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STEPHEN HARPER RIGS THE VOTE

The wolf in sheep’s clothing is a fitting emblem of the hypocrite. Every virtuous man would rather meet an open foe than a pretended friend who is a traitor at heart. –H. F. Kletzin

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. – Confucius

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE CONSERVATIVE WHINE: I’M A VICTIM TOO

Harper and his cretinous gang have set out to rig the next election. Oh, it’s not as obvious as stuffing the ballots or party faithful posing as folks long dead; it’s more insidious and, if all goes the conservative way, and they will, the methods of rigging will become entrenched into law. Not only will skirting election rules and cheating be easier, and those involved have less reason to worry about being caught and prosecuted, the changes will most benefit the liars, the cheaters and the vote riggers who form our present government.

Unlike as in the past, when the public was informed of conservative attempts to subvert democracy and the electoral process, circumventing rules through in-out scams, robocalls, illegally accepting corporate donations, fudging campaign expenses, illegal overspending, passing themselves off as Elections Canada officials, redirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, this Harper regime of vile bodies intend to make it possible to do even more of that. When that happens, and it will be soon, the public may never learn of breaches to the Elections Act or of those involved unless, of course, the offenders are from the side of the opposition. The new Bill, C-23, invites corruption because there is almost no possibility of discovery, charges or penalty when the election rules are breached. Had this bill been in effect the last two elections, we might never have known about any of the ethical violations by members of Harper’s gang. The bill will pass and pass with few, if any, amendments, because Harper has his majority and he is far from reluctant to wield it like a club. Once it does, it is likely we will never know if Shelly Glover goes for the hat trick in attempting to skirt election laws.

C-23, is concerned with reforms to the Elections Act. In a page stolen from Orwell’s 1984, the Harper Tories have embarked on a campaign where nothing means what it says. Thus Pierre Poilievre, the Minister for Democratic Reform would be, in the real world, and in the real sense, the Minister For Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression. Bill C-23, in Harper’s world, is called the Fair Elections Act; in the real world it would be called the Screw Democracy Act. This is no exaggeration however outrageous it appears.

Bill C-23 appears to be a direct response to recent investigations by Elections Canada spearheaded by the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand. The result, especially if passed as is, as Harper clearly intends it to be, will almost certainly lead to the absolute corruption of the election process. While there may be some worthwhile aspects to Bill C-23, it is the not so good that is most worrying and which offers clear evidence of the partisanship, pettiness and vindictiveness which permeates and poisons almost everything this regime does.

Portraying themselves as victims of a conspiracy by Elections Canada, Poilievre, in announcing the proposed bill to the media, was moved to say, “the referee should not be wearing a team jersey”. With those few words, Poilievre chose to carry through with his unwarranted and unsupported character assassination of Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada. Smearing opponents is not new for Harper’s scummy crew; they have resorted to it many times in the past and always against someone or some group who dared to question the Harper gang decisions. If Poilievre has evidence that Elections Canada is out to “get” the conservatives as he suggests, why doesn’t he present evidence of such? He will not because he cannot. He spews filth and hopes it sticks. And it will for some, especially those cretins who fantasize about governments out to get them.

POILIEVRE: DEMOCRACY? WHAT ABOUT IT?

This vendetta with Elections Canada goes a long way back. It dates from the 2006 elections when Elections Canada began, in 2007, to investigate the conservative ‘in-out’ scam whereby parties shuffle funds between ridings and the party to rip of taxpayers with illegal refunds. For that escapade, in a deal reached with federal prosecutors, charges were dropped against four Conservative Party officials, including Senators Irving Gertstein, proud conservative bagman, and Doug Finley and the party paid a maximum fine of $52,000 and returned $230,000 for illegal claims. The conservatives hailed the agreement as a great victory in that “no individuals were found to have done anything wrong” (National Post, April 10, 2012, Glen McGregor & Stephen Maher). That’s legalese by the way. Something happened: a deal was made, money handed over and folks walked away unpunished. Laws were broken and ethics discarded. With conservatives, ethics are easily tossed aside.

