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LOST HORIZONS: THE NDP’S SQUANDERED OPPORTUNITY

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

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

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

Frank Pelaschuk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE DEMAGOGUE AND THE VOTER AS IGNORAMUS: HARPER’S DIRTY POLITICAL WAR OF DIVISION AND FEAR

There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear. –Jawaharlal Nehru

The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance. – Socrates

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The narrative regarding the NDP has largely been that it is a tax-and-spend party, a party greedily picking our wallets and reckless with our dollars. It is not true, of course, an invention promulgated largely by opposition Conservative and Liberal parties and their friends in the corporate and media worlds, a lie as infantile and dishonest as the Conservative myth of themselves as the best fiscal managers of the public purse since the dawn of man. To hear them tell it, it’s bred in the bone, as inherently impossible for Conservatives to mess up, as it is a divine certainty the NDP will drive the economy to the ground transforming Canada, as some have said, ” into another Greece”. It’s spurious fearmongering, of course, the socialist as bogeyman, as predictable as Harper’s daily alarmist rhetoric of terrorist hordes targeting Canada and pounding at our doors.

When things go right, it is always because of the smart things Harper and gang do or not do: “wise planning”; “prudent spending”; “tax cuts encourage investment”; “trimming public service fat”; “there’s only one taxpayer” whatever the hell that last means. Not surprisingly, when things do go awry, and they do and have, Harper MPs scurry into dank nooks in the way of cockroaches eyes rolling and panic-stricken mumbling old, tired refrains: “a mess inherited from previous Liberal mismanagement “; “market forces beyond our control”; “unforeseen world events”; “a minor self-correction”; “yadayadayada” leaving it for the big boys to enlarge on the spin, one of whom is Michelle Rempel, a bobblehead extraordinaire, whose frequent appearances on CBC’s Power and Politics (just try and stop her), always leaves one drained, so fraught with malice, shrillness, boorishness, and imperiousness as she makes up facts and offers diversions with the conviction of a conman shouting down anyone doubting his claims.

THE WIZARD AS BIGOT

For them, everything, everything, it seems, boils down to dollars and cents and their belief that the most important weapon one need possess is power: the greater the power, the greater the ability to exploit fear, inflict pain and to control. Harper has wielded this weapon, the power of his majority, effectively and relentlessly against public servants, critics, opposition members, and even the public. The manner of the pain has been extreme and vicious for some segments of society and is indicative of what is really bred to the Harper Conservative bone. It is more than their inflated imaginings of their fiscal adroitness and their smug arrogance that makes them so unpalatable; there is their zealotry, their willingness to distort, their ease with corruption, their eager mean-spiritedness, their pitiful delusions, their embrace of dishonesty, their penchant for scapegoating the weak and poor and their fomenting of religious and racial intolerance. There is almost nothing they will not do to forward their agenda and no weapon is too foul to not be used. Only the most contemptible would be drawn to such as these and many are.

And they, of course, are members of the Conservative base, unshakable, unreachable and unteachable. They unquestioningly swallow the swill and embrace the myths casting their votes accordingly and as thoughtlessly as the Conservative majority spin facts, engage in dirty tricks (the dirtier, the better), and slip dubious legislations into massive omnibus bills without debate with hopes of escaping detection. None of this troubles either side of the Conservative coin; both feed off the poisons each exude, the Conservative base a black hole swallowing everything except knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment and the Harper gang feeding it everything but knowledge, wisdom or enlightenment fanning the flames of ignorance, fear, and intolerance, waging war against the Muslim community and opposition parties with straw man arguments that have nothing to do with facts or reality. The base doesn’t need the facts or reality, they readily and easily accept the Conservative justifications of C-51, which grants our intelligence agencies greater powers to spy on Canadians with little oversight by suggesting the laws in place are not enough. It’s not true of course; no truer than the Conservative suggestion that opposing the bill makes one somehow unpatriotic, probably sympathetic to the terrorist cause. The Conservative base never questions. So the Harper gang ratchets the level of hysteria with evocations of ISIL inflating Canada’s contributions in Iraq and their own as triumphal leaders towering above all others among our allies passing legislation that jurists, scholars and leaders have condemned as heavy-handed, unnecessary, abusive, and an attack on fundamental civil liberties. No matter, the Conservatives are blind and deaf to appeals to reason, to fair play and to justice. They know the audience to whom they appeal, their base base. From them there is no blowback when there is speculation Harper and gang will ban the niqab in public service. Indeed, there is only resounding approval from this segment of the easily frightened, stupid and self-interested when Harper wages war against Zunera Ishaq, one of two Muslim women, who have obeyed all steps to obtain Canadian citizenship but have resisted the demand they be unveiled during the swearing in ceremony which the courts have said is their right. Why is the gang so afraid of this one woman? And why is Harper so eager to expend so much energy, time, and money against her? The Conservatives claim that the niqab symbolizes the subjugation of women. That’s a pretext, an excuse. How can it be when the “subjugated” wear the symbol voluntarily? I can understand him wanting to win an election, but I cannot his methods, one of which is the promise to set up a snitch line to report those who engage in “barbaric cultural practices”, i.e. Muslims again. That is a red herring. Amanda Alvaro of Narrative P.R., in her appearance on CBC’s Power and Politics called the move a “barbaric political practice”. She’s absolutely right. This is simply targeting a segment of society. We already have laws against such things. And, if you must have a Tip Line, why not one for the murdered and missing women or for battered women? This is nothing but posturing with one goal, to capture the Quebec vote in particular by capitalizing on the racial and religious intolerance of the ignorant and fearful. Where will it end? How far is Harper willing to go? Recently, alarms were set off when Bill C-24 was used to strip a terrorist with dual citizenship of his Canadian citizenship. What is going on in Canada with this gang of thugs? This is abusive and extreme, discriminatory and dangerous. We have a government that is behaving in the fashion of nation states we condemn. It not only foists on other nations a person they may not want because of the risks involved, it also has the potential to deny an accused basic civil rights. Will he have access to the evidence against him? Will he have the opportunity to fight back in the courts? How much will we tolerate when it comes to breaches of civil rights for a little security? When Harper speculates of taking away the citizenship of those born here accused of “serious” crimes or of behaviour that his government finds intolerable, there is, again, even more serious reasons for alarm. Making one stateless is against all codes of decency and international law. It is cruel. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “everyone has a right to a nationality” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”. That is exactly what Harper is proposing in in one instance of a Canadian born accused of being a terrorist. Now some may say these are bad people, they’ve lost their rights when they did what they did. But who is it that decides what is serious? How can we be assured due process has taken place? We can’t. Should a prime minister make up laws just to rid himself of those he does not like? What will be the cutoff point? If murder, people smuggling, and pedophilia merit the loss of one’s nationality as Harper suggests, what will be added to the list? Under C-51, will environmentalists blocking the shipment of oil be labelled economic terrorists? Will this be sufficient ground to strip a Canadian of his citizenship? I say Harper is scum. Could that, one day, earn me the loss of my birthright? No one knows how far the Conservatives will go but we have a good idea having been witness to their many abuses of the Parliamentary system including relentless efforts to slip laws into omnibus bills in hopes of escaping detection. There are some who will say that can’t happen here. They are wrong and there is history to prove that. Under the pretext of security in the first and second wars, Japanese, Italians, Ukrainians, Germans, unionists and pacifists, and others, Canadian born as well as foreign born, have been interned as security risks for no other reason than for being members of certain nationalities and for their activities as unionists and pacifists. When asked about public servants not being allowed to wear niqabs, Pierre Poilievre of the so-called Fair Elections Act would not answer. No surprise from that source. But the silence pretty well informs: it’s not good news.

This is politicking at its vilest; it is corrupt, a sinking into a sewer of dishonesty, deceit, posturing, fear, bigotry and religious intolerance. As an election ploy, it may just work. Harper does know his people.

