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JASON KENNEY’S DANGEROUS GAME

I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double cross that bridge when he comes to it.”– Oscar Levant

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.– Nikita Khrushchev

Frank A. Pelaschuk

What does it take to be a politician? Evidently not much these days. It probably helps if you are confident, glib, articulate, convincing, and ruthless. Honesty, integrity, decency, the ability to experience shame, judging from those who hold office, are clearly not required nor, it seems, is a particularly intelligent electorate.

Those seeking political office must have a thick skin to accompany the essentials of running because, should those essentials trip them up, they must be nimble enough and convincing enough to defend themselves without appearing to do so; to act otherwise undermines credibility. The essentials of any successful political life require the willingness and ability to lie with ease and without qualm. Of course, with lying, one must also be able to wear several faces, all of them hypocritical and not be too wedded to such foolish high-minded notions that voters alwaysknow best, are wise and good. They don’t and aren’t. A good politician reminds himself of this fact many times and sometimes even allows himself to go further but neverpublicly: he’ll tell himself voters are largely stupid and can be easily manipulated provided he, the politician, sound as if he believes every word he is saying. He doesn’t have to but it helps. Essential as well is the ability and willingness to exploit and manipulate others; this requires a certain ruthlessness and mean-spiritedness which must be used sparingly but, when necessary, without hesitation. No good politician should be wedded to promises, party platforms or to such lofty airy-fairy things as morality or integrity both of which, while occasionally an asset, more often than not prove hindrances to the truly important goal: getting elected and keep on getting elected. It’s best for the politician to be adroit thereby allowing him or her to easily switch sides loving what your opposition hated and hating what your opposition loved (that’s where the several faces can be particularly useful). It certainly helps to come across as a sympathetic, sincere and interested individual even as the voter bores the politico with his latest health issue, worries about crime in the neighbourhood and high number of illegal dark-skinned foreigners sneaking into the country; tell them what they want to hear, works every time! A politician must never be afraid to admit to being wrong or say he is sorry. Trudeau must be the sorriest Prime Minister of any nation and, while it was endearing at first, it has become wearisome and smacks of insincerity. Regardless of the occasion, the politician must be able to look the voterin the eye and speak with the utmost genuineness without sounding earnest whether lying or not; if he can’t work up the charisma factor all that easily, it also helps to come across as the slightly nerdy shy “aw shucks” head-down-shoe-scuffing-the-ground type of guy or gal who everyone thinks is cute as hell and someone they would want to marry their son or daughter and even consider voting for.

There is, of course, another type for whom some fall: The Snake Oil huckster. He is the smooth, grinning, brash, fast-talking, looks-you-in-the-eye type who can convince you that Sunday is for dancing and sin, Friday nights for praying for world peace, and that children never lie before he takes his leave of you – once you’ve paid for the snake oil and then find your wallet picked after he’s out the door.

Jason Kenney is that type of politico, a huckster who will do and has done anything to win including joining forces with kamikaze party leadership aspirants (those candidates who withdraw midway a campaign and throws support to another), one of whom paid a hefty fine for taking the part while Kenney, unsurprisingly, denies knowing anything about it though some involved in the matter say otherwise. Just one day after the Alberta election commissioner announced that he was still under investigation for several other questionable practices during the 2017 leadership campaign to head the United Conservative Party, Kenney, clearly unhappy, has none to subtly suggested that no department including the commissioner’s was immune from budgetary cuts. The message could not be any more clear nor our sense of his character.

Anyone who has followed his career over the years knows that he is a sincerely ambitious politico with the gift for gab, bafflegab and gas in equal measure who lies with absolute shameless ease, has rather fluid ethical standards and absolutely no loyalty to anything but that which furthers his personal agenda.

No one should have been surprised when he rolled back the NDP minimum wage from $15 to $14. You see, he’s had practice in undermining Canadian workers while in the role of employment and social development minister in the Harper government. While both proclaimed their primary concern was the creation and protection of Canadian jobs, Kenney, as the minister in charge of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), you know, the program that encouraged, actually encouraged, Canadian companies to hire foreign workers at 15% below what Canadian workers were paid. We all recall the RBC episode where Canadian workers trained foreign workers who then returned to their countries of origin taking with them the very jobs Canadian workers, now unemployed, had trained them to do. Good for business. Good for foreign workers. Not so good for Canadian workers. This is the kind of man Jason Kenney is. He cannot be trusted to be on your side unless you are Big Business or unless you can be used as a wedge to his advantage. It was the Harper regime, of which Kenney was a member, that campaigned on a racial and religious agenda targeting the so-called Barbaric Cultural Practices of Muslims. So, it is not surprising that members of his United Conservative Party campaign team included those with homophobic, anti-Muslim, views. Two of them, Caylan Ford, who had been recruited by Kenney, and Eva Kiryakos, resigned while incumbent Mark Smith with a rather peculiar take on homosexuality stayed on and won which says a lot about those who support the Kenney’s UCP.

