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IS STEPHEN HARPER A LIAR?

Most ignorance is invincible ignorance: we don’t know because we don’t want to know. – Aldous Huxley

And here, poor fool, with all my lore/I stand no wiser than before. – Johann W. von Goethe

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

Last Thursday, October 24, Harper, in a rare appearance in the House in over 160 days, gave his strongest performance in months. It took place two days after Mike Duffy lobbed a few grenades at Harper while speaking in the Senate defending himself in hopes of avoiding a two-year suspension without pay. Harper was firm, pugnacious, and oh, so, so, self-congratulatory in his responses to questions by the opposition wanting to know if he had, indeed, ordered Mike Duffy to repay his expenses as Duffy had claimed. “Darn right I told him he should repay his expenses,” replied Harper. Solid, no nonsense, unequivocal. But no answer to the underlying question prompted by Duffy’s remarks: Had he been in the same room when the Duffy/Wright deal was made?

Nevertheless, members of his caucus that day must have felt a lifting of their hearts, a soaring in their spirits. Harper was back. In fact, so enthused were the members, and so forthright and eager Harper, that all leaped to their feet many times in Question Period, Harper responding forcefully and enthusiastically if not always satisfactorily. No matter, his Conservative gang clearly loved it all each appearing to out-leap and out-applaud the others as if, by such ardent public display of support, loyalty and love, hoping to garner public support or, more cynically, to forestall being thrown under the bus by Dear Leader for lack of enthusiasm.

Without doubt, they felt good, you could see it writ on their faces. But that glorious sensation was illusory, fleeting, another chimera of many in a regime of smoke, mirrors and thunderous white noise.

The following day, Harper and his party were exactly where they were before the spring/summer break, floundering, evading, fingerpointing and responding with scripted non-answers. It has been a shameful display by a majority governing party. The extended break had done nothing to improve matters, the Senate scandal had not gone away; it was cheap, loud, performance art and gong show. Is this how a leader of a Democratic nation behaves? Is this how Conservative Democracy works? Talking points, scripted bobbleheads, repeated phrases, lifelike dolls fingerpointing, mouths flapping and saying – well, saying nothing but yet, clearly, somehow, signifying the adoption of a new tack: Harper’s Conservatives had suddenly suffered a fervid, dizzying conversion; they were high, high on ethics and ethical behaviour. Villainous wrongdoers would be severely punished and Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Nigel Wright were, without doubt, villainous wrongdoers. Never mind that Wright was gone; he was the chief villain, the architect of all this mess; it was all his fault. Yeah, right.

While I have little to no sympathy for Nigel Wright or the three senators, I have even less for Harper and his gang of thugs who appointed the three to the Senate, apparently less for their merits as contributors to society than for what they could bring to the Conservative Party. Brazeau’s inclusion was likely the result of the potent symbolism he offered: young, intelligent, brash – and First Nations member. Duffy’s and Wallin’s inclusion was, without doubt, a result of their recognisability as respected and trusted members of the media and the promised ability to raise funds as Conservative shills. They were loved (and loved being loved) because they offered something that could be used, traded upon: the native gave them a certain cachet and the fundraisers? Well, they raised a lot of money, didn’t they? Yet, for the three, one can almost work up sympathy. Almost. When suddenly no longer loved, troublesome liabilities now, they were not only thrown under that massive, brutal Tory blue bus, they were to be made an example for all others: cross Harper, this, too, could be your fate. For these three, there would be the public damning, shaming and punishment; a Harper sanctioned lynch mob. Still, there would be a hint of decorum, a suggestion of fair play; the three were allowed to speak in their own defence in the Red Chamber and they did so, Duffy twice. Had cameras been allowed, the scene would almost certainly have closely resembled the Stalinist show trials between 1936 and 1938. Yes, yes, Harper and gang were going for the jugular, no more playing nice; these three would pay, and severely, and Conservatives, when done, could finally wash their hands of them for good while loudly proclaiming their virtue as defenders of ethics in politics. They were the good guys, white hats and tall in the saddle once again. That was the scenario they likely imagined. The party faithful would be happy and the soft supporters? Well, put on a good show, they’ll swallow anything.

The problem is: Would people really buy this? Is Harper and gang right? Is the world filled with simpletons? Well, forty per cent at one time. Enough to elect this gang of vicious thugs.

Unfortunately, for Harper and gang, when Duffy spoke October 22, Conservatives in the Senate and the House must have felt as if they’d been mugged. Regardless of the merits of Duffy’s defence, the sad spectacle says a lot about the character of this government. It is desperately wanting and severely challenged in matters of ethics and integrity. That’s been obvious to many, but this speech was just another nail. Canadians should be worried by now and do something; the foxes are in the henhouse and have been for some time.

In 2006, Harper announced that he would reform the Senate. Well, we saw how that worked out. Over half the Senators are Harper patronage appointees. During his latest foray in the Senate, Duffy posed the rhetorical question: Are we independent Senators or PMO puppets? He knows the answer to that. We all do. The days of a truly independent body had passed some time before the virulently partisan Harper entered the scene, but it is Harper who drove the final killing stake through its heart. The days of a truly independent Senate, if they ever were, were now well and truly dead.

WHICH TRUTH? WHOSE TRUTH?

Do you remember how it went? Did you care then?

When Duffy announced to the world that he and his wife had decided to repay the housing claims to which he was not entitled, Harper and Poilievre and all the rest of the thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of him. He had done the “honourable thing”, they had said. When that proved false, when we learned that it had been Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright who had paid off Duffy’s debts with a cheque, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of the Conservative thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of Wright. He had done the right, honourable thing, they said, Pierre Poilievre even going so far as to declare Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing”! Duffy was suddenly toast. The man who had shone in the Conservative glow, who basked in the limelight and hammed it up as “hard hitting” journalist with puffball questions for Harper during faux “townhall meetings”, was suddenly, and sadly, pariah. Oh, that must have hurt.

