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LOST HORIZONS: THE NDP’S SQUANDERED OPPORTUNITY

If a man harbours any sort of fear, it…makes him landlord to a ghost. – Lloyd Douglas

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. –Marcus Aurelius

Laugh, and the world laughs with you/Weep, and you weep alone. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Frank Pelaschuk

“Everyone loves a winner/But when you lose, you lose alone”. This is a reworking by William Bell and Booker T. Jones of familiar lines penned by Ella Wheeler Wilcox: Laugh, and the world laughs with you/Weep and you weep alone. Surely, if any lines applied to two political individuals, it would be these and the individuals Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. For both, there was a profound reversal of fortune, the NDP leader riding high on a wave of possibility and the Liberal leader in third place, an object in some quarters of amusement and ridicule.

Going into the campaign, the NDP appeared at the top of their game with a real possibility of victory. They felt good, the supporters felt good. It was going to happen, their second place finish hadn’t been a fluke. Then the wheels came off.

As the October 19th election day approached, it became increasingly evident that Trudeau and the Liberals would be forming the next federal government. It was less clear who would be forming the official opposition though there were signs it would not be the NDP. Early in the evening of the big day, as the ballots were counted, it was all but over. Thomas Mulcair and the NDP had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Oh, they did have considerable help from the Harper Conservatives, the Conservative core base and others who could not differentiate bullshit from hay as the Harper mob engaged in the familiar filthy territory working on the worst in us, not just our fears but also our prejudices. We were fed daily diets of the poison: niqab-wearing women wanting to impose their foreign ways on Canadians and Muslims terrorists pounding on our doors thirsting for our blood. It was nonsense and it was vile but it worked on the thoughtless and mean-spirited. Nor did it help the Liberals proved themselves particularly adept able to mount a very nimble campaign that drew the curious who quickly became supporters as Trudeau appeared to shift the party smartly to the left inexplicably abandoned by the NDP. In the end, however, it was the NDP leadership and strategists who failed the party and its supporters. It was a stunning rout, a turnaround that firmly ensconced the NDP in its traditional third spot position seeming to confirm what many sceptics had long believed: the 2011 election results that made the NDP official opposition had been a fluke a vote more for the recently deceased Jack Layton than for the NDP.

Now, more than one hundred days into his mandate, Trudeau looks even more like a winner except to the hypocritical Conservatives who demand of him and his government what they themselves were never prepared to offer under Harper. Even so, as well as Trudeau appears to be doing, and he is holding the popular vote, there are, in some areas at least, signs of growing impatience from those who voted for the Liberal promise of real change as the promises are delayed, reworked or quietly dropped. While these voters, perhaps not all die-hard Liberals, may be favourably impressed by his apparently boundless energy and sunny disposition and his clear desire to be all things to all people, and while they are no doubt pleased that he has, for now, made himself and his cabinet readily accessible to the media and the public, extremely rare events during the Harper reign of error, Trudeau’s apparent willingness to pose for selfies with every awe-struck man, woman and child who cross his path may be wearing a bit thin suggesting a frivolity and lightness that may be unfair but is nevertheless an impression out there. Too, those old enough to remember, may be troubled by reminders of the bad old scandal-plagued days of cronyism, payback and corruption triggered by some of the hiring practices of a few of Trudeau’s ministers. As for Mulcair, the corollary to the first part of the cliché, “But when you lose, you lose alone” seems particularly apt and poignant when one looks at the NDP’s almost deliberate self-destructive miscalculation of the public mood and its deafness to the voices of those die-hard NDP supporters (derisively labeled the “radical left” by columnist John Ivison in his appearance on CTV’s Question period Feb. 14).

How the two leaders responded immediately after the election is revealing. Next day a triumphant, jubilant Trudeau was in a Montreal subway greeting ecstatic transit users. It is true; everyone loves a winner. But Mulcair…well, he simply disappeared, licking his wounds no doubt curled up in some dark corner wondering what the hell had hit him. He was entitled. But for how long? Oh, eventually he did emerge but it would take him almost three months to publicly shoulder responsibility in the form of an open letter that might have been written by an NDP committee. Too little, too late.

I understand that Mulcair was bruised and hurting. But how much better an image he would have cut had he quickly got to his feet, dusted himself off and said: Back to work. He did not lose alone, even if he felt he had. But he behaved as if the lose was his alone by retreating. That was not the act of a leader. If his supporters felt abandoned, who could blame them? They might rightly have expected words of solace, hope and reflection as well as insight into what had happened and what lay ahead for the NDP within days of the loss. It did not come. That was a failure.

Surely, by Election Day, it could not have been a surprise. It should not have been. If so, what does that say of Mulcair as leader or the NDP as a party? Were they ready? The missteps suggest not.

Since the days of Ed Broadbent, when the NDP began to be seriously noticed by increasing numbers of voters as viable for the role of official opposition at least, the party had embarked on a path towards self-ruin. The party founded on the principles of “social democracy”, of “democratic socialism” began to shy away from those terms; they were not conducive to winning said those who wanted to win. To hear some ignorant and malevolent wing nuts tell it, the “social” in social democracy is incompatible with democracy because “social” is just “socialism” abbreviated and “socialism” as we all know is just another word for “communism”. Like I said, ignorant and malevolent. It doesn’t help that the NDP also seemed determined to distance itself from workers and unions who once were the backbone of the party. It’s all right for the Liberals and Conservatives to have incestuous ties to the titans of Big Business, taking their money, even hiring lobbyists to work in government or allowing ousted or retired MPs to sit on company boards but it is somehow not okay for the NDP to have support from labour. Can someone please help me understand the double standard? I have even heard workers, minimum wage earners in some instances, and high earners in the trades, thanks to unions, talking about Big Labour and bad-mouthing unions and unionists as greedy and too powerful. One almost wants to cry: Are people really that desperately stupid, that cowardly, that envious, that they will shill for Big Business but not even work up enough courage to accept the union hand willing to help them up? It’s perverse this desire to pull down others rather than pull oneself up. It’s bad enough the enemies use the NDP ties to socialism and labour as somehow unpatriotic and dangerous, but it’s another when the NDP runs from its own great history and its raison d’être. Saying something doesn’t make it true but running from it somehow validates the lies. That the NDP has allowed itself to be defined by others is unconscionable.

It could well be that Mulcair is a sincere social democrat and has been all his life. But he was at one time a Quebec Liberal minister before he joined the NDP. Until recently, I cannot recall him or any NDP leader over the past twenty or thirty years talking much, let alone with pride, about “democratic socialism” except to refer to it obliquely or at meetings attended solely by NDP supporters. Now, one is left with the impression he has just discovered his NDP roots chastened after being clobbered by Trudeau who had adopted a sopped up version that allowed him to appear to take on the role traditionally played by the NDP. It is not that Trudeau had become a “leftie”. Far from it. The party, long before Mulcair, had become muted regarding a fairer tax system avoiding talk about eliminating Harper’s income splitting plan that did nothing for the poor. Trudeau promised to roll it back and promised to raise taxes for the wealthy albeit without acknowledging the moneyed folks would just find other loopholes to avoid doing the just and moral thing: pay their fair share. But it was when Mulcair walked away from deficit spending to stimulate the economy, which was stalling all around him, that the Liberals saw their opportunity. They would proudly wear the label, for this round at least, of the “tax-and-spend” party. They had accurately read and understood the public mood. Any move by Trudeau in that direction would have looked as if it were a major progressive shift. It was not but it looked good and gave the Liberals another edge, this time as daring and creative risk takers; they saw an opportunity, seized it and milked it for all it was worth. In the past, the NDP has always been charged as incompetents for the same – and punished as well. What would have happened had they dared to do what Trudeau had? We will never know. They had blinked. What we clearly know is this: the sell-out drift to the right didn’t work too well for the NDP. The Liberals, with nothing to lose, took a chance with no real risk.

The NDP placed too much faith in the polls. They believed what they read and heard and, as a consequence, became frozen with fear by the very possibility of winning. Mulcair and the NDP could smell victory, taste it, feel it. That possibility turned them to jellyfish; they became terrified of making mistakes. They were muted in their promises with the exception of trumpeting their swing to balanced budgets. Instead of going for the new, the bold, the right and brave things, the things they have always claimed to be for, they chickened out and hunkered down and ignored what was going on around them looking instead to the playbooks of the other parties in hopes of emulating what worked for Conservatives and Liberals – in the past. The mistakes the NDP made were not small nor were they innocent; they were acts of desperation leading I suspect to many sleepless nights of second-guessing almost every decision they made. Oh, how they wanted to win! So, instead of stepping out and being better and more daring, they took what they thought was the safer, surer road. Was there any talk by Mulcair of healthcare? I missed it if so. How about poverty, homelessness, education, justice, and a multitude of other big and little but important things? There was little talk of the plight of single, low-income families, of single parents holding two, three menial, minimum wage jobs. Oh, yes, there was the $15 a day daycare promise, but what else? Overwhelmed by thoughts of success, timidity and caution drove them to the right joining the Conservatives and Liberals in vowing to restore the middle class and doing what the Conservatives had promised, and mostly failed to do for ten years: the NDP would balance the budget. Not only that, they would balance the budget for four years in a row!

That was about it. That was their big gift to the Canadian public. Another party joins the centre.

But if that was a mistake, and it was, the blunder was even more egregious when it came to Trudeau. The NDP looked at Trudeau and dismissed him as a lightweight. He looks good, has nice hair and as far as they were concerned that was about it. They had forgotten that he knew how to fight and to win even when everyone else dismissed him as a lightweight. The NDP did not offer him due respect and that, too, may have cost them. Yes, Trudeau was a lightweight. The public wanted balanced budgets and they would give them that. But what was the plan if things got worse? How would the NDP balance the budget? What would be cut sacrificed and lost? Is that when it began to unravel?

For some, including the NDP leader, it was Harper’s war against two women for refusing to remove the niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony and Mulcair’s “principled” stand in support of the women, which had doomed the NDP campaign. I was proud of Mulcair when he stood in opposition to the Harper gang on that issue. And I was also proud when Trudeau did the same and just as unequivocally. The Conservatives, vile, ignoble, filthy hucksters, many still sitting MPs, had sought to sow division and intolerance by picking on the niqab issue playing to our fears and ignorance and parochialism. In doing so, the Conservative goal was not to defeat the NDP but to divide the vote between the NDP and Liberals. It worked in Quebec with a huge loss to the NDP, the ignorant and benighted buying into Harper’s invidious campaign of hatred and fear. Yet, it did not harm Trudeau whose youth, charisma and name evidently enough to gain the Liberals a few seats from those who never bought into the racial and religious bigotry. I do not doubt Mulcair’s claim of taking a stand on principle regarding this matter. I would have expected no less from any individual. And I have no doubt it cost him and the party dearly. We have the results. That the Conservatives did very well in Quebec is disturbing for it lends added credence to the charges of Quebecers as susceptible to fear, ignorance and intolerance as the rest of Canada. If the Liberals succeeded it was because they appeared firmer and surer in judging the public mood and it seems almost unfair that just as the NDP had turned its back on deficit spending the Liberals should benefit for embracing it.

It may well be that the NDP will find solace and take pride by claiming they remain the conscience of the country and that they fell, gloriously, on a matter of principle. Well, given what happened this round, principles largely shunted aside for the brass ring that is a bit of a lark, isn’t it?

Mulcair’s recent mea culpa, may please some and sway others. I don’t want to hear it. Too often we have witnessed the betrayal of the left by the party of the left, the nabobs in the NDP having determined large ideas and ideals too risky, perhaps too esoteric, for the public at large to fully appreciate. For years the NDP harped about being the party for “ordinary citizens”. I’m one of them and I have never liked that. I may by ordinary, but I don’t like being told that I am. Is it really necessary to talk down to voters, to abandon core values and run from one’s history in order to appeal to those who may not understand what the NDP believes and hopes for? Why is that preferable to “work” by which I mean the effort necessary to “inform”, “educate” and “encourage” members of the public of the virtues of the NDP in clear, honest, and enlightened terminology demonstrating that its policies are not only doable, meaningful and better but also superior to the clichés, pat answers and glib, glitzy empty promises to which they have been subjected countless times. The NDP does not have to outdo the Conservatives by promising balanced budgets year after year; they just have to demonstrate that provincially they enjoyed a record far superior than either party when it came to financial reliability and fiscal management. The NDP had the opportunity to show that they were indeed the ones able to deliver real change: they were new, fresh, young, eager, and able. Instead, Mulcair and the party let the promise and possibility slip through their fingers. They were careless, incompetent, and arrogant. True, there was a new face leading a revitalized Liberal party, but the name attached was old, familiar and, for some, held a lot of baggage. Though the Liberal promises were many, large and seemingly daring, they were often too big, too unrealistic. As well, many of the faces are not that young and were, in fact, the faces of the vile, scandalous past that drove the Liberals from office for ten years replaced by something even worse, a sinister cabal of cold-blooded, vengeful, mean-spirited men and women with hearts that beat only at the mention of oil, tax cuts and power and, perhaps, a bit more energetically when suppressing votes or working with Big Business in devising ways to supress the wages of Canadian workers.

