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CAN THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG REALLY LIE, TERRIFY, CHEAT AND BRIBE ITS WAY TO VICTORY?

There is a destiny that makes us brothers, none goes his way alone. /All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.Edwin Markham

The Conservatives want to lay off civil servants when it’s the uncivil servants we should get rid of. – Irene Peter

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

When a group of political scoundrels in power run out of ideas, if they ever had any in the first place, they inevitably resort to playing the cards they know best and rely on most: they pander to the worst in us, to our bigotry, fears, and greed measuring us all against their own standards of conduct which, all too often, are low, venal, amoral and completely without honour. Stephen Harper and his gang are such a group. And while they may appear to be off the mark in their assessment of Canadians and those who vote, they are not that far off: the Conservatives won their present majority with the support of 40% of those voting.

That there are still those willing to vote for them, that the core base of thirty to forty percent appears untouchable and unteachable is, while baffling, a clear indication that the Conservatives really do know their supporters.

WHY DO YOU VOTE AS YOU DO?

But what is it that moves that base? What persuades them, time and again, to vote for a group as vile as this? It certainly cannot be intelligence; how could any thinking person possibly swallow the Conservative myth of them as masterful economic wizards? Maybe it’s Harper’s skill as a great, STRONG PROUD FREE leader that earns him his votes. But that, too, is a myth, the slogan more an Americanism than any Canadian reality. We have seen too much of his posturing, tie off, shirt opened at the neck, swaggering across the stage before a pliant gaggle of supporters and talking big and evoking images of ISIS coming for us while wagging his finger at the rest of the world for not doing enough. We have Harper and Jason Kenney in Iraq for a photo-op, Harper, statesmanlike apparently at the front peering through binoculars, the great leader overseeing his men and women, and we have both on a ship harassed by a Russian ship and jet during their visit to the Ukraine. But that, too, is mythmaking, both Harper and Kenney attempting to inflate themselves as worthy, heroic figures by inflating the dangers (which were non-existent according to the military; such harassment is apparently routine and engaged by all nations; a thumping of chests and load roars). I find it impossible to imagine Harper as mighty warrior; all I have is an image of him cowering in a broom closet on Parliament Hill on a murderous October day last year.

But are strutting and bombast enough to justify voting for him? While I have no doubt of the courage of those men and women who serve us, how proud and how assured can they be of their own futures when they see how this government has mistreated veterans, especially our disabled veterans, with clawbacks of disability pensions, with closures of nine veterans offices across the country, with unspent (“lapsed” in Harperese) $1.1 billion designated for veterans but returned to the public treasury, and with its shabby treatment of surviving family members? How confident can our men and women really be in a government that talks big (STRONG PROUD FREE) yet stints on equipment forcing them to work with gear that is old and inadequate and more handicap than benefit for modern warfare? Now we know Harper is always talking about cutting taxes and saving money and by God it appears to work, he gets those votes, but, do voters really want to save money off the backs of our military personnel and veterans? We have a navy with three of four second-hand submarines finally operational after twenty years of breakdowns and failures. We have a navy with over half of the ships in for repairs or upgrades and an announcement by Kenney of a plan to retrofit a commercial ship to serve temporarily as a naval supply ship because the one on order has been delayed, once again, with a cost of $55 million ballooning to $78 million. We have an air force with creaky jets about to be retired and supply planes so old that spare parts can only be bought on eBay. It’s true the Conservatives have ordered two more C-17 military transport planes and have had delivered two helicopters but all at twice the cost other nations paid. Worse, the two helicopters, according to experts, are underpowered for the duties they are expected to perform rendering them all but useless (does any of this cause you to pause and question the Conservative myth of sound fiscal Conservative management?). STRONG PROUD FREE. It’s sloganeering and empty rhetoric and does not reflect well on Canada; Harper is the emperor without clothes reproving the world for not doing enough while our own contributions in the way of money and materiel remain woefully inadequate at best with one aerial refuelling plane, two surveillance planes, six war planes, sixty-nine military trainers in Iraq and six hundred personnel in Kuwait. It’s even more offensive when the Minister of Defence, Jason Kenney, lies, as he is prone to do, when he justifies Canada’s extension of the war by claiming, as he has done, that Canada and the USA are the only nations with precision bombing capability.

Such leadership, coupled with the despoliation of the military as well as of other government agencies, cuts to jobs and services, the beggaring of Peter to pay Paul to achieve a perception of capability and fiscal soundness, of strength and success, of balance and fairness is hardly indicative of responsible, efficient and/or wise governance.

It’s is not our underfunded and poorly equipped men and women, nor their courage and loyalty that must be doubted but the leadership of their government which places them in harm’s way often to score cheap political points and to win elections while it lies about its intent, exaggerates its contributions, lectures its allies and attacks its own citizens with Bill C-51, the Conservative’s own act of terrorism, which threatens to create a police like state with its lack of oversight. Now the Conservatives deny this pointing out that SIRC (Security Intelligence Review Committee) will provide all the necessary oversight. That’s rich coming from a government as secretive and slyly deceitful as this one with it’s relentless efforts to escape scrutiny by slipping legislation into omnibus bills having nothing to do with the main thrust of the bill itself. Besides being short-staffed and underfunded, the powers to oversee CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Services) have been severely limited by C-51; CSIS members will be allowed to break laws and violate charter rights and to do so with impunity thanks to “disruption warrants” set in place by C-51 which allows CSIS to take illegal actions to ‘”disrupt” a threat if they can get a judicial warrant to do so” (iPolitics, Amanda Connolly, Jan. 30, 2015).

WHAT IS A PROMISE IN THE MOUTH OF CONSERVATIVES? MOSTLY EMPTY WORDS BUT, WHEN HONOURED, A REWARD TO FRIENDS AND REVENGE AGAINST ENEMIES

When he first campaigned for his run as Prime Minister, Harper had promised a clean, honest, open and transparent government. But those were just promises. Immediately upon election, he quickly and brutally rejected them; evidently such goals are unworkable especially for such as those not prone to respecting or living by such. But, still, the question must be: Given that he broke these promises, how was it possible that he and his gang could be elected again and again by the same folk who demanded open and honest governance in the first place?

Well, for some folks, a clean, honest, open and transparent government is of less interest than a government that can promise and deliver on shiny promises: harsher punishment for the bad guys (unless you are Conservative), less taxes and more for the good guys. What does it matter to these thoughtless, clueless, narcissistic jerks that healthcare suffers, roads crumble and overpasses crush cruising vehicles passing below. All that matters is the personal gain – today; a tax cut here, another there. For such as these, tomorrow is another day and far off and votes are easily sold and cheaply purchased. The promise of a shiny bauble is enough to turn off the brain and quash any moral qualms. Harper understands the hand out and greasy greedy palm. He counts on that. He really believes we are that stupid and that greedy. He and his gang are, in many ways, merely a reflection of those who support them; unlike them, he and the gang recognize this and exploit it. Alas, he’s right – of some of us. We are dolts and we are greedy. He has given us opportunity to prove it time and time again and we do so willingly.

So when Conservative MPs appeared in droves July 20 alerting the public that that was the day everyone with children would be receiving Christmas in July in the way of fat, lump sum retroactive cheques of $420 per child, no one could honestly claim to be surprised. Lest there was any doubt to whom the families should be grateful, there was Pierre Poilievre, the most odious and partisan member of the Harper cabinet, leading the pack, not only pushing the Universal Childcare Benefit increases in TV ads but also at some public mall before the media wearing a Conservative golf shirt breaching good taste while shamelessly offering a public endorsement of the Conservative Party’s efforts to win another election by outright bribery.

In the old days, it used to be beer that did the trick.

Unfortunately, what oily Poilievre and the other Conservative lowlifes neglect to mention is that this largesse is not quite as it seems. For one thing, the Christmas gifts of July are taxable. Too, the Conservatives are just giving back to those families what was theirs (as well as ours) in the first place. Too, they ignore, and hope we are too thoughtless to notice, that while the sudden riches will surely help some in desperate need, the poor will still not do as well as wealthy two income families who will earn an additional $2000 a year for no other reason than that they already have more. Of the money earned from income splitting, 15 % of those will be high-income beneficiaries: they will take 49% of that money while 85% of the population will receive the remaining 51%. But, if you are a single parent holding down two or three jobs, if you are a one-income family, if you are poor and homeless, young and helpless or old and helpless, none of the benefits will flow to you.

Well, who cares? Certainly not Harper and thugs, certainly not the greedy and mean who really believe the poor deserve to be poor and they, those who already have, really deserve to get even more. While the hungry homeless poor and ill, while the hard working single parent worry about feeding themselves and their loved ones, the greedy worry that they didn’t get enough in tax breaks, in bonuses for having children, and simply for being better than the riffraff for whom they scarce give a thought except as folk to be feared when encountered on the street. Perhaps a coin thrown at them as they scurry away is enough to assuage the conscience if not erase the fear.

We will always have liars, knaves and thieves; but there is something wrong with us that we not only elect them, but we elect them again and again and often for the same promises made time and again and broken time and again. Remember Harper’s promises to clean up, to be honest, open, transparent, to put an end to corruption and patronage? On June 18 and 19 of this year, Stephen Harper made 98 appointments to various government departments including 40 judicial appointments. He has done this before with 59 Senate seats going to Conservatives (Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Patrick Brazeau most notable among them) and before that 111 pals since 2006 given jobs in various government departments. All were Conservative loyalists including two failed candidates. With this latest round, patronage appointees got key jobs with the immigration and refugee board, the CBC (probably with the goal of seeing to it’s demise), the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the National Capital Commission. The five appointees to the NCC are particularly disturbing because they were put in place just in time to vote on the status of the anti-communist monument in Ottawa which many Canadians oppose because of its proposed location which is donated government land originally set aside to house additional judicial buildings. The government strongly supports the monument and it’s ideological message making the claim that the cost is only $5 million (and, for $1,000, the chance to add your name as a donor) much of it in private donations. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s a lie, in fact. The government contributed $2 million and, of course, donated land worth $30 million! While I have nothing against some kind of memorial (located elsewhere) to all victims of all “-isms”, I do oppose this monument because it appears to exclude victims of other tyrannical and economic systems with the implicit suggestion that some forms of totalitarianism and murder are more acceptable than others. It is likely the victims of such did not and do not fully appreciate the finer distinctions of such a view as they are led to slaughter. Yet, for Harper and gang, their support of the monument seems crucial. I suspect it has less to do with victims of communism than with the support of the ideology of free enterprise and currying the vote of Canadians of Ukrainian and Polish extraction. The real issue is this: In spite of his loud denunciation of patronage appointments while he was leader of the opposition, Harper has made cronyism as much a part of Conservative values as attempting to subvert the electoral process.

A CONSERVATIVE IS A HYPOCRITE OFFERING CURE-ALLS WITH SNAKE OIL

But if Harper can’t do enough for his friends, and if Poilievre can’t do enough to help his Conservative Party’s fortunes by rejigging the Elections Act to disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult for the Chief Electoral Officer to investigate election fraud, and if adding 30 gerrymandered ridings aren’t enough to win the next election, there are still a few things they can do to improve their fortunes at the polls.

They can deliver a surplus. And they have, so they told us, but, oops, looks as if they miscalculated according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). Harper and the finance minister, the dithering Joe Oliver who, as environment minister labelled all environmentalists “radicals”, were proud to announce that their government had achieved a modest surplus. This happy news allowed them the opportunity to announce even “better” news. The long promised income splitting initiative would be introduced (albeit in a more modest form) allowing families with two incomes to claim an additional $2000 in tax breaks. Very good news for the wealthy but not so good for the struggling single low-income family. Too bad, how sad. But the rich, at least are richer for it. But there was even more great news; parents would see increases to universal childcare benefits, which would take effect January 1, 2015, but held in trust until July 20, 2015, so that everyone would receive a nice fat cheque just months before the election. On that day, the treasury became poorer by $3 billion dollars and millions richer by hundreds with a return of their own money, which will then, damn! be taxable again. Oh, it was good, good, FANTASTIC news for all the mothers and fathers but again not so good for the poor, the homeless, the lost and ill. Too bad, how sad. But it was good, good, FANTASTIC NEWS, until that PBO went and spoiled it all saying that there would be no surplus, that, in fact, there would be a deficit of $1 billion. Not good news for Conservatives, the greatest financial wizards since the dawn of mankind. Wizards of spin and lies anyway. They still claim there is nothing to worry about; the surplus will be there. Well, it’s clear enough: they all believe their own myth.

PROVE YOU’RE STUPID, VOTE CONSERVATIVE – AGAIN

Even with the bad news, they still might win the next election. Harper and gang have another card to play. There is the terror card. Now we all know about ISIS, we’ve all seen or heard about those brutal mass murders and beheadings of foreign journalists and workers and civilians. And everyone knows about those two disturbed individuals last October who, in separate incidents, struck out and killed military personnel. The first to die was Warrant Office Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Quebec parking lot and the second, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo shot dead on parliament hill. While these were acts of murderous lone wolves, these were not acts of terrorism linked to ISIS even though many, particularly the Conservatives, have attempted to make the link. But the dead soldiers and Canada’s entry into the war against ISIS was enough for Harper and gang to exploit. Murdered soldiers always help in fomenting fear by raising the spectre of bloodthirsty savages pounding on the doors. The deaths were all the justification Harper and gang needed to enact Bill C-51 and win the support of the Liberals.

Now, for those who don’t know, if that’s possible, C-51 is an anti-terrorist bill. It grants CSIS more power to search, seize and arrest almost anyone they decide to target. Even the RCMP opposes this bill because of the sweeping powers granted CSIS, which may hamper their own security efforts domestically and overseas. As of this writing, two groups plan to challenge the bill saying that it infringes on the charter rights of citizens. As reported in the Ottawa Citizen (July 22, 2015), ‘”Bill C-51 is a grave threat to our rights in Canada. It will lead to censorship and a massive chill on free expression, and enables a potentially widespread abuse of power” CJFE (Canadian Journalists for Free Expression) executive director Tom Henheffer said in a news release.” In the same article, “Sukanya Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Bill C-51 ‘creates broad and dangerous new powers, without commensurate accountability, and this can result in serious mistakes.'”

Just think of that. Environmentalists could be charged as economic terrorists under this act should they take a notion to block shipments of oil. Critics of the Harper gang could, conceivably, come under scrutiny simply for writing negative commentary regarding them or for defending someone the Conservatives or CSIS has determined may be a terrorist. This is no joke. The dangers are real. This bill could be the making of a police state.

There is an election coming on. People must think seriously about what they want from a government. If it’s only about less taxes and getting benefits, put out a sign that says, “I can be bought”. You are worth nothing and do not interest me except as a curiosity.

If the secrecy, lies and rigging of the Election Act, if Conservative robocalls and efforts to subvert the electoral process with “in-out” scams for which the Conservative Party paid a $52,000 fine, if Harper’s appointment of the recently deceased Arthur Porter as head of SIRC and alleged to have had inappropriate business and international dealings including fraud in awarding of a hospital construction project and money laundering, if allegations of illegal lobbying activity by Bruce Carson a former senior advisor to Harper, if the resignation of Bev Oda for false expense claims and the resignation of Peter Penashue for accepting corporate donations during an election campaign, if slipping questionable laws secretly into omnibus bills in hopes of avoiding discovery, if refusing to answer questions in the House, if squandering money on partisan ads, if squandering money on military equipment by paying twice the value, if watching Dean del Mastro walking in chains for election fraud, if witnessing Michael Sona, a young Conservative staffer and scapegoat being sent to jail, if learning of Harper appointees Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau abusing expense privileges, if taking all credit for the economic good but blaming “outside” influences for the bad, if blaming “activist” courts for overturning ad hoc punitive and unfair laws, if smearing Supreme Court Justices, if bribery with your own money, if questionable fundraising events by the likes of Shelly Glover and Susan Aglukkaq with those who stood to gain by their decisions in attendance, if taking office with a $13 billion surplus and squandering it to a deficit of hundreds of billions with seven, going on eight, deficits in a row, if the imbecility of BC Conservative backbencher Wai Young who claimed that not only was Jesus Christ on the side of the Conservatives but also that CSIS “knew or heard” about the bomb on Air India thirty years ago and could have prevented it if allowed to share information had C-51 been in place, if government ministers ordering bureaucrats to come up with three terrorism related stories a week, and if any other innumerable depredations by the Harper gang are not enough to stop you from voting Conservative again, then nothing I or anyone say will persuade you, you have a brain that thinks with the stolidity and morality of stone.

It’s one thing to be stupid, but to insist on proving it again and again borders on lunacy.

Do yourself a favour: Don’t vote for the same old same old. Try something new. Take a chance.

There is no risk to getting rid of a bad, corrupt, secretive and anti-democratic government.

But there is real danger in not doing so.

***

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

***

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

 

 

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DECEIT & MALIGNANCY IN THE PMO: STEPHEN HARPER’S RELENTLESS CAMPAIGNING ON THE PUBLIC DIME

No other factor in history, not even religion, has produced so many wars as has the clash of national egotisms sanctified by the name of patriotism. – Preserved Smith

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. – Richard Arlington

I should like to be able to love my country and to love justice. – Albert Camus

Frank A. Pelaschuk

In a world of politics, when it seems no man, no group, in a civilized society can sink any lower, Harper and his gang always manage to prove me wrong. There is something depraved about the happy nonchalance with which they whittle away at Canadian democracy as they transform it into a Corporatocracy, a meretricious form of governance that works on behalf of business interests and always at the expense of citizens, particularly against the marginalized, the mentally ill, and the working poor, the single parent holding down several jobs while struggling to keep the family together. The extent of the Harper gang’s animus and the notable glee with which they savage unionists and public servants, critics, foes and opponents is unsettling, not just because it happens but because the attacks are so frequent, arbitrary, and malicious with so few apparently noticing or caring.

HARPER, NOT SO UNIQUE

Harper’s 2006 electoral victory that resulted in a minority government was an achievement not all that unique. As had other politicians in the past, he successfully exploited public outrage over Liberal corruption and failed promises offering smug, loud undertakings of his own: less government, less taxes and more jobs. He and his regime would be deaf to “special interest” groups, be more transparent, more open, more honest, and more inclusive. But the allure of Power, of Big Business, especially Big Oil, and the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs and Big Money, had immediately proved too much: special interests won and transparency, openness, honesty, and inclusivity went out the window. Harper has pinned almost everything on the Conservative myth of economic mastery and on the huge tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline project, which would extend from Hardisty, Alberta to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. Here was a base of voters that would have little trouble supporting him and his party. After all, Alberta was rich in oil, jobs were aplenty and this was the birthplace of CRAP (an amalgam of Conservatives/Reform/Alliance Parties), which morphed into what it is today: mean, ugly, partisan, corrupt, and anti-democratic. All Harper had to do was promote Big Oil and tax cuts and play to fears of Big Government by getting rid of the Long Gun Registry (even though the majority of Canadians supported it), and ignore statistical evidence regarding crime, again playing to our fears with promises of more prisons and more jailed for longer periods. And if there were abuses, the mentally ill, the not so dangerous untreated and confined for years in solitary, well, who cared, certainly not Conservatives. The money rolled into the Conservative coffers; happy days were here again. Two years later, the Great Collapse of 2008 threatened the economies of the world but Canada remained relatively secure and stable. We had survived relatively intact. But the quiet, steady, unexciting Canadian modesty of the past was precisely that, a thing of the past with Harper at the helm. There he was, gloating loudly, pointing and wagging fingers, reminding the world of Canada’s economic strength and shrewdness and taking for himself all the credit for the achievements of a solid banking system put in place by previous, mostly Liberal, governments. Harper was no wallflower, nor was he shy in telling others how to get their houses in order and he certainly wasn’t shy in spreading the lie of how he and his Conservatives had saved Canada, perhaps even the world, from the brink of disaster. It was an unpleasant spectacle revealing Harper and his gang for what they really were, parochial, petty, hectoring, taking credit they had not earned and for years reminding Canadians it was the Liberals, always the Liberals, when things went wrong. Harper and his gang were wizards, faultless and nonpareil. Unfortunately, too many Canadians bought the myth: Harper was and is the economic wizard, a leader among men if you don’t mind him telling you so himself. But suddenly he was more; with Canada’s involvement in the war in Iraq against ISIS, he was a warrior/leader unlike any Canada had ever elected before, the man who would lead the world to salvation against ISIS the greatest threat to mankind since history began. Well, with oil prices tumbling, the gloating’s stopped and the Great Economic Wizard doesn’t look so great today after turning an inherited $13 billion dollar surplus into a massive $159 billion deficit. The collapse of oil prices was bad enough but Obama’s rejection of XL over environmental concerns was another shattering blow, the “radicals” in the environmental movement had won. So, for most, the good times are all gone if they ever were. Harper and his oily crew will tell us about the million net jobs created but how many of us feel the effects of all the good times coming our way? A million jobs? The flim-flam man’s at it again twisting facts and figures with a brave display of of bloviating braggadocio. According to him, we were the envy of the world and he let the world know it. Are we now? Times are suddenly tough but it’s not Harper’s fault, the gods are conspiring against him. He can’t blame the Liberals any more so it’s ISIS, the failure of other governments to respond to market forces, environmentalists and climatologists wreaking economic havoc with their lies and false-science quackery. Never mind that he pinned his hopes on one sector and neglected other provinces and the manufacturing sectors. Harper was, is, blameless. Just ask him.

