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STEPHEN HARPER: THE REAL THREAT TO CANADA

If we destroy human rights and rule of law in the response to terrorism, they have won. – Joichi Ito

Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it. – Noam Chomsky

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 THE WAR OF FEAR

Of what is Stephen Harper afraid? Why has he turned his back on the promises of honest, open, transparent, and good governance?

From where comes that mistrust of scientists, sociologists, scholars, jurists, and the idea that experts are not to be trusted and that he is answerable to no one. Does he believe it a sign of weakness to bend, to retreat, to seek advice, to hear others out, to admit to being sometimes wrong? If so, what kind of leader does that make him?

Harper may be successful as a politician and it is true he will certainly leave his mark on Canada, but it is difficult to believe him even a good, let alone great, leader. For some, he will most certainly be seen as a failure, a man of too much false pride and arrogant insubstantiality blinded by the belief of the inerrancy of his beliefs and goals however wrong, disastrous, and corrupt. He is too petty to be gracious, too vindictive to be forgiving, too mean-spirited to be empathetic, too suspicious to be trusting, and too intransigent to recognize and embrace the value of others especially his critics, preferring to listen to the sycophantic bleatings of toadies and “yes” men. He is a bully who abuses his majority privilege and is apparently untroubled by doing so perhaps because he is surrounded by others equally removed from the world where humaneness is considered a gift rather than a curse of weakness. Their behaviour is that of bullies and cowards, liars and knaves willing to do anything to keep that power even fomenting fear and even waging war against whole segments of society. For them, it is not enough to disagree. They must tar with sweeping generalizations, exaggerated claims, shameless self-promotion, apocalyptic warnings of terrorist activities, scapegoating of members of the Muslim community, gross misrepresentations of what the opposition offer, and impugning the patriotism of doubters opposing Bill C-51.

Harper apparently doesn’t know what great, even good, leaders do: they not only are decisive and confident, they also possess character and integrity and the possibility of experiencing shame; they listen, and they listen to everyone, with an open, honest intent that permits them to be persuaded, to change direction, to stand firm when they must and to retreat when it is wise; he does not seek out credit for the successes not due him nor does he take it for himself when unearned; he does not shrug off responsibility nor, more importantly, does he blame others for his failures.

Good leaders become great when they seeks counsel, accept sound advice even if unsolicited, and are willing to listen to those who are knowledgeable in their fields, “experts” if you will. A leader of a nation is not influenced by special interests nor does he wage war against those who question his judgement; instead, he listens and works for every member of society and works even harder to enrich the lives of those less fortunate rather than for those to whom much is given. In Harper and his crew, I see very little of a leader, even less that is admirable.

THE DEFENDERS AND THE DAMNED

Far too often, we have been witness to the Harper gang’s response to criticism. Opponents to frequent Conservative attempts to slip omnibus bills were smeared as “siding with pornographers” or by having their loyalty questioned. Joe Oliver, then environmental minster, slammed environmentalists as “radicals” accusing them of threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” This was in 2012. With that in mind, it appears Bill C-51 is aimed at setting this right and that is bad for Canadians. Not withstanding Harper’s denials, the bill threatens the right of assembly, association and peaceful protest if he, CSIS, or any other government body determines such activities, say a blockade of trains transporting oil, poses an economic threat. C-51, under Interpretation, Part 1, Section 2 (2) states:

“The following definitions apply in this act.

“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:

  1. a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;”

That is vague language, and open to interpretation allowing this government the authority, if not the right, to shut down strike activities and perhaps even go after unions as economic terrorist threats. Just take another look at the Joe Oliver statement above and consider the Harper regime’s fixation on the Oil sector, the XL Keystone pipeline project in particular.  Harper and his gang, along with the RCMP, have labelled environmentalists as extremists. With such a mindset, could anyone doubt Harper and crew would not hesitate to employ C-51 against unions, strikers, activists or even peacefully protesting citizens blocking a highway?

A few lines following the above excerpt, is this proviso: “For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.

A superficial reading of this may reassure some who believe critics to be alarmists. Not so. It is the use of the qualifier, “lawful”, that becomes troublesome. Wildcat strikes, for example, while disruptive and not desirable, might be considered terrorist acts simply because they do affect the economy. To believe the best of this regime, to trust Harper and his crew to act only out of the purist motives, is not good enough especially since they have, in the past, proven themselves untrustworthy. This is a gang with a pattern of smearing and threatening folks they do not like. No one should forget what happened to Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who was fired by the Harper gang the day before she was to appear before a parliamentary committee to testify about why she shut down the Chalk River reactor for safety reasons. The government engaged in a smear campaign to discredit her. They did the same with Pat Stogran, at the time Veterans Ombudsman, when they quickly learned he took his job seriously. He became a target of anonymous email attacks and began to suspect his medical records had been leaked. The government side raised questions regarding his mental stability and cast doubts regarding his patriotism. Another vet, Sean Bruyea, was similarly targeted for his support of the Ombudsman and for his criticism of the government’s handing of disability pensions for vets which, readers may recall, under Julian Fantino, at that time Veterans Minister, was changed from a monthly, tax-free, lifelong pension to a one-time lump-sum payment. And no one should forget the treatment of Kevin Page, when he, as Parliamentary Budget Officer, was stonewalled by Harper, Peter MacKay and the gang at every turn when he sought information regarding the purchase costs for a proposed 65 F-35 jets. As with Stogran and Keen, Harper and gang went after Page, accusing him of bias and questioning his credentials and his patriotism and, as they did with Stogran, refused to renew his term. Most recently, Daniel Therrein, Privacy Commissioner, has been denied the opportunity to appear before the Commons public safety committee to voice is concerns regarding C-51. This is shameful, shabby treatment of those men and women who were, and are being, punished for doing exactly what they were paid to do. Clearly, when one goes against the Harper gang, there can be no expectation of walking away unscathed. They are brutal and vindictive. That is not leadership; it is petulance.