I applaud the NDP’s efforts in reaching out to its supporters in hopes of understanding what went wrong. I don’t think it is all that difficult. The post mortem conference call in which NDP supporters were allowed the opportunity to vent was useful but not long enough to allow more to be heard. Nevertheless, for the most part, comments were excellent, suggestions sound and criticisms constructive. However, I thought Mulcair and the NDP strategists got off lightly for a campaign that, to my eyes, appeared directionless, unfocused, stale, and suffering from a dearth of ideas. Canadians really are a polite, tolerant bunch. I listened with incredulity as some, thankfully few, even praised the leadership and strategists for a well-run campaign! A couple, if I recall correctly, suggested, as did Mulcair, that the niqab issue was what had defeated the NDP. I don’t believe that is true. Perhaps in part but there were other factures at play. I don’t recall anyone taking Mulcair to task for his stand. They should not.

I do wish the NDP had listened more to its core members and not forgotten the end goal in politics is to make a difference for the better and for all members of society even if it means playing second fiddle. Many of the things that make Canada great were a result of the NDP simply holding the balance of power. It’s what one does with what one has that matters. Power for the sake of power is meaningless and often harmful. One need only look towards the anti-democratic Harper gang to realize that.

Of course I would love to see the NDP win, but not at any price. When Mulcair stood up against Harper’s anti-terrorist bill, C-51, I was extremely proud of him and the NDP. That is what matters. Harper squandered any possibility of a legacy that would make one proud. Yes, dollars and cents do matter but so do decency, honesty and personal integrity, openness and a willingness to work for all Canadians rather than special interests. Harper held power for ten years most of it abusive. He had a majority. Instead of offering governance, he offered something that was darker, viler, and more anti-democratic than anyone could have imagined. Not only did he refuse to listen to the public and opposition members, he refused to extend a hand of reconciliation and comfort to the meanest and poorest among us. He actually set about to govern for special interests, to settle scores, and ram through legislation with omnibus bills hoping no one would notice. His party broke election laws and he and his gang targeted all critics as enemies sometimes questioning their integrity and patriotism. Power wasn’t enough. He hungered to wield his majority as if it were a club. He stifled debate, smeared journalists, silenced government scientists, labeled those on welfare potential fraudsters, and suggested environmentalists were terrorists. Harper’s governance, his abuse of power is nothing for which one should aspire.

The NDP, I believe, and I don’t like saying any of this, forgot what it was about and sought, instead, to become what no one wanted: another centrist party. They wanted to win more than they wanted to make a difference so they ignored much of what made the NDP great and a party of profound accomplishment and possibility. It had dropped the ball and became irrelevant in doing so. Trudeau and the Liberals were ready and willing to risk. That they were successful could simply be attributed to a leader that was young, good-looking, and willing even if apparently naïve. But it was more than that. The Liberals had a youthful team of keen, smart people who knew exactly what they wanted and where they were going and how to get it. They refused to be plagued by self-doubt. In contrast, the NDP appeared tired and moribund; it had run out of ideas and took the polls far too seriously and the young Trudeau not seriously enough. The party capitulated, moving to the centre allowing the Liberals to fill the void. You don’t win by turning your back on what you are or by selling out; you may realize your goal but you also lose what you are by doing so.

When Harper refused to debate on the major networks against the Liberals and the Greens, the NDP capitulation was absolute. Instead of calling Harper’s bluff, the NDP caved crowing they were only interested in debating Harper. Mulcair blew an opportunity to introduce himself to millions and to pointedly demonstrate by the empty spot reserved for Harper the straw man who had governed the nation for close to ten years. He had dismissed the third party, misjudged the real threat. That was a blunder of monumental stupidity and surrender. What made it even more painful is that Mulcair going into the first debate seemed a sure bet based on his outstanding achievements in the House only to prove himself a bumbling suitor on his first outing. Trudeau walked away with the prize that night. Mulcair improved but never really recovered. Trudeau outshone him at every turn it seemed.

What had become of the firebrand, that great performer in the House?

Oh how I wanted the NDP to win but early into the campaign I, as so many others, saw it slipping away with disbelief and grief. They did not dwell upon the things that mattered to me: a truly universal and unified healthcare across the country, pharmacare, housing for the homeless, more opportunities for the young to get an education, more work on infrastructure, more assistance for First Nations peoples, more help for the elderly, more protection for workers. The NDP attempted to pass themselves off as something they were not. They came across as opportunists at worst or lost at best. They made a promise that was unnecessary and ludicrous given these hard times. The Liberals took the big leap. The NDP could have, should have. They saw a hill and shaped it into a mountain. They thought it was a winner but it was insurmountable.

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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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HOW TO DESTROY THE HARPER GANG: STOP BUYING THE STRATEGIC VOTING LIE

It is not necessary to hope in order to undertake, nor to succeed in order to persevere. – Charles the Bold

Frank A. Pelaschuk

I will cede no ground to others when it comes to opposing the Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper is no leader to be admired, respected or even acknowledged. He has betrayed Canadians in the vilest of ways, not only by abusing our electoral processes but also by undermining our very democracy. This is a man and a group who find no dirty trick to dirty or too low to not be used. As a result, Harper and his gang work at our basest natures fomenting fear and appealing to racial and religious intolerance. He has disgraced himself. Worse, he has disgraced his office sinking to depths that has brought discredit to our nation thereby winning the opprobrium of outside observers. Years ago, when Harper was in the US speaking to a right-wing group, he said, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it”. He was right.

But there is another group for whom I also have strong loathing. These are the so-called “strategic” voters. This is the group targeted by several special interest organizations claiming to be non-partisan with only one goal in mind: to get rid of Stephen Harper and gang. Perhaps, but they act more like fronts for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party.

They are the same Snake Oil salesmen found in the Conservative camp, the ones who evoke images of terrorists pounding at our door and wage war against two niqab wearing Muslim women. Their targets and arguments may differ, but their methods are similar. They will tell you, and they have done so in the past, that a vote for the NDP or the Greens is a wasted vote, that voting for either party will only ensure another term in office for the Harper thugs. They will also tell you that the only party able to defeat the Conservative party is the Liberal party. Well, we’ve heard this in the past and as in the past this tactic appears to be working. It’s the appeal of the “status quo” to the dumb and witless rather than a support for real change. To be shed of Stephen Harper is a goal I easily support, but not the method offered. Strategic voting is dishonest and anti-democratic; it plays on fear and asks you to set aside your beliefs and hopes and to support a choice contrary to your own. In other words, they are asking you to vote for someone you believe may be second best at best. They obviously don’t think much of you or your opinion. But then, if you buy into their arguments, you don’t either.

In the 2011 elections, there were 308 seats. Conservatives won 159 seats, the NDP 95 and the Liberals 36. That the Conservatives could win the majority of seats with just 39% of the vote should alarm us all. Yet it apparently doesn’t. It does bother Elizabeth May and the Greens who support Proportional Representation. It also bothers Thomas Mulcair and NDP who also say they will bring in PR. Even Trudeau made noise about offering some kind of electoral reform. We know where the Conservatives stand on this. While the Liberals talk, chances are they will do nothing to change from first-past-the-post. Why would anyone feel emboldened to make changes to a system that works to his advantage? It may be the decent thing to do, the just thing to do, but who wins by being decent or just? The voters? Who cares about them once the election is over? One can always make the same promise the next time we go to the polls.

So why would anyone support something he or she does not really believe in? Not only do we risk getting a government we do not necessarily believe in, we may elect candidates we really believe incompetent. Going second best is surrender not victory even if it does remove Harper and his gang. Look at the numbers. While it’s true in theory the parties all start at zero seats during an election, realistically, they do not. There is something about incumbency. If nothing has happened to change your opinion of the opposition parties, what is the motivation for voting against your first choice for second best, from NDP to Liberal? In fact, with more candidates with experience as MPs, it makes more sense to support the NDP than to vote for Liberals. Assuming the vote for incumbents held, it would be much easier for the NDP to gain the extra seats to make the majority of 170 from 95 seats than it would be for the Liberals from 36 seats. Of course, for all parties there will be gains and losses but, if voters kept to their votes and preferences and those wafflers who claim to want to cast their ballots for the NDP actually did so, there would be no reason for Canadians to be restricted to another round of Liberals and Conservatives as we have been since the first vote over 140 years ago.

Voting Liberal is not a vote for change. It’s a vote for the same old same old. The party’s past history of corruption, cronyism and incompetency has proven them to be no more trustworthy than the Conservative party they replaced the same corrupt, dirty, petty, mean-minded, punitive, vicious, and anti-democratic party that, in turn, replaced them under the Harper banner. Different leaders, same parties.

If people succumb to the fear factor outlined by those parties advocating strategic voting, they are succumbing to the same kind of fear as those who will cast their votes for the Harper gang. In doing so, the frightened and ignorant will have extended the reign that excludes the possibility of true democracy and inclusion. They will have validated the continuance of the revolving door that only allows admittance to two parties. Is that what we want? Voting NDP or Green is not a wasted vote. It’s liberation, the smashing of chains that says, at last, you can and will make a difference. You just have to believe and then act.

Strategic voting? It’s for the dumb, witless and frightened, a strategy offered by con men and connivers who believe in nothing but power and the gullibility of voters.

UPDATE: October 15, 2015

Shortly after I published this post came news of the resignation of the Liberal national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, following reports of his efforts via email to assist those involved in the Energy East pipeline project by offering detailed instructions of how and when to lobby a minority government led by Trudeau. Does anyone recall the sponsorship scandal? That’s the scandal that got rid of the Liberals and gave us Harper. Yeah, vote strategically, vote Liberal and when you’ve had enough vote Conservative and keep repeating this until the end of time. Why go for something new when you know what you’ve got and what you’ll get. Don’t vote for real change. And don’t you dare take a chance with the NDP because you never know what you’ll get. Why risk the possibility of something foreign and new, the possibility that the NDP might actually provide good, open, honest government? Go with what you have and with what you know, cronyism, corruption, padded expense bills, corporate lobbying, members of parliament in corporate pockets. Vote Liberal, vote Conservative, and repeat it forever and hope for different outcomes each time. Prove your insanity. Why bother with real change? Everyone wins except the ordinary citizen of Canada. Happy days are here 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

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: VOTERS, THE SORRY EXCUSES AND THE ALBERTA DANCE

 Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation. – Henry A. Kissinger

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges when there are no rivers. – Nikita Kruschev

Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians. – Muhammad Iqbal

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

Over the years, even recently, I have heard excuses for why some do not, will not, vote. “I’m not into politics.” “I don’t know enough about politics.” “I don’t know who to vote for.” “They’re all the same.” “They’re all a bunch of crooks.” “They all tell you one thing and do another.” “I don’t know if I can trust them.” “My vote doesn’t count.” “My vote is wasted.” “Them” and “they”, of course, are the politicians and their parties.

The excuses confound me, for I have known some of those making them. With exceptions, none are stupid nor are they shirkers. Yet, when it comes to doing their civic duty, they are precisely that: lazy, stupid, irresponsible.

I’M NOT INTO POLITICS.

Almost everything is our lives is affected by politics and yet too many fail to see it; they drift through life expecting others to bear the burden and responsibility of making decisions that impacts them in almost every way. It seems their priorities are skewed the narcissism of self-regard, the shallowness and emptiness of glitz, glamour and gossip of more importance than health care, education, prison reform, and their own government’s perversion of democracy. They would be screaming from the rooftops if Stephen Harper passed a law what music they must listen to or that the long gun registry be reintroduced and yet remain silent when he rams through anti-terrorist bill, C-51, that has the potential to criminalize their behaviour in the way of a thoughtless comment or for visiting a web site that Harper and gang deemed a threat to Canada. It is not as if they are absolutely blinkered and numb, they do follow the web and see those horrific ISIL images of beheadings and mass slaughter and, even if below the din of their own inner world, they do hear Harper and the gang go on and on about the terrorist threat to Canada. Perhaps dimly, with half a mind, they accept what they hear and embrace the fear that Harper wishes us to experience, but they do so uncritically perhaps considering the threat remote or just part of the white noise that surrounds them. Is the threat real? Is bill C-51 really necessary? Don’t we already have anti-terrorist legislation in place and aren’t they more than sufficient? These are questions they should ponder but they don’t. They exist in a vacuum. Nothing touches them.

