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NAFTA II: TRUDEAU AND THE CONTINUED ABANDONMENT OF SOVEREIGNTY

The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them. – Karl Marx 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The hallmark of liars is the belief they are smarter than the mark. They often are; the galling part is their certainty of our stupidity.

For Justin Trudeau, the “new” NAFTA is a win. For local Canadian retailers, already under stress, there is even greater stress as consumers will be able to buy more American goods online before duties kick in. As for farmers, they too seem to have been abandoned forced into accepting a life they do not and did not seek, not just government subsidization, but also a loss of independence and, for most, if not all, a way of life they would not exchange at any price with the further indignation of knowing that for those who would end supply management, their livelihood and their lives are considered a small sacrifice at the behest of the free market, which most likely support and have now fallen victim to. The free market now threatens them with American milk surpluses dumped into Canada and taxpayers compensating farmers. The winners will be the big guns and, in the end, almost certainly have Canadian farmers and consumers as losers.

Trudeau had said more than once, “No deal is better than a bad deal”. He was always glib with the homilies but, when it comes to the crunch, he is more successful in what he says than what he does. It takes practice, I guess, and character of fluid ethics. 

Politically, Trudeau has from the start been deceitful, dishonest and hypocritical; he campaigned with grand promises and loud claims while never offering notice that there were strings attached to some and others he had no intention of honouring because he did not even believe in the things he wanted us to believe he believed though he was convincing in that area, shedding tears on cue and oozing, simply oozing, sincerity. He promised more and better and had little difficulty in walking away from both when they failed to suit his purposes as with the mandate letters to his caucus outlining what he expected from them and their ministries. Foremost among the mandates was his expectation of avoidance of real and perceived conflicts of interests which, almost immediately, Jody Wilson-Raybould, his minister of justice, ignored and he excused off-handedly. No big deal. Except it was. For the next year, he and his ministers attended secret meetings at private fundraising gatherings with the well-heeled movers and shakers who always seem to have the conservatives and liberals in their pockets in matters that really count for them. 

And then, of course, who can forget or even forgive that massive betrayal of his loud, boastful declaration that 2015 was the “last ever” first-past-the-post election. Oh, he put on a good show of self-congratulatory puffery, setting up a committee to look into reform and make recommendations but was immediately outed for stacking the deck which he quickly corrected without apparent shame for attempting to pull a fast one. But it wasn’t long before he set about undermining the newly reorganized committee saying the public was losing interest in Electoral Reform. Naturally, that was a lie. Why should he kill the golden horse on which he rode to majority victory? He would and did not. But he did want a show, a pretend spectacle of offering opportunity for change until proceeding to kill his own creation when he realized the committee he sought to rig would not make the recommendation he sought, the ranked ballot system that would all but guarantee, as has happened since confederation, that the liberals and conservatives would continue to govern for as long as Canada existed. Instead, the committee recommended a form of proportional representation. Trudeau’s liberals (with conservatives cheering him all the way) was having none of that. Why? Because, with PR, every vote counts. In other words, PR forces a fair election with a fair outcome. 

Even with the best will in the world, I cannot help but believe Trudeau lied, absolutely lied to the public when he made that declaration while withholding from voters his preferred and only choice. In other words, with his preference off the table, he had no intention of following through with electoral reform.

Three years later, Trudeau continues to lie with the conclusion of the “new” NAFTA negotiation. He was snookered, trumped by that lunatic to the south and he has the gall to call it a win. What is astounding is that so many seem to be of that view. Any deal, even a bad deal, seems preferable to no deal is the stand he now takes. It is the health of Big Business, evidently, that is of more concern to the Liberals, than the health and well-being of Canada and its citizens. The conservatives cannot be ignored in all this; had they had their way, the bad deal would have been signed months earlier and, without doubt, with a potential for greater harm to Canada and Canadians. 

NAFTA II (USMCA) reinforces the perception that we have already surrendered sovereignty when corporations, under NAFTA could take legal action against a nation it perceives as protectionist and harmful to their bottom line. Under this agreement, there is a clause in Chapter 32, Article 32.10A inserted by the Americas which basically takes another swipe at sovereignty. None of the three signatories will be allowed to engage in independent trade negotiations with China without first notifying the other two and allowing them to review the agreement for month before the deal is signed. If the other parties don’t like the deal, they can withdraw from NAFTA II within six months. If that is not surrender of sovereignty, what is? Defenders of the deal say other signatories had the same option to withdraw under NAFTA. That is true but not quite under conditions like this. For the past two or three years, Canada and China have been exploring trade talks. With USMCA, Canada and Mexico will be dragged into an American, Trump-instigated trade war with China. China cannot help but look unfavourably on this clause and wonder whether Canada, as a signatory to the deal, can really be trusted in future talks, if they ever take place, when under the subjugation of the American boot on its neck. It’s a surrender of sovereignty and nothing but. Pharmaceutical companies, especially American, will do very well When you hear conservative politicians largely praise the deal notwithstanding the required partisan political shots at the liberals, you know what you’ve probably always known: When it comes to the interests and welfare of ordinary Canadians, Conservatives and Liberals will always number the health of Big Business their first priority. And Canadians will feel the affects of that priority for real when they feel the blow of prescription costs going up.

