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CANADA’S PHONY PRINCE: JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S WORLD OF HYPOCRISY, LYING, SECRECY AND BETRAYAL

 

Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government. – Jeremy Bentham

Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction. – Edward Teller

Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of. – Bill Moyers

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Every once in a while we are reminded that the world of politics often resembles that of fractured fairy tales whereby, for a time, the Handsome Prince and/or the Beautiful Princess appear to be exactly what they offer in the way of promises and hope. Eventually, however, the real world obtrudes and the Handsome Prince and/or Beautiful Princess, so widely loved and highly praised, all too often and with unseemly haste succumb to the lavish blandishments perhaps convinced they are deserving and untouchable and behave in ways truer to their nature and character the public persona peeled away. Now there will be among the adoring public some who have never been swayed by the Handsome Prince and/or Beautiful Princess and there will be others who, over time, may notice a change and see behind the facade what they may have suspected and feared all along: ugly, warty toads. Much of the public may not notice nor even care but those that do may well be repelled by the similar and yet unique features exposed revealing even uglier natures and characters those of Deceit, Venality, Pride, Hypocrisy, Avarice, and Gluttony and all oozing, simply oozing, the stench of corruption.

Those are the real faces of Justin Trudeau and his savage little gang. Oh, the Handsome Prince is still handsome – superficially. Beyond the husk, rot has firmly taken root.

AND THEIR RIGHT HAND IS FULL OF BRIBES

How much does it take to buy a politician? There are those who will say that a politician cannot be bought for $250 or $750 or even $1500. I am not of that crowd. Venality is not new and it has no limit. But when politicians so shamelessly grant private access for cash from eager “donors” with thousands in their fists, even cash from foreign interests, as Christy Clark, premier of BC, oops, now ex-premier, has over the years or when a drug company sponsors a BC Liberal convention or when her Liberal party tops up her premier’s salary with a bonus estimated at over $277K from 2011 to April 2016 for her fundraising efforts, you know she’s doing something the party and Big Business likes and that should be a matter of serious concern for taxpayers. Long ago when questions were raised concerning her fundraising methods, her response was basically this: I can’t be bought. Well, we have to take her at her word, don’t we?

And then there are the excesses of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in that area as well. I have spoken more than once on these issues: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s clear conflict of issue when she, as justice minister, attends a fundraiser sponsored by a prestigious law firm; finance minister Bill Morneau’s forays into fundraising with developers in the east coast; and an event in Toronto organized by Barry Sherman, the chairman of Apotex, a generic drug manufacturer and lobbyist of the government, the same company that provided the sponsorship for the BC Liberal convention of 2016. Sherman withdrew from the event after news became public but Apotex is still a lobbyist to the Trudeau government.

We know whom, sometimes we know who is buying, but can we really claim with certainty to know what is being bought?

Well, influence maybe?

Oh, no, the parties involved will all aver, fingers crossed behind their backs. We can’t be bought. We will be told, and we have been, that those lobbying governments are not allowed to approach MPs regarding business pending interests. Not allowed. Doesn’t happen. We are to take them at their word. Well, sure, why not… if you can’t trust a Liberal who can you trust? Sponsorgate? That was just an unfortunate aberration, can’t, won’t, happen again. Right.

And while it is true all parties fundraise, it is unseemly they do so furtively, in private homes, especially when those in attendance are government cabinet ministers and multi-millionaire even billionaire tycoons representing corporations lobbying governments. Is it really as innocent as the Liberals and Conservatives would have us believe?

Of the many quiet $1500 a plate fundraisers attended by Trudeau, at least 18 of an estimated 100 plus for the Liberals, there was one event in particular that drew interests because of its secrecy and the many Chinese millionaires in attendance some of whom were seeking to do business with the Canadian government. Coincidentally (nudge, nudge), a Chinese businessman in attendance and his business partner donated $1 million to the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal Law Faculty after that event. Too, a month later, another coincidence: Wealth One Bank, founded by one of the attendees was granted federal approval to start operations in Canada. While Trudeau originally claimed that no business was ever discussed at these fundraisers, he later recanted admitting to being lobbied and that he and his staff directed the lobbyists to go through the proper channels. If that was the case, why lie in the first place? Well, whatever the reason, Trudeau revealed he could lie with the best of them. But we suspected that anyway, didn’t we? His staffers also claimed that Trudeau did not always know who were attending these events because he would often just “happen” to drop by at these private house gatherings. Again that stretches credulity. Trudeau’s security would certainly not allow him to attend any affair without knowing who were in attendance.

It is not the fundraising that concerns me as much as the cost of attending and, even of more concern, the secrecy surrounding them. How can anyone believe there are no issues of concern when the parties involved behave in secrecy as if they were doing something wrong? Trudeau, Morneau, Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Liberal party have broken Trudeau’s own mandate regarding openness, transparency, appearances of conflict. And it began within months of taking office.

Following months of denying anything untoward regarding these private fundraisers, Trudeau announced that future events would be open and costs to attend would range from $250 to $1500. This move is clearly a move to make it easier for the average Joe or Jane working at Tim Horton’s to attend such events. Well, I provides a mild chuckle. Too, the events would be open to journalists. Well that was a joke. In a recent event held in Ottawa in appreciation of Liberal donors ($1500 a year and $750 for those under 35), journalists were kept in a pen and not allowed to mingle or ask questions other than when guests registered and entered the event. Shades of Stephen Harper! After the speeches, reporters were told to leave. Well, another empty promise, surprise, surprise. But, of course, there would be nothing to report because, as we know, nothing is ever traded in exchange for cash.

Well, when it comes to venality, the Harper gang, Christie Clark and the Liberal gang are not unique. The rot has even tainted city hall as evidenced by reports of Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city once voted the best mayor in the world, has his own fundraiser events but at $2000 a plate with strong encouragement to throw in another $3000. That’s a lot of pork. Makes Trudeau look like a piker.

So, yes, we know who’s being wooed, sometimes who is buying but seldom, until far too late, the exchange of any.

But how is it possible that they can and do get away with it and that they do so so openly and shamelessly?