When Harper was asked in the House what he knew of the deal, he claimed to know nothing and went so far as to state that no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. It was a matter between Duffy and Wright and no one else, he said. He also said there were no documents. Months later, when the RCMP revealed that there had been others in the know, Irving Gerstein, who controlled party funds and was apparently prepared to help Duffy out when he believed the debt to be $32, 000, David van Hemmen, Nigel Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management in the PMO, Harper played dodge ball evading questions in the House, claiming Wright had accepted responsibility for the matter and had done the honourable thing: he had resigned. As for documents, well, they were there and one involved another cheque, which, until Duffy’s revelations October 28, no one knew about except for the parties involved. Still, Harper, until last week, had maintained the deal a private matter between Duffy and Wright. But that wasn’t true, it never was. The question is, did Harper know? Evidently not, if we are to believe him.

When Brazeau and Duffy, October 22, and Wallin, October 23, defended themselves in the Senate, it was clear from Duffy’s impassioned defence that he was placing Harper in the know, Harper had been there when the deal was made, “just the three of us” (Duffy, Wright & Harper), and that he, Harper, had ordered Duffy to repay the money and take the deal. Harper’s vigorous and proud, “Darn right I told him he should repay the expenses” “sort of” supports what Duffy says without actually placing Harper in the room.

But, if Harper wasn’t there, and he says he wasn’t, and, as we now know four others knew, were there others? In June, Harper said no one else knew. But last week he did allow that “a few” others had known about the deal. That was a small change but extremely significant. It had gone from no one to a few knowing. So, had Harper lied at the beginning? Or did he really not know? Harper and his bobblehead parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, were now back to the scripted lines in the House, “Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” That was Harper. For Calandra, the script went something like this, “The prime minister has answered the question. Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” Oh, how wearisome the script.

On October 28, Mike Duffy took the opportunity to address the Senate again as his judges, jury and executioners prepared to debate his penalty, if any. This time, there was even more astounding news from Duffy even as the Senate Conservative sought to lessen the damage they had inflicted on themselves with this move to suspend the three. Arthur Hamilton, long-time lawyer for the Conservative party, a hardball troubleshooter often called to handle high profile incendiary events involving Conservatives (the Helena Guergis debacle for one, the robocalls scandal for another), had written a $13, 560 cheque to Duffy’s lawyer paying off Duffy’s fees with Conservative funds. There is documented evidence of the cheque. So, how many people did know? What constitutes “a few” as acknowledged by Harper? Some figures go as high as 13. If so, going from none to thirteen appears to be more than a minor discrepancy. Was Harper lying, mistaken, or just wilfully out of the loop on this, as well?

Too, Conservatives had previously denied that they had a secret Conservative fund run from the PMO for discretionary purposes. That was in the past. But that changed with Duffy’s speech in the Senate and with Harper’s recent admission that it did, in fact, exist. Had he lied then or simply been mistaken?

It was from this discretionary fund that Duffy’s lawyer was paid. When questioned about why the Conservative party would pay the fees for Duffy’s lawyer, especially if Duffy had breached the rules, pocketing money to which he was not entitled, Harper’s response was that it was standard practice for the Conservative party to help members from time-to-time. Which begs the question: If Duffy had defrauded taxpayers with illegal claims as Harper keeps on saying, why bail him out? Harper’s story makes little sense. He keeps shifting ground. At what point was Harper, if ever, telling the truth? Was it then or is it today?

In some ways, Nigel Wright seems to be a genuine victim of all this. This was a party loyalist, remember, a front rank soldier. Once word came out that he had written a cheque to pay Duffy’s debt, it was evident he was finished even though, two days later, a spokesman had said Harper still held confidence in him. There was no talk of resignation. On May 19, Wright announced his resignation from the PMO, which Harper had “reluctantly accepted”. Once again, Wright had proven himself a good soldier and, once again he was lavishly praised for doing the right, honourable thing.

Today, however, things are much different for the loyalist and one-time confidant of Harper. Looking back, his vision must be of a deceitful and bleak landscape: the only loyalty was his own.

In an appearance on a radio talk show, October 28th, Harper did another turnabout. Wright had not resigned as we had been led to believe. He had been fired! If Wright had been badly wounded when ruthlessly thrown under the bus, Harper, standing in the House the next day, made certain that he was dead meat as far as Conservatives and the public were concerned. In what must be the final indignity to this one-time much admired member of the PMO, Harper and his thugs left little doubt what Wright meant to them. Wright, said Harper, had been “The one person responsible for the deception.” Had they surrounded him and plunged daggers into his body in a public forum, it could not have been more brutal or more painful. Ruthless, shameless and appallingly cold.

What must Nigel Wright think of all this? What does he feel? What can those sitting around Harper think, what can they believe, who can they trust? Certainly they know that they are one misstep away from political and very public annihilation.

How is it possible that anyone can continue to place trust in this man who is leader of our nation? Petty, brutal, vindictive, evasive, deceitful, ready to sacrifice anyone, he is no leader I respect, let alone admire or trust. He and his party have governed in a manner that has been, time and again, revealed as the most ethically challenged in the history of Canada. It’s not all about money, folks. Mike Duffy says it has lost its moral compass, as if this were a recent thing. He is wrong. That happened long, long before this scandal broke out, probably on the very day Harper experienced the first real taste of power and succumbed to its corruptive allure.

