the secretive, closed, paranoid nature of its governance bolstered by an attitude that is highhandedly convinced of its infallibility and its right to be answerable to no one, Harper and gang, sadly, are not the only party, though by far the worst, that needs looking at.

The Liberals had their own scandals in the past, and Mac Harb, the same Harb who has been told to repay over $230 thousand, was their man in the senate. It does Justin Trudeau little credit to say that Harb will be allowed to return to the Liberal fold if he repays what he owes and faces no criminal charge. Since when is it sufficient to simply pay back what you have illegally obtained? There must be real consequences. It is no justifiable excuse to claim the rules were unclear. If unsure, hire a lawyer or accountant.

Even as I write this, the Conservatives, especially propaganda minister James Moore, are in paroxysms of ecstasy over news that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had breached Parliament Hill security by blowing by the security guard and ignoring the flashing lights of the police car pursuing him until he found his parking spot. It is alleged, and there is no evidence for this, that he turned on the officer and reportedly said, “Do you know who I am?” and threatened to report him to his superiors. If true, that was cheap, arrogant and evidence that some people probably believe their own press. But it is really stretching it for the Conservatives to hope or believe that this issue should be enough to get the public to forget the senate scandal, Mike Duffy, the $90 thousand gifted cheque by Nigel Wright. With hundreds of thousands of dollars ripped from Canadians, this failure to stop at a security station, while serious, hardly compares to the Conservative obfuscations, evasions, lies, and failure to answer questions. Now that the RCMP are looking at the matter of the Wright cheque, there is little doubt that Harper and gang will now use this as a subterfuge to continue to refuse to answer questions.

The NDP, however, has another more problematic issue that could severely erode whatever support they may have. It is their failure to back Liberal motions to make public online all MP expenses. If unhappy with the motions, the NDP should have presented their own proposals or made amendments. Instead, they simply said that the Liberals were grandstanding and nixed the propositions. It is hard to love a party that demands openness and transparency from others while refusing the same for itself.

While I will never, ever vote Conservatives, believing them the most dishonest and dangerous to Canadian Democracy and to Canadian citizens, I am hard pressed to say that I will continue to vote NDP. I am reminded of these words of G.K. Chesterton: “My country right or wrong is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober!’” My party right or wrong is not something I can do. I cannot imagine being desperate enough to vote for what I don’t believe. If I am missing something, I wish the NDP would explain what it is.

WHY SHOULD I BE INTERESTED?

There is something seriously wrong with Canadian politics. It has become corrupted by the slothful and ignorant where winning for the sake of winning appears to be the goal and getting what you can, when you can, the only purpose. It has become about compliance, about partisan sniping and satisfying the wants, rather than the needs, of special interests instead of a uniting of opposing forces to combat the common problems that afflict us all: poverty, inadequate housing, mediocre health care, failing education, crumbling infrastructures, hunger, and the despair of knowing that the greedy haves will always keep a boot on the base of your neck. There are few visionaries and fewer men and women of principle and courage. Too many in politics are like most of us, believers of nothing and out for the main chance: what’s in it for me?

Recently, Conservative Dean Del Mastro has emerged from whatever hole after eighteen months, under investigation by Elections Canada for overspending while campaigning and then covering it up. Appearing in the House June 13, reading from a statement and near tears of whinging self-pity, he had, he said, “been subjected to unfounded hatred, contempt and ridicule as the result of a leaked document belonging to Elections Canada…” (Ottawa Citizen, June 14, 2013). I was totally unmoved recalling him during the robocall scandal, his loud, relentlessly abusive assaults against opposition members as he finger-wagged, shifted and dodged in a contemptible effort to protect his party while refusing to respond to questions deserving answers and, at the same time, smearing others with innuendo under the protective shield of the House. Not surprisingly, he often resorted to the childish “Well, you did it too!” Some defence. Now, emerged from his warren and clearly unrepentant, Del Mastro’s pitiful display should move no one who recalls his merciless behaviour in the past. As ye sow, so shall you reap.

