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STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: DEMAGOGUES AND HYPOCRITES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.          

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller

 

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. – Albert Einstein

Frank A. Pelaschuk

DO SHEEP BLEAT? THE PUBLIC SURRENDERS

Stephen Harper and his loathsome gang would feel right at home in a third world dictatorship. It is not just that they lie at every turn, keep secrets from the very people who pay their wages and, almost from the first, have set out to muzzle the press. It is that they are truly anti-democratic. When they talk of democracy, I shudder, for they have waged a brutal war against it, one of doublespeak and pernicious manipulation. Their version is not mine.

Secretive, dishonest, paranoiac, petty, vindictive, and vicious, they have, not all that quietly, poisoned politics with suspicion, false accusations, name calling, scapegoating, vote rigging, and not very subtle attacks against the poorest among us while favouring the wealthy. They have struck out at our public institutions, including the Supreme Court, in an effort to politicize and corrupt them. As if that were not enough, they wage a war on citizens vilifying critics and questioning their patriotism. In Parliament, they refuse to answer questions, evade, dance around, mocking the questions, the questioners and even parliament itself with a cheery, breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt not only for opposition members but for the public itself. Absolutely ruthless and utterly without shame, they have made a mockery of civility dismissing ethics, integrity and simple decency as mere hindrances to their goals. They are devoid of compassion when it comes to the down and out, the weak and ill and yet fret daily for the well-being of corporations and wealthy supporters; there’s no percentage in fretting for the poor, no votes to be gained there. But, oh, they can make a grand spectacle of it when it suits their purpose and can be exploited for the tough on crime and terrorism agendas: the funerals of murdered soldiers and police officers. They are bottom feeders; there is no misery they will not milk to their advantage.

When it comes to investigating murdered aboriginal women, however, Harper can only muster “we don’t practice sociology”.

The Conservative heart is cold, very cold and empty. When it weeps, it only weeps for itself; it’s easier to blame others. Remember Dean del Mastro and Paul Calandra shedding loud crocodile tears in the House, the first, at that time, facing charges of election fraud (for which he was convicted) and the second when convicted by the court of public opinion for acts of outrageous buffoonery? Tears, real tears, yes – of whinging self-pity.

We saw much of that played out over the years with Harper. Whenever something went wrong or critics went after him, the fault was always placed at the door of someone else, staffers, scientists, the “lickspittle media”, but mostly the Liberal governments of past years. Almost ten years in office, they are still blaming them as did Harper recently when it was revealed that his regime has spent $700 thousand fighting a class action suit by six veterans wanting to reverse the government’s changes to military lifetime disability pensions that, in effect, reduce what the vets are entitled. It’s the Liberals that started this. It’s tiresome and doesn’t absolve them of their evasions, obfuscations, and vicious and open undermining of democracy and erosion of public trust. It’s easy to blame the Liberals, they have a lot to answer for, but it’s the Conservatives who have turned the screws: ask any vet. Surely, when they hear Harper utter “democracy” they, too, must tremble and wonder what’s coming next.

That there are only a few outraged voices heard rather than a whole nation is astounding. Are we really that frightened of our government? Are we that gullible that we swallow holus-bolus their fictions? Have we really become a nation of sheep, a nation that doesn’t question, that doesn’t challenge, that quietly appears to accept that propaganda, lies, threats, and corruption does not warrant closer scrutiny. It seems Harper believes so. I think he’s right. If not, where’s the outrage?

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMAGOGUES

For years, if not decades, we have been fed the line that Conservatives are, and always have been, the best at handling fiscal matters. There is absolutely no evidence to support that Conservative myth. When Harper first became prime minister, he had inherited a huge surplus and has squandered it on vanity projects, self-promotion, and tax cuts for the wealthy while allowing our infrastructure to crumble to a state of near utter ruin. We can all remember Harper sneering and sternly wagging his admonitory finger at the rest of the world urging it to get its house in order during the last great economic slump of 2007-8. Harrumphing loudly, he took credit to which he was not entitled: our banking system was the best in the world, our government the strongest and most stable and all, all, because of him, his superb, wise, skilful management of the economy. He’s been wagging his finger ever since, strutting and hectoring like some tin pot despot. It’s a lie, of course, and we see the truth of it all around us in the loss of jobs and the struggling oil industry on which Harper has placed all his hopes while ignoring the manufacturing sector in the rest of the country. Has he talked to the Canadian workers tossed on the street following the merger of Tim Hortons and Burger King, a merger that was loudly supported and hailed by industry minister James Moore? How about those Canadian workers replaced by foreign workers as business, abetted by his regime, manipulate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to supress wages? How about the single parent left out in the cold while those who don’t need it gain and additional $2000 thanks to his income splitting tax break. Has he talked to these people?