It will be much easier for Harper and gang, or any government for that matter, to hide behind Bill C-51 to not only target terrorists, but also those they perceive as “enemies” real or imagined. If this bill goes through, and it will because the Harper gang has the majority vote, it will be a bad day for Canada. The Harper regime has allowed for limited debate of the Bill, until the end of March. That is window dressing, dominated by Conservatives who are allotted half the allowed time to ask questions but, thus far, have indulged in rambling monologues and offensive attacks directed at witnesses often running out the clock to deny opposition members on the committee opportunity to pose questions.

Ian MacLeod, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, reports how Tory MP Rick Norlock went after Carmen Cheung, senior counsel for British Columbia Civil Liberties Union, saying, “Is there any degree of checks and balances that would satisfy you? Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” The implication is clear and it is contemptible.

MacLeod also quotes LeVar Payne commenting to Greenpeace Canada executive director, Joanne Kerr appearing as a witness, “The purpose of the act is sharing information for national security threats, so it makes me wonder if your organization is a security threat?” He went on to say, “I see your organization is protesting pipelines, forestry projects, but I didn’t hear anything to indicate to me that you were planning to bomb any of Canadian infrastructure or sabotage electrical grids, so I wonder if you consider yourself to be a national security threat and if you understand the definitions, that it won’t apply to you as long as you don’t commit any of these terrorist activities” (Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, March 14, 2015). I don’t know about you, but I see a threat in there.

One witness, Ihsaan Gardee, representing the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), was subjected to a harangue from Conservative Diane Ablonczy. Ablonczy wanted it noted her concerns regarding allegations the NCCM having ties to various groups supporting terrorists, including Hamas. Said she, “I think it is fair to give you an opportunity to address these troubling allegations. In order to work together, there needs to be a satisfaction that, you know, this can’t be a half-hearted battle against terrorism. Where do you stand in light of these allegations?” Mr. Gardee’s response was to the point. “McCarthyesque-type questions protected by parliamentary privilege and unbecoming of this committee” (Kristy Kirkup, Mar. 14, 2015). This was a deadly comeback but I suspect it was as if water off a duck’s back. There was nothing fair in what Ablonczy was attempting to suggest or in how she was doing it. Mr. Gardee knew it and let her know he was unimpressed and not intimidated.

The performances of the Conservative members were a shameful display of partisanship and vile innuendo. Mr. Gardee’s defence of himself was stalwart if wasted on the obtuse and absolutely nasty Conservative members on this committee who apparently believed they were participating in an inquisition rather than an attempt for a fair hearing. If so, in that, they were right, it was an inquisition. If anyone really doubted what the government expected from this committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney put that to rest when he went after the those opposing the bills referring to them as “so-called experts” who included, “former prime ministers, retired Supreme Court justices, eminent former politicians, national security legal academics and constitutional scholars” (Ottawa Citizen, Ian MacLeod, March 14, 2015).

The hearings will accomplish nothing, or very little at best. If there are changes, they will be modest, insignificant, but enough, perhaps, to convince an inattentive public that the government is listening. Don’t believe it. The government’s reason for not hearing from Daniel Therrein is that there is not enough time. Really? Perhaps the Conservatives on the committee should ask real and relevant questions rather than offer rambling monologues and accusations that are inflammatory and prejudicial and appear to question the loyalty of those appearing before them. It is clear from this government’s behaviour that opponents of C-51 will be tarred along the lines of George Bush’s, “You’re either for us or you’re against us.” Hardly conducive for a serious, objective debate when you know that the government side has already determined that those witnesses opposing the bill are suspect. As for Daniel Therrein being blocked? Perhaps his open letter published in the Globe and Mail played a role (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/without-big-changes-bill-c-51-means-big-data/article23320329/).

So what does concern critics other than that the Act allows for warrantless search and seizure, denies the accused opportunities to face their anonymous accusers, allows for suspects to be held for longer periods without charge, allows CSIS to shut down online activities of those they deem a threat and to share information with other agencies and have the ability to put Canadians on no-fly lists? Well, the vague language for a certainty. There are no terms of reference in the Act. What makes a terrorist? This is a regime that has targeted environmentalists, unionists and scientists, scholars and jurists. This is the regime that has conspired with corporations to suppress wages of Canadian workers by wielding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program as a vicious club. What if unions push back? With this government, I can guess. Conceivably, anyone urging a massive public protest across the country against Harper and his crew, perhaps shutting down highways or main streets, could be prosecuted for advocating “economic” terrorism. I suggest the reader look at the open letter by 100 Canadian professors of law and related fields addressed to all Parliamentarians (http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/27/open-letter-to-parliament-amend-c-51-or-kill-it/).

HARPER LOOKS IN THE MIRROR AND SEES A GENERAL

C-51 is simply bad legislation and will doubtless be struck down by the courts. But that will take time and by then we will have had the election and know if Harper’s campaign of terror worked.

