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

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

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

Frank Pelaschuk

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

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

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

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

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

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

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

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

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

BE AFRAID, YOU ARE THREATENED

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

 

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

Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan. But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism, too, is less racist than is populism. A patriot will not exclude a person of another nationality from the community where they have lived side by side and whom he has known for many years, but a populist will always remain suspicious of someone who does not seem to belong to his tribe. – John Lukacs

 

There is a limit to the success of conservative populism and the exploitation of “little guy” or “silent majority” rhetoric, and it is very often reached because of the emaciated, corrupted personalities of the demagogues themselves. – Christopher Hitchens

Frank Pelaschuk

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

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

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

YOU WANT TEARS? I’LL GIVE YOU TEARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOTTOM FEEDING AS A WAY OF LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that’s a topic for another time.

***

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

***

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

 

PIGGIES: POLITICIANS, THE GRAVY TRAIN AND THE LEGITIMIZATION OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOUR

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. – Rex Stout

In every well-governed state wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. – Anatole France

The people came to realize that wealth is not the fruit of labour but the result of organized protected robbery. – Frantz Fanon

An honest politician is an oxymoron. – Mark Twain

Frank Pelaschuk

Because I do not believe people inherently good or wise, I am occasionally surprised when they do what I believe the right and moral thing. This is particularly true of politicians and voters. I would prefer the politician to be honest and with a conscience and the voter exactly as the cliché every losing politician trots out to show what a good sport he is: The voter is always right. When it does happen, the voter electing a politician who behaves with integrity and in a non-partisan way for the interests of all citizens, I immediately become alarmed believing I will soon awaken to the political nightmare that is our reality.

While perhaps not to the degree of the transit of Venus, I believe the politician of unwavering honesty and steadfast principle a rarity. It should not be but it is. That is our fault. We make it easy for them by demanding too little and expecting even less. Both politician and voter measure each other by their own values and, because they do, often end with an inferior product: It’s what’s in it for me rather than how can I help make us both better. No voter, no con man, makes the politician corrupt, greedy or deceitful any more than does opportunity, lax rules, or systemic rot within an organization; the culpability lies with the individual, with his failure of character and lack of intellectual and moral substance. Unfortunately, the voter all too often plays the role of enabler and likely for the same reasons. He will forgive almost anything as long as he gets his cut.

THE GIVERS

They have always been with us, those citizens who put themselves forward, often “reluctantly”, willing to temporarily “sacrifice” personal ambitions and family life for the “greater good” as a way of “contributing” towards a “better” more “just” society and as repayment of a “debt” for the life they now enjoy. “Serving” some will modestly say. Nice sentiments, almost noble, perhaps even true for some – once. Much of it is baloney and most of it self-serving.

There are exceptions of course, there always is, those who enter politics with the best of intentions and the purest of motives. Occasionally they succeed and do honour to themselves, their families, their community, and to the offices they hold. Sadly, they are not the norm. Too many take the easy route adopting the party line or going with the flow; the path of least resistance is much easier than going against the tide. Cooperation, giving a little ground is perceived as weakness and disloyalty to the party or to the government. Too little attention is paid to the concerns and welfare of all citizens particularly the weakest and meanest among us because the real goal of any governing party is to maintain power preferably with a majority to inflict the greatest damage to those in opposition.

But whether a government of years or relatively new as is the Trudeau regime, there is too much effort directed towards enriching the party fortunes when it should be directed towards improving the lot of the citizens they govern. As a consequence, too much goes into secret fundraising cocktail dinners with the wealthy and powerful from all sectors. That such events often fail to pass the smell test and clearly transgress conflict of interest regulations are dismissed as the petty cavilling of envious opposition members unable to sell their favours as easily and as richly because theirs is a toothless power: second place is simply that.

HAVE YOU SEEN THE BIGGER PIGGIES

IN THEIR STARCHED WHITE SHIRTS

YOU WILL FIND THE BIGGER PIGGIES

STIRRING UP THE DIRT

ALWAYS HAVE CLEAN SHIRTS TO PLAY AROUND IN Piggies by The Beatles

For such as these, optics and public opinion matters not a jot until, as with Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal party, it becomes a public issue when the media picks up the story. Even then, media attention and public disgust may not work. Christy Clark clearly doesn’t give a toss what the public thinks. If it’s legal but ethically dubious, no matter, they will do it. Ethics are for suckers and imbeciles. These are folks who game the system, mostly in secrecy though, it is true, sometimes openly and shamelessly, because they believe, mostly know, public apathy is their salvation unless it is provoked to fury over the sheer pettiness of some acts such as happened when Canadians learned of Conservative Bev Oda charging to the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. Tax evaders rob the public purse of billions but it is the orange juice that gets our attention! Even so, not to worry, particularly these days. Extravagant spending, false expense claims, unethical picking of the public pocket has been legitimized; all one has to do is plead innocence, ignorance and naiveté.

It is astounding, not only the extent to which the public purse is milked for claims that are often of dubious merit, but also the shamelessness of such. It is not theft in the legal sense that happens, but it is pilfering nevertheless. Claims are made that to the average person often seem frivolous, questionable, petty, and bordering on illegal. Every once in a while, a politician is caught with his hand in the till. Sometimes they receive a slap on the wrist, most times, nothing happens. Occasionally, the miscreant is forced to resign or shamed into resignation but that is as rare an occurrence as was a direct answer to a direct question in Question Period during the Harper years: politicians are shameless; they have to be when they pander. When they are caught, exposed to the glare of the media, they will justify their acts resorting to legalese weasel words, the wormy deviousness of the shady and dishonest as they extract every nickel and dime possible from the public purse: It was legal, allowed, permitted, within the rules. Occasionally they will claim the rules are “obscure, vague, unclear, difficult to understand”. At other times, they may claim that a higher authority approved their actions. Occasionally they will point out others have done the same thing and that, over time, such acts have become accepted as normative practice. If I am to be punished, so must others. They will often make claim to the adherence of the law by which they mean the “letter of the law” but never in this manner, and will likely keep silent regarding its spirit. It’s what one can get away with that matters.

They do not talk much of moral compasses, personal responsibility, common sense, conscience, and personal integrity unless pushed and pushed hard. Of course, they will insist, they themselves possess all these admirable qualities. Nor do they much dwell upon propriety, possible conflicts of interest, of the public good, or of public perceptions of doing something that not only doesn’t seem right but isn’t right: If it’s allowed, I will do it because it’s allowed. With the verdict of the Duffy trial, that view has apparently become legitimized. I wonder what will happen now regarding other senators who have paid back money for undeserved claims or who have been referred to the RCMP for investigation. Unless things change drastically, we can expect continued pillaging of the public trough with the same foul weaselly justifications.

Ethical behaviour is not about appearing to do the right thing but actually doing the right thing. I have nothing against a senator or an MP making claims, but let them be legitimate claims, earned claims. Don’t charge the public for your meals at home or for the coffee and donut you bought for a friend. Don’t travel across country on the public dime on the pretext of doing Senate business that can be handled with a five-minute phone call because you want to spend a few days with your family. Don’t claim expenses for a home you’ve lived in for forty or so years claiming your other property visited a few weeks a year in a province you supposedly represent as your primary residence. It may be legal but it’s certainly not ethical nor is it justifiable.

Whatever happened to common sense and judgement? Why is less attention paid to these rather than the excuses often stretching one’s credulity when politicians and senators misbehave? I can’t imagine our common variety street corner petty thief being granted as sympathetic an indulgence while standing before a judge. The rules are unclear; I didn’t know it was wrong; everyone else does it; there is no law against what I did; I made a mistake; I believed it was okay; I thought it was standard practice; my staffer made a mistake; my dog ate the rule book, I was told by my boss it was okay (in this instance the higher the level of approval the more likely the chance of absolution and no one paying the price). What is so difficult about knowing right from wrong? One who fudges seldom offers explanations he offers justifications and excuses.

So, when I look at Liberal premiers Kathleen Wynne and Christy Clark, and their responses to breaking stories regarding serious ethical lapses regarding conflict of interest in the way of secret meetings with corporate executives and/or anyone with the money to pay for the privilege, I am torn. While both deeply trouble me, it was the response of each that allowed me to declare Clark the winner among the ethically challenge but not by much.