Harper and gang are not just mythologers, they are revisionists creating history as they would have it not as Canadians have lived and suffered it. We see that every day in the TV propaganda ads that Canadians pay for, the wondrous achievements of Harper and his gang. Does he really believe all Canadians have forgotten those ads touting the creation of non-existent jobs by non-existent programs? To watch these ads, one would be hard pressed to believe the straits we are in today. Everything is roses. Tell that to the battered, weary, work-worn, desperate single parent holding down two minimum wage jobs or the fifty year old suddenly out of work after thirty years on the job. The roses go to the wealthy, the bric-a-brac to those at the bottom. For such as these, the world is looking pretty bleak. As for the world, especially the US with its surging economy under Obama, there must be some sense of schadenfreude. If so, who can blame the Americans?

Even as troubling, if not more so, is the fear mongering the Harper gang has taken to indulging: the world is a dangerous place, “jihadists” are everywhere and they are all gunning for Canadians. So there is Harper, still swaggering, defiant now, wagging his finger at the world and thumbing his nose at terrorism and warning Canadians that they, they alone, the heroic, triumphalist Harper and gang, who, with their purity of heart, with their strength, courage and wisdom, are the only one’s able, willing and capable of not only saving us but also, perhaps, all of mankind, from the forces of darkness. That, too, is mythologizing. Some among us, however, buy it, the sheep bleating, frozen by fear and will-o’-the-wisps bogeymen when Harper and his gang howl. That’s not to say terrorism and terrorists aren’t there. But exaggerating the risks, amping the fears, pandering to our prejudices and fears, not informing Canadians about what our troops are really doing or what the cost of involvement is is simply amoral and irresponsible. Yes, we all want security. Unfortunately, there can never be security for a nation of sheep governed by wolves.

So how much are Canadians willing to surrender in the way of privacy, civil rights, humaneness, and justice in exchange for a little security? Harper came into power largely because of a promise of positive change, of a more open and transparent government. He has not only failed miserably, he has actively worked to making his regime more closed, more secretive, and our citizens less informed, more frightened and, thus, more malleable. He ran on the get-tough-on-crime agenda, more jails, more prisoners, more time. It worked with the voters. Pandering to the worst in us always seems to work. Ignoring facts, statistics and experts (the way Harper operates, he and his gang are the only experts), the Harper gang plan to introduce new legislation to take away the possibility of parole for those sentenced to life in prison. They say it’s only “for the most serious of crimes”. We already have laws in place for that but, hey, that doesn’t matter with these troglodytes. Those who still pose a danger, contrary to what the Harper gang would have us believe are not automatically granted parole after serving twenty-five years. Crime rates are down, that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that that doesn’t help Harper; he prefers us to be frightened, so he and the public safety minister, Steven Blaney, and the rest of the bobbleheaded gang ignore facts, work on our fears and inflate the terrors of crime, the lowest it’s been since the ‘70s. Most crimes of murders happen between family and friends, the killers known to the victims. These are the people least likely to reoffend. In fact, in a recent interview on CBC with Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison watchdog, Canadians learned recidivism rates of those on parole is extremely low. He pointed out that 99% of those granted day or full parole last year did not reoffend and of those granted full parole, 97% did not reoffend. Harper, however, refuses to let the facts get in the way of his version of the truth; it simply doesn’t help his cause, which is to notch up the fear level, prey on public ignorance, and draw the vote to this “law and order” gang. Without any shame, Harper and the gang have given up on rehabilitation. Lock them up and throw away the keys. One size fits all. How in God’s name did prolonged isolation help the deeply troubled teenager Ashley Smith who finally strangled herself while guards watched? That might satisfy the blood lust of many, but such policies are madness and will lead to an even more dangerous society. Take away hope, fuel the anger; is that what we really want? Harper’s get-tough-on-crime legislation will likely only increase the possibility of violence, mayhem and death – within prisons and on the outside. Punishment without the possibility of redemption and with the removal of hope? If this goes through Canadians may have real reason to fear. There is something contemptible in fighting an election on the blood of the dead and the tears and rage of the families left behind. Instead of offering hope, instead of working towards a better, more humane society, Harper prefers to feed on the carcass of despair.