Yeah, it’s a great deal. Unless you’re an ordinary, hard working Canadian farmer, a local retailer and its employee.  

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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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THE CORPORATION AND TRUDEAU’S LIBERALS: THE BETRAYAL OF PROMISE AND THE RETURN OF THE ERA OF ENTITLEMENT

 

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. – Voltaire

The aim is not more goods for people to buy, but more opportunities for them to live. – Lewis Mumford

Frank Pelaschuk

THE OLD

Can our elected politicians be trusted? I do trust them to make and break many grand promises but not with much else; I do not expect perfection of them, but I do expect them to possess the honesty, integrity and the ability to experience shame, as I would expect of my family, my friends and myself. People do make mistakes but making easy promises and breaking them easily and often are not mistakes any more than is lying routinely and with the ease of a con man. Making excuses for every misstep, blaming others for every blunder, and denying our own failings suggest a failure if not lack of character. I prefer to judge and trust a man by what he does rather than what he says and I would hope they the same of me. We see too little of that from our politicians and we still see it in the detritus from the previous Conservative government running for the party leadership most notably from those who continue to pander to the vilest instincts under the guise of Canadian values and security as espoused by the likes of the odious Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney the former minister of public. These are the people who would buy our vote by exploiting our fears and, in the process, encouraging the ugly spectre of racial and religious intolerance. The cost is too high. They will likely not win the leadership, but they will have infected the political landscape with a rot that will only spread as time goes by. That is probably the best we can expect for some time from that quarter: divisiveness, scapegoating, the scraping of the barrel rather than any hope of elevation and enlightenment. Leitch and Blaney and all of their ilk are bottom feeders best left in the filthy swamp that is their natural habitat.

THE NEW

But times have changed; we have a new, Liberal government with a new, young, charismatic leader and a slew of young, fresh cabinet ministers all swept into office by voters eager for change and eager to believe. We’ve seen this picture before, too many times, change that wasn’t change at all, the same old same old: the revolving door made for two parties only and a vast number of voters left unrepresented in the cold.

Better? Can these mostly new faces be trusted? Are they honest? Have they kept to their promises of openness and transparency? Do these Liberals really stand apart from the Conservatives or are they just as so many of us believe of politicians: little better than those con artists who will woo and dine and win your heart only to break it once they have gained what they want from you?

It is clear that voters can be bought. We swallowed holus bolus all the promises, many of them so excessive and extensive as to stretch the credulity of those calmer folks who have witnessed it all before and stood by the sidelines sadly shaking their heads knowing of the headaches and disappointments that would eventually befall those silly addle heads moved by gleaming surface and hollow hope offered by Trudeau and the Liberals. And if a few of the sceptical fretted wondering if they were doing the right thing, the doubts didn’t last, they allowed themselves to be charmed and bought and gladly gave the Liberals what they wanted. Anything was better than the Harper gang they were told and told themselves.

We live in hope and high expectation and are all too easily swayed by the same tired lines. Things really will be different this time we tell ourselves. And they, the politicians tell us that too. Sunny days, sunny ways are coming. We believe in them because we want to believe in them. But what makes them special, different, more believable better than any other politician. Their youth? The grandeur or extravagance of their promises?

I look at this new bunch and see what I expected but hoped not to see. I didn’t expect to see it as quickly as I did but I see it nevertheless.

We can be bought easily, cheaply and just as easily betrayed. The Conservatives and now the Liberals have demonstrated that time after time. But what of them? Can politicians be as easily and cheaply bought?

Of course they’ll say not. No, not a one of them is for sale. And I’ll believe them as much as I believe in the tooth fairy or that Kevin O’Leary cares about the homeless almost as much as he does about M-O-N-E-Y. I know this: when anyone, especially a politician, justifies a questionable act by claiming, “it’s allowed” and “others have done the same”, I know I’m in the presence of a man or woman I can not trust. In fact, I see a scoundrel. These are people who rely too much on legalese, what they can legally do and get away with seeming not to possess enough in the way of judgement and character to even ask themselves a simple question: Because I can, should I? These are opportunists, the self-enrichers who seek every avenue and seize every opportunity to find benefit in their every deed and word. I do not like such people. I prefer the honest thief; we both know what he is and what our roles are.