When news broke of two of Wynne’s cabinet ministers, Charles Sousa, finance minister, and Bob Chiarelli, energy minister, attending an unannounced (secret) fundraiser that benefitted the Liberal party with $165,000 and a cabal of banks to the tune of $29 million with the privatization of 15% of Hydro One, an embarrassed Wynne announced not only an end to ministers raising money from those who may benefit from their decisions but also the end of $500,000 quotas members of her cabinet were instructed to raise each year. Wynne clearly was chastened but not unduly; the changes would be phased in over time and probably not in place before the next election. Was there a conflict of interest? Absolutely. Did anything illegal occur? I don’t know, the rules allowed such shady shenanigans. Legalese. Again. Unethical? Most certainly. Shameful? You bet but one wouldn’t know it from the response by Sousa and Deputy Premier Deb Mathews. Sousa said that was “part of the democratic process”. Mathews, dismissive of a need for an inquiry, said there is “absolutely no evidence ” of wrongdoing. Of course not, nor will there be unless there is an investigation. But explain that to the citizens of Ontario who were recently informed of steep rate hikes because Hydro One didn’t earn as much as expected because of the mild winter. Unethical? Yes. When a consortium benefits from a secret fundraiser it puts on for a political party something is rotten and it’s not in Denmark. If the fundraiser was so innocent, why was it kept from the public and how was it that the finance and energy minister sat with the very folks who raised money for the Liberals and walked away with millions from the Hydro One deal? Coincidence? I think not.

And then we have princess Christy Clark of BC who earns $200,000 as premier and another $50,000 from her party, which calls it a “stipend” for her impressive fundraising efforts. As reported in the National Post, Clark has earned $301,900 in stipends since she became leader in 2011 (Rob Shaw, Postmedia News, April 28, 2016). When questioned regarding this, Clark laughed it off saying she had believed it was a car allowance. Really? It’s all a joke to these folks but I wonder how much laughter there was from the single parent minimum wage earner holding two jobs upon hearing this. Were those who donated to the party amused when some of that money went to Clark who could use it as she sees fit? Stipend suggests a token payment usually to offset additional expenses. Clark’s amused response to receiving $50,000 is the carefree let-them-eat-cake attitude. But, before we feel too bad for those minimum wage earners, she promises to give them a raise from $10.45 to $10.85 this September. That should keep those carpers quiet. It’s contemptuous and callous. So, what does she do to earn this stipend? Well she’ll meet privately with anyone who can raise $20,000 to $30,000. Clark clearly believes there is nothing wrong with this saying she governs for all British Columbians (just works harder for some for a price) and has no plans to review or do away with the private (and lucrative) meetings between her and wealthy suitors. She claims no favours are exchanged for cash. We have to take her at her word for that. It’s difficult. Between Wynne and Clark, it could be a toss up judging which is more ethically challenged. Clark may have the edge simply because of her shameless disregard for public perception. She cares just enough to rub salt into the wounds by raising the stipend of minimum wage earners 40 cents. Car allowance I guess.

And then, of course, we have the newcomer, Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould, the federal minister of justice, who, along with her boss Justin Trudeau, should know better but apparently doesn’t or doesn’t care. She sees nothing wrong with attending a fundraiser with the very people who stand to gain from her decisions regarding justice. The ethics commissioner Mary Dawson evidently agrees. “The rules are scant,” she told CTV News (Thursday, April 7, 2016). Again, legitimacy is granted to weaselly outs by the very body meant to oversee ethics. Judgement and common sense are not required. It cost $500 to attend the two-hour cocktail event. That’s not much when one considers what it costs for a private audience with Christy Clark ($20K to $30K) or Sousa and Chiarelli ($7,500). I have heard some commentators suggest no politician would risk their reputation for a mere $500. That’s nonsense and beside the point. It’s not a measly sum when it’s $500 times the number of guests and all from the same field holding the same interests and wanting the same outcome. Conflict of interest? Absolutely. Unethical? Without doubt.

Folks who shape ethics to suit their own wants are suspect. Meeting with constituents is not a problem; meeting them in secret in exchange for money is. I certainly do not believe that anyone, regardless of how wealthy, would simply fork over $20 or $30 thousand for the simple pleasure of having had tea with Christy Clark. He expects something in return and the politician princess, regardless of how dim, knows it. Yet we must take Clark at her word: no favours are exchanged. How can we? Why should we?

AND THE WINNER IS…ALL THE LITTLE PIGGIES IN WHITE SHIRTS

Honesty in politics seems to be an increasingly missing ingredient. And I am not talking about folks simply picking our public purse. I am thinking of the integral aspects that make us what we are, character if you will.

The last election provided very good examples of similar failures. We had the Conservatives fearmongering with a vile campaign playing the cards of racial and religious intolerance. There was Kellie Leitch the ambitious bundle of mediocrity now running for the Conservative leadership. There she was standing before the media with Chris Alexander at her side both of them announcing the creation of a snitch line for Canadians to report and stop the barbaric cultural practices of you-know-who. It was contemptible and meant to play to the worst aspects in us. Recently, Leitch on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton disavowed her role almost on the verge of tears…well it was a good if phony act. “We weren’t talking about race, we were talking about kids … but that message was completely overtaken and I regret that, and I regret that it occurred, and it shouldn’t have been done,” she said (CBC, Power & Politics, April 21, 2016). “It shouldn’t have been done.” No kidding. Leitch is a reputable professional and from all I have found, good at her profession, and I have no doubt she cares for her patients. But the fact is indisputable: she was part of a team that made race and religion an issue. She cannot disavow that. Anyone with a shred of dignity, decency and intelligence would have walked away from the suggestion of the snitch line. More importantly, she would have walked away from the real message of the snitch line. The target was not abuse but the Muslim community. Neither Chris Alexander nor Kellie Leitch walked away from that filthy campaign. That says something about character or, more precisely, lack of same. It was an unpleasant spectacle because so willingly engaged by Alexander (he lost his seat) and Leitch (she kept hers). She is not leadership material but she certainly is a politician. When she says they weren’t talking about race, I suggest she is less than truthful. We have 911 and other services across the country to assist families and children. As with so many of that Harper gang, Leitch is just another sad example of another MP who, in hindsight, sought to refurbish a tarnished image with a subdued apology, faux tears and a flimsy defense without any evidence of sincere acknowledgement of her role in the sorry debacle. Of late we have seen too much of this, arrogant politicians caught in their own snares and then repenting with showy displays of phony tears only when the game is over or when seeking re-election perhaps or the role of leader to their party. They must stand before mirrors these bad actors in every sense practicing the quavering voice, the trembling lips, the tears sliding down cheeks with, perhaps to offer verisimilitude to the act, snot precariously leaking from one of the nostrils. I am unmoved convinced the tears are only for themselves. Perhaps, when done rehearsing the scene of self-abnegation they will then seek to relax by facing the mirror all pretence stripped away hands on hips making rubber faces before finally bursting into genuine laughter as they imagine the sympathetic response of the public they will face with teary eyes.

Anyone can misspeak and err but what happened that October 2 day with Leitch and Alexander was no mistake, no slip of the tongue. It was a media event staged during the final days of a failing campaign in desperate hopes of garnering a rush of support from the fearful and the intolerant. It did not work. Where was the shame at the time?

Conservative Jason Kenney is another likely to throw himself into the leadership race. He should not. When he used government letterheads to fundraise for his party, he demonstrated he was willing to fudge; he crossed the line. Last year he posted tweets on International Women’s Day to rally support for the war against ISIS. He posted two photos, one of women in chains and one depicting a child bride with her “husband”. Her hands were tied. The tweets were clearly meant to inflame sentiments against the Muslim community and ISIS in particular. Both were bogus and he knew it. The first picture was of a re-enactment of an historical event. The second was simply a fake. When asked about Canada’s expanding role in Iraq, he offered this as explanation: “The United States is the only one of those five that has precision-guided munitions. That is a capability the Royal Canadian Air Force has, so one of the reasons our allies have requested we expand our air sorties into eastern Syria is because with those precision-guided munitions our CF-18s carry, we can be more impactful in the strikes we make against ISIL” (David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, March 25, 2015). That was a lie. But Kenney is used to lying. As multicultural minister, he used his government email account to suggest Trudeau held sympathetic views for terrorists based on his visit to the Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque when he was an MP. The US intelligence community had released documents that they believed the mosque had links to al Queda. This bit of news was made public a month after Trudeau had visited the mosque. But Kenney and the other Conservative members kept this to themselves. Can such an individual who deceives, misrepresents and proves himself a glib liar time-after-time be worthy of governing a nation? We had that kind of leadership from Kenney’s previous boss. We don’t need a repeat. All the above suggest an individual with serious ethical issues. Evidently he’s a man of some ability. That may be true. He is also untrustworthy.