Well, perhaps the political pundits who appear everywhere on the media circuit and write for the press share no small measure of the blame. I have heard too many such luminaries opine that it’s ridiculous to believe that a politician can be bought for $1500 a plate. Really? I would like to ask these worthies what is the price that does buy favour? What does it take to further corrupt a person ripe for corruption? Fill a room with folks wanting the same thing from the government at $1500 a head, say twenty widget salesmen. Well that’s $30,000. And multiply that by the number of fundraisers Trudeau attended last year, about 18 according to some sources. If so, that’s $480,000. Is that enough to buy favour? Now I suspect there are some in this world who cannot be bought at any price. I don’t believe Trudeau or any member of his gang is numbered among them. It is disingenuous, or extremely dangerously naïve, to suggest politician can’t be bought for $1500. One needs only harken back to Bev Oda, a member of Harper’s cabinet, forced to resign for padding her expense tab with a $16 glass of orange juice to be reminded how little it takes to ensnare those easily baited. If a politician will cheat on the small he will certainly cheat on the big and we have experienced questionable behaviour from some of Trudeau’s own ministers and one glaring example from the phony Prince himself. There was health minister Jane Philpott who repaid questionable expenses several times; there was minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna, who hired her own photographer on the public dime while attending a climate conference in Paris already teeming with media photographers. And, of course, there was minister of international trade, Chrystia Freeland, who, instead of returning home on the government plane waiting for her when on a Philippine business trip for the government, made a detour on a commercial plane to appear on a TV talk show in California. To legitimize the cost of the diversion, which cost Canadians over $17K, Freeland apparently met with some Californian dignitaries. And Trudeau? Well, over the Christmas holidays he and close friends vacationed with a long time family friend, the Aga Khan, even accepting a free helicopter ride from the Bahaman mainland to the Aga Khan’s private island. Not only was that a violation of rules governing the acceptance of gifts, it also violates conflict of interest guidelines. Since 2004, Canada has donated $310 million to the Aga Khan foundation with Trudeau pledging another $55 million over the next five years.

Trudeau sees no problem with this or with his fundraising endeavours. Really? And he saw nothing wrong with his justice minister attending a fundraiser sponsored by lawyers. How about you? Do you accept, as Trudeau has, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s explanation that she had attended as a mere MP and not as justice minister? Really?

MERCY’S HUMAN HEART?

Such behaviour, such lowered standards should make one cringe. Is there no shame?

This prime minister and his team are so glib and free and easy. They squeeze truth, acts and ideas that really matter to shapes unrecognizable and then toss them aside as the useless things the have become.

As when he vowed to make Human Rights a priority only to sign of on the light-armoured vehicle trade deal with one of the world’s most egregious Human Rights abuser offering all kinds of justifications for doing so none of them holding water. The previous Harper government had tied his hands. It was already a done deal. Canada would look untrustworthy if it broke the deal. There was no evidence Saudi Arabia would use the LAVs against his own people. He, or his ministers speaking on his behalf, lied on all counts. In going through with the deal, Trudeau broke Canada’s own guidelines governing international arms trading with Human Rights abusers and even breaches UN sanctions against such deals. Human Rights a priority? That’s to laugh. Even now Trudeau is actively seeking to expand trade with China another outrageous Human Rights abuser. But MONEY and BIG DEALS coupled with CANADIAN JOBS talk just as loudly to Trudeau as they did to Harper. Yet, for all his faults, Harper wasn’t a hypocrite in this: he didn’t concern himself with Human Rights when it came to business and its benefits.

Recently, Trudeau has announced that Canada will extend its role of “advise and assist” in the war against ISIS. Yet, when a Canadian sniper gained fame for breaking the record for the longest kill shot, Trudeau, who weeps at every saccharine opportunity especially when there’s a camera around, called the act “something to be celebrated” without a moment’s reflection on the life that bullet erased, he ignored questions by outgoing NDP leader Thomas Mulcair regarding Canada’s real role in Iraq. Is Trudeau even aware that that kill shot puts a lie to the claim that Canada’s role is that of non-combatant? Trudeau wants it all ways and all of them phony. Harjit Sajjan, minister of defence, refused to respond to questions regarding how many times Canadian troops have engaged in battle. He surely knows. Why don’t we?

There is also the matter of Harper’s C-51 anti-terrorism bill and Access of Information Act (AOI). Trudeau campaigned on the promise to make his government better, open and transparent “by default”. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Changes to C-51, condemned almost universally by academics, jurists and legal scholars, renamed C-59, does provide some fixes but not sufficient to alleviate concerns regarding the most troubling aspects of the bill. While the bill does provide for greater oversight of our security agencies with the formation of a National Security and Intelligence Committee made up of MPs and Senators, the PMO has rendered it toothless because it can shut down investigations and withhold documents at any time and without explanation. C-59 does nothing to assure Canadians regarding the sharing of information with other and/or foreign agencies. As to access to information, well, that, too, appears to be another empty promise. Documents obtained by AOI are still if not even more so heavily redacted. Jeremy J. Nuttall, reporting for The Tyee, (June 23, 2017) points out that the changes actually grant the government increased powers to add restrictions to access. Nutall quotes Sean Holman, journalism professor at Mount Royal University: “Governments will now have the power to unilaterally disregard an access to information request if it is vexatious or meets a number of other conditions” (https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/06/23/Trudeau-Liberals-Let-Down-Open-Government/). Scot Brison, president of the Treasury Board, claims the changes allows the Act to apply to the offices of ministers and will provide “proactive” release of information. The problem with that is the PMO decides what information is made public just as it is the PMO that determines what request is “vexatious”. Considering this regime’s propensity for secrecy, very similar to Harper’s, it is doubtful many requests will not be deemed problematic.

Cash-for-access, reporters penned, information heavily blacked out, files on citizens shared, access to information left to the whim of the PMO, citizens routinely spied on, and public watchdog committees tightly controlled and made toothless, again reliant on the yea or nay of the PMO. This is the reality of Trudeau’s promise of newer, better.

