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STEPHEN HARPER, AN EARLY VOTE, AND VETERANS BETRAYED – AGAIN

What difference does it make to the dead…whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? – Mohandas Gandhi

To hate and fear is to be psychologically ill…it is, in fact, the consuming illness of our time. – H. A. Overstreet

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

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

The Dirty Game

I have asked this before, but I’ll ask it again: Do Stephen Harper and his gang, or any politician for that matter, believe in anything but the main chance? What do they value? Is it money only, power, recognition, admiration? Do any really believe the reasons they offer for seeking office: “I want to serve the public” or “I wish to contribute or repay my debt to society”? Or is everything that makes them what they are as politicians solely dependent upon the gains made and losses counted, but never acknowledged: What’s in it for me?

We have an NDP MP crossing the floor to the Liberals, leaving federal for provincial politics. We have Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party in Alberta and eight other members abandoning their party, their supporters and, presumably, their principles to join the governing Progressive Conservative Party of Jim Prentice. Said Smith of two defectors earlier: They had been “seduced by the perks of power”.

Do those words now make her blush; do they trouble her at all?

It’s been said that politics is a dirty game. I’ve even said it. Perhaps it is. But if dirty, it’s the players, and those who stand apathetically in the sidelines allowing it to happen that make it so. I do not believe it is politics that corrupts or even power but proximity, the corruption is already there, in the individual. For some, it doesn’t take much of a nudge for the worm of greed and lust and power to succeed at its work.

To me, Harper and his gang and all Conservatives of their stripe, are the foulest of all. They hold no loyalty, not even to what they say or promise or believe; what they discard today as not useful to their goals, they will reclaim tomorrow; in truth, they hold no belief but that of self-interest; they bend with every breeze and label it “flexibility”. Yesterday the Harper gang was the Reform party. Then they were the Alliance party. Then they swallowed the Progressive Conservative party with the assist of PC leader and backstabbing opportunist, Peter MacKay. They then spat out the progressives to become what they are today, the party of shifting shapes and constant betrayals.

They know exactly what they want but not who they are because they are hollow men and women, petty and vindictive self-aggrandizing opportunists. They believe the worst of everyone because they judge all others by themselves and their own behaviour. I will not trust them because I cannot trust them. The only thing I believe of them is that they are dishonest, deceitful, anti-democratic, hypocritical and amoral; some of the members more so than others but amoral nevertheless for all too often they defend the indefensible. I do not believe them because they themselves do not believe in anything except what can be bought, stolen or bartered, but only and always to their own advantage. For them, everything has a price, even principles and people; the first are easily sold, the second cheaply bought.

So, when Harper vows he will hold to his own election date of October 19th this year, I don’t believe him; he has never served the full term preferring to end it early when the gods and the gullible easily bought seem to favour him. Why not, particularly today, when he is apparently closing the gap between the Liberals and their youthful, inexperienced leader and appears to have a few things working in his favour. As we know, Harper is averse to taking real risks; a lot can happen between now and October. As it is, there are some issues that might give him pause. There is Dean del Mastro to be sentenced for election fraud sometime this month. Conservatives already lost one staffer to jail, Michael Sona, for his role in the robocalls scandal. Fortunately for Harper and in spite of the sentencing judge’s voicing of strong reservations in his belief that Sona had acted alone and that he, the judge, did not wholly trust the testimony of the chief witness against the young campaign worker, and despite calls from observers, politicians, and legal experts, Yves Côté, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, has decided not to pursue the matter. When Pierre Poilievre introduced the so-called Fair Elections Act, critics had predicted the move of Côté’s office, one of the outcomes of the Act, would lead to political interference. Once the investigative arm of Elections Canada, which is answerable to Parliament, the move of the Commissioner’s office to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which is answerable to the government, fuelled these suspicions. Whether that was at play or not in his decision is not known and doesn’t matter. Perception does. Sona, a young staffer of 23 at the time, is held solely responsible and takes the fall. It stretches one’s credulity to believe that one so young would be given that much independence to act alone and in such a criminal manner without the knowledge of senior members of the Conservative Party. As if Sona and del Mastro were not headaches enough, there is the matter of Mike Duffy’s trial set to begin on April 17 of this year. This, too, might make Harper pause. If he waits for the October date, it could be he believes whatever fallout from the trial there is will not be enough to harm him. That wait could actually help him. However, if he believes the risks are too great and goes early, and I believe he will, it might lead to speculation that he’s worried and trying to forestall any resultant damage to himself and the party. As it stands right now, no one really knows what “good ole’ Duff” has in store for Harper though Duffy did make plenty of noise suggesting fireworks were in the offing. In the past, when staffers and MPs proved themselves no longer useful and, worse, liabilities, Harper has shown no compunction about throwing them under the huge, vindictive, Conservative bus. Doubtlessly still smarting from being abandoned and then denounced after proving himself as a fundraiser and merciless loyalist Conservative hack who personally and with gleeful gusto saw to the political annihilation of Stephane Dion, Duffy may yet prove to be the Harper’s most dangerous foe.