Yes, yes, Harper is high on ethics – today. But even here, he appears rather easy on that score. Some stay, some go but these only when they become liabilities. We need simply remember Shelly Glover who the chief electoral officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, had recommended be suspended for refusing to file a full report of her 2011 campaign expenses. She finally agreed to do so only upon learning she was to be promoted with a cabinet position. And we have Christian Paradis, the lacklustre underperforming MP from Quebec who has been investigated more than once for ethical lapses with allegations of political interference and of providing favourable treatment to contractors seeking government business. He too holds Harper’s enduring confidence (at least until the next election) as well as a cabinet post. We have, as ugly as they come, vicious, oleaginous, union-busting Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, who, in 2010 during the G8 and G20 conferences set aside a slush fund of $50 million for his riding and whose department has apparently misplaced $3.1 billion. We have loudmouth, now silent, Dean Del Mastro, once Harper’s parliamentary secretary, facing charges relating to the 2008 election campaign. We have Bev Oda, who forged, or whose office staff had forged, a government document and was twice made to repay padded expense claims before being finally toppled by a $16 orange drink. We have Peter Penashue, declared by Harper to be the best ever Labrador MP, forced to resign for accepting corporate donations for his campaign. Best ever from Labrador? Clearly the voters didn’t agree with Harper when the by-election was held. We had Vic Toews who accused opponents to his online spying bill of “siding with pedophiles.” And we had Joe Oliver smearing environmentalists as “radicals” and impugning the reputation of a widely respected environmentalist who pointed to the risks of going ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline deal.

With Harper and gang, anything goes; the moral compass is rather fluid if it exists at all. If he likes you, or needs you, you are golden, in like Flint; if, however, you prove a liability, well, it’s under that brutal Conservative bus for you. Wright, Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau have merely joined Michael Sona, Helena Guergis, and all the other battered sacrificed. Clearly, working for Harper and the Conservatives is an occupational hazard.

Perhaps, in his own peculiar way, Harper has decided to set an example for public servants who have endured massive cutbacks and much maligning from the cretinous Clement. Harper has taken on the role of all three monkeys for himself: all hands clapped over eyes, ears and mouth and all at once.

Harper would have you believe he knew nothing. He would have you believe that everyone around him had conspired to deceive him. That makes him incredibly incompetent or incredibly stupid. Take your pick.

It is highly likely Nigel Wright can provide many of the answers. He knew Harper well and, after this, knows him better now. One wonders how much longer he is willing to play the good soldier. He owes Harper absolutely nothing now.

Is Stephen Harper a liar?

What do you think?

***

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

SEE HARPER RUN, RUN, HARPER, RUN

The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man. – Roy L. Smith

Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them. – Aristotle

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE THINGS MIKE DUFFY SAID

On October 21, the day before the Senate was to vote on the suspension without pay of Harper appointees to the Senate, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy came out swinging with his lawyer, Donald Bayne, doing the damage. On the second day, October 22, it would be Duffy, speaking in the Senate, who would drop the bomb.

It was clear, if what Bayne was saying was true, the PMO’s office certainly knew more than Harper admitted to and certainly casts doubt on Harper’s credibility which has already been stretched pretty thin as it is. Duffy, according to Bayne, had met all the residency requirements and had even approached the government Senate leader at the time, Marjory LeBreton, who had informed him that he could claim his home in PEI as his primary residence and thus place a claim for his secondary residence in Ottawa. Duffy then asked the PMO about his living expenses and was informed, by Wright, he met them and was further informed that other senators had similar arrangements.

According to Bayne, Duffy, previously informed he had followed all the rules, had then, at the time of the scandal outbreak been pressured to repay the money he had claimed for housing for four years once it became clear that he was now a liability to the Conservatives and their core base of supports. The deal was made for Wright to ink a cheque for $90,000. For Duffy, according to Bayne, it was play along or pay the consequences. Apparently, Duffy played along his reputation easier to shrug off than a seat on the Senate. Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, overseeing the Deloitte audit of Duffy, also played along changing the report to whitewash Duffy’s image, which, with the promise of repayment, allowed LeBreton to declare the matter closed. At that time, the public was led to believe Duffy had repaid the money from his own wallet. When asked by Mulcair in the House what he knew, Harper claimed not to know of the deal. He also stated no one else in the PMO knew. We now know that was false. Much later it was revealed by an RCMP document that senator Irving Gertstein, was prepared to pay from a party fund he controlled when he believed the amount owed to be about $32,000. We also learned others knew, including David van Hemmen, Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management for the PMO. Did Harper know? He says not. Knowing his reputation as a control freak, it stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper would not know of the deal. But he denied knowing and there it stands.

Bayne spoke at length in a truly extraordinary meeting with news reporters. While he asserted that the PMO’s office had resorted to blackmail in dealing with his client, he appeared to be resorting to the same tactic with Harper and gang, saying he had much more than the three emails he read from during the event and would not hesitate to use them.

If Duffy, through his lawyer, is to be believed, then it certainly exposes Harper to risk of charges of either lying in the House last spring about others in the PMO knowing or of having been deceived by his staff regarding the Duffy/Wright deal. Either way, Harper needs to explain himself.

An hour and a half following that media event, there was an even more disheartening display, this by Harper (who had failed to appear in the House on the first day of the Fall session) and his parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, who appears to offer a prime example of the Peter Principle whereby individuals rise to their level of incompetence.

After evading opposition questions in the House for over 160 days, Harper finally made an appearance and, in a sickening display of hubris, again displayed not only his utter disregard for the opposition, but also his contempt for Parliament, the Democratic process, and for the voters of this country when he was asked what he knew of the Duffy/Wright deal. Harper’s response was telling and appalling. Several times, to repeated questions, his non-response was repeated almost word-for-word to each question posed. Said he, with variants to the script: “Mr. Wright has accepted full responsibility for his decision in these matters. The position of the government as I’ve said repeatedly is that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the rules regarding expenditure, not just the letter but the spirit of those rules, and if they don’t respect those rules they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable.”

A non-answer. Nothing. It is true that Harper did attempt to deflect attention to the new trade deal with Europe; a deal everyone says will be his legacy. Perhaps, but I suspect his legacy will lie elsewhere and it will lie tarnished in the trash bin of history where it justly belongs. If there was ever a shine to Harper’s regime, I must have missed it, blinded by the sheen of an out-dated, shabby and mean-spirited amalgam of Conservative/Reform/Alliance politics.