I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT POLITICS.

If not, why not? Every citizen has a duty to hold those elected accountable. That means knowing who they are, what they stand for, what they promise and what promises they have kept and broken. As a citizen, we have a duty to protect, not just our country, but ourselves and all our fellow citizens from harm and from the abuses of a government corrupted by the corrosive allure of power and a desire to pander to special market interests. In order to do that, we have a duty to inform ourselves. When Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime, the US placed an embargo on Cuba that isolated the tiny nation until recently when Obama finally threw open the doors. Castro was denounced as a Marxist-Leninist tyrant. Yet, for all its poverty, thanks to the American embargo, Cuba has a world-class healthcare system and a literacy rate of 99%. Tyrants do not support education or an informed population. With the recent thawing of American-Cuban relations, Harper, a staunch vocal opponent of Communism appeared particularly loath to be photographed with Cuban president Raul Castro during the recent Summit of the Americas. That was odd but not surprising of a man who will trade with any murderous despot and gladly shake his hand. This is important. Harper talks a good game but what he believes of Cuba and Communism doesn’t square with what he does at home. Like any good despot, he, too, does not believe in an informed public. We have a regime that keeps information from its citizens, that has changed electoral laws to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, that engages in the politics of fear and bigotry, that spreads the myth of itself as sound fiscal managers that has, nevertheless, stripped Canada of a surplus plunging it into a massive deficit, and yet has managed to convince 40% of the population that it is the Conservatives who are best able to save the country from debt, terror, and error. How is that possible? Well, we have a population of folks unwilling to inform themselves of the harm the Harper regime is really doing to this country and a government all too eager to keep them ignorant. For me, Harper’s anti-communist cant must be taken with a grain of salt. The hypocrite will work with anyone if money and trade is at stake.

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR.

If not, why not? What do the various parties offer, promise and follow through on. What about your elected representative? Is he or she all about the main chance or do they demonstrate by their deeds the extent of their belief in the words they tend to spout when electioneering? Words like democracy, openness, transparency, honesty, integrity, truth, duty, civility, honour, and decency. Are the men and women we look at capable of experiencing shame? If not, I would not trust them. How about you? And for those who voted for Harper and gang my question is this: How could you knowing that this regime is shameless in its partisanship, pettiness, mean-spiritedness, and secrecy.

We have all heard Harper and gang utter the words democracy, transparency, duty, openness as noble sentiments all too often when running for office and, all too often, have witnessed them twist the meanings, betraying their intent, denying them their place, degrading them with sneers, and then booting them aside when elected. Harper lends no credence to the words and their fine sentiments when he utters them; for him, they are useful niceties when it suits him but mostly act as hindrances to his goals. For those not knowing for whom to vote (again, why not?), I say look out for the panderers, the snake oil salesmen and wizards who proclaim themselves the one and only with magical cure-alls and who make easy promises – to be kept after they are elected. That is Harper and gang. Beware of the man and party that offer bribes: income splitting that helps the rich and big fat child benefit cheques a few months before election day; they believe you pliable, easily and cheaply bought and, in the end, will treat you exactly how they see you: of no further interest until next election for they know you can always be bought with trinkets and cheap promises. No man, no party, should win your vote for what they promise you but rather for what they do that is in the best interest of you and every member of our society including the poorest and meanest of us all. That leaves out Harper. He’s a bully who treats all those on welfare as potential fraudsters. He is more interested in corporate welfare than the welfare of Canadians. But you would know that if you took the time to inform yourself.

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.

That’s a lazy response and again calls for self-education. While I admit to having utter contempt for Stephen Harper and his gang, I suspect if one looks hard, there may be one or two Conservatives who have proven themselves decent, honourable and even pleasant. I don’t know who they are. Frankly, I’m not looking, I don’t care for Conservatives in positions of power. I would not however say that of Stephen Harper, Peter MacKay, the oily Pierre Poilievre, Steven Blaney, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Shelly Glover, Leona Aglukkaq, liar Brad Butt, Mark Adler, Michelle Rempel, Candace Bergen, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, fictionalizer Jason Kenney, well, you get the drift, most of these actually are the same in my view: partisan, mean-spirited and very, very unpleasant. If you think not, look at how they have gone after Omar Khadr, at the age of fifteen dragged off to war in Afghanistan by his father, charged with killing an American combat medic, tortured, held in the notorious Guantanamo prison. He has spent thirteen years in prison for a crime to which he confessed, under torture of sleep deprivation, waterboarding and who knows what other horrors. For the Harper gang, he is not a human being but a symbol of fear, a symbol of the “evildoers”, the face of terrorism itself. It is nonsense. It is vengeful and just plain wrong. They likely have never read William Blake: For mercy has a human heart/Pity a human face…No, not all politicians are the same. While the Liberals support Harper’s incursion into Iraq against ISIL and his expansion of the war and the level of involvement Canadian troops will play, the NDP has stood in opposition. You may not agree with their stand, but at least you know where they stand.

THEY’RE ALL A BUNCH OF CROOKS.
Not all. But enough in the past for the outraged public to turf out the Liberals for their role in the sponsorship scandal nine years ago. The Conservative replacement in 2006, under Stephen Harper is even worse, if that’s possible. It’s one thing to be corrupt, venal and to steal money, it’s another thing to bring Parliament to disrepute, to appoint a Speaker of the House who is not impartial, to abuse your offices for partisan purposes, to deny opposition members the right to be heard, and to undermine the foundations of democracy by questioning the patriotism of critics and targeting the civil liberties of citizens. Harper and gang have done all this. But they, too, have had members who have used the public coffers as their personal bank accounts with bogus expense claims. Too many Conservative Party members appear to have low thresholds when it comes to the question of ethics. We have Harper appointees, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy facing allegations of abusing expense claims. Duffy is presently facing the courts. We have renewed allegations of Senators David Tkatchuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, on behalf of the PMO, whitewashing the Deliotte audit on good ole’ Duffy to burnish his image. I wrote about this several times since June of 2013, so it’s not new news even though some are acting as if it is. We have Bev Oda, gone now, caught for padding expense claims, not once, but twice. Peter Penashue, called by Harper, the best MP from Labrador ever for illegal accepting corporate donations while campaigning. Just recently, Reginald Bowers, official agent for the former Labrador Cabinet minister faces three charges for breaching the Elections Act during the 2011 election. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan initially refusing to submit full and proper audit reports for their campaigns facing allegations of exceeding their entitled amounts and Shelly Glover (again) and Susan Aglukkaq at fundraising events attended by those standing to gain from decisions made by their ministries. We have Mike Sona, a young Conservative staffer; found guilty and serving time for his involvement in the robocalls scandal. We have loudmouth Dean del Mastro, who (along with oily Pierre Poilievre) impugned the integrity of the Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand for his investigations into the robocalls scandal in “in-out” scam for which the Conservative Party paid a $52,000 fine. Del Mastro, himself found guilty of election fraud in the 2008 election and waiting to be sentenced.

But, if not all crooks, the Conservatives are certainly duplicitous in the integrity front by being party to omnibus bills in which legislation is slipped in with hopes of no one noticing. In the past the gang attempted to slip in online spying legislation, which led to howls of protest and Vic Toews, then minister of public safety, to accuse critics of siding with pornographers! In the latest budget bill we see another example of this type of dubious manoeuvring, the Harper gang bypassing labour laws to impose legislation that greatly erodes public servant sick leave and disability plans. This is a government that is not only anti-union, anti-public servant, but also abusive of thousands of hard working men and women whom Tony Clement referred to as “deadwood”. Clement, president of the Treasury, is most noteworthy for creating a $50 million slush fund during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits and for losing $3 billion of taxpayers’ money. Public servants are deadwood. This from a member of a government that works about 100 days on behalf of corporate interests and spends the rest of the time working to get re-elected by spending taxpayers’ monies, in the millions, informing us what a good job they are doing. Tell a lie often enough even they begin to believe it. We have Poilievre, laughably placed as minister of democratic reform, rigging the Elections Act that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. So, while not all crooks, those in the Conservatives are certainly not above dishonesty, talking out of both sides of their mouths, of resorting to dirty tricks (no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile to not be used), of low-down chicanery, and pillaging the public purse for partisan purposes. While there are many other examples of the extent of their lack of integrity and looseness with the truth, two examples stand out and both have to do with Harper’s Economic Action Plan. A few years ago, over $21 million was spent advertising job-creating programs that were non-existent. During this year’s hockey play-off season, Harper is spending over $13.5 million touting, well, you guessed it, his job creation plan for young people, the disabled, immigrants and illiterate adults. That, too, is a hoax. On May 7, 2015, we have learned that $97 million allotted to help them has been mostly unspent. Youth has not been helped by this funding program any more than have the disabled, immigrant and the illiterate. The Conservatives call this sound management. Others call it juggling the books. No, they are not all crooks, just dishonest in ways that, if not criminal, are certainly deceptive and unethical and worthy of brutal reprisal with an election defeat come next election.

THEY ALL TELL YOU ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER.

Well, that’s probably true with the Conservatives in particular. Remember, Harper promised to reform the Senate, to be more open and transparent. That got him elected. Well, of the 105 Senators, Harper appointed 59. Right now there are about 17 Senate vacancies. With the Duffy trial and a secret audit report floating around, Harper, burnt with Duffy, Wallin and others (more Conservatives perhaps?) facing serious allegations of questionable expense claims, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, is likely to leave the seats vacant until the next election.

But there are other things Harper has to be worried about. In 2006, he loudly proclaimed his support of Canadian troops during the Afghan war by declaring his was not a government that cut and runs. Well, he did precisely that twice when facing opposition questions regarding his budgets. Rather than answer questions, he shut down Parliament: TWICE and, just this year, held back on the budget delaying it for two months. He is the loud, cowardly lion willing to roar his disapproval of allies for not doing enough in the war effort and the economic front and talking big about his prowess as a fiscal manager. His is the best government on the globe. He is the only leader capable of saving Canada from economic disaster; this inflated bulletin from a guy who inherited a $13 billion surplus and then squandered it with seven deficits in a row that has left Canada with a debt of $159 or so billion. Too, he will modestly have us know that his is the only government that can save Canadians from the jihadist terrorists. This is the guy who oversaw the mistreatment of our veterans with clawbacks to disability pensions, closure of Veterans offices, etc. This is the guy who supports our military so much that he exploits our men and women with photo-ops while in Iraq. He loves and respects them so much that he placed special combat troops and their families in danger by showing their faces on video on the tax funded government “news” channel 24Seven, his personal advertising agency. He did this without approval or consent from the military. Did I mention that we are paying for this? Harper had issued an edict warning journalists not to do what he did. The media have been scrupulous in keeping to this protocol. Not so Harper. Not so Jason Kenney who tweeted the photograph of Sgt. Andrew Doiron for the world to see. Doiron was later killed by friendly fire. While Kenney’s tweet likely had nothing to do with his death, Kenney’s disregard and misuse of the media is not unique. This is the man, and I wrote of his before but it bears repeating, who, in a fund-raising letter suggested Justin Trudeau supported terrorists when he visited the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque in Montreal. The mosque had been cited by American intelligence as a breeding ground for the recruitment of terrorists. This was reported in the New York Times. The thing is, neither Kenney, Harper, nor all other government member who spread the story had the decency to point out that Trudeau’s visit to the mosque was prior to its exposure of having links to al-Qaida. This was no mistake. This was a deliberate attempt to smear an opposition member by questioning his loyalty and linking him as a supporter of terrorists. This was done by a man who wishes to be prime minister one day, a man who has illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for the Conservative Party, the same man who tweeted photos of bound women re-enacting a historical event and tried to pass them off as news photos of captured ISIL slaves. He also tweeted a photo of a child bride, hands bound, in the presence of a much older man. But that too was a fake photo. This is the minister of defence. How trustworthy is this man? How trustworthy is any member of the Harper gang? Not very. Harper makes the rules, he can break them, I guess. But, despite this preponderance of incompetence, dishonesty, perversion of truth, not all politicians are like these vile bodies in the Conservative Party. Despite his youth and inexperience, despite his readiness to woo votes by pandering to our fears by supporting C-51 (with a promise to revisit the bill if elected), Trudeau strikes me as a decent individual. But the truth is, there is not much difference between the Liberal and Conservative economic plans. As for attitude, well, the Conservatives are just plain nasty. Thomas Mulcair may come across as rigid, gruff, a man who does not smile easily. I don’t care. I want a leader who is capable and Mulcair is that man. Set aside your prejudices and watch him during Question Period. He is by far the most effective member in the House we’ve seen in years. In fact, I will say that of almost every member of the NDP caucus.