But the signs that he will go for an early election are there despite the various scandals, the mishandling of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the resignations of Peter Penashue, called by Harper the best MP Labrador ever had, for illegally accepting corporate donations during the 2011 campaign and of Bev Oda, forger of a government document, for padding her expense claims, twice. Harper staunchly defended both and, when he did finally accept their resignations, concocted an aura of virtue around their resignations. The thing is, they were caught cheating; there was no choice in their resignations and certainly no honour. But, in Harper’s world, not everyone pays a price for ethical lapses: the truth is made false, the false truth.

There is a whole list of offenses, enumerated in other posts, among them Shelly Glover and James Bezan, initially refusing to submit full reports of expenses during the 2011 campaign. Glover figured in another story in early 2014 when she was caught on camera attending a fundraiser in which were gathered members of the community who could possibly gain from decisions made by her ministry. When she saw the CTV camera, her alarmed reaction was, “What are they doing here?” Leona Aglukkaq did the same thing, sneaking through the back door of a hotel to attend a fundraiser. You can judge for yourself how proud they are of their actions. But ask yourself this: Was their behaviour ethical? Do they deserve to be re-elected?

So, how is it that Harper can be rising in the polls, when he and his group have persistently and insistently worked at corrupting our electoral process and debased our democracy? I’m not yet talking about the so-called Fair Elections Act but of the robocalls and the “in-out” schemes, the first attempting to keep voters from the polls and the second allowing for illegal transfers of money between various levels of the Conservative party which allowed it to spend more and make greater claims from Elections Canada (or, more precisely, from the Canadian taxpayers’ wallet). That netted the Conservatives a $52,000 fine; however, the plea bargain spared four upper echelon members of the party from facing the courts and perhaps jail time.

But these many attempts to subvert the electoral process, are mere child’s play to what Pierre Poilievre, the oleaginous minister of democratic reform, has managed to do with his rejigging of the Elections Act, now referred to (ironically by some) as the Fair Elections Act, that, along with the addition of thirty newly minted gerrymandered ridings, rigs the election game to almost guarantee the Conservative desired outcome: another win, perhaps even another majority.

Incredibly, this new Bill, C-23, seems to have raised barely a whimper of protest or outrage from the public. Why not? Not only does this bill threaten to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, it also denies the public the possibility of ever knowing of future Conservative (or even Liberal or NDP when and if they form governments) attempts at end runs around election laws. With the Commissioner of Canada Elections now in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, the government of the day could intervene if one of its members was under investigation. Who would know? Too, names of those under investigation for suspected voter fraud cannot be made public without the consent of the party investigated. Initially, when first introduced, the Act denied the Chief Elections Officer the right to speak of investigations or any matter; its role was to be reduced merely to notifying voters where to vote. That was changed after much howling from critics and then the public. We have already seen how Conservatives have behaved when it comes to flaunting the rules; with almost no possibility of prosecution or even exposure, there is no incentive (except one’s pride in one’s personal integrity) for Conservatives to behave any differently than they have in past elections. Nothing’s changed except for the voters; it will be harder to do so.

So how is it possible Conservatives are faring as well as they are? Have they forgotten Conservative Brad Butt standing in the House and pantomiming a concocted story in support of Bill C-23? That’s where he misled the House, that is, he lied in Parliament, about witnessing with his own two lying eyes how opposition workers scooped up Voter Information cards to be used by voters to pose as voters to whom the cards were addressed. It was shameful, dishonest. It was a fraud! And yet nothing, absolutely nothing happened to Brad Butt except to earn the scorn and contempt of those who understood exactly what he had done, the contempt he and his party displayed for the opposition and the House and democracy itself. Instead of condemning his vile, lying behaviour, Harper and his gang defended Butt.