Even so, neglecting infrastructures, cutting healthcare transfer payments and unloading unemployment burdens to the provinces, cutting services, closing down offices, and offering bonuses to bureaucrats who, in a reign of terror, oversaw the loss of 37,000 public servants jobs, a reign of terror that continues to this day, Harper is able to claim a small surplus and to find scads of money to bribe his core base of supporters with shiny baubles. Well, it’s worked before, why not now? He’s the Great Economic Wizard and there are plenty who prefer to believe in magic and snake oil.

And that is exactly what Harper is counting on. So the programs roll and there he is pushing for voluntary increases to CPP contributions, something he not all that long ago railed against and has absolutely no intention of seeing through. There is the increase to childcare benefits that began January 1st but will not begin to pay out until July 1st, mere months before the election, with a big, fat, retroactive cheque of $420 per child to remind those who receive them to whom they owe this largesse. And, of course, we have the income splitting, that wonderful program that helps those who already have, the top 15% who will garner about 49% of the benefits. But what of the single income family, the single parent holding down two or three jobs and struggling to keep the family together? What does income splitting mean for them? Nothing. A big, fat zero. No two thousand dollar tax break for them. Too bad, how sad, perhaps next time. Meanwhile, don’t forget, Harper’s your man.

HARPER GANG? UNIQUE IN MEANNESS

While how Harper came to be elected may not be unique, what is unique is the nastiness of his governance and of those around him. We are all familiar with Harper’s boasting of how his was the only economic vision that would create jobs and witnessed first hand how he, and then employment minister Jason Kenney, conspired with Big Business to undermine Canadian workers with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that allowed foreign workers to be paid 15% below Canadian workers. That stopped when the public learned of it. Then we had RBC workers training foreign workers to do their jobs, which were then shipped overseas. That, too, changed when the public learned of it. But Conservatives and Big Business kept on trying. Foreign workers replaced Canadian workers in low-income jobs (they don’t complain, i.e., stand up for themselves, like Canadian workers). That is how anti-union Harper and Big Business work together to create jobs for Canadians: suppress wages, maximize profits. Never mind that the jobs are part-time, minimum wage, a life-long trap of drudgery, misery and fading hope. Harper and gang are not just anti-union, they are anti-worker preferring to keep low-income earners on the margins and are apparently content that a preponderance of jobs are part-time. Theirs is a vile worldview whereby the greedy, the powerful, and the brutal are rewarded while the real creators of wealth, the men and women who do the hard work and heavy lifting are punished, forced to do more and accept less.

And if the Conservatives are petty, vindictive and just plain mean, they are also puerile. Just watch them during Question Period in the House and judge for yourself. You will be treated to a dismal show of Conservatives exhibiting all the traits of what it takes to be a member of the Conservative Party, Harper’s gang in particular: arrogance, stupidity, pettiness, vanity, vindictiveness, deceitfulness, ignorance, bigotry, shamelessness. Their wilful refusal to answer questions put to them, their fingerpointing with responses unrelated to questions posed, their disregard for truth, their dismissal of the input of others, their absolute certitude they have all the answers, their abusive use of their majority, has made a mockery of the Parliamentary system. I have yet to see sparks of decency, of shame, of integrity from any member of the Harper gang. They govern as drunken lords and masters rather than as leaders worthy of respect and trust. They know more than all the scientists, scholars, legal and social experts combined. Contemptuous of everyone, they listen to no one, barbarians locked into a narrow vision that allows for no dissent. Experts are to be mistrusted, scientists to be muzzled, advice disregarded. Critics are dismissed, maligned, ridiculed, mocked and crushed. As for the public? Distract them, buy them off, offer cheap, shiny trinkets, the voter is that stupid. The Harper gang know their supporters.

Conservatives leave nothing to chance. As a consequence, they rig the game, surreptitiously changing rules, slipping and burying legislation into omnibus bills in hopes opposing players and spectators will not notice. Such moves are designed to deny members of the opposition and the public they serve opportunity to even learn of new legislation or of campaign electoral breaches by the governing party until too late. Too, such changes allow, indeed, almost guarantee, for political interference by the government, especially if the government is made up of present members of the Conservative party. Ethics and integrity are of no concern for this bunch of Conservative pond scum. So, when one sees a Conservative ad attacking Justin Trudeau, there should be no surprise to learn the ad is lifted almost verbatim from an NDP Manitoba ad during the 2011 campaign. It is this, Harper’s relentless campaigning without an election writ yet dropped and his willingness to spend lavish millions of newfound monies, your taxpayer dollars, that most clearly reveals the utter contempt he holds for Parliament, opposition members and, more particularly, the public. His only concern is to satisfy his hard-core base of supporters, those 30 to 40 percent of the voters who never tire of his mealy slop. Daily, we see our tax dollars spent on advertisements (to the tune of $13.5 million during hockey playoff season) that do not inform but rather promote the Conservative budget and its promises of income splitting and childcare benefit increases that have yet to be approved by parliament. By now, most Canadians have doubtless seen the partisan, tax-funded ads in which smarmy Pierre Poilievre appears talking to “shoppers” promoting Harper and the increased childcare benefits or standing in the halls of Parliament regaling us with the heart-warming story of his “Auntie” Kathy caring for him after school, we are not being informed but rather reminded, several times, that it is due to Harper that we owe all this largesse. But these are just promises. “Pending parliamentary approval”. That’s what we see at the bottom of these partisan ads, which, for politics generally, marks a new low in skirting elections laws but, for the Conservatives, is just another day at the office of dirty tricks. Imagine your banker drawing money directly from your account to pay for ads telling you how much he is saving you and doing for you. Would you accept that? I think not. Yet, there is Harper, spending your money to tell you what a great job he’s doing. And the election has yet to be called. We have entered the era of American-style campaigning. It never ends. And the winner is invariably the side that gets the most money in return for political favours. That is the huge downside of fixed election dates and first-past-the post.

But it is not a downside, of course, when you have a party as wealthy as the Conservative Party and which is made up of scoundrels, liars, opportunists, and the coldly calculating. It is not blood that gives them life, unless sucking it from others, nor conscience that directs them, but the allure of power, what power does, how it can be wielded, who can be made to bend and submit. We see it almost daily, Harper’s contempt of Parliament, his absences from the House during question period or, when present, by his dismissive refusal to answer questions honestly, often with diversionary responses having nothing to do with the matter at hand. It is all about control and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than the Conservatives refusal to appear in televised debates with the major networks, CBC News, ICI, Radio-Canada Télé, CTV News, and Global News which, in the past, have joined forces to offer leadership debates for maximum public exposure. Harper has opted to form a partnership with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine YouTube, and Rogers/Maclean’s. In turning the others down, calling them a “cabal”, Kory Tenecyke, Conservative spokesman, and former head man of the defunct Sun Media owned by Separatist Pierre Karl Peladeau, for whom Harper and gang could do no wrong, says the traditional outlet excludes other formats. What a crock! This is about control and about a government running scared. Personally, I would prefer the other leaders go with the “Consortium”. If Harper doesn’t show, place an empty podium reminding Canadians of Harper’s refusal to join the debate with the best chance of being viewed by more Canadians. The leaders could say something like this: “I would like to know what the Prime Minister thinks, but wait, I can’t know, he refused to be here.” As it is, the NDP has accepted Harper’s terms of when, where, how and what the topics will be. That is a mistake. Mulcair has ceded to Harper what was never his in the first place.

But, if Harper loves control, and we know he does, we also know he is not much for accepting responsibility. We have seen too often how he prefers to cut and run, to blame others, to smear and belittle opponents and to question the patriotism of his harshest critics.

IT’S MY PARTY. I’LL DO WHAT I WANT.

Not that long ago, Harper, the great general, our Dear Leader, went to Iraq. We know he’s a great leader because we’ve seen the ads, sombre music, thunderous sound of helicopters, tanks, jeeps, speed boats, men and women in camouflage, “Going where few dare to go” and making “the world a safer place”. These are war images, Harper at his vile best fomenting fear and evoking images of barbarians at the gate. Now don’t get me wrong. I support the military and I believe the men and women as brave and fine as any. But the fact is, Harper’s acts do not match the rhetoric. We can all recall how he treated our disabled veterans. The military operates with out-dated equipment, boats in repair, submarines inoperable, tired ships due to be retired in five years. Yes, our military men and women are all that we would wish and more, but they are handicapped by a government that has cut, cut and cut some more. For God sakes Halifax navy mechanics had to shop on eBay for parts for one of two supply ships! Is this really a military might that will save the world? Is Harper really the leader you want as commander?

Yet there he was in Iraq, with members from 24Seven, which masks as a government “news” channel over “exclusives” but which is, in reality, a front for his own personal tax-funded advertising team (it’s easy to see why the Conservative Party has a huge reserve for campaigning; it gets to spend public money until the writ is dropped). The Iraq visit was a photo-op, nothing more. We were treated to images of Harper at the front, peering through binoculars. But we also saw images, the faces of Canadian Special Forces members. That’s a no-no. Soldiers and their families could have been placed at risk. Harper, with this vainglorious stunt, broke his own rule. While the mainstream media honoured the restriction, Harper couldn’t resist the poster shot of himself with brave men and women. Yeah, a real leader is Harper.

When confronted by this, Harper said he and his tax funded advertising team had been cleared and given permission to do this. Not so, according to the military brass: the Conservatives had neither sought nor received clearance to show faces. Well this is an election year. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, Harper and gang are liars who will do anything to win including placing at risk those already in harm’s way.

When he did speak to the troops stationed in Iraq, presumably giving them the comfort of his magnificence presence, leadership and words, Harper said, “That’s why, as the national anthem says, you stand on guard, alongside a wide coalition of the international community, to comfort and defend the innocents in this part of the world and to make sure this threat does not despoil our home and native land” (CBC News, May 3, 2015). That’s a rather unique view of our anthem but, gosh, how American is that? You could almost love the big lug for that, if you didn’t know that he was again reminding Canadians, with his penchant for hyperbolic assurances, that he, mighty warrior, having proven himself on the world stage as a leader among men and women and the bravest and grandest of the allied forces leaders, he, he alone with his Conservative Party, is the only leader capable of bringing ISIS to it’s knees. If you haven’t heard it by now, ISIS is the most evil force man has ever known and the greatest threat to humankind, especially Canada. As a consequence, he has rammed through the anti-terrorist bill, C-51, a bill that jurists, legal scholars, activists and the NDP have condemned as overkill and unnecessary posing a real threat to civil liberties. Think not? As the bill stands, Conservative denials notwithstanding, C-51 grants greater powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) without real oversight. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), already underfunded and understaffed will simply not be able to do an adequate job of protecting Canadians from abuses. Too, all information on Canadian citizens can be shared not only with other Canadian agencies but also with allies. Those making accusations against others will be granted protection by the cloak of anonymity. The accused will not be able to face his accuser. Even peaceful protest could conceivably be targeted. Activists blocking transportation of oil, for example, could be charged with economic terrorism. That is not the way a free society operates. C-51, itself is an act of terrorism against Canadian citizens.

It is unfortunate that Trudeau’s Liberals opted to support this bill.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER. WHO NEEDS EXPERTS?

The less informed Canadians are, the greater the comfort experienced by Harper’s Conservatives. They do not opt for light, for generosity, for kindness, nor do they offer hope or wisdom. They prefer to wallow in the filth of their kind of politics, the politics of darkness and cowardice: cheap shots and foul blows; fear, hate, rage, envy, dishonesty, pettiness, bribery, and vindictiveness are the tools in their vile arsenal of dirty tricks, and they deploy them happily and shamelessly.

They plot. They do not inform but will tell us they do. They derive no comfort in our knowing. Instead, they suppress. Or they create the mythology of themselves that no one can believe except the truly credulous and the easily bought and these, the easily bought, believe in nothing but what’s in it for themselves; they are the enablers of a corrupt regime, this regime, bloodsuckers that take and contribute nothing towards making for a better society; they not only allow for bad government, they make for corrupt governance: as long as they get their slice, they’ll ignore the Harper gang’s corrosive effects on the institutions that have made this country better than it is today. For the enablers, only today matters, tomorrow is a long, long way off.

During Harper’s years in office, we have witnessed his regime’s attacks against climatologists and environmentalists. Their credentials are often questioned and reputation impugned. Environmental activists are dismissed as “radicals”. But the Harper gang have also gone after the government’s own scientists, particularly those doing research on climate and fisheries and oceans. Government scientists work in fear and dare not speak; those who do are fired or threatened with job loss. In recent weeks, a few have taken to the streets demanding an end to the muzzling of scientists by Harper. The scientists speaking out were few; they know the price of doing so. What we saw in these public events were those representing them, the union and unionists. In the past six years, 2,000 scientists have lost their jobs. Research funding has been cut. Scientists believe they have a right to speak out; after all, Canadians pay for the research. Harper and his gang believe otherwise as do some journalists using the false argument that the government owns the results of research. That is true, but it is not a question of ownership, of scientists seeking to profit from the research. Rather, it is the belief of scientists that, since the public pays for it, the public has the right to know when research results demonstrate a real impact on Canadians. This is not about ownership but about the right of Canadians to know. There is only one reason the Harper gang would not wish the results of scientific research be made public: the possible negative impact it may have on Big Business, especially the big polluters in Big Oil and Big Mining. While Harper and those special interest groups who have his attention may wish it otherwise and seems determined to have it so, government scientists work at the behest and on behalf of Canadians not for profiteering Big Business. At least, that’s the theory. But Harper and gang and their business friends clearly know something we don’t. And they wish to keep it that way.

Those who pollute are protected. Those who lay waste to the land, who poison our water are seldom held accountable. This is a pro-business government more concerned with the health and welfare of Big Business, especially the tar sands, than with the health and welfare of Canadians and the land we inhabit. As a result, Canadians find themselves blindsided by a government in the pockets of special interests groups willing to intimidate, silence and fire scientists daring to speak out. For Conservatives, it is true: Knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’M STEPHEN HARPER AND YOU’RE NOT

We have an election coming on. You know it with the endless Harper tax-funded ads and the lavish promises of tax cuts and more money in our pockets. But there is nothing about infrastructure, improvements to healthcare, aid for the homeless, for the elderly, or help for the young. We have the Duffy trial and a report on the Senate by the Auditor General Michael Ferguson to be made public on June 9. The report, a government document, has already suffered leaks, and was released to the Senate June 4. This dovetailed neatly with the leaks of the previous weeks and with the story Robert Fife of CTV “broke” during the week of May 24 to May 30 regarding the expenses of the Auditor General’s office and which prompted Ferguson to defend his office and to confirm that 30 Senators would be named and ten referred to the RCMP for investigation. It appears, over a period of four years, the Auditor General’s office spent $107,110 for its 640 employees in its four offices across the country. The employees were taken out to dinner, had pizza and, this of particular note to Fife and others, spent $23,000 at an entertainment centre for “team building”. That’s about $41.83 per year per employee. Quel Scandale! This kind of team building is common practice in large organizations and hardly merits attention especially in light of the fact that all this is non-news; anyone wishing to can find the information on the government website. The timing of the Fife story, a week before the AG Report was to be released, was curious and its intent unmistakable. Fife is deservedly a well-respected journalist; it is not his integrity I question. I am, however, curious as to who put the bug in his ear. This is information easily obtained on the government website, though, it is true, the expenses are not outlined in the detail offered by Fife. Fergusons numbers regarding Senators who may have overstepped the mark were confirmed on June 4. Thirty senators have been named, nine to be referred to the RCMP. The nine to be referred are two sitting members, Liberal Colin Kenny and Conservative member Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu and seven retired members, Liberals Sharon Carstairs, Rod Zimmer, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin, and Bill Rompkey and Conservatives Donald Oliver and Gerry St. Germain. Folks may recall that Conservative Senator Boisvenu, a Harper appointee, was a very strong supporter of Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda. On the report’s release, he has resigned from the Conservative caucus. Of the twenty-one remaining Senators with questionable expense claims are three holding key positions in the Senate including leading the charge to clean up the Red Chamber. They are two Harper appointees, Leo Housakos, Senate Speaker, Claude Carignan, government leader and Liberal Opposition Leader, James Cowan. They were also responsible for the appointment of ex-Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie as independent arbitrator regarding disputes regarding Senate expenses. Because of the roles they play and because of the possibility of perceptions of conflict-of-interest, the three must, in all decency, step down. As of yet, they have not done so. Two have stated they will appeal to Binnie. Again, without impugning the integrity of the ex-Supreme Court Justice, this should raise concerns on the matter of conflict of interest regarding these three Senators who offered Binnie that position.

What has come out, the leaks, the attempts to smear the Auditor General’s office and Ferguson himself just a week before the report was released should raise concerns. But of more concern is that something is very rotten to the core in the Red Chamber. Experts say the NDP promise to abolish the Senate is empty because it can’t be done. Why not? Surely we can reform the Senate at least and not by going for elected senators which could lead to a secondary body shutting down a government simply because they don’t like the Prime Minister or the government in power. This would lead to American-style gridlock. We do not need that.

But, surely, something can be done. We have a government in power that has with a few changes to the Elections Act found a way to rig elections by simply disenfranchising voters and with a few strokes of the pen, inserted in an omnibus budget bill, C-59, a way to actually rewrite history and alter time! They’ve done this before. Slipped into C-59 is legislation that retroactively changes the Access To Information Act (AIA). The change, in effect, blocks anyone seeking information regarding the RCMP’s destruction of the Long Gun Registry records that could lead to criminal charges. An unnamed individual sought information on the registry and made an application for Access of Information (AOI). Canada’s Commissioner of Information, Susanne Legault agreed to the request and told the RCMP not to destroy records pertaining to other provinces and to hand the material over to the individual making the request (Quebec had sought to keep the records and took the matter to court; they lost the case not too long ago). The RCMP ignored Legault’s request, destroying the records even before the destruction of the registry received royal assent and even before the results of the Quebec case were released. In other words, those charged with enforcing the law and protecting us were, in fact, breaking laws and working against us. The change to C-59 not only protects the RCMP for breaking the law but, in effect erases history making legal what was illegal yesterday. It is as if nothing had happened, as if no registry existed. History is erased and rewritten without a hint of shame from those Conservative members in the House. It’s insane, immoral and absolute corrupt. Would you actually welcome these people into your home? Would you not feel tainted in doing so? Legault, in a devastating critique, suggests that this move by Harper not only breaks the law but also sets a dangerous precedent that will allow future governments to cover up almost any crime retroactively! Harper and gang’s response to this when the news came out? The RCMP was “following the will of Parliament”.