If it does work, Canadians will be the ultimate losers for Conservatives will rightly view it as a validation of their methods. When we succumb to fear, surrendering our freedoms to bullying, to lies, and to the despicable messages of hate, we are all diminished in some way and all left even less secure. Who will be the next target?

It could be you.

THE WIZARD OF SHAM

But we are further diminished when we also allow only economic policy to govern our acts; we lose too much when everything has a price and a cost.

Can we justly claim moral superiority when we keep electing panderers, liars, and whores who seek to buy our votes and to terrify us with sabre rattling excesses while at the same time signing deals with murderers and dictators with appalling records for human rights violations? Well, for Harper, it is easy. On September 25, 2015, when questioned about his billion-dollar arms trade deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the globe’s most egregious violators of human rights, he argued other nations were also bidding for the contract and that, while human rights were important, if would make no sense to lose Canadian jobs over this issue. Why not? What right has Canada to point fingers when we not only stand with butchers, but enable them by our silence and with our deals? To observers following Harper’s campaign of division and derision, it is clear that his moral compass is extremely equivocal if not non-existent. Human rights are okay but they don’t buy votes.

Harper’s grandstanding, his attempts to portray himself in the forefront in the war against ISIL and as the only Canadian leader capable of keeping Canada safe is laughable not only because of his ridiculously bombastic triumphalism, all sound, no bite, but also because too many of us hold the image of him cowering in broom closet when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was murdered last October. It’s not Harper’s fault; but still, to watch on the hustings flanked by adoring supporters swaggering across the stage and trying to look tough, I am unconvinced. I see a wannabe tough guy, an arrogant bully who picks on the weak or those easy targets about which he keeps warning us: Muslims and those niqab wearing women.

But Harper is no world leader to be admired. It is largely because of him Canada’s standing on the global stage has been tarnished.

In 2010, Canada, at that time more concerned with domestic policy, lost it’s bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council, losing the support of the middle east for it’s unquestioning support of Israel, for it’s casual attitude towards Southeast Asia, for cutting aid to African nations on ideological grounds and for failure to work towards solutions on carbon emissions. Making it worse, Harper has adopted a puzzling attitude of hostility towards the UN, not only bashing the world body, but often voting against it, even pulling out of a UN anti-drought convention leading to speculation that it had more to do with its own stand regarding Climate Change which was, at that time, it doesn’t exist, it was a myth, something like their fiscal acumen. Too, as the Ottawa Citizen reported, the European Union and some Canadian allies in September 2013 asked Canada to sign the Arms Trade Treaty meant to stem the flow of illegal weapons for which it had earlier voted along with 153 other countries. “More than two years later, Canada remains one of the few countries – and the only NATO member –not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty” (Ottawa Citizen, Lee Berthiaume, October 2, 2015)!

As well, Canada, with the US and Ukraine, voted against a UN resolution brought forward by Russia to fight against “the glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (Huffington Post, Nov. 26, 2014) offering as excuse that it was “counterproductive”. Canada had also boycotted the World Conference Against Racism. None of this should surprise anyone especially in light of the type of campaign the Conservatives are running. This is the same gang that, while still offering aid to certain African nations, refuses to allow the aid to be parceled out to charities offering family planning resources. For Conservatives, consigning victims of rape, including child brides, to a life of impoverishment, misery, and possible death, is preferable to offering safe abortions. Ask a Conservative; I’ll bet most would claim to hold Christian values. If so, charity and generosity must not be among them. Under Harper, Canadian-owned mines accused of human rights violations in Latin America numbering in the hundreds, have been protected by this government actively undermining efforts to hold them to account. Is this what the Conservative base supports? Seems so. If that’s not enough, how about this: Canada, an exporter of asbestos, has opposed its inclusion among products to be banned on a UN treaty called the Rotterdam Convention. We can’t use it here because of its link to cancer so we ship it to Asia. Is that enough to persuade Conservatives pinheads to reconsider for whom they vote? Not likely. If victims of rape will not move them, nothing will.

For one who imagines himself worthy of a place on the world stage (we can all recall his finger-wagging hectoring of world leaders for their poor economic performances), this is contemptible, nasty stuff. How can one uphold and support those mining companies responsible for criminal acts that have, in some instances, even resulted in allegations of murder? How can he justify voting against condemning racism or the glorification of Nazism? Why is he reluctant to sign a treating combating the shipment and trade of illegal guns? Well, if you’re Harper, it’s easy. He has turned Canada into a less inviting place rejecting victims of persecution and murder, not only from the severely troubled war zones of the globe but also from so-called “safe” countries for no other reason than we do business with them. As a result, the Roma, who are victims of persecution in Hungary, are not welcomed. And while Canadians all claim to be moved by the plight of those millions fleeing conflict in Syria, Harper’s own heart is as steel, not only reluctant to accept Syrians fleeing for their lives, but only those we “prioritise” as belonging to religious minorities, i.e., Christians. Sunni Muslims need not apply. There’s that terrorism issue, you see, Muslims can’t be trusted. Especially those wearing niqabs.

So who is the true threat here? Is it really Zunera Ishaq or is it the Harper government, which targets a young Syrian because she is a Muslim? Why has she become the symbol of all the things Harper and gang would have us fear? Why have they expended so much time, energy and money on this one individual? Racism is foul but it is particularly foul when our leaders not only engage in it but also appear to encourage it from those who elect them.

This is the government that has recklessly attempted to pass laws that have failed and been overturned by our courts. Instead of doing the right, the decent thing, instead of seeking to create laws that will be passed, laws that actually do protect every segment of society, the Harper gang keeps making up new bad laws. When the courts overturn the laws, he works on the public to turn opinion against them accusing the courts and justices of being “activists”. Harper has persistently used and abused the law, but he has never respected it.

Doubt it?

Think of this. When Harper made his move to get rid of the Long Gun registry, Quebec wanted the data kept until they could appeal the destruction of the records. It didn’t happen. Harper and gang ignored the court and had the RCMP destroy the data. The information commissioner ordered an investigation. So what did Harper do? He changed the law to retroactively protect the government and RCMP from prosecution for criminal acts. “The government also back-dated the changes to when the original bill to kill the gun registry was tabled in Parliament, months before it actually passed into law, wiping out ‘any request, complaint, investigation, application, judicial review appeal or other proceeding’ related to the final six months of the registry’s legal existence” (Bruce Cheadle, the Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015). Just think of that. Harper not only changed the law, he rolled back time, altered history, and rejigged events in the same way he hopes to rig future elections. The records were not only destroyed, they never even existed and no crime was committed. This is Harper’s universe. Vote for him and we’ll have more of that. Remember, his was the first government in Canadian history to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament. He not only acted as if nothing had happened, so did the 39% who voted and re-elected him finally giving him the majority he so wanted.

We’re better than this. So we tell ourselves boasting about our moral superiority over America and other parts of the world. Some may wish it were so or even believe it to be true. It isn’t. These are anti-democratic monsters and yet we re-elect them again and again. What will it take to get rid of them? They hold themselves above the law, above Parliament and above those who vote for them. Will there be no end to their miserable world, their intolerance, secrecy, deceit, and hypocrisy.

THE WIZARD OF HYPOCRISY

But, even if human rights were not part of the equation, we must then ask how good are the deals for Canada and Canadians. Why was the arms deal with Saudi Arabia contingent on secrecy? In fact, why does Harper shroud so much of what he does in secrecy? That’s what roaches and muggers do, lurk in corners, waiting.

We have had the secretive Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) that certainly appears less a result of Harper and gang working in the interests of Canada than of Harper’s eagerness to ink a deal with one of the largest markets in the world, a market that does not consider human rights a priority. Not only was the deal made in secret, it locks Canada in for 31 years requiring a one year notification period before either side can pull out. It also allows China extraordinary powers to trump Canadian laws if Chinese companies can prove they were forced to act under rules different from local businesses or investors. Is that really good for Canada? Isn’t that a surrender of sovereignty?