Since then, when the investigations began, Poilievre and loudmouth Dean del Mastro had embarked on a smear campaign that was loud, vicious and always under the protection of privilege because waged in the House. Mayrand and Elections Canada were accused time-and-again of bias by the whining pair after Elections Canada received many complaints of irregularities during the 2006, 2008 and 2011 campaigns. As a result of these investigations, the public learned about the in-out scams, the robocalls scandal, of Shelly Glover and James Bezan refusing to submit full reports on their campaign expenses. Eventually, del Mastro himself became caught up with his own scandal, facing four charges relating to the 2008 campaign with allegations that he had failed to report $21,000 in expenses and for filing a fraudulent document. I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude on hearing that. The Tories, caught in their own webs, cry foul, del Mastro even shedding actual tears of self-pity in the House. You could see it then, the claws were out: the Harper gang would strike back.

Meanwhile, Poilievre, that partisan toad, and today’s Minister of Rigged Elections and Voter Suppression, finally answering the call from Elections Canada for reform, after ignoring it for years, does so, but in so blatantly and prejudicial a manner that Tories on the sidelines must have felt a warm glow of pride swelling in their sere, tiny, vengeful hearts: Gotcha Mayrand and Elections Canada.

Canadians, however, should be extremely troubled and enraged. While the Chief Electoral Officer says of the bill that he and Elections Canada have not been consulted, Poilievre, however, asserts that, “I did meet with the CEO of Elections Canada some time ago, and we had a terrific and a very long meeting, at which I listened to all his ideas” (Macleans’s, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Feb. 3, 2014). One needs only examine aspects of the Bill to know Poilievre may have listened, but that’s about it. He certainly didn’t hear and heed. When Chief Electoral Officer Mayrand finally did respond to Poilievre’s intimations of bias on his part, he was to the point and particularly pertinent: the referee had been kicked off the ice.

Bill C-23 will certainly pass rammed down our throats with debate limited by the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Note that is not the majority of the popular vote; they only won 40% support from those who voted. But that 40% was sufficient to give them the majority in the House. And make no mistake: Harper’s governance, with limited debate, with multi omnibus bills, with legislation sneaked in without consultation or discussion, is nothing less than a tyranny. Perhaps not of a Putin or Pinochet kind, but sufficient to eventually lead to serious consequences for Canadians down the road. It’s a system that needs changing but, as we shall see, one that is not likely to happen thanks to Bill C-23 and the Liberals who apparently support aspects of this anti-democratic reform.

OKAY, LET’S TALK. THAT’S ENOUGH. ALL IN FAVOUR? PASSED.

But why this reform now; and why the haste?

Since Harper’s gang won its majority, they have been all but unstoppable in achieving their goals. They want something passed in the House, be it omnibus bills and hidden legislation, they ram it through. Every time. There is no consultation and only mere nods to a semblance of debate. What listening there is is just pretend listening and sometimes not even that bone; the results are as inevitable as the Harper thugs smearing Kevin Page while he was the Parliamentary Budget Officer or slamming Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada simply for doing their jobs: enforcing the laws and keeping Canadians informed. But the days of informing Canadians and enforcing election laws are about to end.

By the next election, there will be an additional 30 new ridings, the boundaries redrawn with the conservatives the happy beneficiaries. If Harper’s core of supporters hold, and there is no reason to believe they will not, these changes will almost certainly give a gerrymandered additional 22 conservative seats to the conservatives increasing their majority substantially and alarmingly. No doubt anxious, if only for the sake of appearances, not to be judged as too overt and greedy in their gerrymandering efforts, the conservatives will surrender the bone of 8 ridings for the opposition to fight over. It’s a rigged game. With even less of the popular votes than they have already, the conservatives could end with an even larger majority in the House. The thought is terrifying.

