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STEPHEN HARPER RUNNING SCARED IN THE PLAYGROUND OF DRAGONS

I love my country too much to be a nationalist. – Albert Camus

All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers…. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born. – Francois Fenelon

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling? – Bertrand Russell

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE PREY

As tragic as the deaths of the two soldiers were following Harper’s declaration of joining allies in the war against ISIL in Iraq, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo gunned down while guarding the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill, the events proved fortuitous for Harper and his gang. That is not to suggest Harper or any member of his party would have wished the deaths, I have no doubt they were as appalled and heartbroken as all Canadians by what happened. But they are also seasoned pros; opportunities are not to be ignored. As much as all of us would have it otherwise, nothing can be done to spare the soldiers or their families. With celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just a few weeks away, if any benefit could be gleaned from what happened, Harper and his gang would certainly prove themselves up to the task in running with it; they are not shy or tactful folks.

A few days after Harper had announced Canada’s entry into the war against ISIL in Iraq, he and his crew began to warn Canada had come under the sights of ISIL extremists. Their language was alarmist and demeanour somewhat smug as if to suggest the threats somehow validated them as members who had joined the big leagues even though our contribution, including Harper’s warmongering bluster, is modest and conditional. When in fact Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo were murdered, opponents to Harper might have been forgiven for wondering if he had been sitting on God’s lap; on the surface, his alarming claims of a possible terrorist offensive appeared to have been borne out. Or so Harper wanted us to immediately conclude, prepping those watching question period in the House October 20th. That morning, Canadians learned a hit-and-run driver had struck two soldiers, one of whom had died; there was a chase and, as the day wore on, we learned the driver had been shot and killed. In the House, Harper was asked by a Conservative backbencher if he had been aware of a possible terrorist attack. At the time, no one was fully apprised of what had happened. That did not deter Harper and the Conservatives who were eager to raise the spectre of terrorism and the possibility of a terrorist act on Canadian soil; they wanted to ensure Canadians had little doubt that what had happened had been a terrorist act though there was as of yet no evidence of terrorism. All that was known was a soldier had been killed and another injured. That was enough for the Conservatives. The police were guarded most of the day neither confirming nor denying the suggestion. But the seed had already been firmly planted. While Harper and his crew had been premature and irresponsible, the murder nevertheless provided Harper an opportunity that must have seemed heaven-sent and which he could exploit; he had no compunction in doing so. The second murder, that of Nathan Cirillo two days later, appeared to seal the deal: another soldier dead, shot twice. What more proof did Canadians need that terrorists had not only struck but struck at the very heart of our government! But had they? Were these acts really the product of terrorism and a terrorist movement or simply the criminal acts of two very troubled men operating on their own? Apparently, both had become bewitched by ISIL and its brutal, bloody atrocities committed in the name of Islam. That does not make them part of a terrorist group. The sad fact is the killers were misfits, loners, ill and unstable men who along the way began to believe society had failed and rejected them. Apparently they found in the ISIL blogs and videos something that appeared to answer their needs and feed their anger and justify their desire to retaliate. Whatever it was, the two killers, independently, responded violently and irrationally in retribution against society by targeting innocent Canadians who happened to be soldiers. They did not murder because of ideology or religious fervour but rather because they were deeply disturbed and deeply angry, perhaps seeing in the uniforms or in the Parliament buildings, the symbols of a society that had turned its back on them. Who can now really know? That doesn’t excuse them, but it may help explain and understand why they did what they did. Canadians should know this and understand it. But it is not this aspect with which Harper and his gang trouble themselves. As Harper once proudly admitted, Conservatives “…don’t practice sociology”. They prefer to concentrate on the fact that these two men had read from the Muslim scripture, were fascinated by ISIL, and had murdered two soldiers who had done them and no one harm. To extrapolate from this that they were terrorists and acting on behalf of an ideology is lazy thinking and allows for excusing this government’s failures and neglect of a large segment of society. For the Harper gang, examination of root causes of discontent, preventative action and rehabilitation are beside the point; it’s the punitive aspect of law and order they most care about (unless it’s one of their own). Moreover, this plays better for Harper with the public than acknowledgement that there might be a systemic failure in our society and governance that makes inevitable such terrible events. Who wishes to admit to apathy, to willful indifference, to active neglect, and to the misery of others, what right do they have to be so angry when, as the Conservatives are quick to tell us, we live in the greatest country in the world. We do, in one of the greatest countries at any rate, but how much greater without the Conservative boots on the necks of those less fortunate as they widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t. It’s easy to judge but what do we know of their stories? Shouldn’t we care enough to at least attempt to find out more before we condemn? I’ve heard it said that most of us are one pay cheque away from the street. With that in mind, hold back on your judgement of those less fortunate than you. You could as easily be among them.