HARPER’S LUCKY WAR

While getting tough on crime will help garner votes, there is something else for which Harper must go to bed every night with prayers of gratitude. ISIL and the war against ISIL. There is nothing like a war to rally citizens except, perhaps, engaging in a war with a few good Canadian men and women as casualties to ramp up the rage and support of those at home. We have had the fallen soldiers, killed shortly after Harper had announced Canadian troops were joining coalition forces in Iraq in the war against ISIL Sadly for Harper, try as he did to evoke the image of terrorism striking on home ground, he could not quite get the traction he sought from their deaths. Many Canadians remain unconvinced those separate acts were as linked to terrorism as they were to mental and societal ills.

Nevertheless, on the eve of an election that has yet to be announced, the war against ISIL is a godsend for Harper as he campaigns across the nation whipping up fear and xenophobia. Not only can they sound tough on crime and terror, they can prove it with the passage of new, tougher sanctions that will infringe on privacy rights, make it easier for CSIS to spy on Canadians, share information, and arrest and detain. Harper’s almost a new man, full of energy and excitement as he gleefully rubs his hands together pandering, pandering and pandering some more, ratcheting the militaristic rhetoric and the jingoistic fervour and pulling out at every opportunity his new favourite word, or variations of the same, the word that must surely chill the blood of all Canadians: Jihadist.

Jihadists are pounding at the doors! That will be the Conservative theme throughout the election campaign. It’s not enough the new legislation will affect almost every Canadian with increased surveillance and tighter controls on what we say and how. He must harangue and terrify and tighten even more the noose on civil liberties.

How much are we willing to surrender for peace of mind?

Harper is betting a lot.

He plays on our fears and adds to our nightmares. We saw how quickly he raised the spectre of terrorism when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo were murdered even before he knew the facts. He has played that card ever since. It will work as long as the timid stay on their knees. The jihadi are at the door!

Last September 30th, when asked what the role would be of the 69 troops sent to Iraq, Harper said: “If I could just use the terminology in English, it is quite precise. It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.” Recently, we learned Canadian troops were shot at and they shot back. When asked by the opposition if this was not an expansion of their role, “mission creep”, the defence minister, Rob Nicholson said, “You can’t advise and assist without accompanying”. So, which is it? Is Canada working towards another prolonged and costly engagement? This is a legitimate concern. Has Harper misled Canadians? Is this, in fact, “mission creep”? The firefight was not isolated; Canadians were involved in two other incidents since then. Clearly this is more than an “advisory” role. Curiously, of the coalition partners in Iraq, Canada has been the only nation thus far to be involved directly in combat. When questioned about this, the Harper gang respond thusly: If our soldiers are shot at, they will shoot back. Right. No one disagrees with that. But the question is this: If they are to “advise and to assist” why are they at the front lines with all likelihood of being in harm’s way if and when the enemy strikes? When pressed on this by Thomas Mulcair, the opposition leader, Harper and the gang respond with bafflegab, obfuscation and revisionist rhetoric. Even when it comes to the costs of this engagement, Canadians are denied the right to know the figures. Why? When you foot the bill, don’t you think you have the right to see it? Harper’s is not a democratic response from a democratic government. That’s the response of a government hiding something from us.

Even more invidious is Harper’s response to questions regarding the Iraq situation. Not only do he and the gang mislead Canadians with accusations the opposition members do not support our troops, there is in the charge the rotten stench of something even more sinister: the suggestion that Mulcair, the NDP, Trudeau and the Liberals, are somehow unpatriotic, untrustworthy, a threat to this nation. This has happened before. Pat Stogran, during his term as Veterans Ombudsman, smeared by the Harper gang. As was Kevin Page, the one-time Parliamentary Budget Officer, his integrity and credentials maligned simply because he, like Stogran, was doing his job. To raise questions, to ask what the government is concealing from Canadians, is to risk having one’s patriotism questioned. That is vile; it is low but not new for a government made up of men and women who apparently only thrive in the sewer of innuendo and smears.

But this is puzzling: Why is the Canadian public so silent on this?

But what can one say of Harper as a leader of a nation when he even refuses to sit with his provincial counterparts when they meet. He has ignored them since 2009. This week they were in Ottawa, within walking distance. Still, Harper ignored them. Is this really a leader of a nation when he will not meet with the first ministers of the provinces? This is not about being above the fray. This is hubris, vanity and contempt. This is shallow and signifies less a leader than a small-minded midget; when and if Harper becomes a man, he might one day leave his broom closet and meet with them.