However, not content with even that all but certain possibility, Poilievre, savvy if oily partisan guttersnipe that he is, has finally responded to Elections Canada’s call to reform the Elections Act after his government had ignored such demands for years. On the surface, it seems to be good news for Canadians. It’s not. Not content with the cheating of the past, they have embarked on a road that is dark, deceitful and dangerous, reforming the act, true, but rigging the outcome just the same but in a fashion that is truly malevolent; Harper and his thugs wish not only to steal your vote but also deny others theirs. Poilievre would claim it’s a new and improved Bill, but that’s the snake oil salesman talking. Bill C-23 offers no pretence to fairness, no nod to honesty, no blush of shame for its lack of moral decency. It bodes ill for all Canadians and entrenches even more firmly my detestation of this group; their version of democracy doesn’t match mine. If it matches yours, shame on you.

Among the items Elections Canada sought was for more investigative powers to enforce the Elections Act. One of the things that would help them in this would have been the ability to compel witnesses to testify. These are not suspects, but those who may have knowledge of wrongdoing. That is not going to happen. In fact, Harper’s thugs have done exactly the opposite: Bill C-23 takes power away from Elections Canada; it emasculates the body. The cheaters will have been liberated to cheat: free at last, free at last, free at last.

One way the conservatives will have achieved this is by moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which is presently housed in Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which reports to the government. Now that is a huge step towards corrupting the system and denying Canadians the opportunity to be informed of any investigation of any party or individual suspected of breaching election laws. The mandate of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who, until the passage of Bill C-23, is an independent officer, “is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced” (Elections Canada). That independence, once the Bill is passed, will be stripped from him because it denies him of the right and duty to report directly to the public through their representatives in Parliament. He must approach the government of the day. If they don’t like what they hear, they can keep it out of the public eye. Yes, indeed, they have taken the referee off the ice.

Too, the Bill offers the real possibility of disenfranchising students, aboriginals and the truly marginalized. Incredible as it may seem, with voter turnout as low as it is, this government of tyrants has made it against the law for Elections Canada to place ads encouraging citizens to vote. Poilievre, that oleaginous shyster, would have us believe that political parties are the best means of getting people to vote. Yeah. I can easily imagine the Conservative Party placing ads where the marginalized live and urging them to vote. This is real chutzpah shamelessly flaunted and absolutely revelatory of the depths of Harper’s hypocrisy and contempt for democracy. He and his thugs have easily spent $136 million in promoting themselves in 2009-2010. Of that money, they spent millions promoting over-hyped, non-existent job programs. And yet Elections Canada cannot encourage voters to vote. Is that your version of democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 also goes after the voter information card. You know, the card Elections Canada mails you confirming your name and address and notifying you where to vote. Well, that, too, will no longer be used for ID purposes as it has been up to now. And if your name has been crossed off the electors’ list “in error” (or deliberately, who knows with this regime) you will have to take a written oath before receiving a ballot. For two elections, provincial and federal, my wife and I have been excluded from the rolls. And we own our home. If, for whatever reason, the voter is transient, has relocated to his parent’s home or moved in with a friend, neither the Elections Canada information card nor the word of family or friends vouching for you will be enough to allow you to vote. These, along with denying Elections Canada the right to remind citizens to vote will likely affect thousands, even hundreds of thousands, mostly students, aboriginals, the homeless, seniors and others who may be on the fringes. Do you believe this is democracy? If so, shame on you.

Bill C-23 will also allow parties to fundraise from past donors while campaigning without having to count their telephone marketing costs as election campaign expenses. This is simple rejigging of the formula to allow parties to spend more without having to claim it for elections purposes. Naturally, this will greatly help the money-rich conservatives who have mastered, if often in the sleaziest of ways, methods of expanding the list of supporters with no extra cost to them. It’s like a tax break, the richer they are, the more people they know, the less they have to pay. Another rigged advantage.