So, a year-and-a-half of scandal, resignations, charges of corruption, rigging votes, and bribing voters with shiny trinkets, and still leading the NDP, the Official Opposition. I ask again: How can that be?

Luck, War, Terrorism, Fear

Apparently a good bout of luck and a forgetful and fearful populace helps. ISIS came along instilling fear in the West with horrific images of beheadings and mass slaughter easily lending public support for Harper’s joining Britain, France, the United States, and other nations in the war against terrorism. This one act, joining the war, immediately gave Harper the opportunity to stoke the flames of fear by raising the spectre of terrorism at home with the forewarning Canadians were under threat and that his swift (?), if conditional, response in joining the war was clear evidence that his government, under his leadership, with his experience, was the only government capable of ensuring the safety of Canada and Canadians. In other words: In time of difficulty (Harper’s gang would say “crisis”), you don’t swap horses midstream.

While some may have been sceptical about the danger posed to Canadians and not shy in voicing it, Harper must have been sitting on God’s lap for shortly after that dire warning, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was murdered, run down in a St. Jean Sur Richelieu parking lot and another seriously injured. The driver was later killed. Without having all the information, Harper and gang were already talking up terrorism in the House. Two days later, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at the Canadian National War Memorial on Parliament Hill. Again, the killer was shot down, this time in the Centre Block of the parliament building. It appeared Harper’s warning had become reality; terrorists had struck at the heart of Canada.

But had they?

While it made for compelling news, high drama of live television coverage, as the second event unfolded on Parliament Hill, despite the wild speculations of two or more gunmen, it quickly became apparent this attack, too, was the act of a lone individual. In spite of the media’s hype and the Harper gang’s best efforts, it quickly became evident that both the murders of Vincent and Cirillo were not acts of terrorism but rather individual acts of desperation by deluded, extremely angry, deeply troubled, self-destructive young men using ISIS as justification for their mad, violent actions. That they had visited ISIS websites seeking and perhaps finding vindication for their rage and self-pity, apparently was enough for the Harper gang to label them terrorists rather than what they really were, troubled, suicidal losers. These were not terrorists; there was nothing in their acts ennobling of suggestive of a cause except the cause of sad losers in desperate straits. They were not fighting for some ideal or religious cause but rather out of vengeance for real or imagined wrongs done to them by a society they believed to have turned its back on them. For Harper and the gang, and those Canadians who live in constant fear of terrorists, aliens, and UFOs, none of this matters; unlike as in the past, when attempts to sneak online spying legislation into omnibus bills led to howls of protest, Harper and gang could now safely, with very little blowback, pass new laws granting CSIS greater power to spy on Canadians without any meaningful oversight. Not to worry, trust us says Harper’s Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney, Canadians will be safer than ever. But how can we believe a government that has attempted to subvert the electoral process and has made changes to the Elections Act that rigs the game in their favour? We can’t. Bill C-44 will allow CSIS the ability to operate outside of Canada and break laws on foreign soil and even spy on allies. It also grants protection to anonymous informants and promises harsh punishment to anyone revealing the identity of CSIS spies including those who break laws. Those protesting these moves as a threat to civil liberties themselves have reason to fear but less from terrorists than from their own government which, in the past, showed little reluctant in calling critics of omnibus bills sympathizers to pornographers and environmentalists as “radicals”, stooges to foreign interests. To Harper and the gang, all critics are the enemy, their patriotism suspect. Nothing works like fear and paranoia, especially when fuelled by one’s own government that has recently enjoined citizens to report “suspicious” behaviour. I can just imagine many people settling scores but offering up names under the protection of anonymity.

Recently, in an appearance on CTV’s Question Period with Robert Fife, Blaney uttered this trite homily: “There is no liberty without security.” At the end of this post you can read Benjamin Franklin’s response to that. It was written over 200 years ago. Blaney is wrong, wrong, and wrong again; There is no security without liberty. Unfortunately, the massacre in Paris, France on January 7th, of two policemen, a maintenance worker, and nine cartoonists and journalists working for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and a third police officer the next day, evidently in response to the magazine’s work including satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has given Harper another chance to fire the flames of fear. Harper, not one to shrink from seizing any opportunity, however tragic, has attempted to draw a link, tenuous at best, between this event and what Canadians have experienced at home by inserting the sad reminders of the shootings in Sidney, Nova Scotia of three RCMP members, the hit-and-run murder of Patrice Vincent in St. Jean Sur Richelieu, Quebec, and the murder of Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa, Ontario. It says more about Harper than it does terrorism. But, if it works for him and we drink from the poisoned cup of fear, well, that says as much about us, doesn’t it?