Behaviour matters. But, judging by the support Donald Trump and the deceased Rob Ford managed to garner, not much to many. Rude, foul-mouthed misogyny, drunken rowdyism, name-calling and shameless lying, racial and religious intolerance seems, in fact, the endearing qualities that draw the stupid and ignorant to support worthless notables of that ilk. Politicians have taken note.

Secret meetings between politicians and influential community and business types for a fee, have apparently been and still is the accepted practice. Does this matter?

Duffy, legally cleared of all charges, will re-enter the Senate chamber and likely make claim for restitution for pay for the more than two years he lost while absent from the red chamber. The Senate itself has made changes but will they be enough, will they endure. I suspect not. As long as there are folks willing to bend rules by pleading ignorance or turning a blind eye, the Senate will remain the dysfunctional, unloved and unwanted institution of a bygone era of partisanship and entitlement. Going along to get along, doing what others have always done is not sufficient. Yet that is how the zoo operated. Men and women took advantage of the laxity of rules and oversight and thought nothing of pilfering from the taxpayer coffers. The Duffy verdict seems to have legitimized such abuses. The offender is not liable. The offender is a victim in fact. Sometimes I want to join Howard Beale from Network and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But then I guess I’ve been doing that the past three years.

But where does the blame really lie? Why must the public accept that a politician can claim ignorance or was unable to understand the rules? If you watch a man going to the washroom, do you pocket the wallet he left behind knowing that it is his? If so, you’re a thief. Would you take that wallet claiming he had left it behind therefore there was not theft? Would you say, “If I hadn’t taken it someone else would?” There are just some things one does not do even when the water is muddy or opportunity presents itself. People without character play dumb, do not question, do not wish to know; they prefer to close their eyes to the wrongdoing of others or to join in saying if it’s okay for one, it’s okay for all.

Politicians who accept money for private meetings are corrupt. What they do may be legal but it is certainly immoral, unethical, and dishonest. They should not hold office and voters should not forget or forgive. Getting away with something simply because one can or because there are no rules against it doesn’t make it right.

PIGLETS

But let’s turn our attention to Trudeau and the Liberals. They swept into office promising new and better and, as have all previous governments, promised openness and transparency. Well, they have failed and continue to fail. Think about the meeting with lawyers by Jody Wilson-Raybould. She said she attended as an MP not as minister of justice. When you are a minister of the crown, there is no such distinction. A few years back Shelly Glover was skewered (and I joined in) when she was filmed attending a secret fundraising event that violated conflict of interests guidelines simply because many of the attendees could possibly benefit from the decisions made by her ministry. Now Glover did not want to be caught but caught she was. She at least paid back the money. Wilson-Raybould? Well, thus far there’s no word of what she’ll do but I can guess and suspect you can as well. Remember this next time you vote: She as minister of justice met with the very folk who stand to gain or lose by the decisions she makes.

But there is something equally as troubling and that concerns the CRA offering amnesty to tax cheat clients of KPMG, one of Canada’s large accountancy firms who allegedly helped these tax cheats set up accounts on the Isle of Man. Amnesty was offered on condition the tax evaders paid the taxes owed and kept their mouths shut regarding the deal. Now that is not only patently unfair, that is corrupt providing more evidence to those already suspicious that governments are more interested in protecting the wealthy and punishing the weak and helpless. The scheme is simple. Firms such as KPMG help businesses or wealthy clients create shell companies offshore and then help them get it back as tax-free “gifts”. Recently the CRA proudly announced it had recovered $1.5 billion from tax cheats. Big deal. What does that do about the rest of the estimated loss per year of $7 to $9 billion? Stats Canada says there is a total of $199 billion declared money in offshore accounts. That is likely a fraction of what is undeclared. In the House, May 3, 2016, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair asked Trudeau if he would hold an investigation of the matter and of KPMG. Trudeau responded thusly: “Once again, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is always willing to play parliamentary procedure games as opposed to digging into the real facts of the issue. We’re working with the Canada Revenue Agency,” (CBC News, Question Period, May 3). The answer was clearly “No!” to Mulcair’s question, which, as posed, clearly indicates he and the NDP do want to dig into the facts. Trudeau said the government was working with the CRA…and skirted the issue of a government agency, assisted by the government, also working with tax cheats and those firms who help the tax evaders in their cheating.

So, from Trudeau and the government, no penalties for stealing, and that is exactly what tax evasion is. If anyone is playing a game, it’s Trudeau, but it’s a rigged game with Canadians losing to the wealthy thanks to the our political leaders taking on the role of accomplices. It may have started with the Harper gang but it is unconscionable that our government continues to protect cheats with promises of amnesty and demonstrates absolutely no desire to go after the corporations who help them cheat some more. Even after the story broke the CRA was still quietly meeting with KPMG. None of this however is surprising; the Liberals have a history of scandal, of working with Big Business and dipping into the public trough. With the Trudeau crew it looks like we will, over time, witness the return to the bad old days of bad old ways.

Good words mean nothing. We have heard the Senate to which Duffy has returned is not the Senate as Duffy knew it. Don’t believe it. The Senate fails in all counts. The changes made are too little too late. The Senate members will behave for a time but before long, the greedy greasy fingers will again be picking at the public purse.

Trudeau’s government fails because it has proven itself flexible in ethics when Trudeau sanctioned the Wilson-Raybould cocktail dinner. The government also lied to its citizens regarding human rights when it ignored government regulations by signing off on the Saudi Arabia light-armoured vehicle trade deal. Trudeau lied to our veterans when he said he would restore disability pensions. He didn’t. He just increased the lump sum payments. He has done some things I do like but he could do much better; he has changed the tone of parliament and has a balanced cabinet of many capable individuals, there is more openness (but already showing signs of second thoughts on that front) and a better image internationally; for these reasons and a few others, he deserves very high marks. But he also broke his word on the big things that count and this is where he may eventually fail. I would prefer it if he had honoured Canada’s commitment to human rights when trading with other nations today and not down the road; yes, the Saudi deal is big, $15 billion. There are Canadian jobs at stake that too is true. But, as a nation, we have to be counted. Can we really justify setting aside human rights until the next international trade deal? Should monetary concerns really trump when dealing with one of the worst offenders of human rights?

Nor should he have reneged on his promise to veterans with disabilities. I would prefer he spent less time posing before every camera he meets and think more seriously of what he wants to do and what he will do and be more open about it. He has what it takes, but fudging on ethical matters, even if a little, suggests he is on the same path as others before him. One thing is clear; the people mobbing him still love him even as he jobs them. They at least got a picture with him.

Politics is a filthy game. It needn’t be. But as long as we allow our politicians to bend the rules, to act unethically, to lie, cheat and deceive and to meet in secrecy with the wealthy and powerful special interest, little will change.

Politicians may be corrupt, but so are we. Join Howard Beale: Get mad as hell. Do something!

***

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

***

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

 

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S PROMISE OF HOPE VS. HARPER’S LEGACY

Have you ever heard the wind go “Yooooo”?/”Tis a pitiful sound to hear!/It seems to chill you through and through/With a strange and speechless fear. – Eugene Field

For as children tremble and fear everything in the blind darkness, so we in the light sometimes fear what is no more to be feared than the things children in the dark hold in terror and imagine will come true. – Lucretius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Though it cannot all be laid at Stephen Harper’s door, he and his gang did campaign relentlessly to convince Canadians the world was a dangerous place and Canada, in particular, targeted by ISIS. He attempted to bolster his image at home as saviour and warrior by inflating Canada’s role and his own image in the fight against terrorism suggesting none were more dangerous than Muslims and none more a threat to Canadian “values” than two Muslim women wearing niqabs and none, other than himself, equal to the task in combatting the dangers. The niqab debacle in particular apparently served him well in Quebec and in other regions; for his many abuses and relentless efforts to undermine and make a mockery of our Parliamentary democracy with discreditable and dishonourable conduct in the House, he and his Conservatives were rewarded at the polls with second place position as the official opposition rather than the justly earned total annihilation. Not bad considering his years of abusive relationships with scientists and public servants, veterans and First Nations peoples, Elections Canada and environmentalists, critics and the media and even the public whom he refused to keep informed evidently in the belief that an ignorant populace was easier to handle. If that was the case, he was probably unto something there.