Those who lie, who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others, those people who change fashion with every breeze and who believe that, having gained power, they must wield it as a club, are craven and detestable. Yet I see such people every day as well as the arrogant and smug when I watch Question Period or Power and Politics on TV when the Conservative bobble heads appear on screen and mouth the same words time and again without answering a single question honestly and openly. The sly and weaselling are there too, abhorrent toads who worm their way out of difficulties by resorting to legalities rather than to what is ethical and honest. As well, there are the venal, such as we have seen of late, those lowlifes who fudge expense accounts, who nickel and dime us at every turn, who will not come clean with their expense claims and who claim what is not theirs to claim. They are fraudsters, liars, untrustworthy and unworthy and the worst of all are those who sell themselves for so little and who hold no beliefs except the belief that they are somehow better and more deserving and who are pitiless against those who fail, who are weak and in need of intervention rather than incarceration in the firm belief that those people, those lowlifes, have brought it on themselves. They are the feral zombies who float through life in awe of themselves firmly believing that their every accomplishment is noteworthy, cosmic, and solely by their own efforts.

I see all the things I do not like on Parliament Hill, the liars, shills, snake oil salesmen, charlatans, and weasels. I do not believe Harper is an honest man and I do not believe him kind or generous. But I do believe him small and petty and believe the same of his unworthy crew. I have seen little sign of integrity; if it is there, it is as smoke, no more, a puff of air, poof! and it is gone. They would not, could not, behave as they do otherwise.

I would not trust them in my house. I would not shake their hands. If I were locked in the same room with them for an hour, I would feel a need to shower because they are not clean. How can anyone who is in power be clean when he perceives his only duty is to achieve his ends and interests, help his friends, line his pockets, and views all dissenting voices as enemies to be destroyed and treats the concepts of ethics, integrity and Democracy merely as hindrances to be endured rather than lived.

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE ROAD TO PERDITION

The death of democracy is not likely to be a death by assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment. – Robert Maynard Htutchins

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHAT? WHO? ME?

In times of trouble, Stephen Harper makes it abundantly clear the buck does not stop with him. Instead, when it comes to blunders, breaches of ethics, and plain old-fashioned malfeasance, when accountability and transparency are called for, this hulking bully and his gang of arrogant asses, prefer to cut and run, to scapegoat, to smear and question the patriotism of critics or, failing all else, throw staffers and redundant allies under buses. They deflect, obfuscate, and flat out lie, gleefully pointing to the faults of others while denying their own, tongue in cheek, eyes and fingers crossed.

Harper and his crew are spineless. Incapable of introspection or of experiencing shame, poisoned by arrogance, smugness, malice, and the corruptive allure of power, not one of them appears to have the moral fibre of even a besotted drunk, unwilling to step forward, to own up to mistakes or to condemn the deliberate acts of wrongdoing committed in the name of their party, preferring instead to resort to the role of vile pit dog savaging all those who dare question or challenge them; they cannot even contemplate the possibility of ever being wrong, wayward and/or just plain stupid.

Even when confronted and cornered, trapped by truth and evidence, even when left with no place to run, no sewer drain to ooze into, can they stop themselves from cravenly squealing with the anguished self-pity of the guilty accused, “I know nothing”. The only outrage Harper and thugs can muster seems always to be the pathetically childish lament one hears in schoolyards, “But you did it too”!

SHILLS

Perhaps simply exhausted by the Senate expenses scandal, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, government leader and defender of the Senate, provided a glaring demonstration of this oft employed, unworthy, and inexcusable political dodge used for so long and with some effect by Harper and his cadre of knaves, bursting into a hissy fit tirade against Tory critics “populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles…”. Whatever the cause for the outburst, it was an embarrassingly scant defence for the imbroglio that threatens the very body, which she chairs. The fact that four greedy senators, three of them Harper appointees, have brought disrepute to her house, the fact that the report released for public consumption on one of them, avaricious Mike Duffy, was scrubbed of its harshest criticisms by two members of the Conservative dominated economy committee, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, that LeBreton herself had declared the matter on the same individual closed after the declaration by Duffy that he would repay $90,000 of the illegally claimed expenses, appears to neither trouble nor offend her. To LeBreton, these are asides and immaterial; it is all the fault of the Liberals and “their media lickspittles”. It was enough that double-dipping Duffy, Harper stooge, former media superstar darling and major Conservative fundraiser, was repaying the fraudulently obtained claims. Conservatives across the land loudly sang his praises: he had done “the honourable thing.”