Now these people, such as shameless premier Christy Clark, will meet with anyone clutching $5, $10, $20, $30K in their hot hands and swear with eyes crossed that they are not and cannot be bought. That may be true. I don’t know. How can I know when almost all of these meetings are unannounced, are secret, private and often exclusive? We just have to take them at their word. But why should we? When they break promises as easily as they dip into the public till, how can one trust them when it comes to access for pay? We can’t, of course, and we shouldn’t.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould, our justice minister for god sakes, makes the ludicrous assertion that she had attended a fundraising event put on by lawyers not as a justice minister but as an MP, what are we to make of that? The roles of MP and minister are inextricably linked there is no separation. She, backed by Justin Trudeau, then asserted that the conflicts of interest and ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, that she was cleared. What a crock. In a letter, the commissioner stated, public office holders “including ministers and parliamentary secretaries,” are allowed “to personally solicit funds if the activity does not place them in a conflict of interest” (Vancouver Sun, Peter O’Neil, April 13, ’16). She has also stated that unless regulations are put into law, she can not enforce them. Bardish Chagger, government House Leader and, I suspect, minister of the newly created department of circular thinking, says legislation is not necessary because there are already rules holding them accountable. Say what? If a private meeting between a justice minister and a babble of lawyers doesn’t make for conflict of interest or, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest, what does? Can the justice minister reasonably expect the public to believe that these lawyers were quite willing to accept that only the MP was in attendance but not the minister of justice? It stretches credulity and cannot be believed by anyone but a dolt.

And then we have other Liberals, newcomers seeming born to the role of skimming from the public trough. We have environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna’s stiffing taxpayers $17K for photographers for 15 events including $6,600 for a private photographer as she attended a Paris climate summit where news photographers were aplenty and free. And who can forget health minister Jane Philpott’s several forays into charging and reimbursing taxpayers for unseemly claims. I guess she hopes to get it right which will be the day no one will notice. But these are pikers next to Chrystia Freeland who thought nothing of cancelling a government jet waiting to take her home from a business trip to Manila so that she could make a side trip to LA for an appearance on a talk show with Bill Maher. But if she went big, she was not above going low as well. While campaigning, she charged us $500 for her grooming. Now I can hear some screaming this is small stuff. Well, Eve Adams got into a lot of hot water over the same issue. Nickels and dimes add to dollars. One man’s meat is another man’s poison I guess.

But what is acceptable behaviour? Surely not access for pay. It seems the Liberals, provincially as well as federally, disagree. We have the Globe and Mail (Globe & Mail, Robert Fife and Steven Chase, Oct. 19, ’16) reporting that Bill Morneau was at a fundraiser at $1500 a plate attended by business executives at a private waterfront mansion of Fred George, a one time mining bigwig turned land developer. Those in attendance, numbering “about 15”, included Jim Spatz, chairman and chief executive of Southwest Properties. Spatz, as the article points out, is the partner of Fred George, host of the party, and was recently appointed to the board of Halifax Port authority “on the advice of federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison, the Liberals’ power broker for Nova Scotia.” Nothing fishy going on? The finance minister at the private home of a partner to a government appointee attended by like-minded individuals? Now CTV news has reported that Morneau has taken in part in several such meetings and is due to attend a gathering at a private home sponsored by an executive of Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs licensed to lobby Morneau’s department. If these are all innocent fundraising tea parties, why the secrecy? Again, we have to take these people at their word that everything is above board. Well, I don’t have to and I don’t.

Said Trudeau in his mandate letters: “Government and its information should be open by default.” On CBC television and radio, I have heard some journalists say that the sums are too small to influence anyone. Come again? We have a hint of what it takes to gain access but how much does it take to buy influence? If the Globe and Mail number of attendees is accurate, that’s $22,500. Is that enough to buy influence? What if it happens ten times with the same number of people? And if the attendees of other events have the same interests and goals and if the numbers in attendance were larger, 50, 100, 200 well, that’s $75, $150K, $300K… How small is too small? It doesn’t wash. When should the public begin to worry? People will smash a car window for a loony. Imagine what a politician will do for a vote. No one, no one, forks over thousands of dollars simply for the pleasure of being able to boast about sitting with premier Christy Clark or finance minister Bill Morneau and chatting about the weather and smelling lettuce. Bill Morneau is from the business world and no doubt knows almost everyone who counts on major corporate boards. As finance minister, when he talks, they likely pay attention. When they offer money for access, I have no doubt it is his turn to listen.

It is not just in the appearances of ethical failure that disturbs me, though, in truth, that should be more than sufficient for any citizens. It’s the excuses: it’s legal; others have done the same; I made a mistake; my assistant did it. These are the words of chiselers and cowards. Even if true, the excuses must not be used as justifications for one’s own acts but a call to do something about another’s and for making changes.