That the Conservative defeat was not resounding must surely put to rest the self-reverential myth we hold of ourselves as a nation deservedly loved for its generosity, tolerance, acceptance and humbleness. Oh, yes, just ask us, we’ll gladly regale you with endless stories our modesty and generosity. However, with the recent violent terrorist acts in Paris just a few days old, we have clear evidence that, even with the Conservative ouster just weeks ago, the fearmongering and racist and religious intolerance the gang so diligently worked at fomenting has firmly taken root in some quarters. We can tell ourselves we are a good people and by and large it’s true. But self-praise is really no recommendation; there is a rot within and too many infected.

If we are judged by our deeds, and we should be, we would likely understand we are no better and no worse than others just like us. We Canadians, often in jest, are particularly harsh on our neighbours to the south whom we have often mocked and held as object lessons of what we are not. It may have been fun, but it is a conceit of empty hubris. Do not misunderstand me, I love my country and I would not trade this land for any other. But, I also know this: as a people we are all too often complacent, there are times we, as individuals and as a nation, have fallen short and been found wanting. We are not as too many of us imagine ourselves and it certainly did not help that Stephen Harper was able to expose that ugly side when he and his gang set out to poison a nation with fear, exaggerating the terrorist threat and playing to the worst in us by fomenting racial and religious intolerance. Far too often, we are less than we imagine and it’s not a pleasant image. It is also true, that there are many, many, who do this nation proud never succumbing to the worst that others would foist upon them.

Recent events and our reaction to them offer evidence of the Harper legacy.

In October of this year, just days before the election, a pregnant Muslim woman is attacked by two teens on bikes. She was wearing a hijab, which they tried to forcibly remove, knocking her to the ground.

The Paris tragedy; the whole world weeps. Even so, above the tears, almost before the sound of gunfire has abated, voices have been raised here, at home, expressing concern and hostility to the new government’s plan to follow through with its efforts to introduce 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end. Not long ago, the image of a dead child on a beach roused Canadians to demand more of their government. We not only wanted to help Syrians fleeing their war-ravaged home, we wanted to help them NOW. But Harper was prime minister and he would not be rushed; this flow of fleeing people has been going on for years. We had to be careful, weigh the security risks against our natural urge for a generous response. But the haunting image of the dead child and mounting pressure from Canadians did cause him to change his mind as the election came to a close promising: he would allow 10,000 refugees into the country as soon as possible. But he made no bones about it: there were security concerns.

Then the Harper regime came to an end.

And then, mere weeks later, Paris happened. And, oh, how the world has changed, and Canadians with it. There are still those eager to help but there all also voices clamouring for Trudeau to slam the door shut.

One can almost hear the old gang and their supporters gloating: Well, we warned you didn’t we? Harper was right and you didn’t listen and this is the price we pay. Well, that’s the response of fear and ignorance; he wasn’t right then and he isn’t right today, but it’s hard to convince the frightened and cowardly and all but impossible to reason with the racists and scapegoaters who are always with us: for them, there’s always the need for the fall guy, someone to be feared, blamed and held accountable. And, for them, the timid and the bigots, the evidence is there, in Paris, with brutal ISIS claiming responsibility for the 129 dead, mostly young, all beautiful and innocent beaming lights extinguished far too soon and the 352 wounded, many critically, again mostly young and beautiful and innocent. As well, for them, the haters and bigots, there is further evidence and it is found among the terrorist dead, one of who purportedly carried a Syrian passport (possibly fake) and believed to have hidden among the many hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in Greece. There it is. Proof! How can we even contemplate bringing in possible terrorists? How can we be certain, how can we feel secure when they, the terrorists, possessing no shame, knowing no decency hide among innocent men, women and children passing themselves off as one of the persecuted and desperate just bidding their time to strike at the Canadian heart? For the easily swayed, the easily frightened, this may appear to be reason enough to bar our doors. The racists don’t need a reason: hate is enough. For them, the frightened and the haters, Harper, for all his prescience and wisdom, is the prophet unjustly punished October 19th and Paris, bleeding and mourning in a fever of terror and defiance, the sad, irrefutable reminder of what could happen here and of the huge mistake Canadians made in electing the young and inexperienced Trudeau over a tried and experienced Harper.

So, November 14, in Peterborough, Ontario, a cowardly nobody torches a Muslim mosque and shines a light on his ignorance.

The Syrian crisis is not our problem.

Then whose is it? To whom can those poor people turn if not us and our allies?

Should we all close our eyes, minds and hearts to what’s going on out there?

When then do we become involved? Do we insert ourselves only when our neighbour is in difficulty? Maybe not even then, it’s best to mind one’s business. Perhaps we only help when it’s a member of the family.

No? Then when?

Some, like premier Brad Wall, have called on Justin Trudeau to suspend his plans to welcome Syrians into Canada. He is worried about security concerns, he says, but how does suspending aid to refugees make the world more secure? What happens to those in desperate need for help? The suggestion appears to be that we are rushing into this, that we cannot bring in that many people that quickly without incurring risks. While it may be true that Trudeau’s goal may not be possible in the time allotted, there is no reason to suspend the program or to listen to Wall and others victimize the victims again by labelling them all as risks. Of course the moves must be done securely with newcomers properly vetted. But what evidence is there that security would be any less rather than greater? Canada has had a shameful history of turning people away in times when they most needed help. Only 5,000 Jews were allowed into Canada during Hitler’s 12 years of terror. In 1945, when asked how many would be allowed into Canada, a Canadian official said, “None is too many.” But we also have a history of responding quickly, with generosity and benefitting greatly as a nation because of it. In less than a year, 37,000 Hungarians were accepted in 1957. In the 1960s, tens of thousands of Vietnamese were welcomed. In none of these instances was security reason enough to deny access to Canada and, from the evidence, most of those accepted, proved themselves productive, decent, loyal citizens. There is no reason to believe the Syrian refugees will be any different. In all likelihood, the vetting process will likely be more rigorous given ISIS and what happened in Paris. Even so, there is a probability of mistakes just as there had been in the past. No system is perfect and nothing can be guaranteed. That doesn’t mean one shuts the door; you do the best you can as securely as you can and as quickly as you safely can. To live in fear of what might be is not to really live. The world is full of terror and much of it in our imaginings. But this is no imagined horror: In Toronto, a Muslim woman waits for her children outside a public school. Two men approach, rob and beat her screaming obscenities and telling her to go back where she came from. She was born in Canada.

When the execrable Conservatives Jason Kenney and the defeated Chris Alexander were immigration ministers, only about 1500 (numbers vary, some say 2500) Syrian refugees were accepted over a period of three years. Both, Kenney as Minister of Defence, speaking for the Harper regime made clear their reluctance to accept refugees, particularly those from “safe” countries (the Harper gang, evidently ignoring historical reality, holding the belief that any nation with which Canada traded must treat its minorities as well and as kindly as does Canada). As a result, applicants were rejected and those considered illegal immigrants denied the most basic of healthcare. It should surprise no one that Harper had committed to a secret arms deal with Saudi Arabia a nation internationally condemned for its Human Rights abuses. For Conservatives, it’s just business, after all and has nothing to do with Human Rights. And it should surprise no one that Romas, persecuted in Hungary, considered a “safe” country, have been routinely rejected by the Harper gang which had even set up billboards in Hungary warning that Romas would be deported if they came to Canada. Why the Romas in particular? What was at play here? What did the Harper gang know of them and fear? Did they hold visions of an influx of horse drawn caravans travelling through the country, of colourfully dressed exotic women dancing as children moved through the crowd picking pockets and of swarthy moustachioed men sticking knives into ribs while others played gypsy music to drown out the screams of bloody murder?

The Conservative reluctance to accept Syrian refugees seems based on something similar, the reluctance made even clearer (not only by the small numbers accepted into Canada during their watch) and no less unpalatable when, speaking in code easily understood, both Kenney and Alexander made known their preference for acceptance of refugees saying they would “prioritize” persecuted Syrian religious and ethnic minorities. By that, of course, they meant Syrian Christians would be given the advantage of our hospitality and generosity. Recently, many state governors in the US made clear they were reluctant to accept Syrian refugees, some vowing to bar them from their state. A few even expressed the same sentiment expressed by Kenney and Alexander, albeit more directly than did the Harper crew: if refugees must be accepted, make them Christian refugees. They call it protecting America. I call it religious intolerance.

This from the land of liberty and opportunity. This from a nation founded by folks fleeing British religious persecution. Well, so much for the self-reverential delusion from which the Americans suffer. Clearly, we are not all that different. And Obama only wants to bring in 10,000 refugees! It’s astounding really that those governors are worried about a few terrorists slipping into the country when they have an army of gun loving whackos bumping each other off with guns to the tune of 32,000 dead a year! Fear and stupidity are an ugly combo.