During the September 17 Globe and Mail debate, Harper suggested that the Conservatives were close to sealing the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) hinting that “the auto sector has concerns, as do others… I’m not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in”. That sends a pretty clear signal Harper may be willing to sacrifice some sectors to ink what will be a very, very lucrative deal both politically and financially with the election just around the corner. Such a deal would doubtless bolster Harper’s image as a trade negotiator among those who stand to benefit and may be enough to persuade the undecided to cast their votes for him. It may even help him win an election. But some leaders, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, for example, worry 26,000 jobs from the auto-parts industry will be lost. If one accepts his numbers and add them to those already lost in the auto sector, this will boost the number to a total of 64,000 jobs from one sector. As well, rumours have been that dairy farmers will lose though the Conservatives deny it. If the rumours are true, Harper is willing to ink a deal that will allow American dairy products into Canada without any reciprocity for Canadian dairy producers. That would be the price of trade Harper might say. With a deal this big, there is a real likelihood of health and safety standards being compromised, of well-paying jobs going south, of full-time jobs becoming part-time, of more lower wage jobs, and of more workers joining the ranks of the impoverished. It’s just business, I guess.

Yet, if decency and integrity play little to no role in the Harper regime, shame plays even less. Using taxpayer dollars, Harper and gang have spent $750 million on ads promoting themselves. Where is the same public outrage that toppled Bev Oda for a $16 glass orange juice? Or where is the outrage when military equipment purchases are almost always delayed, well over budget, and, when delivered, as with our Cyclone helicopters, unable to perform the jobs for which they were designed because underpowered or, as with the F-35 fighter jets, the most expensive planes ever built, are not suited for air combat and even less suited for the Canadian Arctic and for the Maritimes because of its single engine? To continue with the purchase of F-35s will needlessly cost lives. Trudeau says he will scrap the F-35s for other jets and Harper says that it can’t be done without incurring penalties. Not true, says the US government.

Harper says he is foursquare behind our Military forces. We have paid for those dramatic, stirring, triumphal, self-congratulatory ads saying that is so, an armed soldier running across a barren, snow-covered field, a thundering helicopter framed against an red evening sky, all the gung-ho stuff you expect to see from American military ads. But it’s mostly nonsense and sham. The reality is Canada operates like a third world nation the way it treats our armed forces with most of its fleet in dry dock, others stripped for parts, with planes due for retirement and parts for helicopters purchased on eBay. Yeah, right, this is the leader that really stands behind his troops. Far behind. We saw how much he cares by the way he treated out veterans. Can the gang really be trusted with our money when they purchase military equipment at twice the cost paid by other nations? Well, Harper says so; just ask him. But you don’t have to ask him. Every day we are treated to ads of their financial wizardry.

And, as if to underscore the point, Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay and the Canadian Revenue Agency have sought to save thousands, yes, thousands, by targeting charities perceived as left-wing advocates while ignoring the billions in off-shore accounts set up by wealthy tax cheats with the aid of skilled accounting firms. With Harper and gang at the helm, it’s best to cheat big if you’re going to cheat.

As with the way of all bullies, the Harper gang finds it easier to go after the small and weak. Who knows, among those wealthy offshore cheats might be a Conservative supporter or two. What are friends for, right?

So the next time you hear Harper and gang warn you of the dangers of voting for the NDP or Liberals, remind them of their own follies. Do not swallow the swill. We do have choices and they do not just include the Conservatives and the Liberals. If it is the economy that will decide your vote, as Harper and gang believe, then, even in this, the NDP has a better record than either the Conservatives and the Liberals. Check for yourself (www.progressive-economics.ca/2011/04/29/fiscal-record-of-canadian-political-parties/).

THE WIZARD OF INDIFFERENCE

Recently, British Columbian Conservative MP James Moore, while not running for office this time, was campaigning on behalf of the Conservative party in Port Coquitlam. On the 35th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run, and with Lauren Harper at his side, Moore announced that, if re-elected, the Harper government would match any private donation up to a total of $35 million. Now that might strike one as a good, decent, even Canadian thing to do in memory of one of Canada’s heroes. It is and it isn’t. Moore said the Fox family approved of this hijacking of the Terry Fox campaign by the Stephen Harper gang campaign. That wasn’t quite true. Not only was it distasteful in that it politicized what should have been a non-partisan charity, it was distasteful because the announcement was little more than emotional blackmail, tugging at Canadian heartstrings and appealing to our generosity while wielding a threat: vote for Conservatives or the Terry Fox Foundation suffers. That is brutish behaviour something akin to “Your money or your life”. From this gang, anything goes. It’s disturbing. It’s indecent. It’s the Conservative way.

And we can see that in the way they handle certain scandals that have plagued their regime. I will not comment further on the Senate scandal, Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. Canadians are familiar with the story. But I would like to remind them again of other matters that clearly demonstrate Harper’s Conservatives steadfast tolerance for questionable behaviour including lapses of judgment, ethics and morality.

We are all familiar of how Bev Oda fell from grace because she charged on the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. The outrage was less that she twice made false claims and was forced to repay them or that she forged a government document that resulted in denying a charity public funds simply because that charity, KAIROS, disagreed with Harper’s stand regarding Palestine. Harper continued to support her until the outrage over the $16 drink became too much. Too bad it took so little to enrage the public. The message for politicians: if you want to get away with stealing from the public purse best go big, voters don’t sweat the small stuff.

The thing is, Harper appears to have a very high tolerance for such transgressions as we have seen with Shelly Glover fighting Elections Canada over expense claims and later caught at a fundraising event attended by those who would gain from the decisions of her ministry. The same for Leona Aglukkaq. Glover’s retiring. Aglukkaq – well it seems impossible to get rid of that level of breathtaking incompetence.

Christian Paridis is also retiring. He too was tolerated for such things as violating the Conflict of Interest Act for giving preferential treatment to former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his company. Paradis was also in trouble for attending a hunting trip with a lobbyist seeking public funding for an arena. He denied any lobbying took place. Yeah, he did deny that and we are to believe him. As well, Paradis was investigated for his role into the transfer of federal offices from another city to his own riding. You get the picture. No backlash from Harper. He doesn’t mind lapses of ethics, not if you’re the right person. Yet this man Paradis with apparent very loose ethics is allowed to retire unscathed doubtless to step into some corporate board where his knowledge of the government process and ethical scruples will be much appreciated. One wants to weep.

And then we have making a comeback the best MP Labrador has ever had, according to Harper that great judge of character. The ex-MP, the best MP Labrador ever had, was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate donations for his 2011 campaign. If you’re a Conservative, ethical lapses and bad behaviour are easily forgiven and of apparent little import if you’re the one they want. Well, almost all. Even for Harper, candidate Jerry Bance, small businessman caught on camera by CBC’s Marketplace urinating in a client’s cup while the client was in the next room was too much. Here was a man running for office yet too lazy to walk to a washroom down a corridor. So Bance was out. As was John Crosby’s son, Ches Crosby, who was not allowed to run in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Avalon because he took part in a skit in which Harper was made light hearted target. No sense of humour, those Tories.

Well, perhaps they do have some. We mustn’t forget Jason Kenney, Tweedledee and Tweedledum rolled into one. This is the guy who can’t help himself it seems. He has made so many blunders he should be made a backbencher for eternity. He wasn’t above using the government letterhead to fundraise for his party. In another fundraising scam, he attempted to link Justin Trudeau to terrorism because of his visit to a Montreal mosque declared by the US military to be a recruiting centre for Al-Qaeda. Kenney of course held back that Trudeau’s visit took place before the news was known and made public. This was no accident but a deliberate smear. No blowback from Harper or the public. And what of Kenney the propagandist liar who, on international woman’s day earlier this year, tweeted photos we were to take as evidence of ISIL’s brutality (as if we needed more), one depicting a child bride, hands bound, with an older man, presumably her “husband”, and another of many women in chains. Here, again, Kenney proved himself unreliable at best, a liar at worst, for failing to disclose the child-bride photo was fake, the chained women part of a re-enactment of an ancient historical event. And then we have Kenney, liar again, offering as reason for Canada’s extension of the war in Iraq the explanation that Canada and the USA were the only ally nations participating with the capability of precision bombing. That would have been risible were the matter not so serious. Kenney is a fabricator. Or else he just enjoys playing the role of buffoon: “God that Kenney, did you hear him? What a card!” Well, I’m no fan of comedians and certainly no fan of Kenney’s. And I certainly don’t find funny, any more than did Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi when Kenney said, “it seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it” after Nenshi registered his “disgust” over the Conservative efforts to fan public intolerance over the niqab issue. The mayor is right, it is “unbelievably dangerous stuff”.