WHO REALLY REALLY LOVES YA, BABY

More than once I have stated that I believed Harper and his gang were often working more for the health and welfare of Big Business than of Canadians. We saw evidence of that more than once by how they handled the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, when Chinese workers were allowed to work in mines in northern British Columbia while our own were turned away and when his regime worked with business to allow foreign workers in low-income jobs to be paid 15% less than Canadians and when RBC had its own workers train foreign workers to do jobs that would then be shipped overseas. The TFWP under Harper was more about working hand in hand with business in the suppression of Canadian wages and union busting than in fulfilling a need. Once the public got whiff of these scandals, and the Conservative role was scandalous, Harper and gang pledged to reduce the number of foreign workers companies could employ from 20% of the workforce to 10%. The Liberals appeared to be on side but now, in power, apparently have had second thoughts; instead of tightening the program, they have decided to let things stand. This was to allow fisheries in the east to hire more workers. Well, one can understand that, after all, the Liberals won every seat in the east coast and one good turn deserves another. Right?

But how do workers feel about the program or about Bombardier Inc. receiving $1 billion from Quebec and a possibility of $1 billion from the Canadian government especially in light of news that the company has announced a 7500 job cut but will hire 3700 in “low-cost countries”? That is, jobs for workers overseas. That’s Capitalism for you, Big Business claiming they want less government interference, let business do what it knows best…which seems to be extending it’s greedy collective hands into the public purse whenever things get tough.

So, are we better off with Trudeau or did we buy a bill of rotten goods?

Maybe Canadians should ask our veterans. The Liberals saw an opportunity when Harper and gang time and time again screwed those very people who were likely the staunchest of Conservative allies. Trudeau promised to reinstate the lifelong disability pensions and to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Conservatives. We have yet to see the final outcome of the second promise but we do know that the Liberals turned their back on the first. They reneged on reinstating the lifelong disability pensions opting, instead, to add to the lump-sum payment and to the sting with another betrayal by a country for which they have given so much.

This is a government that talks big and looks good when it “consults” on almost every topic under the sun and even produces results on the things with which most Canadians do not disagree. Unfortunately, as I have suggested in previous posts, this regime seems prepared to let die one of its major promises: that the last election was the last ever first-past-the-post election.

During an interview for Le Devoir, Trudeau said that the voters appeared satisfied with the present regime (Liberals) and that there was no pressing need to act on electoral reform. Said he on the week of Oct 17, “they (voters) have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling.” How things have changed. Now that is nerve, hubris and hypocrisy. Harper had won his majority with just slightly over 39% of the vote. While campaigning, perhaps out of sheer exuberance, Trudeau had promised loudly and often that there would be electoral reform. Surely he must have believed the present system of FPTP was unfair and too many voters unrepresented. Now, a year later, having won with the nearly identical popular vote of just over 39% and with even a greater number of seats than Harper ever had, Trudeau, after the formation of an electoral reform committee, has suddenly become convinced that the public is well served under our present system.

Now Trudeau may well have been simply musing aloud to gauge public response to this. Regardless, it is a cynical move and does him no credit for it was he, on his own, not the clamour of the public, who made this significant promise that “We intend to keep.” Well, politicians lie all the time and Trudeau is apparently no exception. Yet his behaviour suggests he would prefer to have us believe him unique among the breed. He’s not. If anything, he has revealed himself as just another sleazy politico out for the main chance. On electoral reform, he mouths the appropriate things: he wants to “judge” the peoples’ opinion, i.e., consult more with the public before letting finally allowing to wither on the vine that for which he had little appetite in the first place.

That is the old and new Liberal hat of entitlement. Things are right with the world and why should he, of all people, tinker with it? To be fair, he hasn’t quite ruled it out though I expect he will or, if not, go with his preferred choice which will have the same effect: the ranked ballot.

On this issue, I did hold out some hope but not much. I did hope he would surprise me in a pleasant way by actually shooting for real electoral reform that was truly proportionately representative. I no longer hope for that from him. Why should he commit to the remaining 60+% of the voters when, like Harper, he won the love and his massive majority with just 39+%?

But, of course, Trudeau and gang have betrayed us even more significantly than in revealing themselves willing to push ethical boundaries and breaking promises as easily and quickly as Liberals did in the past. And that is in the areas of Human Rights and the question of Canadian sovereignty.

As did Harper, Trudeau seems to have made signing on to trade deals an important if not essential cornerstone of his mandate. That’s too bad because he appears too eager to sign the deals at the expense of Human Rights. In fact, he has turned his back on Human Rights, which he had declared to be his priority while campaigning.

Not only has he signed off on the light-armoured vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the worlds most repressive regimes regarding Human Rights, he lied about it saying he couldn’t get out of it, that Harper had made it a done deal, that trading nations would not respect Canada if it broke the contract. They were phony excuses and lies, the deal actually “done” when Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion signed off on the export documents. To do this deal, Harper and Trudeau were quite willing to ignore UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding trade with oppressive regimes. It’s easy to understand, $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are no small thing. But then again, neither are Human Rights. But, while Trudeau made an exception this time, he did promise Human Rights would be a priority next time. Reminds me of St. Augustine’s prayer when he was young, “Lord, make me chaste—but not yet!” And, of course, there’s no blood on our hands. No, no blood…. let’s keep telling ourselves that.