Meanwhile, the present war in Iraq and the flap generated by Zunera Ishaq’s refusal to partake of her citizen ceremony by refusing to remove her niqab, allows the Harper establishment ample opportunity to continue to ratch up the rhetoric and isolate a whole community of Muslims with reckless language and disregard for truth telling. As face coverings are not a requirement of the Muslim faith, just of certain States, Saudi Arabia for one, I would prefer them done away with but I also believe if a woman chooses to wear niqabs or burkhas and are willing to allow themselves to be unveiled should they be required to do so for identification or security purposes they should be allowed to do so. That is not my preference but it should be their right. That Harper has turned this into an issue that is divisive and smacking of condescension is unworthy of any leader of a nation. He is appealing to the worst in us, to our fears, ignorance and intolerance. He has done the same with his changes to jail sentencing, his “life means life” homily and suggestions of “murderers walking our streets”. It’s loathsome stuff. It’s all about bogeymen out there, ISIL barbarians pounding at the gates and the neighbour next door waiting to pounce to rape women and slit throats. C-51, draconian and mean-spirited, serves no purpose other than to bolster the image that Harper and gang are on top of the terrorist threat. Unfortunately, the threat posed by this legislation is directed against all targets, the innocent, the guilty, the ones this government decides are its enemies: that would be me; it could be you. Harper’s inflating the dangers so that we are all quaking in our bedrooms and closets until Election Day is likely the best reason to not vote for him. This is irresponsible governance whereby he would seek to be re-elected solely on the basis of the politics of fear. Neither Harper nor his party can save us from the terrorist threat; they are it. Should he be re-elected, there will be no peace and harmony reigning over the land as he would have us believe. That is his myth. I tell you, it is chimera.

When Bill C-51 is picked apart piece by piece in the Supreme Court, and it will be, he will once again refuse to take responsibility for making bad legislation. Instead he will again blame the High Court and “activist” Justices and continue to work at whittling away the trust most Canadians hold for the institution and Supreme Court Justices.

That is not the behaviour of a leader but rather that of a man of low character and without shame, a child really, who is always pointing fingers elsewhere too cowardly to man up to his own failings. It’s always the fault of someone else.

Yet, why is Harper so resistant to the idea of independent or Parliamentary oversight?

Now he and his gang have told us they have plenty of oversight in the form of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). That is patently false. The agency cannot possibly adequately perform its mandate, particularly in this day, when its five members, all government appointees, meet only once a month and the executive director and fourteen staff are left to take care of the day-to-day affairs. Too, SIRC has been plagued by scandal with one time Harper Cabinet Minister Chuck Strahl forced to resign when exposed as a registered lobbyist for Gateway Pipelines and Arthur Porter, one time Chair, in a Panamanian jail facing Canadian charges for fraud, conspiracy, abuse of trust, money laundering, and accepting secret commissions. How confident can Canadians be that the agency is able to do the job effectively or objectively? Not very. So who will keep a non-partisan eye on the spies? No one.

When abuses do occur, and they most certainly will, Canadians will likely never know except, perhaps, years from now. Once the bill passes, as it will, we may occasionally hear faint voices of complaint, perhaps even cries for help, someone running to the media and telling a story of government abuses, false arrest, secret hearings. But we may never know. The government, if it’s still the Harper gang, will shrug the stories off with blandishments and the public, if roused from its apathy, will merely shrug along with Harper and go back to sleep. And if the voices are heard, perhaps the only one who will listen and believe the stories will be the veterans, themselves subjected to so much abuse from this regime, and environmentalists and a few others who actually do believe in democracy and civil rights. The environmentalists will be dismissed as “radicals”, “extremists”, and those noisy vets thrown a few bones with the hope of silencing them at least until the next election.

For this gang, it is no longer their stewardship of the economy on which they rely to capture our vote. In that front, they have been peculiarly silence considering all the noise and bluster of their self-mythologizing over the years of themselves as economic wizards. The folks they have attempted to snow with that myth live the harsh reality of the emptiness of that particular Conservative promise. Instead, Harper and gang prefer these days to stoke the flames of panic by conjuring up terrifying images and creating a poisonous atmosphere that threatens to overwhelm the Muslim community.

Are the Harper Conservatives racists? I don’t know, but I know the language Harper uses is offensive and divisive. We have Conservative MP John Williamson in offering a critique of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program saying: “It makes no sense to pay ‘whities’ to stay home while we bring in brown people to work these jobs.” Is he racist? Again, I don’t know, but the language was certainly racist. Instead of attacking foreign workers, Williamson would have done himself some credit by criticizing Harper, Jason Kenney, and the government for abetting business in suppressing wages and in exploiting foreign, at the expense of Canadian, workers through the TFWP.

And, speaking of our new Defence Minister Kenney, once again he has proven himself absolutely unfit as a member of parliament. When he was minister of immigration, his office faked a citizenship ceremony on the late, unlamented, Sun Media by having six bureaucrats pose as immigrants. He refused to apologize. It was Kenney who banned the wearing of the niqab during the citizenship ceremony, which led Zunera Ishaq to fight back. Jason Kenney clearly likes the headlines, good or bad. As minister of employment, he had his fingers rapped for accepting gifts from lobbyists to his department. In 2011, Kenney also had his finger rapped for using government resources to fundraise for the Conservative Party. Nothing happened, no punishment. Last October, he tweeted news of the death of Cpl. Cirillo before the military had a chance to release the news. Again, no repercussions. Recently, we have him tweeting on International Women’s Day: “On #IWD2015, thank-you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls”. Accompanying the tweet were three photographs. One shows a line of burkha-clad women in chains. Another shows four chained women, faces covered. The third shows the purported marriage of a child, hands bound, to an ISIL member. It’s clear what we are to take from this picture. Unfortunately, Kenney fails to tell us that these pictures are not what they appear. It’s a lie. Glen McGreggor (Ottawa Citizen, Glen McGregor, March 9, 2015) of the Ottawa Citizen reveals that the picture of the child marriage has been largely debunked. He also reveals that one photograph is a re-enactment of a 1300 years old event and that the other is a 2014 demonstration by Kurdish women in London protesting the sexual enslavement of women by ISIL. It was not a mistake; it was a deliberate attempt to mislead and to inflame the public using fake pictures to highlight legitimate and real concerns. It’s dodgy and, as with the other issues, says much about the character of Jason Kenney. It’s not flattering.

How low will these Harper Conservatives go? How confident can Canadians be that this government will not abuse C-51? Clearly these folks have no shame.