Now there are several things happening that should concern Canadians. First, Harper and gang and the RCMP totally disregarded a watchdog agency of the government. This is not the first time. Everyone recalls how they went after Kevin Page, the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer. And we all now how Pierre Poilievre, the snake, along with convicted election fraudster Dean del Mastro, attempt to daily smear Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada in the House. This is vile stuff by vile people but not new stuff and no longer surprising. Public servants looking after the public interest have routinely become targets of the Harper gang who evidently find this approach much easier to do than the right, moral, ethical thing.

Harper claims that the RCMP followed the “will of Parliament” is not false, but it is a lie. With forty percent of the vote, Harper has gained a majority number of seats. In destroying the Long Gun Registry, it is to these voices he listened. A vast majority of Canadians opposed the destruction of the registry. Harper went ahead with it anyway because he had his core base of supporters. Again, the majority of voters were outgunned by the tyranny of a special interest minority. The Senate must go, or changes made. But how or when is for another debate. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party must be stomped into the ashcan of history come next election.

Until then, Harper and his gang will promise anything to get elected. They did that in the past and got elected. But what has Canada gained except broken promises, a corrupt, secretive, mean-spirited, anti-democratic group of folks who would hold us hostage to our fears, ignorance and bigotry. They wave the flag and talk of terrorists pounding at our gates. But these are the folks who have accomplished nothing worthwhile in nearly ten years in office. Their successes are in inflicting misery by targeting public servants, low-income earners, single parent families, the poor and marginalized. These are the folks that wage war against scientists, environmentalists and would stifle and end debate, criticism, and knowledge. They do not believe in, nor do they wish for a knowledgeable voter.

Look around you. Think about what you see and what you have. Has Harper and his gang really given you the life they promised?

Look around you, look at Harper, really look at him, look at those who surround and protect him, really look at them. Can you really place trust in them and their promises once again? With the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, five years in the making, Justice Murray Sinclair, speaking before an audience of Aboriginal leaders, church representatives, politicians and reporters asked for a national inquiry to investigate murdered and missing indigenous women. As one, the audience rose to its feet and offered a standing ovation of support. But one member sat stoically in his chair, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. As before, the Harper regime remains steadfast in its refusal to meet such a request. They still don’t practice sociology. How hollow must the Harper apology of a few years ago ring today for those families and friends of the murdered and missing.

And then think of Bill C-51. Ask yourself this: Whom should I really fear? Who is the real terrorist?

I know. And so do you.

***

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

 ***

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

STEPHEN HARPER AND GANG: DEMAGOGUES AND HYPOCRITES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.          

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller

 

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. – Albert Einstein

Frank A. Pelaschuk

DO SHEEP BLEAT? THE PUBLIC SURRENDERS

Stephen Harper and his loathsome gang would feel right at home in a third world dictatorship. It is not just that they lie at every turn, keep secrets from the very people who pay their wages and, almost from the first, have set out to muzzle the press. It is that they are truly anti-democratic. When they talk of democracy, I shudder, for they have waged a brutal war against it, one of doublespeak and pernicious manipulation. Their version is not mine.

Secretive, dishonest, paranoiac, petty, vindictive, and vicious, they have, not all that quietly, poisoned politics with suspicion, false accusations, name calling, scapegoating, vote rigging, and not very subtle attacks against the poorest among us while favouring the wealthy. They have struck out at our public institutions, including the Supreme Court, in an effort to politicize and corrupt them. As if that were not enough, they wage a war on citizens vilifying critics and questioning their patriotism. In Parliament, they refuse to answer questions, evade, dance around, mocking the questions, the questioners and even parliament itself with a cheery, breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt not only for opposition members but for the public itself. Absolutely ruthless and utterly without shame, they have made a mockery of civility dismissing ethics, integrity and simple decency as mere hindrances to their goals. They are devoid of compassion when it comes to the down and out, the weak and ill and yet fret daily for the well-being of corporations and wealthy supporters; there’s no percentage in fretting for the poor, no votes to be gained there. But, oh, they can make a grand spectacle of it when it suits their purpose and can be exploited for the tough on crime and terrorism agendas: the funerals of murdered soldiers and police officers. They are bottom feeders; there is no misery they will not milk to their advantage.

When it comes to investigating murdered aboriginal women, however, Harper can only muster “we don’t practice sociology”.

The Conservative heart is cold, very cold and empty. When it weeps, it only weeps for itself; it’s easier to blame others. Remember Dean del Mastro and Paul Calandra shedding loud crocodile tears in the House, the first, at that time, facing charges of election fraud (for which he was convicted) and the second when convicted by the court of public opinion for acts of outrageous buffoonery? Tears, real tears, yes – of whinging self-pity.

We saw much of that played out over the years with Harper. Whenever something went wrong or critics went after him, the fault was always placed at the door of someone else, staffers, scientists, the “lickspittle media”, but mostly the Liberal governments of past years. Almost ten years in office, they are still blaming them as did Harper recently when it was revealed that his regime has spent $700 thousand fighting a class action suit by six veterans wanting to reverse the government’s changes to military lifetime disability pensions that, in effect, reduce what the vets are entitled. It’s the Liberals that started this. It’s tiresome and doesn’t absolve them of their evasions, obfuscations, and vicious and open undermining of democracy and erosion of public trust. It’s easy to blame the Liberals, they have a lot to answer for, but it’s the Conservatives who have turned the screws: ask any vet. Surely, when they hear Harper utter “democracy” they, too, must tremble and wonder what’s coming next.

That there are only a few outraged voices heard rather than a whole nation is astounding. Are we really that frightened of our government? Are we that gullible that we swallow holus-bolus their fictions? Have we really become a nation of sheep, a nation that doesn’t question, that doesn’t challenge, that quietly appears to accept that propaganda, lies, threats, and corruption does not warrant closer scrutiny. It seems Harper believes so. I think he’s right. If not, where’s the outrage?

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMAGOGUES

For years, if not decades, we have been fed the line that Conservatives are, and always have been, the best at handling fiscal matters. There is absolutely no evidence to support that Conservative myth. When Harper first became prime minister, he had inherited a huge surplus and has squandered it on vanity projects, self-promotion, and tax cuts for the wealthy while allowing our infrastructure to crumble to a state of near utter ruin. We can all remember Harper sneering and sternly wagging his admonitory finger at the rest of the world urging it to get its house in order during the last great economic slump of 2007-8. Harrumphing loudly, he took credit to which he was not entitled: our banking system was the best in the world, our government the strongest and most stable and all, all, because of him, his superb, wise, skilful management of the economy. He’s been wagging his finger ever since, strutting and hectoring like some tin pot despot. It’s a lie, of course, and we see the truth of it all around us in the loss of jobs and the struggling oil industry on which Harper has placed all his hopes while ignoring the manufacturing sector in the rest of the country. Has he talked to the Canadian workers tossed on the street following the merger of Tim Hortons and Burger King, a merger that was loudly supported and hailed by industry minister James Moore? How about those Canadian workers replaced by foreign workers as business, abetted by his regime, manipulate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to supress wages? How about the single parent left out in the cold while those who don’t need it gain and additional $2000 thanks to his income splitting tax break. Has he talked to these people?

Harper and gang are not just mythologers, they are revisionists creating history as they would have it not as Canadians have lived and suffered it. We see that every day in the TV propaganda ads that Canadians pay for, the wondrous achievements of Harper and his gang. Does he really believe all Canadians have forgotten those ads touting the creation of non-existent jobs by non-existent programs? To watch these ads, one would be hard pressed to believe the straits we are in today. Everything is roses. Tell that to the battered, weary, work-worn, desperate single parent holding down two minimum wage jobs or the fifty year old suddenly out of work after thirty years on the job. The roses go to the wealthy, the bric-a-brac to those at the bottom. For such as these, the world is looking pretty bleak. As for the world, especially the US with its surging economy under Obama, there must be some sense of schadenfreude. If so, who can blame the Americans?

Even as troubling, if not more so, is the fear mongering the Harper gang has taken to indulging: the world is a dangerous place, “jihadists” are everywhere and they are all gunning for Canadians. So there is Harper, still swaggering, defiant now, wagging his finger at the world and thumbing his nose at terrorism and warning Canadians that they, they alone, the heroic, triumphalist Harper and gang, who, with their purity of heart, with their strength, courage and wisdom, are the only one’s able, willing and capable of not only saving us but also, perhaps, all of mankind, from the forces of darkness. That, too, is mythologizing. Some among us, however, buy it, the sheep bleating, frozen by fear and will-o’-the-wisps bogeymen when Harper and his gang howl. That’s not to say terrorism and terrorists aren’t there. But exaggerating the risks, amping the fears, pandering to our prejudices and fears, not informing Canadians about what our troops are really doing or what the cost of involvement is is simply amoral and irresponsible. Yes, we all want security. Unfortunately, there can never be security for a nation of sheep governed by wolves.

So how much are Canadians willing to surrender in the way of privacy, civil rights, humaneness, and justice in exchange for a little security? Harper came into power largely because of a promise of positive change, of a more open and transparent government. He has not only failed miserably, he has actively worked to making his regime more closed, more secretive, and our citizens less informed, more frightened and, thus, more malleable. He ran on the get-tough-on-crime agenda, more jails, more prisoners, more time. It worked with the voters. Pandering to the worst in us always seems to work. Ignoring facts, statistics and experts (the way Harper operates, he and his gang are the only experts), the Harper gang plan to introduce new legislation to take away the possibility of parole for those sentenced to life in prison. They say it’s only “for the most serious of crimes”. We already have laws in place for that but, hey, that doesn’t matter with these troglodytes. Those who still pose a danger, contrary to what the Harper gang would have us believe are not automatically granted parole after serving twenty-five years. Crime rates are down, that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that that doesn’t help Harper; he prefers us to be frightened, so he and the public safety minister, Steven Blaney, and the rest of the bobbleheaded gang ignore facts, work on our fears and inflate the terrors of crime, the lowest it’s been since the ‘70s. Most crimes of murders happen between family and friends, the killers known to the victims. These are the people least likely to reoffend. In fact, in a recent interview on CBC with Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison watchdog, Canadians learned recidivism rates of those on parole is extremely low. He pointed out that 99% of those granted day or full parole last year did not reoffend and of those granted full parole, 97% did not reoffend. Harper, however, refuses to let the facts get in the way of his version of the truth; it simply doesn’t help his cause, which is to notch up the fear level, prey on public ignorance, and draw the vote to this “law and order” gang. Without any shame, Harper and the gang have given up on rehabilitation. Lock them up and throw away the keys. One size fits all. How in God’s name did prolonged isolation help the deeply troubled teenager Ashley Smith who finally strangled herself while guards watched? That might satisfy the blood lust of many, but such policies are madness and will lead to an even more dangerous society. Take away hope, fuel the anger; is that what we really want? Harper’s get-tough-on-crime legislation will likely only increase the possibility of violence, mayhem and death – within prisons and on the outside. Punishment without the possibility of redemption and with the removal of hope? If this goes through Canadians may have real reason to fear. There is something contemptible in fighting an election on the blood of the dead and the tears and rage of the families left behind. Instead of offering hope, instead of working towards a better, more humane society, Harper prefers to feed on the carcass of despair.

HARPER’S LUCKY WAR

While getting tough on crime will help garner votes, there is something else for which Harper must go to bed every night with prayers of gratitude. ISIL and the war against ISIL. There is nothing like a war to rally citizens except, perhaps, engaging in a war with a few good Canadian men and women as casualties to ramp up the rage and support of those at home. We have had the fallen soldiers, killed shortly after Harper had announced Canadian troops were joining coalition forces in Iraq in the war against ISIL Sadly for Harper, try as he did to evoke the image of terrorism striking on home ground, he could not quite get the traction he sought from their deaths. Many Canadians remain unconvinced those separate acts were as linked to terrorism as they were to mental and societal ills.

Nevertheless, on the eve of an election that has yet to be announced, the war against ISIL is a godsend for Harper as he campaigns across the nation whipping up fear and xenophobia. Not only can they sound tough on crime and terror, they can prove it with the passage of new, tougher sanctions that will infringe on privacy rights, make it easier for CSIS to spy on Canadians, share information, and arrest and detain. Harper’s almost a new man, full of energy and excitement as he gleefully rubs his hands together pandering, pandering and pandering some more, ratcheting the militaristic rhetoric and the jingoistic fervour and pulling out at every opportunity his new favourite word, or variations of the same, the word that must surely chill the blood of all Canadians: Jihadist.

Jihadists are pounding at the doors! That will be the Conservative theme throughout the election campaign. It’s not enough the new legislation will affect almost every Canadian with increased surveillance and tighter controls on what we say and how. He must harangue and terrify and tighten even more the noose on civil liberties.

How much are we willing to surrender for peace of mind?

Harper is betting a lot.

He plays on our fears and adds to our nightmares. We saw how quickly he raised the spectre of terrorism when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo were murdered even before he knew the facts. He has played that card ever since. It will work as long as the timid stay on their knees. The jihadi are at the door!

Last September 30th, when asked what the role would be of the 69 troops sent to Iraq, Harper said: “If I could just use the terminology in English, it is quite precise. It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany.” Recently, we learned Canadian troops were shot at and they shot back. When asked by the opposition if this was not an expansion of their role, “mission creep”, the defence minister, Rob Nicholson said, “You can’t advise and assist without accompanying”. So, which is it? Is Canada working towards another prolonged and costly engagement? This is a legitimate concern. Has Harper misled Canadians? Is this, in fact, “mission creep”? The firefight was not isolated; Canadians were involved in two other incidents since then. Clearly this is more than an “advisory” role. Curiously, of the coalition partners in Iraq, Canada has been the only nation thus far to be involved directly in combat. When questioned about this, the Harper gang respond thusly: If our soldiers are shot at, they will shoot back. Right. No one disagrees with that. But the question is this: If they are to “advise and to assist” why are they at the front lines with all likelihood of being in harm’s way if and when the enemy strikes? When pressed on this by Thomas Mulcair, the opposition leader, Harper and the gang respond with bafflegab, obfuscation and revisionist rhetoric. Even when it comes to the costs of this engagement, Canadians are denied the right to know the figures. Why? When you foot the bill, don’t you think you have the right to see it? Harper’s is not a democratic response from a democratic government. That’s the response of a government hiding something from us.

Even more invidious is Harper’s response to questions regarding the Iraq situation. Not only do he and the gang mislead Canadians with accusations the opposition members do not support our troops, there is in the charge the rotten stench of something even more sinister: the suggestion that Mulcair, the NDP, Trudeau and the Liberals, are somehow unpatriotic, untrustworthy, a threat to this nation. This has happened before. Pat Stogran, during his term as Veterans Ombudsman, smeared by the Harper gang. As was Kevin Page, the one-time Parliamentary Budget Officer, his integrity and credentials maligned simply because he, like Stogran, was doing his job. To raise questions, to ask what the government is concealing from Canadians, is to risk having one’s patriotism questioned. That is vile; it is low but not new for a government made up of men and women who apparently only thrive in the sewer of innuendo and smears.

But this is puzzling: Why is the Canadian public so silent on this?

But what can one say of Harper as a leader of a nation when he even refuses to sit with his provincial counterparts when they meet. He has ignored them since 2009. This week they were in Ottawa, within walking distance. Still, Harper ignored them. Is this really a leader of a nation when he will not meet with the first ministers of the provinces? This is not about being above the fray. This is hubris, vanity and contempt. This is shallow and signifies less a leader than a small-minded midget; when and if Harper becomes a man, he might one day leave his broom closet and meet with them.

But am I being unfair, unduly harsh? It could be he is too busy passing laws that allow CSIS even more power to spy on Canadians and curtail legitimate comment. As we have learned, millions of downloads by Canadians are tracked daily by CSE (Communications Security Establishment); the government would have us believe this is to help protect Canadian networks and systems from threats. Maybe he’s busy with that, protecting Canadians by creating new ways to spy on them.

How far is Harper willing to go? How long before we say “Enough!”

THE RAT IS A McCARTHYITE

We have observed the Harper gang in action the past few elections as they bent and broke rules to subvert the electoral process. The Conservative Party has paid a $52,000 fine for the “in-out” scam in a plea bargain deal that spared four upper level members from prosecution. Michael Sona was sentenced to jail, evidently the only one involved in the robocalls scandal. Yeah, right. We have Dean del Mastro, mentioned above, found guilty of election fraud. We have the oily Pierre Poilievre, the minster of democratic reform revising the Elections Act to limit investigations of election fraud and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Surely straight from Orwell, the Act has been renamed the Fair Elections Act (if interested in a more comprehensive list, refer to my Jan. 7, 2014 post).

For a time, I thought it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong.

We have the return of Mark Adler with his slimy Bill C-520. Adler evidently shares a worldview with Joseph McCarthy that foul Republican Senator who gave a name to an era of blacklisting and witchhunting during the infamous Red Scare. You might have heard of it.

Now, for those who aren’t aware, Mark Adler is a fool. He’s not the only fool in the Conservative gang (anyone recall Brad Butt?), but he is a dangerous fool. Last year, when Harper flew to Israel with a group of Conservatives, including business cronies, Adler first caught my attention when he was recorded whining about not being allowed to have his picture taken with Harper at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Whinged he, “It’s the election! This is the million-dollar shot.” Now one could laugh at that and dismiss it as a little man seeking attention. That would be true. However, more seriously, Adler is also the individual who barred Liberal Irwin Cotler, an internationally respected advocate of Human Rights, from attending an event in Israel co-hosted by Adler and an Israeli charity during that visit. Did I mention that Cotler is a Liberal? The snub was more than partisan; it was a petty, mean-spirited act by a very, very, very small, mean-spirited man.

The bill Adler proposes is despicable. It goes against all decency and is certainly an attack on democracy and the right of free association. It is an attempt to introduce the era of the witchhunt and to stigmatize and punish our parliamentary watchdogs, senior staff and their employees. The bill would force the agencies to publish the political backgrounds of employees. Moreover, this would be retroactive. Once passed into law, all employees would be required to publish their political activities. Presumably, refusal would lead to dismissal. Naturally, those seeking employment with the watchdogs would be required to disclose their past political activities. The jobs will no longer be based on merit but on which party one supported, joined, or worked for. Presumably, all Conservative’s applying for government jobs will get them while all supporters of other parties will not. Again, straight from Orwell, the bill is called, Non-Partisan Offices of Agents of Parliament Act. It’s anything but and will certainly lead to partisan hiring and create a real chill among those looking for work in the innocent belief the government has no right to look into their past political backgrounds. This is not harmless. This is vile stuff. If anyone has ever seen old clips of Joe McCarthy, Martin Dies and HUAC (House of UnAmerican Activities Committee) etc. in action, pounding on tables and screaming at those called before them to name names and to answer the question, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” they will certainly have had a clear sense of the hysteria and terror of the time. Thousands of public servants, teachers, scientists, artists, and just ordinary workers and housewives lost their jobs and friends because of past political associations, which were legal at the time, or for simply refusing to answer the question in the belief the government had no right to even ask it. Many, ostracized by families, friends and co-workers, committed suicide.