But if Trudeau has failed Canadians in so many ways, including protecting Canadians against the depredations began by the Harper regime with C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, he seems prepared not only to betray Canadians by freely exchanging information on all Canadians who may travel to the States or overseas, he has proven himself equally willing to betray Canadians and Canadian sovereignty on the altar of Capitalism and to fulfill Harper’s goal of turning Canada’s democracy into a corporatocracy.

As I write this, Wallonia, an area of Belgium, with a third of the population, appears to have agreed to sign off on CETA (Eu-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) after a few days as the lone hold out. Evidently, the left in Europe had problems with the deal seven years in the making. And so they should and so should Canadians and all citizens of the signatory nations. The deal, cited by Chrystia Freeland as the “gold standard” of trade deals, is precisely that: a gold plated deal for Big Business but not so golden when it comes to ensuring that the legislative powers of signature states will be able to pass laws effective enough to protect citizens against the depredations of polluters, chemical companies, agribusinesses, and Big Pharma. Under NAFTA, ushered in by the Mulroney government, Canada has become the most sued member as a result of a clause that allows corporations to sue governments. Any business believing its “right” to maximize profits has been negatively impacted by laws meant to protect citizens can challenge the law and sue the government. Canadian and American laws, the right to protect citizens from corporate abuses, take second and third place to that of corporate rights under NAFTA; Big Business are more powerful and have more rights than governments and consumers. Sovereignty has taken a brutal hit and citizens betrayed by the very people and governments that are supposed to protect and look after their interests. CETA, lobbied and supported by Harper with Trudeau eager to sign off on the deal, offers more, if not worse, of the same. While the deal does replace the dispute mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement with a permanent investment court system, the changes are window dressing with an end result that offers, for all practical purposes, little to no change. It allows, as it did with the old ISDS clause for three arbiters: one from the investor, one from the defending nation and one appointed by agreement of the parties involved all drawn from a panel of fifteen agreed upon by Europe and Canada, five of whom are from parties of countries not involved in the deal. The benefits, if any, are procedural, rather than substantive and in one direction only; General Bullmoose, Al Capp’s caricature of the greedy, ruthless, tyrannical capitalist not only lives, he has won, and he thrives. The thing is, though the changes are subtle, the effect is not: the mechanisms protecting the interests of corporations are still in place: laws can be mandated to accommodate foreign businesses. That is likely catastrophic news for Canadians in general and for those in the agricultural sector in particular. If it is such a good deal, why haven’t Freeland and her boss offered assurances that sovereignty has not been compromised? Let us see the details before finalization. This is what the Conservatives were prepared to sign off on and this is what the Liberals are eager to see to its completion. Can anyone be surprised that these deals are conducted in secrecy and the public often staggered and embittered when they finally are made privy to the details and fully understand the extent of betrayal and what they, as a nation, have given away? But, by then of course, it’s too late! Knowing that, it is easy to understand why those working on such deals, like Freeland and her counterparts in Europe, refuse to address the details regarding corporate regulation and Canada’s right to protect itself and its citizens preferring to quickly move on to other topics, the magnitude of the deal, for example, while loudly braying that “this is the best deal in the history of mankind”.

It’s only when finally inked that Canadian and European citizens will fully realize the extent of their betrayal. I admire Wallonia and its people not only for the stand they have taken but also for withstanding as long as they have what must have been enormous and unrelenting pressure from the 27 other signatories to the deal. Bullies win far too often and far to many of us stand on the sidelines wringing our hands doing nothing. If CETA goes through, and it seems it will, the only winners will be Big Business and those politicians who have sold us out. And that is exactly what they have done. They have responded to the bell ringing of their corporate masters, shameless lackeys out for the main chance. Once they leave office or are booted out, they will, and have, be free to walk into corporate boardrooms in droves welcomed with open arms and sporting huge grins; they, at least, got theirs.

As we have seen with his shocking betrayal of the promise to make Human Rights a priority, Trudeau has revealed an almost childish eagerness to pander and trade with anyone including China, another outrageous and aggressive abuser of Human Rights. Trudeau appears to be a younger, smarmier version of Harper with the same gluttonous appetite to sign trade deals at any cost. Regardless of what happens with CETA, we then come to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement including Canada, the USA, and 10 other pacific states. The Americans loudly touted TPP as a “Made in America” deal. That alone should alarm all would-be signatories. Guess who the Americans believe will come out the winner? If you said Canada, go to the outhouse.

So, what has changed?

Nothing, really.

When a prime minister seems prepared, even eager, to sign away Canadian sovereignty, when he can only offer excuses and justifications for the questionable behaviours of his ministers and staff, when he can dismiss disabled vets as easily and readily as he has, I question his judgement and integrity. This is the same man who, while MP thought nothing of charging a $20K speaking fee to a financially troubled charity for seniors. He promised to reimburse the charity and all other fees for similar public speaking events between 2008 and 2012. You see, he explained, he wanted to make it all right in the same way Jane Philpott does. Too bad both had to be reminded by news reports and public exposure before suffering from the malady of making things right.