But am I being unfair, unduly harsh? It could be he is too busy passing laws that allow CSIS even more power to spy on Canadians and curtail legitimate comment. As we have learned, millions of downloads by Canadians are tracked daily by CSE (Communications Security Establishment); the government would have us believe this is to help protect Canadian networks and systems from threats. Maybe he’s busy with that, protecting Canadians by creating new ways to spy on them.

How far is Harper willing to go? How long before we say “Enough!”

THE RAT IS A McCARTHYITE

We have observed the Harper gang in action the past few elections as they bent and broke rules to subvert the electoral process. The Conservative Party has paid a $52,000 fine for the “in-out” scam in a plea bargain deal that spared four upper level members from prosecution. Michael Sona was sentenced to jail, evidently the only one involved in the robocalls scandal. Yeah, right. We have Dean del Mastro, mentioned above, found guilty of election fraud. We have the oily Pierre Poilievre, the minster of democratic reform revising the Elections Act to limit investigations of election fraud and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Surely straight from Orwell, the Act has been renamed the Fair Elections Act (if interested in a more comprehensive list, refer to my Jan. 7, 2014 post).

For a time, I thought it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong.

We have the return of Mark Adler with his slimy Bill C-520. Adler evidently shares a worldview with Joseph McCarthy that foul Republican Senator who gave a name to an era of blacklisting and witchhunting during the infamous Red Scare. You might have heard of it.

Now, for those who aren’t aware, Mark Adler is a fool. He’s not the only fool in the Conservative gang (anyone recall Brad Butt?), but he is a dangerous fool. Last year, when Harper flew to Israel with a group of Conservatives, including business cronies, Adler first caught my attention when he was recorded whining about not being allowed to have his picture taken with Harper at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Whinged he, “It’s the election! This is the million-dollar shot.” Now one could laugh at that and dismiss it as a little man seeking attention. That would be true. However, more seriously, Adler is also the individual who barred Liberal Irwin Cotler, an internationally respected advocate of Human Rights, from attending an event in Israel co-hosted by Adler and an Israeli charity during that visit. Did I mention that Cotler is a Liberal? The snub was more than partisan; it was a petty, mean-spirited act by a very, very, very small, mean-spirited man.

The bill Adler proposes is despicable. It goes against all decency and is certainly an attack on democracy and the right of free association. It is an attempt to introduce the era of the witchhunt and to stigmatize and punish our parliamentary watchdogs, senior staff and their employees. The bill would force the agencies to publish the political backgrounds of employees. Moreover, this would be retroactive. Once passed into law, all employees would be required to publish their political activities. Presumably, refusal would lead to dismissal. Naturally, those seeking employment with the watchdogs would be required to disclose their past political activities. The jobs will no longer be based on merit but on which party one supported, joined, or worked for. Presumably, all Conservative’s applying for government jobs will get them while all supporters of other parties will not. Again, straight from Orwell, the bill is called, Non-Partisan Offices of Agents of Parliament Act. It’s anything but and will certainly lead to partisan hiring and create a real chill among those looking for work in the innocent belief the government has no right to look into their past political backgrounds. This is not harmless. This is vile stuff. If anyone has ever seen old clips of Joe McCarthy, Martin Dies and HUAC (House of UnAmerican Activities Committee) etc. in action, pounding on tables and screaming at those called before them to name names and to answer the question, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” they will certainly have had a clear sense of the hysteria and terror of the time. Thousands of public servants, teachers, scientists, artists, and just ordinary workers and housewives lost their jobs and friends because of past political associations, which were legal at the time, or for simply refusing to answer the question in the belief the government had no right to even ask it. Many, ostracized by families, friends and co-workers, committed suicide.

What is the real intent of such a bill? Where does it end? Loyalty oaths just to get a job? Party faithful rewarded and others shovelled out? How would you feel if your boss asked you whom you voted for? Would you tell him? If your job was on the line, what then?

Is that the period to which we wish to return, discourse and debate stifled, fellow citizens spied upon, dissent quashed? That’s McCarthyism. And Harper supports this contemptible bill. This is vile, vile stuff. What kind of folks are these? Who next?

There are few more vile than political rats hiding behind patriotism and standing on corpses to score cheap political points.