Bill C-23 absolves parties of being held accountable for party databases used without authorization. If this Bill had being in effect when “Pierre Poutine” was wreaking havoc, the conservatives would have got off scot-free. We would not have known and they would not have been revealed as the sleaze they are. With Bill C-23, the message is clear; campaign managers and party brass have been given permission to inform staffers they can cheat: “If you’re using databases for cheating purposes, we don’t want to know.”

Too, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections cannot inform the public of investigations without first informing the parties and then obtaining the permission of all parties involved, including those very individuals and/or parties accused of breaking the law and under investigation! That means there is almost no chance of prosecution and certainly no chance of the public learning of breaches to the Act. Just think of that. Bill C-23 effectively protects the villains against the good guys (Elections Canada and the public) and denies citizens the right to fair, honest elections. It actually appears to encourage cheats to break the laws. Yes, fines will be increased, and there is threat of even jail time but when the risks of discovery and penalty are placed at near zero, it should not surprise anyone that unethical politicians and their supporters would feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity. For that, we can thank Harper and his gang of chisellers. Poilievre is, in effect, saying to the cheats: “Go thou and sin more; there is no punishment.” Except perhaps for the truly wicked, the New Democrats or the other conservative party disguised as Liberals.

Harper’s thugs have set out to make Elections Canada impotent and they will have succeeded with the passage of this Bill. Not only must the Commissioner of Canada Elections be required to inform the subject of an investigation when it starts, MPs found to have violated the rules will be allowed to continue to sit while they appeal their cases. Now the cheats can continue to rig the laws in the House while, at the same time, dragging out lawsuits at public expense. Public scrutiny of election campaigns will have been brought to a grinding, undemocratic halt thanks to the conservatives and this Bill. Elections Canada will no longer have the power to enforce laws and inform Parliament and the public. If that doesn’t concern you, why doesn’t it?

While the irony of imposing debate limits on such a sweeping Bill named the Fair Elections Act is impossible to ignore, can anyone really claim to be surprised by the depths to which this sordid band of vote riggers have lowered themselves?

Well, there are a few more things.

There is another very serious troubling aspect of the Bill, one that demonstrates the egregious level of contempt Harper and gang hold of Parliament and of Canadians revolted by the shenanigans of the Senate. Bill C-23, while permitting the Chief Electoral Officer to seek approval to test a different voting method, i.e. one truly representative of the vote, say proportional representation, he “must first obtain the approval of the Senate and the House of Commons” to do so. Guess who controls the Red Chamber and the House? This is the conservative thug poking a stick into the eye of the outraged voter.

When pressed about the troubling aspects of the bill, Poilievre offers no satisfactory explanation and, when pressed about limiting debate, he doesn’t pretend to consider the question. This is vote rigging. This is a government that has set out the rules with full knowledge of an almost certain outcome. This is not by accident, not through misadventure or by inattention or oversight: this is by calculated design and from pure malice.

WHAT? ME WORRY? NOT NOW. I’M IN AND YOU’RE OUT.

Embroiled as they have been and are in scandal after scandal, one would think that Harper and his gang of lowlifes would wish to offer a semblance of adhering to democratic principles. Not a chance. That’s the perspective of a sentimentalist longing for the good old days, not that long ago, when politicians actually believed in the virtue of serving others rather than themselves. But such virtues went by way of the Dodo bird with the Liberal sponsorship scandal; Harper and his crew have simply entrenched the rot of corruption: with Bill C-23, they have sabotaged the democratic process. Shameless sleaze and slime have become the order of the day. With this gang of fixers and riggers, it is all about winning at any cost. How do you feel about that?

For Harper and thugs, truth and examination are dirty, fearful concepts only to be applied to all those who oppose them but never themselves. Thomas Cooper had it absolutely right when he said, “Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it.”