Everyone loves Trudeau. Lately, however, a few have, literally, turned their backs on him, perhaps regretting their votes. Too bad, too late. Maybe he is a nice, sweet fellow but I too often see a smug, strutting camera-loving well-dressed phony who welshes on the big promises and believes Human Rights are a priority—just not yet, later, after the next big deal unless another, something better comes along…. It is truly sad for he is extremely capable and could accomplish great things.

But he’s a Liberal. Get it while you can, as much as you can, however you can.

Just don’t get caught.

The world hates losers.

No doubt about it, the Liberals and the era of entitlement are back; the party is on.

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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

IDIOTS’ DELIGHT: TRUMP, TRUDEAU AND TRADE

There’s a seduction in fanaticism. It simplifies things. The leader decides everything for you and suddenly you have no more problems. – Elie Wiesel

The sole and basic source of our strength is the solidarity of workers, peasants and the intelligentsia, the solidarity of the nation, the solidarity of people who seek to live in dignity, truth, and in harmony with their conscience. – Lech Walesa

Frank Pelaschuk

VICTIMS

French President Georges Clemenceau once commented, “America is the only nation in history, which, miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneracy without the usual interval of civilization.” That’s a harsh judgement from many decades ago but, unfair or not, it could easily be the verdict of today’s generation of relentless self-reference and self-reverence, folks taking endless photos of themselves and reporting on Facebook every aspect of their lives as if each minutiae was of such transcendent beauty and meaning that the world must surely be as eager to lap up the offerings as the presenter is to share. Occasionally however, reality barges in with shockingly graphic images: cops shooting blacks for no apparent reason other than their blackness. On the whole, however, thus far, there really is no there there as we suck in bromides as pearls, oh and ah over every cute picture of kids and cats and drool over every silly image of celebrity stars including our prime minister and his wife for whom no camera must be ignored and offer thunderous applause for every ignorant hate-filled utterance that somehow elevates us with suggestions that we are not to blame for any aspect of our own miserable hate-filled lives: it’s them, foreigners, the leeches on welfare, the old who left us a mess – well, the list is endless. We ceaselessly troll the web looking for the beautiful because we are not, perhaps hoping somehow some of that beauty and good life will rub off on us. But it’s not all beauty; we also troll the web in search of victims, the poor and ugly with smaller even meaner lives in hopes of bullying and destroying them because they are less skilful, less adept and weaker than ourselves. If you’re that shallow why not be mean?

In a time of decay, we wallow in a pit of hedonism, of narcissism and of sadism where judgement, intelligence, examination, and integrity are viewed with suspicion and dread; bellicosity, superficiality, dishonesty and meanness fuelled by stupidity and the rhetoric of fear, intolerance and ignorance fomented by the ilk of America’s Donald Trump, Britain’s Nigel Farage, and France’s Marine Le Pen appear to be winning the day: the virtuous many, they would have us believe, are victimized by the corrupt elite few who can be defeated only if the common man recognizes the dangers and works together.

Of course, we Canadians are not immune to such simple-mindedness; we’ve had our Ford brothers and for nine years the vile Harper gang Conservatives who last election proved themselves as despicable as any group can be with their campaign of racial and religious intolerance and today sit as official opposition pretending, as did those who voted them in, they were never part of that vile history. The ugly frog has been replaced by the handsome Prince with his Princess wife and all the little princes and princesses in his cabinet and Canada all agog and agag wowed by all that breathless freshness, the handsome youthful faces of such enchantment that the hoi poiloi and elites alike behave as religious ecstatics with every princely appearance and for every easy promise kept while studiously ignoring those broken or watered down or simply shelved. Criticize at your peril.

Not surprisingly, that populist line doesn’t offer the whole truth, though there is some in it: there are folks, though few, in politics and the corporate world who do have real power, who do conspire to keep wages low, who do conspire to quell dissent, who do conspire to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of those who haven’t. But the thing is, many of those who see themselves as “victims” seldom admit the role they themselves play in their own victimization, rewarding those very folks who seek their vote with vague and/or extravagant promises (often broken) while at the same time meeting in secret, often for a price (let’s call it kickback) with those very special-interest folks who would suppress their (the voters’) wages, ship jobs overseas, destroy their social safety nets, and feed from the public trough with government handouts with assurances, almost always broken once they’ve got the money, that the jobs will be kept here. But if it’s our man or woman making the promises and screwing others even more disadvantaged than us, we will gladly turn a blind eye: We’ll get ours if not today, tomorrow – one day, maybe taking longer than we hoped for but one day. Yeah, they’ll get theirs – one day. Meanwhile they’ll stay “victims” living in eternal hope and swallowing the endless bilge: those that have it all did it all by themselves; work hard, we can all be kings; those who fail are stupid, lazy; unions are ruining and running the country; union workers are greedy, lazy, fat cats; everyone has to tighten their belt, work harder, expect less (but when was the last time corporate taxes were raised?).