LeBreton, characteristically of Conservative shills, perhaps of all shills of any stripe, accepts no responsibility for fostering the public perception that allegations of fraud can simply be cleared away with repayment or, worse, the suggestion that with repayment, no crime has been committed in the first instance. She and the Conservative dominated senate economy committee had ignored repeated calls to have the RCMP brought in. The Duffy file was closed. And the world was happy and went to sleep believing that Duff, good ol’ Duff, had repaid the debt with his own, hard earned money.

In fact, it was only much later, long after Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff had resigned, exposed as the one who actually cut the $90,000 cheque for Duffy, when Duffy was a no show at a public hearing in a second review held by the same Conservative dominated committee that had investigated him earlier, did LeBreton take a breather from attacking media lickspittles to express something akin to dismay and an acknowledgement of something awry, even that, it should be noted, with a self-pitying whine: some members of the senate “had betrayed us.” The egocentrism or wilful blindness is jaw dropping but hardly surprising. By “us”, I have no doubt she meant Conservatives. Had she displayed similar anger over the fact that Canadians had even more reason for complaint, after all, they’re footing the bill, I might have been able to work up a modicum of sympathy for her.

But, when the Senate did act, only after Duffy’s no show at the second hearing, the Conservative dominated economy committee, the very committee that had released the whitewashed report on Duffy, caving in to the public outcry and growing resentment, appeared ready to act at last, reinstating the original unexpurgated report and agreeing to hand it and other documents to the RCMP. Clearly they had had enough of Duffy; angry now with what he had wrought, they would not just let him go, they would toss him. As we know from past experience, once Conservatives determine someone expendable, the toss under the bus is often brutal and swift, though, for Duffy, the Conservatives certainly showed considerable restraint and a puzzling, and unusual, desire to appear more than fair before calling in the police and even then only pushed to do so by Duffy’s own odd behaviour. One needs only contrast his treatment with that of Helena Guergis, another disgraced Conservative member, who was extended none of the courtesies or support offered Duffy. When her problems surfaced, she was not only expelled from the Conservative caucus, the police were immediately called in and Harper, with his inimitable style, abetted by his lowlife crew, set about to methodically wage a vicious and vindictive campaign that effectively ended her career as a politician.

Now that Duffy has been dispensed with, and with the recent leak of an email to a Conservative insider from Duffy (possibly leaked by the PMO) clearly outlining his desire to maximize the benefits of his Senate appointment, even angling for a position in cabinet, it is all but certain that he will meet a similar fate to Guergis if not worse. One thing is certain: notwithstanding concerted Conservative efforts to protect themselves by protecting him until he became a liability, good ol’ Duff’s reputation has been destroyed. If tears are shed, it’s likely by Duffy.

I’M SORRY, I DON’T KNOW WHY, IT’S YOUR FAULT

But, while it is the Harper pit dogs, Pierre Poilievre, Eve Adams, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, et al who usually and with relish do the dirty work outside of the House, seldom varying from their script of the day and, only occasionally, showing signs of discomfort from swimming in all the muck, Harper himself is not above joining them though it’s clear he doesn’t like the idea of dirt sticking to him. When the story of the Mike Duffy/Nigel Wright deal broke, Harper was asked about what he knew of the $90,000 gift. Immediately one could almost hear the massive Conservative cog shift gears. Harper and his stooges across the Conservative landscape blinked, loudly sang the praises of Wright, Poilievre, that unlikable, oleaginous hack, almost breathlessly reverential, claiming Wright had done “the exceptionally honourable thing” and Harper reaffirming his full confidence in his chief of staff. Well, that confidence lasted all of two or three days. Wright was gone and Sen.Tkachuk was talking to those media lickspittles admitting that he had spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office and to Nigel Wright while Duffy was under investigation. Had he talked to Harper? That was the question in need of answering.

But Harper wasn’t taking questions. After addressing his Conservative senators and MPs with an invited media in attendance May 21, still not answering questions, Harper flew to Peru and Colombia on a trade trip. While in Peru, he did reiterate his anger over the crisis at home adding something new and, for Harper, something that must have come particularly hard because so unfamiliar to him: he uttered the word “sorry”. And I bet he was. But not sorry enough to own up to any of this.