This week, while the world is watching the Olympics, the Harper gang will be putting forward its budget. As with Bill C-23, there will be little, if any debate. The budget will be rammed through because of the tyranny of Harper’s majority. Among the items in place is the government’s plan to audit all charities involved in some way with environmental concerns. Flaherty, the finance minister, had warned that charities involved in politics should be careful. That was a threat. By law, his department is not allowed to direct the CRA about who should be investigated. Because the CRA often acts on complaints, it is interesting to note that one of the complainants has been Ethical Oil.org, a creation of Alykan Velshi, Director of Issues Management for the PMO. We all know Harper and gang, along with the Liberals support the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Charities are allowed to use 10% of their monies for political purposes. Yet the Harper gang has set their sights on them.

And we know that Tony Clement, he of the $50 million slush fund and president of the Treasury which is missing $3.1 billion, has not only targeted public servants, he has set his sights on unions as well.

Finally, convinced that the “elite” media is conspiring against them, Harper and his gang have staff, for which taxpayers pay, that play the role of journalists questioning cabinet members about the great things his government is doing? Yeah, everyone is out to get them.

Does any of this concern you? If not, why not?

Of what are the conservatives, Harper and his rat crew afraid?

Everything it seems, including the truth.

 ***

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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STEPHEN HARPER’S SHUFFLE HUSTLE

He [the Emperor] is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders. – Jonathan Swift, The Voyage to Lilliput

Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed. – Irene Peter

Frank A. Pelaschuk

NEW! IMPROVED! YOU GOTTA BUY THIS!

“New faces, experienced hands”. That is the message we are to take from Stephen Harper’s latest cabinet shuffle. Well, is it?

We have the same old guard with the same old, tired Harper message: economy, tax cuts, jobs.

James Flaherty is still minister of Finance.

Tony Clement of the $50 million boondoggle and the missing $3.1 billion (does no one out there even care?) is still Treasury Board president.

John Baird is still minister of Foreign Affairs, still belligerent, still loud and still angry, just slightly less so.

Peter van Loan is still government leader of the House. Always a dedicated partisan, his most notable achievement of late has been the role of would-be brawler when, finger wagging, he charged across the floor of the house cursing opposition NDP members in a vivid display of the level of decorum and discourse he and his colleagues have unleashed upon the House since Harper took power.

Troglodyte Joe Oliver also retains his position as minister of Natural Resources. Combatively unpleasant, mean-spirited, ignorant, and partisan as they come, clearly the kind of person Harper likes, he has endeared himself to oil lobbyists with his free wheeling ad hominem attacks against environmentalists and scientists who warn of climate change and the dangers posed by the XL Keystone project.

Unfortunately, we still have Christian Paradis, in a reduced role, one of only four elected Tories from Quebec, Paradis who has himself been embroiled in several allegations of ethical “missteps” in the past. As a performer, he has proven himself to be ineffectual, inconsequential and as dazzling as a bowl of cold porridge.

Too, we have Gerry Ritz, still minister of Agriculture, the same minister who was there during the tainted meat scandal of 2008, the same minister who quipped of the listeriosis outbreak that this was akin to a “death by a thousand cold cuts”. Hundreds fell ill; twenty died. And he was there in 2012 when the Americans came to the rescue initiating one of the largest meat recalls in Canadian history upon finding tainted meat shipped from the Alberta XL Food plants. No quips that time. This is the same Ritz who will tell you that Conservatives have increased the number of food inspectors. It may be true that there have been more hires for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it may be true that they are called “Food Inspectors” but, thanks to Harper’s Conservatives, the role of meat inspectors have been reduced to that of rubber stampers of in-house testing results performed by meat producers.

And we have two, two! ministers who have simply swapped positions, weak, vain, Progressive Conservative sell out, Peter MacKay, moving to Justice and tough, stats-be-damned, twin to Toews, scapegoating panderer Rob Nicholson moving to Defence. A straight swap where everyone loses but those two.

And, finally, we have Leona Aglukkaq who has simply moved from Health to the Environment. As minister of health, she has proven time and again that she really took her job of health seriously going out of her way to ensure the health and well being of Big Business over that of Canadian consumers. Hell, with her in place, she made certain we did not even get a decent labelling program for our food products. Gotta love her.

So those, I guess, is what Conservatives mean by “experienced hands”. The same old same old.