THE TRAP

It is not surprising that Harper pounced with news of the murders: hadn’t he warned us?

That the murders and murderers were not linked, that there was no evidence of a concerted conspiracy was of any concern to Harper and those quick to accept what they had been prepped to accept. Two of our bravest had been murdered. But, once thrown out there as a possibility, it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle; if you were Harper, why would you wish to? The enemy was no longer over there but here, on Canadian soil murdering young, brave Canadians. How well it all played before the public; it was just the thing needed for a troubled, scandal plagued Conservative party lagging in the polls threatened by that upstart youngster, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Here, at last, was something Canadians could understand and rally around: Canada at war in Iraq, terrorists targeting Canada, terrorists killing two fine Canadian soldiers. That it happened days after Canada’s entry into the war in Iraq and with the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just around the corner made it even better. So play up the threat, warn citizens of further possible attacks and while fanning the flames of fear, why not, while Canadians were in an angry, pliant mood, push for and rush through legislation expanding the powers of CSIS to eavesdrop, detain, and arrest without any clear defining of the terms of reference for doing so. And, just to make it more palatable, to make it that much easier for good, honest, decent citizens to step forward and report “suspicious” behaviour, perhaps the neighbour you don’t like for his anti-Harper comments, accusers, or informants if you prefer, will be protected, the accused unable to confront his accuser and the accuser granted immunity. This is not the first time Harper and his gang attempted to expand the powers of our spy agencies; previous attempts were in secrecy, legislation slipped into omnibus bills dealing with the budget without consultation of the public and its representatives in the opposition. Fortunately, a vigilant press and a vocal and scrupulous segment of society thwarted the government loudly exposing its dirty tricks and forcing it to retreat somewhat. But today it is evident the murders of soldiers and the Harper gang crying “terrorist” has made the public more amenable to the passing of new “anti-terrorist” laws even if it means more intrusive spying on Canadians and greater restriction in movement. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire may be how the thinking goes.

Canadians should reconsider this and do so very carefully. Such new, even more repressive measure should alarm all Canadians. It is too late to save Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent and it is too late to help their killers. But what of the future, the others like them out there? How do we protect our future victims? Do we continue to do as we always do, elect governments that simply ignore the ill and alienated? Do we turn a blind eye to the inequities of our society; do we just sweep them under a rug; do we continue to turn our backs on our own failings as members of a society to provide the understanding and care the marginalized need? Where will it end? What will be the determinants of who poses a threat? Do public expressions of dislike for police or loathing for political figures ignoring environmental ravages committed by corporations make one suspect? Do peaceful marchers decrying corporate greed and homelessness really signify would-be terrorists? What about the person who opposes Canada’s entry into the Iraqi fray? What is acceptable and what not in a nation that declares itself democratic and yet whose government rigs election laws that benefit a particular party and disenfranchises a particular segment of society? Must we embrace a government that asks its citizens to report any and all suspicious behaviour? Spying on neighbours and friends and family. What next? That has happened in the past, children denouncing teachers and parents, parents denouncing in-laws, churchgoers, atheists, and businessmen rivals. Humphrey Bogart once remarked of the witch-hunting House of Un-American Activities Committee, “They’ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem”. Is that the road we want to take? What is suspicious behaviour? Is it the person who is solitary, prefers his own company to yours? Perhaps it’s that homeless individual on your street haranguing passersby about the evils of society or claiming the CSIS is loaded with Martians? Or is it the student questioning the government’s indifference to poverty or the high cost of tuition? Perhaps it’s the environmentalist slamming Big Oil. What about the woman asking the government why it’s taken no action regarding the disappearances of aboriginal women? Experts claim the laws are already in place to combat terrorism. I believe that is true. They also claim what is needed is not more laws but a government spending more on resources to implement them. We have a government that spends freely on self-promotion but begrudges veterans the benefits to which they are entitled and considers those tossed on the wayside to be of little worth. Do we really believe Harper has set the right priority for Canadians?