What is the real intent of such a bill? Where does it end? Loyalty oaths just to get a job? Party faithful rewarded and others shovelled out? How would you feel if your boss asked you whom you voted for? Would you tell him? If your job was on the line, what then?

Is that the period to which we wish to return, discourse and debate stifled, fellow citizens spied upon, dissent quashed? That’s McCarthyism. And Harper supports this contemptible bill. This is vile, vile stuff. What kind of folks are these? Who next?

There are few more vile than political rats hiding behind patriotism and standing on corpses to score cheap political points.

Yes, when Harper speaks of democracy, I do shudder. He has chipped away at it since the very first when, in his first demonstration of cowardice, he prorogued parliament rather than face the opposition. Now he has this war and he hopes we will swallow the lies, succumb to our fears, and vote for him next election.

Yes, yes, it would be safe to say I am afraid. But not of the terrorists that Harper and his gang want us to fear, but of those same demagogues who prey upon those fears and prejudices and who would stomp the jackboot on our necks. Orwell had it right: this is the face of the future.

Even as I began writing this post, Harper introduced the proposed new anti-terrorism legislation. He did not have the decency, or the courage, to debate it with the opposition nor did he even bring it up in the House. He chose instead to announce it in Richmond Hill, Ontario before a partisan crowd made up mostly of police according to reports. And there was Harper, once again strong, forceful, (Oh, what a man! What a leader!) dismissing critics and again questioning the patriotism of the opposition. Where’s the oversight? Not to worry. Trust us. So now it’s easier to arrest and detain, to spy on Canadians and to block Internet access. There’s jail time for “Advocacy For Terrorism”. But what does that mean, what are the definitions. Don’t worry. Trust us.

Does writing this post put me in the Harper crosshairs? Am I suspect because I have declared my contempt for him? Am I an enemy supporter because I trust absolutely nothing about him? Does my call that we stop Harper next election make me dangerous? While some of the legislation may seem fine on the surface, who will watch the spies as Stephen Maher asked (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 31, ’15)? That’s a question we should all ask.

Demagoguery must be exterminated and the demagogues thrown in the ashcan of history. Governing by fear, by appealing to emotions and to ignorance is not governance but despotism. The next time you vote, remember Harper’s dismal failure with the economy. Remember his treatment of the vets. Remember all the lies and smear jobs inflicted on public servants and citizens who spoke out not only in their own defence, but yours as well. Remember the cronyism and illegal expense claims, the subversion of the electoral process, the rigging of future elections, the spying on Canadians, the fear mongering.

I don’t hate Harper or his gang. I just hate every vile act they have done.

Today, the enemy is someone else; tomorrow, it may be your turn.

Remaining on the sidelines will not serve you. Silence will not save you.

Speak! Your voice will be heard. You are not alone.

***

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

***

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

STEPHEN HARPER RUNNING SCARED IN THE PLAYGROUND OF DRAGONS

I love my country too much to be a nationalist. – Albert Camus

All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers…. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born. – Francois Fenelon

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling? – Bertrand Russell

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE PREY

As tragic as the deaths of the two soldiers were following Harper’s declaration of joining allies in the war against ISIL in Iraq, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo gunned down while guarding the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill, the events proved fortuitous for Harper and his gang. That is not to suggest Harper or any member of his party would have wished the deaths, I have no doubt they were as appalled and heartbroken as all Canadians by what happened. But they are also seasoned pros; opportunities are not to be ignored. As much as all of us would have it otherwise, nothing can be done to spare the soldiers or their families. With celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just a few weeks away, if any benefit could be gleaned from what happened, Harper and his gang would certainly prove themselves up to the task in running with it; they are not shy or tactful folks.

A few days after Harper had announced Canada’s entry into the war against ISIL in Iraq, he and his crew began to warn Canada had come under the sights of ISIL extremists. Their language was alarmist and demeanour somewhat smug as if to suggest the threats somehow validated them as members who had joined the big leagues even though our contribution, including Harper’s warmongering bluster, is modest and conditional. When in fact Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo were murdered, opponents to Harper might have been forgiven for wondering if he had been sitting on God’s lap; on the surface, his alarming claims of a possible terrorist offensive appeared to have been borne out. Or so Harper wanted us to immediately conclude, prepping those watching question period in the House October 20th. That morning, Canadians learned a hit-and-run driver had struck two soldiers, one of whom had died; there was a chase and, as the day wore on, we learned the driver had been shot and killed. In the House, Harper was asked by a Conservative backbencher if he had been aware of a possible terrorist attack. At the time, no one was fully apprised of what had happened. That did not deter Harper and the Conservatives who were eager to raise the spectre of terrorism and the possibility of a terrorist act on Canadian soil; they wanted to ensure Canadians had little doubt that what had happened had been a terrorist act though there was as of yet no evidence of terrorism. All that was known was a soldier had been killed and another injured. That was enough for the Conservatives. The police were guarded most of the day neither confirming nor denying the suggestion. But the seed had already been firmly planted. While Harper and his crew had been premature and irresponsible, the murder nevertheless provided Harper an opportunity that must have seemed heaven-sent and which he could exploit; he had no compunction in doing so. The second murder, that of Nathan Cirillo two days later, appeared to seal the deal: another soldier dead, shot twice. What more proof did Canadians need that terrorists had not only struck but struck at the very heart of our government! But had they? Were these acts really the product of terrorism and a terrorist movement or simply the criminal acts of two very troubled men operating on their own? Apparently, both had become bewitched by ISIL and its brutal, bloody atrocities committed in the name of Islam. That does not make them part of a terrorist group. The sad fact is the killers were misfits, loners, ill and unstable men who along the way began to believe society had failed and rejected them. Apparently they found in the ISIL blogs and videos something that appeared to answer their needs and feed their anger and justify their desire to retaliate. Whatever it was, the two killers, independently, responded violently and irrationally in retribution against society by targeting innocent Canadians who happened to be soldiers. They did not murder because of ideology or religious fervour but rather because they were deeply disturbed and deeply angry, perhaps seeing in the uniforms or in the Parliament buildings, the symbols of a society that had turned its back on them. Who can now really know? That doesn’t excuse them, but it may help explain and understand why they did what they did. Canadians should know this and understand it. But it is not this aspect with which Harper and his gang trouble themselves. As Harper once proudly admitted, Conservatives “…don’t practice sociology”. They prefer to concentrate on the fact that these two men had read from the Muslim scripture, were fascinated by ISIL, and had murdered two soldiers who had done them and no one harm. To extrapolate from this that they were terrorists and acting on behalf of an ideology is lazy thinking and allows for excusing this government’s failures and neglect of a large segment of society. For the Harper gang, examination of root causes of discontent, preventative action and rehabilitation are beside the point; it’s the punitive aspect of law and order they most care about (unless it’s one of their own). Moreover, this plays better for Harper with the public than acknowledgement that there might be a systemic failure in our society and governance that makes inevitable such terrible events. Who wishes to admit to apathy, to willful indifference, to active neglect, and to the misery of others, what right do they have to be so angry when, as the Conservatives are quick to tell us, we live in the greatest country in the world. We do, in one of the greatest countries at any rate, but how much greater without the Conservative boots on the necks of those less fortunate as they widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t. It’s easy to judge but what do we know of their stories? Shouldn’t we care enough to at least attempt to find out more before we condemn? I’ve heard it said that most of us are one pay cheque away from the street. With that in mind, hold back on your judgement of those less fortunate than you. You could as easily be among them.

THE TRAP

It is not surprising that Harper pounced with news of the murders: hadn’t he warned us?

That the murders and murderers were not linked, that there was no evidence of a concerted conspiracy was of any concern to Harper and those quick to accept what they had been prepped to accept. Two of our bravest had been murdered. But, once thrown out there as a possibility, it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle; if you were Harper, why would you wish to? The enemy was no longer over there but here, on Canadian soil murdering young, brave Canadians. How well it all played before the public; it was just the thing needed for a troubled, scandal plagued Conservative party lagging in the polls threatened by that upstart youngster, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Here, at last, was something Canadians could understand and rally around: Canada at war in Iraq, terrorists targeting Canada, terrorists killing two fine Canadian soldiers. That it happened days after Canada’s entry into the war in Iraq and with the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just around the corner made it even better. So play up the threat, warn citizens of further possible attacks and while fanning the flames of fear, why not, while Canadians were in an angry, pliant mood, push for and rush through legislation expanding the powers of CSIS to eavesdrop, detain, and arrest without any clear defining of the terms of reference for doing so. And, just to make it more palatable, to make it that much easier for good, honest, decent citizens to step forward and report “suspicious” behaviour, perhaps the neighbour you don’t like for his anti-Harper comments, accusers, or informants if you prefer, will be protected, the accused unable to confront his accuser and the accuser granted immunity. This is not the first time Harper and his gang attempted to expand the powers of our spy agencies; previous attempts were in secrecy, legislation slipped into omnibus bills dealing with the budget without consultation of the public and its representatives in the opposition. Fortunately, a vigilant press and a vocal and scrupulous segment of society thwarted the government loudly exposing its dirty tricks and forcing it to retreat somewhat. But today it is evident the murders of soldiers and the Harper gang crying “terrorist” has made the public more amenable to the passing of new “anti-terrorist” laws even if it means more intrusive spying on Canadians and greater restriction in movement. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire may be how the thinking goes.

Canadians should reconsider this and do so very carefully. Such new, even more repressive measure should alarm all Canadians. It is too late to save Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent and it is too late to help their killers. But what of the future, the others like them out there? How do we protect our future victims? Do we continue to do as we always do, elect governments that simply ignore the ill and alienated? Do we turn a blind eye to the inequities of our society; do we just sweep them under a rug; do we continue to turn our backs on our own failings as members of a society to provide the understanding and care the marginalized need? Where will it end? What will be the determinants of who poses a threat? Do public expressions of dislike for police or loathing for political figures ignoring environmental ravages committed by corporations make one suspect? Do peaceful marchers decrying corporate greed and homelessness really signify would-be terrorists? What about the person who opposes Canada’s entry into the Iraqi fray? What is acceptable and what not in a nation that declares itself democratic and yet whose government rigs election laws that benefit a particular party and disenfranchises a particular segment of society? Must we embrace a government that asks its citizens to report any and all suspicious behaviour? Spying on neighbours and friends and family. What next? That has happened in the past, children denouncing teachers and parents, parents denouncing in-laws, churchgoers, atheists, and businessmen rivals. Humphrey Bogart once remarked of the witch-hunting House of Un-American Activities Committee, “They’ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem”. Is that the road we want to take? What is suspicious behaviour? Is it the person who is solitary, prefers his own company to yours? Perhaps it’s that homeless individual on your street haranguing passersby about the evils of society or claiming the CSIS is loaded with Martians? Or is it the student questioning the government’s indifference to poverty or the high cost of tuition? Perhaps it’s the environmentalist slamming Big Oil. What about the woman asking the government why it’s taken no action regarding the disappearances of aboriginal women? Experts claim the laws are already in place to combat terrorism. I believe that is true. They also claim what is needed is not more laws but a government spending more on resources to implement them. We have a government that spends freely on self-promotion but begrudges veterans the benefits to which they are entitled and considers those tossed on the wayside to be of little worth. Do we really believe Harper has set the right priority for Canadians?

The Harper gang is made up of a vicious, narrow, vindictive group of ideologues. It does not look for anything into the future except the next win. It is not Canada that concerns them but the free enterprise agenda: maximizing profits and keeping costs down. That they do not look beyond their self-interest and the interests of their cronies, that they refuse to consider a future without themselves at the helm, will ultimately lead to their destruction. Perhaps it’s just as well. If they did look into the future, would they like what they see? I think not. You can ignore people and their suffering for only so long. You can line the pockets of your friends and yourself and leave behind a wave of misery and broken humanity and believe yourself free, above it all. But you will not be free nor above it all. Too many people are being ignored, are being left behind, and tossed aside. Eventually, those ignored, spat upon, ridiculed and slapped down and neglected will have had enough of hunger and misery. John Steinbeck once asked, “Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?” The Harper gang should think of that. Even the timid eventually fight back.

Terrorism may be a real threat in Canada. If not today, tomorrow. It need not be. Poverty in Canada is a greater threat than those like the two soldier killers. It has arrived long ago. It is real and entrenched. An astounding 21% of our children live in poverty. That is the real threat and that will be the real cause for fear tomorrow. Poverty can, and will, lead to anger and anger to fury.

We’ve all heard the Conservative mantra: Business creates wealth. Or the variant, which makes most people feel better because of the hope offered: Business creates jobs. Conservatives take it further. Corporate tax cuts attract even more business, which in turn creates more jobs, which, ergo, creates more wealth. That is the free-enterprising assertion, the Big Hook. But it’s an assertion not based on evidence. If tax cuts and deregulation really created jobs, Ireland would not have gone bankrupt a few years ago and no Canadian or American would be out of work. Tax cuts and tax grants. Conservatives ignore, wanting us to do the same, that tax concessions are almost always made under duress with threats of moving business elsewhere. Certainly the Conservatives are partially right: wealth is created; the profit margins of corporations always seem to grow. Unfortunately the jobs never materialize as promised and working stiffs today are only able to purchase as much as they did thirty or forty years ago. It’s the trickle theory working both ways: wealth flows up, piss rains down. Of course, the Conservatives might dispute that and continue to sing their lying song: Tax breaks equal jobs equal wealth. It’s their myth and we, idiots or hopeful fools that we are, buy it time and again without even a thought of examination. In previous posts, I’ve asked this: Are we that stupid? That crazy?

Even when they make a profit, free enterprising pigs squeal if the profit margin does not match or is less than last year’s. Immediately, this “loss” calls for “restructuring”. That is, throwing thousands of workers to the wolves. That’s what happened November 4th when Scotiabank announced it was restructuring to the tune of shedding itself of 1500 workers because of a bad investment; it still made record profits, just not enough.

So, who’s your friend? Big Business knows. Do you?

Even when things don’t quite work as promised and governments begin to take a hit from doubters, there’s always a bogeyman to call upon to distract the voting public. In the past, it was Communism. Today it’s terrorism. Harper and his gang are counting on us not swapping horses midstream during a time of crisis, real or of their making. But, just to make sure, just to be on the safe side, it might be wise to throw a few shiny baubles our way. So they do.

Between attending the funerals of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent while continuing to stoke the fires of alarm and fan the spirit of hyper-nationalism (an extreme and unpleasant form of patriotism to which Canadians, thankfully, aren’t all that easily drawn) Harper and the gang made a “good news” announcement on October 30th. And it was all about the thing they really, really, really love: money.

THE BAIT

No doubt you have seen the images: Harper tieless, checked shirt open at the collar (indicative of openness, of being one of the “folks”), striding to and fro across the stage (thereby demonstrating a “take charge”, “can do” attitude) with a swagger (nothing wrong in showing a little braggadocio) before a crowd of Conservatives wearing pasted smiles and gazing in wide-eyed wonderment (all eager to applaud at cued moments thus confirming they were living, breathing dolls) while, to one side, a female “reporter” (representing the taxpayer funded faux “news” channel 24 Seven, which follows Harper everywhere and offers those who visit the government website, an endless supply of propaganda, fake “exclusives” and highly polished, if questionable, drivel), waits to ask softball questions. The news is momentous. Can an election be far behind? Well, yes, if Harper keeps to his own fixed election date of October 19, 2015. Harper had long ago embraced American-style politics with vile, mud-slinging ads; now he has gone the further step of starting the campaign a year early guaranteeing this to be one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history.

But, if you were watching him that day and if you were paying attention, you would have immediately understood two things: not only was this an election stump speech but also, if you were a single parent earning a modest income, if you were single, young, elderly, homeless, a student, ill, disabled, a veteran, there was absolutely nothing for you. It was all about Conservative values I guess, marriage, children, family values (that the NDP and Liberals don’t fully appreciate or condone), and healthy doses of hypocrisy. In fact, you would have immediately understood yourself to be one of the 85% of Canadian households (according to the C.D. Howe Institute) who would not benefit from the income splitting scheme Harper was proudly unveiling. True, the income splitting plan has been watered down because of loud opposition (including from the deceased Jim Flaherty, Harper’s finance minister) to its patent unfairness. But Flaherty’s gone and the plan, albeit not as Harper and gang envisioned, will go ahead. Immediately, those families with two incomes will get a $2000 tax credit. That leaves out all the rest and hits hardest the single parent. But not to worry. Lest you feel left out as a single parent, Harper also included news of a raise to child benefits.

Even with the increase in child benefits, Harper could not resist playing games. There is a catch. It is in how the Harper gang plans to implement the new benefits that most clearly reveal his contempt for voters, particularly those in the low-income bracket. In January of 2015, the child benefits will go up from $100 to $160 a month. However, and this might clue you into understanding what Harper and gang really think of you: households will not see the benefits until July, just three months before the next election. Then, every household with children will receive a cheque of $420 per child aged six to seventeen with a retroactive payment including the first six months (it makes a total of $720 taxable by year’s end). So, while you as a single parent with one child will receive a total of $720 a year, a two-income family will receive $2835. For 2015-216, the cost for the income splitting and child benefits will be $4.5 billion. Canadian families earning more than $140,000 will get the lion’s share of the benefits estimated at 43%. As a single parent, that must really make you feel good. Does that seem fair to you? Really? Now you know if you didn’t already, what Harper thinks of you. He and his gang believes your vote can be bought for $60 a month per child; just to be sure, he believes a one-time only lump sum, just before election of a gargantuan $420 per child will be enough for you to remember who to vote for when at the polls. Not only does he believe you can be easily bought, he also believes you to be stupid. Come next election, take the money then prove him wrong. It might help if, just before you cast your vote, you recall this Yiddish proverb: “God loves the poor but he helps the rich.” Conservatives do not even love the poor.

If you are a voter from a two-income family and stand to gain while 85% of Canadians do not, it might be time to think about what you value when you vote. Instead of looking to have your pockets lined with money you really will not miss when others are neglected, could you not take a little time to reflect about what your role in society? Is it, as Harper would have us all believe: everything is reducible to dollars, that those who have deserve more, that the poor deserve to be poor. We certainly do not need the spectre of terrorism raised because of the acts of two disturbed, angry individuals. Nor do we need more laws to quell dissent, to silence critics, to arouse suspicion and fear. Laws are already in place. We do not need a leader like Harper who boasts about his “accomplishments” when they are, in fact, inconsequential outweighed by the damage he has inflicted on the largest portion of society. When he first became prime minister, the country had a surplus of $13 billion. In a few years he squandered it, much of it in tax cuts and tax funded self-promotion touting his Economic Action Plan and non-existent job creation through non-existent programs. He has cut 35,000 public service jobs, over three thousand from the Canada Revenue Agency. If there is any surplus, it was on the backs of those civil servants and low-income earners. As a consequence, billion dollar corporations and millionaire pikers are allowed to avoid paying taxes by funneling money to off-shore accounts while Harper has the now politicized CRA hound left-wing charities. Harper has cut services to veterans and closed down offices serving veterans while commemorating historic military achievements and loudly declaring his respect for our men and women who have served this nation. He has ignored the environment, lectured others on fiscal restraint and has almost bankrupted his own nation with tax cuts and giveaways to corporations. He has conspired with Big Business to suppress low-income wages and offer Canadian jobs to temporary foreign workers. He talks loudly of Canada’s contributions on the world stage and yet had for years ignored and condemned the United Nations. He has been bombastic and belligerent in his triumphalism and boastful of his support of our military personnel and yet parsimonious where it counts. Too many military families are forced into bankruptcy or on the brink because they must sell homes at a loss when suddenly relocated to another post; but military brass are often granted huge moving allowances when just moving a few blocks in the same town. We have an air force that has been neglected, the C-18s old, tired, due for retirement in 2015. Many of our ships are also old, out-dated, and ill-equipped, in desperate need of repairs and replacement. He ramps up the fear when he talks of terrorism but our military and police are wanting, their budgets slashed. Recently, the leaked pentagon document reviewed that Canada may purchase four F-35 jets. When Harper ran for the last election, he talked about buying 65 such jets. Originally he said the cost would be $9 billion. He lied on that. When challenged on that figure by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Harper regime waged a smear campaign against him. Harper was re-elected with Canadians never learning the true costs of what those purchases would be. Figures have varied from $45 billion to $125 billion. Apparently, without fanfare, Harper set aside any plans to purchase the 65 jets with the exception of the four leaked by the Pentagon.