In this day and age, when so many are in desperate need, can such sentiments be tolerated? Of what are the Canadians and Americans who would bar the Syrians afraid? Do they even know? I doubt it. They are informed by ignorance, they know nothing of the culture or the Muslim faith and they prefer to remain ignorant for it leaves their tiny minds unencumbered by the need to think. It is easier to scapegoat. And it is vile. This is fear and ignorance in full display masquerading as caution, the same fear and ignorance that the Harper gang fomented and exploited and that Brad Wall and others, with memory of Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks still fresh, now seem bent on exploiting even more. At the heart of it, of course, is plain, simple racial and religious intolerance. That is unacceptable and that is part of Harper’s legacy. This, too, is no fancy: Again, in Toronto, anti-Muslim graffiti is sprayed inside an apartment building.

There have also been calls from some that Trudeau reconsider the Liberal position on C-51 which he has promised to amend but which I believe should be repealed. As it stands, C-51 does not provide more security for Canadians or minorities and, if kept, even with amendments, may prove to be costly to Canadians in the long run. Read the Benjamin Franklin quote at the end of this post and ponder it. What kind of society do we want? As it stands, almost every dissenting voice could be a target for suspicion, any act of protest grounds for a charge of economic terrorism. I hope the Liberals scrap the bill but do not expect they will.

There have also been calls for Trudeau to reconsider pulling Canadian warplanes from bombing missions. Thus far, he has stuck to his promise saying Canada’s involvement in the war in Syria and Iraq will be in other areas for which we are better equipped and better suited. Among those setting off alarm bells is Rona Ambrose, Conservative interim leader, who has, apparently as have a good many other Conservatives, suffered something akin to a religious conversion, demanding of the Liberals what they, the Conservatives, refused to offer Canadians: accountability, transparency, honesty. Ambrose not only wishes Trudeau to commit to the war against ISIS with continued warplanes support, she joins the likes of Wall in wanting Trudeau to put the refugee plan on pause. That latter may happen on its own: the logistics of bringing in 25,000 refugees by year’s end may prove insurmountable. No one will fault Trudeau if he does not meet his target date which he well may not but he must meet the target numbers and as quickly as possible.

The response of the Conservatives since losing the election has been remarkable. Harper seems to have disappeared. Some of the Conservatives who have lost their seats behaved as they always did, blaming the media. Others have uncharacteristically fallen silent. Where is Poilievre, unwanted, unloved, unmissed by this writer? His re-election is difficult to understand and stomach and concrete evidence that the vile legacy of intolerance is thriving in some areas. Some have discovered a kinder, gentler version of themselves. They want to make nice. But where were they all the years they attempted to slip legislation into omnibus bills? Where were they when they reworked the Elections Act to disenfranchise voters? Where were those voices of reason when their own party and members attempted to subvert the democratic process during elections? The Harper era was one of the most secretive, corrupt, abusive, anti-democratic, partisan, vindictive, petty, and mean-spirited in Canadian history. Yet where were Rona Ambrose, Candace Bergen, Diane Finley, Rob Nicholson, Erin O’Toole, Mike Lake, Michelle Rempel and Denis Lebel, those folks who ran for the position of interim leader, when Harper, Pierre Poilievre and Dean del Mastro were smearing the Chief Electoral Officer or rigging the Elections Act or imposing C-51? They may want to convince us they are a nicer gang but they are still a gang, and still the same old Harper gang of thugs.

Sure, they are almost gone but not gone enough for me. So, from me, there is no “let bygones be bygones”. Justin Trudeau is the prime minister now and he, too, has a large majority. I hope he looks upon the Harper years and ponders on the corruptive allure of power. He has the majority and I hope he wields that power with more wisdom than did Harper and with a greater measure of fairness. We all saw how the Harper gang treated those weaker than themselves. That was not governance but despotism.

Trudeau is the new man. I did not vote for him. I harboured no hostility towards him, I just preferred my own party (and if you think it is the Conservative party, you have not been reading very carefully).

Nevertheless, I like some of what I have seen by Trudeau. It’s the small, but significant gestures I like. I liked that he took time out the day following his election to greet riders in a Montreal subway station. I liked that he has brought an end to branding of the Canadian Government: it is now as it should be, The Government of Canada. He has reinstated the long form census. Government scientists have been told they can speak up regarding their research. I like that Trudeau will scrap the F-35 jets for other, more practical jets. The Liberals have dropped the case against Zunera Ishaq bringing an end to the Harper gang’s war on her. That is the right, the decent, thing to do. There are other signs of openness and transparency, Trudeau making public “mandate letters” to his ministers outlining what he expects from them (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/ministerial-mandate-letters). How rare is that? How welcome. The ministers themselves have been allowed to speak to the media, and that is refreshing and promising. Thus far, I am, while disappointed the NDP did not win, favourably disposed towards Justin Trudeau; he appears to be one who will not be pushed or rushed into precipitous action; I really do wish him well and have no doubt of his desire to be inclusive. I do not know if I can expect this goodwill to last: that’s up to him. I will judge him by his deeds and not just his words. I am still troubled by the appointment of Bill Morneau as finance minister. I have no reason to believe him other than honest and honourable but his company, from which he has parted as executive chair, Morneau Shepell, one of the largest human resources firms in the country has had business dealings with the federal government. True, he has placed his holdings under a blind trust, but I am sceptical of these kinds of programs suspecting them of offering more optics than anything substantial to protect the public interest and Mr. Morneau at the same time; it’s a device, a tool, meant more to convince the public that things are on the up and up. In the end, we will simply have to trust Mr. Morneau to recuse himself in government decisions regarding matters of pensions, insurance and taxations. For now, it appears trust is all we have to go on.

Too, I am concerned by the appointment of Kirsty Duncan as minister of science, who, it appears was, and remains, a strong supporter of the so-called “liberation therapy” a discredited treatment for MS. If she still supports it, I have strong misgivings, for the evidence is out there: it doesn’t work, it’s junk science. What would her thoughts be of the smoker who discounts all the scientific evidence proving smoking causes cancer yet embraces the one study, by the cigarette manufacturer, that the evidence is still out?

Aside from the two appointments, which do raise red flags for me, I like what I see in Trudeau and his mostly young cabinet. I am also happy to see some older, more experienced faces in key positions. It gives this old fogey some comfort to know the youngsters, should they need to, may be able to call upon the experiences of Ralph Goodale, Stéphane Dion, Scott Brison, Marc Garneau and Carolyn Bennett. There is hope but, even then, another living nightmare pops up: In Montreal, a masked man is arrested for making online threats against Muslims.

Paris attacks notwithstanding we Canadians have many reasons for optimism. Hopefully we will never see another Harper gang. This is the promise of a new, young government. Let us hope Trudeau brings out the best in us and that we all discover we prefer that to partisanship, pettiness, meanness, and self-interest that has dogged us these many years. We are all part of the family of man and, regardless of what happens. In the end, we are all dead. So, for the time being at least, let us enjoy the promise Trudeau offers. I do believe we will, at least until the next election, see less vindictiveness, less fearmongering, less pandering to the worst in us, less posturing, and more of wisdom and hope.

Yes, Trudeau does have nice hair and it is clear he is popular with the young, particularly the women. That will pass, I hope. I did have my doubts, but with some experienced people around him, I see a young man who is ready.

In London, an elderly man pushes a Muslim woman unto subway tracks. She hits side of incoming train and bounces back on to platform. She survives.

We do live in a great country. But it’s fine to admit we may not be the best and it’s equally fine to know that we are not the worst. But not being the worst is not sufficient. It does not mean we should not strive to be better. It’s okay to be cautious. It’s not okay to live in fear and to allow our fears to dictate how we act.

But don’t quietly accept my inadequate words for what I believe to be true. Instead, I urge every reader who may not have heard of it to visit the following link and listen to the heart wrenchingly beautiful tribute Antoine Leiris, husband and father, made public on BBC as tribute to his wife, murdered in Paris November 13 https://www.facebook.com/antoine.leiris?fref=ts. To those who hate, open up your minds and hearts and listen to this grief-stricken man who knows about and the power of love. You may learn something and begin to believe there is more to life than hating others. The rest know that already, but they, too, should hear his message: it may reaffirm what they already believe: they are on to something.