The Harper gang is made up of a vicious, narrow, vindictive group of ideologues. It does not look for anything into the future except the next win. It is not Canada that concerns them but the free enterprise agenda: maximizing profits and keeping costs down. That they do not look beyond their self-interest and the interests of their cronies, that they refuse to consider a future without themselves at the helm, will ultimately lead to their destruction. Perhaps it’s just as well. If they did look into the future, would they like what they see? I think not. You can ignore people and their suffering for only so long. You can line the pockets of your friends and yourself and leave behind a wave of misery and broken humanity and believe yourself free, above it all. But you will not be free nor above it all. Too many people are being ignored, are being left behind, and tossed aside. Eventually, those ignored, spat upon, ridiculed and slapped down and neglected will have had enough of hunger and misery. John Steinbeck once asked, “Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?” The Harper gang should think of that. Even the timid eventually fight back.

Terrorism may be a real threat in Canada. If not today, tomorrow. It need not be. Poverty in Canada is a greater threat than those like the two soldier killers. It has arrived long ago. It is real and entrenched. An astounding 21% of our children live in poverty. That is the real threat and that will be the real cause for fear tomorrow. Poverty can, and will, lead to anger and anger to fury.

We’ve all heard the Conservative mantra: Business creates wealth. Or the variant, which makes most people feel better because of the hope offered: Business creates jobs. Conservatives take it further. Corporate tax cuts attract even more business, which in turn creates more jobs, which, ergo, creates more wealth. That is the free-enterprising assertion, the Big Hook. But it’s an assertion not based on evidence. If tax cuts and deregulation really created jobs, Ireland would not have gone bankrupt a few years ago and no Canadian or American would be out of work. Tax cuts and tax grants. Conservatives ignore, wanting us to do the same, that tax concessions are almost always made under duress with threats of moving business elsewhere. Certainly the Conservatives are partially right: wealth is created; the profit margins of corporations always seem to grow. Unfortunately the jobs never materialize as promised and working stiffs today are only able to purchase as much as they did thirty or forty years ago. It’s the trickle theory working both ways: wealth flows up, piss rains down. Of course, the Conservatives might dispute that and continue to sing their lying song: Tax breaks equal jobs equal wealth. It’s their myth and we, idiots or hopeful fools that we are, buy it time and again without even a thought of examination. In previous posts, I’ve asked this: Are we that stupid? That crazy?

Even when they make a profit, free enterprising pigs squeal if the profit margin does not match or is less than last year’s. Immediately, this “loss” calls for “restructuring”. That is, throwing thousands of workers to the wolves. That’s what happened November 4th when Scotiabank announced it was restructuring to the tune of shedding itself of 1500 workers because of a bad investment; it still made record profits, just not enough.

So, who’s your friend? Big Business knows. Do you?

Even when things don’t quite work as promised and governments begin to take a hit from doubters, there’s always a bogeyman to call upon to distract the voting public. In the past, it was Communism. Today it’s terrorism. Harper and his gang are counting on us not swapping horses midstream during a time of crisis, real or of their making. But, just to make sure, just to be on the safe side, it might be wise to throw a few shiny baubles our way. So they do.

Between attending the funerals of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent while continuing to stoke the fires of alarm and fan the spirit of hyper-nationalism (an extreme and unpleasant form of patriotism to which Canadians, thankfully, aren’t all that easily drawn) Harper and the gang made a “good news” announcement on October 30th. And it was all about the thing they really, really, really love: money.

THE BAIT

No doubt you have seen the images: Harper tieless, checked shirt open at the collar (indicative of openness, of being one of the “folks”), striding to and fro across the stage (thereby demonstrating a “take charge”, “can do” attitude) with a swagger (nothing wrong in showing a little braggadocio) before a crowd of Conservatives wearing pasted smiles and gazing in wide-eyed wonderment (all eager to applaud at cued moments thus confirming they were living, breathing dolls) while, to one side, a female “reporter” (representing the taxpayer funded faux “news” channel 24 Seven, which follows Harper everywhere and offers those who visit the government website, an endless supply of propaganda, fake “exclusives” and highly polished, if questionable, drivel), waits to ask softball questions. The news is momentous. Can an election be far behind? Well, yes, if Harper keeps to his own fixed election date of October 19, 2015. Harper had long ago embraced American-style politics with vile, mud-slinging ads; now he has gone the further step of starting the campaign a year early guaranteeing this to be one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history.