In light of the brutal killings in Paris, Harper’s comments on free expression and the free press and democracy the following day are really hollow and self-serving; this is the fellow who refuses, unless it advances his own personal agenda, to meet with the press preferring to vilify them, refuses to answer direct questions in the House from opposition members preferring that he and all his members stick to prescribed scripts. He is the same leader whose members have labelled critics “radicals”, of siding with pornographers, and smeared Pat Stogran, Veterans Ombudsman, Kevin Page, ex-Parliamentary Budget Officer, and threatened diplomat Richard Colvin with jail time if he filed documents of involvement of abuses of Afghani prisoners before an investigative committee. He has proven himself leader of one of the most anti-media, secretive, anti-democratic governments we have ever endured.

So, why is he rising in the polls?

It is likely more than Canada’s entry into the war against terrorism and the deaths of two fine men that gives Harper the boost he presently enjoys. He ended 2014 with a budget surplus and immediately went on a spending spree, purchasing a military transport plane, a Boeing C-17 Globemaster, at double the purchase price, bringing to five the number of C-17s and making a commitment to procure four F-35 stealth fighters. When asked about the exorbitant transport cost, Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson huffed, puffed and squirmed without giving any reasonable response. But the promise of purchasing the F-35s is even more troubling. Canadians may recall that Harper and Peter MacKay, then minister of defence, during the 2011 election campaign had promised to purchase 65 of them quoting a figure of $9 billion. When challenged on that by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Conservatives embarked on another campaign, that to discredit the PBO questioning his credentials and character by suggesting he was biased and politicizing his office. It wasn’t so; Harper and gang had done that. When Page’s term ran out, Harper, in a snit of pettiness, refused to renew his contract. Small, vindictive, and extremely telling. With the purchase of the four F-35s, revealed through a leaked Pentagon document, critics suggest that the move is not only rushed but also meant to force future governments into buying more F-35s because the commitment of even only four jets will require costly training and extremely expensive replacement infrastructure to house them. Harper and MacKay finally prevail if only in a small way – at first – but do so deviously and at who knows what final cost. We certainly can’t rely on the figures offered by this regime. By opening this gate and forcing Canadians into a commitment that may prove very, very costly, Harper and the gang has once again proven themselves deceitful and far from the best money managers since the world began by their own accounting. But where are the voices of anger, the moans of scepticism or the sneers of derision from the public? During the 2011 campaign, the public was either sleeping, sold a bill of goods or both when they re-elected the Harper gang. Were they still sleeping when this came out? But, what the hell, it’s only money and not theirs. Too, he now had a surplus thanks in part to service cuts and to the 35,000 public servants thrown out of work (presumably all the same “deadwood” Tony Clement of the $50 million slush fund spoke of last year) and Veterans Affairs which returned to the treasury $1.13 billion of unspent money allocated for veterans.

Tricks And Treats

But Harper was not done with doling out the dough. In October, he announced he would introduce Income Splitting albeit in a reduced form than originally promised, which will add another $2000 to the wallets of the wealthy, or about 15% of households. That this will do absolutely nothing for single parents, low-income earners and those abandoned homeless dying on our streets evidently doesn’t trouble this gang. The marginalized don’t vote.

It seems Conservatives really do live by the motto, “Those that have deserve more”. Even so, those families with children will still benefit, though it’s also true single parents and single income families will not do quite as well as those who really don’t need the extra $2000. As of January 1st, child benefits will go up by $60 a month. Unfortunately, especially for those single parents who had better not get all excited and start spending it on things they may need today, none of that money will come to them any time soon. No, the money is to be held in trust until July. Then, all eligible families will receive a cheque of $420 for each child. Just in case you have failed to notice, that wad of money will arrive just three months before the October 19th election date (that is, if Harper keeps to that date, which I don’t really expect, but he may surprise us all). Now the cynic in me says that Harper is sending several messages to those with children. One of them is that he hopes they will remember that big payday when they vote. He also hopes they will know to whom they should be grateful. He is also saying that he knows these folks can be bought easily. That’s probably true. He’s proven it in the past. He’s also saying they’re stupid. He’s proven that in the past, too; how many times is he allowed to poke them in the eye before they wake up and say they’ve had enough?