For those wanting a more comprehensive list of the things that should sink this band of scum but likely won’t, I suggest readers copy this offering by David Beers and the staff of The Tyee: http://www.thetyee.ca/Documents/2015/09/24/Harper%20ebook%20final.pdf.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Harper would have us all be afraid. I agree; we should be. But it is not the terrorist out there that frightens me but the one with the title of prime minister. He has disgraced his office, made a mockery of Parliament, and abused our electoral process.

He tells us this is not the time to make a change in government. If not now, then when? He tells us Trudeau is not ready to lead and that Thomas Mulcair will be the ruin of this nation. Who can believe this man when he lies about his accomplishments and trades on fear and racial and religious intolerance? Does the economy matter? Of course it does, but not at any price. Ideas matter too, as do ethics, honesty and personal integrity. I see none of that from any member of the Conservative party and certainly none from Harper.

What I do see in Harper and his gang is meanness and spite, pettiness and arrogance, cowardice and betrayal, despair and misery, and the powerful walking on the weak. It is not just their offensiveness that is troubling, though there is an abundance of nasty in that bunch. It is their arrogance, the certitude of their inerrancy in the positions they adopt their commitment to be blind and deaf to those they do not like that is so galling.

Opposing Harper and gang should not make one the enemy. It is either them or us without any shading and they are always, always, right

We need better. It begins with tossing Harper and his thugs into the ashcan of history. All we should retain of him is memory so that we never tolerate his like again.

***

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

LIFE IN THE SEWER WITH THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG

We have watched American democracy at close hand for many years and we believe few governments are institutionally so susceptible to dictatorship as this one. – Gerald Johnson

Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. – George Bernard Shaw

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

When the Mike Duffy story first broke out regarding the questionable expense claims by the senator, with leaks of the whitewashed Deloitte report ordered by Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen of the Senate’s internal economy committee, with t Duffy’s televised claim of repaying what he felt he did not owe because everyone knew “that the Old Duff, the Duff they’ve known and trusted, would never do anything wrong. I would never knowingly fiddle anything”, with the declaration by Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate that the Duffy matter was closed once he’d repaid the false expense claims, with the discovery that it was Nigel Wright who had in fact paid off the debt and not Duffy, with Stephen Harper, that mean-spirited control freak, claiming he and none of his staff other than Nigel Wright, knew of the deal made with Duffy, most observers, particularly in the media, might have been forgiven for voicing scepticism with declarations that something was rotten in the PMO and it wasn’t just the cooked up deal between Duffy and Wright. It smelled; it stretched credulity to believe Harper did not know. But he’s the leader of your country and though you feel in your cynic’s heart of hearts all is not as he claims you want to give him the benefit of doubt and take him at his word and do so for two and a half years: he didn’t know.

But not all in the media and the real world were or are persuaded by Harper’s claims to ignorance in that particular matter, probably not good enough, compliant enough, to be really good Canadians (if you’re not for us, you’re against us), too much like those “radical” environmentalist foreign stooges or those lefties working at CBC always trying to trip up Harper and the Conservatives. No wonder they’re so loathed by the Harper Conservatives.

So both sides worked, the Harper gang at avoiding and ignoring the media and the media not buying the Harper line, still worrying the bone in the belief stories were still to be told and secrets exposed and that Harper and those vile bodies in his circle in the PMO and the Conservative party knew more than they were letting on.

ONE TRIAL BEGINS, ANOTHER RESUMES

With the adjournment of the first stage of the Duffy trial June 18 without inflicting too much damage, Harper and gang likely heaved a huge sigh of relief. He had extended the war in Iraq against ISIS, a vote winner for some, introduced the income-splitting plan and was loudly touting the childcare benefits raises that those with children finally began to collect on July1st with sizable retroactive cheques. Doubtless Harper was feeling confident; the worse was likely over as far as the Duffy matter was concerned and he, Harper, was still standing, hardly bruised, his credibility seemingly intact. Perhaps feeling somewhat emboldened, he stood before cameras on August 2nd and called what will prove to be for taxpayers the longest, most expensive election in Canada’s history.

Ten days later, the Duffy trial resumed and it would be with a star from the PMO, Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff.

Now Harper gave as reason for calling the longest campaign in Canadian history his desire for all parties to foot the bill for their own campaigns. That was sure to please his supporters, those who believe (or want to believe) the myth that he is fiscally wise with our money, those same supporters who can be bought with shiny trinkets and cheap promises (to be fulfilled at a later date). The thing is, he simply wasn’t telling the truth. Changes to the Elections Act, now popularly referred to as the Unfair Elections Act, allows parties to not only spend more, but to recover more from the taxpayers. In the past, spending costs were fixed. Now, for every additional day over 37 days the election goes, the parties can spend an extra 1/37th of the limit. For all campaign costs, including the extra 1/37th per day, the taxpayer is on the hook for 50%! So, when Stephen Harper suggests he was sparing taxpayers and saving them money, he lied. As with many of his decisions, as with military planes and helicopters, this election will cost taxpayers much, much more than he would have us believe. According to the National Post (July 20, 2015), “Although per-vote subsidies have been eliminated, the rebates that parties and local campaigns receive will mean the taxpayer could be on the hook for up to $53 million per party…this on top of the estimated $300 million it costs to run the election itself” Joan Bryden outlines some of the costs to taxpayers. Tax credits for donations are “75 per cent on the first $400, 50 per cent on the next $350 and 33.3 percent on the next $500.” She also points out that for each day added over the 37 days allows each party to spend an extra $675,000 for its national campaign and an extra $2700 a day for each candidate. That is a lot more money being spent but also a lot more money the taxpayer is being forced to reimburse when parties can claim 50 per cent and candidates 60 per cent (Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press, July 28, 2015 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/longer-federal-election-campaign-would-cost-taxpayers-millions-more-1.3171793).

The Conservatives are by far the richest party in Canada raising about $20 million in 2014. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong in calling an early election so that parties, the Conservatives in particular, can pilfer from the public purse to spend more and recover more. The early election clearly benefits the richest party. It also allows that party the added advantage of bankrupting the poorer opposition parties. The real pilfering of public coffers by Conservatives, however, began long before the election was called when they employed taxpayer-funded ads masquerading as informational ads to promote the Harper government brand as strong, patriotic supporters of the military and the party of family values, tax cuts, and sound, fiscal management. Well, that’s their myth. The manoeuvrings, such as promoting their pre-election budget this year, has cost taxpayers $13.5 million (CBC, Aug. 3, 2015)! Yes, indeed, Harper and the Conservatives certainly know how to handle their money wisely. They just use ours to pay their bills and enrich their coffers.

But if Harper suffers in justifying the long campaign, he suffers even more when it comes to an accounting of what he knew and what others in his office knew about the shoddy Duffy/Wright affair. The emails released during the first days when the Duffy trial resumed and the testimony of Nigel Wright under cross-examination by Duffy’s lawyer show Harper’s version is at variance with the revelations of his one-time close and most trusted advisors at the time the Duffy story broke. While Wright loyally maintains Harper knew, “in broad terms only that I assisted Harper” and not of the cheque affair, it is clear that more knew than Harper claimed.