CRY ME A RIVER

Trudeau is a blowhard, a phony with an endless supply of Kleenex to wipe away the affected tears he and his wife can call up in an instant as they, oozing, simply ooooozing, sincerity, tap their right hand fingers over their hearts for whatever and all occasions as needed their brows furrowed and lips quavering and eyes squeezing out tears as many as needed for the occasion but careful, don’t overdo it.

Oh, he is loud with the grand gestures and the symbolic touches, the handkerchief dabbed at the corner of the eye. Look at the make up of his cabinet, both genders equally represented with women placed in major ministries. Oh, yeah, he’s big on feminism but when given opportunity twice as he campaigned and several times since to stand up and call out Trump’s buffoonery and misogyny, he opts to remain mute too cowardly to do the right, decent thing because, as with his stand on Human Rights, it’s all about business, fear of offending the red-headed freak south of us. He’s a feminist as long as he doesn’t have to prove it.

The same seems to be with the committee cobbled together to look into the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls tragedy. We know it’s been formed but as of yet, it appears to be hopelessly mired in – what? What the hell is happening to it? It’s fine as a symbol but, thus far, useless for convincing one that anything is, has been or will be accomplished. How much longer must those surviving family members wait?

Oh, he’s big on the symbolic. On National Aboriginal Day this year, he promised to rename the day National Indigenous Peoples Day and to remove the name of a residential school proponent. He has declared a downtown Ottawa heritage building and former US embassy to be home to Inuit, Métis and First Nations People in the “hope that this historic building will be a powerful symbol of the foundational role of indigenous peoples in Canada’s history” (Kathleen Harris, CBC News, June 21, 2017). On June 19, 2017, Trudeau and his wife, while honouring outstanding Indigenous Leadership at Rideau Hall, wept, no surprise there, to a moving speech by singer/actor/activist Tom Jackson. And when First Nations Activists set up a tepee on Parliament Hill, Trudeau visited them June 30, 2017 and spent 40 minutes with them; for some observers, that was a powerful gesture. But a gesture only. Trudeau offers too many such, most of them empty when what the First Nations community really needs is action, action in ensuring that Indigenous communities have access to fresh, clean, safe drinking water, that they also have affordable housing, that their children be given every opportunity to access education, job training and jobs. Surely Indigenous communities are tired of words and symbols; they need help in concrete ways to end the vicious cycles of poverty, addiction, abuse, and teenage and adult suicides. Trudeau says he understands the impatience of the Indigenous people and that he is impatient himself. Those are words. What has Trudeau and his Liberals really done for the community he panders to with such grand, empty gestures?

SHELL GAME

Among the empty promises was that of putting an end to omnibus bills. Didn’t happen. Instead he offers a budget bill, which includes a bill for the creation of the Infrastructure Bank with limited debate and no consultation two other practices he said would end. He lied, of course, for that is what Trudeau does – with a smile. This so-called infrastructure bank is just another way of privatizing infrastructure work, projects and highways with tolls for who knows how long collected by companies that, seeing a huge windfall in the cash cow they see in government, will suck the country dry with massive cost overages as always happens when profiteers work for the government. When the Senate held back the legislation for a bit, Trudeau, who had booted the Liberal Senators from the Liberal caucus with one of his many grand gestures saying he wanted a truly independent Senate, began to whine that it had no right to impinge on the PMO’s territory when Senators began to flex their muscles. True, the Senate cannot make money bills but it can make amendments. The bill passed after much whinging from Trudeau and gang; the phony wants it both ways, an independent Senate that does what he tells them.

Can Trudeau be trusted with anything? Doubtful. Recently, the Liberals had sought to appoint as language commissioner Madeleine Meilleur. The appointment, announced by heritage minister Mélanie Joly who at one time worked for Meilleur a long serving Liberal MPP and Liberal donor, was made without consultation of opposition members as required and clearly breaches conflict of interest guidelines. No matter, the Trudeau gang pushed back until Meilleur, having had enough, withdrew. It’s a small thing but telling for it shows how willing the Liberals are to reward and protect friends.

One such is John Herhalt. Herhalt, a senior partner of KPMG, Global Chair of Government and Infrastructure and high-ranking Liberal volunteer had been appointed last June to the National Board of the Liberal party as Treasurer that includes Trudeau and his principle secretary and life–long friend, Gerald Butts, at a time when KPMG was under investigation by a Liberal dominated parliamentary committee over its role in the offshore investment scam involving shell companies set up in the Isle of Man. Herhalt said he had retired from KPMG in 2013 but in June of 2016 he was working contracts for KPMG and using a KPMG email address. The committee shut down the testimony of independent witnesses critical of KPMG (remember, this was a Liberal-dominated committee). Only after they promised not to bring KPMG into their testimony, were the witnesses allowed to testify which seems a ludicrous exercise since it was KPMG that was being investigated. Was Herhalt’s appointment a breach of ethics as well as a breach of conflict of interest regulations? You bet it was. For those interested, wishing to know more, I highly recommend CBC’s Fifth Estate’s program regarding off-shore tax avoidance scams and the role played by KPMG (http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2016-2017/kpmg-and-tax-havens-for-the-rich-the-untouchables).