So, there he is, still in office with only 40% of the vote of those who voted. And how many of those who could vote actually did vote? Well, 61%. That means 39% were too lazy, too apathetic or too self-absorbed to make the effort. I’ve heard it too many times, “My vote doesn’t count” as justification for not voting. Are they imbeciles? That line of reasoning suggests they are. They are certainly irresponsible and as citizens contemptible.

Still, Harper was not through with handing out money by the end of 2014. He also promised $500 million to vaccinate children in the developing world. This is part of the $3.5 billion announcement Harper made in May towards maternal and child health care. I’m all for helping vaccinate children and promoting maternal and child health. But why not spend some of it at home when more children than ever go hungry? Why not spend more for the homeless, for the First Nations communities without proper housing and no potable water? Why is it that Canadian children go hungry every day, single mothers are forced to hold two or three jobs to feed their children and endure misery and debt because their wages are substandard, the minimum wages totally inadequate. In the past few days, people have been found frozen to death on our streets. For politicians, especially those Conservatives who believe generosity should only extend to those who already have, the excellent November 29, 2014 piece by Global TV’s 16X9 on child poverty, Generation Poor, should be required viewing. It would not hurt for every Canadian to watch it either and that it be compelled viewing in universities if not all levels of education. Perhaps there might be less judgement and more action when it comes to the poor. Twenty-five years ago, all political party’s agreed to bring an end to child poverty by the year 2000. Nothing has happened, more children than ever live in poverty. Perhaps it’s time we held accountable the Liberals and Conservatives and demand explanations for just one question: Why has poverty become an accepted fact of life? Nothing can excuse the public’s apathy. Even less can we excuse our governments continued indifference and inaction that create and ensure conditions whereby people die on our streets, children go hungry, and single parents struggle, without any assistance, to juggle jobs, family and simply existing. Let Harper explain to that thirty-two year old single mother on the program why all opportunities have been closed for her as she holds two jobs and cares for her family and is on the verge of despair. Or perhaps Harper can explain to that 16 year old, pregnant, scrabbling for food, homeless, so desperate to escape her home life she chose the street and without job prospects, why she should hope. What has Harper done for these people here, in his own country? He treats the meanest and saddest of us as fraudsters and conspires against them punishing them even more with punitive mandatory victim surcharges should they appear before the courts stealing to feed their addictions or alcoholism or for stealing a pair of socks. Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco struck down this legislation as unconstitutional, “so grossly disproportionate that it would outrage the standards of decency” (Andrew Seymour, Ottawa Citizen, July 31, 2014). Yes, by all means help others elsewhere as much as we can but not at the expense of our own people and certainly not to promote Harper’s image on the global stage.

But, if Harper is truly intent on helping, on making a contribution with money for third world nations, perhaps he should consider removing some of the restrictions on how the money will be used to best serve those in need. Those organizations that promote family planning, including the right to abortion, will receive no Canadian assistance. So victims of rape and child war brides will be forced to endure a lifetime of poverty, illness and misery or risk losing all assistance and likely death should they opt for abortion. If this is generosity, it is a cruel, inhumane, and perverse generosity that is not reflective of Canadians but a bigoted, blind and immoral Conservative parochialism that denies choice and makes generosity conditional with the imposition of Harper’s hypocritical “family values”. It is blackmail and it is indecent and degrades the humanity of the gift. What is accomplished by forcing a child to a lifetime of misery? For Harper and his mean-spirited group of hypocrites it is this: Accept our morality, take our help, and shut up. Nice folks all right. Still, he’s doing better in the polls than he has for some time.

Angry Vets And Fantino’s Spurious Announcement

But are gains in the polls, a war supported by the public and public acquiescence to anti-terrorist legislation, the introduction of income splitting, increased child benefits, and offering to support an NDP motion to compensate victims of the drug, Thalidomide, for long term needs along with hoping to avoid fallout from the Mike Duffy trial sufficient reasons for me to believe we will have an early election? Perhaps.