The doubters, those who would not, could not, simply take Harper at his word about what he did or did not know had been on to something after all. After almost ten years, Harper’s word holds little value, too carefully crafted and full of “outs” about matters that, if not illegal, certainly appear ethically iffy and difficult to be taken seriously.

When the Duffy trial resumed Aug. 12th, so did Stephen Harper’s, in a real sense, with Nigel Wright on the stand and with the release of copious emails. As Harper went on the hustings across the nation promising tax dollars on new programs, harsher punishment, more tax cuts and with the re-introduction of the home renovations program he had scrapped in 2010 but never quite able to get his message out as, each day, he was confronted with the same questions by reporters and responded with the same tired, worn, unconvincing line, that he knew nothing of the deal between Wright and Duffy and that, when he learned of it, had made all public and fired Wright.

You may want to believe him, after all he’s the leader of your country, but you just can’t. He’s lied too many times.

But some do believe him, willingly suspending their incredulity or simply too partisan, too ignorant if not downright stupid, to fret about ethics, honesty, and moral compasses; it’s about shared values having nothing to do with those touchy-feely things: What do I get out of it? is the real issue for such as these.

So, when Harper is constantly peppered by questions his supporters don’t like and believe hostile, it is hardly surprising there is push back from the partisans siting behind Harper as he attempts to offer his message of the day: “Stick to the topic”. We have that image of that foul-mouthed moron, later identified as Earl Cowan, shouting at Laurie Graham of CTV calling her a “lying piece of shit” and accusing her of cheating more on her income tax claims than Duffy. When CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau stepped in, he turned on her as well, an inarticulate bully who had clearly refined imbecility to its lowest and most base level. He didn’t care about the fact the two were doing their jobs or about the legitimacy of their questions. What values he shared in the way of policy with the Conservatives could not be easily discerned except the willingness to bully, intimidate and blame others as well as demonstrating a willingness to shoot the messengers and spew poisonous vitriol as only the truly vicious and ignorant can. So there is one, at least, who seems indifferent to the questions raised by the Duffy Affair, indifferent that Harper refuses to be forthcoming though the evidence of Nigel Wright and then Benjamin Perrin, once Harper’s personal lawyer and lawyer for the PMO, during the Duffy trial appears to cast doubt on his claims of ignorance in the matter and that no one else in the PMO was involved. But the buffoon who attacked Graham and Thibedeau is of a type easily identifiable simply by the Rob Ford button he was sporting: that says all one needs to know about him. Or almost all: he is the same individual, according to some reports who, when Olivia Chow ran for mayor of Toronto shouted she should go back to China. The face had seemed familiar to me, a reminder of something unpleasant. When I learned who he was, I wasn’t surprised: As much as one might wish to, it’s difficult to completely erase the memory of these types.

While this behaviour from Tory supporters is entertaining and likely damaging even if only minimally as far as Harper’s core base of supporters go, it is the greater matter of Harper, of his competency and apparent lack of a moral compass that should be of more concern to Canadians. Cowan, and such as he are unimportant in the grand scheme.

HARPER’S CHANGING TALL TAIL

For some, it may have been puzzling Harper would call the election knowing full well that the Mike Duffy trial with all its risks was about to resume a few days later. One plausible explanation was Harper and gang believed most of the bad news has already been made public and the Nigel Wright testimony would likely not be damaging and what damage there was could be weathered and likely forgotten by October 19th under an onslaught of Conservative ads and large promises and constant reminders that the world is full of terror and that Canada has been specifically targeted by jihadist barbarians.

If that is the hope, Harper and gang must be sorely disappointed, the campaign not going quite as Harper and gang would have it unfold, the questions tough and on the Duffy trial testimony, What did Harper know and who else knew? followed invariably by his stock answer: he knew nothing; the deal was only between Duffy and Wright; once he learned of it, he acted decisively making it public and firing his chief of staff. But that is his story today. The fact is it was the media, Bob Fife of CTV, who broke the story in 2013. At that time, Harper defended Wright. A few days later he had accepted Wright’s resignation for acting with the best of motives, then, May 28, Harper was saying, “By his own admission, Mr. Wright made a very serious error. For that he has accepted sole responsibility and has agreed to resign.” You can already see Harper distancing himself from his own man and then the break became overt and real, when, on October 28, 2013, Harper says, “I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy – he was dismissed”. So we have Harper defending his chief of staff, then Wright resigning and then Harper firing him. The only true thing is Harper accepts no responsibility nor does he admit to knowledge of the Duffy/Wright debacle as it was unfolding. He is robotic in his response, one who believes if he sticks to and repeats a story often enough, the rest of the world will eventually tire and accept what he says: his story, whichever version it is that day is the right one; if the world points out that his story has changed, no matter, it’s the world that has got it wrong. It seems to work with some of those who support him.

But for anyone paying attention to the trial, even if with half a mind, if becomes evident that Harper is not credible. Who to believe and which version? To believe Harper, one would have to believe others in the PMO did not know. Testimony and emails refute that. If you believe Harper you will likely believe some of Wright’s story. But you will also have to believe the emails are not what they seem and that Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer, as is Wright, is either mistaken or has lied on the stand about who in Harper’s office was in the know. If Harper, this man who is so careful and so controlling did not know, why not? Did all those many staff members in the PMO who knew of the deal, the attempts to rewrite the Deloitte audit on Duffy, who worked on scenarios to be used by Duffy to explain his, Duffy’s, payback of the money (as the public was supposed to believe), really conspire to lie to Harper?

So now it’s out there, Harper’s story unravelling though there has yet to be any concrete evidence of him knowing about the deal. He says he didn’t and you’re forced to take him at his word.

Still, the questions are persistent and the answers troubling. Why was Duffy insistent that he was innocent, had done no wrong? Well, clearly from the evidence, it was Harper who certified that he was okay, that he could claim to be the resident from PEI even though he hadn’t lived in PEI for decades.

Wright’s testimony and the emails, while not placing Harper directly in the loop regarding the cheque affair, certainly show PMO staff desperately working hard to clean up the mess, to keep it from becoming public, and “to make Duffy whole”. Again why? Well, again from the emails, we learn that the PMO was concerned that if Duffy was to fail to meet the residency requirements, other senators might also fail and it was the Conservative senators that the Harper gang wanted to protect at all costs. The emails in particular reveal interference by Wright in the Senate’s sub-committee audit report of Duffy by Deloitte. It was not just Duffy who was coached regarding repayment, the whitewashed Deloitte report, and how the news was to be made public. The Leader for the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton was coached as well: Duffy had repaid the money and the matter was now closed. Only it wasn’t, of course; before long the story unravelled. Duffy had not repaid the money himself. It was Wright who had cut the cheque. Duffy was primed on how to respond to questions regarding residency but also on what to say regarding the claims with several script options carefully crafted to demonstrate “‘There has been an historical lack of clarity in the rules and forms. I had thought I was doing the right thing, but I was mistaken. I will be repaying…etc.'” (email excerpt from Wright to Chris Woodcock, Andrew MacDougall, Stephen Lecce, Patrick Rogers, Benjamin Perrin, Feb. 20, 2013 3:27 PM). Clearly, there was nothing innocent going on here.

In another email (Feb. 21, 2013, 8.18 PM), Wright wrote, “Mike is going to do this (although I don’t consider that final, final until I see an email from his lawyer….I have to weigh on Sen. Tkachuk, and I will call Sen. S-O (Carolyn Stewart-Olsen) too, to insist that Mike’s ‘may have made a mistake’ will be accept as sufficient to call of (off?) Deloitte.” Lest anyone still have doubt that none of this was for public eyes or ears, the following might dissuade him. “I would like to understand who if anyone Sen. Duffy ever intends to inform about point 3 (or, for that matter, the entire arrangement). I assume that I know the answer, but I would like it to be explicit. For its part, the Party will not inform anyone” (email excerpt, Wright, Feb. 22, 2013, 11:39 AM).