While Trudeau has proven himself a toad of ugly aspects in so many ways, his behaviour in handling electoral reform must surely be among his most offensive. It was he who made a great show of declaring 2015 the last first-past-the-post election. We know how that worked. In every aspect of handling that matter, Trudeau proved himself deceitful. He sought originally to rig the committee to weigh the vote in favour of the Liberals. When that failed, he loudly mused that Canadians did not see electoral reform as a priority. By then, it was clear that the exercise would fail because the committee was not about to recommend Trudeau’s preferred choice, that of the ranked ballot voting system. Trudeau replaced rookie democratic minister Maryam Monself who had denounced the work of the reform committee as careless and hasty with another young rookie MP, Karina Gould. It was left to Gould to declare electoral reform, which was Trudeau’s baby from the first, dead as a doornail. Trudeau didn’t even have the guts to kill the project to which he had given birth. Shortly after that, home from the holidays and his free helicopter ride, he did a cross-country coffee tour talking to Canadians in hope of refurbishing his image. During one of those events he not only bragged about feeling good on turning his back on reform, he claimed that the preferred choice suggested by the committee invited the election of terrorists and could lead to a terrorist lead government. During a June 27, 2017 press conference, he repeated that canard saying PR would be bad for Canada. “I think creating fragmentation amongst political parties, as opposed to having larger political parties that include Canada’s diversity within them, would weaken our country” (Brian Platt, Ottawa Citizen, June 28, 2017). Absolute rubbish. A form of proportional representation is used, and very effectively, by most of the Western democracies. He continued, “Unfortunately, it became very clear that we had a preference to give people a ranked ballot… We thought that was the right, concrete way forward. Nobody else agreed. The NDP were anchored in proportional representation as being the only way forward” He went on to say the Conservatives wanted to keep the “status quo”. That was revisionism worthy of the Conservatives under Harper: blame the NDP and Conservatives. He then went on to claim that his preference for ranked ballot was well known. When he made his pitch for electoral reform, he had not declared his preference at the time. In fact, while it was true that in 2013 and 2014 he may have spoken in support of that system, he did not do so at any time while campaigning that I can recall. His was an act of deceit by omission. Anyone familiar with the system of ranked balloting would know it tends to favour those in the centre. In other words, it is Trudeau and the Conservatives who would maintain the status quo.

Shallow, prone to big gestures and fine symbols, Trudeau is everything he sought to convince voters he was not. Nothing of real moral substance differentiates him or his gang from the Stephen Harper gang voters repudiated. Trudeau is a half person who will be exactly what you want him to be as long as it oozes, simply oozes sincerity and charm and is saccharine enough to allow for tears to be called up in an instant. There is the other half, of course, the truer Trudeau, the hard-edged, cynical, scheming, dishonest, deceitful, lying Trudeau that is shameless in its hypocrisy and smarmy manipulative guile. He is neither a truthful nor a courageous man. He is a man of no moral resolution or conviction but, rather, more attuned to the interests of Big Business than to the feminism he espouses but will not defend or to the Human Rights he has made a priority and yet upon which he has turned his back.

As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau will have taken centre stage, where else, hosting the midday festivities. Just remember this: 70% of the $2 million in trinkets and gewgaws Canada spent to celebrate the day, the baseball caps, flags, pins etc. that will be handed out, were manufactured outside of Canada. That about sums up Trudeau: he is loud promises and grand symbols. Just another chintzy politico.

**

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

***

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

 

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PIGGIES: POLITICIANS, THE GRAVY TRAIN AND THE LEGITIMIZATION OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOUR

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. – Rex Stout

In every well-governed state wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. – Anatole France

The people came to realize that wealth is not the fruit of labour but the result of organized protected robbery. – Frantz Fanon

An honest politician is an oxymoron. – Mark Twain

Frank Pelaschuk

Because I do not believe people inherently good or wise, I am occasionally surprised when they do what I believe the right and moral thing. This is particularly true of politicians and voters. I would prefer the politician to be honest and with a conscience and the voter exactly as the cliché every losing politician trots out to show what a good sport he is: The voter is always right. When it does happen, the voter electing a politician who behaves with integrity and in a non-partisan way for the interests of all citizens, I immediately become alarmed believing I will soon awaken to the political nightmare that is our reality.

While perhaps not to the degree of the transit of Venus, I believe the politician of unwavering honesty and steadfast principle a rarity. It should not be but it is. That is our fault. We make it easy for them by demanding too little and expecting even less. Both politician and voter measure each other by their own values and, because they do, often end with an inferior product: It’s what’s in it for me rather than how can I help make us both better. No voter, no con man, makes the politician corrupt, greedy or deceitful any more than does opportunity, lax rules, or systemic rot within an organization; the culpability lies with the individual, with his failure of character and lack of intellectual and moral substance. Unfortunately, the voter all too often plays the role of enabler and likely for the same reasons. He will forgive almost anything as long as he gets his cut.

THE GIVERS

They have always been with us, those citizens who put themselves forward, often “reluctantly”, willing to temporarily “sacrifice” personal ambitions and family life for the “greater good” as a way of “contributing” towards a “better” more “just” society and as repayment of a “debt” for the life they now enjoy. “Serving” some will modestly say. Nice sentiments, almost noble, perhaps even true for some – once. Much of it is baloney and most of it self-serving.

There are exceptions of course, there always is, those who enter politics with the best of intentions and the purest of motives. Occasionally they succeed and do honour to themselves, their families, their community, and to the offices they hold. Sadly, they are not the norm. Too many take the easy route adopting the party line or going with the flow; the path of least resistance is much easier than going against the tide. Cooperation, giving a little ground is perceived as weakness and disloyalty to the party or to the government. Too little attention is paid to the concerns and welfare of all citizens particularly the weakest and meanest among us because the real goal of any governing party is to maintain power preferably with a majority to inflict the greatest damage to those in opposition.

But whether a government of years or relatively new as is the Trudeau regime, there is too much effort directed towards enriching the party fortunes when it should be directed towards improving the lot of the citizens they govern. As a consequence, too much goes into secret fundraising cocktail dinners with the wealthy and powerful from all sectors. That such events often fail to pass the smell test and clearly transgress conflict of interest regulations are dismissed as the petty cavilling of envious opposition members unable to sell their favours as easily and as richly because theirs is a toothless power: second place is simply that.

HAVE YOU SEEN THE BIGGER PIGGIES

IN THEIR STARCHED WHITE SHIRTS

YOU WILL FIND THE BIGGER PIGGIES

STIRRING UP THE DIRT

ALWAYS HAVE CLEAN SHIRTS TO PLAY AROUND IN Piggies by The Beatles

For such as these, optics and public opinion matters not a jot until, as with Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberal party, it becomes a public issue when the media picks up the story. Even then, media attention and public disgust may not work. Christy Clark clearly doesn’t give a toss what the public thinks. If it’s legal but ethically dubious, no matter, they will do it. Ethics are for suckers and imbeciles. These are folks who game the system, mostly in secrecy though, it is true, sometimes openly and shamelessly, because they believe, mostly know, public apathy is their salvation unless it is provoked to fury over the sheer pettiness of some acts such as happened when Canadians learned of Conservative Bev Oda charging to the public purse a $16 glass of orange juice. Tax evaders rob the public purse of billions but it is the orange juice that gets our attention! Even so, not to worry, particularly these days. Extravagant spending, false expense claims, unethical picking of the public pocket has been legitimized; all one has to do is plead innocence, ignorance and naiveté.