ENEMIES

Changes? A few. Peter Kent is gone. No loss there. As Environmental minister, he was more effective as a Harperite stooge than as watchdog for Canadian interests against the depredations of Big Business. During his term, he has slashed environmental regulations, gutted the environmental assessment process, walked away from Kyoto Accord, and lied time and again about the reduction of Canadian environmental standards. Unfortunately, with Aglukkaq replacing him, Canadians and environmentalists have little reason to celebrate though I expect there may be more than a few business types out there gleefully rubbing their hands as they eye the resources of our National Parks. Also gone is shrill Conservative loyalist Marjory LeBreton, once government leader of the Senate and overseer of the whitewashed Duffy audit by two Conservative Senators. She, too, will likely be unmissed except by those Liberal media lickspittles who may have a soft spot for her. Vic Toews is also gone. That is good news. I know nothing about his replacement Steven Blaney so will refrain from saying anything more than this: I suspect he will be hard pressed to match his predecessor for unpleasantness and bile and sincerely hope he doesn’t try. Harper has enough of that type around him already. But, if Toews was of a blindly partisan mindset disturbingly parochial in meanness, spite and fury, he wasn’t alone; almost any member of Harper’s gang could have sprung up from the same vile, dark, dank woodwork that smacks of paranoia where everyone who opposes them is not only stupid, but a threat, a danger, something to be condemned and destroyed: they are the enemy.

And to prove that they would not suffer them easily, Harper and gang had little difficulty in working themselves into attacking their critics. Some were ridiculed as radicals, stooges for outside environmentalist interests; others had their patriotism questioned, reputations smeared and endured brutal innuendo regarding their mental competency; opponents of the online spying bill were ridiculed by Vic Toews with suggestions they sided with pedophiles and were soft on crime. And if you were unemployed, collecting welfare, well, you are naturally suspect: you are a fraudster, a liar, a druggie, an illegal, a lazy lowlife leech if not all of that. The Conservative staple? If you ain’t one of them, if you ain’t for Harper and his gang, you’re against them. It is that simple.

For those who believe this an exaggeration, they would do well to wake up and pay attention to the news. They would have learned on July 16 that the “newcomers” to cabinet posts were given a ten-point checklist kit direct from the PMO which included information not only of the bureaucrats to avoid who could not take yes or no for an answer but also “who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders” i.e., anyone who has dared to speak out against them.

That there is a list, that it would be long, should surprise no one. The only thing shocking about this revelation is that the secretive, underhanded Harper gang would submit such a list so baldly. That is either hubris or enthusiasm gone overboard.

This behaviour by Harper and gang is grossly wrong. It is undemocratic and bespeaks a sick paranoia that is the real threat to our Democracy. It is also shallow, lazy, and just plain irresponsible. And it all rests with Harper.

Even so, even as offensive as it is, there are some, however, who by some peculiar reasoning process find this attitude of meanness and scapegoating appealing and justified. For them, they really are beset by enemies and they are called them. These are Conservative supporters who cannot or will not think things through, who would rather buy into the view that the world is rife with danger, that thieves, rapists, pedophiles freely roam amongst us and that crime is constantly on the rise and that harsher sentences and more jails and further stigmatizing of the mentally ill are the just solution to all that troubles them rather than listening to this bare, simple fact: it just ain’t so. For such as these, confirmation of their fears by panderers and exploiters such as Harper and his gang are sufficient. Gut feelings, the truthiness first propounded by comic Stephen Colbert, are the things to rely on, not facts, and certainly not scientific facts. Irene Peter must have been thinking of these types when she said, “Ignorance is no excuse – it’s the real thing.”

TALKING BOBBLE HEADS BROUGHT TO LIFE!