When one looks at the behaviour of Conservatives, tainted with corruption, abusive of taxpayer money, and parsimonious with the truth while generous to their business cronies and themselves (MPs gave themselves a raise five times that allowed public servants), I can almost sympathize with those who feel no desire to vote. Almost. You don’t like what’s happening, you can change it. Vote. But you change nothing going with the same old same old. It is not enough to go back and forth between the Conservative and Liberal Parties. Nothing changes that way. It becomes a rigged game.

I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST THEM.

This is something I have heard far too many times and it’s often said of the NDP. My response, of course, would be, “How can you know unless you give them a chance? What do you do when the party you vote for lets you down?” “Well, I know them both. Then I vote the other party (Conservative or Liberal), I don’t know the NDP. ” Now, when I hear that, I want to pull my eyeballs out; it’s bad enough hearing stupidity without having to look at it as well.

I LIKE THE NDP, I LIKE WHAT THEY SAY AND PROMISE, BUT THEY ARE SOCIALISTS AND I’M NOT CERTAIN I’M COMFORTABLE WITH THAT.

So, then I ask, “What does socialist mean for you?” “Umh, ah, well, it’s hard for me to define but they are, umm, against business and are, umm, soft on crime.” I think I’ve heard that phrase before. Resisting the urge to shake them, I ask, “Where do you learn this stuff?” “Well, umm, Harper believes life should mean life and our laws are too lenient, we have, killers walking our streets and the jails are like hotels.” Well, I worked briefly in a BC prison in the early 80s. It was no hotel. And, contrary to what Harper and gang would have us believe, crime rates are down to the levels of the early 70s. Building more jails, depriving prisoners of programs preparing them for a life outside, and offering punishment without the hope of parole, without the belief that even bad people can be redeemed, will not make for a safer society. The dangers will, in fact, be greater. Prisoners who have had parole denied and programs cut will be ill prepared for a life of freedom. They will also be angry.

When I hear such inane comments, I bring up this quote by Frank Hague, “You hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. Every time I hear these words, I say to myself, ‘That man is a Red, that man is a Communist!’ You never hear a real American talk like that.” Usually the other person doesn’t even blink! It appears these people seem to agree with Hague that civil rights and a free press are socialistic values! Call me Frank the Red, but I’ll accept that.

WELL, I MIGHT CONSIDER VOTING BUT MY VOTE WILL NOT COUNT.

“Why not?” I ask. “Well, it would be wasted, the Conservatives or the Liberals always win so it doesn’t matter if I vote. ” Now, I admit, I’m an impatient fellow and this last used to make me believe I was on the verge of an apocalyptic fit with my head about to explode. After counting to one, I often ask, if I’m still capable in the face of such breathtaking ignorance, “But, if all of you who say they want to vote for the NDP actually voted NDP, don’t you think your vote would count? Isn’t this just an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don’t do such and such because it makes no difference?” “No, because the Conservatives or Liberals always win. My vote would still be wasted.” Arrgh! If they do vote, it’s often a choice of “the lesser of two evils.” So, they’ve bought the argument: the lesser of two evils. Or they have bought the other one, which is no argument but simple fearmongering: “Don’t split the vote. Voting NDP is the same as throwing away your vote. Vote Liberal.”

Is this ignorance or the real thing – stupidity? In a free society, this is dangerous. These folks have been told something by others they believe more knowledgeable and they accept it as fact; they do not consider the motives of the party passing on the information, they do not examine the information, they do not question it, and they do not doubt it. Political parties know that and prey on it and none more effectively than the Harper Conservatives. They feed us the lies in the full knowledge that most of us will just open our maws without even considering whether it’s digestible or even safe.

THE ALBERTA END TO EXCUSES.

Yet, and yet, sometimes, rarely, but sometimes nevertheless, something happens. For some reason, closed minds open and open mouths close. They listen; refuse to ingest the swill offered them for decades. Something has happened. They will ask themselves why must I do what we have always done. Why must I fear what I don’t know simply because someone tells me I should? Maybe what happens is less an embracing of something new than a resounding rejection of the same old same old. Nevertheless, the embracing of the new and unknown is still a change, a move, a signal of life and hope and defiance. It might only last for one four-year dance, the new dance partner only loved because the old flame, another in a long line from the same family, has betrayed and angered you. Now, the interest in the new dance partner might be short lived. It is also true that as the dance continues you might learn some new steps and like what you discover. You may not be ready for another forty-year affair but you may be interested enough for another dance, at least. Perhaps this is the real thing. And if your are disappointed, well, it will be easier to find a new dance partner, maybe even from the old familiar, but chastened family with whom you danced for so many years. Meanwhile, you may realize that the bad, dangerous individual you are partnered with was just the product of vicious gossip, envy and fearmongering by your previous partner, the one who betrayed you and lied to you, the one who offered you empty promises only in return for the favours you offered when he or she wanted to take them.

That might have been what happened in Alberta on May 5th, when Albertans woke up and grew up and tossed aside their lying, cheating, abusive and arrogant partner of over four decades. Perhaps it was simple anger rather than Albertans embracing Rachel Notley and the NDP. But if she does her job, and does it well and with integrity, she may last for a few dances. I hope so. It took a long time, too long, and perhaps it had something to do with newcomers from other provinces who have lived under NDP governments, but it was clear Albertans wanted a change. Those who may have thought differently just a few months ago clearly no longer bought the message of the wasted vote, of votes not counting, of blood-thirsty socialists ready to pillage the till and slaughter all capitalists. They proved that they could do and try something different and wake up in the morning and not hear the sound of frightened capital fleeing the province.

My vote doesn’t count. Of course it doesn’t if you don’t vote. One vote makes a majority. My vote doesn’t count. Is this how one lives, never doing something because it goes unrewarded, unnoticed? Then why get out of bed? You might stumble and end a quadriplegic. Why cross the street? A truck might mow you down. Why dream and hope, marry and have families? In the end, we’re all dead so why bother? Yet we go on in spite of our defeats, failures and fears. The Alberta vote has shown the way. There is nothing to fear. Take that step.

If you believe you will wake up tomorrow, why can’t you believe your vote will count?

 ***

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

STEPHEN AND JUSTIN: BILL C-51, OPPORTUNISM AND SUBMISSION IN THE AGE OF FEAR

A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterwards. – John Paul Richter

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his convictions. – Robert G. Ingersoll

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?

When Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in April, 2013, some sneered at the Liberals dismissing their choice merely as a shallow, photogenic youngster, inexperienced and riding on the coattails of his father’s name. For the Liberals, however, that was enough: they had a winner and they knew it.

The goal, of course, is to attract new, younger voters to the Liberal fold. In the age of superficiality, of selfies and narcissism, it was hardly necessary that those drawn to the Liberals be particularly knowledgeable; the draw was all that mattered, someone young, handsome, articulate, and charismatic: he was one of them, he understood them, he knew where they were coming from: besides, he was cute, had great hair, and had won much admiration for defeating the brash, handsome, controversial Conservative Senator, Patrick Brazeau, in a charity boxing match when the odds had the senator wiping the floor with the lanky Liberal MP. Too, it did not hurt that his deceased father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Liberal and Prime Minister, larger than life and polarizing at the time, was still enough of a draw to earn some support from the elderly, those who harken back to the days of the late 60s and 70s and early 80s through the prism of nostalgia: memories not of what was but rather of what should have been. Compelling, charming, abrasive, intellectual, dashing, reckless, Trudeau père had married a vivacious, slightly insecure, and much younger woman, perhaps not quite up to his intellectual capabilities, but she was beautiful, endearing, fun loving, and naïve if a bit reckless and self-destructive. They had three children, all boys, the perfect family if briefly with it’s share of grief, a disintegrating marriage and later the death of the youngest at 23. It is not surprising that among Liberal supporters today, women outnumber the men.

Unfortunately, memory is an unreliable friend, the Trudeau era no Camelot. While it is true Pierre Trudeau gave us the Canada Act which included the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, we also had the FLQ and the October Crisis in1970 that clearly delineated a leader who, in the name of public security, squandered his reputation as a lifelong advocate of civil rights by placing the nation in lockdown with the imposition of the War Measures Act. The following excerpt of a seven-minute exchange with CBC’s Tim Rafe did nothing to help:

Trudeau: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is ‘go on and bleed’ but it’s more important to keep law and order than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of…”

Rafe: “At any cost, any price? How far would you go? To what extent?”

Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.” (CBC Digital Archive)

It looked good to the timid, easily swayed and easily frightened, showcasing a leader at his best and worst and who was prepared to act decisively and at any cost. But not all were impressed. Imposition of the Act was akin was akin to “using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut” quipped NDP leader Tommy Douglas

So here we are 44 and 45 years later, this time with the Conservatives leading the government and another Trudeau leading the Liberal party. Again, to hear how Harper and his gang tell it, Canada is besieged, in crisis, its citizens in direct danger not just because of the lickspittle, anti-Conservative media or an “activist” (i.e., anti-Conservative) Supreme Court, and not just from the murderers and mad dogs roaming our streets: terrorists are everywhere and they are pounding on Canada’s doors. Those who downplay those fears as alarmist and extreme urging caution in how we react are dismissed with innuendo their loyalty questioned.

It should surprise no one that a government, particularly one as secretive, mean-spirited and anti-democratic as this one, would play to our nightmares and appeal to our bigotry during its slumping fortunes. It’s been done before. But how far is Harper willing to go?

Well, we already know don’t we?

THIS ISN’T GOOD

Long before ISIL entered the scene, Harper and his party have proven themselves quite willing to label critics in the environmental movement as radicals, stooges for foreign interests. Government employees have been fired, threatened with jail time, stonewalled, smeared, their reputations tarnished and medical records leaked. We have Conservative McCarthyite Mark Adler offering a bill that would require employees of watchdog agencies to swear loyalty oaths; employment will no longer be based on merit but on which political party you supported, or worked for years ago. If that passes, cronyism as played by Peter MacKay will be commonplace and accepted practice. But of what is this government afraid that it works to deceive Canadians by means of such dirty tricks, the frequent attempts to slip in spying legislation into omnibus bills and, when caught, hurling charges accusing critics of “siding with pornographers”.

Crime has always been a good bet for Conservatives, always eager to feed the fears, ignore the facts, and give the public what it wants: punish, punish, punish, one size fits all. The world is dangerous, full of bad guys and no one is redeemable except, perhaps, those Conservatives who subvert electoral rules, hold secret, illegal, fundraising events and pad their expenses.

But these days, even get-tough-on-crime measures aren’t enough. So thank God for ISIL and those horrific images of mass slaughters and videos of beheadings and a burning offering Harper and his Conservatives glimmerings of how they could reverse their sliding fortunes in time for the next election. Without debate, discussion or consultation, Harper joins coalition forces and involves Canada in the war in Iraq with the promise Canadian soldiers would play strictly advisory and support roles. The public approved, his fortunes immediately rose. Where was the downside in joining the forces of good to stop those Islamic monsters?

But, if the boost wasn’t as much as Harper expected or wanted, the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent shortly after allowed him to quickly frame the narrative and raise the spectre of terrorism. The death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill two days later, in a separate incident, was a godsend lending credence to the speculation and giving him an extra bounce after Canadians watched events unfold on Parliament Hill on television while media wildly fuelled speculation about the number of gunmen and victims. The initial confusion and reaction is understandable. However, Harper’s exploitation of the tragedies, working up hysteria to win public support for new, draconian, anti-terrorism legislation for his own political ends, is not.

And if all this helped Harper, the war, the deaths of two fine men, how much more could he have gained if, when reports came out of Canadian soldiers engaging ISIL in combat, one or two Canadian casualties were added. He could throw that into the campaign speeches he’s been giving across the country for an election yet to be declared, evoking jihadists with every other word and having us imagine the rest: bloodthirsty savages slathering at our doors wielding bloodied knives and leaving behind a trail of headless corpses. Still, even without dead Canadian soldiers in Iraq, he’s doing well. Almost daily we hear reports of more arrests, of plots foiled. My God, we are under siege!

So it’s working, this pandering to our fears and emotions, providing impetus for Harper’s Bill C-51, the new anti-terrorist legislation, with no public blowback and with little to no resistance from the opposition, particularly the Trudeau Liberals who have promised to vote for the bill regardless of its shortcomings. When the bill passes, and it will, CSIS will be given broader powers without any parliamentary oversight. Harper doesn’t trust the opposition members we elect and do. In fact, oversight will be almost none existent, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), an “independent” government agency empowered to investigate and review CSIS, has proven itself ineffective, it’s members government hack appointees and itself prone to controversy with chairs Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, forced to resign in 2014 for lobbying activities and Arthur Porter (2008-2011), facing charges for fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, receiving secret commissions, and money laundering while also in the role of director general for McGill University Health Centre.