And because Harper has begun his campaign so far ahead of the projected date, voters might do well to remember and think of the following. It was Harper who appointed disgraced Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin to the senate; they are the high-flyers who padded living and travel expenses. Duffy apparently was confused which of his homes was his principal residence. He also secretly accepted a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s Chief of Staff, to repay the fraudulent claims. Conservative members of the Internal Economy Committee in the Senate altered the Deloitte audit to give Duffy a free pass for the transgressions. In April of 2015, he will be facing the courts. Perhaps, to forestall any bad news emerging from the trial, the Conservatives may call the election early. If that does occur, voters should ask why.

Voters should also remember another Conservative who also believed she was entitled and who was twice forced to repay expense claims fraudulently made. Bev Oda was finally forced to resign because of public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice. Nor should voters forget Peter Penashue who Harper called the “best MP Labrador ever had”, who also was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions. Too, voters should be reminded the Conservative Party pleaded guilty of breaking election laws; they paid a fine of $52,000 thus saving themselves the embarrassment (if capable of such) of high level members facing prosecution. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan who fought Elections Canada regarding overspending during the 2011 campaign. Glover finally submitted a full campaign expense report. She was promoted to a ministry. Early this year, Glover made the news again when attending a fundraising event in her riding where the guests were those who stood to gain from decisions made by her department. She later refunded the money, again no consequences for the minister who appears to have a penchant for ethical lapses. Voters should also be mindful of Michael Sono, the young Conservative staffer thrown to the wolves and facing jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. And of course, no one should forget Dean del Mastro, who along with another nasty partisan, Pierre Poilievre, smeared Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada for having the effrontery to investigate allegations of Conservative involvement in the robocalls scandal. Allegations later confirmed. Del Mastro was found guilty of three counts of voter fraud and overspending. He maintains his innocence but just hours before he was to be expelled as a member of parliament, he resigned his seat thereby saving his pension. And, of course, we have the aforementioned Pierre Poilievre, the minster and architect of the so-called Fair Elections Act, which allows the Conservatives to hold an advantage come next election by promising to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and restrict the powers of Elections Canada to investigate voter fraud.

This is a party rife with bad people and bad behaviour.

When will you have had enough?

It is time Canadians refuse to accept Harper’s version of voters as easily led and bought, as too dumb and too self-interested and greedy. Let him know that you cannot be easily bought, that you do care about honesty, integrity and good governance. Do not let him convince you that the world out there is all menace and only he can save you from the bogeyman. It’s no truer than the myth that giving tax breaks to the wealthy creates jobs. The bogeyman does exist. It is Stephen Harper and the Conservative party.

The deaths of Vincent and Cirillo were tragic enough. But it does no honour to their memory to exploit their deaths by fomenting and xenophobia. Because a murderous, barbaric group of zealots in the Middle East running under the banner of ISIL have hijacked and perverted the teachings of the Qur’an, because some young Canadians have succumbed to ISIL’s vile lure, it is irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous to encourage public suspicion, fear and misunderstanding of Muslims. We must not succumb to panic and fear.

Instead, Canadians should concentrate on the rot in our own society and reject a government that refuses to excise it. Yes, there are enemies out there. But the greatest threat comes from what we refuse to acknowledge. Fomenting fear and mistrust to justify increased surveillance of its own citizens is hardly the work of a responsible, thoughtful, regime that respects democracy and nurtures its citizens.

For this regime, democracy and sensibility to the needs of the disadvantaged and troubled are ancillary considerations, distractions best left for another time and for another regime. Nothing must interfere with the agenda of boosting the economy – of the wealthy at least – and getting re-elected.

One day, almost certainly not in my lifetime, Canadians will have had enough of the kind of governance to which we have been subjected since Canada became a nation. We cannot tolerate the same game of cutting taxes, ignoring our infrastructure, of scapegoating unions and public servants and abandoning veterans and their families. We are a better people than Harper would have us be. It’s time Canadians really think about riding itself of this rotten crew. Going back to the Liberals is not the answer. For our whole history we have opted only for the two, Conservatives and Liberals. The game of simply batting the ball to and fro between two cheaters is boring. Canada needs something new and fresh. It needs a change. Set aside your fears, prejudices and doubts. It’s not a question of what can we lose, but rather, what we may gain.

***

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

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

THE WORM IN THE APPLE: STEPHEN HARPER AND DEMOCRACY

 Certitude is not the test of certainty. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the good and brave ever in the majority? – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

If there is any hope for the Canadian future, surely it cannot be with Harper’s Conservatives, particularly the core band of entrenched, witless supporters who find their brand of nasty dirty tricks somehow acceptable if not bracing. Who cares what the goals are or how they are achieved or who shunted aside: anything goes at any cost. Civility, decency, honesty, and transparency appear to be mere products of another by-gone era; quaint, fondly remembered, but no longer tolerable, expedient, or expected. For such as these, morality is gauged by self-interest and individual gains. Democracy is a fine sentiment but what’s in it for me. The world has changed. So must we. Let’s rig the game.

It is not a pleasant vision. But these are not pleasant folk.

GENERAL BULLMOOSE LIVES

Harper and his gang know something about their supporters that core of true believers who cannot, will not, be swayed regardless of how secretive, dishonest, corrupt, mean-spirited or vile this Conservative regime is. That core is made up of the intractable self-centred, self-loving, of mean-spirited, free-enterprising corporate free-loaders, of gun-loving, anti-union, anti-government, tax-hating “but-“want-everything” lumpens, of belligerent immigrant vilifiers and exploiters, of “punish” the poor, the homeless, the helpless and hapless. It is upon this ilk that the Harper gang most relies. Come next election, victory is assured as long as they can divide the vote between the NDP and the Liberals and sway a few soft votes from either camp. Just to be certain, it might help to rig the Elections Act and gerrymander 30 new ridings with boundaries redistribution. It’s all about the economy, jobs and reduced taxes they will tell you appealing to your baser instincts neglecting to tell you that it’s really about power and suppression: getting power and keeping it. But, in order to keep that power, Harper and his gang believe it is necessary to wage war against Canadian citizens and organizations that stand in opposition to their narrow, single-minded fixation on the economy and tax cuts to the neglect of all the rest that makes for a successful, thriving, decent, and generous society. This is a group so devoted to their goals and yet are so frightened and so distrustful of their own citizens, the sixty per cent who did not vote for them, that, even with their majority of seats, still feels insecure. Wedded to an ideology, they cannot understand why most Canadians do not support them. To them, it is incomprehensible that so many voters find their policies exclusionary, limited, and just plain mean. Surely it’s all about money and self-interest and the welfare of Big Business. To quote Al Capp, they believe “What’s good for General Bullmoose (Capp’s fictional ruthless, mercenary capitalist) is good for everybody.” They are not wrong. It is good – for Big Business.

Over the past few years Harper and gang have deprived Canadians of over $43 billion with corporate tax cuts. Some figures place the cuts at $60 billion. It is estimated that corporate tax cuts are about $12 billion a year. The Conservative myth is that investing in business creates jobs. Where is the evidence? One thing is certain and neither the Harper gang nor the corporate beneficiaries of the largesse extracted from Canadians seem too eager to boast of it: corporate welfare is very good for Big Business but it comes at the expense of service cuts and public service jobs. They prefer buzzwords: restructuring, modernizing. The benefits, however, do not extend to our veterans nor those homeless on the streets but rather the sleazy group of Conservative politicians and CEOs who can boast about creating low income, part-time jobs. Whatever benefits most Canadians at the lower end of the scale may derive amount to little more than three to four hundred dollars a year, which are quickly consumed by increases in utility rates or goods. Canadians are left holding the bag carrying more of the load while the infrastructure upon which we depend, our highways, bridges, hospitals, public services, drinking water, public pension plans, and public safety nets are increasingly placed at risk through cuts, underfunding, and maintenance neglect. For Harper, hurling a few tiny shiny tokens our way is sufficient; it has never been about the welfare of Canadians but the welfare of Big Business. As we have seen with his regime’s persistent and often deceitful efforts to ensure that the Keystone XL pipeline and other pet projects succeed (including smearing opponents and downplaying the risks), he and his gang take on the roles of corporate shills. These Harper Conservative thugs apparently cannot understand why some Canadians are not convinced that cutting taxes for corporations, that keeping wages of low income earners low, and that keeping low income workers fearful of losing their jobs to immigrants is good for society, good for the economy. That it doesn’t work, that it’s a lie, doesn’t deter them. One can almost hear the puzzlement as those tiny peas rattle behind those beady, greedy eyes. What’s wrong with millionaires making more; after all, they create the jobs, they create wealth, they keep the economy going? It would be nice to test that theory if only for one agreed upon day when every worker on the globe found the courage to lay down his tools, held back his services and his skills. Let the Lords and Masters discover for themselves who really creates wealth, who keeps the world humming and functioning. Would the world tremble, come to a juddering halt for that single day? Perhaps not, but it would notice. And if it were extended to a second or third day…but it will not of course as long as workers believe they are powerless or lack the courage to take a stand.

It’s not a one way street, but Harper and his gang and their Masters in Big Business would have us believe differently: everything we have is through the generosity of the Titans of Capitalism and we should be grateful and keep our mouths shut. It’s a lie, as big a lie as saying all civil servants are lazy or every welfare claimant is a fraud or that every successful business man did it all by himself. Free enterprisers are often our biggest freeloaders. There is never enough for them. Hands out of our pockets, they scream while displaying no signs of hesitation in extending theirs for taxpayer monies during times of trouble or when blackmailing us into forking over huge grants and tax cuts to set up shop under threat they’ll look elsewhere. But, even then, that is often not enough. Even when the taxes are the lowest in North America, when the government well runs dry, when the government annual handouts stop, they often close shops, fire workers and run back home richer and happier without so much as a good-by kiss but rather a Kiss My Ass, Sucker!

It happens time and again and all governments play along as if it were some game. We voters are as much to blame for we keep on voting those scoundrels in time and again. As long as there are workers who swallow the line that they deserve less and others deserve more, that unions are greedy and Corporations charities, the likes of Harper and his crew will continue to sell out Canadians with a shoddy bill of goods. As long as we allow them to divert our attention away from their misdeeds by scapegoating others for our ills, they will crow and we will whine and others will bear the brunt of our fury. So it’s fixed minimum mandatory jail times and mandatory victim surcharges applied against the meanest and lowest and poorest among us, surcharges some judges have ignored as cruel and vindictive one, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco writing in a 31 page judgement, “This is a crushing amount for him, beyond his foreseeable means. It is a sum that, in relative hardship, is many multiples of what a moneyed offender would have to pay. Simply put, Mr. Michael (the accused) is being treated more harshly because of his poverty than someone who is wealthy” (The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 1, ’14).

THERE ARE ENEMIES EVERYWHERE

Yes, the economy and jobs certainly do matter. But there are other things equally important if not more so. Yet, it seems, neither Harper nor his supporters believe so.

So, what is it that Harper and his small, vindictive, insecure, weak crew fear from their own citizens that they feel compelled to wage war on them? Not content with their majority, which they happily wield as a bludgeon to ram through bills and batter the opposition to submission, they have displayed an unhealthy disregard for democracy itself using subterfuge in the forms of omnibus bills to sneak in legislation with little to no time offered for debate and examination; proposed amendments are dismissed out of hand or, if accepted, are trivial and trivialized. Opponents to these bills wanting nothing more than time to examine and debate them are smeared, charged with siding with pornographers or their patriotism questioned. This is vile stuff. What does Harper fear? He has the majority; the bills would pass. So what harm is there in demonstrating a little grace, in making some amendments that, if done well, would not only accomplish the stated goals, but would likely pass the smell and legal tests as well? To hold a majority and be generous is not weakness. In fact, the duty of all governments is to protect the interests of all citizens even it’s perceived enemies. However, this government acts out of weakness and fear and, in doing so, proves itself cowardly as it bullies and threatens and imposes. Every individual, every organization, every public servant and every citizen is viewed with suspicion if he or she dares stand up to this regime and say, “What you are doing is wrong”. This gang cannot accept such a criticism. They believe themselves inherently superior to all others who do not share their vision. They cannot apologize or admit to being wrong; they will not retreat. That is the danger of an Ideology embraced so tightly that it allows no room for oxygen. The oxygen deprived cannot imagine that opponents might have worthwhile contributions to offer in the way of ideas or change. And, because they are oxygen deprived, the Harper Conservatives appear incapable of holding more than one thought: they are right and everyone else is wrong, is out to get them, is a crazed left-winger and left-wingers, as everyone knows, are incapable of fiscal responsibility or of even a single good idea.

We have Harper and his gang attacking government watchdog agencies that are meant to protect the public from governmental abuses. We have oafish Mark Adler wishing to propose legislation that would force employees in these agencies swear loyalty oaths. But to whom would these workers be loyal? The agencies? The public at large? Or the Harper gang? Based on their behaviour, I know the answer to that and so do you if you’re not a blind adherent to the Harper agenda. As it is, those working for the PMO must sign life-long non-disclosure agreements. Why? What are Harper and gang doing on our behalf that we are not entitled to know? Right away I’m suspicious. I don’t trust them. I can’t trust them. Unless it touches upon matters of utmost national security, Canadians have every right to know everything its government does. Unfortunately, this government, which campaigned on transparency and honesty, had long ago abandoned those promises. Everyone is a potential terrorist, especially the voter that wants to boot this regime out of office. Harper really seems to believe that knowledge is a dangerous thing. As a consequence, Canadians have yet to be informed of the true costs of those overpriced fighter jets, the F-35s which Harper and the then Minister of Defence Peter MacKay claimed would be about $9 billion. Critics however, including the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, believe the costs will be much, much more. Thus far the estimates have pegged them ballooning from $45 to $125 billion. This lack of information is typical of the Harper gang. But, ask yourself: as a taxpayer footing the bill, shouldn’t you know how much it’s going to cost you? Harper believes not.

And because Harper does not think Canadians should know, or are incapable of handling what they might learn, he insists that knowledge should be limited. The less Canadians know, the better for all concerned. Especially for him and his crew. How can we ask questions to what we don’t know? So the Conservative gang muzzles scientists, smear critics and consider the poor and homeless as suspect. In fact, everyone is suspect. That legitimizes his efforts to obtain warrantless access to our internet accounts. Under the guise of going after pedophiles, the security agencies may as well hunt around for terrorists, perhaps learn what we think of this government, what are views are on the Israel/Palestine question etc. Enemies are everywhere; you could be one.

What Harper fears is certainly not those who form his core base of support and vote for him and his ilk. It is not even the spies, terrorists, criminals, immigrants he and the gang are quite happy to evoke at every opportune moment to play on our fears, exploit our bigotry and feed upon our ignorance to help keep him in power. It is knowledge that Harper fears and the wisdom that comes with it. An informed public is dangerous.

AND THEY ARE US

Unfortunately for Harper and crew, the quest for knowledge and truth is unquenchable and unstoppable. Unfortunately for Canadians, knowledge and truth are not enough when you have a government led by such as this vile gang for whom no dirty trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be exploited. Too, it is clear that the Conservatives themselves do not believe their own agenda, their own policies, in the rightness of their cause. If they did, the merits of Harper’s Conservatism should be enough to convince the majority of Canadians. It doesn’t. So, faith shaken, what can they do, these scoundrels? They can simply change the rules. And they have. For this group, chicanery comes easily.

With the passage of the so-called Fair Elections Act, supposedly to combat rampant voter fraud (a myth, a lie fuelled by Pierre Poilievre with his misrepresentation of the Neufeld Report on Electoral Reform) the Harper gang has effectively disenfranchised by some estimates, 100,000 to 500,000 voters. These include aboriginals, the poor, the homeless, the ill, the mentally ill, the elderly, those on welfare, and those with no fixed address, students, itinerant workers, and those relocating to other areas across the nation during election time. That’s a lot of people and mostly those on the bottom of the heap who would be least likely to vote Conservative.

Too, by next election, as stated earlier, there will be an additional 30 new ridings. With its penchant for rigging the game, gerrymandering of the boundaries will all but guarantee the Conservatives at least 22 new seats if voting patterns remain as is. However, as it is likely that the Conservatives are not as certain of voter support for their platform as they would wish, they are reluctant to test it without a little help.

Just to make certain that things are as easy as possible for a Conservative victory, Harper, with the assist of Pierre Poilievre, has reduced the powers of Elections Canada. While Elections Canada is still able to inform people where, when and what they need to have on them when they vote, it can no longer encourage voters to vote! Well, that leaves a few more voters Harper and gang don’t have to worry about.

As well, this gang has all but made it easier for those running for office to cheat. As if Conservatives haven’t tried in the past few elections with the in-out scam, with the robocalls scandals, with MPs such as Shelly Glover and James Bezan resisting calls from Elections Canada to submit full campaign claims. We even had Eve Adams attempting to palm off her spa treatments as expenses and Dean del Mastro facing the courts for fraudulent election expense claims. The Tories have greatly weakened the powers of Elections Canada. The agency, which is answerable to Parliament, will lose much of its powers to investigate election fraud. Those being investigated must be informed and must give permission before the public is informed. Too, witnesses who may know of fraud, cannot be compelled to testify. As well, and probably most offensive, the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, has been moved to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is accountable to the PMO. This is extremely important. This could, and would, likely lead to political interference especially with Harper at the helm. As well, the opportunity for corrupt outcomes would be enhanced with the prosecution also taking on the investigative role. It could decide what evidence to disclose or not. When this was pointed out by critics, the oily and sinister partisan, Poilievre, the Minister of Democratic Reform, suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, “only wanted more power’ for himself. That’s how Conservative under Harper work: they smear those who dare speak out against them. And if you are on the government payroll, they fire you or don’t rehire you. That’s what happened to Kevin Page. When there is little to no likelihood of discovery and punishment, there is every possibility of electoral fraud by those running for office.

Meanwhile, as the next election year approaches, the rat pack hunts out its enemies and picks them off one-by-one. Environmentalists are radicals and stooges for foreign interests. As if Canadians can’t think for themselves. Perhaps Harper and his gang arrived at that low opinion of others by using as benchmark the knowledge they possess of themselves and their supporters. Well, they know that crowd best, I guess.

BUT WHY SO MEAN TO SOME?

It is difficult to understand what it is that makes Harper and his gang as mean as they are. If they truly believe in their agenda and their methods of achieving them, why are they always on the offensive against their critics in ways that are, well, downright offensive, smack of arrogance, are based on ignorance and often dishonestly presented. Harper and his gang reveal a gross intolerance for questions from opposition members and even more aversion for answering them. Next time Parliament is in session, take the time to watch Question Period. One is left with the sad feeling that the Conservative gang are so wedded to the idea of power that they, themselves, have lost sight of what they offer and believe and can no longer give voice to them because those beliefs no longer exist or have become muddled with something else: winning, and at any cost.