Then it was Paul Calandra’s turn. He’s the new parliamentary secretary to Harper. Not wishing to be outdone in sticking to a script, Calandra responded to similar questions using almost identical words about what the PMO knew by saying and iterating that Harper had already answered the question and then went on to quote the party line about the economy and jobs. Then, in response to a variant of the same question, what did the PMO know? He veered into a mind-blowing off-the-cuff tangent proceeding to give a befuddling and impressive if lengthy non-response response stating absolutely nothing, which caused Charlie Angus to accurately remark, “Now, that was bizarre.” Clearly, Paul Calandra is well-suited for the role of bobblehead, one of those doll-like figures which play so prominently in the Conservative Party the roster of which include such figures as Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierre Poilievre, all now promoted for, no doubt, diligently following the party line. Evidently, Harper has also become a member of the club, at least, for that day. Unfortunately for Calandra, the string controlling the message must have snapped producing that silly performance from him. It was entertaining if nothing else. In any case, Harper’s non-responses followed by the mimicry of Calandra are disturbing, disheartening and disgusting and do little to enhance the image of either.

Yet, anyone could have a bad day. But when bad behaviour is repeated, you know there’s more to it than that. The next day, Oct. 22, when Thomas Mulcair asked Harper if he regretted anything in his own actions, Harper did the same as the previous day, answering with the same response of the day before in almost identical language. It was confirmed. He was a flesh and blood talking doll, a BOBBLEHEAD! Not a flesh and blood man, not a prime minister, just a talking shell of something resembling life. It was the same with Calandra, bobbing his head, saying what he had said the day before: a true bobblehead. What made it worse, even more offensive, was that when asked a question that only Harper could know the true answer, it was the bobblehead who responded without the insane performance of the previous day with standard non-answers saying, as he had the day before, that Harper had answered the questions, that they would focus on the economy and jobs.

The script is wearying, especially when it appears every member of Harper’s gang has learned it and employs it for the umpteenth time and at every opportunity in attempts to divert public attention away from the Senate to the “greatest” trade deal in the history of Canada if not the world.

But, if those performances did not rile anyone, perhaps what happened that evening did, when, under privilege of the Senate, Duffy spoke in defense of himself and, in doing so, lobbed a grenade that doubtless woke the nation, even if only momentarily, and possibly signalled the beginning of the end for Harper and his Conservative thugs.

Not only does Duffy say that Harper had ordered him to repay the money, he also suggests that Harper was in the room with Wright and himself when he did so. If that is true, then Harper lied in the House on May 5, when Mulcair asked him if anyone else knew of the deal. The deal was between Duffy and Wright, Harper had said. Duffy then spoke of the new chief of staff, Ray Novak, at that time senior aide to Harper, and Marjory LeBreton, calling him at home in PEI, ordering him to resign or appear before an ethics committee with the likelihood of being expelled from the Senate. We have heard Harper’s version. This is Duffy’s. Who can we believe, if either?

THE THINGS PAMELA WALLIN SAID

Perhaps Pamela Wallin can shed a little light and she did, like Duffy, speaking in the Senate under privilege levelling the basic same charge against Harper as Duffy and employing almost the same arguments. For Wallin, particular targets were Marjory LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen who, she states, had “orchestrated” leaked documents apparently because they “could not abide” her criticism of their leadership and the praise she had earned from Harper! “These were targeted leaks,” she said, “many of them incorrect, designed to cast my conduct in the worst possible light. They were personal and vindictive –and violated all the rules of this place.” She also claimed, as did Duffy, that LeBreton and Ray Novak, had called her claiming to speak on behalf of Harper, demanding she resign from the Senate. She further claimed they came to an agreement whereby she would recuse herself from caucus, not resign but, “less than 10 minutes later, Senator LeBreton broke the deal and publicly declared that I had resigned.” Does anyone look good in this? Immediately following Wallin’s speech, LeBreton spoke under privilege of the chamber refuting Wallin’s claims as baseless. Who can we believe?

What we are witnessing has moved beyond tragedy to farce. It has become a spectacle with performers who, on one side have appeared to have sold their reputations, now tattered, for the price of joining an elite club and those on the other side willing to exploit at any cost the influence and prestige of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and the potent symbolism at the time of a controversial young Patrick Brazeau, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples which had assisted the Conservatives during the 2006 election. The performances have brought disrepute on all offering a show that is shabby, shameful, and enduring. Harper and his crew could as easily play the roles of comic mimes for the white noise of denials that spews from their mouths say nothing and mean nothing providing only a constant din that is far from comic and leaves nothing to the imagination about them as representatives of a Democracy. It is not good.

PROVE YOU’RE STUPID; VOTE FOR CONSERVATIVES – AGAIN!

That Harper and his crew are still able to garner support is astounding to me and clear evidence that there are some in society who will support liars, thieves, dishonest ideas, unethical behaviour, anyone and anything, in short, for promises of shiny trinkets, of easy cures, and quick fixes as offered in the throne speech along with the announcement of a tentative major trade deal with Europe, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Harper believes he knows his people and I fear he may be right. He believes that little matters to voters other than cutting fees for paper bills, ending bundling by communications giants, reducing roaming fees and passing laws forcing governments to balance budgets in normal times which he does not define and which is laughably untenable. The world is fluid and little can be certain and even less controlled. But it is not on those few baubles that Harper pins his hope. Rather, it appears, he has placed them on CETA with its promises of 80 thousand jobs and infusion of $12 billion into the economy. But even here, critics say, Harper has misjudged, exaggerated the expectations.