***

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 DEMAGOGUE AND THE VOTER AS IGNORAMUS: HARPER’S DIRTY POLITICAL WAR OF DIVISION AND FEAR

There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear. –Jawaharlal Nehru

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance. – Socrates

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The narrative regarding the NDP has largely been that it is a tax-and-spend party, a party greedily picking our wallets and reckless with our dollars. It is not true, of course, an invention promulgated largely by opposition Conservative and Liberal parties and their friends in the corporate and media worlds, a lie as infantile and dishonest as the Conservative myth of themselves as the best fiscal managers of the public purse since the dawn of man. To hear them tell it, it’s bred in the bone, as inherently impossible for Conservatives to mess up, as it is a divine certainty the NDP will drive the economy to the ground transforming Canada, as some have said, ” into another Greece”. It’s spurious fearmongering, of course, the socialist as bogeyman, as predictable as Harper’s daily alarmist rhetoric of terrorist hordes targeting Canada and pounding at our doors.

When things go right, it is always because of the smart things Harper and gang do or not do: “wise planning”; “prudent spending”; “tax cuts encourage investment”; “trimming public service fat”; “there’s only one taxpayer” whatever the hell that last means. Not surprisingly, when things do go awry, and they do and have, Harper MPs scurry into dank nooks in the way of cockroaches eyes rolling and panic-stricken mumbling old, tired refrains: “a mess inherited from previous Liberal mismanagement “; “market forces beyond our control”; “unforeseen world events”; “a minor self-correction”; “yadayadayada” leaving it for the big boys to enlarge on the spin, one of whom is Michelle Rempel, a bobblehead extraordinaire, whose frequent appearances on CBC’s Power and Politics (just try and stop her), always leaves one drained, so fraught with malice, shrillness, boorishness, and imperiousness as she makes up facts and offers diversions with the conviction of a conman shouting down anyone doubting his claims.

THE WIZARD AS BIGOT

For them, everything, everything, it seems, boils down to dollars and cents and their belief that the most important weapon one need possess is power: the greater the power, the greater the ability to exploit fear, inflict pain and to control. Harper has wielded this weapon, the power of his majority, effectively and relentlessly against public servants, critics, opposition members, and even the public. The manner of the pain has been extreme and vicious for some segments of society and is indicative of what is really bred to the Harper Conservative bone. It is more than their inflated imaginings of their fiscal adroitness and their smug arrogance that makes them so unpalatable; there is their zealotry, their willingness to distort, their ease with corruption, their eager mean-spiritedness, their pitiful delusions, their embrace of dishonesty, their penchant for scapegoating the weak and poor and their fomenting of religious and racial intolerance. There is almost nothing they will not do to forward their agenda and no weapon is too foul to not be used. Only the most contemptible would be drawn to such as these and many are.

And they, of course, are members of the Conservative base, unshakable, unreachable and unteachable. They unquestioningly swallow the swill and embrace the myths casting their votes accordingly and as thoughtlessly as the Conservative majority spin facts, engage in dirty tricks (the dirtier, the better), and slip dubious legislations into massive omnibus bills without debate with hopes of escaping detection. None of this troubles either side of the Conservative coin; both feed off the poisons each exude, the Conservative base a black hole swallowing everything except knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment and the Harper gang feeding it everything but knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment fanning the flames of ignorance, fear, and intolerance, waging war against the Muslim community and opposition parties with straw man arguments that have nothing to do with facts or reality. The base doesn’t need the facts or reality, they readily and easily accept the Conservative justifications of C-51, which grants our intelligence agencies greater powers to spy on Canadians with little oversight by suggesting the laws in place are not enough. It’s not true of course; no truer than the Conservative suggestion that opposing the bill makes one somehow unpatriotic, probably sympathetic to the terrorist cause. The Conservative base never questions. So the Harper gang ratchets the level of hysteria with evocations of ISIL inflating Canada’s contributions in Iraq and their own as triumphal leaders towering above all others among our allies passing legislation that jurists, scholars and leaders have condemned as heavy-handed, unnecessary, abusive, and an attack on fundamental civil liberties. No matter, the Conservatives are blind and deaf to appeals to reason, to fair play and to justice. They know the audience to whom they appeal, their base base. From them there is no blowback when there is speculation Harper and gang will ban the niqab in public service. Indeed, there is only resounding approval from this segment of the easily frightened, stupid and self-interested when Harper wages war against Zunera Ishaq, one of two Muslim women, who have obeyed all steps to obtain Canadian citizenship but have resisted the demand they be unveiled during the swearing in ceremony which the courts have said is their right. Why is the gang so afraid of this one woman? And why is Harper so eager to expend so much energy, time, and money against her? The Conservatives claim that the niqab symbolizes the subjugation of women. That’s a pretext, an excuse. How can it be when the “subjugated” wear the symbol voluntarily? I can understand him wanting to win an election, but I cannot his methods, one of which is the promise to set up a snitch line to report those who engage in “barbaric cultural practices”, i.e. Muslims again. That is a red herring. Amanda Alvaro of Narrative P.R., in her appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics called the move a “barbaric political practice”. She’s absolutely right. This is simply targeting a segment of society. We already have laws against such things. And, if you must have a Tip Line, why not one for the murdered and missing women or for battered women? This is nothing but posturing with one goal, to capture the Quebec vote in particular by capitalizing on the racial and religious intolerance of the ignorant and fearful. Where will it end? How far is Harper willing to go? Recently, alarms were set off when Bill C-24 was used to strip a terrorist with dual citizenship of his Canadian citizenship. What is going on in Canada with this gang of thugs? This is abusive and extreme, discriminatory and dangerous. We have a government that is behaving in the fashion of nation states we condemn. It not only foists on other nations a person they may not want because of the risks involved, it also has the potential to deny an accused basic civil rights. Will he have access to the evidence against him? Will he have the opportunity to fight back in the courts? How much will we tolerate when it comes to breaches of civil rights for a little security? When Harper speculates of taking away the citizenship of those born here accused of “serious” crimes or of behaviour that his government finds intolerable, there is, again, even more serious reasons for alarm. Making one stateless is against all codes of decency and international law. It is cruel. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “everyone has a right to a nationality” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”. That is exactly what Harper is proposing in in one instance of a Canadian born accused of being a terrorist. Now some may say these are bad people, they’ve lost their rights when they did what they did. But who is it that decides what is serious? How can we be assured due process has taken place? We can’t. Should a prime minister make up laws just to rid himself of those he does not like? What will be the cutoff point? If murder, people smuggling, and pedophilia merit the loss of one’s nationality as Harper suggests, what will be added to the list? Under C-51, will environmentalists blocking the shipment of oil be labelled economic terrorists? Will this be sufficient ground to strip a Canadian of his citizenship? I say Harper is scum. Could that, one day, earn me the loss of my birthright? No one knows how far the Conservatives will go but we have a good idea having been witness to their many abuses of the Parliamentary system including relentless efforts to slip laws into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection. There are some who will say that can’t happen here. They are wrong and there is history to prove that. Under the pretext of security in the first and second wars, Japanese, Italians, Ukrainians, Germans, unionists and pacifists, and others, Canadian born as well as foreign born, have been interned as security risks for no other reason than for being members of certain nationalities and for their activities as unionists and pacifists. When asked about public servants not being allowed to wear niqabs, Pierre Poilievre of the so-called Fair Elections Act would not answer. No surprise from that source. But the silence pretty well informs: it’s not good news.

This is politicking at its vilest; it is corrupt, a sinking into a sewer of dishonesty, deceit, posturing, fear, bigotry and religious intolerance. As an election ploy, it may just work. Harper does know his people.

If it does work, Canadians will be the ultimate losers for Conservatives will rightly view it as a validation of their methods. When we succumb to fear, surrendering our freedoms to bullying, to lies, and to the despicable messages of hate, we are all diminished in some way and all left even less secure. Who will be the next target?

It could be you.

THE WIZARD OF SHAM

But we are further diminished when we also allow only economic policy to govern our acts; we lose too much when everything has a price and a cost.

Can we justly claim moral superiority when we keep electing panderers, liars, and whores who seek to buy our votes and to terrify us with sabre rattling excesses while at the same time signing deals with murderers and dictators with appalling records for human rights violations? Well, for Harper, it is easy. On September 25, 2015, when questioned about his billion-dollar arms trade deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the globe’s most egregious violators of human rights, he argued other nations were also bidding for the contract and that, while human rights were important, if would make no sense to lose Canadian jobs over this issue. Why not? What right has Canada to point fingers when we not only stand with butchers, but enable them by our silence and with our deals? To observers following Harper’s campaign of division and derision, it is clear that his moral compass is extremely equivocal if not non-existent. Human rights are okay but they don’t buy votes.