But, if you were watching him that day and if you were paying attention, you would have immediately understood two things: not only was this an election stump speech but also, if you were a single parent earning a modest income, if you were single, young, elderly, homeless, a student, ill, disabled, a veteran, there was absolutely nothing for you. It was all about Conservative values I guess, marriage, children, family values (that the NDP and Liberals don’t fully appreciate or condone), and healthy doses of hypocrisy. In fact, you would have immediately understood yourself to be one of the 85% of Canadian households (according to the C.D. Howe Institute) who would not benefit from the income splitting scheme Harper was proudly unveiling. True, the income splitting plan has been watered down because of loud opposition (including from the deceased Jim Flaherty, Harper’s finance minister) to its patent unfairness. But Flaherty’s gone and the plan, albeit not as Harper and gang envisioned, will go ahead. Immediately, those families with two incomes will get a $2000 tax credit. That leaves out all the rest and hits hardest the single parent. But not to worry. Lest you feel left out as a single parent, Harper also included news of a raise to child benefits.

Even with the increase in child benefits, Harper could not resist playing games. There is a catch. It is in how the Harper gang plans to implement the new benefits that most clearly reveal his contempt for voters, particularly those in the low-income bracket. In January of 2015, the child benefits will go up from $100 to $160 a month. However, and this might clue you into understanding what Harper and gang really think of you: households will not see the benefits until July, just three months before the next election. Then, every household with children will receive a cheque of $420 per child aged six to seventeen with a retroactive payment including the first six months (it makes a total of $720 taxable by year’s end). So, while you as a single parent with one child will receive a total of $720 a year, a two-income family will receive $2835. For 2015-216, the cost for the income splitting and child benefits will be $4.5 billion. Canadian families earning more than $140,000 will get the lion’s share of the benefits estimated at 43%. As a single parent, that must really make you feel good. Does that seem fair to you? Really? Now you know if you didn’t already, what Harper thinks of you. He and his gang believes your vote can be bought for $60 a month per child; just to be sure, he believes a one-time only lump sum, just before election of a gargantuan $420 per child will be enough for you to remember who to vote for when at the polls. Not only does he believe you can be easily bought, he also believes you to be stupid. Come next election, take the money then prove him wrong. It might help if, just before you cast your vote, you recall this Yiddish proverb: “God loves the poor but he helps the rich.” Conservatives do not even love the poor.

If you are a voter from a two-income family and stand to gain while 85% of Canadians do not, it might be time to think about what you value when you vote. Instead of looking to have your pockets lined with money you really will not miss when others are neglected, could you not take a little time to reflect about what your role in society? Is it, as Harper would have us all believe: everything is reducible to dollars, that those who have deserve more, that the poor deserve to be poor. We certainly do not need the spectre of terrorism raised because of the acts of two disturbed, angry individuals. Nor do we need more laws to quell dissent, to silence critics, to arouse suspicion and fear. Laws are already in place. We do not need a leader like Harper who boasts about his “accomplishments” when they are, in fact, inconsequential outweighed by the damage he has inflicted on the largest portion of society. When he first became prime minister, the country had a surplus of $13 billion. In a few years he squandered it, much of it in tax cuts and tax funded self-promotion touting his Economic Action Plan and non-existent job creation through non-existent programs. He has cut 35,000 public service jobs, over three thousand from the Canada Revenue Agency. If there is any surplus, it was on the backs of those civil servants and low-income earners. As a consequence, billion dollar corporations and millionaire pikers are allowed to avoid paying taxes by funneling money to off-shore accounts while Harper has the now politicized CRA hound left-wing charities. Harper has cut services to veterans and closed down offices serving veterans while commemorating historic military achievements and loudly declaring his respect for our men and women who have served this nation. He has ignored the environment, lectured others on fiscal restraint and has almost bankrupted his own nation with tax cuts and giveaways to corporations. He has conspired with Big Business to suppress low-income wages and offer Canadian jobs to temporary foreign workers. He talks loudly of Canada’s contributions on the world stage and yet had for years ignored and condemned the United Nations. He has been bombastic and belligerent in his triumphalism and boastful of his support of our military personnel and yet parsimonious where it counts. Too many military families are forced into bankruptcy or on the brink because they must sell homes at a loss when suddenly relocated to another post; but military brass are often granted huge moving allowances when just moving a few blocks in the same town. We have an air force that has been neglected, the C-18s old, tired, due for retirement in 2015. Many of our ships are also old, out-dated, and ill-equipped, in desperate need of repairs and replacement. He ramps up the fear when he talks of terrorism but our military and police are wanting, their budgets slashed. Recently, the leaked pentagon document reviewed that Canada may purchase four F-35 jets. When Harper ran for the last election, he talked about buying 65 such jets. Originally he said the cost would be $9 billion. He lied on that. When challenged on that figure by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Harper regime waged a smear campaign against him. Harper was re-elected with Canadians never learning the true costs of what those purchases would be. Figures have varied from $45 billion to $125 billion. Apparently, without fanfare, Harper set aside any plans to purchase the 65 jets with the exception of the four leaked by the Pentagon.