ENABLERS

We can see it today, everyday, the “victims” as applauding enablers to the rude, crude, vulgar, ignorant, stupid, misogynistic, racist, bigoted billionaire because he, that billionaire, has convinced them he is one of them, and he often is in rudeness, crudity, vulgarity, ignorance, stupidity, misogyny, racism, bigotry; Trump is not only their man, he is the man because his wealth is somehow proof he has no vested interests, that he is immune to corruption and influence. These are not intelligent people. If they were, they would weep that this is all American Republicanism is able to offer as presidential candidate.

Whether Trump believes what he says does not really matter. What does is that he says them. When he talks of building a wall, of barring entry to Syrians and Muslims, when he voices admiration for Saddam Hussein “because he kills terrorists”, because “they [sic] didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk” one wonders if there are any limits to hate uttered under the banner of free speech. The “terrorists” that Hussein slaughtered were often his own citizens their only crime likely opposition or perceived opposition to his tyranny. That this individual imagines himself presidential material and yet routinely talks of “killing” the bad guys suggesting America is too concerned with protecting their rights beggars belief while also giving a good indication of his thoughts regarding protections offered by the American Constitution. Clearly, for Trump, it is enough to be “suspect”. The hell with due process, if he was innocent he wouldn’t be a Muslim or a Mexican.

Trump may be a lunatic but he is a dangerous one and cannot easily be dismissed.

He tells his fans he is successful, he is “smart”, but ignores, as do his supporters, the evidence of his many failures in his business and personal life. He boasted on television of walking away with millions from his Casino in Atlantic City while stiffing his creditors and workers saying that’s what businessmen do. Is that right? Is that what successful people do, wash their hands of any responsibility and stiff others, folks just like those very ones who identify themselves as Trump supporters and plain working class Joes trying to earn a decent wage? Is this the man they would want for their boss? Imagine him running the country with that attitude; he’d have America bankrupt in every way while, doubtless, lining his own pockets. Shameless, unconscionable, he has tapped the support of those possessed of such stupidity they may not even grasp the depth of Trump’s amorality. I apologize for the previous sentence: in putting depth and Trump together I appear to give him too much credit.

“Smart”? The ignoramus can barely articulate a sentence let alone a coherent thought. If he does say something remotely intelligent, you can bet it was by accident. Even so, we cannot easily dismiss him for all his ignorance and offensiveness. It is not enough to ridicule him, not enough to say he ate his brain the first time he picked his nose. We cannot trust that he will lose his bid for American president because voters find him more offensive and dangerous than Hillary Clinton. That’s a mug’s position and too much is at stake.

Yet, having said all of the above, as much as it pains me to admit this, I understand why he does draw some to his side.

TRADE

He would renegotiate or scrap NAFTA calling it the worst trade deal ever and do the same for TPP calling it “a disaster”. Now this is the part that hurts: He is right.

Now I am no isolationist. I am, however, as much a fan of Big Business as Big Business is of unions. On NAFTA and TPP, I find myself on Trump’s side. Now Big Business will tell us that everyone wins with globalization. Not so. There are winners but they certainly are not working stiffs; workers just get stiffed. Perhaps that’s why, giving his past comments, I have doubts about Trump’s stand on the trade agreements. For many workers, NAFTA is associated with the beginning of the new age of chronic hard times. Jobs lost and shipped overseas or wages kept low under threat of same. The despair is palpable; it is real and not easily healed. Workers feel powerless and voiceless because they are powerless and voiceless. Ignored by their own political leaders, workers watch from the sidelines as politicians and company CEOs work together to suppress wages, as did the Harper regime with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and work to destroy unions and rollback gains made by them for their workers. With NAFTA, Canadians experienced first-hand the loss of sovereignty as Canadian laws meant to protect Canadian consumers have been repealed or born dead because of corporate lawsuits brought against Canada with claims that laws to protect consumers interfere with the ability of corporations to make and maximize profits. In other words, Canadian laws have become subservient to corporate interests. For ordinary working Canadians struggling to survive with two or three jobs while feeding a family, there appears to be no protections against governments that collude with Big Business. This is not just a rant of an old delusional white geezer though I may be all three. No less an authority than Fortune Magazine has pointed out some of the missteps of the NAFTA trade deal. In a piece for Fortune on NAFTA’s impact on America (there is no reason to believe the same could not be said of Canada), Jeffrey E. Garten (Fortune, March 29, 2016) wrote:

We failed to see that the benefits of trade, like all other economic benefits, were not shared equitably by the population. We failed to gauge how fast trade patterns could shift, how quickly industries were transforming themselves, and how much of a gap was created by the evisceration of unions which could negotiate protections and benefits for their members. As a result, those at the top of the economic pyramid benefitted. The other 80% were hit with low wage competition, outsourcing, lower paid jobs, or unemployment. All this was made worse by job-destroying technology that the Internet and digitalization was spawning, not to mention the great recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis that extinguished most economic growth. The meteoric rise of China, with its vast industrious labor force, was the coup de grace for millions of US workers, as was the ascent of so many other emerging market nations.

The highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “Made In America” deal as the Americans themselves have crowed, threatens to be even worse according to The Council of Canadians (http://canadians.org/tpp-info), especially for Canadians, controlling how governments may regulate corporate activity, expand the sharing of personal information across nations, extend the life of pharmaceutical patents (thus placing limits on generic drugs and greatly increasing costs of government health plans) and, under the ISD (investor-state dispute) clauses, and allow corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals and fix the amount of compensation when government regulation interfere with profitmaking. Under NAFTA, Canada has been successfully sued several times costing taxpayers $160 million. Under TPP, corporate ability to sue governments has been expedited thus making the transformation of a Canadian democracy into a Corporatocracy all but a fait accompli. By the time Canadians actually do get to learn the details, it will already be too late.

GAINS

Are Canadians better off? Well, some, just as in the United States, but they do not hold minimum wage jobs, do not work on factory floors, are, in fact, called boss, owner, shareholder. The losers, and there are losers, have been those who have always lost, the real workers, the men and women who are the backbone of every business and who are the real individuals that make a company a success, farmers, truckers, floor sweepers, janitors, nurses, doctors, technologists, educators, cafeteria workers, cooks, dishwashers, public servants – well, you get the drift – the stiffs shafted, sold out and betrayed by the bosses and the politicians bought and paid for by those bosses.

Trudeau, if he had a speck of backbone, would look towards renegotiating NAFTA. If he had a speck of decency he would reject TPP unless significant changes are made that protect workers, create new jobs, opportunities and offer greater take-home pay. But first he must inform Canadians bout the deal itself: what’s in it, who gains, who loses, what does it mean for all Canadians? I expect nothing from Trudeau except that he, as did Harper, will make trade and business interests a priority. We have seen this already. So no one can really claim to be surprised that Justin Trudeau, who promised to do things differently from the Conservatives, spent July 6 at Sun Valley, Idaho attending the secretive meeting of 300 business and tech elites labelled the “Summer Camp for Billionaires”. For Trudeau, this may just be an opportunity to rub shoulders with global movers and shakers and to promote Canadian business opportunities and expertize but the secrecy is troublesome suggesting that nothing innocent is going on there. Is this the man who will give them what they want?

Probably. Likely. Absolutely!

One thing is certain. If things are better, it is not for the poor, not for the single parent holding down several jobs, not for minimum wage earners. Chances are things are not better for you. The world will go on and we will let it leaving it to others to worry while we do as we always have: nothing. We will not hear, we will not listen, we will not change.

But we will always listen to the shameless liars and opportunists, the Trumps of the world who have tapped into this well of resentment, tap into the worst in us, tap into our fears and bigotry milking and massaging the inarticulate rage offering the snake oil salesman’s promises of the all-in-one cure-all. And dolts that we are we’ll buy it because we have always bought it, bought the easy answers and quick fixes rather than looking around for those folks who really will listen, really will hear, really will work for us. It’s not quick fixes or easy answers that we need but politicians who will listen or be forced to listen. And those politicians are not the Christy Clarks who lend their ear to the highest bidder. Nor does solution lie with the likes of federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, barely in office when she’s attending a private fundraiser put on by lawyers, a clear conflict of interest if ever there was one. And the answer does not lie with Justin Trudeau who saw nothing wrong with the justice minister tending such an affair and who signed off on the Saudi Arabia LAV trade deal, a deal with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. No, the answer certainly does not lie with a single member of the old Harper regime who all, all, went along with the vicious Tory campaign of racial and religious intolerance including the promise to create the odious snitch line to report barbaric cultural practices by you-know-who.

If there will ever be a solution, it must come from voters who will no longer blindly swallow every line of bullshit because it sounds nice or jibes with their own biases, or because the speaker is glib and handsome or has wealth which surely must mean he or she is absolutely intelligent, honest and would never lie to you. The voter must take responsibility for his own destiny. When politicians have lied to you, deliberately misled you, when they hold secret meetings with special interests and accept funds in return, when they pad their expenses, refuse to answer questions, when they sneak in legislation, or break Canadian regulations regarding trade with nation states that abuse human rights, they must be punished, booted from office and shunned like the pariah they are. They are scum.

Trump embodies the worst of politics if not humanity. He promises everything to everyone. He panders to the worst in Americans. But he, at the least, has promised to do something about NAFTA and TPP. I don’t trust him to follow through on either but he has raised the issue. The first has already harmed American and Canadian workers. The second will inflict even more harm.

Trudeau? Can we trust him? He could step up and do what is right for Canadians. I don’t expect that. He’ll be preoccupied. There’s always another photo-op.

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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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