The figures, they claim, are from a joint study between Canada and Europe based on a computer model that is five years old. A lot has happened since 2008. Can the numbers be believed? According to Harper they can, for these are the figures he relies on. But a 2011 European study suggests otherwise, that the figures might be closer to one third to one half of those estimated from the 2008 study. Further, the numbers of that 2008 study were arrived at before the economic crisis shattered the global economy and before negotiations had even begun. In other words, the numbers just don’t stand up. Harper and thugs would have you believe otherwise. However, knowing how well this government is with figures, I will trust the critics. I remember too well how Conservatives turned a huge surplus left by the Liberals to a record Conservative deficit. And I still haven’t heard a reasonable explanation from Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, an account of what has happened to the missing $3.1 billion. Nor have I heard how government cutbacks in the Canada Revenue Agency will resolve the issue of recovering over $29 billion from offshore accounts of tax evaders. In fact, do we even know, can we be assured, this government is pursuing those wealthy individual and corporate tax fraudster scofflaws?

How can we trust a leader and his crew that runs, evades, obfuscates and just outright lies about almost everything we should know and have a right to know, but which they don’t want us to know (which is almost everything). How can we trust a leader, if Duffy and Wallin are to be believed, who lied about what he knew and how much he knew? As for Harper’s numbers regarding this new deal, they strike me as wishful thinking plucked from air. As for job creation, critics suspect that the reverse can be expected, that the result in job losses will be anywhere from 30,000 to 150,000. If Harper is so confident of this deal, why are Canadians not able to have access to the details? It may well be a good deal, but it could also be a chimera, smoke and noise and not to be trusted.

But for Harper and his gang, Duffy’s speech, Wallin’s speech and even Brazeau’s speech, in the Senate, it is all bad news that not even this promised trade deal can ameliorate. The Senate scandal is there, it will stick, and Duffy’s and Wallin’s version, if true, if accepted, will likely spell the end to this highly secretive, vindictive, mean, and dismal regime.

Unfortunately for Democracy, there are still voters who will not experience shame or despair, those voters who are quite willing and are even eager to be bought for mere pennies a day or with large, shiny, but ultimately empty promises. Harper and gang know this and those on the sideline who disapprove can only gape in astonishment that none of them, the bribers or the takers, experience anything closely resembling shame. Those people, the bribers and takers, do not value themselves, so why should they value others, why should they value the Democratic process? For them, rules, ethics, integrity are all hindrances; they don’t matter, they never have, they never will. It’s all about the main chance: What’s in if for me?

I would hope the tactics employed by Harper and thugs would not work and certainly not as often as they have. Unfortunately knowing Canadian voters I cannot help but wonder: how is it possible that so many, so often, can be so dangerously indifferent and so outrageously stupid?

With the Duffy bombshell, followed by Wallin’s, it is just possible that some of those voters will wake up.

But I will not hold my breath. I will hope for better, but I will not expect better. Too many voters think with their wallets. And even more simply do not think.

Vote for Harper; get more of the same. Prove you really are stupid – again.

***

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

CONSERVATIVES, CORRUPTION, AMORALITY AND THE BIG FIX

A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy. – Benjamin Disraeli

The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted the spoons – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Frank A. Pelaschuk

NOT SO FAST MARJORY LEBRETON

Not all that long ago, (May 9th, 2013), with the recent release of the audit on the three senators who had made false housing and travel claims, Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, stated the matter was over as far as Mike Duffy was concerned. This declaration was made after the public had been informed that Mike Duffy had repaid $90 thousand dollars he had collected while not entitled to do so after making false claims. LeBreton also threatened Liberal Sen. Mac Harb and Sen. Patrick Brazeau, Stephen Harper appointee, now an Independent, with garnishment if they didn’t repay their false claims on time. Neither Harb nor Brazeau, it would appear, would be offered any leniency by the Conservative dominated senate. The difference between the three cases, as far as the public was led to believe was that one, Duffy, had “voluntarily” offered and made restitution to the tune of $90 thousand. However, with the latest revelations regarding Conservative Sen. Duffy, it is clear that LeBreton spoke far too soon.

When word came, with much fanfare, that Duffy had repaid the $90 thousand, Stephen Harper and the rest of the Conservative chorus began to sing his praises. Duffy, who had admitted to no wrongdoing, had done the right thing; he was honourable. So went the line. The way they sold it, it was unlikely there was a finer, more honest individual to be found anywhere across this great land. Well that sounded good, didn’t it? Of course, not everyone was buying it.

Some suggested it was time to call in the RCMP. Neither LeBreton nor Harper would have any of that. The matter was closed as far as they were concerned. For others, however, there was still that nagging question that needed a response: If guiltless, why would Duffy feel impelled to repay the housing claims to which he was entitled? The forms were confusing, he had claimed. He may have made a mistake. “But I would not knowingly fiddle,” he had said. He had also said, “Canadians know I am an honest person…”

The audit results suggest otherwise. And because they do, more than repayment is called for.

But Duffy’s refund was not the whole story, was it. Not by a long shot. For weeks the public had been led to believe that he had repaid the money out of his own funds, presumably the money he had illegally claimed as his entitlements. We now know that Duffy, forewarned by another senator, Conservative David Tkachuk, about what to expect, that the audit would, as it did, find that he had abused his office, could not afford to repay the money on time. Not to worry; he had a good friend in the PMO willing to help. The money was repaid. The name of the benefactor was Nigel Wright, Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper. But none of this was made public until May 15. Intriguingly, once the refund was made, good ol’ Duff no longer co-operated with those investigating him and LeBreton declared the matter closed.