I have little doubt they know that their approach of economy and job creation is too narrow and that its benefits, while there, are few, are not for the advantage of the whole of society but for the very few among the very privileged; for these few the benefits are many and rich indeed. For the rest, shiny promises and a few dollars in tax breaks perhaps and more in the way of public services cuts may be enough. But should it be? The envious are always with us. Unhappy with their lot, they are always willing to rip into public service workers and pull them down. And, of course, there are others to encourage them in their scapegoating. We have Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, feeding into that envy and hostility. He had no hesitation in throwing over 19,000 public workers out of work suggesting they are too many, are underworked and overpaid and altogether undeserving fat cat unionists. This is the man who milked from the public purse a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the 2010 G-8 and G-20 conferences less remembered for its accomplishments than the $1 million fake lake, the $250 thousand dollars gazebo and the mass arrests of peaceful protesters. Where is the outrage for all that?

It is easy to target those who can’t fight back. Harper and his gang are the schoolyard bullies; they appear to relish the role.

So, perhaps, the enemies Harper and gang see around them are real after all. It’s difficult to respect, let alone love, a government as abusive of others as this one with its relentless partisanship, its lack of fairness, its narrow vision and its inability to rise above its own desires to even consider the interests of all, including its enemies. The Harper crew offer little leeway. Unless promoting some pet project of their own, they avoid the media like the plague. After all, it is made up of “lickspittle elites”. And naturally, they do not trust educators, scientists and environmentalists unless they are stooges for Big Oil denying climate change or that humankind’s impact is real and devastating and on the edge of no turning back. How can you trust those biased anti-business, pro-NDP, ivory-towered intellectuals? Climate change, global warming? Rubbish. Just cyclical events that mankind has endured since the creation of the world three thousand years ago when man ran with dinosaurs. Ah! give me a break.

Thanks to Harper and his gang, 3,000 workers have been cut from the Canada Revenue Agency. They are out of work. As well as offering a $43 billion dollar free lunch to Big Business in tax breaks, the Harper gang appears eager to make it easier for corporations and wealthy individuals to set up offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. The cuts in the CRA makes it more difficult, if not impossible, for the revenue agency to pursue and punish those cheats as well as recover the money owed the Canadian public. That is stolen money and there is little to no evidence that Harper and the gang are attempting to recover it. The tax evaders, along with Harper and crew, apparently agree with Leona Helmsley who infamously said: Only the little people pay taxes. In cutting those jobs, Harper and his gang give me the impression of abetting this criminal activity; they are the lookout while the gang inside pillage the bank. Experts estimate that Canadians are being cheated by more than $9 billion a year by scofflaw cheats. These are thieves. While Canadian taxpayers carry the burden, the wealthy, apparently believing themselves entitled, flout the law in the full knowledge that Harper is not able or unwilling to recover what we are owed. Instead, Harper and gang have other priorities. They have set out to put an end to what really riles them: charities. Not just any charity or all charities but only those of a perceived political slant: those charities that are critical of Harper and his government; those charities that believe in family planning, which may include abortion. You get the drift. Disagree with Harper’s worldview or offer an opinion with which he may disagree, you pay the price. Your patriotism is questioned. You’re branded as suspect. So, while over $9 billion are siphoned out of this country by knaves and thieves, charities are fighting for their survival as they are harassed with yearly audits. Now, some of those charities targeted have become so at the instigation of EthicalOil.org, the lobby group for Big Oil and the tarsands behind the Keystone XL pipeline project that has aroused so much interest from environmentalists and climatologists who have warned Harper and the gang about the risks involved in going ahead with it. Of course, EthicalOil.org, sanctimonious and hypocritical, so concerned with how our taxes are being spent will not, itself, reveal who its backers are except to state it only receives monies from Canadian companies. Personally, I am more interested in knowing if foreign interests own the Canadian companies and what benefits, if any, it obtains from taxpayers. Meanwhile, we must take them at their word that everything is above board while they smear others with innuendo.

Now, I am not saying there should no audits when taxpayers fund a charity. I do, however, expect that the audits be fair and applied to all political spectrums equally. But when the CRA becomes politicized, as it has under the Harper gang, targeting those on the left, one has to wonder, what is it that Harper and gang hope to accomplish? Of what are they afraid? Why would they punish the beneficiaries of the charitable work, those in desperate need, innocent victims, simply because the organization funds abortions, speaks out against some of Harper’s policies and legislation? That kind of behaviour is obscene from a government that purports itself as democratic. If it is silence that Harper seeks, it will not work; truth will always out ¾ eventually. What the public does learn, however, is that there is no limit to the smallness of the men and women in this regime. When one imagines they have sunk as low as humanly possible, they will sink lower. They wallow, apparently with great relish, in the shallow meanness of their collective character. As reported by Dean Beeby in the Ottawa Citizen (July 25, 2014), there is a word that the Harper gang and the CRA does not like in Oxfam’s stated goal which is to “prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk.” The objectionable word is “prevent”. The CRA says, “…preventing poverty might benefit people who are not already poor.” This is insane. What does that mean? Picayune. Imbecilic. Arbitrary. Tax evaders are ripping off Canadians to the tune of over $9 billion a year and the government is threatening to remove the charitable status of an organization because of one word and save what…a couple of hundred thousand, a million or two? This is what our government deems more important than thieves ripping us off!

Well, intimidation worked with Oxfam; it removed the offending word. And you have to wonder why this government appears to be offended by the thought of wanting to rid or prevent the world of poverty. Perhaps, in doing so, it will be more difficult for employers to suppress wages because workers will no longer feel the need to undercut each other in competing for jobs. Is this to what Harper and his gang are reduced?

Minister of Revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay denies that the targeting of charities perceived to be on the left is politically motivated. Judge for yourself.

The David Suzuki Foundation, an outspoken advocate for the preservation of our environment and resources has also been listed. Well, Harper and gang don’t believe Global Warming is the real thing. The Foundation’s criticism of the Keystone XL pipeline project and Harper’s role has made it a target.

Amnesty International merits targeting because of its willingness to fight for the human rights of all who are incarcerated. In the past, it has been critical of the Harper regime’s treatment of Omar Khadr.

KAIROS, a United Church human rights advocacy group too has earned the ire of the Harper Gang. For many decades it received funding with the approval of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Then, a few years back, Bev Oda, at that time overseer of the agency (until forced to resign in disgrace over padded expense claims and a $16 glass of orange juice), rescinded CIDA’s approval by inserting “NOT” to the document thereby committing forgery. For that act, she was not punished. What had KAIROS done? It had committed the crime of disagreeing with Harper’s unquestioning support of the Israelis over their heavy-handed treatment of the Palestinians. Look what’s happening today. Not a word of condemnation from Harper though the world, while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, condemns the brutality of its responses to Hamas bombings.

Another target is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), which promotes research on economic and social policy issues. It’s easy to see why it is targeted. While it may look for economic and social alternatives, the Harper thugs clearly believe there are no alternatives to their economic plan. Rather than defend the Conservative plan, Harper finds it easier just to silence others.

Lastly, he has targeted PEN Canada, which promotes the right to free speech around the world. PEN had been critical of the Harper gang when it muzzled and fired government scientists. As stated earlier, it’s knowledge and the wisdom that comes with it that Harper fears. But, let’s give Harper some credit: He will defend with as much will as he can muster to fight for our right to agree with him.

These are not the only targets. Just a tip of the iceberg. Clearly what troubles Harper with these organizations is that all seem to be concerned with freedom and human rights. Now, what do you suppose Harper and his nasty crew have against freedom and human rights? Oh, yes, knowledge, wisdom.

THE KING OF KINGS – IN HIS OWN MIND

Vile, hypocritical, vicious, petty, mean, dishonest, conniving, sly and deceitful, this gang of lowlifes never feels in its element unless swimming in the slime of Conservative ideology. We have been witness to their behaviour when they smeared those taking the government to court over bad laws or bad appointments in an end run attempt to skirt the taws and democracy. They are not even above taking cheap shots against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin accusing her of political interference during a search for a candidate for the Supreme Court. That turned out to be a lie. He and Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice have yet to apologize to the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court and to the Canadian public. International jurists have called about Harper and MacKay to do the right thing. Neither will. They are not man enough, not decent enough to admit they were wrong and dishonest.

They are shameless and vile.

Just think of this: Thérèse Casgrain, a leading Quebec suffragette activist and first female to lead a political party had been honoured by Pierre Trudeau naming a national volunteer award after her, the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award. If one followed her exploits, he would agree she deserved this recognition. Recently, we have learned that Stephen Harper has rebranded the award. It is now known as the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. How low can this man go? The Gazette Editor has it right: “Ignorant. Repugnant” (July 30, ’14). The rebranding occurred in 2010. We just learned of it this week. Think of that. This is Harper. You should not be surprised. Disgusted, yes, but not surprised. When I read about Casgrain and Harper’s dismissal of her, words written by Percy Bysshe Shelley came to mind: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:/Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Refresh your memory, read the poem. With Harper, vanity and arrogance are no myth. He looks in the mirror and imagines he sees a general. It’s his fancy and it’s pure rubbish.

***

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

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

THE SCUM ALSO RISES: STEPHEN HARPER, PARANOIA AND THE DEGRADATION OF POLITICS

 

There are some politicians who, if their constituents were cannibals, would promise them missionaries for dinner. – H.L. Mencken

When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him whose? – Don Marquis

Fill the seats of justice with good men, but not so absolute in goodness as to forget what human frailty is. – Sir Thomas Talfourd

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

BOTTOM FEEDERS

There must have been a time when individuals entered politics with the goal of contributing to society, of making a meaningful contribution towards change and enlightenment: a better world for all if you will. The gratification, apparently, was derived from working in the service of others. That must have been once upon a time long, long ago in a far, distant land. Service to others. The politicians of today, hearing that, must laugh all the way to the bank. How touchingly naïve.

That is not to say every politico was honest, wasn’t self-serving, wasn’t greedy or hypocritical “in the good old days”; some of them could quite easily keep up with those politicians of today in chicanery, corruption and knavery. It just seems, and perhaps that’s all it is, a chimera of memory, that governing parties were not as shamelessly openly corrupt as those we have today nor were they as many. I cannot recall the days when almost every member of a governing party was as fiercely partisan, as wilfully ignorant, as indifferent to openness, integrity, truth, as deaf to and contemptuous of the voices of the people and the opposition and as hostile to Democracy as this Harper regime. Does anyone even remember the good ones, Stanley Knowles, Tommy Douglas, even hapless fumbler Robert Standfield, a good, decent man as far as I know even if a Conservative? Does anyone even care that there are very few like them today? We still have Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent, but they have, to all intents, left the political scene. Do they recognize their old parties? Would they be welcomed and warmly embraced or would they be quietly endured with impatient politeness and then hustled out the door?

Oh, yes, yes, there were knaves, there always is, but there was a time of courtesy, respect, and decorum in the House, a time when the Speaker commanded respect because it was believed by all sides that he or she could be trusted and impartial. Now we have a Speaker whose word and decisions cannot be trusted because he has shown himself untrustworthy and biased as when he sat on two letters from the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for two weeks instead of informing the House, as he was duty bound, requesting that Shelly Glover and James Bezan be suspended from performing their duties until they made a full and accurate accounting of their expenses. There was a time when opposition members could frame questions from the top of their head and government members would respond in like fashion with no more than reference notes and with civility and a certain degree of frankness; today, questions and answers are scripted, the answers from the governing side never varying regardless of the question thrown at them. Asked the price of widgets, Harper, one of his oily ministers or some officious parliamentary secretary will stand up and say, “Glad you asked that. We reject your premise but will have a committee look into it.” If an opposition member were to immediately follow up with, “Is you mother a whore”, the response would be, without even a hint of a smile, “Glad you asked that. We reject your premise but will have a committee look into it.” Think I’m exaggerating? Watch Question Period when Parliament is in session. These are leaders of our nation. These are the folks we entrust to pass laws. Is this what we vote for?

This is not governance but a Punch and Judy show, a contemptible display of parties scoring points and settling scores on one side and a party clinging to power on the other convinced it is answerable to no one.

Thanks to Harper and his pea-brained gang, the days of questions and real answers are gone forever. Mean and petty, as small and ignoble as any group can possibly be, Harper and his crew have tossed aside the protocols of parliamentary dignity, transparency and inclusivity: obfuscation, circularity, outright lying, and sneering dismissals to any question posed are the order of the day. Opposition members are no longer viewed as legitimate representatives of the public; they are ignored, excluded, shut out of almost every important decision that, in previous regimes, would have had the governing party seeking and welcoming their input if only as a protective measure: everyone could be blamed. Not so with Harper and his hooligans.

SO, HOW BAD IS IT?

Last year, in an event honouring the contributions of volunteers across the country, one that most sane people would believe a non-partisan event, the ever-small Harper and his gang “uninvited” members of the opposition previously included because members of their community were being honoured for their work. Now that is small.

In January of this year, Harper traveled to Israel with a large entourage in tow, many at taxpayers’ expense. Touted as a business junket, it was also a photo-op for Harper where he loudly declared his friendship for the Jewish State. In the past, it was common for members from all parties to be invited. Well, Harper’s one of a kind when it comes to petty partisanship behaviour. No NDP or Liberal members were invited. Too, needy Conservative Mark Adler (remember the “million dollar” shot with Harper and Israeli leaders he was denied?), co-host of an Israeli charity event, barred Liberal MP Irwin Cotler from attending it. Cotler was there on another matter on his own dime; he is widely respected in the Jewish community and renowned as an expert on international law and human rights. Yet Adler, in a fashion typical of the Tory regime, could not resist in publicly humiliating a man simply because he was a Liberal MP. This is small stuff, extremely petty and mean but it paints a significant and disturbing picture of Harper and his sorry gang that is ugly, blindly partisan, and certainly not representative of a respectful, tolerant government.

These are just a few examples of many of the degree of disrespect Harper holds for those who oppose him. It is also a clear demonstration of the fear and cowardice of a governing power that, even with its majority, must feel compelled to pulverize and humiliate opposition parties who are presently incapable of even posing a threat to their reign of error. This is an example of raw power abused. The message is clear: those who oppose Harper and gang are subject to the full fury of their thuggery; they include personal ad hominem attacks which may end with your reputation smeared, your integrity questioned, your credentials dismissed and trashed and your patriotism challenged. Too often, we have heard members of this odious group label others “radical”, “stooge” “hack”; these are almost gentle lashings compared to what Pat Stogran, Linda Keen, Richard Colvin, Kevin Page, Marc Mayrand, and even one of their own, Helena Guergis, have been subjected. My sympathy for Guergis, I must admit, is muted somewhat; until she found herself out with Harper, she was just as nasty as the worst on the Conservative team.

And we saw how vicious and careless when, with disregard for facts, they chose to publicly single out Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin after the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that Justice Marc Nadon, Harper’s choice for a seat in the highest court of the land, did not meet the requirements for the position. Ignoring many warnings from experts informing Harper that Nadon failed to meet the necessary requirements, Harper nevertheless persisted in pushing for Nadon. Furious with the outcome, Harper and MacKay responded as any worthy bully or child might: both threw a public tantrum and opted to impugn the integrity of Chief Justice McLachlin and the Court. It’s worth noting that Harper had appointed five of the eight judges presently sitting in the Court. He hopes to add another. Harper’s hostility for the Court has been longstanding and overt. It is too “liberal”, tends to favour criminals, it is an “activist” court, i.e., has an anti-Conservative bias. Well, that’s what he would have us believe. It was clear he wants to stack the Supreme Court with likeminded individuals. Apparently, with the Nadon decision, the judges were swayed more by the sanctity of the law than loyalty to an ideology or to the man who gave them the job. That’s as it should be.

This is not the first time things did not go Harper’s way. The government lost the decision when it sought the opinion of the Supreme Court as to whether it could unilaterally change how senators were elected, set term limits which would openly politicize them, or abolish the Senate outright. Instead of picking up their toys and licking their wounds, as any adult would, Harper and MacKay chose to attack the Court and the Chief Justice whom they apparently view as emblematic of all the things they believe wrong with an independent Court: it is not Harper Conservative enough! As far as Harper and gang are concerned, the high court, in failing to reach a decision with which Harper agreed, was a biased Court, which favoured criminals and, I would suspect, dissenters who are probably terrorists or riffraff in the Conservative world. Another shining example of the “if you ain’t for us, you’re against us” mentality that fuels this miserable gang.

But unhappiness with the decision was not enough for Harper; that impish rascal just could not stop his bullying ways. He proceeded to charge that Chief Justice McLachlin had improperly approached him in July of 2013. Clearly, we are meant to take from this the suggestion that Chief Justice McLachlin had been opposed to the Justice Nadon appointment from the onset simply because he was Harper’s choice. In making the accusation, he was also suggesting that he, he alone, had attempted to preserve the sanctity of the Supreme Court by rejecting the advances made by her. It was an extraordinary charge clearly meant to inflame public prejudice against the Court with its suggestion of bias and political interference. As if that wasn’t cheap and low enough, Harper and MacKay deliberately left out information in the charming tale clearly intent on misleading the public. Their version was made of half-truths, which makes it untrue. Key elements were missing. For one, the parliamentary committee looking into the selection of candidates for the Supreme Court had been the ones who approached McLachlin for advice on vetting the candidates. That is normal, in fact, is expected. She did, however, admit to warning the Harper gang of potential eligibility issues. As did other experts. But McLachlin had issued that warning months before the issue was brought to court and at least a month before Harper’s choice of Nadon was named. Harper, as defender of the people from the law, became Bozo the Clown shot down in flames.

Evidently, these folks can’t help themselves; charge and attack and the truth be damned. For both Harper and Peter MacKay, this must be a new low of countless lows. This is gutter politics and a far cry from the political interference suggested by Harper and MacKay. To no one’s surprise, but everyone’s dismay, neither McKay nor Harper bothered to clear the air with the facts or the timeline. Certainly there was no apology from either bottom feeder. Crude, rude, and unacceptable.

This is extremely vile behaviour from a governing party towards the highest court in the land. It is serious, malignant – deliberate. Evidently Harper believes that attacking the high court might enhance his reputation among his followers who still believe man walked with dinosaurs and that the world is six thousand years old. For the troglodytes, such behaviour may be acceptable and expected, but it will likely garner little sympathy from the public at large. I know whom I trust in this tawdry tale.

THEY NEVER GIVE UP

Naturally, it doesn’t end there with these two. Last week, the Harper crew appointed Federal Court of Appeal Justice Rober Mainville to Quebec’s highest court with MacKay saying he would be “welcome at the Supreme Court”. Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati, who had successfully challenged the Nadon appointment, is again challenging the Harper appointment saying the Constitution clearly states judges on the Quebec court must be appointed by the Quebec bar. Other critics believe this just another Harper/MacKay end run to avoid appointing a qualified Quebec judge. If so, what does Harper fear from Quebec justices? “What had they done to upset Harper,” asked panel member Martin Patriquin in his appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics. Are Quebec judges considered too progressive for Harper’s Conservatives? Or is this retaliation against a province that did not elect enough Conservatives? Either way, petty.

But what should frighten and truly offend the public at large, especially if it believes the courts should be above the political fray, is not so much Harper’s blatant disregard for the sanctity of the Supreme Court, but his willingness to publicly declare his desire to politicize the judiciary to achieve desired outcomes. If the five Harper appointees to the Supreme Court might have ever harboured sympathy for some of his policies in the past, they might have little reason for feeling such now. Harper and MacKay have demonstrated the extent they are willing to embellish, omit and distort to achieve their goals. Their behaviour is discreditable, reprehensible, and just plain dishonest.