When he returned to the House, May 28, nine days after Wright had resigned, still not having answered questions, Harper finally respond to intense questioning by an effective Mulcair and Trudeau. As expected, he denied all knowledge of the $90,000 gift to Duffy, the deal negotiated and whether or not there were documents. It was the classic plausible deniability defence that no one could refute yet any really bought. That Wright, Harper’s chief of staff in the PMO, could engage in this deal without Harper being made aware stretches one’s credulity. How was that possible?

This is the man, after all, who maintains strict control of his office, his caucus and his message. He did not know what had happened in his own office by his own right hand man and yet, on questions regarding Pamela Wallin’s expenses, he was able to say months ago, and with a straight face, that he had seen her documentation and they were “comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” That he would know more about Pamela Wallin’s expenses than about the machinations in his office is rather remarkable to say the least and certainly very difficult to believe. Two months later, still under investigation and just days after Duffy had left the Conservative caucus, Wallin did the same, forced to do so by Harper. In question period, when asked why she had been asked to resign and what had changed that made him ask for her resignation, Harper evaded the question. Same old, same old.

WHO’S THE HYPOCRITE? YOU ARE! NO, YOU ARE!

In Harper’s absence, Conservative MPs engaged in the familiar pattern of obfuscation, stonewalling, misdirection, and deflection. When questioned about how much Harper knew about the Wright/Duffy matter and the alterations to the audit report on Duffy, the MPs suggested that, if dissenting members to the senate economy meeting who had not signed off on the report were unhappy, they should have released a minority report of their own. Of course, Conservatives were playing to the public as they always do and without informing it that Senate rules do not allow for such reports.

As well, this nest of vipers, and Harper would pick up on this with his return, began to attack the credibility of Thomas Mulcair on two fronts perhaps smelling blood. They went after him for first claiming in 2010 he had never been offered a bribe and then disclosing, when approached by the police two years ago, the Mayor of Laval, Giles Vaillancourt, approached him in 1994 with an envelope suggesting he could help Mulcair. Mulcair states that he did not see the contents of the envelope and that he walked out and, because he had, there was no bribe to report, just a suspicion. The other issue is that of NDP member, Tyrone Benskin who had failed to pay provincial taxes to the tune of $58,000. For the gleeful Conservatives, these two events are clear evidence of Mulcair and NDP hypocrisy.

These are serious issues. Benskin was easily dealt with, Mulcair removing him from the shadow cabinet, stripping him of his deputy critic role when he found out. The other matter is not so easily explained and does need a more definitive response for Thomas Mulcair. If he thought a bribe was being offered, why not approach the police, even if he believed that there was not enough evidence at the time to charge and/or convict Vaillancourt? And why wait all these years before making it public? Clarification is needed from Mulcair.

That said, however, the Conservative attempt to make hay from this rather than answer questions regarding the Senate scandal, is just another example of deflection and diversion. This is where the Harper gang prove themselves unworthy of the positions and trust they hold. They cannot continue to bend the rules and play the playground bullies and then offer the cowardly whinge when confronted, “But you did it too!” It’s childish and we need more than children governing our country.

As well, there is no moral equivalency. Pointing to the crimes of others does not absolve one from one’s own crimes. In other words, the Conservatives have only pointed out that there is a reason to do something about the Mulcair issues but have offered no reason why something should not be done about the Senate scandal, the Duffy/Wright $90,000 “gift”, the doctored report, and the role Conservatives, Harper and the PMO played.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM

Just recently, the oily Tony Clement embarked on his own version of deflection. No doubt aware of the unjustly low esteem in which civil servants are held by the envious public and quite willing to exploit that, perhaps hoping this will be sufficient to distract voters, Clement announced his intention to have all public servants undergo rigorous performance reviews with the goal of ridding all government departments of “deadwood”. Those who agree with this may be ecstatic but they would do well to consider Tony Clement and his performance rating before they dance. This is the man, during the G8 and G20 conferences a few years back, who set aside $50 million as a boondoggle slush fund for his riding. This is the man who, as president of the Treasury Board, mislaid $3.1 billion in taxpayer money.

But this move against civil servants is mere distraction. Conservatives are hoping that voters are really as stupid as they believe. Voters, however, would do well to look at Harper and his performance, especially as a judge of character. Can it be trusted? Let’s look at a few examples:

Does anyone recall Harper’s contempt of parliament citation or that he cut and ran twice, shutting down Parliament?

Some in Harper’s gang still believe global warming is a myth.