But there he is today in a video suggesting that if Trudeau were reelected, he’d be willing to lead the charge to the road of separation. That he would raise separation as a tool in an attempt to blackmail Canadians into voting for Andrew Scheer and the federal Conservatives says all you need know about Kenney and his professed love of country: anything goes. He is an extremely adept campaigner and now, as premier of Alberta, has set himself the goal of working towards Trudeau’s ouster by any means though I suspect not all Albertans would support the threat to pull out of the confederation. Such a move could well provide him with a victory that was pyrrhic. For those who find Doug Ford and Donald Trump appealing, Kenney is a shoe-in and talk of separation is the stunt of one who thinks too highly of himself; if he were a twin, he would go at it 24/7.

This is a man who, while campaigning in 2016, photoshopped an image in which he appeared. He removed the background and replaced it with an image of an adoring crowd behind him. He loves working with images almost as much as he loves his gas. He’s the same man who, in 2015, during International Women’s Day, tweeted support for the war against ISIS with the inclusion of two photos, one purportedly of a bound, weeping child bride and her adult husband and another of black clad women in chains. Of course, as with many things with Kenney, they were bogus and he knew it. The first picture had been widely discredited as fake and the other was a reenactment of an event dating back many centuries. For Kenney, it’s the impact of the message; truth is immaterial if it doesn’t help his cause.

To give him his due, he is ever resourceful. In the past, he had used his ministerial letterhead to fundraise for Harper’s Conservative party, a no-no, and once, in a fundraising letter, he sought to suggest Justin Trudeau held a sympathetic soft-spot for terrorist when visiting the Montreal Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque identified by American intelligence as a recruitment centre for Al-Quadi terrorists. While it was true that the U.S. Military considered the mosque a threat and that Trudeau had visited it, Kenney wilfully omitted two important items. When Trudeau had visited the mosque, it had not, at the time, been considered a threat by American intelligence and Kenney himself had taken some heat for visiting an Ontario Islamic centre facing the same accusations of terrorist recruitment. Jason Kenney knew exactly what he was doing and what to ignore. It was malign and typical of him. While I have no affection for Trudeau, I have even less for conservatives and for malicious liars and Kenney is that.

His efforts to reawaken the East-West divide with separatist talk is shameless and unconscionable. It’s a dangerous ploy and serves no one’s interest other than Jason Kenney’s and appeals to none but the simpletons in the conservative base who do form a significant number. No one, especially a leader of a party and of a province, can honestly claim to love his country yet hint at walking away unless Trudeau loses the election this fall. Liars can. Dishonest people can. Manipulators can. Jason Kenney can.

Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Donald Trump have won the support of voters largely by preying on their fears, their superstitions, their ignorance and their stupidity by enforcing and legitimizing their belief of victimhood with assurances that their fears are real and that they are, indeed, under siege by dark skinned peoples with strange clothes, strange customs and unholy religions with sinister plans.

This is vile stuff and dangerous. This is Kenney. And this is the conservative worldview.

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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

KELLIE LEITCH, CHRIS ALEXANDER AND THE “LOCK HER UP” CRAZIES

Frank Pelaschuk

I have said this before: Politics is a filthy game.

It is a world not particularly noted for being overly populated by necessarily sensitive, bright, articulate, ethical, decent, or even capable folk. In that world, there is a substratum of politico denizens who inhabit a dark, dank world of putrefaction that would shock even the most jaded and unshakable who, while never really part of that corrupt aspect would, nevertheless, still be stunned by what passes for political discourse. Idealism is for fools and fools are quickly and easily ground up and spat aside. Ideas, too, are of little value. This is about winning after all, and it’s the stories and the promises that most entice and assures that will determine the outcome. Thus truth and sincerity are less important than grandiose promises of shiny trinkets and inflaming passions, rousing hostility, blaming others for the travails we experience. It is never our fault but theirs. There is no need to concern oneself with opposing ideas…disagree with me you are the enemy. There is an absence of tolerance, a surfeit of blame, a jungle of fear, and a mania for belligerence and meanness that masks as patriotism. It is not.

It is, instead, a vile mockery by opportunists who care little about serving or giving back. They are winners and takers who will win and take by any means. Too often, too many are willing to take the role of bottom feeder and sewer rat; it appears for some, the role comes naturally.

It is unfortunate that the Conservative party seems to be home to so many of them. They were prominent under Stephen Harper, quickly and eagerly revealing themselves for what they were. During the last campaign, Canadians were treated to the most odious aspects of the Conservative party as it sought to win re-election through a campaign of racial and religious intolerance. Now, the Conservative Party defeated, Harper gone and many of the old vile gang still MPs and running for the Conservative top spot, the ordure of the Harper era is as strong and vile as ever. I am thinking of three in particular: Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander and Steven Blaney.