Harper’s grandstanding, his attempts to portray himself in the forefront in the war against ISIL and as the only Canadian leader capable of keeping Canada safe is laughable not only because of his ridiculously bombastic triumphalism, all sound, no bite, but also because too many of us hold the image of him cowering in broom closet when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered last October. It’s not Harper’s fault; but still, to watch on the hustings flanked by adoring supporters swaggering across the stage and trying to look tough, I am unconvinced. I see a wannabe tough guy, an arrogant bully who picks on the weak or those easy targets about which he keeps warning us: Muslims and those niqab wearing women.

But Harper is no world leader to be admired. It is largely because of him Canada’s standing on the global stage has been tarnished.

In 2010, Canada, at that time more concerned with domestic policy, lost it’s bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council, losing the support of the middle east for it’s unquestioning support of Israel, for it’s casual attitude towards Southeast Asia, for cutting aid to African nations on ideological grounds and for failure to work towards solutions on carbon emissions. Making it worse, Harper has adopted a puzzling attitude of hostility towards the UN, not only bashing the world body, but often voting against it, even pulling out of a UN anti-drought convention leading to speculation that it had more to do with its own stand regarding Climate Change which was, at that time, it doesn’t exist, it was a myth, something like their fiscal acumen. Too, as the Ottawa Citizen reported, the European Union and some Canadian allies in September 2013 asked Canada to sign the Arms Trade Treaty meant to stem the flow of illegal weapons for which it had earlier voted along with 153 other countries. “More than two years later, Canada remains one of the few countries – and the only NATO member –not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty” (Ottawa Citizen, Lee Berthiaume, October 2, 2015)!

As well, Canada, with the US and Ukraine, voted against a UN resolution brought forward by Russia to fight against “the glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (Huffington Post, Nov. 26, 2014) offering as excuse that it was “counterproductive”. Canada had also boycotted the World Conference Against Racism. None of this should surprise anyone especially in light of the type of campaign the Conservatives are running. This is the same gang that, while still offering aid to certain African nations, refuses to allow the aid to be parceled out to charities offering family planning resources. For Conservatives, consigning victims of rape, including child brides, to a life of impoverishment, misery, and possible death, is preferable to offering safe abortions. Ask a Conservative; I’ll bet most would claim to hold Christian values. If so, charity and generosity must not be among them. Under Harper, Canadian-owned mines accused of human rights violations in Latin America numbering in the hundreds, have been protected by this government actively undermining efforts to hold them to account. Is this what the Conservative base supports? Seems so. If that’s not enough, how about this: Canada, an exporter of asbestos, has opposed its inclusion among products to be banned on a UN treaty called the Rotterdam Convention. We can’t use it here because of its link to cancer so we ship it to Asia. Is that enough to persuade Conservatives pinheads to reconsider for whom they vote? Not likely. If victims of rape will not move them, nothing will.

For one who imagines himself worthy of a place on the world stage (we can all recall his finger-wagging hectoring of world leaders for their poor economic performances), this is contemptible, nasty stuff. How can one uphold and support those mining companies responsible for criminal acts that have, in some instances, even resulted in allegations of murder? How can he justify voting against condemning racism or the glorification of Nazism? Why is he reluctant to sign a treating combating the shipment and trade of illegal guns? Well, if you’re Harper, it’s easy. He has turned Canada into a less inviting place rejecting victims of persecution and murder, not only from the severely troubled war zones of the globe but also from so-called “safe” countries for no other reason than we do business with them. As a result, the Roma, who are victims of persecution in Hungary, are not welcomed. And while Canadians all claim to be moved by the plight of those millions fleeing conflict in Syria, Harper’s own heart is as steel, not only reluctant to accept Syrians fleeing for their lives, but only those we “prioritise” as belonging to religious minorities, i.e., Christians. Sunni Muslims need not apply. There’s that terrorism issue, you see, Muslims can’t be trusted. Especially those wearing niqabs.

So who is the true threat here? Is it really Zunera Ishaq or is it the Harper government, which targets a young Syrian because she is a Muslim? Why has she become the symbol of all the things Harper and gang would have us fear? Why have they expended so much time, energy and money on this one individual? Racism is foul but it is particularly foul when our leaders not only engage in it but also appear to encourage it from those who elect them.

This is the government that has recklessly attempted to pass laws that have failed and been overturned by our courts. Instead of doing the right, the decent thing, instead of seeking to create laws that will be passed, laws that actually do protect every segment of society, the Harper gang keeps making up new bad laws. When the courts overturn the laws, he works on the public to turn opinion against them accusing the courts and justices of being “activists”. Harper has persistently used and abused the law, but he has never respected it.

Doubt it?

Think of this. When Harper made his move to get rid of the Long Gun registry, Quebec wanted the data kept until they could appeal the destruction of the records. It didn’t happen. Harper and gang ignored the court and had the RCMP destroy the data. The information commissioner ordered an investigation. So what did Harper do? He changed the law to retroactively protect the government and RCMP from prosecution for criminal acts. “The government also back-dated the changes to when the original bill to kill the gun registry was tabled in Parliament, months before it actually passed into law, wiping out ‘any request, complaint, investigation, application, judicial review appeal or other proceeding’ related to the final six months of the registry’s legal existence” (Bruce Cheadle, the Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015). Just think of that. Harper not only changed the law, he rolled back time, altered history, and rejigged events in the same way he hopes to rig future elections. The records were not only destroyed, they never even existed and no crime was committed. This is Harper’s universe. Vote for him and we’ll have more of that. Remember, his was the first government in Canadian history to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament. He not only acted as if nothing had happened, so did the 39% who voted and re-elected him finally giving him the majority he so wanted.

We’re better than this. So we tell ourselves boasting about our moral superiority over America and other parts of the world. Some may wish it were so or even believe it to be true. It isn’t. These are anti-democratic monsters and yet we re-elect them again and again. What will it take to get rid of them? They hold themselves above the law, above Parliament and above those who vote for them. Will there be no end to their miserable world, their intolerance, secrecy, deceit, and hypocrisy.

THE WIZARD OF HYPOCRISY

But, even if human rights were not part of the equation, we must then ask how good are the deals for Canada and Canadians. Why was the arms deal with Saudi Arabia contingent on secrecy? In fact, why does Harper shroud so much of what he does in secrecy? That’s what roaches and muggers do, lurk in corners, waiting.

We have had the secretive Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) that certainly appears less a result of Harper and gang working in the interests of Canada than of Harper’s eagerness to ink a deal with one of the largest markets in the world, a market that does not consider human rights a priority. Not only was the deal made in secret, it locks Canada in for 31 years requiring a one year notification period before either side can pull out. It also allows China extraordinary powers to trump Canadian laws if Chinese companies can prove they were forced to act under rules different from local businesses or investors. Is that really good for Canada? Isn’t that a surrender of sovereignty?

During the September 17 Globe and Mail debate, Harper suggested that the Conservatives were close to sealing the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) hinting that “the auto sector has concerns, as do others… I’m not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in”. That sends a pretty clear signal Harper may be willing to sacrifice some sectors to ink what will be a very, very lucrative deal both politically and financially with the election just around the corner. Such a deal would doubtless bolster Harper’s image as a trade negotiator among those who stand to benefit and may be enough to persuade the undecided to cast their votes for him. It may even help him win an election. But some leaders, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, for example, worry 26,000 jobs from the auto-parts industry will be lost. If one accepts his numbers and add them to those already lost in the auto sector, this will boost the number to a total of 64,000 jobs from one sector. As well, rumours have been that dairy farmers will lose though the Conservatives deny it. If the rumours are true, Harper is willing to ink a deal that will allow American dairy products into Canada without any reciprocity for Canadian dairy producers. That would be the price of trade Harper might say. With a deal this big, there is a real likelihood of health and safety standards being compromised, of well-paying jobs going south, of full-time jobs becoming part-time, of more lower wage jobs, and of more workers joining the ranks of the impoverished. It’s just business, I guess.

Yet, if decency and integrity play little to no role in the Harper regime, shame plays even less. Using taxpayer dollars, Harper and gang have spent $750 million on ads promoting themselves. Where is the same public outrage that toppled Bev Oda for a $16 glass orange juice? Or where is the outrage when military equipment purchases are almost always delayed, well over budget, and, when delivered, as with our Cyclone helicopters, unable to perform the jobs for which they were designed because underpowered or, as with the F-35 fighter jets, the most expensive planes ever built, are not suited for air combat and even less suited for the Canadian Arctic and for the Maritimes because of its single engine? To continue with the purchase of F-35s will needlessly cost lives. Trudeau says he will scrap the F-35s for other jets and Harper says that it can’t be done without incurring penalties. Not true, says the US government.