The bill is dangerous with real potential for abuse. So why is Justin Trudeau so eager to sign off on it? There are no terms of reference. Who defines what makes a terrorist or a criminal act. The Act prohibits “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism. But how are these terms defined? As Terry Glavin pointed out (Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 12, 2015), C-51 is not just about terrorism. Unions and activists will almost certainly be targeted, as they have been, if their actions have a negative economic impact, as when a union strikes or environmentalists set up roadblocks. Would these be deemed acts of terrorism? Almost certainly with this government. Bill C-51 grants CSIS sweeping powers to arrest and detain without warrant and for longer periods, allows CSIS to shut down Internet access of whomever it deems a threat, and denies accused individuals the opportunity of facing their accusers. This is not a bill for a free democracy but for a nation governed by an iron fisted despot.

Is this what Trudeau is willing to sign off on? How far is he willing to let Harper go?

SPY VS. CITIZEN

It’s easy to understand Harper’s motive for putting this forward. He is a demagogue, he is anti-democratic, his is the interest of corporate kleptocracy not the fair and just society that Pierre Trudeau talked about and then abandoned when it suited his needs.

As I stated many times, Harper and his gang are not above smearing their opponents. In trying to rally voters to his side, in whipping up the vision of terrorists banging on our doors, no one should be surprised that Harper resorts to planting the seed of the big, insidious and invidious lie: those who do not support him are against him. By itself, if used only in the rhetoric of campaigning, one party against another party, that may not seem so bad. But when used in the context of war, terrorism and electioneering for the purpose of stigmatizing opponents, of casting doubts to their loyalty, it becomes a weapon of potent danger. Only someone small, vicious, and corrupt would impugn another’s name and honour by questioning his loyalty, doubting his patriotism and by suggesting he supports the enemy in the full knowledge that it is not true simply to score cheap political points. Harper and gang are doing it now. Even as recently as today (February 17th), Harper was sowing division when, in a French-language interview, he said many employees of CBC’s French-language network, Radio-Canada, “hated” Conservative values. If by that he means his values, he may be right; I know I loathe them. Unfortunately, too many Canadians are swallowing that Harper poison. It’s not true, it’s not fair, and it’s destructive not just to the individual affected but also to society at large.

But how does one respond to the vicious smears, the innuendoes and the politics of division when there is always a whole population of the ignorant, bigoted and plain stupid ready to drink from the tainted Harper well?

A federal court recently ruled that Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim, should be allowed to wear her niqab while taking the oath of citizenship. Harper’s response before a gathering of faithful dolts was swift appealing to the lowest aspect of our nature. “I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family. This is a society that is transparent, open and people are equal.” It was a vicious statement, one of division and intolerance, meant to inflame, to isolate and to stigmatize the woman and her community by suggesting with the use of the word “hide” that there was a more sinister aspect behind her desire to wear the niqab. The niqab and burkha are not religious requirements but some Muslims have interpreted the Qur’an’s admonition for modesty as such. However, Zunera Ishaq stated she was quite willing to unveil herself before a government official but not to be unmasked in public. This should satisfy us. Not so for Harper. He must plant that vile seed of mistrust and suspicion. Personally, I would prefer to see the face of my fellow citizens and would wish newcomers embrace our mores. But I have family members who are unhappy that I wear T-shirts only instead of buttoned shirts, even at family celebrations and funerals. That Zunera Ishaq prefers to wear a niqab makes her no more suspect than wearing a T-shirt makes me a redneck. As well, the last part of the statement caused me to smile. Harper’s regime is as closed, secretive, distrustful, petty and vengeful as any tinpot dictator’s. He has invoked closure, refused to consult with opposition members, attempted to slip laws into omnibus bills, subverted electoral laws, engaged in cronyism, and thrown those no longer useful to him under the bus. As for being equal…tell that to the single parent who may want to know why she or he has been left out in the cold while the well-off become even richer by an extra $2,000 thanks to Harper’s income splitting bill. Tell that to the Canadian worker who has been replaced by a foreign worker thanks to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program or to the low income earners whose wages have been suppressed as a result of the united efforts of Harper’s gang and big business.

The storyline Harper has framed is deeply disturbing. It does him no credit and it does Trudeau no credit when he appears to buy into it.

What has happened to the Liberal Party? Well, nothing really. It’s the same ole’ same ole’ not the new and better Justin promised. As has Harper, Trudeau has proven himself as venal as any cheap politician though, as one wit noted, there is no such thing as a cheap politician.

So it’s a tossup with the voters who cannot seem to count above two: Conservatives or Liberals, Liberals or Conservatives. It is as if the two parties, with public consent, really do believe they are entitled to rule by divine right. To the Conservatives and Liberals, the NDP as official opposition is merely an aberration so they work together in the secretive Board of Internal Economy to temporarily change the rules in hopes of financially destroying the NDP for engaging in what they all do with taxpayer funded mailouts.

BACK TO THE WHIZ KID AND HIS STORY OF NEW LOVE, ETC.

So what do Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have to offer that is new and different from Harper and his gang?

Well, very little, as it turns out.

In August of last year, he said, “A Liberal government will ensure that every Canadian is included….My vision is for a strong, united Canada and for a strong, respectful government.” We’ve heard that speech before. “Inclusion”, “openness”, “transparency”, “honesty”, are the buzzwords. And that’s the problem, they’re just buzzwords. After almost ten years of governance, suffused with an inflated image of himself as an economic mastermind, Harper has long ago proven himself a failure in every way. Integrity? None. Honesty? None. Openness? Nope. Truthful? Economic genius? Who is kidding whom?

Early in his term, we saw how it would be with Trudeau. He spent more time working the crowd than working in the House. Except for Elizabeth May, who does not get to ask questions in the House every day, none of the leaders have a stellar record of attendance during question period, “once considered a crucible of democratic debate in Canada, but now increasingly heavily scripted political theatre” (Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 30, 2014). Of 125 question period sessions in 2014, Thomas Mulcair attended 74, while Trudeau, with 49 appearances vied with Harper’s 46 in the race to trivialize and diminish Parliament. On that basis alone, there is no reason to vote for either Harper or Trudeau. For the record, May’s attendance was 100 out of 125 question period sessions.

In January of 2014, Trudeau boldly booted 32 Liberal senators from his caucus. The move came in the wake of the Senate scandals and while clever and unexpected, was perhaps meant more to show that Trudeau, young and inexperienced as he was, could be as decisive and brutal as anyone when necessary. But what did it accomplish? If the ploy was to eliminate partisanship in the Senate, what did it do for the House? How do you tell a life-long believer and member he is no longer a Liberal? Just as easy order a member of Harper’s gang to develop ethics.

And while he has proven himself as adapt as Harper in flexing his muscles, can Trudeau really be trusted to keep to his promises? Well…no. Remember his much ballyhooed open, free from political interference nominations promise? That proved a bust from the start with allegations of Trudeau publicly supporting some nominees and blocking others, of changing rules and membership cutoff dates behind closed doors. New, different, better? Hardly.

So, if quite not all he promised, if slow in unveiling some of his platform and less than open in some of his actions, it is true he still has a way to go in matching Harper in pettiness, ruthlessness, vindictiveness, and hypocrisy; that will likely come with time, the hardness and meanness, though I do not really believe Trudeau will ever develop the taste Harper has for wallowing in the sewer. Even so, Trudeau has shown himself able to surprise and, in doing so, of occasionally being remarkably reckless and as opportunistic as any old pro when, as recently as February 9, he made an appearance at a news conference with Eve Adams trailing behind him. Was this a joke? Apparently not. It did, however, elicit as much conversation as John Baird’s sudden departure a few days earlier. What was Trudeau thinking?

The loss of Baird, capable, partisan, and adroit as he was, is certainly more significant for Harper than that of Adams but the damage to Trudeau in embracing the defector may be greater. Which may explain why the Conservatives are still rubbing their hands and smiling. Not only had they rid themselves of a troublesome and toxic MP, Trudeau had, in welcoming her to his party, proved himself truly lacking in judgement. If he had failed to recognize the move by Adams for what it was, the last desperate gasp to salvage her political career and fulfill her personal ambitions, other Liberals did. If he had been under the perception he had made a coup, it is not all that surprising Trudeau would spring Adam’s defection before a clearly shocked media; what was surprising is that he would also spring it on his own supporters. It quickly became apparent that only a few members of his inner circle knew about Adams’s sudden conversion to the Liberal fold. Had more been informed, Trudeau may have been persuaded to withdraw the welcome mat thus saving him from embarrassment over the unseemly show. His failure to understand she was no great prize, certainly not of the calibre of John Baird, and that she had nothing to offer, in fact, might prove a liability, poses a real problem for him and the Liberal Party. How could he not see that Adams, by her own reckoning “25 years a ‘progressive’ conservative’”, was not a good fit for his goal of rebranding the Liberals as united, inclusive, honest, open and transparent? Had the ambitious Adams snookered an opportunistic Trudeau? Maybe. Other than baggage, what does she bring? More than one reference has been made of her telegenic looks. Is that the sum of her gifts? Well, turn about is fair play; the same has been said of Trudeau. I can just see it, Trudeau on the hustings, smugly offering platitudes while the cameras frantically shift from Adams to Trudeau to Adams ad nauseam: who cares about substance when you’ve got all that beauty? But, really, did Trudeau even pause to reflect?

Just days before her defection, she stood in the House staunchly defending the government in her role as parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Yet, as she and Trudeau sat side-by-side facing the media, she was able to claim without offering so much as a smirk that, “after a long and very difficult period of reflection” she could no longer support Harper’s “divisive”, “mean-spirited” leadership. It was enough to make one cringe. She also wanted to “better the lives of all Canadians.” Well, one Canadian in particular. “We need a kind, generous and strong leadership that champions shared vision for how to made Canada work for anyone,” she went on to say. Of income splitting, she had these words, “As a government, we were given a tremendous opportunity with the purported surplus to do right by folks. Instead the government is still about to roll out policies like income splitting which will devour the surplus without benefiting most Canadian families or creating a single job….I cannot support mean-spirited measures that benefit only the richest few.” As if this was news to her! Yet, in December 2014, she was loudly and extravagantly praising income splitting in the House, calling it a “simple, time-tested plan” and suggesting that all families would be better off.

Which is the real Eve Adams? I guess the phoney one.

But it is for her achievements outside of the House for which she has drawn most attention and which should have given Trudeau reason to pause if her 25 years as a Conservative wasn’t reason enough. During the 2011 election, Adams attempted to claim $2,777 in personal expenses including spa treatments and dry-cleaning costs. In December of 2013, she was caught on camera blocking cars at the pumps of an Ottawa Esso station throwing a hissy fit over a $6 carwash. There were allegations of misconduct against her and fiancé Dimitri Soudas with accusations they had paid for party memberships to build support for her nomination bid for the new federal riding of Oakville-North Burlington. As well, Soudas, a confidant of Harper’s and executive director in the PMO, was ordered by Harper not to interfere in Adams’s campaign. He did and was fired. In March of 2014, Adams angered a crowd of Conservatives attending a board meeting in the Oakville-North Burlington riding. She was asked to leave, she refused, more angry words before she finally left. When the Conservative Party finally cleared her to run in the riding, the party was forced to put a halt to the nomination process in order to investigate claims of dirty tactics by Adams and her opponent, Natalia Lishchyna. Due to an injury, which resulted in a concussion, Adams withdrew from the race in August. On February 9th 2015, Adams crossed the floor to join the Liberals. During the public unveiling, Adams neglected to reveal that, two weeks before, the Conservatives had informed her by letter she would not be allowed to run as a candidate for the Conservative Party. That was fine, the Conservatives were eager to help with that bit of news.

This is a woman of ambition who clearly feels entitled and doesn’t mind the perks while riding on the taxpayer dime. So what was the upside for Trudeau except to claim that he had poached a member from the Harper gang, a member who was already on the way out? This had all the hallmarks of gamesmanship as some have posited, nothing new, nothing different, certainly nothing better.

Now Adams had declared her intention to run against finance minister Joe Oliver in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. She would have to prove herself by “earning” the nomination in a process that would be free and open, Trudeau said. He said the same before and broke the promise in three other races. If Trudeau places a thumb on the scale in Adams favour, it could do irreparable harm to him with his own base. Some Liberals in the riding are already extremely unhappy with the idea of a parachute candidate and have made it clear they did not want nor would they support Adams. Is the risk of alienating lifelong Liberals worth it? Yes, if Adams turns giant killer by defeating Joe Oliver. But then Trudeau would be stuck with her, her overweening ambition and overwhelming sense of entitlement. If she lost, well, that’s one problem and one gigantic headache removed. But, what of the bitter aftertaste for those loyal, ignored, Liberals, Trudeau doing what all leaders apparently do all too often, opt for the expedience of one-upmanship, the cheap and easy short-term gain, lofty words and principles tossed aside for the photo-op, the telegenic booby prize. The same ole’ same ole’.