WHEN I LOOK AT HARPER, I SEE A PISSANT

The Harper gang have engaged in a pattern of behaviour that should not be forgotten nor forgiven. It is not just the routine lapses of ethics that is troubling, though that should be sufficient to toss them into the ash can of history. It is their targeting of people they don’t like that is particularly worrisome. Everyone who opposes them is “the enemy”. Because they hold that mindset, the have rigged the so-called Fair Elections act that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands unlikely to vote for them. As well, it is their abuses of their majority that clearly threatens to undermine democracy. They have rammed through bills without proper debate, in fact, invoking closure routinely. With C-51, disregarding the chorus of voices warning them against this step, the Harper crew have volunteered to wallow in filth with the politics of fear that threatens to ensnare all Canadians hurling gratuitous insults at the critics and questioning their characters, reputations and patriotism.

And it all appears to be working for Harper. Polls suggest 66% of Canadians believe we will be subjected to terrorist attacks in 5 years. 48% believe we are in danger now, 71% worry about their children being radicalized.

It is unbearable that ignorance and fear has taken such a hold of Canadians. Folks should worry more about losing their child or friend through drugs, alcoholism, or an accident.

In Ottawa, there is a debate raging about a proposed monument to the victims of Communism. It is called Tribute to Liberty. It is to stand on land near the Supreme Court. Land donated by Canadians. Have people forgotten Canada’s own treatment of First Nations peoples? Have they forgotten the days when loyal Ukrainians, Germans and Italians, communists, and unionists were incarcerated during the war years? Does anyone remember the Japanese interment camps? Our hands are not clean.

Yes, by all means, let us recognize victims of totalitarianism. And also all victims of injustice. I would also include the victims of Capitalism: those unionist shot on picket lines by company thugs, those organizers hung from rail trestles, those workers trapped behind locked doors in burning or collapsed factories. Harper, however, has a worldview that doesn’t allow for that kind of inclusivity.

There is real irony in Harper’s support of this memorial. Even as he denounces a totalitarian system, he is working at legislation that threatens the security of every Canadian citizen.

Jack Layton wrote on his deathbed, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Harper is deaf to that hope.

What do you think? Who should I really fear?

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In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. — Jose Narosky

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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

HARPER: THE BEAST IN HIM

Frank A. Pelaschuk

*   C.R.A.P. – Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party

CRAP – (noun) 1. nonsense, 2. dirt or garbage, 3. excrement, feces, interchangeable with Conservative or Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party

I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy. From the first, behind a façade of stiff-necked amiability, Harper has revealed a sly, deceitful, churlish, ungenerous, controlling, petty, bullying, and brutal nature that threatens his office and our society.

Since he has taken hold of the Prime Minister’s crown, a rot has infected our Parliamentary democracy. This offends and fills me with disquietude. It should you, as well. As an elected member of parliament and as prime minister, he has defiled the office he holds, tainting the reputation of Canada and, with the assist of loud, angry, offensive, and ignorant conservative MPs, subverted and made a mockery of our electoral process. Though cited for contempt of Parliament, Harper has remained unscathed, unrepentant and the public largely indifferent. That he has a base of support as large as it is astounds me. How can so many be so blind, so indifferent, so…so dumb?

Not that long ago (yet an eternity to this voter), Harper ran on the promises of introducing an open, fair, honest and transparent government, a government that would rid itself of corruption, that would eliminate patronage and cronyism, that would reform the Senate. He gave us none of that. Instead, we now have one of the most closed, secretive, and paranoid governments in Canadian history, a regime that views every critic as the enemy, vilifies every environmentalist as a “radical” stooge of outside forces, and every dissenter as of  “suspect” patriotism. Patronage and cronyism is one of the hallmarks of his terms in office. He has appointed over half of the senators, all Conservative hacks, a few of them now under investigation for abuses in expense and housing allowances, one a pathetic has-been journalist who, averring he has done nothing wrong, refunds the money saying, “I hope it reassures Islanders and Canadians that the old Duff, the Duff they’ve known and trusted, would never do anything wrong. I would never knowingly fiddle anything” and another, appointed in spite of warnings that he could prove problematic, has been thrown under the bus not for what he has done as a Senator, but for allegations of repugnant actions in his private life. Patrick Brazeau, once useful as a trophy Indian Chief in the Senate, was now a liability and easily expendable.

Harper, eyes always on the main chance, is a master politician, no denying that. More than once we have seen how ruthless he could be against one of his own when he feels threatened, as we learned with his brutal discarding of Helena Guergis, once a Conservative bright light and Cabinet minister who suffered a public meltdown at the Charlottetown airport and, shortly thereafter, faced several serious allegations of misconduct, including allegations of a criminal nature by a “third party.” Guergis resigned from her post and was swiftly expelled from the Conservative caucus. No charges were ever laid against her but her reputation had been effectively destroyed by the way Harper and gang handled the affair. The merits of the allegations are of less concern than that Guergis appears to have been denied due process from her own Law and Order government. That episode was enlightening as well as disturbing. Then there was another thrown under the wheels, this involving a young staffer, Michael Sona, thus far the only one held responsible for the Robocalls incidents in which voters were misled and directed to non-existent polling stations. It is a pattern with Harper and gang; never acknowledge wrongdoing, blame others, point to the past wrongdoings of previous governments, never answer a question directly or honesty and, when you do answer, offer bafflegab or respond to another issue regardless of how irrelevant to the topic at hand. Failing all else, find a lamb for slaughter. Apparently it works.

TARGETS

But, if cruel to his own, Harper is even more so to those who stand in his way. With ruthless precision, towards fulfilling his vow to destroy the Liberal party, he has employed personal, cruel and misleading attack ads against Paul Martin, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff while ceaselessly campaigning for his majority. In that, he has been partially successful; the Liberals have been decimated. But they, at least, were legitimate targets, knowing the risks of entering politics though clearly overestimating their abilities while underestimating Harper’s and the ruthlessness of the machine behind him. Unfortunately, Harper and gang do not limit punishment or invective to political opponents. Every opponent and critic who may be heard by the media becomes “the enemy” and thus fair game. However distasteful and unethical their methods, one cannot deny their skill.