Unfortunately, the narrative as the cretinous Duffy, Stephen Harper and the Harper gang may have sought isn’t as straightforward as they would have us believe. It was true; the government was repaid money Duffy had undeservedly claimed, but the repayment was not from Duffy’s wallet nor was it even with the taxpayers’ own money. Instead, the debt was paid with a “gift” from Nigel Wright, Harper’s right hand man. But none of this, as stated above, was made public by Duffy, Wright or anyone else who may have known. If the $90 thousand was a loan, Duffy and Wright had a duty to inform the auditors as well as the Leader of the Government of the Senate, LeBreton, and the Ethics Commissioner. But not a whisper for weeks until May 15th, when the story broke. Only then did Wright finally inform the Ethics Commissioner of the $90 thousand cheque. If, however, the $90 thousand was a “gift” rather than a loan from Nigel Wright to good ol’ Duff, then surely the rules were broken. As cited in the Globe and Mail (May 15th), “senators are prohibited from accepting gifts that could reasonably be seen to relate to their position.” No ambiguity there. Clearly the $90 thousand “gift” had everything to do with Duffy’s senate position, the anticipation of the audit outcome and the preserving of his position and whatever reputation he had left. Forewarned, the debt repaid, Duffy no doubt expected that that would be the end of the matter. With LeBreton’s help, that’s exactly what transpired. Now the public might be forgiven for shaking their heads with disappointment if not disbelief. The public might also be forgiven for wondering if these people have any clue as to how this looks, if they even care or if they experience any sense of shame. If Harper and gang have any inkling what ethics entails, they obviously are unfamiliar and indifferent to the practice of it and they certainly don’t care what you and I think. And they will continue to not care until you and I loudly scream: We are not going to take it any more!

THE CONSERVATIVE CONCEPT OF HONOUR

When the story broke out on May 15, something interesting but unsurprising began to take shape. The Harper regime went into full spin mode. On CBC’s Power and Politics that afternoon, Pierre Poilievre, that Conservative stooge who can always be relied upon to give the government spin on almost any story, kept insisting that Nigel Wright had “done the exceptionally honourable thing” for the taxpayers by paying off Duffy’s debt. Wow. Now that is spin. Wright had saved Duffy’s hide to spare you and me!

So, according to Poilievre, Wright is “exceptionally honourable”. But what is so honourable about this secret pact requiring negotiation between Wright, Duffy, the senate and, for all we know, Harper himself? What is so honourable about a deal bailing out a double-dipping senator who, once the debt was repaid, went mute, became uncooperative, and refused to share records with investigators, and was found to have deliberately made false claims to money that wasn’t his to take in the first place? To suggest, as Harper stooges have, that Wright’s act was pure selfless generosity, just an old friend helping out a pal and attempting to spare the Canadian taxpayers from the pain of the loss of the $90 thousand dollars illegally obtained by Duffy, the same honest Duffy who claimed expenses from the senate while campaigning for Harper and the Conservatives last election, rather than a measure to protect the senator, stretches all credulity. But that is precisely what Harper and his gang want us to believe. This was no attempt at a cover-up. No, indeed. Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing”. So said Poilievre. What is remarkable about that statement is that Poilievre and other Harper Conservative pinheads (Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander et al) had said almost exactly the same thing of Duffy when they went about attempting to convince us that it was Duffy who had paid off the debt he claims he did not owe! It’s remarkable how easily Harperites can shift. Pat phrases always helps; myth making bullshit for any and all occasions.

One could almost be excused for laughing except this is no laughing matter. In the past, Wright himself had been looked at and cleared for ethical breaches. But this $90 thousand gift from one so close to Harper’s office deserves full public scrutiny. Why the secrecy if there was nothing untoward? If this was simply a pal helping a pal, what was there to negotiate? Did Marjory LeBreton and others in the Senate know? If so, how much did they know and to what extent were they involved? Once the $90 thousand was paid, why did Duffy stop co-operating with the investigators, falling silent and refusing to hand over documents that could have cleared him if he is innocent of wrongdoing? Did Stephen Harper know of this gift? Did he play a role in any way? The PMO’s office says Harper knew nothing. With Harper’s well known penchant for control, is that even credible?

The day following the Wright revelations, the Ottawa Citizen ran the following headline: “PMO’s integrity thrown into question” (May 16). Now that is a howler. What integrity are they talking about? This is a government from day one that has demonstrated that it will exercise any excuse for any act, lie or deed committed by one of their members, cronies or friends. Time and again Harper and gang have demonstrated readiness, even eagerness, to point fingers, throw staffers and colleagues under buses, and smear those who dare question its style of governance. It’s even been cited for contempt of parliament. Ministers have been forced to resign for padding expense accounts and accepting illegal corporate donations while campaigning. The truth is, Harper and gang will take a line, any line, twist it, hammer it, chisel it, and hack it to pieces until it fits the filthy portal of lies they insist it must fit. This is a government so ethically challenged that even the staunchest of Conservative supporters are beginning to understand that the promise of an open, honest and transparent government offered by Harper has not only never flown, it has never even sprouted wings.

CONSERVATIVES AND THE ELUSIVE NATURE OF TRUTH

The nature of truth is irresistible. It cannot be stopped. But it can be delayed, interfered with, and denied for some time. Harper’s gang have been doing such for some time; they are well practiced in obfuscation, obstructionism and plain old-fashioned lying. Eventually, truth will out, but occasionally it needs a little help. The RCMP must be brought in.

Notwithstanding Harper’s support of Wright, itself a key insight into Harper’s dark nature, the deal between Wright, Duffy and the senate must be thoroughly investigated. Even if what transpired was legal, it certainly poses some ethical questions. That Harper cannot understand that or, based on his response to past issues, most likely doesn’t care, speaks volumes but should surprise no one. To this regime, ethics, integrity, honesty, truth, shame are just words and little more. Some people just don’t understand them and they never live by them. That so many in Harper’s circle including Harper himself could be devoid of the moral compass that guides most of us is shocking. These people are like zombies, devoid of the things that give a person value and meaning as a human being. They live in a vacuum in which anything goes and the only thing that offers them sustenance is not the doing of the right, just, honourable thing, but the main chance, i.e., what they can get from anything and anyone however and by whatever means. They are beyond redemption and contempt. Harb, Brazeau and perhaps all members of the senate and even parliament should be investigated as well with the books examined and the record set straight. If laws have been broken, charges must be laid. If found guilty, those senators and/or MPs must be booted out of office, they must lose their pensions and they must pay fines and serve time.

When that is done, the public should then turn its attention to the senate and drive a stake through its rotten, pustule plagued, useless, patronage burdened heart.