But it could be that Soudas, not Adams, is the real draw. As a close confidant of many years to Harper and as an insider in the PMO, he doubtlessly could provide much insight of Conservative strategy. But then, could he be trusted? Unlikely. He is poison, his career as a political insider surely over. And, if he did it all for love as some have suggested, even more foolish. If Adams loses, will true love conquer all?

While I have absolute contempt for the anti-democratic Harper and his Conservatives, with their anti-unionist/anti-worker/pro-business stance and would never, ever, vote for them, it is not to Justin Trudeau or the Liberals I would turn. I see too much in both that suggest they are brothers in spirit. Both will say and do anything to win the upper hand even sacrificing many traditional values that differentiates the parties. At one time the Liberal Party was proud to declare itself progressive, which suggested some support for individual rights and freedoms, for social and political reform. But that is gone by the wayside, winning and power the end game. Harper and Trudeau are two faces on the same coin and that is an unhappy thought. Interfering in riding association’s nominations and embracing Eve Adams and just two examples of Trudeau’s profound lack of judgement, blatant duplicity, and shameless equivocal scruples.

Yet it is his declared intention to support Bill C-51 that is most offensive and puts the lie to the Liberal brand of old. His father did the same. Trudeau has surrendered to Harper and his gang to such an extent that he has allowed Harper to define him. At least Pierre Trudeau was his own man. We do not need more anti-crime, anti-terrorist legislation. We do not need a police state. But that is what we will end with if Harper continues as he has and refuses to allow for parliamentary oversight and amendments to the bill. Of all the leaders, Elizabeth May, as of this writing, has been the only voice foursquare opposed to C-51. For that, I applaud her. The bill is vile, it is dangerous, it is contemptible. Those who support it are opportunists, stooges, and/or cowards. The new bill will almost certainly result in abuses and be taken to the highest court and likely struck down.

Trudeau says he will support the anti-terrorist bill. The NDP appears to be leaning against support but have yet to declare themselves decisively. I hope they do vote against it. It will pass, regardless, thanks to the Conservative majority, but I would hope there are some politicians who will see this bill for what it is and find a bit of backbone.

Those who oppose Bill C-51 are soft on terrorists. That will be the Harper spin and some will buy it. It will not be true, of course. Only a simpleton would believe that.

Any politician, and I mean any, who supports C-51 out of fear that voters will buy into the Harper narrative has already lost; they have allowed Harper to define and shape them. They will not have my vote but they will have earned my contempt.

Andrew Jackson said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

Think of that. Where do you stand? What kind of person are you?

***

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

 

STEPHEN HARPER: THE COWARDLY LION

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. – Joseph Schumpeter

Idealists…foolish enough to throw caution to the winds…have advanced mankind and enriched the world. – Emma Goldman

Frank A. Pelaschuk

IS IT THAT TIME ALREADY?

You know Harper’s on the election trail when you see him tieless, checkered shirt unbuttoned at the neck, striding to and fro across a stage, his back to enthralled members of his caucus and playing to a camera and an unseen audience. His face glowing with the exultation of an ecstatic, he enumerates his government’s “achievements” loudly trumpeting that Canada is the envy of the world and Canadians are better off than ever under his leadership.

He’s talking to those whom you would think would know but, of course, he’s aware of the camera, it’s not to them he and his caucus are playing. One thing is certain, he has introduced an Americanism that appears here to stay: campaigning early and in earnest one full year before Canadian’s next go to the polls. That is if he keeps to his own fixed election agenda and doesn’t go sooner than the October 19, 2015 date. With this gang, one never knows; since he introduced the fixed dates, Harper’s never adhered to it. With the Mike Duffy trial now set for April 7, 2015 and the very real possibility of embarrassing revelations, voters might wonder if they can expect more of the same.

Maybe we do know after all.

Regardless of when, from now to the election, we are about to be flooded with even more of the triumphalist rodomontade, bombast, hypocrisy, lies, accusations, mudslinging, and bribery in the forms of taxpayer funded ads, hysterical hyperbolic speeches and shiny promises of tax cuts and a few other incidental baubles for the easily lead and the cheaply bought. Watching Harper work his MPs on the first day of the fall session (September 15, 2014), one cannot doubt his enthusiasm though he gives the impression of anxiety as he spins the Conservative mythology; he believes and wants us to as well: theirs is the best, wisest, and sanest government in the world and they are the best, wisest, and sanest money managers in the history of the mankind and he, Harper, is the best, wisest and sanest leader since time began. Clearly, and we must understand this, only he and his Conservatives can save us from the perils out there. Well, that is in their imaginings. All he really expects and wants of us, and many already have, is to park our minds, put them in neutral and swallow the swill holus-bolus. For some it’s a lot easier than for others.

Today, however, one senses something close to desperation, his declarations urgent, his warnings direr, Harper and his MPs making more appearances in the press though, it is true, Harper prefers to speak to the American press. Apparently he agrees with Senator Marjory LeBreton: the Canadian media is rife with lickspittle elites.

He’s worried, seems less convincing than as one trying to convince. Still, he looks more at ease then he does in that old picture of him wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest, hands on hips, his expression wary, shifty eyes shifted to his right, the smile a sickly grimace as if aware how dismal is his effort to appear one of the hoi polloi, a casual member of the masses. But that was a while back when he first sought to soften his image, to suggest that he was one of us, just regular folk, one who listens, cares. Did it work for you? To some, the transformation was convincing enough; he got his majority with less than 40% of the vote. So why does it seem, with all his claims to great achievement, the act of bonhomie does not come all that easily, that his exhortations appear a bit forced and his expression not all that inviting? Maybe it’s the cameras that intimidate. Whatever it is, there’s something false about it all, too stage crafted to appear natural and casual and convincing. He appears as comfortable as would the Duchess of Windsor mud wrestling before drunken males.

If Harper is running scared, and he should be given his propensity for secrecy, non-disclosure, bullying, ridiculing, smearing, and refusal to share information with Canadians and the opposition members who represent them, it is because he knows, come next election, he has a very good chance of losing to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. He certainly is not running scared because he has second thoughts about his policies or his goals, narrow to the extreme. He should, but he doesn’t nor do his supporters. Conservatives are not much given to second-guessing themselves; they are certainly not much given to reflection, to doubts. They are deaf to the voices of others, oh, no, not their friends, those lords and masters in industry or those generous donors to the Conservative coffers with off-shore accounts, but to the opposition members, the very people we elect to insure our interests are heard, considered and met. The sad fact is, the Harper gang, and that is what they are, thugs in suits, do not much care what we think: they have their majority. They believe their narrow base of core supporters will be enough and it well may be with the creation of thirty new gerrymandered ridings that will almost certainly garner them 22 more seats, provided the apocalypse doesn’t strike first or supporters switch on their brains. That will be a long wait.

SO WHO IS THE NEW(ISH) HOPE?

If Harper loses, and I hope he does and the whole gang are decimated to extinction, I am uncertain we will be better off even so; it will just be the Liberals swapping places and the NDP returning to their usual third place. It’s always been thus: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals. It’s a game chicken voters are too timid to end by trying something daring. Instead of booting both teams off the field and awarding the cup to the third team, Canadian voters would rather stick with the tried and true, the arrogant, cruel, corrupt and corruptible they already know and understand than risk the uncertainty of what they may believe competent and well-intentioned but fear because untested.

Untested. They would be wrong, of course. If any of them took the time to objectively watch the performances of the three parties in the House during Question Period, if they took the time and made the effort to fully appreciate how dismal the state of affairs has become, there is little effort required to discover this, they would know that the NDP is far from untested and, while imperfect in some ways, certainly has less baggage than the other two parties and is better placed to not only offer Canadians what we want but what we need: open, honest, ethical leadership.

It is not Justin Trudeau’s fault that he is young and relatively inexperienced, but it is that he is too eager in his ambitions to bide his time and gain seasoning before going for the leadership of the nation. Nor is it his fault that his name evokes rosy of flower children and Trudeaumania but false memories that gloss over the reality of the War Measures Act enacted by his father. Nor is it his fault that he is handsome and charismatic and draws the attention of the young and thoughtless who prefer celebrity to ideas or a clear vision. And it is not his fault a few of the old, perhaps harkening back to the days when they may have been “progressive’, will declare their vote for a change, something new, without really meaning it in the crunch, opting instead for the same ol’ same ol’. But it is his fault when he plays on these rather than offer Canadians valid reasons why he and his party would make a better choice to lead this nation.

If one watched Question Period in the House, he would note that Trudeau is absent more often than not, too busy raising funds and garnering support for his party. Too, he would note that, when Trudeau does make an appearance, he all too often throws his support to the Conservatives on such contentious issues as the Keystone XL pipeline or the Temporary Foreign Workers Program which allows companies to replace Canadian workers for foreign workers for less; Trudeau would tweak the program which allows for the suppression of wages rather than scrap it altogether as the NDP suggest. Too, without any apparent knowledge of what the full impact will be, Trudeau and the Liberals have thrown their support behind the secretive, costly free trade deal the Conservatives and the Chinese government cooked up over two years before ratifying it on September 9th. That’s when Canadians learned about the deal. What’s worse, the sellout takes effect this October 1st. That is three weeks after Canadian’s learned it was a done deal. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), locks Canada to it for 31 years and, according to experts, gives much to China, very little to Canada. The deal could cost Canadian taxpayers billions should China dispute a regulation any level of government might put in place that might place restrictions on how it conducts its business here. With their investments in the energy field, if they conduct business as they do in China, efforts to clean up the environment, which is already moving at glacial speed, thanks to the Harper gang who don’t believe it’s real, would be moot. FIPA is a Conservative effort conducted behind closed doors, with neither debate nor input from the opposition parties. While the NDP has called to put a stop to the deal before it takes effect, the Liberals have opted to support it without knowing what the full effect will be on Canada, the Canadian economy, and Canadians. If it was such a great deal for Canadians, why the secrecy, why the silence, why no debate? When Harper and gang are silent on a trade deal rather than shouting it from the rooftops, as is their wont, we should be prepared for the worst.

Trudeau seems a nice young man but surely we deserve better than this.

SO, IT WAS AN ELECTION, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

In 2006, Harper promised to usher in a “new era of accountability” if he was elected. He was, the promise broken, and the Conservatives laughing. Oh, that. That was just another election promise; surely Canadians knew that. If not, we quickly learned.

From the very first, Conservatives have openly and defiantly dismissed the concept of transparency when, in December of 2008, he prorogued Parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote when the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois joined forces threatening to defeat the budget. Since then, he has shut down Parliament, i.e., cut and ran, on three other occasions. That is one method of governance. Another is not to meet with Canadian media or to answer questions in the House by those people we elect to ask them. Harper and his gang have turned this form of governance into farce at times resembling performance art worthy of Dadaism if not a monkey house. Harper and his gang have made a mockery, not only of their offices, but also of the parliamentary process and of those who vote for them.

I don’t know about those who support the Conservatives, but I believe in democracy, in the right of citizens to be informed and believe that governments must be held accountable; that includes answering questions put to them in the House. Harper and gang flatly disagree routinely resorting to non-sequiturs, fingerpointing, evasion, diversion, derision, outright lying, and just acting up. And this is the sanest government in the world?

However offensive their antics and stubborn in their refusal to be accountable, it quickly becomes apparent that they are not indifferent stewards of our nation; no, they are too far gone for that. Theirs is the mindset of the corporatocracy; they govern on the behest of corporate interests in the core belief that it is business and money that keeps the world moving and that anything can and should be bought and sold for gain. They have long ago become corrupted by power and by the desire to cling to it. While their ideology may lead them to reject the Darwinism of evolution, they are not averse to passing legislation to make it easier for industry with their distorted free enterprising Darwinism of survival of the fittest. If the Conservatives were absolutely free to do what they would, they would doff their hats and sing in the streets, “Anything Goes”. They have become fixated with creating surpluses, selling off Canadian resources and cutting corporate taxes at the expense of public service jobs, social programs, our infrastructures and the environment. Let the next generation worry about the devastation left in their wake.

They talk about tax cuts, boasting of it how much they have saved consumers while thinking nothing of spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on ads informing us, much of it on Facebook! Really.

While Harper and John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, strut upon the world stage loudly and belligerently trumpeting their support of Israel and Ukraine, condemning Russia’s incursion into the Crimea, and hedge their bets on Iraq, they do so ignoring the screaming voices demanding answers and declaring them all bluster and hot air hoping the public will not notice. Yes, their voices are loud, but the sabres they rattle are very, very small plastic toothpicks indeed.