It is astounding, not only the extent to which the public purse is milked for claims that are often of dubious merit, but also the shamelessness of such. It is not theft in the legal sense that happens, but it is pilfering nevertheless. Claims are made that to the average person often seem frivolous, questionable, petty, and bordering on illegal. Every once in a while, a politician is caught with his hand in the till. Sometimes they receive a slap on the wrist, most times, nothing happens. Occasionally, the miscreant is forced to resign or shamed into resignation but that is as rare an occurrence as was a direct answer to a direct question in Question Period during the Harper years: politicians are shameless; they have to be when they pander. When they are caught, exposed to the glare of the media, they will justify their acts resorting to legalese weasel words, the wormy deviousness of the shady and dishonest as they extract every nickel and dime possible from the public purse: It was legal, allowed, permitted, within the rules. Occasionally they will claim the rules are “obscure, vague, unclear, difficult to understand”. At other times, they may claim that a higher authority approved their actions. Occasionally they will point out others have done the same thing and that, over time, such acts have become accepted as normative practice. If I am to be punished, so must others. They will often make claim to the adherence of the law by which they mean the “letter of the law” but never in this manner, and will likely keep silent regarding its spirit. It’s what one can get away with that matters.

They do not talk much of moral compasses, personal responsibility, common sense, conscience, and personal integrity unless pushed and pushed hard. Of course, they will insist, they themselves possess all these admirable qualities. Nor do they much dwell upon propriety, possible conflicts of interest, of the public good, or of public perceptions of doing something that not only doesn’t seem right but isn’t right: If it’s allowed, I will do it because it’s allowed. With the verdict of the Duffy trial, that view has apparently become legitimized. I wonder what will happen now regarding other senators who have paid back money for undeserved claims or who have been referred to the RCMP for investigation. Unless things change drastically, we can expect continued pillaging of the public trough with the same foul weaselly justifications.

Ethical behaviour is not about appearing to do the right thing but actually doing the right thing. I have nothing against a senator or an MP making claims, but let them be legitimate claims, earned claims. Don’t charge the public for your meals at home or for the coffee and donut you bought for a friend. Don’t travel across country on the public dime on the pretext of doing Senate business that can be handled with a five-minute phone call because you want to spend a few days with your family. Don’t claim expenses for a home you’ve lived in for forty or so years claiming your other property visited a few weeks a year in a province you supposedly represent as your primary residence. It may be legal but it’s certainly not ethical nor is it justifiable.

Whatever happened to common sense and judgement? Why is less attention paid to these rather than the excuses often stretching one’s credulity when politicians and senators misbehave? I can’t imagine our common variety street corner petty thief being granted as sympathetic an indulgence while standing before a judge. The rules are unclear; I didn’t know it was wrong; everyone else does it; there is no law against what I did; I made a mistake; I believed it was okay; I thought it was standard practice; my staffer made a mistake; my dog ate the rule book, I was told by my boss it was okay (in this instance the higher the level of approval the more likely the chance of absolution and no one paying the price). What is so difficult about knowing right from wrong? One who fudges seldom offers explanations he offers justifications and excuses.

So, when I look at Liberal premiers Kathleen Wynne and Christy Clark, and their responses to breaking stories regarding serious ethical lapses regarding conflict of interest in the way of secret meetings with corporate executives and/or anyone with the money to pay for the privilege, I am torn. While both deeply trouble me, it was the response of each that allowed me to declare Clark the winner among the ethically challenge but not by much.

When news broke of two of Wynne’s cabinet ministers, Charles Sousa, finance minister, and Bob Chiarelli, energy minister, attending an unannounced (secret) fundraiser that benefitted the Liberal party with $165,000 and a cabal of banks to the tune of $29 million with the privatization of 15% of Hydro One, an embarrassed Wynne announced not only an end to ministers raising money from those who may benefit from their decisions but also the end of $500,000 quotas members of her cabinet were instructed to raise each year. Wynne clearly was chastened but not unduly; the changes would be phased in over time and probably not in place before the next election. Was there a conflict of interest? Absolutely. Did anything illegal occur? I don’t know, the rules allowed such shady shenanigans. Legalese. Again. Unethical? Most certainly. Shameful? You bet but one wouldn’t know it from the response by Sousa and Deputy Premier Deb Mathews. Sousa said that was “part of the democratic process”. Mathews, dismissive of a need for an inquiry, said there is “absolutely no evidence ” of wrongdoing. Of course not, nor will there be unless there is an investigation. But explain that to the citizens of Ontario who were recently informed of steep rate hikes because Hydro One didn’t earn as much as expected because of the mild winter. Unethical? Yes. When a consortium benefits from a secret fundraiser it puts on for a political party something is rotten and it’s not in Denmark. If the fundraiser was so innocent, why was it kept from the public and how was it that the finance and energy minister sat with the very folks who raised money for the Liberals and walked away with millions from the Hydro One deal? Coincidence? I think not.