There was Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, smeared and vilified for daring to stand up to Harper and gang in defence of veterans who, for their service and sacrifice, were rewarded by an ungrateful Canada by having their disability pensions clawed back, a practice Harper fought hard to keep in place by fighting with veterans at a cost to Canadians of over $750,000. This from the man who once said, “All too often we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government.” Well, he lied on that, didn’t he, his government dropping the clawbacks only after a court decision on another case. Too, there was Linda Keen, of the AECL, smeared and fired for refusing to restart the ailing Chalk River reactor before it was safe to do so and ex-diplomat Richard Colvin who was threatened with prison time if he released certain documents during his appearance before a special committee investigating the abuse of Afghani prisoners. Intimidation, threats and dismissal; makes one proud to be Canadian, doesn’t it?

Another, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a post created by Harper and gang, has over his tenure endured countless attacks against his person and reputation when he demanded that the government be more open and accountable. And when he suggested the government was holding back information on the F-35s, that the figures Harper presented to the public while campaigning for re-election were far too low, he was ridiculed and charged with partisanship or, worse, incompetence. It helped win Harper his long sought majority though later events would prove Harper a liar and Page right on the money when the costs were revealed to be quadruple Harper’s much touted deliberately misleading lowball numbers. Again Harper and thugs sought to wriggle out of their own snare offering excuses and double-talk with the hollow claim that “no money had yet been spent” on the jets. Only the gullible or truly credulous would believe them on this. Meanwhile, Kevin Page, honest, decent, brave and, yes, respectfully defiant in his quest for independence, had by now made himself a target of Harper, Flaherty and gang who missed no opportunity to publicly attempt to discredit him with suggestions questioning his competence and integrity. The dislike for Page by Harper and thugs is visceral, you can see it and hear it on TV whenever his name is brought up to one of the government gang. Luckily, as with Sheila Fraser, Kevin Page has an ally: the public trusts him. Unfortunately, with Page’s term over, it is likely the department will be quietly closed or, at best, gravely weakened by a compliant and innocuous Harper appointee.

But if Page was an understandable and obvious target, others, less so, are not immune to Conservative hostility and control. In an act of breathtaking hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness, Harper, with the passage of Bill C-377, has demanded of unions what he and his government refuses to offer the public: full transparency and accountability. That unions already are transparent and accountable, matters not to Harper, his goal is to destroy them by imposing onerous and costly demands that they report all transactions over $5000 including salaries and pensions, and all itemized lists of costs of products and services offered by private companies and that the books be open to any union member who asks, something that unions already allow. Yet Harper makes no such demands on his government or of other organizations. If you are a unionist, Harper’s gunning for you, which will make some happy, those anti-unionists who, envious of your wages and benefits but not willing to contribute, would rather pull you down to their level than pull themselves up to yours.

Yet, if unions are targeted, so are government civil servants and scientists who have been muzzled and threatened with dismissal if they talk to the media without written approval. That should send a chill down you spine, as should this: staff at Library and Archives Canada is being trained in a code of conduct emphasizing “duty of loyalty”. That is, duty of loyalty to the government, to Harper’s government. As if they were his personal employees. This is extremely serious and smacks with more than a little of the odour of the McCarthyism of the Truman years when teachers and other public servants were required to swear loyalty oaths to the regime of the time. Even so, Harper and gang do not restrict themselves to intimidation of just civil servants, and scientists; they have also targeted civilians.

When critics from every walk of life stood up against the various omnibus bills, various members of Harper’s gang, Vic Toews in particular, were moved to declare opponents to the online spy bill, Bill C-30 (later scrapped) as standing on the side of pedophiles and criminals and were of questionable loyalty. It did not concern Harper and gang that the critics could have legitimate concerns, that there was not enough information, not enough discussion of the legislation slipped into the bills, that those sneaked in had little to do with the bills themselves and posed a threat to Democracy as well as infringed upon the rights of Canadians. Harper and gang limited debate and imposed closure. The opposition was forced to vote on Bills in which they, and you and I most certainly, have no clear idea of what was included, of who or what will be affected. Even for this government, this was a new low. But not the end of wallowing in the gutter.

Early on in his reign, in response to a question by a reporter, Harper had said, “…cut and running is not my way…” While that was in reference to Canada’s role in Afghanistan, he quickly cut and ran when he prorogued Parliament twice rather than face questions from the opposition regarding his budgets. I would suggest that not only is cut and running second nature to Harper and gang (i.e., blaming and cutting loose staffers and running at the first whiff of trouble), so is arrogance, pride, obfuscation, denial, finger pointing, belittlement, pettiness, and outright intimidation. As he has clearly demonstrated with prorogation, with the scrapping of the long gun registry, and with his omnibus bills, Harper is not one for listening to Canadians who disagree with him, especially to those in the majority who voted against him. With his majority, and in his arrogance, he is evidently of the belief that Canadians with opinions are best ridiculed as elitists and that all Canadians are best served if kept in the dark. It may work in the short term, but eventually this will catch up to him. One needs only recall the words of Thomas Paine: “But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.” In other words, truth will out. And it will.

THE GOLDEN

But, if Harper can be ruthless, he can be loyal, too. Recall his steadfast support of Bev Oda when she, or someone in her staff, forged a signed government document, inserting a “not” so as to take away approved government funding from KAIROS, a charitable group because Harper’s gang did not like its view’s on Israel. Recall how twice she had to reimburse the public purse for expense abuses. With so much against her, it is almost a sad commentary on us that public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice is what finally brought her down. And remember Del Mastro, that angry, sanctimonious MP who thunderously impugned the opposition in his defence of the Conservatives in the so-called robocalls affair? Where is he, this man so suddenly silent, now that he, himself, is under investigation for campaign overspending? As one of Harper’s golden boys, the PM was quick to defend him and though Del Mastro has missed over two dozen sessions as member of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, he remains on the committee and Harper remains mum.