Anyone who follows politics and watches the news will have almost immediately realized that, at best, Harper and gang have simply pulled a con game, the old switcheroo where faces may have shifted but the ideas, what there are of them, remain stuck in the same old sewer. The speakers may be different, but the words and message are the same and are already just as tired and trite when the past robotic parliamentary secretaries, Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Shelly Glover, Chris Alexander, and Pierrie Poilievre first spouted them before their elevation to cabinet where they, no doubt, will continue to spout them. In their ubiquitous appearances in the media, including CBC’s Power and Politics, they have clearly earned Harper’s approval demonstrating their fidelity with daily, programmed performances of slavishly repeating set responses to questions asked a dozen ways in the vain hope of getting even one honest answer. Expert at evasiveness, at obfuscation and outright lying, these talking, lifelike mannequins have suddenly come into their own, Harper kissing them with the breath of life, soaring into the stratosphere approaching but never quite attaining the freedom and independence they so hungered for; we will witness them in the House, we will hear the party line and talking points and we will note the standard non answers to even the simplest and most innocuous of questions; we will admire their performances. Even blessed with life, it will be as good, if not better, as the good old days when they were mere bobble heads on Power and Politics; they have been inoculated against openness, against truth, against integrity, against independent thinking, and against any sensation resembling the emotion of shame. Shame? Have any of them known the experience and, if so, have any of them been humbled. Likely not.

“New faces”? Turns out, not so new and not so fresh after all when it comes to ideas.

Now I have read and heard on the news that these people are “smart”. Well, I don’t know. What I have seen of them in their performances in the House, on Power and Politics and other news items, convinces me not of their intelligence but that when it comes to partisanship, to mindless adherence to the party line, when it comes to sticking to and endlessly repeating the Harperite talking points of the day, these live talking dolls are non-pareil.

New faces? New ideas? These six mouth the Conservative refrain with an aplomb that is frightening because they are never, never in doubt and because they are never, never in doubt, they never, never answer questions directly or truthfully, preferring evasion, diversion, historical revision, dishonesty, and pointing fingers to the offences of other parties that often date back years and are beside the point. Occasionally, they have displayed signs of actual life with flashes of anger and frustration but never, never of shame. Of all of them, Chris Alexander strikes me as the least offensive and the smartest. He steps in for Jason Kenney as Immigration minister. Michelle Rempel, for whom a new post was evidently created, always appears wide-eyed and startled as a deer caught by headlights. Whenever one of the opposition members who usually appears with her and the others on Power and Politics speak, she invariably interrupts, talks over them, shakes her head and rolls her eyes determined to drown out the other. She is determined, lest it missed it the first dozen times, that the audience will hear her talking point for the umpteenth time.

Watching Kellie Leitch on Power and Politics is always interesting. Whenever her counterparts speak, she sits there, shaking her head a smirk pasted on her mug and, as Rempel, has little trouble in trying to addle the other member by talking over, interrupting, and hectoring.

And there is Candice Bergen, tireless lobbyist for paranoid gun lovers with her successful bid to get rid of the long gun registry, her unblinking eyes wide, wide, to connote sincerity I suspect, and Shelly Glover, rigid and imperious (of whom more will be said), both equally stupefyingly unpleasant and just as rude as the others.

But, of all of them, the most cringingly obnoxious is the oleaginous Pierre Poilievre, the new minister of state for Democratic Reform. Certain, viciously arrogant and obstructionist, he is the-takes-no-prisoner adherent who, along with Peter van Loan, offers the clearest testament to how little things have changed with Harper’s shuffle. This is the fellow who has waged war against Elections Canada during its investigations of allegations of Conservative attempts to subvert the electoral process by means of robocalls, redirecting of voters to nonexistent polling stations, and of election overspending employing the “in-out” scam. This is the fellow who had praised Mike Duffy for doing “the honourable thing” when everyone thought Duffy had repaid the Senate with his own money for illegal housing claims and then, as easily, shamelessly switched gears and praised Nigel Wright for “doing the exceptionably honourable thing” when he wrote out a $90,000 cheque to pay off Duffy’s debt. Those are weasel shifts and Poilievre is the master of such shifts. And he is going to be in charge of election reform? We should be worried, very worried.