And then we have princess Christy Clark of BC who earns $200,000 as premier and another $50,000 from her party, which calls it a “stipend” for her impressive fundraising efforts. As reported in the National Post, Clark has earned $301,900 in stipends since she became leader in 2011 (Rob Shaw, Postmedia News, April 28, 2016). When questioned regarding this, Clark laughed it off saying she had believed it was a car allowance. Really? It’s all a joke to these folks but I wonder how much laughter there was from the single parent minimum wage earner holding two jobs upon hearing this. Were those who donated to the party amused when some of that money went to Clark who could use it as she sees fit? Stipend suggests a token payment usually to offset additional expenses. Clark’s amused response to receiving $50,000 is the carefree let-them-eat-cake attitude. But, before we feel too bad for those minimum wage earners, she promises to give them a raise from $10.45 to $10.85 this September. That should keep those carpers quiet. It’s contemptuous and callous. So, what does she do to earn this stipend? Well she’ll meet privately with anyone who can raise $20,000 to $30,000. Clark clearly believes there is nothing wrong with this saying she governs for all British Columbians (just works harder for some for a price) and has no plans to review or do away with the private (and lucrative) meetings between her and wealthy suitors. She claims no favours are exchanged for cash. We have to take her at her word for that. It’s difficult. Between Wynne and Clark, it could be a toss up judging which is more ethically challenged. Clark may have the edge simply because of her shameless disregard for public perception. She cares just enough to rub salt into the wounds by raising the stipend of minimum wage earners 40 cents. Car allowance I guess.

And then, of course, we have the newcomer, Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould, the federal minister of justice, who, along with her boss Justin Trudeau, should know better but apparently doesn’t or doesn’t care. She sees nothing wrong with attending a fundraiser with the very people who stand to gain from her decisions regarding justice. The ethics commissioner Mary Dawson evidently agrees. “The rules are scant,” she told CTV News (Thursday, April 7, 2016). Again, legitimacy is granted to weaselly outs by the very body meant to oversee ethics. Judgement and common sense are not required. It cost $500 to attend the two-hour cocktail event. That’s not much when one considers what it costs for a private audience with Christy Clark ($20K to $30K) or Sousa and Chiarelli ($7,500). I have heard some commentators suggest no politician would risk their reputation for a mere $500. That’s nonsense and beside the point. It’s not a measly sum when it’s $500 times the number of guests and all from the same field holding the same interests and wanting the same outcome. Conflict of interest? Absolutely. Unethical? Without doubt.

Folks who shape ethics to suit their own wants are suspect. Meeting with constituents is not a problem; meeting them in secret in exchange for money is. I certainly do not believe that anyone, regardless of how wealthy, would simply fork over $20 or $30 thousand for the simple pleasure of having had tea with Christy Clark. He expects something in return and the politician princess, regardless of how dim, knows it. Yet we must take Clark at her word: no favours are exchanged. How can we? Why should we?

AND THE WINNER IS…ALL THE LITTLE PIGGIES IN WHITE SHIRTS

Honesty in politics seems to be an increasingly missing ingredient. And I am not talking about folks simply picking our public purse. I am thinking of the integral aspects that make us what we are, character if you will.

The last election provided very good examples of similar failures. We had the Conservatives fearmongering with a vile campaign playing the cards of racial and religious intolerance. There was Kellie Leitch the ambitious bundle of mediocrity now running for the Conservative leadership. There she was standing before the media with Chris Alexander at her side both of them announcing the creation of a snitch line for Canadians to report and stop the barbaric cultural practices of you-know-who. It was contemptible and meant to play to the worst aspects in us. Recently, Leitch on Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton disavowed her role almost on the verge of tears…well it was a good if phony act. “We weren’t talking about race, we were talking about kids … but that message was completely overtaken and I regret that, and I regret that it occurred, and it shouldn’t have been done,” she said (CBC, Power & Politics, April 21, 2016). “It shouldn’t have been done.” No kidding. Leitch is a reputable professional and from all I have found, good at her profession, and I have no doubt she cares for her patients. But the fact is indisputable: she was part of a team that made race and religion an issue. She cannot disavow that. Anyone with a shred of dignity, decency and intelligence would have walked away from the suggestion of the snitch line. More importantly, she would have walked away from the real message of the snitch line. The target was not abuse but the Muslim community. Neither Chris Alexander nor Kellie Leitch walked away from that filthy campaign. That says something about character or, more precisely, lack of same. It was an unpleasant spectacle because so willingly engaged by Alexander (he lost his seat) and Leitch (she kept hers). She is not leadership material but she certainly is a politician. When she says they weren’t talking about race, I suggest she is less than truthful. We have 911 and other services across the country to assist families and children. As with so many of that Harper gang, Leitch is just another sad example of another MP who, in hindsight, sought to refurbish a tarnished image with a subdued apology, faux tears and a flimsy defense without any evidence of sincere acknowledgement of her role in the sorry debacle. Of late we have seen too much of this, arrogant politicians caught in their own snares and then repenting with showy displays of phony tears only when the game is over or when seeking re-election perhaps or the role of leader to their party. They must stand before mirrors these bad actors in every sense practicing the quavering voice, the trembling lips, the tears sliding down cheeks with, perhaps to offer verisimilitude to the act, snot precariously leaking from one of the nostrils. I am unmoved convinced the tears are only for themselves. Perhaps, when done rehearsing the scene of self-abnegation they will then seek to relax by facing the mirror all pretence stripped away hands on hips making rubber faces before finally bursting into genuine laughter as they imagine the sympathetic response of the public they will face with teary eyes.

Anyone can misspeak and err but what happened that October 2 day with Leitch and Alexander was no mistake, no slip of the tongue. It was a media event staged during the final days of a failing campaign in desperate hopes of garnering a rush of support from the fearful and the intolerant. It did not work. Where was the shame at the time?

Conservative Jason Kenney is another likely to throw himself into the leadership race. He should not. When he used government letterheads to fundraise for his party, he demonstrated he was willing to fudge; he crossed the line. Last year he posted tweets on International Women’s Day to rally support for the war against ISIS. He posted two photos, one of women in chains and one depicting a child bride with her “husband”. Her hands were tied. The tweets were clearly meant to inflame sentiments against the Muslim community and ISIS in particular. Both were bogus and he knew it. The first picture was of a re-enactment of an historical event. The second was simply a fake. When asked about Canada’s expanding role in Iraq, he offered this as explanation: “The United States is the only one of those five that has precision-guided munitions. That is a capability the Royal Canadian Air Force has, so one of the reasons our allies have requested we expand our air sorties into eastern Syria is because with those precision-guided munitions our CF-18s carry, we can be more impactful in the strikes we make against ISIL” (David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, March 25, 2015). That was a lie. But Kenney is used to lying. As multicultural minister, he used his government email account to suggest Trudeau held sympathetic views for terrorists based on his visit to the Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque when he was an MP. The US intelligence community had released documents that they believed the mosque had links to al Queda. This bit of news was made public a month after Trudeau had visited the mosque. But Kenney and the other Conservative members kept this to themselves. Can such an individual who deceives, misrepresents and proves himself a glib liar time-after-time be worthy of governing a nation? We had that kind of leadership from Kenney’s previous boss. We don’t need a repeat. All the above suggest an individual with serious ethical issues. Evidently he’s a man of some ability. That may be true. He is also untrustworthy.