Perhaps it has something to do with the tumbling oil prices. For years, at the risk of ignoring all else, he has been fixated on the oil industry, the Keystone XL pipeline in particular, as the sole economic engine of the country. The apparent collapse of the industry and with it jobs and his hopes has him showing signs of bending, oh, ever so slightly, but bending nevertheless, when, recently, he spoke to CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, albeit still quibbling, attempting to redefine such words as “levy” and “tax” with the rather commonplace “price” voicing his willingness to set a cost for greenhouse emissions. He is still against “job-killing” carbon taxes but is prepared to consider the Alberta model which “imposes a price on emissions for companies that don’t meet energy-efficiency targets. Those companies can also pay that money into a clean-energy research fund” (CBC post, Dec. 17th, 2014). Said Harper the equivocator, “It’s not a levy, it’s a price.” Well, a rose by any other name…. This is the man who, in early December of last year, said, “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy, it would be crazy, economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” So, when is it sound policy? Evidently not when the price of oil and gas were soaring. This man is incapable of backing down, of admitting he might be wrong, that perhaps others, scientists, educators, you and I might know more than he. Even when and if he retreats, and he hasn’t retreated on the carbon issue, it’s always to his own story, his facts and his reality.

Still, it was a concession, if even only a tiny one.

But then, too, after a year of snubbing Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario, there was Harper making another concession agreeing finally to meet her in Toronto just before he was to attend the Junior Hockey game between Canada and Russia playing for the gold. In doing so, he silenced Wynne, perhaps appeased a few Ontarians and mended a few fences. When Canada won the gold medal and his day came to an end, he must have experienced something akin to a glow of a warm hug that made him believe he was magic, he was golden! because, earlier that day, before Wynne and the gold medal, he had made a move that almost all Canadians, particularly military veterans have been calling for: he had demoted Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino. If Harper felt golden, if he believed he still had the magic touch, should we begrudge him?

Well, yes.

What took him so long? Why had he continued to support a man who had managed over eighteen months in the ministry to offend all veterans, serving military men and women (no doubt they could see the bleak future awaiting them and were second-guessing their choice of career) and almost every Canadian except the Harper gang who stood with him through thick and thin until thin and thick became too much. Even so, because of Fantino’s popularity in his riding and with his large Italian base and because he draws in a large amount of cash to the party of money, he still ended up with a soft landing returning to the post of Associate Minister of National Defence. Hardly a rejection. As NDP leader Thomas Mulcair rightly put it, it was a “half-hearted firing of an incompetent minister.” It was under Fantino that the New Veterans Charter changed the way injured soldiers were compensated. Instead of receiving pensions for life, as they expected and deserve, they have been dismissed with lump sum payments, which, on the average, will mean less compensation over a lifetime than for those who fought in previous wars. The move is offensive and dismissive: “Here’s your goddamn money. Now shut up and get out of sight.” And it was under Fantino, as most will recall, that nine veterans offices were closed. These were essential regional offices for members suffering from physical and mental disabilities. The Harper response: Need help? Drive to the nearest Service Canada centre. Too far? Too bad. Stressed, desperate, suicidal? You can always call Service Canada. Don’t do anything foolish while your waiting. Sorry about that.

For those who may have seen it on television, none can possibly forget the wife of a soldier suffering PTSD attempting to get answers and help for her husband as she pursued a fleeing Fantino down a corridor. Nor can anyone forget his snubbing of elderly vets by showing up late and then snapping and wagging a finger at a veteran for daring to call him up on it, “This finger-pointing stuff doesn’t work with me”. Clearly it didn’t. Fantino was as stone, immovable and as cold. Even then, he wasn’t done with poking the eyes of veterans.

Just days before the Auditor General’s fall report was to be released, a report expected to be damning in its criticism of the Harper gang’s shameful treatment of veterans, the Harper gang in the persons of Fantino and Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence, announced an additional $200 million for mental health programs for vets. The money was to be distributed over a six-year period. Surely this was good news. Surely this would lead to kiss and make up with veterans sucked back into the Conservative fold. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. The thing is, at it’s best, the announcement was misleading. At it’s worst, it was a scam, a good show with only part of the story, a photo-op that was mostly spin, no cotton but a lot of wool pulled over our eyes. Yes, there was to be $200 million for mental health programs. Unfortunately, it was to be distributed over a period slightly longer than the six years announced. The money would be spent over a period of 50 years! Now, when one considers this massive attempt to mislead veterans coupled with the $1.13 billion set aside for vets clawed back and returned to the public purse because unspent, it would be surprising to no one, except, perhaps Harper, if our veterans believed they had once again been victims of yet another betrayal. This, too, in the wake of Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s fall report which was, indeed, highly critical of the Harper regime’s treatment of veterans.