Yes, when Harper speaks of democracy, I do shudder. He has chipped away at it since the very first when, in his first demonstration of cowardice, he prorogued parliament rather than face the opposition. Now he has this war and he hopes we will swallow the lies, succumb to our fears, and vote for him next election.

Yes, yes, it would be safe to say I am afraid. But not of the terrorists that Harper and his gang want us to fear, but of those same demagogues who prey upon those fears and prejudices and who would stomp the jackboot on our necks. Orwell had it right: this is the face of the future.

Even as I began writing this post, Harper introduced the proposed new anti-terrorism legislation. He did not have the decency, or the courage, to debate it with the opposition nor did he even bring it up in the House. He chose instead to announce it in Richmond Hill, Ontario before a partisan crowd made up mostly of police according to reports. And there was Harper, once again strong, forceful, (Oh, what a man! What a leader!) dismissing critics and again questioning the patriotism of the opposition. Where’s the oversight? Not to worry. Trust us. So now it’s easier to arrest and detain, to spy on Canadians and to block Internet access. There’s jail time for “Advocacy For Terrorism”. But what does that mean, what are the definitions. Don’t worry. Trust us.

Does writing this post put me in the Harper crosshairs? Am I suspect because I have declared my contempt for him? Am I an enemy supporter because I trust absolutely nothing about him? Does my call that we stop Harper next election make me dangerous? While some of the legislation may seem fine on the surface, who will watch the spies as Stephen Maher asked (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 31, ’15)? That’s a question we should all ask.

Demagoguery must be exterminated and the demagogues thrown in the ashcan of history. Governing by fear, by appealing to emotions and to ignorance is not governance but despotism. The next time you vote, remember Harper’s dismal failure with the economy. Remember his treatment of the vets. Remember all the lies and smear jobs inflicted on public servants and citizens who spoke out not only in their own defence, but yours as well. Remember the cronyism and illegal expense claims, the subversion of the electoral process, the rigging of future elections, the spying on Canadians, the fear mongering.

I don’t hate Harper or his gang. I just hate every vile act they have done.

Today, the enemy is someone else; tomorrow, it may be your turn.

Remaining on the sidelines will not serve you. Silence will not save you.

Speak! Your voice will be heard. You are not alone.

***

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

***

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

THE HARPER THUGS, THE McCARTHYITE AND THE LIAR

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. – George Jean Nathan

The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality. – Dante Aligheiri

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them—the apathy of human beings. – Helen Keller

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE McCARTHYITE

Just when one might begin to believe that the Harper gang could not sink deeper into the morass of slime, along comes Conservative Mark Adler to prove otherwise. Adler, some may recall, was a member in Harper’s entourage on the trip to Israel who was recorded whining about not being allowed to join Stephen Harper and other dignitaries at the Western Wall so that he could be photographed. “It’s an election…This is a million dollar shot.” He is also the same Adler who denied Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, an internationally known human rights lawyer and activist, entry into an event he, Adler, had co-hosted with an Israeli charity. Cotler was not party of the Harper entourage (Liberals and NDP were not invited), but he was in Israel at the time. The Jewish community was not impressed with Adler, but then, who could be? That bit of notoriety, however, evidently gave Adler an appetite for making more news and the opportunity to demonstrate even more clearly what a nasty tool he really is.

His latest attention-seeking foray provides additional ammunition of why the Harper gang is so dangerous to Canada, Canadians and Canadian democracy. Adler, it appears, has determined that some public servants may not be loyal enough to suit him. As a consequence, he is at work on a private member’s bill that has set its sights on the past political activities of civil servants, more specifically those working for our Canadian Parliamentary watchdogs. These include: Auditor General of Canada; Chief Electoral Officer; Official Language Commissioner; Privacy Commissioner; Information Commissioner; Senate Ethics Officer; Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; Lobbying Commissioner, and; Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (the list from The Ottawa Citizen, March 6, 2014). This move is a wholly partisan attack against civil servants. Worse, it is poisonous, a clear attempt to intimidate, browbeat, and subjugate. He is suggesting that any investigation of alleged Conservative wrongdoing by any of these agencies is likely politically motivated: public servants are out to get Conservatives. We’ve heard that whine before. Conservatives are not only bullies, they are cry babies.

Immediately upon learning of his member’s bill, I was reminded of another group from another era, fat-faced witch hunting thugs spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy, screaming and jabbing stubby fingers, spittle flying, into the faces of Americans while television cameras, rolling, captured the ritual of public shaming. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?”