Behaviour matters. But, judging by the support Donald Trump and the deceased Rob Ford managed to garner, not much to many. Rude, foul-mouthed misogyny, drunken rowdyism, name-calling and shameless lying, racial and religious intolerance seems, in fact, the endearing qualities that draw the stupid and ignorant to support worthless notables of that ilk. Politicians have taken note.

Secret meetings between politicians and influential community and business types for a fee, have apparently been and still is the accepted practice. Does this matter?

Duffy, legally cleared of all charges, will re-enter the Senate chamber and likely make claim for restitution for pay for the more than two years he lost while absent from the red chamber. The Senate itself has made changes but will they be enough, will they endure. I suspect not. As long as there are folks willing to bend rules by pleading ignorance or turning a blind eye, the Senate will remain the dysfunctional, unloved and unwanted institution of a bygone era of partisanship and entitlement. Going along to get along, doing what others have always done is not sufficient. Yet that is how the zoo operated. Men and women took advantage of the laxity of rules and oversight and thought nothing of pilfering from the taxpayer coffers. The Duffy verdict seems to have legitimized such abuses. The offender is not liable. The offender is a victim in fact. Sometimes I want to join Howard Beale from Network and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But then I guess I’ve been doing that the past three years.

But where does the blame really lie? Why must the public accept that a politician can claim ignorance or was unable to understand the rules? If you watch a man going to the washroom, do you pocket the wallet he left behind knowing that it is his? If so, you’re a thief. Would you take that wallet claiming he had left it behind therefore there was not theft? Would you say, “If I hadn’t taken it someone else would?” There are just some things one does not do even when the water is muddy or opportunity presents itself. People without character play dumb, do not question, do not wish to know; they prefer to close their eyes to the wrongdoing of others or to join in saying if it’s okay for one, it’s okay for all.

Politicians who accept money for private meetings are corrupt. What they do may be legal but it is certainly immoral, unethical, and dishonest. They should not hold office and voters should not forget or forgive. Getting away with something simply because one can or because there are no rules against it doesn’t make it right.

PIGLETS

But let’s turn our attention to Trudeau and the Liberals. They swept into office promising new and better and, as have all previous governments, promised openness and transparency. Well, they have failed and continue to fail. Think about the meeting with lawyers by Jody Wilson-Raybould. She said she attended as an MP not as minister of justice. When you are a minister of the crown, there is no such distinction. A few years back Shelly Glover was skewered (and I joined in) when she was filmed attending a secret fundraising event that violated conflict of interests guidelines simply because many of the attendees could possibly benefit from the decisions made by her ministry. Now Glover did not want to be caught but caught she was. She at least paid back the money. Wilson-Raybould? Well, thus far there’s no word of what she’ll do but I can guess and suspect you can as well. Remember this next time you vote: She as minister of justice met with the very folk who stand to gain or lose by the decisions she makes.

But there is something equally as troubling and that concerns the CRA offering amnesty to tax cheat clients of KPMG, one of Canada’s large accountancy firms who allegedly helped these tax cheats set up accounts on the Isle of Man. Amnesty was offered on condition the tax evaders paid the taxes owed and kept their mouths shut regarding the deal. Now that is not only patently unfair, that is corrupt providing more evidence to those already suspicious that governments are more interested in protecting the wealthy and punishing the weak and helpless. The scheme is simple. Firms such as KPMG help businesses or wealthy clients create shell companies offshore and then help them get it back as tax-free “gifts”. Recently the CRA proudly announced it had recovered $1.5 billion from tax cheats. Big deal. What does that do about the rest of the estimated loss per year of $7 to $9 billion? Stats Canada says there is a total of $199 billion declared money in offshore accounts. That is likely a fraction of what is undeclared. In the House, May 3, 2016, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair asked Trudeau if he would hold an investigation of the matter and of KPMG. Trudeau responded thusly: “Once again, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is always willing to play parliamentary procedure games as opposed to digging into the real facts of the issue. We’re working with the Canada Revenue Agency,” (CBC News, Question Period, May 3). The answer was clearly “No!” to Mulcair’s question, which, as posed, clearly indicates he and the NDP do want to dig into the facts. Trudeau said the government was working with the CRA…and skirted the issue of a government agency, assisted by the government, also working with tax cheats and those firms who help the tax evaders in their cheating.

So, from Trudeau and the government, no penalties for stealing, and that is exactly what tax evasion is. If anyone is playing a game, it’s Trudeau, but it’s a rigged game with Canadians losing to the wealthy thanks to the our political leaders taking on the role of accomplices. It may have started with the Harper gang but it is unconscionable that our government continues to protect cheats with promises of amnesty and demonstrates absolutely no desire to go after the corporations who help them cheat some more. Even after the story broke the CRA was still quietly meeting with KPMG. None of this however is surprising; the Liberals have a history of scandal, of working with Big Business and dipping into the public trough. With the Trudeau crew it looks like we will, over time, witness the return to the bad old days of bad old ways.

Good words mean nothing. We have heard the Senate to which Duffy has returned is not the Senate as Duffy knew it. Don’t believe it. The Senate fails in all counts. The changes made are too little too late. The Senate members will behave for a time but before long, the greedy greasy fingers will again be picking at the public purse.