And there is this: “One issue: she (Duffy’s lawyer, Janice Payne) wanted it all in writing. I explained that was not happening. We aren’t selling a car or settling a lawsuit here. She seemed to get it eventually” (email excerpt, Benjamin Perrin, Feb. 22, 2013 12:50 PM).

These are very small examples of what was going on in the PMO and none of it is pleasant.

While Nigel Wright was on the stand, a name that cropped up again and again was that of Ray Novak, at that time deputy chief of staff and considered by insiders a close personal friend of Harper’s, almost a son. Of the major players during the Duffy scandal, he is the only member of the PMO still working for Harper, now as chief of staff and senior campaign director. According to Perrin, Novak certainly knew about the cheque deal having been informed by email from Wright saying he was paying Duffy’s debt and being present during a conference call to Duffy’s lawyer when Wright informed Perrin Duffy would be repaying the money “because it’s coming out of my pocket” (excerpt of a statement by Benjamin Perrin to RCMP Sgt. Greg Horton, Feb. 20, 2014). This contradicts Wright’s testimony that Novak, while popping in and out of the room, wasn’t present when the matter of the cheque was raised and challenges Harper’s claim that no one in the PMO knew about the deal. Too, in his testimony while on the stand, Perrin says he was blind-sided by the news of this deal. He was the lawyer for the PMO and yet was clearly out of the loop in this, he claims. Had he known of it, he says, he would have gone to Harper and resigned if corrective steps were not taken.

If Perrin is correct in recalling Novak being present when Wright brought up the matter of the cheque, then Novak had lied to the RCMP when he denied knowing Wright had paid off Duffy’s debt. Too, there was the matter of the email in which Wright wrote to both Perrin and Novak saying he would send a cheque on Monday following the conference.

It stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper did not know. Especially when Conservative campaign spokesman and long-time Conservative loyalist Kory Teneycke made the observation that Ray Novak did not know of the Duffy/Wright deal because, if he had, it was “unfathomable” to believe he would not notify Harper. Was Novak in the room? Did he not read his email from his boss? That question could easily be answered if Novak set aside a few minutes from his duties as chief of staff and campaign manager to clarify publicly what he did or did not know. Unfortunately, these days Novak appears to have much in common with Big Foot: sighted but not to be found or heard. Which suggests that there is more than a bit of truth to Perrin’s testimony.

If Novak knew about the deal, and it seems he did, and if we accept the word of one of Harper’s closest advisors, Kory Teneycke, who should know, it is extremely unlikely that Harper could not know of the manoeuvrings of his staff. So why is Novak still working for Harper and the Conservatives?

If the PMO staff lied to him, why did they? Was it to offer Harper the shield of “plausible deniability”? Possibly, but unlikely. Did Harper, knowing something was up and suspecting he might not like it, make it known to his staff he did not want to know? If that’s the case, while it may save him, it still does not look good for Harper. That kind of avoidance behaviour, “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know” is merely legalese, weaselly wriggle room: I knew something was up but I didn’t want to know and they didn’t tell me and because they didn’t tell me, I can’t say I know as fact what I suspected and neither can you. If that’s how it went, what kind of leader does that make Harper? Not a very good or honest one, I suggest, and certainly not one to be trusted. Perhaps the same kind of leader who, according to an email by Wright, held the rather loosey-goosey view “that ownership of property equates to residency” (Nigel Wright, February 19 2013, to Benjamin Perrin, Ray Novak, Patrick Rogers, Joanne McNamara, Chris Woodcock, Myles Atwood). A nuanced interpretation, but laughable and one unlikely to be accepted by most folks. But that assurance was enough for Duffy, it seems. Benjamin Perrin, however, testified to being taken “aback” by this broad interpretation and had attempted to dissuade Harper from using it because the position was legally and practically untenable. Harper ignored that advice. No surprise there, either. Remember, Harper and his gang have a history of knowing more about everything than all the experts in the world: they know more than climatologists about climate change, more than environmentalists about the effects of toxins on the environment, more than legal scholars about jurisprudence, more than Supreme Court Justices about matters brought before the Court, and, it appears, more than the PMO lawyer at the time. And yet Harper, this most learned of men, did not know a thing about the Duffy/Wright deal.

IF I’M A LIAR, PROVE IT

That seems to be Harper’s line as he hits the campaign trail refusing to answer questions and trying to get his message across which appears to be based on the theology that anyone can be bought, anyone made fearful. When not attempting to buy our votes with shiny promises to be fulfilled down the road, he is attempting to move us with fear reminding us daily of those slathering jihadist barbarians who have singled out Canada and are coming for us pounding at our doors.

It is fear Harper and gang want us to experience and fear by which they would have us live. And, because he is one of extreme arrogance, without shame or integrity, who holds little regard for the opinion of others, he wants us to imagine, and to be frightened by the prospect, a world without himself as prime minister. The NDP and the Liberal economic policies will lead to the disaster that has befallen Greece. Greece, for Christ sake! Desperation on the fly. It is through our fear that he seeks to find his salvation October 19th.

Stephen Harper is no visionary. He is not even a leader. He is not one to be admired but rather loathed and dismissed tossed into the trashcan of history. A leader does not bully. A leader does not set out to frighten those whom he represents. Nor does he change electoral laws to rig the vote in his favour. Harper, with the assist of odious Pierre Poilievre has done precisely that. A leader does not threaten to his critics, he does not lie to his citizens nor does he deceive them and he does not smear and target those who oppose him. A leader is not afraid to admit to being wrong nor is he afraid to face his shortcomings and to seek, and accept, wise counsel from others, even his enemies. A leader does not take credit rightly belonging to others nor does he blame others for his mistakes and for his bad decisions. A leader does not refuse to answer questions, does not hide behind legalese, does not adhere to a policy or a line that he knows is wrong, false and harmful. A leader does not work to meet the goals of corporate interests by sacrificing the well-being and interests of workers, especially those holding minimum wage jobs. Nor does a leader conspire with corporations to suppress wages of low-income earners by importing cheap, compliant foreign workers to replace Canadian workers. A leader does not hide behind his staff nor does he continue to support those who have abused their positions. Harper has done that. Ray Novak still works for him. Marjory LeBreton who, as Leader for the Government in the Senate, oversaw the whitewashing of the Mike Duffy audit, still works on the Conservative election campaign. Why aren’t they gone? A leader does not alter facts and rewrite history to paint a rosy picture of himself. He does not change laws to increase his power and undermine democratic principles. He does not abuse his majority nor does he wield it as a club to beat his opponents into submission.

Harper is no leader because he has done all the things a leader should not do.

By any measure but his own, Stephen Harper is no one to be admired. He has led a government that is corrupt, amoral and unrelentingly dismissive of all other voices, especially those of dissent in opposition to him. Contrary to the Conservative myth, as a fiscal manager, he is a total bust, ignoring manufacturing for the oil tar sands and for having overseen eight deficits in a row taking responsibility for none by blaming external global forces. Yet, not too long, he was taking credit while the world was falling apart, wagging his fingers admonishing other world leaders of their failings and reminding them he was the model to emulate.

The Conservative party, Stephen Harper and his gang, all of them, some more so than other, have corrupted our electoral process and set out to rig the vote. They have worked towards the systematic erosion of our democracy and have passed legislation that threaten human rights and that could brand one a terrorist simply for acts of civil disobedience that may temporarily disrupt the economy. They have brought disrepute to Canada with their relentless dismissal of the UN, with their targeting of refugees, with their assault against the courts, and with their fixation on trade at any cost with brutal dictatorships with abysmal records of human rights violations.