But that is not unusual behaviour from these two. MacKay had years ago proved he was untrustworthy when he betrayed David Orchard and the Progressives in the Progressive Conservatives by joining forces with the Alliance Party and Stephen Harper in 2003. To this day, despite proving himself nasty, untruthful, and incompetent in every post he has been offered, MacKay continues to hold a key position in the Harper gang solely because of his role in the formation of the Conservative/Reform/Alliance Party of today, CRAP in other words. For his part, MacKay is quite willing to capitalize on this. He’s incompetent, not stupid. Well…

Look at how he and Harper, having set their sights on the F -35 jets, lied and obfuscated during the 2011 election campaign about the true costs of the jets. They claimed the jets would only cost $9 billion. Experts were sceptical. When Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page questioned the numbers and requested to see the documentation, he was not only stonewalled at every turn, Harper and his rat pack began to wage a vicious campaign against him smearing his name, questioning his credentials, character and integrity. Does this sound familiar? When Page’s term ran out, he was not kept on and the public was no closer to the truth. We now know the jets will cost at least $45 billion though some have pegged the number closer to $126 billion. Canadians don’t really know what the final number will be; that is unacceptable. The Harper gang has lied and smeared their way to victory apparently untroubled that taxpayers will be left to pay a hefty bill of unknown size because of its unwillingness to admit to mistakes, to being wrong, or to even conceding that the planes may not be what we need.

Even today, with the release of a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled One Dead Pilot, which suggests that the F-35 single-engine jets are not only costly, but also dangerous and unreliable, because it denies pilots the possibility of a backup engine should anything go wrong, Harper and gang are unmoved and determined to go through with the deal. Michael Byers, UBC political scientist, author of the report, as quoted in the National Post by Josh Visser, June 9th, notes, “…a second engine is the only thing that can prevent a crash. The issue is especially important for Canada, which has the longest coastline in the world and vast Arctic territories.” Regardless of cost, lack of transparency, and closed bidding, it appears Harper is set to go ahead with the purchase, playing loose with the lives of pilots. Well, can we claim to be surprised? We know how much they respect our vets and public servants; why should they behave any differently towards those who will fly those planes? A final decision appears to be near. Regardless of what it is, we know they can’t be trusted.

THE FAMILY CIRCUS

Sometimes one gets the uneasy feeling that the so-called Fair Elections Act, as with so many of their efforts, so clearly botched, had been introduced solely for the perverse joy the Harper Conservatives experience in observing the response from poking the contemptuous Conservative finger into the collective eye of both public and critics. It has passed third reading and will soon become law the loud chorus of opposition ignored and dismissed. The heedless contempt and faux surprise exhibited by Pierre Poilievre, that viciously partisan Minister of Democratic Reform and Harper’s go-to man when it comes to dirty fighting, and the smug self-congratulatory hypocritical huzzahs that greeted the outcome from that quarter, was overt and painful to observe; these are despotic personalities taking sadistic delight in the despair of the howling voices railing against the bill’s inherent unfairness many consider a direct assault on Democracy. The outcome was no more in doubt than Poilievre’s dismissal of all such concerns as alarmist fear-mongering. He has resolutely campaigned to pass the bill as is with only token consultation or consideration of advice from opposition members as is customary and he pointedly ignored all other voices including experts in constitutional Democracy. Cherry picking “facts” that suited his purpose, Poilievre, often quoting and misquoting from a report by Harry Neufeld, past Chief Electoral Officer for British Columbia, suggested the changes were essential to stop voter fraud. In that claim was also the suggestion that voter fraud was widespread and perpetrated by a certain segment of society. When asked for proof of fraud, he could offer none because there was none. In fact, the only fraud perpetrated has been by Conservatives, how they reported on the bill and the methods employed to bolster support including their deliberate misreading of the Neufeld report. Can anyone who saw it forget Conservative Brad Butt’s contemptible little charade in the House? He regaled a spellbound Conservative audience (surely no one else was duped) with a tale of witnessing with his own two beady eyes opposition campaign workers scooping up voter information cards discarded by recipients which were then used by other opposition supporters passing themselves off as those voters named on the card. He had no answer for why he did not report it then. Later, in the House, he admitted he had lied, it hadn’t happened. Now, that is fraud. And, of course, we all recall how the Conservative Party paid $52000 for its role in the 2006 “in-out” campaign scheme for exceeding election expenses. And we mustn’t forget bulldog Conservative Dean del Mastro, that loudmouth thug who, along with Pierre Poilievre, waged a vicious smear campaign against Elections Canada and Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer, for having the nerve to investigate the Conservatives for allegations of voter suppression. Del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now faces several charges for election fraud during his 2008 campaign. These are not nice people.

So what is it about C-23 that has so many experts and ordinary citizens troubled? Simply by getting rid of as ID the Voter Information Cards we all receive in the mail, some estimate that 100,000 voters could be disenfranchised with the passage of this bill. Others have pegged the number to be as high as 500,000. One is too many. Those are large numbers and these will include our native peoples, seniors, students, transient workers, the poor, the homeless, the disabled, and the mentally ill. In other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. That is no accident.

But C-23 doesn’t stop there. The Commissioner for Canada Elections, the investigative body of Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, has been moved to the Department of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. There is a difference and it is significant. With Harper at the helm, the potential for political interference is not a possibility but a certainty. Poilievre, without his trusty sidekick, evidently has a few more scores to settle with Elections Canada.

Bill C-23 also considerably weakens the powers of Elections Canada to investigate election fraud, enforce regulations, and denies it the right to compel witnesses to testify. Too, those under investigation must be informed that they are being investigated. As well, their permission must be sought before such investigations can be made public. In other words, Harper and gang have determined that the public has no right to know when the rules are broken or by whom unless the offenders volunteer the information. There is absolutely no incentive for those who are naturally dishonest to be honest during election campaigns because the likelihood of discovery and punishment is almost nil. And while Elections Canada can inform people when and where to vote, it can no longer encourage them to vote. Again this targets large segments of society, the same folks victimized by the changes to vouching rules.

The Conservatives did retreat on some items. They tried to bypass spending limits by exempting telemarketing calls to anyone who donated more than $20 in the previous five years. This was a loophole that would benefit the richest party (guess which one) with the most number of donors by increasing the amount it is allowed to spend without having to claim it as an expense. As well, they retreated on the matter of incumbents determining who the polling station supervisor would be. Had this been allowed to stand, one can imagine that all disputes brought before the incumbent’s choice could only have one result.

The Conservatives, never shy about rigging the game in their favour, have now, in fact, entrenched bad behaviour into law with C-23. No doubt, with their past experiences and proclivities the party will take full advantage of these limitations.

Who can honestly claim to be surprised? All too often Harper and his crew have demonstrated that, when it comes to abuses of Democracy and unseemly behaviour, they couldn’t care less what we may think. It is not enough to win the game, they have to rig it and they have.

It’s not just the fixing of the game or the meanness of the Conservatives that offends, though I do detest them for that; it’s the smallness of their characters, the limitations of their vision, the selfishness of their goals, the blindness of their ideology, the aridness of their souls. If they use the word inclusive, wanting us to believe that is what they are and what they wish to be, they will stumble over it, perhaps even mask a smile with a hand. It’s a word they drag out for election campaigns or when attempting to convince us that what we might believe of them isn’t true. That they stumble always diminishes the message; it is foreign to them, the word difficult to get the tongue around. Besides, they don’t mean it. They see too many enemies in every dissenting sign and give the impression of believing the poor and helpless lesser beings. Workers employed at menial jobs are to be exploited, diminished, kept in their place; it’s good for business; those who dare speak out, those ungrateful sods, those who actually might believe they deserve more and better find their jobs auctioned off to foreign workers who are less likely to demand more and better than their Canadian counterparts whom they replace. Canadian workers are sacrificed to a life of drudgery as opportunities in trade schools and further education are closed to them. The have-nots have even less and the haves much, much more. Big Business, aided and abetted by an anti-union, anti-worker government, no longer need train workers, they can be found elsewhere. And that’s the problem and the threat facing low-income earners: a lifetime of nowhere and nothingness. For that, they can thank the likes of Jason Kenney and the Harper gang and those profiteering exploiters in the service industries.

To hear the lords and masters of industry, Canadian workers act too Canadian. I recall, I don’t remember where, reading that employers love foreign workers because they don’t act Canadian. By that was meant they worked harder, work longer hours, kept their mouths shut, didn’t make waves, didn’t complain, and didn’t dare believe that they deserved more and better. In other words, foreign workers are pliable, flexible, submissive and exploitable. If not, if they dare get uppity, there is always the threat of shipping them home. For the foreign worker, and he is not the enemy, the choice is stark: slavery in Canada or in their homeland Though employers and the Harper gang will deny it, all this is in aid of suppressing wages of low-income earners and even of those in the trades. Speak out there are others willing to step in. Of course, it’s not necessary to speak out in some instances. Not if you are Canadian. Many of us may remember the episode of RBC workers training foreign workers to take their jobs overseas. And we all know of Sandy Nelson and Shaunna Jennison-Yung, the two long-time service workers in a Weyburn Saskatchewan restaurant, who were fired due to “restructuring” and replaced by the very workers they had trained. Restructuring. That’s jargon, employers taking advantage of a government program to exploit foreign workers at the cost of Canadian jobs to maximize profits. With business, loyalty is apparently a one-way street.

And, as always happens when these things occur, business and the Harper stooges loudly condemn the abuses and promise a harsh response. And, as always, nothing happens. Jason Kenney (notable for using government letterheads to fundraise for the Conservative Party, for which he received a warning slap on the wrist), Minister of Employment and Social Development, a vocal supporter of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, a true free enterpriser, has so far, failed to take any significant action against the exploiters. It’s business as usual.

The lords and loudmouths of free enterprise, and that includes every member of Harper and his gang, always demand more of others than from themselves and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program appears to be one of the results, Canadian workers sacrificed on the altar of profit.

Originally created to help business find skilled workers not found among Canadian workers, it has been expanded and degraded to include even low skill, low paying, jobs. Employers love it. But its abuses and excesses are well documented. The program must be ended. Now.

Jason Kenney and the Harper gang have a lot to answer for. This regime has not just abandoned the Canadian worker it has betrayed him. It is also betrayed those foreign workers who have done nothing wrong except seek better lives for themselves and their loved ones. A free market mentality that encourages the exploitation and degradation of workers around the globe, feeding off their fears and desperation at any cost, including putting lives and limbs at risk, is a product of a bygone era and must be exterminated.

SO WHY IS NO ONE LAUGHING?

How troubled should Canadians be with a government that talks obsessively of jobs and the economy and yet seems as obsessed with spying on Canadians? What do they fear? What are they looking for? We know that they have little tolerance for those who step on their toes, but do they really believe the Supreme Court is their enemy or that those vocal opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are threats. Does the Harper crew, notwithstanding its majority, fear the electorate so much and doubt its own platform that it feels compelled to pass new bills that rig elections in their favour? Is every differing voice the voice of the enemy, someone out to get them? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes.

On June 13th of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada gave Harper another reason to whine and smear. On a criminal matter appearing before it, the court had rendered a unanimous verdict on internet spying saying that police cannot get information on internet users from service providers without first obtaining a warrant. This is extremely significant because it places in jeopardy Bill C-13, the “cyberbullying” bill, introduced last November by Peter MacKay. The Court agreed that everyone had a reasonable expectation of privacy and the right to not fall victim of unreasonable search and seizure.

The bill, which critics do say does address the issue of cyberbullying in the first few pages, appears to go much further than its stated goals and seems more interested in gaining access to user information from service providers without warrants and protecting those providers from repercussions when they voluntarily hand over information to law enforcement agents. This bill allows Harper to share data collected on Canadians with the US and, presumably, any country it deems friendly. This is clearly about more than sexual predators though the Harper and MacKay would have us believe otherwise. It’s about looking for enemies, real and imagined in every charity, political organization and individual expressing a hostile thought regarding Harper and his prolonged war against the citizenry and democratic principles.

This is not new for Harper. In the past, Vic Toews, another of their ilk and one time justice and public safety minister, attempted something similar. As today, there were howls of outrage and Toews, good Conservative that he was, opted for the smear of vitriol over a dab of peacemaking honey by charging all critics of siding with pornographers. Nice. He now sits as a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba.

Opposition members and legal experts have said C-13 will not pass as is and that it should be split into two: an anti-bullying bill and what, an all purpose spying bill? Of course, what could the Harper gang do but ignore the recommendations. It made sense. Besides, doing as the critics suggested might deny Harper the opportunity of another excuse to malign the Supreme Court. The new Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, appointed without consultation by Harper and protested by the opposition because they believed him not to have the “detachment” necessary for the job, i.e., he might be biased towards the Harper gang, surprised everyone, no doubt Harper most of all, when he agreed the bill should be split in two. In an appearance before a Conservative dominated committee, he warned that law agencies would be given too broad a power to investigate Canadians on mere suspicion and that C-13 gave immunity to providers who spied on users and voluntarily gave data to law enforcement. The Conservative members of the committee, not surprisingly, turned on him, their own appointee, as they are wont to do with anyone who doesn’t behave as they wish.

Will the recent Supreme Court decision cause MacKay and the rest of the gang to reconsider the bill? Don’t count on it. This was another defeat for Harper and gang and it is very unlikely he will be in an accommodating mood. Poor baby Harper. Like all spoiled children, he will likely keep on trying until he either beats the Supreme Court Justices into submission or the public decides it’s had enough of him.

SO WHAT ARE THEY DRINKING?

Yes, they are stubborn folk those Harper louts full of the certitude of their righteous virtue, superior vision and the sanctity of their goals. What reason is there to heed the voices of others when they, the Conservatives, are whole and perfect in thought, word and deed?

Then we have Chris Alexander to help us rethink that. Not too long ago, he, along with Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Kellie Leitch and the nasty Poilievre, was part of a cadre of Conservative bobbleheads appearing on various news programs reciting the Harper message of the day. They weren’t much then and they aren’t much now, all promoted and confirming the Peter Principle. Alexander is the citizen and immigration minister. In the past, he gave the impression of amiability, the least offensive of Rempel, Bergen, Leitch, but, with his elevation to minister, all that is gone. He has become angry and shrill and altogether unpleasant. I never did like the scripted Conservative messages he offered, the obfuscations and outright lies, but now I find him as offensive as the rest though, I must admit, Poilievre still beats him and the rest but only by a hair.

Bill C-24, Alexander’s baby, would strip away the citizenship of dual nationals accused of membership to an outlawed organization or “convicted of terrorism, high treason, or spying offences.” Rocco Galati, that Constitutional gnat to Harper, has moved to challenge the bill. What did Alexander do? He did what Harper Conservatives always do: began to smear Galati on CBC’s Power and Politics, June 10, saying, Galati “…also defended, a senior member, the patriarch of the Khadr family, who was a senior member of al-Qaeda.” The inference was clear: because Galati defended someone the Harper gang (and perhaps most Canadians) did not like, the lawyer was suspect as well. We’ve seen this before.

That’s nasty enough. The proposed bill is even worse and its effect is so far-reaching, it could affect all Canadians and those applying for citizenship. Any Canadian citizen, Canadian born or not, can now be arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship. Those seeking to become citizens will have a more difficult time of it and the cost to apply will triple. Immigration officers will replace judges with the power to revoke citizenship. Too, those threatened with revocation of citizenship will no longer have the right to an oral hearing before a judge. In fact, there need not be a formal hearing. As well, the ability to appeal a revocation has been removed. Residency requirements will be increased; time already spent in Canada before the application for residency is made will not be counted. This is not the behaviour of a sane, civil, democratic government. Instead, it’s a clear signal of a government deeply, deeply, troubled. The Harper regime trusts no one, is fearful of everyone and suffers no qualms in abusing the rights of all it deems unsuitable and undeserving of Canada’s generosity. I though Alexander was better than that. Clearly I was wrong. The bill is as morally bankrupt and flawed as Harper and his gang.

Doubtless Alexander’s comments of Galati are reflective of a regime still furious and smarting by the judgement Galati had won that cost Harper Nadon. During a June 11th appearance on CBC’s As It Happens, Alexander, perhaps feeling embattled by the aggressive questioning by Carol Off about Syrian refugees and how many of the them, government sponsored, had arrived in Canada, appeared to have lost his cool when pressed about the number. He abruptly hung up claiming he had to get back to the House for Question Period. Later, he would whine that As It Happens had been “unfair” and “unprofessional” in not explaining why he had hung up. They had, but Alexander’s response of shoot first and blame others rather than own up to the fact that his poor showing gave the impression of a minister behaving evasively to tough, legitimate questioning as well as having a meltdown. This, too, is typical of the regime. Harper and gang are quick and eager to ride roughshod over others when it suits them and are even quicker and more eager to whine about unfair treatment and a biased media when challenged. Another example of the if you ain’t for them, you must be against them mentality. With a mindset like that, Canadians have every reason to be suspicious of bills C-13, C-23, and C-24 and the Harper agenda. These are the kinds of legislation a paranoiac might propose. Certainly, if passed, these bills could imperil many of the rights, including assembly, fair comment, and criticism, Canadians take for granted. This relentless erosion of Democracy is the kind of behaviour one would expect from a third world dictatorship. For how much longer will Canadians remain silent before they let it be known they’ve had enough? Poor Harper. Poor baby Alexander.

With this gang, perhaps like this article, it never ends. We have Peter MacKay, again, this time proposing new anti-prostitution laws that prostitutes, lawyers, police and almost everyone else agrees are punitive and very likely to put street workers at even greater risk including risk of death. Based on the so-called “Nordic Model”, Bill C-36 targets and criminalizes buyers primarily and prostitutes who solicit trade anywhere underage children might be “reasonably” expected to be. Come on. When’s the last time you saw prostitutes soliciting before a school or in a mall? The bill is ridiculous in its expectations, unworkable and inherently wrong. The Tory majority will ram the bill through and, as they have so often, ignore legal experts, critics, opposition members, and those very workers they claim to seek to protect. And, as have other bills, almost all inadequately vetted by legal experts, if even vetted, C-36 will meet a similar fate when brought before the courts. It will be tossed offering Harper another opportunity to claim he was mugged by an “activist” court.

Recently, we had Harper announcing Canada’s gift of $3.5 billion to promote the health and care of mothers and children of the less developed world. Maybe this is what Harper would have as his legacy as he prepares to leave office, if not before the next election, surely shortly after.

But even this worthwhile goal, helping the impoverished in other areas achieve a better, healthier life, he cannot help but taint in his own inimitable way. The exact nature of the funding was not made clear and critics were quick to note that there appears to be no room for family planning when it is estimated that over 47,000 women die because of unsafe abortions. For Harper, ideology trumps the lives of the impoverished. Canada’s gift is great publicity as a caring nation, but it’s marred by Harper’s inserting of his own anti-abortion stance. And while it may enhance Harper’s image abroad, and Canada’s by extension, how will this impress the folks at home, when some First Nations communities haven’t had potable water for decades, yes, decades, where suicides rates among natives are at unconscionable levels, and where most of the homes are poorly insulated and have no running water. What about the homeless and ill on our streets? By all means, those folks in less developed areas must be helped and we should do what we can and must. But it must not be just about photo-ops and positive publicity on the world stage and certainly not at the expense of those at home.

But at that summit in Toronto, Harper also addressed another issue. In this he expressed his befuddlement that people in the developed world still refuse to get vaccinated. Said he, and with a straight face, “It’s hard for me not to get very emotional about this because we know, we scientifically know, what vaccinations and immunizations have done for us, personally, in our generation and generations after us. I frankly don’t understand people who are walking away in our society from something that’s proven to work” (CBC, Trinh Theressa Do, May 29th). Did you catch that? Harper said, “scientifically know”.