Often, they were assured that, if they confessed and/or named others, they could return to their lives of normalcy. Many, frightened, facing loss of jobs and livelihood, the ending of careers, of friendships and families, broke down, confessed and named names even though many, many of them had done nothing wrong, were loyal Americans and had not been members of the Communist Party even when it was legal to be so. It didn’t save them. Men and women, soldiers, educators, scientists, writers, actors, directors and on and on were named, almost always without evidence, as communists in a pamphlet called Red Channels. That was the era of the communist witch hunt that began in the 1930s and culminated in the 1950s with a period of true darkness, of hysteria, of paranoia, suspicion, intimidation, self-abnegation, imposed loyalty oaths, and naming names. That was the period of McCarthyism, a period of heightened frenzy when men and women, in public and private lives, suddenly found themselves blacklisted, careers, livelihoods, friendships and families destroyed.

Many like Philip Loeb, an actor, committed suicide. Larry Parks, an up and coming actor, begged not to be forced to name others, but did so after prolonged abuse; his career was destroyed. Many Hollywood writers never worked again those who did were forced to write scripts under pseudonyms for a fraction of what they had previously earned though Hollywood moguls, American politicians and major news and television networks denied the blacklist existed. Some were haunted for life overcome by guilt for naming others. Some did stand up against the committees, refusing to answer questions put to them and questioning the right of the inquisitors to do so. Pete Seeger was one. He was blacklisted for decades. Playwright Lillian Hellman was another; she had been a communist, but refused to apologize and denounce others saying, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions…” Scores defiantly went to jail. Some fled to Europe. In 1965, a blacklisted screenwriter, Millard Lampell in accepting an Emmy was the first to publicly speak of what all of America denied, saying simply as he took the award: “I think I ought to mention I was blacklisted for ten years” (from Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky).

What Adler is proposing is the return to that political era of terror. To even suggest such makes him beneath contempt. He is not even a man; he is a chigger. What’s next? Loyalty oaths to the Conservative Party and public shaming? Hopefully, before we get that far, Mark Adler and his like-minded ilk will suffer the same ignominious fate as McCarthy and those filthy inquisitors he wishes to emulate.

This is the sewer in which the Harper gang, or one member at least, now intends to wallow as it investigates public servants. I can see the weasel Adler heading a committee, jabbing his stubby fingers into the faces of public servants screaming, spittle flying, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the NDP (Liberal, Green) Party?”

THE HARPER GANG

I should not be surprised. And yet I am. For this is not the first of such behaviour from the slimy Conservative nest. We have witnessed them engage in vile smear campaigns against such critics as Pat Stogran, past Veterans Ombudsman, and against Linda Keen, past president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. We have witnessed Joe Oliver assail environmentalists as “radicals” and “stooges”, and have heard ordinary Canadians who opposed the Conservative on-line spying omnibus bill accused of “being on the side of pedophiles.” Too, PMO staffers have been compelled to sign lifelong non-disclosure agreements that will silence them from ever discussing their time working for the PMO. Remember, this muzzling is for life.

This is not the free, open society Harper promised. This is Harper’s crew wearing jackboots. This must stop. Turning a blind eye will not save you or me. Reread those words by George Orwell with which I began this post. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever.”

You think it can’t happen here? It can and it has. There was a time when we had our own interment camps. They not only housed German and Italian prisoners of war but also loyal Canadian and immigrant unionist activists, conscientious objectors, as well as Canadian citizens of Japanese, Italian, German, and Ukrainian extraction targeted by the RCMP. Mark Adler’s private member’s bill should terrify you.

Alarmist? Perhaps. But staying silent should not be an option for those who believe in Canada and democracy.

What does it take to stir you into saying you’ve had enough, you don’t like what the Harper thugs are doing?

Apparently, that this regime is closed, secretive, abusive, and undeniably shameless in its partisan lust for power, is not enough to rouse you to make your voices heard. What of the fact that Conservatives have set out to ensure that the game is rigged in their favour come the next election? In the past, the Conservative Party has paid fines for violating the Elections Act and individual Conservatives have abused and ignored the rules, all this in aid of subverting the electoral process. Canadians have endured the Conservative “in-out” scams during elections, which allowed the Conservative Party to play a shell game that, illegally, made it possible to spend more during elections. We have had Conservative MPs who have refused to submit full expense claims to Elections Canada. One was Shelly Glover, promoted to minister of Canadian Heritage and Official languages. She was also caught attending a fundraising event in her riding where those in attendance were players in the arts and cultural community representing organizations which stood to gain from funding from her department. This is not mere pushing of the boundaries, but an outright violation of the rules.