Blaney’s most notable achievement apart from his mediocrity and dullness is his role as Harper’s “yes” man; as minister of public safety, he introduced C-51, the anti-terrorist bill, that scholars, jurists, lawyers, activists, and citizens have condemned as sweeping, likely illegal in many areas, punitive and of failing to provide adequate oversight to prevent abuse by Canadian security agencies. Even peaceful protests could be considered economic acts of terrorism. Blaney would be easily dismissed as a nonentity except that his leadership hopes, as is that of his colleague Kellie Leitch, is based on fear and blame directed against the Muslim community. That is the only reason he merits notice. It is the other two that should concern us more, not because they will likely be leaders but because of what they represent. It is ugly. It is real. And it poses a real threat.

Scapegoating in politics is a familiar game and Leitch and Alexander are experienced practitioners of the art. Shortly before the October 19, 2015 election, the two, standing side by side and playing the roles of all three stooges, Leitch and Alexander proudly announced the Conservative promise to create a snitch line devoted exclusively to the reporting of “Barbaric Cultural Practices” perpetrated by you-know-who. Evidently Leitch’s supporters liked that; she was re-elected. Alexander’s? Not so much, he lost his seat. However, both are back and running for the Conservative leadership, not so funny this time either. Leitch, evidently inspired by the Trump victory, has doubled down on a campaign of shame, blame and racial and religious intolerance. Alexander has distanced himself from that preferring to stick to the role of just plain nastiness without ideas. Sadly, for Leitch, the worst of the bottom feeders, there seems to be some support; that is a comment not only of her, but also of her supporters. What kind of people are these? Not ones I would sit with for stimulating conversation; the wait would be too long.

As troubling as Leitch’s efforts and her methods are, there is something equally disturbing and it signifies a change in Canadian politics. Leitch has tapped into something particularly dark and nasty and it seems to be an element that appears to have gained impetus following the Trump victory. There is also a component of blind rage, an import of anger and stupidity that is rootless and extremely dangerous because so wildly undirected. And it was her cohort of the last election, Alexander, who was to witness, and encouraged, the first rearing of that ugly aspect.

On Saturday, December 3, Chris Alexander appeared before an anti-carbon tax rally on the steps of the Alberta legislature in Edmonton. The rally was hosted by Rebel Media, the Ezra Levant effort that propagates the extreme views of the right. Levant is the fellow who coined the oxymoronic “ethical oil” label. He was also a lobbyist for Rothman’s. If you don’t believe cigarettes kill or that climate change and global warming are a threat and man-made, he is likely your kind of man, which means you may have attended the rally where literacy for Levant events is likely not a requirement and probably treated with the same degree of contempt and dismissal as “experts” and “science”.

At the anti-carbon tax rally, as Alexander spoke, he offered up the premier’s name. Unsurprisingly, this elicited from the Levant supporters a chorus of boos, the boos quickly transformed into cries of “Lock her up, lock her up.” The her, of course, refers to Rachel Notley, democratically elected NDP premier of Alberta. Now, observers may believe that this was just a spontaneous outburst by enthusiastic anti-carbon protestors. They are of a type and they are predictable. They are also malleable and easily led. It is doubtful the outpouring was spontaneous but rather an orchestrated happening by provocateurs seeing an opportunity and running with it. As they chanted this charming refrain, “Lock her up, lock her up”, imported from the Trump campaign, Alexander grinned broadly, his hands and head bobbing to the enchanting noise (those Albertan Rebel Media stooges are really, really original, witty, and smart, yes, they are, and musical to boot). If Alexander expected otherwise, he must have been disappointed by the harsh, swift and pointed condemnation by all parties, including the Wild Rose and his own Conservatives. Later, he would deny that he supported the sentiment expressed by the crowd. He was grinning like an idiot not only because he is but also because he was “shocked” he claims. He was moving his hand and head to the rhythm of the chant not because he wanted to encourage the crowd but because he wanted to find the moment he could interject and say, “Vote her out, vote her out”.

Alexander is not credible or creditable. Neither is Leitch or Blaney. There is too much baggage as a result of feeding from a rotting carcass of vindictiveness, pettiness, and failure of ideas: it is easier to hate, to poison, to destroy than to create and come up with something meaningful, hopeful and promising. Better and easier to appeal to a mass of folk who prefer to blame and to accept the lies and myths of huckster politicos than to exert the effort to inform and to look at themselves.

“Lock her up, lock her up” was the chant of the ignorant Alberta mob. Had any of them been approached and asked, “Lock her up for what?” what would the answer have been? Probably Duh? What?

These are stupid, malleable folk, easily led, assured by the manipulators that they are good, decent people, that their incoherent rage is justified and that they really are the victims of them.. They are all the more dangerous because so incoherent in their anger. It is as if they are unaware that the market has failed them, that  forty years of Conservative misrule and pillaging of the Heritage Fund had never been. The bottom feeders know this and they feed and feed.

It is easy to point the finger and blame others. Leitch and her ilk are there to help you do it.

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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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