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, called environmentalists “radicals” suggesting they were stooges for foreign interests. He still has Harper’s support

Despite evidence to the contrary, Harper’s gang would have you believe that crime is on the rise and that more jails are needed. Conservatives prefer to play to our fears and prejudices rather than to our hopes and generosity.

Harper has muzzled Canadian scientists with threats of job loss.

He misled voters during the last campaign about the true costs of the F-35s.

He also clawed back disability pensions of veterans.

Harper is the man who appointed three of the four senators involved in the Senate scandal.

He’s the one who had personally cleared Pamela Wallin though, we now know, she had to repay expenses falsely claimed and there is expectation we will hear much more about her.

He also loudly crowed Mike Duffy had done the “honourable thing” when we were all led into believing it was Duffy who had repaid the $90,000 to which he was not entitled and, when that went bust, said the same of Nigel Wright who was the one who had actually settled good ol’ avaricious Duff’s debt. And, of course, Harper knew nothing about it.

Too, this is the man who supported Bev Oda, the minster who forged a government document, who more than once had to reimburse the state for padded expenses and who was finally toppled because of a $16 glass of orange juice.

Harper threw his support for Peter Penashue, the MP forced to resign because of overspending and accepting corporate donations even calling him the best ever MP from Labrador. Clearly the voters didn’t think so in the by-election.

And our slush fund king, Tony Clement? Well, he still has Harper’s support, as does Jason Kenney who used government letterheads to fundraise for a Conservative advertising blitz.

And, of course, we mustn’t forget Arthur Porter, well-known Montreal oncologist, ex-head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) who became a fugitive and now awaits extradition in a Panama jail facing charges of fraud, money laundering, abuse of trust, and conspiracy to commit government fraud. And, yes, he was another Harper appointee.

See a pattern here? Well, it appears Harper and gang know their voters. Some couldn’t care less about any of this.

GOD YOU’RE STUPID!

That Harper and gang can still garner a support of 38% is astounding to me and clearly indicates something wrong. We need to reform the electoral system. Can it really be true that Harper, Hudak, and all Conservatives have accurately gauged the populace as replete with self-absorbed morons more interested in the main chance for themselves than in the greater good of society? Surely not. And yet, apparently so. For some, and they will always be with us, there will never be too much power, too much exploitation, too much having and too much taking. It’s the larger number of voters, however, who trouble me more. These are the ones who sell themselves so cheaply, bought for pennies a day, for whom the promise of lower taxes is apparently sufficient to continue electing manipulative, deceitful, and unethical politicos, such as Harper and his miscreant gang, who consider ethical behaviour, integrity, honesty, truth, fairness and Democracy mere hindrances to be overcome.

We have got to change this.

THE SENATE, THE WHITEWASH, AVARICE AND THE SILENCE OF STEPHEN HARPER

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.” – Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Can it get much crazier than this?

When Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Stephen Harper had declared the senate economy committee investigation of Mike Duffy closed after Duffy declared his decision to “voluntarily” refund the Senate for money obtained through fraudulent expense claims, they doubtless believed the matter behind them. The report was released and Conservatives across the land loudly and at every opportunity blithely sang the praises of Duffy saying he had done the “honourable thing”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the whole story, as we now know.

Nothing was said of Duffy’s refusal to co-operate with the committee once the $90,000 to which he was not entitled was repaid. Nor was the public informed that the report on Mike Duffy had been “cleaned” up, the harshest criticisms removed by two Conservative senators on the Senate internal economy committee, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, because Duffy, we all believed, had repaid what was owed. Tkachuk admits to seeking advice from the Prime Minister’s Office but denies he was ordered to clean Duffy’s report, which the public saw. Neither Liberal Sen. Mac Harb nor Harper Conservative appointee now Independent, Sen. Patrick Brazeau, also under investigation by the same committee, were accorded similar consideration: Sen. LeBreton loudly and publicly threatened them with garnishment.

Then, of course, came the revelation that it had been Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff, and not Mike Duffy, who repaid the money. Immediately, Conservatives across the land loudly and at every opportunity blithely sang the praises of Wright for doing “the exceptionally honourable thing” for taxpayers. Those words, later echoed by other members of Harper’s execrable crew, “exceptionally honourable thing”, were Pierre Poilievre’s. Further, Conservatives were, to use Andrew Coyne’s phrase, “shocked, simply shocked”, that Duffy had misled them.