The Conservative party, Stephen Harper and his gang, all of them, have become corrupted by the allure of power. They govern for the interests of corporations and work to dismantle the things we cherish as Canadians. Our nation is falling apart; the signs are everywhere and can be seen everywhere in our failing infrastructure and disappearing jobs. Under Harper, we have become a wasteland led by lizards. He has proven himself reckless with facts, indifferent to ethics, absent of integrity and too many are still eager to suspend their incredulity and support him. He cannot be believed or trusted. He is the god who has failed because he began with lies and broken promises. Over the years of misrule, abuse and error, he threatens to turn what’s left of our democracy into a grotesquery, a Corporatocracy that may only allow memories of a day when humans matter more than profit.

By then it will be too late. There will be no memory.

***

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

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

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 HARPER THUGS, THE McCARTHYITE AND THE LIAR

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

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. – George Jean Nathan

The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality. – Dante Aligheiri

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them—the apathy of human beings. – Helen Keller

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE McCARTHYITE

Just when one might begin to believe that the Harper gang could not sink deeper into the morass of slime, along comes Conservative Mark Adler to prove otherwise. Adler, some may recall, was a member in Harper’s entourage on the trip to Israel who was recorded whining about not being allowed to join Stephen Harper and other dignitaries at the Western Wall so that he could be photographed. “It’s an election…This is a million dollar shot.” He is also the same Adler who denied Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, an internationally known human rights lawyer and activist, entry into an event he, Adler, had co-hosted with an Israeli charity. Cotler was not party of the Harper entourage (Liberals and NDP were not invited), but he was in Israel at the time. The Jewish community was not impressed with Adler, but then, who could be? That bit of notoriety, however, evidently gave Adler an appetite for making more news and the opportunity to demonstrate even more clearly what a nasty tool he really is.

His latest attention-seeking foray provides additional ammunition of why the Harper gang is so dangerous to Canada, Canadians and Canadian democracy. Adler, it appears, has determined that some public servants may not be loyal enough to suit him. As a consequence, he is at work on a private member’s bill that has set its sights on the past political activities of civil servants, more specifically those working for our Canadian Parliamentary watchdogs. These include: Auditor General of Canada; Chief Electoral Officer; Official Language Commissioner; Privacy Commissioner; Information Commissioner; Senate Ethics Officer; Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; Lobbying Commissioner, and; Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (the list from The Ottawa Citizen, March 6, 2014). This move is a wholly partisan attack against civil servants. Worse, it is poisonous, a clear attempt to intimidate, browbeat, and subjugate. He is suggesting that any investigation of alleged Conservative wrongdoing by any of these agencies is likely politically motivated: public servants are out to get Conservatives. We’ve heard that whine before. Conservatives are not only bullies, they are cry babies.

Immediately upon learning of his member’s bill, I was reminded of another group from another era, fat-faced witch hunting thugs spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy, screaming and jabbing stubby fingers, spittle flying, into the faces of Americans while television cameras, rolling, captured the ritual of public shaming. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?”

Often, they were assured that, if they confessed and/or named others, they could return to their lives of normalcy. Many, frightened, facing loss of jobs and livelihood, the ending of careers, of friendships and families, broke down, confessed and named names even though many, many of them had done nothing wrong, were loyal Americans and had not been members of the Communist Party even when it was legal to be so. It didn’t save them. Men and women, soldiers, educators, scientists, writers, actors, directors and on and on were named, almost always without evidence, as communists in a pamphlet called Red Channels. That was the era of the communist witch hunt that began in the 1930s and culminated in the 1950s with a period of true darkness, of hysteria, of paranoia, suspicion, intimidation, self-abnegation, imposed loyalty oaths, and naming names. That was the period of McCarthyism, a period of heightened frenzy when men and women, in public and private lives, suddenly found themselves blacklisted, careers, livelihoods, friendships and families destroyed.

Many like Philip Loeb, an actor, committed suicide. Larry Parks, an up and coming actor, begged not to be forced to name others, but did so after prolonged abuse; his career was destroyed. Many Hollywood writers never worked again those who did were forced to write scripts under pseudonyms for a fraction of what they had previously earned though Hollywood moguls, American politicians and major news and television networks denied the blacklist existed. Some were haunted for life overcome by guilt for naming others. Some did stand up against the committees, refusing to answer questions put to them and questioning the right of the inquisitors to do so. Pete Seeger was one. He was blacklisted for decades. Playwright Lillian Hellman was another; she had been a communist, but refused to apologize and denounce others saying, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions…” Scores defiantly went to jail. Some fled to Europe. In 1965, a blacklisted screenwriter, Millard Lampell in accepting an Emmy was the first to publicly speak of what all of America denied, saying simply as he took the award: “I think I ought to mention I was blacklisted for ten years” (from Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky).

What Adler is proposing is the return to that political era of terror. To even suggest such makes him beneath contempt. He is not even a man; he is a chigger. What’s next? Loyalty oaths to the Conservative Party and public shaming? Hopefully, before we get that far, Mark Adler and his like-minded ilk will suffer the same ignominious fate as McCarthy and those filthy inquisitors he wishes to emulate.

This is the sewer in which the Harper gang, or one member at least, now intends to wallow as it investigates public servants. I can see the weasel Adler heading a committee, jabbing his stubby fingers into the faces of public servants screaming, spittle flying, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the NDP (Liberal, Green) Party?”

THE HARPER GANG

I should not be surprised. And yet I am. For this is not the first of such behaviour from the slimy Conservative nest. We have witnessed them engage in vile smear campaigns against such critics as Pat Stogran, past Veterans Ombudsman, and against Linda Keen, past president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. We have witnessed Joe Oliver assail environmentalists as “radicals” and “stooges”, and have heard ordinary Canadians who opposed the Conservative on-line spying omnibus bill accused of “being on the side of pedophiles.” Too, PMO staffers have been compelled to sign lifelong non-disclosure agreements that will silence them from ever discussing their time working for the PMO. Remember, this muzzling is for life.

This is not the free, open society Harper promised. This is Harper’s crew wearing jackboots. This must stop. Turning a blind eye will not save you or me. Reread those words by George Orwell with which I began this post. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever.”

You think it can’t happen here? It can and it has. There was a time when we had our own interment camps. They not only housed German and Italian prisoners of war but also loyal Canadian and immigrant unionist activists, conscientious objectors, as well as Canadian citizens of Japanese, Italian, German, and Ukrainian extraction targeted by the RCMP. Mark Adler’s private member’s bill should terrify you.

Alarmist? Perhaps. But staying silent should not be an option for those who believe in Canada and democracy.

What does it take to stir you into saying you’ve had enough, you don’t like what the Harper thugs are doing?

Apparently, that this regime is closed, secretive, abusive, and undeniably shameless in its partisan lust for power, is not enough to rouse you to make your voices heard. What of the fact that Conservatives have set out to ensure that the game is rigged in their favour come the next election? In the past, the Conservative Party has paid fines for violating the Elections Act and individual Conservatives have abused and ignored the rules, all this in aid of subverting the electoral process. Canadians have endured the Conservative “in-out” scams during elections, which allowed the Conservative Party to play a shell game that, illegally, made it possible to spend more during elections. We have had Conservative MPs who have refused to submit full expense claims to Elections Canada. One was Shelly Glover, promoted to minister of Canadian Heritage and Official languages. She was also caught attending a fundraising event in her riding where those in attendance were players in the arts and cultural community representing organizations which stood to gain from funding from her department. This is not mere pushing of the boundaries, but an outright violation of the rules.

Clearly Harper’s Conservatives do not care about “rules” any more than they do about integrity, honesty, democracy, or open government. We have had Conservative Bev Oda finally forced to leave because of questionable expense claims (made more than once). Conservative Peter Penashue resigned because of illegally accepting money from corporate donors while campaigning. This kind of election irregularity is not rare, certainly not rare for this regime; in fact, it appears to be standard practice for Harper’s Conservatives what with the robocalls misdirecting voters to non-existent polling stations, campaign workers posing as Elections Canada officials and charges laid against Conservative Deal del Mastro.