Trudeau’s government fails because it has proven itself flexible in ethics when Trudeau sanctioned the Wilson-Raybould cocktail dinner. The government also lied to its citizens regarding human rights when it ignored government regulations by signing off on the Saudi Arabia light-armoured vehicle trade deal. Trudeau lied to our veterans when he said he would restore disability pensions. He didn’t. He just increased the lump sum payments. He has done some things I do like but he could do much better; he has changed the tone of parliament and has a balanced cabinet of many capable individuals, there is more openness (but already showing signs of second thoughts on that front) and a better image internationally; for these reasons and a few others, he deserves very high marks. But he also broke his word on the big things that count and this is where he may eventually fail. I would prefer it if he had honoured Canada’s commitment to human rights when trading with other nations today and not down the road; yes, the Saudi deal is big, $15 billion. There are Canadian jobs at stake that too is true. But, as a nation, we have to be counted. Can we really justify setting aside human rights until the next international trade deal? Should monetary concerns really trump when dealing with one of the worst offenders of human rights?

Nor should he have reneged on his promise to veterans with disabilities. I would prefer he spent less time posing before every camera he meets and think more seriously of what he wants to do and what he will do and be more open about it. He has what it takes, but fudging on ethical matters, even if a little, suggests he is on the same path as others before him. One thing is clear; the people mobbing him still love him even as he jobs them. They at least got a picture with him.

Politics is a filthy game. It needn’t be. But as long as we allow our politicians to bend the rules, to act unethically, to lie, cheat and deceive and to meet in secrecy with the wealthy and powerful special interest, little will change.

Politicians may be corrupt, but so are we. Join Howard Beale: Get mad as hell. Do something!

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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

 

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, LIBERALS AND THE SAUDI ARMS DEAL: PHONIES, HYPOCRITES AND LIARS

Frank Pelaschuk

After today, with news of the Saudi Arabia deal with Canada and who really ratified it, it must be clear to even the most diehard Justin Trudeau fan that he has broken his promise of a clean, honest, transparent government on many fronts. In fact, it is safe to say he is a phony, a hypocrite and a liar.

Now I know from observing politics over the years, particularly the Liberals and the Conservatives, supporters of either party, with exceptions, actually do not care. In fact, they are indifferent to all but the things they want to hear and the shiny baubles promised. As a consequence, politicians are emboldened to lie encouraged by an apathetic public apparently to dim to be drawn to substance when surface will suffice. For politicians, the rewards and satisfaction of such are much greater than provided by either honesty and/or honour.

On my April 8th post, I wrote about politicians, Christy Clark and Kathleen Wynne and others, who can be accessed for a price and yet would have us believe that no influence was purchased, that they are moral folks who simply did what they were allowed and who cannot and will not be bought. We are expected to take them at their word just as we are to believe those lobbyists paying thousands for private meetings with provincial and federal leaders, MPs and MPPs are just generous folks seeking nothing more than to sit in the presence of greatness. They really do believe us stupid as made clear by federal justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who attended a fundraising event with an eloquence of lawyers (defended by Justin Trudeau as legal) saying she had attended the event as an MP and not as justice minister!

This is the state of politics today and the state of contempt those whom we elect hold for us. As if one is that easily able set apart her role as MP and justice minister likely the most important role in government next to the prime minister’s. That neither she nor Trudeau is troubled by the optics of this is extremely disturbing. They resort to legalese and weasel words: it was legal; I was not wearing my justice hat but my MP hat… That kind of speciousness clearly reveals a member of parliament who is totally unworthy of her office. She respects neither it nor those who are members of the public. Trudeau’s defence of her is inexcusable and reveals him to be as phony, dishonest, deceitful, and ethically challenged as is every politician who justifies an act because it “was legal” while shamelessly doing what “was questionable”. No laws were broken.

Contemptible.

In the April 8 post I had written: “Trudeau has made application to regain a seat on the UN Security Council for Canada. That’s another good move. In doing so, he declared Canada would promote peace and human rights. Well, he was less than truthful on that, I suggest, after announcing his government would honour the light-armoured trade deal with Saudi Arabia one of the world’s egregious violators of human rights. The deal, brokered by Harper is, itself, in contravention of Canada’s own human rights policy regarding international trade, which states that Canada must monitor and ensure that the other party to the deal does not violate human rights. That was expected of Harper, but Trudeau? The young prime minister offers several excuses for going through with it. Firstly, he says the deal was already signed and sealed and cannot be broken. Secondly, he claims no other nation would want to trade with us if we broke the contract. Those are excuses and they ring hollow. The Dutch had no qualms about breaking a contract with the Saudis over human rights. Liberal Jean Chretien had no qualms about walking away from a Conservative helicopter deal that resulted in severe penalties for Canada. As for the second excuse, well, that’s just ridiculous. Canada still signs global trade deals clearly suffering no fallout over the failed helicopter debacle, though, it must be noted, again under Harper, Canada has inked a deal with China another violator of human rights. Canada’s standing would almost certainly rise globally as a defender of human rights were Trudeau to cancel the deal likely leading to even more trade with better trading partners. Even if not, should human rights be of secondary consideration? Sometimes doing the right, moral thing does come with a cost; it could also pay dividends. Liberals, no doubt holding their noses will honour the deal because $15 billion and 3,000 Canadian jobs are at stake.”

Now, Trudeau, you will note, did say he would ensure that human rights were a primary consideration in future deals. That’s like the man telling his wife “I’ll stop cheating – next month.” But he also said the deal was a done deal; it was out of his hands, he couldn’t stop it. Well, he lied on that we learned today. It was Justin Trudeau’s liberals who ratified the deal. Remember, they had attempted to saddle the Harper gang with the deal. Not only that, there was Stephane Dion, foreign minister offering the same reasons Trudeau offered for going through with the deal! Well, two faces on the same coin.

I will say it again. Justin Trudeau is not only a phony and a hypocrite he is a goddamn liar. When it comes down to it, lives and human rights have as much value to him and his gang as they did for the Harper gang. It’s all about jobs and money and buying the next vote.

When they were elected, I had little expectation the Liberals would be much better than the Conservatives.

Sadly, the Liberals have confirmed my worst fears; they are no better because they offer no better. Morally and ethically, Justin Trudeau and his gang are as bankrupt as the Conservatives.

Last post I said politics is a filthy game. I was half right. It’s the filthy folks playing the game.

 

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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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