Another golden boy, Natural Resources Minister, Christian Paradis, has been investigated for similar serious lapses, including allegations of influence peddling regarding the awarding of a contract for the renovation of our Parliament building and revealing a serious lack of judgment by spending a weekend with a lobbyist. But, we have to take him at his word there was no lobbying of his office. Too, a former aide of his, Richard Walker, was dismissed for using his office credit card to pay for his trip to Las Vegas and another former aid, Sebastien Togneri, at Natural Resources, had restricted access of data to the media who had applied for it under the Freedom of Informations Act. But Paradis was not done. He was also investigated for his role in the relocation of an Employment Insurance Centre in his riding and for changing the formula to make it easier for private companies to avoid an environment assessment review. And we mustn’t forget the slap on the wrist he received after investigation for conflict of interest when he helped former MP Rahim Jaffer, now a lobbyist, and husband of Helena Guergis mentioned earlier, meet with department officials in an attempt to secure a government contract. But, even with all this, in spite of all this, Paradis still holds his position and remains one of Harper’s valued, trusted ministers. Even if all this is innocence, one must question his judgment and that of Harper for continuing to support him. So far, nothing seems to stick and one can only wonder: Is the public asleep?

Does anyone remember the nearly $1 billion bill for the G8 and G20 conferences for security, the mass arrests with only a handful of convictions? Does anyone recall Tony Clement’s $200K gazebo, the million dollar fake lake, the $50 million Legacy slush fund for his riding? This was the man promoted to presidency of the Treasury Board by Harper, the man who is to oversee major government spending. When concerns are raised regarding these matters, there is silence or accusations of muckraking by the opposition and the media. Do Canadians not have a right to have answers to legitimate concerns? Evidently not. And what about Jason Kenney’s usage of a government letterhead to fundraise, and Jim Flaherty’s use of his office to lobby for a business in his constituency? Small compared to other questionable conduct, but questionable conduct nevertheless. No repercussions for those good old boys, though a Kenney staffer (yet another in an increasingly long list of sacrificial lambs) resigned and the Speaker of the house did rebuke Flaherty. It pays to be one of Harper’s favoured few.

But let’s go back to the issue of overspending. It is not isolated. We have Peter Penashue, the MP from Labrador, “the best MP ever from Labrador,” according to Harper, this of the quietest and least memorable MPs ever. Penashue not only accepted corporate donations (illegal) and overspent during his campaign (illegal) but took over a month to resign when confronted by Elections Canada and, when he did (March 14, 2013), had, four days before, already set up a website to launch his by-election bid. Cynical, questionable, disturbing but not as disturbing as Harper and members of his crew campaigning on his behalf in the House fulsomely praising his stalwart services while blithely ignoring his errancy leaving pundits to speculate whether or not Harper was going to set the by-election date before Elections Canada offered its report on him (the betting is, Harper will call it early). So, for Penashue, apart from resigning and promising of pay back monies for an “error” by an “inexperienced staffer”, what are the consequences? Absolutely zero. Unlike with Guergis, no rush to judgement, which is a good thing, though the evidence against him is compelling and should be enough to end his political career. But not when Harper’s involved. He is going to be allowed to run with the full backing of Harper and crew while the likes of Pierre Poilievre, Candice Bergen and others praise him on Power and Politics for “falling on his sword,” for doing the “honourable”, “responsible”, thing (in resigning) or, in a typical move by this regime, sidestepping the issue by pointing fingers at the NDP for accepting illegal union contributions during their leadership campaign. Apparently, they are unable to understand that the last point is beside the issue, that it offers no argument for not punishing Penashue but, rather, an argument for doing something about the NDP and their issue. With a government that has been less than open and less than clean, such distinctions matter little. Conservatives know from experience that denial, delay, avoidance and mystification will eventually cause the public to tire of the issue and forget it. It’s worked before, hasn’t it? Meanwhile, Harper says that the voters are the best judges of whether Penashue was fit to be returned to office. Really? That may be true if Harper and gang just leave it at that. But, with this government, it’s a fair bet that nothing will be left to chance. Labrador will almost certainly receive a hefty infusion of public money between now and the day of the by-election with full credit attributed to Penashue’s “dogged efforts” on behalf of his riding. Yessiree, even as he’s running for office, a discredited MP, to Harper and gang he’ll always be  “the best-ever MP” and even more so should he be re-elected. They will believe it without irony or shame. The fact is, shame is something from which Harper and gang never suffer. Just look at the government web site and watch the ads on TV and consider his rebranding of the Canadian Government to the Harper Government. Public funds poured into one endless Conservative propaganda campaign of questionable merit, legitimacy and legality. This is his fiefdom and we are his subjects.

THE UNWASHED

Of course, we all know that when Harper speaks of getting tough on crime, he is certainly not talking about those MPs.  Nor is he talking about those Senators who falsely claim housing allowances and who pad their expense accounts for no other reason than they can and will with utter impunity. Whether illegally registering falls claims or accepting donations from corporate friends, all’s forgiven, especially in the Senate when, it appears, all you have to do is return the funds, apologize and “accept” responsibility. Sincerity is optional and it doesn’t matter that the apology and return of funds only came about because you were finally exposed as less than honourable. Of course, if you really accepted responsibility and had an iota of integrity, you’d resign from the Senate and, if a disgraced MP, lick your wounds and never run again. If you had integrity. But, for Harper and members of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party, integrity is as rare a commodity as shame and certainly not a requirement. We know by now that Harper has an extremely high tolerance for such indiscretions from those favoured sons and daughters in the Senate and his caucus.