And then the public should turn its eyes on Stephen Harper and his gang of amoral thugs who can excuse and justify anything vile that suits their needs.

When will the anger turn to rage and the rage to a whirlwind?

HARPER, NUMBERS AND TAX THIEVES

God loves the poor but he helps the rich. – Yiddish proverb

Frank A. Pelaschuk

STEPHEN HARPER AND TAX THIEVES

With the shifty Stephen Harper gang, the numbers seldom add up. This is a peculiarity of a government that touts itself as a great money manager, fiscally responsible and economically solid. When the Conservatives first came into office under Harper, they inherited a surplus budget of $13 billion from the Liberals. With the latest budget, the Harper gang predicts they will move from a $25.9 billion deficit to a surplus of $800 million by 2015. Just in time for the next election. Meanwhile, somewhere along the line, they lost $38.9 billion.

On May 8th, the Harper crew announced that they would allocate $30 million dollars to go after tax cheats who ripped us off for over $29 billion with off shore accounts. But how seriously are we to take Harper’s promise? Clearly not very when we know that this government plans to cut $300 million from the budget of the Canada Revenue Agency as well as eliminate thousands of jobs over the next three years. The numbers just don’t add up.

It’s a shell game a grossly cynical and manipulative regime expects Canadians to buy into. From all appearances, this anti-Democratic Harper government is more interested in protecting the offshore accounts of their tax evading business pals than in doing anything of substance to recapture the funds stolen from Canadians by tax avoidance schemers. In fact, it is even more difficult to give credence to anything Harper has to say regarding tax evaders when, in addition to cutting funding and personnel in the CRA, his government spent $100 million over the past year promoting itself with colourful, misleading, publicly funded Action Plan propaganda ads. Harper, in other words, is more willing to spend over three times the amount on himself than he is to the recovery of unpaid, hidden offshore taxes, money that, if recovered, would pay off the national debt. Calling those scofflaws “tax evaders” or “tax cheats” is almost too gentle and close to misleading: they are, in reality, lowlife thieves stealing money that belongs to Canada and Canadians. That this government appears not to be as eager to pursue them as diligently some might wish could lead to suspicions that Harper and gang, with their pro-business bias, sympathizes with those malefactors who apparently share the sentiments voiced by another infamous scofflaw, tax evader Leona Helmsley: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Nice. No doubt accurate as well.

That we have individuals in government who apparently subscribe to that notion is all too obvious. They sit in the senate and the House, write laws that benefit a few and punish the rest, and ceaselessly repeat, “less taxes” and/or “less government” while padding expenses and making false housing claims. By “less taxes”, of course, they mean a full, publicly funded twenty-course meal for the “contributors of society, the wealth creators, the deserving people,” at the table and a jagged piece of bone stripped of all meat for the “little people” at their feet.

Even so, even with everything rigged in their favour, for the wealthy elite, this is not enough. When it comes to tax thieves, Harper nods, makes the appropriate sympathetic noises, and offers a few promises. But it is all sham. Very little will be accomplished towards closing the offshore accounts of the most egregious offenders and prosecuting them for the tax thieves they are. For some, presumably the contributing deserving rich, the “real” wealth creators as they would have us “little people” believe of them, there is no such thing as having too much. Harper and gang appear to agree. Perhaps that’s what they mean when they say “less government”. How much different from the United States. There, at least, Helmsley went to jail. The victim of too much government.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SENATE AND THE SWEET LIFE

Over the years, whenever a senate opening came along, I occasionally wrote to various prime ministers offering my services to be a member of the senate. When I made the offer, I also made a pledge that, for that money, I would be honest and show up for work every day, even on weekends. I never did receive a response and was never certain whether it was my offer to appear on weekends or to be honest which kept me from the senate. I was convinced I fit the bill.

Now I had made those overtures after I became aware that there were a few senators who appeared less than interested in the job making only the minimum required appearances and no more to keep their seats and collect their salaries. Well, I was willing to do more. And, as we have recently learned with the release of the audit on several senators, Liberal Mac Harb, Conservative Mike Duffy and Conservative appointee, now Independent, Patrick Brazeau, not all are all that honest when it comes to making housing and travel claims. The report on Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin is pending. Had I been appointed, the public would have received a bonus: an honest person. I couldn’t lose, I thought. My offers were rejected. Hell, they weren’t even acknowledged. Or course, I now realize that I was a bit more than naïve. Whereas I had thought appointments were for public service (okay, full disclosure: I admit to having done very little towards public service) and that judgement, honesty, integrity and ethics were musts (these I believe I do possess; ask me, I’ll tell you), it turned out what was really wanted were stooge rubber stampers willing to support the policies of the governments of the day. Just as well I didn’t get a seat. I’d find it difficult to endure the stench of so much corruption.

The report of the independent audit of the senators released on May 9th had determined that the two conservatives and one liberal senator had made false housing and travel claims. Mike Duffy had already repaid $90 thousand for false housing claims and then, apparently tipped off by Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, chair of the committee investigating the four, repaid an additional one thousand plus for claiming per diems while vacationing in Florida for twelve days. For that, Duffy blames a young staffer. That’s what Conservatives do; they point fingers and plead ignorance. As a result of the audit, Brazeau has to repay over $48 thousand and Harb over $51 thousand. It is worth noting that, of the four senators investigated, three were Harper appointees.

Mike Duffy is an interesting case. He claimed that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Is that really credible in light of the fact that he has paid back over $91 thousand dollars? But there is another issue that should concern Canadians. Is repayment sufficient punishment? Is it even punishment? Good ol’ Duff, as he likes to refer to himself, made the claim that the expense form was confusing. Really? This from the mouth of a once respected journalist, who stated with that folksy charm he likes to adopt, “Canadians know I am an honest man…”. Well, good ol’ Duff, I don’t know that.