There were questions, of course, but no answers from Stephen Harper. Duffy was to be re-investigated by the same secretive Conservative-dominated economy committee that had closed the file on him in the first place. Liberal Sen. James Cowan, Leader of the Opposition, called for a public hearing and was accused by Sen. David Tkachuk of being a “publicity hound.” The heat was on, this was too close to the PMO, it smelled bad; even so, Wright still had Harper’s full confidence. He had done the “honourable thing” for the best of motives. So we were repeatedly told.

But Harper wasn’t talking even though a scandalized nation was eager for answers. Why had Duffy’s file been closed once the $90,000 was repaid? Why had he quit co-operating with the committee? Why had the two Conservative senators cleaned up the report? Why was Duffy being re-investigated? How much faith can Canadians entrust to this committee and its re-audit of Duffy? Why did Wright make the gift? Why was that gift not made public? Why did they want Canadians to believe that it was Duffy who had made the payment? What negotiations were involved? Where were the documents? Were there documents? Had lawyers been involved? Why did Wright resign? How much did Stephen Harper know? When did he know if he did?

Of course, when Wright resigned on May 19, a true trooper, he took full responsibility for what had transpired declaring Harper knew nothing of the $90,000 gifted cheque! Credible? Hardly. Not with this control freak of a prime minister.

Still, Harper wasn’t talking except to announce that he would be addressing his MPs and senators on the following Tuesday, May 21. Media was also invited to attend. Was Harper making a new start towards accountability and transparency?

But what happened on that morning was extremely telling. To all intents and purposes, Harper, apart from voicing his displeasure with what had happened, had addressed none of the issues Canadians wanted addressed.

When he walked into the packed room Tuesday, Conservative members had loudly and enthusiastically greeted Harper. Observers may have been confused. Was this a government in crisis? Watching the televised event and the enthusiasm of Harper’s supporters awakened memories of a video I had seen on television of Saddam Hussein from years ago. He was addressing a room filled with party faithful all loudly applauding him in a sustained ovation as he calmly surveyed the seated audience. Eventually, after a brief speech, he began to call out names, evidently of those he no longer trusted. Those called rose and quickly strode out of the chamber stone-faced and doubtless aware of the executioners waiting for them. This was repeated several times and, with each name called, the applause grew louder and more sustained the expressions of those applauding more desperate and frantic as one person after another rose and left the room for their inevitable fate. Clearly those remaining in the audience were desperately hoping Hussein would notice the enthusiasm and sincerity of their love for him and that he would spare them. For most, it worked.

Observing Harper and those Conservatives reminded me of that horrifying clip. It was as if, by exhibiting such enthusiastic devotion to their leader, those Conservatives hoped to stave off the crisis that was threatening to overwhelm and, perhaps, destroy them. Maybe they were desperately hoping that Harper would offer something reassuring that would take away all their troubles or, with a wave of his hands, undo the past. If so, they must have been grievously disappointed. Harper said absolutely nothing of value to resolve the matter of the Senate crisis.

True, he did state that he was not happy with the conduct he had witnessed. And he did restate his position of 2005 saying, “Anyone…anyone, who wants to use public office for their own benefit, should make other plans – or better yet – leave this room.” Nice words then but had anyone listened? Today the words are as hollow as the man who uttered them.

Earlier in his brief statement, and it was brief, he said: “Our Federal Accountability Act, the toughest accountability legislation in the history of this country forever changed the way business is done in Ottawa.”

Well, not really. Think F-35 jets, Bev Oda and padded expense accounts, ship designs that cost three times what it takes to build. And remember Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, who faced allegations of political interference in a contract for renovations on Parliament Hill, who gave Rahim Jaffer special access to his office, who spent a weekend with lobbyists, who was investigated for involvement in relocation of the Employment Insurance centre in his riding and who rejigged the formula for structures for private companies so that they did not have to go through an environmental assessment review and finally, whose aid charges taxpayers $11,415 for a trip to Las Vegas (repaid when exposed). Looks like the same old same old business as usual.

But that’s Harper for you; every allegation of ethical and questionable accounting breaches glossed over if one of Harper’s favoured few. And, if needed, there’s always a staffer to throw under a bus.