Clearly Harper’s Conservatives do not care about “rules” any more than they do about integrity, honesty, democracy, or open government. We have had Conservative Bev Oda finally forced to leave because of questionable expense claims (made more than once). Conservative Peter Penashue resigned because of illegally accepting money from corporate donors while campaigning. This kind of election irregularity is not rare, certainly not rare for this regime; in fact, it appears to be standard practice for Harper’s Conservatives what with the robocalls misdirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, campaign workers posing as Elections Canada officials and charges laid against Conservative Deal del Mastro.

We know about these violations not because this thuggish Harper government was open, transparent and honest (as it had promised to be long ago; but then, that was long ago), but because these abuses were made public by our election watchdogs, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

But those, apparently, were the good old days. Those days of public accountability and public awareness are about to come to a screeching end. Unless we do something to stop the Harper gang, corruption and rigged elections will become an accepted fact of life as will the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Canadian voters, students, seniors, those unemployed with no fixed address, and the marginalized; in other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. This, along with redrawing electoral boundaries for 30 additional ridings, with a gerrymandered result all but guaranteed to garner another 22 seats for Conservatives, will almost certainly result in the return of this scummy crew with a voter support of even far less than what they had when elected last time, a little more than 39%.

One of the things Election Canada sought was the ability to compel witnesses to testify regarding knowledge of wrongdoing. That will not happen. In fact, Harper and his crew have set out to do the reverse. They have set out to severely weaken, if not eradicate, the investigative powers of Elections Canada altogether. Harper’s gang, with oily Poilievre, the vote-rigging architect of Bill C-23 taking the lead as the misnamed Minister of Democratic Reform, has moved the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which investigates fraud and reports to Parliament, from Elections Canada to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. This, too, should profoundly disturb Canadian citizens. There is a very real possibility, especially with Harper and his thugs at the helm, of government interference of the worst partisan kind that will ultimately cripple investigations and deny citizens the right to be informed. Harper and his gang could conceivably stop any investigation of alleged election fraud involving Conservatives while, of course, encouraging investigations of alleged fraud by members of the opposition parties. Think not? Think again.

Changes to the Elections Act means that the Canadian public need no longer be informed of investigations. For that to happen, the Commissioner of Canada Elections must first inform the object of an investigation he or she is being investigated. Then, in order to make it public, the Commissioner must ask the subject of investigation for permission to do so. How do you think that will turn out? True, penalties have been increased, even with threat of jail time. But those threats are meaningless when the risks of discovery and punishment are at near zero, when there is almost no likelihood of prosecution or of the public learning of the breaches to the Act. Pretty sweet, isn’t it, if you are a cheat? And we know this is a government with more than its share of cheats.

But, if you are a Conservative, especially an ethically challenged Conservative, you will love the new Act. Bill C-23 will no longer hold parties accountable for how party databases are used “without party permission.” That’s legalese (i.e., weasel words) for allowing party leaders to plead ignorance when their data is used to break the rules (and they will be). “Do what you have to, just don’t tell me!” Thus, if there is a repeat of the “Pierre Poutine” debacle, well, too bad, tough luck, sorry. Canadians will never know. Too, the Act will allow incumbents to appoint polling station supervisors during elections to handle disputes (presumably disagreements over vote counts and the voter fraud which Tories claim is rampant, etc.). Yeah, right. This is the Fair Elections Act. Designed by a committee of Conservative snakes. Poilievre claims that other candidates or their representatives can reject the polling station supervisor for another during disputes. Well, not likely. Volunteers helping to oversee the vote count are not likely to know this bit and, even if they did, might be hesitant to make waves especially if young and new to the game; these are usually volunteers, good citizens helping out because they believe in our system, not die-hard advocates or zealots. The thing is, why is that partisan provision there in the first place? As well, and this too should warm those stony, unethical Conservative hearts, Bill C-23 will also allow parties to fundraise from past donors while campaigning without having to count their telephone marketing costs as election campaign expenses. Elections Canada will have no way of knowing if what the parties report will be accurate or not because of systemic loopholes. This, of course, will help the richest parties. Can you guess which one? Too, while the revised Act allows for compliance audits, Elections Canada is barred from producing “documents proving that its financial statements are on the up and up” (The Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 2014)

Not worried yet? If not, why not?