Talk and noise, while allowing our military resources to suffer greatly. Our men and women are ill equipped with old, out-dated gear. Half of Canada’s Naval ships are either being repaired or sold for scrap. The four used British submarines purchased 20 years ago have never properly performed and have been in constant repair. Canada’s air force C-18 planes are due for retirement in 2020. Unfortunately, the F-35s, upon which the government has set it’s sights while deceiving the public as to the real costs, will not be ready by that date. Remember Harper and MacKay campaigning, feuding with the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, regarding the true costs of those Cadillac of jets? Harper and MacKay boasted the figure was only $9 billion for 65 jets. Page disputed this saying the figures were closer to $45 billion. Harper and gang refused to show him the books, preferring instead to smear Page and his reputation and refusing to renew his contract. To this date, the true costs remain unknown though $45 billion appears to be the number many critics have settled on though some claim a much higher number: $125 billion. Nevertheless, the Conservatives won the vote. But, if that, if the misleading numbers regarding the F-35s doesn’t rile you, this might. Search and rescue has taken a beating; there was a time, I don’t know if it still applies, when someone needing help found himself talking to a call centre in Spain! The Search and Rescue team are saddled with obsolete planes that daily imperil our brave responders. Shockingly, it was recently revealed the Royal Canadian Air Force had to raid the aviation museum in Trenton for parts for its search and rescue planes. Scavenging for parts when the Harper gang spend millions advertising programs that don’t even exist! Lord help us. Lord help those poor folks who must rely on those planes.

Yeah, Harper and gang are the best and wisest money managers in the world; just ask them. They’ll tell you.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Harper’s is a government of loudmouths and blowhards. Harper talks tough, and he is, when it comes to civil servants, to the poor, elderly and young. It’s easy when you’re a coward and a bully and your opponent is defenseless. But he’s not so tough with his corporate friends who don’t pay their fair share, who hide funds offshore, as if they didn’t pay little enough as it is; indeed one gets the impression that the Harper gang plots with their business friends to suppress low income wages by replacing Canadian with foreign workers.

They are monsters of indifference not only when it comes to ethics, transparency, but also in how little respect they hold for voters, opposition members and for the House itself.

This week, Harper was in the United States. He was in New York but not attending the UN Summit on Climate Change (he could not care less). One hundred and twenty-five world leaders were in attendance. President Obama was there. Not Harper. After losing Canada a seat on the UN Security Council, after years of trashing the UN itself, after four years of shunning the opportunity to speak at the Assembly, he was there, finally, to give a speech. An election must be approaching. But he was not there to speak on climate change, terrorism or Canada’s role in Iraq. No, he was there to speak on something totally different, laudable and important: combatting preventable deaths of mothers and children. However, he undermines his own message somewhat with his government’s denial of funding to charities practicing family planning, including abortion for war rape victims and child brides forced into marriages in these war-ravaged, poverty-stricken areas of the world. He further diminishes his message by outlining his solution to preventable deaths of mothers and children by pushing the same message he does at home: Free enterprise. For Harper, everything is reducible to free trade and the free flow of capital. Prosperity and wealthy will naturally follow. He can’t give it a rest. Even doing the right thing, like saving lives, must be monetized.

Just prior to that, he attended an event sponsored by Goldman Sachs answering questions by a Wall St. Journalist. It was only then, on foreign soil, before a foreign press, that Canadians learned that Obama had sent Harper a letter requesting more help in combatting ISIL. We already have 69 “advisors” in Iraq whose presence there would be evaluated after 30 days. Harper stated he would consider the request after consulting with his cabinet. There is nothing in that appearance about seeking advice from the opposition or debate or holding a vote. What is very disturbing about this is that Canadians and their representatives did not learn of this first; they had to hear it from foreign journalists on foreign soil. Too, CTV reported on the late evening National News September 25th, the story didn’t quite unfold that way. According to the report, sources from the White House stated it was Harper who approached the President, writing to ask in what way Canada could help. This may appear small, and it is, but, if true, says something about Harper’s character, which would surprise no one following him. By having one of the most important leaders on the world stage turn to him for assistance, Harper inflates his own significance in hopes of convincing Canadians that he is, indeed, a world player. This is typical Harper. As is his making of significant announcements when he is out of the country because he is too cowardly to face his Canadian audience and because he has determined that the Canadian media is out to get him (all that is except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong).

While Harper was in New York, and before his conference in the with the press, Thomas Mulcair, at home, struggled for two days to get answers to legitimate questions: How long would those 69 advisors be in Iraq; when did the 30 day evaluation period begin and when would it end; would Canada be asked to do more; would there be feet on the ground in Iraq? Canadians have every right to know the answers to these questions. Well, not so according to Harper’s Conservatives.

When Mulcair posed these questions in the House, Paul Calandra, either Harper’s immoderately idiotic parliamentary secretary or Harper’s voluntary whipping boy and sacrificial lamb, responded on behalf of the government for the absent Harper. He stood up and read from a script a reply that had nothing to do with the question but would have done Lewis Carroll proud. After several more attempts to get a straight answer to direct questions, Calandra responded in the same ridiculous vein reading from the same sheet of paper. Mulcair, angry now, addressed the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, pointing out he had an obligation to enforce rules and compel government members to respond to questions put to them. When Mulcair once again tried to get an answer from the government side, Calandra again read from the script, prompting an exasperated Mulcair to address the Speaker with this: “Well, Mr. Speaker, that does not speak favourably about your neutrality in this House.” Scheer immediately retaliated by denying Mulcair the final question to which he was entitled, moving on to the third party leader, Justin Trudeau.

All this happened on September 23, before Harper spoke to the American press and before his speech in the UN. That evening, on CBC’s Power and Politics, Conservative James Bezan laughed off the episode with a dismissive and well-worn phrase, “It’s called question period, not answer period”! If that is not contempt for Parliament, nothing is. Pardon my naiveté, but I expect an answer when a Member of Parliament puts a question to the governing party. The next day, Scheer responded to Mulcair’s charge, saying there was nothing he could do, that, if members wanted to change the way things are done, they would have to do it themselves. He could not, he said, direct the question nor direct a response. Then he repeated the same facetious line Bezan had the day before, “That’s why it’s call question period, not answer period”! That Scheer said this with a smirk should have made the blood of all Canadian’s boil. This from the Speaker of the House who is supposed to be neutral. Immediately after Scheer spoke, both Conservative and Liberal members stood up and gave Scheer a standing ovation! To their credit, the NDP kept to their seats.

If it is as Scheer states, if it’s true his hands are tied, then perhaps it is time the Speaker be given more power to ensure that government response are relevant to the questions posed. As it stands, his function is little more than to rise and shout over the bedlam, “Order. Order!” If one of his duties is to impose decorum, he has failed miserably. Since Scheer has become Speaker, all pretence to decorum in the House has vanished. Is he really that weak, that powerless? I think not. I sense that the Conservatives feel emboldened to make Asses of themselves because Scheer has taken the easy route; he simply washed his hands of the matter and Question Period. His neutrality has been questioned in the past as when he sat for two weeks on requests by Elections Canada to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan for not filling out proper expense claims during the 2011 campaign. Both finally did so, Glover when learning she was to be promoted and Bezan with claims to having been “vindicated” after he submitted an accurate report and Elections Canada dropped the matter.

What we are witnessing in the House today is a perversion of democracy, a mockery wherein government members could as easily be baboons for all their antics and their non-responses. For this, I blame Stephen Harper and his gang. It’s not entertaining except, it seems to the Conservative members, who jump up and enthusiastically applaud and thump each other on the back whenever Harper or one of his members opens his or her mouth to offer a non-response or, when someone like Calandra, the sacrificial Fool in the House, likely acting on instruction from Harper’s handlers, retorts with nonsensical innuendo by reading from a script in hopes of smearing the opposition NDP with something so obscure that even most Conservative members don’t know what’s going on. These are apes enamoured by their own idiocy. I am not amused nor should you be. If Question Period in the House does not give members of the public answers to their concerns, it does give them ample opportunity to witness for themselves how completely underserving Harper and his gang are of holding public office. They certainly don’t deserve the pay and the padded expense accounts.

Scheer, too, must be held accountable for much of antics we see in the House. He has lost or surrendered control of the House. He could censure members who refuse to offer responses relevant to the questions put to them by naming them or having them removed. He can do the same when government members evade, obfuscate, lie or ignore the question altogether. As it stands now, he has washed his hands of the whole affair and refuses to accept responsibility. We all are familiar with that story. It’s a spectacle unworthy of those who have the nerve to call themselves Parliamentarians. Something needs to be done; somehow, someway, the Speaker’s role must be enhanced and his partisanship eliminated as much as possible. But members of parliament, too, must change. They are not answerable to their party or their leader but they are to the people.

If the behaviour in Parliament we have been subjected to doesn’t repel you, nothing will; you are indifferent to ethics, to democracy and deserve the contempt of all those who do believe governments must be accountable to those who elect them. When the Speaker of the House simply shrugs his shoulders and repeats a silly statement that is specious and dishonest, you can only despair. Is this what we expect from our leaders? Do we not deserve better?

One can almost forgive Calandra if his was the only act of buffoonery and he was dumb enough to offer himself for the role assigned by Harper; if he was acting under instructions, he should simply have said, “No”. Why would anyone set himself up to be the laughingstock of Canada?

Interestingly, the next day, perhaps realizing that the Calandra show might have gone too far, the Minister of Defence at least made an attempt to appear as if he was answering questions on Canadian troops in Iraq while in fact not doing so. The result is the same and just as bad, just as offensive and yet better than what we witnessed the day before. Today, September 26, even as I am writing this, Paul Calandra, teary-eyed and voice breaking, stood up and apologized to the House.

Too late.

Perhaps it was from the backlash from the public. Perhaps his own fellow Conservatives were embarrassed. Nevertheless, too late.

Shame on Stephen Harper and his government.

Democratically elected, the Harper Conservatives are absolutely the least democratic party in the past few decades. By their very behaviour in the House, they have degraded Parliament and threaten our democracy. They are unworthy of this country, of our support, and of our trust; they have consistently and persistently degraded their positions with the élan of monkeys and the truly stupid, cruel and thoughtless: Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre, Kellie Leitch, Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, Chris Alexander, Brad Butt, Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Leona Aglukkaq, Colin Carrie, Andrew Scheer, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Jason Kenney, John Baird, and, of course, Stephen Harper are the most notable wallowing in that foul swamp.

These are the people you folks want in office?

Even greater shame on you.

Yes, yes, and yes again…they belong in the trashcan of history.

***

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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: MAN OF DESTINY?

This time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. – Lewis Carroll

Frank A. Pelaschuk

You can tell a lot about a person by how well he handles defeat. But it is how well he handles victory that can, at times, be more revealing of his character. We had a good glimpse of this with Justin Trudeau. It wasn’t pretty.

Trudeau likes to talk about himself as “authentic”. And we saw how authentic at the by-election victory party in the Montreal riding of Bourassa. I have no doubt that was the real person we were seeing and hearing. Instead of taking the opportunity to congratulate his opponents, he could not rise above the partisan fray even in the face of victory, seizing the moment, instead, to sidestep magnanimity to wag his finger and rail against the NDP for running a negative campaign. This is no way to win new friends; the response was petty, churlish, and ungenerous, hardly the behaviour one expects of a leader, especially a leader who has had a good night. Instead of reaching out in an attempt to mend fences, his immediate instincts were to tear them down. For Trudeau, bonhomie is a mask for public viewing; incivility is the real thing. That type of behaviour signifies an aspect of Trudeau that is unpleasant and suggests a closer kinship to Stephen Harper, the most ungenerous, most petty, most unworthy and ignoble of any public official, than some would have imagined. The truth is, no election campaign is completely positive; sniping and fabrications and cheap shots are part of the package; they are not new, not good, should be, and can be, avoided, but they are a fact. Some one of character might have allowed the opportunity to snipe pass. It’s too easy to be mean and small; Trudeau opted for the easy.

The hectoring was bad enough; it was disingenuous and hypocritical, the NDP and Tories no doubt having stories of their own about how the Liberals ran their campaign. But for some in the NDP, the most hurtful aspect of Trudeau’s mean-spirited victory speech was the appropriation of parts of Jack Layton’s final communication written on his deathbed. It’s allowable, but in the context of his victory, it was merely shabby, using Layton’s words to club the party for which he gave his all; a rubbing of salt into NDP wounds.