When the audit was released, it immediately became plain that there would be no further punishment for those offenders even though some senators, the auditors, and the public believe the RCMP should be called in to look at the books of those four members. Perhaps that should extend to all senators and publicly elected MPs as well. Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, stating that the rules would be tightened up seems to confirm that no further action will be contemplated against the three. Harper, in the House, supported LeBreton stating his government would not pursue the matter because the rules were “confusing”! This, as you will note, is a particularly generous line from the prime minister, the same Stephen Harper who, not all that long ago, offered no such lenient extension towards those collecting UI when he passed legislation allowing authorities to barge into their homes for no other reason then the belief that they may be fraudsters. If the rules were that befuddling, why not seek clarification?

But, as for those three who actually did rip off Canadian taxpayers to the tune of $190 thousand, it is a mystery why Harper is taking such a soft approach. Well, it might not be that much of a mystery after all, not with Harper and his gang. If the issue is to be put aside once and for all, one thing is certain: the RCMP must be called in to investigate those three. And if charged they must face trial and if found guilty they should be removed from the senate, lose their pensions and serve time in jail. If jail is good enough for Helmsley, it’s good enough for them.

THE NATIONAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY

Three years ago, the Harper conservatives announced they would cancel the long form census replacing it with the voluntary National Household Survey. To many, the move made no sense. There would be problems they predicted. But Harper’s is not a government that listens. Instead, typically of bullies, Harper rammed the deal through and the results are less than stellar.

In the past, the mandatory long form survey went to one in five households. Because the form was mandatory and because 94% of those receiving the forms complied in filling them out, the results were extremely accurate. The same cannot be said of the voluntary National Household Survey released May 8th, which went to more people, close to 30% of the households, and yet were filled by only 68% of those receiving it. In some areas, the compliance rate was far below that of the average, the sampling in some areas so small that whole communities across the country were dropped from the survey. The results cannot be trusted. This is not a good outcome, made even worse because Harper had been warned and refused to listen. This is not the first time Harper and gang have turned a deaf ear to the voices of reason. They pulled out of Kyoto because they still believe that climate change is still unproven. We have the minister of resources Joe Olivier maligning scientists and environmentalists for their criticisms of the XL Keystone pipeline, and we appear to have some folks in the Conservative party who still believe that man walked side-by-side with dinosaurs three thousand years ago when the earth was formed in seven days by a supreme being.

When the Harper regime made the decision to kill the long form in favour of the voluntary survey, the justification was privacy concerns. This had been voiced by Tony Clement, the President of the Treasury Board, the same man of the $50 million slush fund boondoggle, the very man whose department has somehow mislaid $3.1 billion of taxpayer money. That claim is a red herring. Information on those who filled the long form census has never been made public. Another claim is that as voiced by Conservative Mike Lake, parliamentary secretary for the minister of industry. On the day of the release of the voluntary National Household Survey, Lake appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics stating anywhere from three to seven times with slight variations the following: Canadians have the right not to be threatened with fines or jail time for not wanting to answer questions regarding their religion, the number of bedrooms they have or how much time they spend with their kids. This is another red herring ludicrous on several levels. No one has ever gone to jail for refusing to fill the long form census. But Conservatives never let the facts interfere with their narrative. All too often, as with this issue, they create a scenario that has no basis in reality in the hope that Canadians are as stupid and fearful as the Harper gang believe. Well, it might work for the paranoid and truly stupid, but one might pause to ask this: If privacy is an issue with the long form census, why isn’t it an issue when Canadians fill out income tax forms? They, too, demand information some Canadians, judging by the number of offshore accounts, clearly do not wish to share.

HARPER, SHIPS AND AN ‘OLD TROTSKYITE’

In March, the Minister of Public Works, Rona Ambrose, and the Minister of Defence (and Ineptitude), Peter MacKay, announced that Irving Shipbuilding would be paid $288 million to design Arctic offshore patrol ships. They did not, however, disclose that the design of a Norwegian ship had already been purchased by Canada for $5 million. Nor did Ambrose or MacKay reveal that the Norwegian ship had been designed and built for $100 million, one third of the cost that we are paying just for the design. This is Harper’s version of sound money management. It is also a very, very disturbing picture of a very, very sweet deal for Irving Shipbuilding if not for Canadian taxpayers.

It was Terry Milewski of CBC who brought these facts to light. The reaction from Harper’s gang was predictable with one of the talking airhead puppets, parliamentary secretary Chris Alexander, hurling out the charge that Milewski was “an old Trotskyite”. Typical. Alexander didn’t bother to deny the story preferring instead to resort to diversion and finger pointing with a charge against Milewski that had nothing to do with the validity of the story. I could care less if Milewski is a Trotskyite, old or otherwise, or if he’s a man from Mars or if he takes marshmallows with beer. Is the story accurate? Gauging from Alexander’s ridiculously simple-minded ad hominem attack, clearly so.

No one who has followed Harper and gang would be surprised by the way Alexander responded. He and the others in the Harper regime apparently believe they are in a war in which every critic or questioner is the enemy and must be treated as suspect. Never answer, never explain, never listen, always attack. They are bullies of the worst sort, vile, dishonest, deceitful and totally devoid of a sense of shame. I’ve said that before, I’ll say it again.

As for Harper and his numbers? They just don’t add up. They didn’t with the F-35s; they don’t with the design costs submitted by Irving Shipbuilding; they fail with the National Household Survey. As money managers Harper and gang went from a surplus of $13 billion to a deficit of $25.9 billion. As money managers they spent $100 million on propaganda while allocating only $30 million to close offshore accounts of tax cheats that, were the money recovered, would not only clear the national debt but leave a surplus of over $3 billion. Perhaps, over time, Harper and gang might find that missing $3.1 billion. But again, they might not. They are cutting back on funds and personnel in the CRA.

Do you still believe Harper and thugs are better stewards of this nation? If so, you must still believe in the tooth fairy and that the world is only three thousand years old. Poor you.

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