Unfortunately, those collecting EI can expect no such leniency or tolerance from Harper or from Vic Toews, his Minister of Security, and Jason Kenney, his Minister of Immigration. Rather, you immediately move to top the list of suspected fraudsters, presumed guilty without benefit of hearing, any offer of evidence or sense of fairness. The same goes for immigrants who have had their refugee claims denied or rescinded simply because of a few honest errors on the application forms. Never mind that they may have lived, worked and paid taxes here for years. When that happens, you better pray you are not sick because you are immediately cut off from the Interim Federal Health Program and likely to be subject to quick expulsion (unlike many criminals who, knowing how to milk the system seldom suffer consequences). Too, after the release of an intelligence report suggesting that immigrant Hungarians are responsible for a spike in crime and fraudulent EI claims, Jason Kenney has warned that Romas seeking asylum will be turned away. If that is not racial profiling, what is? The Romas, persecuted for centuries, have suffered particularly at the hands of the Hungarians, including death, with some political leaders calling for their extermination. Yet Canada, without a trace of irony, has labelled Hungary as one of the “safe” countries.

As well, if you are an immigrant coming across the border, you’re likely to be a target on a government approved, so-called “reality” show featuring members of The Canadian Border Services Agency showing “the situations faced daily by our front-line border officers,” according to Vic Toews. Evidently, the show’s focus is the targeting of illegal immigrants. One has to wonder to what those who appear on the show, had to agree. Not only is this show an invasion of privacy, it is exploitation, plain and simple, cheap, sensational stuff, meant to puff up Harper’s government as tough on illegals with the presumption, again, of those appearing on camera as conniving, dishonest abusers of our immigration policy. If that doesn’t concern you, maybe this will: How much of your money is being funnelled in this repugnant, scapegoating Harper-backed program? Well, Harper and Toews don’t believe you’re entitled to know.

Yes, Harper’s get tough on crime will appeal to most of us who harbour the lowest view of those who collect unemployment insurance, who are homeless and who commit crime. They are all lazy, worthless, good-for-nothing bums leeching off the good will and generosity of society. Harper panders to the worst in us, exploiting and exacerbating our fears, our bigotry, our ignorance. In his narrow world and that of his supporters, one size fits all and statistics and science are thrown by the wayside as useless tools when not meshing to their distorted worldview. So Harper would build more jails (but not let us in on the cost), he would impose harsher punishment (while still refusing to acknowledge that crime rates are down while fighting crime costs are up). Rehabilitation does not concern him. It’s all about punishment and revenge and the harsher, the more extreme, the better, he believes, because it will earn votes. It’s all about the main chance. He is not interested in the price you may pay when that prisoner, well punished but ill equipped to function in society, is released, as he one day will be. There is no thought for the effects on future generations of such a cold policy. Harsh punishment may satisfy the vengeful among us but is such short-sightedness good for society? Is it healthy, will it reduce crime, create a better, safer world? Harper, Toews, and the rest of CRAP have no interest in these issues. Their only wish is to placate us into believing they are doing something, anything. If that means demeaning, dehumanizing, and demonizing convicts, the mentally ill, immigrants, the unemployed, so be it. That such a view is neither right nor just does not matter. Harper and gang play to the worst in us. Clearly it works. Yet we must ask this: What cause is served when Harper takes away the annual fundraising pizza drive of inmates, a drive that raises over $150K for the needy? None, yet Harper has done that. I suspect it was because the prisoners reaching out felt good, felt they were making a difference, and prison is not about feeling good.

Canadians should pause and consider the treatment Harper and thugs offer natives, immigrants, the unemployed, and those on the margins, the homeless, mentally ill, and imprisoned as compared to their corporate friends for whom they lobby. While they dwell on this, they should also think of an old Yiddish saying: God loves the poor but helps the rich. With Harper, there is no pretence of loving the unfortunate poor, miserable, and troubled. Of all Harper’s people, these are the least cherished and least loved and, yet, the most utile: they are fodder for scapegoating.

STRAW MEN

It is not enough that Harper satisfies your needs and your wants, which apparently have little to do with the needs, wants and wishes of most Canadians. Lower taxes, less government, tough on crime. Is that all it takes to determine that a man like Harper is fit for office? Tax cuts represent a massive savings for business and the wealthy but, for the majority of us, they amount to savings of about the cost of a cheap television set or less. Is it really worth the price of a few paltry dollars to elect such a man? Are we that easily bought? Are we really willing to sacrifice our health care, our social safety nets? Are we really willing to allow our infrastructure to further decay, to risk the poisoning of our drinking water, to continue to allow our roads to collapse, and our citizens occasionally killed by falling debris from overpasses badly in need of repairs? One needs only look at Ireland to see how well tax cuts and deregulation has worked for its citizens. Do we really want to take that road? Today, Corporate profits and salaries of executives are the highest they have ever been and yet jobs are shipped overseas, workers and unions are under siege, and the purchasing power of the average Canadian worker is equivalent to that of the 1970s and 80s. Tax cuts work well for Big Business and those in the upper bracket, but why must the ordinary citizen bear the brunt as a consequence? Why do we continue to buy the myth of Conservatives as better money managers when, in fact, the reverse is true? According to the Ottawa Citizen (March 20, 2013), when Jim Flaherty took office in 2006 as finance Minister, there was a surplus of $13.2B. As of March 20, 2013, there was a deficit of $26.2B. So much for Harper and the myth of fiscal responsibility. But, if you ask him, he’ll blame it on the mismanagement of old Liberal governments and on outside forces. When it comes to blame, the buck never stops with Harper and gang.