Stephen Harper went on to say, “We have: Strengthened the powers of the Auditor General. Toughened the office of the Ethics Commissioner, reformed political financing.” Well, yes and no. When has the present ethics commissioner taken any meaningful action on anything recently?

Harper went on to say that his government had, “Dramatically tightened lobbying rules. And beefed up auditing and accountability within government departments.” Huh? That must have been news to Kevin Page.

Finally, Harper added the howler: “Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the world.” Said from the mouth of the leader of one of the most secretive, petty and punitive governments Canada has ever endured.

And then, to demonstrate how open and transparent he and his government is, Harper refused to take any questions from reporters he had invited to this gong show.

Most accountable and transparent? Canadians know better. They want better. They ain’t getting it. Even as I write this, Conservative MP Eve Adams, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Veteran’s affairs and another talking air-filled pointy-head made the same claim as Harper: “Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the world.” Well, we know how this is going.

Harper’s failure in this matter is dismal and absolute. He failed to take advantage of that showing to answer questions regarding Duffy, what he knew of Wright’s gifting of $90,000, and whether such behaviour was meant as a cover-up to stave off questions. With such enthusiastic conservative support, one would think Harper would have faced the issue of scandal, corruption, fraud, avarice, and the senate head on. He did not. Instead, he talked about being sidelined by “distractions” and, as above, offered self-congratulatory mythmaking bombast so far from reality those attending must have believed they had entered some fantastic parallel universe.

Conceivably, though I doubt it, Harper has forgotten those scientists and public servants muzzled with threatened job loss if they spoke to the media. And he might have forgotten about the prolonged smear campaign he, van Loan, Baird, Flaherty and the rest of the thugs waged against ex-Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page who disputed the figures offered by Harper and Mackay regarding the F-35s, the false figures with which Harper ran and won his campaign. But I doubt he forgot that as well. And Harper might even have forgotten how Page was stonewalled by almost every government ministry refusing to hand over documents he had requested so that he could do a proper accounting of public expenditures. Again, I doubt that.

Immediately after that meeting, Harper left for trade talks in Peru. It was only there, on foreign soil that he finally responded to two questions regarding the Senate scandal in which he expressed his frustration, reiterated his anger, and said how sorry he was. But the expression of sorrow rang false because lacking evidence of true remorse which might have been revealed by acknowledging guilt, admitting that he had dropped the ball, that the Senate must be investigated and the rules overhauled, if not done away with, with the assist of all parties. Then, mea culpa barely expressed, he promptly, and typically, threw under the bus, his once trusted advisor, Nigel Wright who, only a few days before, had his full confidence. He denied knowledge of the $90,000 cheque, the negotiation, and the meeting between Wright and Duffy. Wright had acted alone and without Harper’s approval. That really does stretch one’s credulity and I, for one, am not buying it. With this government, almost no one accepts full responsibility for his actions. Why should he or she? There are plenty of sacrificial lambs available and just as many buses.

On May 22, came news that the RCMP had requested documents regarding Duffy’s file. The request was dated May 16 and yet Marjory LeBreton did not see fit to inform the public.

As if all this wasn’t mad enough, we were rewarded with this absurdity by Conservative MP Joan Crockett who tweeted, “Our government has the highest ethical standards demonstrated by 3 resignations: 2 from Senate caucus & the PM chief of staff.”

Some people just don’t get it. Crockett, clearly not a profound thinker, evidently believes that forced resignations for unethical behaviour are testament and proof of high, ethical standards! Crockett’s statement, characteristic of Harperite slugs, is not only incredibly stupid, it also reveals a disturbing line of reasoning that those unfamiliar with this odd, scandal-driven storyline might conclude written by Lewis Carroll: the number of resignations determines the measure of integrity. Interesting. I had always believed the measure of ethics included ethical behaviour as well as honesty, integrity, openness, accountability, remorse, and a sense of shame. For Conservatives, especially Harper and his crew, those words are foreign concepts useful when necessary but mostly a hindrance.

The Senate needs more than a few changes and they do not include new rules or an elected body. While I do believe there are some in the Senate who are honest, hardworking and deserving, they are not making the news. I am with the NDP: the Senate must be abolished.

I also think, on reflection that Crockett might be on to something when she suggests resignations are proof of a government’s ethical standards. Using her criterion, let’s have a real demonstration of the highest ethical standards by Harper and his gang who have, thus far, eschewed the same.

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