As outlined in the report, Veterans Affairs was not providing veterans the timely access to mental health services. The applications forms for disability benefits are extremely difficult to fill and some vets have had to wait up to eight months before they receive benefits. Many veterans have been forced to endure long delays in obtaining medical and service records and extensive wait times for mental health assessments, some waiting 3 to 7 years. Too, of the claims applied for, there is a denial rate of 24%. All of these suggest that Veterans Affairs is acting more like an insurance company than a much needed and deserved service. Interestingly enough, when the report was released, Fantino was nowhere in sight. He was in Italy attending a commemorative service. When asked about his absence in the House, his response was this: “In my world, ‘Lest we forget’ means something.” Does one laugh or cry over such a response? Were the vets amused? Is this how a government should treat the men and women who are asked to put their lives on the line when called upon?

Now there was a time when Conservatives might have been able to rely on the vote of military men and women, particularly veterans who, for some reason, appeared to blindly believe that Conservatives really did care for them. Well, it is true the Harper gang likes the pomp and circumstance of war, quite willing to spend on monuments and the pageantry of display as if lavish exhibitions of remembrance of wars past and present equals respect, honour or love. It doesn’t. It is almost as if this regime believes military service is its own reward and enough reward. It isn’t. It’s by one’s actions that we know a man, know were his values and his sympathies lie; it is easy to throw up monuments to heroes and mouth the words that make us feel good for a day and then wash one’s hands saying, “We’ve done our bit, here’s your tribute.” It is all show, of course, and rings hollow.

We have men and women killing themselves. One wants to weep. When will it end? In the Afghan war, between 2002 and 2014, 138 soldiers died in combat; in that same time span, more than 160 soldiers have killed themselves. The policies of the Harper government may well have contributed to many of those deaths. How many more will feel compelled to take their lives because the government they trusted has failed them? Harper’s choice of Julian Fantino as veterans affairs minister, was clearly a bad choice. What made it worse was Harper’s refusal to acknowledge he had made a mistake. Not only was Fantino incompetent, he was abrasive and offensive. He not only alienated veterans, those very folks most likely to support Conservatives, he managed to offend almost every Canadian. He, and the whole Harper gang, have disgraced themselves with their treatment of our veterans and of our serving men and women as if they were distant, unacknowledged, unloved, black sheep members of the family. I know if I was young and contemplating a career in the forces, I would seriously reconsider. Why should anyone be prepared to sacrifice everything, family, friends, even their lives, for a nation led by a regime that treats veterans as broken goods of diminished worth? Little wonder we see military men and women, mostly elderly, but not all, angered, in shocked disbelief, that they should be so ill-served by their own country.

Will the vets be happy with Harper’s replacement? Probably not. True, O’Toole had seen military service, but too many veterans and viewers have seen him when he was parliamentary secretary to the industry minister on CBC’s Power and Politics and CTV’s Question Period and other media bravely defending Fantino and the government’s handling of Veterans Affairs. It’s the same ol’ same ol’. A softer image is window dressing, nothing more, unless the message changes.

Even so, the Harper gang is doing better in the polls than they should, than they deserve.

How can that be?

Are you, those who vote for Harper and his gang, really that desperate for that shiny tax break, too blind to not see beyond the spin, to indifferent to the pain and needs of those without homes, without food, without hope? Are you that fearful, that cold, that self-absorbed, that greedy, that cheaply purchased? Or is it just something even simpler than that?

Do you really not care?

***

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

 

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

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

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

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

BOTTOM FEEDERS

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

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

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

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

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

SO, HOW BAD IS IT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEY NEVER GIVE UP

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

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

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

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

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

THE FAMILY CIRCUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO WHY IS NO ONE LAUGHING?

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO WHAT ARE THEY DRINKING?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That about says it all about Harper and his gang.

IT IS TIME FOR THE CREAM

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

 

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