Changes? Yes, a few of the faces in cabinet may be “fresher” but the message and those passing it are as stale as last year’s joke. Partisan, secretive, dishonest, dismissive, dismal, evasive and abusive, these six will be little more than carryovers of what we have endured from Harper and vile gang over the years. They are a perfect fit because, as is the rest of the Harper crew, these six are utterly lacking in shame, scruples and charm.

BUT WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Change? Well, Rempel was given a post created just for her it seems. But wasn’t Harper about smaller government as well as changing the Senate? It appears, under Harper, bloated government is here to stay. However, with Poilievre as minister of Democratic Reform, there may be some move to reform the Senate. Even so, the move will be less about reform than ensuring Conservatives salvage something for themselves from the Senate debacle. An elected Senate? Revised rules for housing allowances? Abolishment? Oh, if only. One thing is almost certain. There will be more erosion of our Democracy in the way of attacks against our electoral process.

But of particular interest is the curious case of Shelly Glover, our new Minister of Heritage and Official Languages. This “fresh” face, straight-backed and haughty, is the same Shelly Glover who, along with fellow Conservative, James Bezan, had been investigated by Elections Canada for illegal overspending and claims. This is the same Shelly Glover who refused to submit a proper audit of her campaign expenses, the same Glover who, along with Bezan, Marc Mayrand of Elections Canada had recommended be suspended until they made things right in letters he wrote to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer. The Speaker, however, sat on the letters for two weeks, allowing Glover and Bezan time to take the matter to court while Poilievre (see above), ran to their defence in the House renewing his attacks of Elections Canada. When news of the letters and the recommendations came out, the opposition were further enraged when Scheer stonewalled, refusing to act on Mayrand’s suggestion offering the excuse that the matter was before the court! Could this be partisan politics at play from a Speaker who is supposed to be unbiased? Perhaps.

But then, something changed; Glover, the outraged ex-cop who should have known better, who should have behaved better, suddenly reconsidered and agreed to submit a revised report. Instead of being fired, or urged to resign – anyone remember Penashue who resigned over campaign irregularities? – Shelly Glover is rewarded with a significant portfolio. Why is less demanded of Glover than of Penashue? She deliberately broke the rules, she sought to wage war with Elections Canada. She cheated. But no punishment. Once again Harper has demonstrated that, when he favours one, no sin, no foul deed is so egregious that it cannot be forgiven or overlooked. This is a government of many foul deeds and as many foul people.

IT’S ALL ABOUT NOTHING

Can anyone still believe this shuffle amounts to change? If so, shame on you. This is the same old Harper and the same old ethically challenged gang. The Conservatives may have lost a few faces, but they remain thugs, they behave as thugs. The message remains the same: the economy and jobs. A sense of shame, ethical behaviour and sound moral judgment is still wanting in this group of vile bodies. The bullies and guttersnipes still rule the roost. It’s all a game and, come next election, there will still be some among you who will still insist that Harper is the most capable, the best leader for the country. You will not care about ethics, integrity, or decency. Perhaps you never did. You will only care about what’s in it for you and will be bought easily and cheaply. If Harper is a threat to Democracy, so are those who support him.

Change? Ironically, just hours after the cabinet shuffle, CTV reported that the RCMP have been stonewalled by the PMO in its investigation of Duffy, Wright, the cheque and what the PMO knew. Unsurprisingly, the PMO issued a denial though they did admit to there being an email of the deal which, not that long ago, Harper denied existed. The PMO claims it wishes to co-operate with the RCMP but that the RCMP had not placed a request for the document. Incredible. And this from the government of “law and order”? Weasel excuses. Poilievre must be proud.

On July 15, Harper shuffled his cabinet. What has changed?

In my first posting, Harper: The Beast In Him, I began with these words: I dislike Stephen Harper; I dislike his gang.

I have never liked this crew. I have not changed in that opinion. I dislike them still.

How do you feel? Will you ever wake up?

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