We know about these violations not because this thuggish Harper government was open, transparent and honest (as it had promised to be long ago; but then, that was long ago), but because these abuses were made public by our election watchdogs, Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

But those, apparently, were the good old days. Those days of public accountability and public awareness are about to come to a screeching end. Unless we do something to stop the Harper gang, corruption and rigged elections will become an accepted fact of life as will the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Canadian voters, students, seniors, those unemployed with no fixed address, and the marginalized; in other words, those least likely to vote Conservative. This, along with redrawing electoral boundaries for 30 additional ridings, with a gerrymandered result all but guaranteed to garner another 22 seats for Conservatives, will almost certainly result in the return of this scummy crew with a voter support of even far less than what they had when elected last time, a little more than 39%.

One of the things Election Canada sought was the ability to compel witnesses to testify regarding knowledge of wrongdoing. That will not happen. In fact, Harper and his crew have set out to do the reverse. They have set out to severely weaken, if not eradicate, the investigative powers of Elections Canada altogether. Harper’s gang, with oily Poilievre, the vote-rigging architect of Bill C-23 taking the lead as the misnamed Minister of Democratic Reform, has moved the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which investigates fraud and reports to Parliament, from Elections Canada to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. This, too, should profoundly disturb Canadian citizens. There is a very real possibility, especially with Harper and his thugs at the helm, of government interference of the worst partisan kind that will ultimately cripple investigations and deny citizens the right to be informed. Harper and his gang could conceivably stop any investigation of alleged election fraud involving Conservatives while, of course, encouraging investigations of alleged fraud by members of the opposition parties. Think not? Think again.

Changes to the Elections Act means that the Canadian public need no longer be informed of investigations. For that to happen, the Commissioner of Canada Elections must first inform the object of an investigation he or she is being investigated. Then, in order to make it public, the Commissioner must ask the subject of investigation for permission to do so. How do you think that will turn out? True, penalties have been increased, even with threat of jail time. But those threats are meaningless when the risks of discovery and punishment are at near zero, when there is almost no likelihood of prosecution or of the public learning of the breaches to the Act. Pretty sweet, isn’t it, if you are a cheat? And we know this is a government with more than its share of cheats.

But, if you are a Conservative, especially an ethically challenged Conservative, you will love the new Act. Bill C-23 will no longer hold parties accountable for how party databases are used “without party permission.” That’s legalese (i.e., weasel words) for allowing party leaders to plead ignorance when their data is used to break the rules (and they will be). “Do what you have to, just don’t tell me!” Thus, if there is a repeat of the “Pierre Poutine” debacle, well, too bad, tough luck, sorry. Canadians will never know. Too, the Act will allow incumbents to appoint polling station supervisors during elections to handle disputes (presumably disagreements over vote counts and the voter fraud which Tories claim is rampant, etc.). Yeah, right. This is the Fair Elections Act. Designed by a committee of Conservative snakes. Poilievre claims that other candidates or their representatives can reject the polling station supervisor for another during disputes. Well, not likely. Volunteers helping to oversee the vote count are not likely to know this bit and, even if they did, might be hesitant to make waves especially if young and new to the game; these are usually volunteers, good citizens helping out because they believe in our system, not die-hard advocates or zealots. The thing is, why is that partisan provision there in the first place? As well, and this too should warm those stony, unethical Conservative hearts, 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. Elections Canada will have no way of knowing if what the parties report will be accurate or not because of systemic loopholes. This, of course, will help the richest parties. Can you guess which one? Too, while the revised Act allows for compliance audits, Elections Canada is barred from producing “documents proving that its financial statements are on the up and up” (The Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 2014)

Not worried yet? If not, why not?

Harper and his thugs have attempted to convince us that voter election fraud is widespread. Yet they have given no numbers to support that claim. However, because they say it is, and because they have the majority, the Bill passed in the House of Commons. There has been no public consultation, no listening to the opposition, just the ham-fisted ramming through of the Bill. The voter information cards and vouching (someone confirming you are who you and the card say you are) will no longer be accepted as sufficient for ID purposes at the polls. Tens of thousands will be denied the right to vote and they will include members of the student, aboriginal, senior, transient, and homeless communities.

It should, by now, be obvious to even the most ardent supporter of the Conservatives that this Bill is a blatant attempt to rig the electoral process with a desired outcome. That is a corruption of the electoral process. The game has been rigged, the unscrupulous and their supporters will feel emboldened to cheat at every opportunity — and they will. Thanks to Harper and his gang, changes to the Act will ensure that cheating and corruption will become an entrenched, accepted fact of our electoral process.

Still don’t believe it? You still believe Harper and his gang good, honest, honourable folks?

THE LIAR

A few days ago, the NDP had tried to open up more debate on the Poilievre so-called  Fair Elections Act. Harper, with his majority, denied that option. The NDP also moved to have Brad Butt, Conservative MP cited for contempt of Parliament for misleading Parliament. Again, with their majority, the Harper thugs put an end to that.

So why is this important?

Well, for several reasons. Brad Butt is a Conservative MP who stood up in Parliament on February 6th and told a story of what he had seen. He even went through some of the motions of what he had witnessed from miming citizens in an apartment building throwing away voter information cards and campaign workers retrieving them. The story had the effect of bolstering Conservative claims of voter fraud. Remember, Butt said he saw this. These cards, he said, were to be handed over to others who would then be vouched for at polling stations (presumably by supporters of the opposition parties, never, never Conservative workers cross their stony hearts and crooked fingers). Brad Butt claimed, twice, to having personally witnessed the cards being discarded and picked up. So he said.

Two and a half weeks later, however, he recanted the story. He said he had “misspoke”.

But even that was not true. Regardless of the Conservative spin, Butt did not misspeak. He outright lied. He lied in Parliament; he lied to Canadians. Remember, he said he had seen this himself. Even so, the Conservative majority denied the NDP bid to look into the claims of Brad Butt, the self-confessed liar. Instead, they circled the wagon and protected the liar. This is the Conservative version of truth and transparency. For them, this passes for democracy. Lie about something, retract and suffer no consequences. In fact, Stephen Harper stood up in the House and said that Butt was to be “commended” for “voluntarily” disclosing what he did not have to disclose. In other words, he was saying that, thanks to Brad Butt, the liar, the public has learned that Brad Butt, the liar, had lied.

Are we in Alice in Wonderland? That is the Harper gang’s twisted version of morality. How can we accept anything Harper offers when it comes to matters touching upon ethics, integrity and honesty? This is the same man who, in the House last year, claimed to have looked at Pamela Wallin’s expense claims and said of them, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” We know how that turned out. Too, when acknowledging Nigel Wright had written a cheque to pay of Mike Duffy’s debt, Harper claimed that his then Chief of Staff had done an “honourable thing.” Snake oil salesman Poilievre went one better. Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing,” he said. So now we have an idea of what Conservatives consider honourable. Do wrong, deny, apologize when found out, move on. What is honourable about “owning up” to wrongdoing that should not have taken place in the first place? Or owning up because you have been caught lying? Or owning up because you fear you might be caught? Brad Butt is no hero. He is a liar; he said so. Harper and gang are no heroes; they back liars, they are liars. They lie, deny, move on.

There is nothing “honourable” about these people. They deserve all of my contempt and they have it.

The behaviour of Brad Butt and Harper’s response to it, clearly demonstrates the incredible disrespect Conservatives hold for Democracy and Canadians. If Butt had a shred of shame, an iota of decency, a jot of respect for the parliamentary system and himself, he would resign. It’s not going to happen.

And what can one say of Mark Adler, the narcissistic, pretentious, witch hunter who would emulate Joseph McCarthy? What he proposes is too vile too contemplate; it is contemptible, moronic and dangerous.

Lies, distortions, and the narcissism of self-certainty have led this Harper gang of jackals to the nadir of the cesspool. They have corrupted our electoral system. Far too many of us have been silent for far too long. They cannot be trusted with our democracy.

They have set out to rig the game. In doing so, they have betrayed Canadians.

And they have the nerve to point fingers elsewhere.

***

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

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.

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

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