Trudeau says he admired Jack Layton. But there was none of that at all, that night. He knew exactly what he was doing and later said he had no regrets. It was obvious he had a clear understanding that many Canadians from all walks of life had grown to love and embrace Layton if not his politics. It was to that emotional memory that Trudeau was attempting to hitch his wagon and his star. It was unseemly and very tawdry.

Many still remember that final, famous message, a message full of love, generosity, humaneness, and optimism that Layton left for us. It was this love for Layton that prompted Trudeau, this cheap, withered offshoot of liberalism, to adopt those words and exploit them as a rallying victory cry for the Liberal Party; Trudeau was attempting to feed off the reflected glory of a dead man. He was standing in Layton’s light and diminished himself in the doing. What he did was not admiration nor admirable; it was the opportunism of cynicism. Trudeau knows this; Layton’s words, especially their meaning, are simply too large for him. Trudeau knows that, too, is true, as do most who admired Layton. Trudeau has no philosophy and, as of yet, has no vision. So why not steal another man’s words and meld them to suit your own needs. They sound good. And they are good. The thing is, Jack Layton, exemplified the best of the NDP philosophy, his final words reflecting more accurately the values of the NDP than the “economic diplomacy” of the Harper Conservatives or the fuzzy, picayune glamour of the Trudeau Liberals. In truth, judging from the public response, the words Layton wrote apparently reflect the hunger, if not the values, of many Canadians.

It is easy to quote words that are eloquent and full of meaning. It is also easy to take their meaning and distort them. It is believing them and living them that is the trick. If it is true that people believed in the words of Jack Layton or, at the least, wish them to be true, then Justin Trudeau is not the man who will ever live up to the promise or the hope of that vision. The Liberal party has long ago lost its way. Trudeau is no modern day Moses; his appeal may be broad, but it is limited; an empty box, wrapped nicely, offers nothing but an empty promise.

Jack Layton, good and generous as he was, was but one man. But his vision was a shared vision, an inheritance from the CCF, J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, Ed Broadbent, and the men and women of the past and present who make possible the NDP vision of today. Jack Layton was a part of that vision. He believed in it and he lived it and, because he did, he was able to put those words on paper. But he knew he wasn’t the only one; it was not a one-man show. He shared the vision with countless others and they made him possible just as he made the vision and the possibility real. He was not alone; they were not alone. Dying and in death, he did not abandon them nor they him. But he, as do most of the NDP, wanted more for those others, those who felt marginalized, excluded, of value only when their votes were needed. He knew that too many deserved more and better and were all too often left behind. He, and his beloved NDP, wanted and want to change that. He knew that as they struggled to feed themselves and their families they also struggled with hope and ideas, inchoate and raw, perhaps a little unfocused; they just needed a little guidance, a nudge and reasons for hope. As leader of the NDP, Layton was prepared to do that. He knew they needed to be reached and moved, but not with high-minded words and empty promises, but with the recognition of the truth of their own desires, an acknowledgement that their doubts, fears, needs and concerns were real, were heard and needed attending to. His final words are a reflection of the legacy of those who actually lived and live those words.

The NDP is not perfect; nothing is except, perhaps, Justin Trudeau’s hairdo. Nevertheless, it is the party of hope, not of fear. Usurper Trudeau may look a better package than Mulcair, and he may appropriate Layton’s words, but if that is all the Liberals have, than why not go with Justin Bieber who could probably earn a few more votes from the young and scatterbrained? And to anyone doubting the substance and experience of Thomas Mulcair, I suggest they tune into Question Period in the House. He is by far the most effective weapon against the Harper gang.

True, he is no Jack Layton. He is his own person, a man of substance, knowledge and integrity and he stands alone with others in a shared, honest, and positive vision. Even so, substance apparently accounts for little with the public: it’s either tax cuts or glamour. The limited versus the limited. That Harper, for all his missteps, for all the scandals, for all the corruption, is still ahead of Mulcair in the polls is astounding. Notwithstanding reality, the myth of Conservatives as better money managers somehow still lives! Will someone please ring a bell.

What does it take to rouse those public members who are in thrall of Trudeau or who still support Harper and his knavish thugs? What does it take to rouse the public from its hellish version of life, its narcissistic, zombielike pursuit of self and self-interest with its fixation on glitz, sham, and shallowness to the exclusion of all else, resembling life of some sort, suggestive of movement and doing but, in the end, as sentient as a grain of dust?

Harper is a pox. Trudeau is a terrible joke. Both are bad for Canada. Watch Harper. Judge for yourself. But, the next time you tune in to Question Period in the House, look at Justin Trudeau. Watch what happens when he poses his questions to the Conservatives. If he thinks it a particularly good question, and he often does, he will become a little taller, smiling smugly as he slowly scans the House and gallery when done reading from his cheat sheet. You will notice the slight pause, the curl of his lips, and then, as if satisfied, the abrupt nod as he returns to his seat. He appears to be waiting for applause and asking of the world: Am I not beautiful? Am I not clever? It could be though, that those are the words he tells himself, the abrupt nod signalling a happy concurrence with himself.

Yes, one can occasionally learn much from how well an individual handles his victories. Authentic? In Trudeau’s case, it is chimera, as substantial as a shimmering ephemeron. A puff of wind, poof! nothing there.

That’s all we need. More straw men, more magical thinking, more nothing. And you are to blame. Instead of demanding more and better, you accept less and that is exactly what you are getting with Harper. Trudeau will be no different.

Poof! Nothing there.

***

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

THE NDP: THE NEW DISSEMBLERS

Frank A. Pelaschuk

“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

What does it mean when a party attempts to rebrand itself? The NDP did that over the weekend (April 12-14) making a few changes to the preamble of its constitution. In doing so, the NDP has set out to distance itself from its Socialist roots. For those lifelong supporters, some of it must have hurt. They had been told, more or less, that the ideas they had brought to the party and the ideas they had fought for were now old and tired. Or course there is denial that that is so. Said Mulcair of the changes, “it’s a way of communicating the modernization of the party.” He further stated that it was not a move to the centre but a way of  “bringing the centre to the party” (Citizen, April 15, 2013). That is one way of looking at it. It’s also a crock.

For good or ill, the NDP has, from its CCF days, been a distinct voice. It has never governed the country, but its influence has been enormous and we are a better nation for it. However, over the years, something has happened to the party. There were some working from the inside that were not content that the NDP be relegated to the sidelines while Conservatives and Liberals often stole and took credit for their ideas. Perhaps most galling was the thought that the public might actually believe the party was “fringe” (i.e., unelectable as a governing party). So, today, we have a slightly different NDP. Having reached official opposition status, having smelled power without tasting it, it is heady stuff indeed and leaves the party and its supporters wanting more. In fact, they want it all. Therein lies the problem for the “government in waiting”. So close to achieving its goals, perhaps forgetting or simply in denial that the present NDP success was largely the success of one man, the late, much loved Jack Layton, NDPers appear to actually believe they will form the next government. In initiating the changes, they will claim they are continuing the work of Layton. I do not doubt they believe that. But why should it necessitate turning its back on its Socialist roots? Must ideas and ideals play second fiddle to the more ambitious goal of winning?

 Socialism is neither a dirty word nor a dirty idea. Free market lovers like Harper and his thugs will tell you otherwise throwing up a trail of fairy dust lies that are meant to confuse and frighten. They will tell you that Socialism is to be feared, that it is Communism, that it is godless, that it advocates murder through abortion, that it will lead to dictatorship, that it’s anti-market, that it means confiscation of property and the privatization of everything, that it will lead to the end to individualism, that it cares more for criminals and pedophiles than victims, and that it leads to laziness and welfare bums living high off the State. Too many of us are buying it. It’s nonsense, a big lie. Of course, those Harper free enterprisers would have us ignore those corporate welfare bums to whom they are so beholden, those leeches with their ceaseless demands for lower taxes, increased tax deferments, and even more gifts of public funding even as they hypocritically demand that governments not interfere in the market. They would have us ignore that those same bums demand, and get, public funds to set up business and hire workers with the implicit threat of pulling stakes if they don’t get their way. And the likes of Harper and gang would have us ignore that in times of crisis, as in 2008, those corporate blackmailers, those unpunished pieces of garbage who created the crisis in the first place and ruined the lives of millions, would have the public bail them out with billions of taxpayer monies in the full, smug certainty of knowing that they are “too big to fail.” Yet calls for regulation is labelled “Socialistic” and “Communistic”.

Still, the suckers vote for Harper and gang, swallowing the bilge that they are superb money managers, that they know what’s good for the country. Capitalism is the answer; what’s good for Business is good for Canada. Tell that to Canadian workers displaced by foreign temps or whose jobs are outsourced by CEOs who make millions off the backs of cheap labour and Canadian taxpayers. All of this happening with the help of Harper and thugs.

So why do voters keep buying that old Conservative line when the gap between the wealthy and the poor keeps widening, when the wages of workers has the same purchasing power of the 70s? For such as those, the words of Irene Peter would appear to fit: “Ignorance is no excuse — it’s the real thing.” The thing is, for those willing to listen and understand and be persuaded, ignorance is not necessarily a permanent state. It is, alas, for others, those individuals who refuse to listen or will not be persuaded, preferring the blindness of darkness to the wisdom of light: that’s stupidity and for stupidity there is no remedy. So why is it that even the NDP seems bent on buying, if even only a little, into the myth of Harper Conservatism. Well, it could be it helps win votes.

It is not that the NDP is jumping whole hog into the swill. Rather, it’s tepidly inching its way into the barrel. It is not totally denouncing its Socialist roots, its simply muting its voice, as if ashamed. Mulcair and the NDP have bought into the lie that Socialism is a bugaboo word and, in doing so, have all but guaranteed they will never be the governing party of Canada. How can any party be taken seriously when it turns its back on its own pioneer people and their core beliefs? Mulcair says nothing has changed, that the NDP is, at the core, the same party. But how can that be? How can the party still be a party of conscience and principle when it has decided those beliefs and values of the past are not quite good enough for today’s politics?

The changes to the NDP constitution preamble may seem harmless and insignificant. They have been initiated to soften the NDP image, to make the party appear less threatening, less “radical”, more “business friendly”. It may work in today’s world, appealing only to the young or the ignorant, the know-nothings, the kind of people who haven’t a clue and swallow everything that the likes of Harper have to offer. Ignoring evidence and science, Harper appeals to the basest instincts in us preying on our fears and ignorance when it comes to crime and panders to the worst in us when he attacks the unemployed, the mentally ill, and refugee claimants as abusers of Canadian generosity. And it may work for those who turn on a dime to a famous name and a younger more attractive package. For the bubble-headed know-nothings, it’s glitz and noise that’s important, not what the package has to offer or to say. Appealing to such may be good for votes but not much else. Those voters are thoughtless and reckless and cannot be relied upon. The NDP would do better to seek the thoughtful constituent, the voter who wants to be informed, who is willing to try something new provided he is given enough reason to do so. Appealing to the lowest in us may get you elected, but don’t we already have enough of that with Harper and anti-Democratic crowd.

There is nothing wrong with the NDP or any party reaching out in hopes of attracting more supporters. What is wrong is a party that sells itself short to do so. It is dishonest and disrespectful of members. It also does little to respect those thoughtful supporters it hopes to gain. Instead of distancing itself from its Socialist roots, the party should embrace and celebrate it and set about educating the public about what it means to be a New Democrat and a Socialist.

It’s a mug’s game to pretend to be what you are not. It only works for the ignorant and uninformed or truly stupid. This “do-anything-to-win” attitude belongs to the likes of Harper and his fellow snake oil salesmen. For him and his gang, no dirty trick is too dirty, too low, or too vile not to be used. A day after Justin Trudeau was elected as Liberal leader we were treated to an example of this with attack ads on the young man. One of the ads was simply silly and reveals a Conservative party that is unimaginative and desperate. But the other was far, far more serious because the ad was a complete and utter lie of the same vile tripe used against Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. It was from an old file depicting a young Justin Trudeau speaking on something his father had said. It was offensive and it was an absolute distortion. And it was deliberate. But that is how Harper and his gang of knaves work. He believes in the market and he is convinced that voters are really, really stupid. Thus far, on the last, the voters have proven him right.

Eventually, the electorate will have enough of Harper and gang and will throw them into the garbage bin of history where they belong. But where will the NDP end?

Why would anyone now vote for it? Moving to the centre may earn it more votes, but it is a diminished party, a party that has compromised itself. It appears the NDP no longer wishes to stand fast with its old supporters. For years, the NDP accomplished much without getting elected. No doubt it could accomplish more if it became the governing party. But what price should it pay for that end? For years, the NDP had drifted more and more to the right. For this writer, it has become increasingly more difficult to vote for it. Now, it is almost impossible. Holding one’s nose is hardly satisfactory.

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