Harper and his thugs have attempted to convince us that voter election fraud is widespread. Yet they have given no numbers to support that claim. However, because they say it is, and because they have the majority, the Bill passed in the House of Commons. There has been no public consultation, no listening to the opposition, just the ham-fisted ramming through of the Bill. The voter information cards and vouching (someone confirming you are who you and the card say you are) will no longer be accepted as sufficient for ID purposes at the polls. Tens of thousands will be denied the right to vote and they will include members of the student, aboriginal, senior, transient, and homeless communities.

It should, by now, be obvious to even the most ardent supporter of the Conservatives that this Bill is a blatant attempt to rig the electoral process with a desired outcome. That is a corruption of the electoral process. The game has been rigged, the unscrupulous and their supporters will feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity — and they will. Thanks to Harper and his gang, changes to the Act will ensure that cheating and corruption will become an entrenched, accepted fact of our electoral process.

Still don’t believe it? You still believe Harper and his gang good, honest, honourable folks?

THE LIAR

A few days ago, the NDP had tried to open up more debate on the Poilievre so-called  Fair Elections Act. Harper, with his majority, denied that option. The NDP also moved to have Brad Butt, Conservative MP cited for contempt of Parliament for misleading Parliament. Again, with their majority, the Harper thugs put an end to that.

So why is this important?

Well, for several reasons. Brad Butt is a Conservative MP who stood up in Parliament on February 6th and told a story of what he had seen. He even went through some of the motions of what he had witnessed from miming citizens in an apartment building throwing away voter information cards and campaign workers retrieving them. The story had the effect of bolstering Conservative claims of voter fraud. Remember, Butt said he saw this. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to others who would then be vouched for at polling stations (presumably by supporters of the opposition parties, never, never Conservative workers cross their stony hearts and crooked fingers). Brad Butt claimed, twice, to having personally witnessed the cards being discarded and picked up. So he said.

Two and a half weeks later, however, he recanted the story. He said he had “misspoke”.

But even that was not true. Regardless of the Conservative spin, Butt did not misspeak. He outright lied. He lied in Parliament; he lied to Canadians. Remember, he said he had seen this himself. Even so, the Conservative majority denied the NDP bid to look into the claims of Brad Butt, the self-confessed liar. Instead, they circled the wagon and protected the liar. This is the Conservative version of truth and transparency. For them, this passes for democracy. Lie about something, retract and suffer no consequences. In fact, Stephen Harper stood up in the House and said that Butt was to be “commended” for “voluntarily” disclosing what he did not have to disclose. In other words, he was saying that, thanks to Brad Butt, the liar, the public has learned that Brad Butt, the liar, had lied.

Are we in Alice in Wonderland? That is the Harper gang’s twisted version of morality. How can we accept anything Harper offers when it comes to matters touching upon ethics, integrity and honesty? This is the same man who, in the House last year, claimed to have looked at Pamela Wallin’s expense claims and said of them, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” We know how that turned out. Too, when acknowledging Nigel Wright had written a cheque to pay of Mike Duffy’s debt, Harper claimed that his then Chief of Staff had done an “honourable thing.” Snake oil salesman Poilievre went one better. Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing,” he said. So now we have an idea of what Conservatives consider honourable. Do wrong, deny, apologize when found out, move on. What is honourable about “owning up” to wrongdoing that should not have taken place in the first place? Or owning up because you have been caught lying? Or owning up because you fear you might be caught? Brad Butt is no hero. He is a liar; he said so. Harper and gang are no heroes; they back liars, they are liars. They lie, deny, move on.

There is nothing “honourable” about these people. They deserve all of my contempt and they have it.

The behaviour of Brad Butt and Harper’s response to it, clearly demonstrates the incredible disrespect Conservatives hold for Democracy and Canadians. If Butt had a shred of shame, an iota of decency, a jot of respect for the parliamentary system and himself, he would resign. It’s not going to happen.

And what can one say of Mark Adler, the narcissistic, pretentious, witch hunter who would emulate Joseph McCarthy? What he proposes is too vile too contemplate; it is contemptible, moronic and dangerous.

Lies, distortions, and the narcissism of self-certainty have led this Harper gang of jackals to the nadir of the cesspool. They have corrupted our electoral system. Far too many of us have been silent for far too long. They cannot be trusted with our democracy.

They have set out to rig the game. In doing so, they have betrayed Canadians.

And they have the nerve to point fingers elsewhere.

***

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

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