This is the fellow whose government has muzzled and fired scientists for speaking out. This is the fellow whose government, so obsessed with pushing the Keystone XL pipeline, has denied the possibility of Climate Change. This against the overwhelming evidence that it is real and the threat it poses is real! This is the fellow whose minister of natural resources at the time, Joe Oliver, loudly dismissed and dissed world famous climatologist James Hansen questioning the scientist’s reputation and fairness. Science and Harper? When it suits his purpose, Harper will swing on a dime. Otherwise, he hears no one, listens to no one: the experts are wrong and only Harper and the gang know the answers. And, while I agree with him regarding vaccinations, I had to laugh at his hypocrisy. But it’s not funny that Harper can turn his back on what most of us “scientifically know”: good maternal health care also includes family planning; 47,000 lives should not be tossed aside because world leaders refused to acknowledge abortions are a fact of life in all parts of the world. Why not make them safe? You don’t have to support abortion; just allow women a choice.

Speaking of choice, this evening, June 17, as I write this, the Harper gang announced that the Northern Gateway Project had been approved. No choice for those against it. Unusually for Harper and his gang, not a single Conservative could be found to take questions from the media. Were they hiding? Too, Justin Trudeau pointed out something I had not caught. Harper has always branded his reign of terror and error as “the Harper government” which about says it all about its priorities. It’s never been about Canada or Canadians but about Harper and special interests. All decisions made, and they are always good, wise, and loved by every Canadian citizen, even if rammed down our throats, have been made, Conservatives are quick and proud to inform us, by the “Harper government”. Not this evening. Trudeau noted that it was not the “Harper government” that had approved the Enbridge pipeline deal but the “Canadian Government”. Could it be Harper is worried?

Immediately, all opposition leaders spoke out against the deal and vowed to scrap it if they became the governing party. First Nations spokesman along the route from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, B.C. vowed to defeat the project. There are five court cases pending. Three quarters of British Columbians reject the deal believing the risk too great and the huge tourist industry at risk. And it is. The pipeline would pass through pristine wilderness lands and rugged, treacherous terrain. The effects of ruptured pipes and spillage would be immediate, widespread and long lasting. Over two hundred tankers a year would travel through difficult coastal water channels endangering all marine habitat including polluting the navigable routes of Pacific grey whales, orcas, humpbacks and other marine life accounting for much of the tourism. That a majority of British Columbians and almost all First Nations people are against the deal makes no never mind. This is about Harper’s agenda: jobs, the economy, and, of course, the health and welfare of Corporate interests. In a recent speech, Harper suggested he would not sacrifice one job for the protection of the environment or to stave off climate change. Said he: “It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change. But we seek to deal with it in a way that will protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth, not destroy jobs and growth in our countries. And frankly, every single country in the world, this is their position.

“No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking” (from The Sidney Morning Herald, Crispin Hull, June 12, 2014).

That about says it all about Harper and his gang.

IT IS TIME FOR THE CREAM

What I have outlined is not a picture I have painted. Rather it is Harper’s work. It is vile, ugly and corrupt.

Standing up to Harper and his crew can be a hazardous business; it can leave your reputation in tatters, your patriotism questioned, your privacy invaded, your trust violated.

The Harper gang believe themselves misunderstood. They believe every sceptical voice raised against them is the voice of the enemy. They believe the public ignorant and uniformed. For that, they blame the media, the scholars and scientists, the Supreme Court justices, and you and I if we oppose them. So Harper and gang use loopholes to make it difficult if not impossible to apply successfully to access to information. By the time some do get the information, it is often too late and useless because of the passage of time or because so heavily redacted. Even though this is, in theory, our government and the Harper gang our employees, they act as if we are nuisances and prefer that we remain uninformed and ignorant. Harper and his gang obstruct at every opportunity and, because they are fearful and suspicious, treat us all as threats. And, because they see us as threats, they would spy on us behind bills meant to catch cyberbullies and pedophiles. The Harper gang is afraid of frank, open, and honest discussion. They pass legislation that is hidden, disguised, undiscoverable until too late and condemn those who demand a full accounting of those laws including full disclosure. They are impossible to shame because they know no morality except self-interest, economic interest, and the grasping and keeping of power. The Harper gang appears to speak with one voice with one thought. One looks at them and finds it almost impossible to differentiate one pig from another in a litter wallowing in the filth. They hear no one, listen to no one, accept no advice, least of all from “experts” and “scientists” and “scholars” for whom they hold the utmost contempt unless those same “experts”, “scientists”, and “scholars” just happen to hold the same concerns and narrow values as the Harper Conservatives.

And because it is Harper and his gang, they set up to rig the game and invalidate your vote and silence your voice. They have the majority. Don’t like it? Too bad.

Are these folks really offering you what you voted for? Do they really stand for what you believe and desire? Does honesty, integrity, decency, fairness, justice, humility, kindness, openness, transparency, democracy, dignity mean anything to you? If not, you really do belong with Harper and his thugs.

 ***

BUT SUCH IS THE IRRESISTIBLE NATURE OF TRUTH, THAT ALL IT ASKS AND ALL IT WANTS IS THE LIBERTY OF APPEARING. – Thomas Paine.

 

THE HARPER GANG: VILE ACTS BY VILE BODIES

Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? – Maurice Freehill

It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for any public office. – H.L. Mencken

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE: THE MINISTER FROM 1984

The government’s recent backtracking on the vicious, mislabelled Fair Elections Act offers little comfort for opponents of Bill C-23. After months of stonewalling and fighting tooth-and-nail to keep it as it was, “perfect” in Pierre Poilievre’s twisted Orwellian world, the calculatingly partisan Minister of Democratic Reform announced on Friday, April 25, the government would be willing to consider amendments. On the surface, that sounded good. The Ottawa Citizen in its April 28th editorial (A Better Fair Elections Act) was quick to praise the Harper crew saying, “the government wisely responded to criticism…” and “The ability to change to one’s mind is a sign of maturity and the government should get credit for it,” Why? What have I missed that the editors of the Citizen did not? To my mind, the Citizen was far too quick and far generous in its praise as well as far too forgiving of Poilievre and the rest of the gang who, in bringing forth this Bill in the first place, revealed themselves yet again as uncooperative, arrogant, intractable, untruthful, inane, loutish, incompetent, buffoonish, asinine, slanderous, and anti-democratic. Harper and his gang do not possess enough respect and decency for Parliament, Parliamentarians and the public to even offer pretence of a show of courtesy by consulting with the opposition regarding proposed changes to the Elections Act. That is extremely worrisome when one considers how expansive and significant the proposed changes are to the fundamental right of Canadians to vote; if allowed to stand as is, Bill C-23 would not only affect all voters, many of them negatively, it would also rig the game and entrench, simply by making it easier to do so, widespread cheating, not by voters, as Harper would have us believe, but by political parties, especially those with money.

But Poilievre, that partisan weasel, could not even bring himself to do from the start what was right and decent and honest. For almost three months, Poilievre, backed by the Harper gang, refused to consult with or listen to, the voices of opposition to his party’s updating of the Elections Act. For almost three months Poilievre, on behalf of his government, ignored the warnings and pleas of citizens, scholars, lawyers, and past and present Chief Electoral Officers that the Bill was bad and badly needed fixing if not scrapping altogether. This is the same government that for almost three months extensively and selectively quoted (and misquoted) from a report by Harry Neufeld, former B.C. Chief Electoral Officer, to bolster support for its allegations of voter fraud. According to Neufeld, the Tories were less than truthful in their interpretation of his report, cherry picking items out of context to frame their arguments. As Neufeld pointed out, there was no issue of voter fraud but, rather, concerns of Elections workers poorly trained to perform their duties properly. Poilievre and others in the Tory ranks, most notably Brad Butt ignored all this ploughing ahead with their game plan while they continued to misrepresent the report by Harry Neufeld. In fact, the only fraud perpetrated has not been by voters but by Harper’s gang. Not only did they misrepresent Harry Neufeld’s report, there was Conservative Brad Butt who stood in the House testifying before the cameras how he had witnessed with his own two beady eyes opposition campaign workers scooping up Voter Information cards discarded by apartment dwellers which were then turned over to others who would pass themselves off as the voters named on the cards. Butt, confirming the aptness of his name, even did a little bit of bad acting, demonstrating how the cards were discarded and picked up. The thing is, Brad Butt finally ‘fessed up: it never happened; was all a big, fat lie.

So why did he do that? Clearly it was to strengthen Poilievre’s suggestions of widespread voter fraud, which, so far, he has failed to support with numbers or evidence. Again, with this band of scoundrels, this is not surprising; in fact, it is predictable. Lying and misrepresentation appears to be the norm with these vile Conservative bodies, as routine as their habit of smearing those who oppose them. Look at how they treated Neufeld and his report. But, if unsurprising, if predictable, what should concern Canadians is that Poilievre, with the assist of loutish blowhard Dean del Mastro, himself now facing four charges for breaching the Elections Act, had, from the days when the robocalls began to be investigated, embarked in what appears to be a vindictive, vicious, personal vendetta against Elections Canada and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. Of CEO Mayrand and his criticisms of Bill C-23, particularly regarding the move of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the Department of Public Prosecutor, Poilievre had this to say in a recent appearance before a House of Commons committee defending his “Fair” Elections Act: “It is no surprise the CEO would like to remain in charge of the commissioner. He is fighting to retrain his power, making some incredible claims, and inventing some novel legal principles to do it” (Annie Bergeron-Oliver, iPolitics, April 8, 2014). He also went on to assert that Mayrand wanted a bigger budget and less accountability. In early March of this year, Poilievre had challenged Mayrand’s impartiality, accusing him of “wearing a team jersey”. These are incredible accusations for a sitting Member of Parliament, especially the Minister of Democratic Reform, to level against a member of a government agency charged with the role of government watchdog on behalf of the public. This is how one vile Minister of the Crown represents Canadians; he smears the reputations of others with impunity, without shame and without evidence. On what basis did Poilievre make these charges? None but pure bile and utter gall. What made it even more offensive was that Poilievre could not even disguise his contempt for Mayrand, Elections Canada and the public. He made it abundantly clear in the House that it did not matter what its advice, Elections Canada was answerable to Poilievre, not Poilievre to them. That is true; he is Mayrand’s boss, but this is no way to treat a public servant who has done no more than his job in looking after the best interests of Canadians. It is also true that Elections Canada and Poilievre both work for Canadians; when one body is charged with looking after my interest while another his political interests, I know whom I trust. The attack against Mayrand was deeply offensive, mean-spirited, and personal and appeared meant to attack his credibility and integrity. That is low, even for this particularly partisan and nasty member of Harper’s team. Unfortunately, such abuses are not unusual or unexpected from any member of Harper’s thuggish gang.

But if stonewalling, smearing others, and adopting that cloak of omniscient perfectibility for months were not bad enough, the conservatives in finally agreeing to concessions, could not even work up a pretence to generosity or fairness: the opposition would have only three days, from April 28 to April 30, to study and debate the amendments (numbers of which vary from 250 to 300) before the final vote May 1st. Three days. The government-loaded committee will determine the final look of the Bill, which, at its best, will have allowed opposition members of the committee only a cursory examination. Even as I write this, May 2, 2014, there has yet to be a result; apparently the deadline has shifted. Even if extended by a few days, the time-line to do a fair and complete assessment is still far too brief for that many proposed amendments. But this is Poilievre and the Harper gang at their sleazy worst. Democracy takes another beating.

As for credit for finally agreeing to some amendments regardless of how many or how substantial, if substantial? They will get none from me. Leave that to the Conservative Postmedia group. Rather, they deserve no credit but rather annihilation at the polls. They have made a mockery by rigging the game.

Doubtless, the Harper gang will agree to some suggestions by the opposition, perhaps make minor tweaks in others and, in still others, appear to be giving ground while still preserving what they desire. It will not be their integrity though, in truth, there was little of that to preserve. And whatever changes they do agree to, if any, from the opposition, they will no doubt loudly proclaim themselves true champions for democracy, the Party that listens. Of course, it will be a lie but the Conservatives do know their audience. Most don’t care, most are asleep, most will swallow any lie if repeated often enough.

HOLY MOLEY, AREN’T WE GOOD?

We know some of the changes the Conservatives are willing to make. The Voter Information Card is still gone. Vouching of a sort will be allowed, though those vouching and those being vouched for will be required to sign an oath with the person doing the vouching having also to offer proof of address. As the NDP critic Craig Scott suggests, this will still disenfranchise the homeless who have no address and are unlikely to find another to vouch for him, who does. It could also affect First Nations people, seniors, and students.

But the muzzling of the CEO remains in place, even though Poilievre claims he or she can say whatever they wish in interviews, releases or comments. However, he refuses to accommodate the opposition by putting it in ink. It stands as Poilievre initially outlined it: the CEO and Elections Canada cannot put out ads encouraging Canadians to vote. What is it that Harper and the gang fear? Who do they wish to exclude? Well, we know don’t we, those folks least likely to vote for them.

One good move is the elimination of the section that exempted from campaign expenses certain fundraising calls to donors who gave at least $20 in past years. Too, it extends to three years from one how long robocall companies must keep certain records. These are good moves. They have removed the right of incumbents to pick polling station supervisors. That is another good change, which will reduce the risk of biased outcomes should a dispute during voting or vote counts occur. However, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which was the investigative body of Elections Canada, will still be moved from Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the Department of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. One can anticipate, particularly with this government, plenty of opportunity for political interference and abuse by the governing party. That’s not good. As well, the Harper gang still refuses to allow the Commissioner to compel witnesses to testify thereby greatly reducing the risk of those breaching the Elections Act being caught or punished. With little to no risk of punishment, candidates and political parties will feel emboldened to cheat. This, plus moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the DPP, appears likely to benefit some and not others. Members of governing regimes suspected of cheating might not be investigated as readily or as rigorously as those from opposition parties. With this Harper gang, that is almost a guaranteed certainty.

Too, it is unconscionable that parties will not have to provide documentation for electoral expenses. The Conservative Party, the richest political party in Canada, will clearly be the beneficiary of this missed opportunity for the Harper gang to do the right thing. As well, ant this too is unconscionable, Poilievre has in place another move to restrict the independence of Elections Canada: Elections Canada must now seek the approval of the Treasury Board before hiring staff or advisors. Just think of that. That’s the same Treasury Board whose president is Tony Clement most notable for his anti-unionism stance and for the 50 million dollar slush fund that went into his riding during the G-8 and G-20 Conferences in 2010.

Regardless of how Harper and gang spin it, and they have, this is a government that has not wavered in it’s idée fixe of perverting democracy for its own end of obtaining power, clinging to power and wielding power like a bludgeon as they have repeatedly with their majority. The final result of the Fair Elections Act may satisfy some; for most, it will just be window dressing to distract from the subversion of the electoral process. We must not forget there will be 30 new electoral ridings in place for the next election and they will have achieved the Conservative desired goal of skewing the election results. That is the intent and usually the outcome of gerrymandering. It is expected that, based on the outcome of the last election, the Conservatives will gain at least 22 more seats.

Amazingly, and I have commented on all this before, the Canadian public seems barely interested. Harper is still seen as the best leader on issues regarding the economy and jobs. The scandals, his poor judgements, his deceitfulness regarding the costs of the F-35 jets, his bungled handling of the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy affair, the numerous prorogations of Parliament, the scandals of padding expense claims by MPs, his penchant for limiting debate on his many omnibus bills, his refusal to listen, his refusal to admit to mistakes, his smearing of opponents, the ease and willingness with which he throws aides and friends under buses, appear not to affect his standing at all. The public, by and large, either too stupid, too self-interested, or simply too apathetic, is not interested in holding him or his party accountable. Ethics, integrity, truth, honesty, a sense of shame, can be made the least of concerns for the public for the price of a few dollars saved in shiny promises. Harper and his gang know this; they have relied on this. As long as Harper offers voters cheap, shiny promises and plays on cheap, irrational fears and picks on easy targets, he knows they can be cheaply bought. One cannot but fear how much Harper and his thugs will be allowed to get away with before the public wakes up and finally says it’s had enough. The Fair Elections Act, as it stood as Poilievre first envisioned it, threatened to entrench the very behaviour that led Elections Canada to investigate the robocalls scandals, the false expense claims made by members of the Conservative Party, the attempts to subvert the electoral process. Perhaps the amendments finally settled on will be enough and good enough to spare Canadians that, but they cannot be enough to let Harper off the hook: Poilievre could, and should, have simply consulted with others before starting down this dirty road.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: FOREIGN WORKERS AND THE EXPLOITERS

I would like to briefly touch upon the scandals surrounding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). I believe it wrong as it is; it is unfair to Canadian workers and should be scrapped. This is Jason Kenney’s baby and he must carry the can for this. Businesses have abused a program that was meant to fill skilled job vacancies but somewhere along the way has shifted to offering jobs for fast food chains and other low income positions that guarantee foreign workers 40 hours work week while putting more and more Canadians, who are not given such guarantees, on the unemployment lines. Some unions claim that even today, the government has made secret deals with 230 companies to exempt them from paying foreign workers what they pay Canadians. This in spite of the public outrage last year upon learning foreign workers were allowed to be paid at 15% below what Canadians were. If true, this government’s efforts to help increase the profit margins of their business cronies by the displacement of Canadian workers, must be met with the severest of punishments: total destruction at the polls. Some of those who hire foreign workers claim that they work harder are less demanding, and more reliable. That is code for more pliant, more accommodating and more fearful; if there are abuses, these workers are least likely to complain. Perhaps if workers were paid more, were assured of full-time employment without split shifts, and assured they would still have their jobs after 14 and 28 years of loyal service, there might be less reason for Canadian workers to move on. Unfortunately, for businesses, loyalty is apparently a one-way street. When a government, especially one as pro-business as this regime, makes it easy for companies to abuse Canadian and foreign workers without any real penalty, it is hardly surprising they do so. It is presently estimated that there are over 600 thousand temporary foreign workers. They are not all highly skilled workers I am willing to bet. This is sheer exploitation and must be stopped. I do not believe Canadians are lazy, useless, and too proud to take low income jobs; I do believe they are too proud to allow themselves to be treated as menials or forced into a life time of servitude as part-time workers, undeserving of even a full-time job and a wage that allows them to pay rent and feed their families and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Harper and his gang have abandoned Canadian workers sacrificing them on the altar of profit. Instead of investing in Canadians by setting up training and apprentice programs, this government encourages businesses to hire from outside. This leads to exploitation and depressed wages in the low-level, low-income fields.

There is clearly something wrong with the TFWP. Companies get away with abusing workers and the program and Jason Kenney and the Harper gang continue to vow that those who do so will pay a price. What price? Nothing appears to happen. Employers still abuse workers while Harper and this sleazy gang sing praises to themselves extolling their virtues as money managers and (part-time) job creators.

Part-time jobs are not careers. Depressed wages are not roads to satisfaction or to a better life. But this is the future of many honest, hardworking Canadians. And for this, the Harper gang is mostly to blame.

It’s not the foreign workers who are at fault. No, those at fault are the dishonest, any-thing-for-a-fast-buck exploiters and a government that bends the rules that allows for that exploitation. If the offenders involved were not governments or well-known restaurant chains but individuals named Bullneck Machinegun Alfonso or Lenny the Weasel they might be investigated for racketeering.

Canadians don’t want to work? That’s a lie. Big business knows that and so does this Harper regime. As for those caught abusing the system: boycott.

Scrap this program. In order to do that, we might first have to scrap Harper and his gang of vile anti-democratic bodies.

***

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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