Harper says he is foursquare behind our Military forces. We have paid for those dramatic, stirring, triumphal, self-congratulatory ads saying that is so, an armed soldier running across a barren, snow-covered field, a thundering helicopter framed against an red evening sky, all the gung-ho stuff you expect to see from American military ads. But it’s mostly nonsense and sham. The reality is Canada operates like a third world nation the way it treats our armed forces with most of its fleet in dry dock, others stripped for parts, with planes due for retirement and parts for helicopters purchased on eBay. Yeah, right, this is the leader that really stands behind his troops. Far behind. We saw how much he cares by the way he treated out veterans. Can the gang really be trusted with our money when they purchase military equipment at twice the cost paid by other nations? Well, Harper says so; just ask him. But you don’t have to ask him. Every day we are treated to ads of their financial wizardry.

And, as if to underscore the point, Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay and the Canadian Revenue Agency have sought to save thousands, yes, thousands, by targeting charities perceived as left-wing advocates while ignoring the billions in off-shore accounts set up by wealthy tax cheats with the aid of skilled accounting firms. With Harper and gang at the helm, it’s best to cheat big if you’re going to cheat.

As with the way of all bullies, the Harper gang finds it easier to go after the small and weak. Who knows, among those wealthy offshore cheats might be a Conservative supporter or two. What are friends for, right?

So the next time you hear Harper and gang warn you of the dangers of voting for the NDP or Liberals, remind them of their own follies. Do not swallow the swill. We do have choices and they do not just include the Conservatives and the Liberals. If it is the economy that will decide your vote, as Harper and gang believe, then, even in this, the NDP has a better record than either the Conservatives and the Liberals. Check for yourself (www.progressive-economics.ca/2011/04/29/fiscal-record-of-canadian-political-parties/).

THE WIZARD OF INDIFFERENCE

Recently, British Columbian Conservative MP James Moore, while not running for office this time, was campaigning on behalf of the Conservative party in Port Coquitlam. On the 35th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run, and with Lauren Harper at his side, Moore announced that, if re-elected, the Harper government would match any private donation up to a total of $35 million. Now that might strike one as a good, decent, even Canadian thing to do in memory of one of Canada’s heroes. It is and it isn’t. Moore said the Fox family approved of this hijacking of the Terry Fox campaign by the Stephen Harper gang campaign. That wasn’t quite true. Not only was it distasteful in that it politicized what should have been a non-partisan charity, it was distasteful because the announcement was little more than emotional blackmail, tugging at Canadian heartstrings and appealing to our generosity while wielding a threat: vote for Conservatives or the Terry Fox Foundation suffers. That is brutish behaviour something akin to “Your money or your life”. From this gang, anything goes. It’s disturbing. It’s indecent. It’s the Conservative way.

And we can see that in the way they handle certain scandals that have plagued their regime. I will not comment further on the Senate scandal, Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. Canadians are familiar with the story. But I would like to remind them again of other matters that clearly demonstrate Harper’s Conservatives steadfast tolerance for questionable behaviour including lapses of judgment, ethics and morality.

We are all familiar of how Bev Oda fell from grace because she charged on the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. The outrage was less that she twice made false claims and was forced to repay them or that she forged a government document that resulted in denying a charity public funds simply because that charity, KAIROS, disagreed with Harper’s stand regarding Palestine. Harper continued to support her until the outrage over the $16 drink became too much. Too bad it took so little to enrage the public. The message for politicians: if you want to get away with stealing from the public purse best go big, voters don’t sweat the small stuff.

The thing is, Harper appears to have a very high tolerance for such transgressions as we have seen with Shelly Glover fighting Elections Canada over expense claims and later caught at a fundraising event attended by those who would gain from the decisions of her ministry. The same for Leona Aglukkaq. Glover’s retiring. Aglukkaq – well it seems impossible to get rid of that level of breathtaking incompetence.

Christian Paridis is also retiring. He too was tolerated for such things as violating the Conflict of Interest Act for giving preferential treatment to former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his company. Paradis was also in trouble for attending a hunting trip with a lobbyist seeking public funding for an arena. He denied any lobbying took place. Yeah, he did deny that and we are to believe him. As well, Paradis was investigated for his role into the transfer of federal offices from another city to his own riding. You get the picture. No backlash from Harper. He doesn’t mind lapses of ethics, not if you’re the right person. Yet this man Paradis with apparent very loose ethics is allowed to retire unscathed doubtless to step into some corporate board where his knowledge of the government process and ethical scruples will be much appreciated. One wants to weep.

And then we have making a comeback the best MP Labrador has ever had, according to Harper that great judge of character. The ex-MP, the best MP Labrador ever had, was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate donations for his 2011 campaign. If you’re a Conservative, ethical lapses and bad behaviour are easily forgiven and of apparent little import if you’re the one they want. Well, almost all. Even for Harper, candidate Jerry Bance, small businessman caught on camera by CBC’s Marketplace urinating in a client’s cup while the client was in the next room was too much. Here was a man running for office yet too lazy to walk to a washroom down a corridor. So Bance was out. As was John Crosby’s son, Ches Crosby, who was not allowed to run in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon because he took part in a skit in which Harper was made light hearted target. No sense of humour, those Tories.

Well, perhaps they do have some. We mustn’t forget Jason Kenney, Tweedledee and Tweedledum rolled into one. This is the guy who can’t help himself it seems. He has made so many blunders he should be made a backbencher for eternity. He wasn’t above using the government letterhead to fundraise for his party. In another fundraising scam, he attempted to link Justin Trudeau to terrorism because of his visit to a Montreal mosque declared by the US military to be a recruiting centre for Al-Qaeda. Kenney of course held back that Trudeau’s visit took place before the news was known and made public. This was no accident but a deliberate smear. No blowback from Harper or the public. And what of Kenney the propagandist liar who, on international woman’s day earlier this year, tweeted photos we were to take as evidence of ISIL’s brutality (as if we needed more), one depicting a child bride, hands bound, with an older man, presumably her “husband”, and another of many women in chains. Here, again, Kenney proved himself unreliable at best, a liar at worst, for failing to disclose the child-bride photo was fake, the chained women part of a re-enactment of an ancient historical event. And then we have Kenney, liar again, offering as reason for Canada’s extension of the war in Iraq the explanation that Canada and the USA were the only ally nations participating with the capability of precision bombing. That would have been risible were the matter not so serious. Kenney is a fabricator. Or else he just enjoys playing the role of buffoon: “God that Kenney, did you hear him? What a card!” Well, I’m no fan of comedians and certainly no fan of Kenney’s. And I certainly don’t find funny, any more than did Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi when Kenney said, “it seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it” after Nenshi registered his “disgust” over the Conservative efforts to fan public intolerance over the niqab issue. The mayor is right, it is “unbelievably dangerous stuff”.

For those wanting a more comprehensive list of the things that should sink this band of scum but likely won’t, I suggest readers copy this offering by David Beers and the staff of The Tyee: http://www.thetyee.ca/Documents/2015/09/24/Harper%20ebook%20final.pdf.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Harper would have us all be afraid. I agree; we should be. But it is not the terrorist out there that frightens me but the one with the title of prime minister. He has disgraced his office, made a mockery of Parliament, and abused our electoral process.

He tells us this is not the time to make a change in government. If not now, then when? He tells us Trudeau is not ready to lead and that Thomas Mulcair will be the ruin of this nation. Who can believe this man when he lies about his accomplishments and trades on fear and racial and religious intolerance? Does the economy matter? Of course it does, but not at any price. Ideas matter too, as do ethics, honesty and personal integrity. I see none of that from any member of the Conservative party and certainly none from Harper.

What I do see in Harper and his gang is meanness and spite, pettiness and arrogance, cowardice and betrayal, despair and misery, and the powerful walking on the weak. It is not just their offensiveness that is troubling, though there is an abundance of nasty in that bunch. It is their arrogance, the certitude of their inerrancy in the positions they adopt their commitment to be blind and deaf to those they do not like that is so galling.

Opposing Harper and gang should not make one the enemy. It is either them or us without any shading and they are always, always, right

We need better. It begins with tossing Harper and his thugs into the ashcan of history. All we should retain of him is memory so that we never tolerate his like again.

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

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

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