Perhaps the most offensive thing about Harper and his crew of thugs, apart from their hypocrisy, is the extent of their hubris and smallness of mind. Because of their majority (which they intend to increase with the creation of 30 seats and a gerrymandered outcome), they act as a law unto themselves. Never mind that only 40 per cent voted for them. Even so, with that vast majority, they cannot stop themselves from acting in ways that demeans them and their offices. Earlier, there was mention of KAIROS being defunded by this government because Harper did not approve of its views. Yet, Crossroads, a Christian organization, loudly and virulent anti-gay, working in Uganda, a country which targets homosexuals, had its funding renewed by Harper’s government until, disconcerted by the outcry of rage denouncing the decision, Associate Minister of National Defence, Julian Fantino, promised to review the decision. Evidently, if you share Harper’s values, you’ve made a friend for life or for as long as you don’t make waves. And yet, in the spirit of meanness and pettiness, Harper and gang could not even set aside partisanship when, in holding a ceremony to honour volunteers from across the country, they had removed from the guest list all Liberal MPs who had been invited. It was a gesture so lacking in generosity, so blatantly political, that it discredits Harper’s office and forever brands him as “small”. Utterly without shame, there is nothing he and gang would not politicize to their advantage. Sometimes, as in this instance, it backfires.

Stephen Harper has cheapened our status in the world and cost us a seat in the UN Security Council. He has made a mockery of our Democracy and I believe him and his gang a serious threat to Canada and to Canadians. He frightens me more than any terrorist simply because his mind is too focused on the end game, holding on to power, serving his corporate friends, and making his mark regardless of the scars he makes on our lives. He is more interested in the health of Big Business than in the health of Canadians and Canada; under his regime, following the deaths of twenty-two Canadians from tainted meat and the poisoning of many others, Harper and gang deregulated the food industry reducing the role of food inspectors to that of rubber-stampers of in-house testing performed by meat producers. Health Canada, under Leona Aglukkak, has gone from respected organization to something resembling a corporate lackey. Scientists who have spoken up have been dismissed. Demands from Canadians for better food labeling have been ignored as well as demands that the food industry be compelled to reduce sodium amounts in what we eat. Aglukkaq prefers to rely on the “voluntary” approach with Big Business. Yeah, that will work; Big Business will always put the interest of consumers ahead of profits. At least, that is what Harper and gang would have you believe.

Harper and members of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party are crude, nasty, belligerent and utterly shameless. They appear to believe that no dirty trick is too dirty or too vile not to be exploited. Harper is a moralizer when it comes to the faults of others, a finger pointer and a blamer but has little patience for self-examination, doubt or for criticism and opposition. As for such lofty concepts as truth, honesty, ethics, integrity, decency? They are clearly not in the personal lexicon of Harper and gang who apparently deem them essential in others but a hindrance when applied to themselves and their goals. This is a man who believes with absolute certitude that he is right in all things and that everyone else who disagrees is wrong, a fool, and a personal threat, therefore the enemy. He is stubborn and wilful and will admit to fault or risk apology only if he believes it will enhance his image or further entrench his grip on power. He can, and does, lie to the public and he does so easily, without shame. He has the majority. He believes he has the right to do anything he wishes. So far, the voters, in giving him a free ride, appear to agree with him. Why?

THINK

I suggest that all Canadians watch Question Period and Power and Politics on CBC. When you do, you will almost never hear a direct response from Harper or gang to a direct question from the opposition. Instead you will hear contemptuous laughter, rude dismissal and ludicrous attempts to turn the table on the opposition with accusations having nothing to do with the original question in the first place. The only facts that count are Harper facts and everyone else should just shut up. You’ll seldom hear a direct, let alone honest, answer from Harper or members of his gang. And when a question is asked another way, the response is always exactly the same as the first, jeers, countercharges and, all too often, when Harper, Flaherty, Baird or one of the others makes what they smugly believe to be a particularly telling point, there is a mass rising from the gang and loud, sustained applause. The faces of those conservative backbenchers and ministers are, invariably, beaming, almost glowing, with the ecstasy of the sycophantic self-congratulating idolaters in the state of rapture. It is orchestrated and unconvincing except, perhaps, to the blind or true believer.

Too, almost daily, on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon as host, something similar happens, though it’s not as large and not quite as noisy as in the House simply because there is no entourage surrounding the representatives of the three major parties. Parliamentary secretaries of various ministers usually represent the government and they include Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander et al. While all of them are attractive in a bland way, to this observer they are thoroughly unlikeable reminding me of talking dolls who, when asked a question and wearing similar blank looks and vacuous smirks seldom, if ever, stray from the script loudly talking over their opponents often with sneering dismissal and much rolling of the eyes. As a consequence, the viewer is left dissatisfied if not enraged having learned nothing but hearing a lot of white noise. It is as if the recorder, when the string is pulled, has become stuck in a loop and the message of the day is repeated again and again word for word every time they open their mouths. It is a disheartening spectacle to witness the same evasiveness, obstruction, misinformation, character assassinations, and churlishness from those Harper puppets. The contempt these Conservatives hold for the opposition and for the viewing public is palpable. They really do believe we are all stupid, that we cannot understand what we are witnessing and that we deserve to be in the dark. Civility and decorum is no more a part of this government’s nature than is openness and transparency. The robocalls scandal and the Penashue escapade should be warnings to all Canadians to what extent the Conservatives will go to cling to power once they have snatched it. Watching Harper and his gang perform, and that’s what it is, a performance, is painful because you know you are not witnessing Democracy in action, but rather, a subversion of it by a divisive, secretive, contemptuous, hypocritical and controlling cabal who would have you believe it was otherwise.

Anti-Democratic. Smug. Shameless. Deceitful. Closed. Secretive. Brutally partisan. Small and ungenerous. They are not qualities to be admired and yet these are the things I see in Harper and they are not erased, nor his image softened, by his spirited rendition of a Beatles tune at a National Arts Centre fundraiser several years ago. The song, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” escapes irony because all too true.

No, I do not like him. I do not trust him.

Why do you? – March 28, 2013

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