And because Harper has begun his campaign so far ahead of the projected date, voters might do well to remember and think of the following. It was Harper who appointed disgraced Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin to the senate; they are the high-flyers who padded living and travel expenses. Duffy apparently was confused which of his homes was his principal residence. He also secretly accepted a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s Chief of Staff, to repay the fraudulent claims. Conservative members of the Internal Economy Committee in the Senate altered the Deloitte audit to give Duffy a free pass for the transgressions. In April of 2015, he will be facing the courts. Perhaps, to forestall any bad news emerging from the trial, the Conservatives may call the election early. If that does occur, voters should ask why.

Voters should also remember another Conservative who also believed she was entitled and who was twice forced to repay expense claims fraudulently made. Bev Oda was finally forced to resign because of public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice. Nor should voters forget Peter Penashue who Harper called the “best MP Labrador ever had”, who also was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions. Too, voters should be reminded the Conservative Party pleaded guilty of breaking election laws; they paid a fine of $52,000 thus saving themselves the embarrassment (if capable of such) of high level members facing prosecution. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan who fought Elections Canada regarding overspending during the 2011 campaign. Glover finally submitted a full campaign expense report. She was promoted to a ministry. Early this year, Glover made the news again when attending a fundraising event in her riding where the guests were those who stood to gain from decisions made by her department. She later refunded the money, again no consequences for the minister who appears to have a penchant for ethical lapses. Voters should also be mindful of Michael Sono, the young Conservative staffer thrown to the wolves and facing jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. And of course, no one should forget Dean del Mastro, who along with another nasty partisan, Pierre Poilievre, smeared Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada for having the effrontery to investigate allegations of Conservative involvement in the robocalls scandal. Allegations later confirmed. Del Mastro was found guilty of three counts of voter fraud and overspending. He maintains his innocence but just hours before he was to be expelled as a member of parliament, he resigned his seat thereby saving his pension. And, of course, we have the aforementioned Pierre Poilievre, the minster and architect of the so-called Fair Elections Act, which allows the Conservatives to hold an advantage come next election by promising to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and restrict the powers of Elections Canada to investigate voter fraud.

This is a party rife with bad people and bad behaviour.

When will you have had enough?

It is time Canadians refuse to accept Harper’s version of voters as easily led and bought, as too dumb and too self-interested and greedy. Let him know that you cannot be easily bought, that you do care about honesty, integrity and good governance. Do not let him convince you that the world out there is all menace and only he can save you from the bogeyman. It’s no truer than the myth that giving tax breaks to the wealthy creates jobs. The bogeyman does exist. It is Stephen Harper and the Conservative party.

The deaths of Vincent and Cirillo were tragic enough. But it does no honour to their memory to exploit their deaths by fomenting and xenophobia. Because a murderous, barbaric group of zealots in the Middle East running under the banner of ISIL have hijacked and perverted the teachings of the Qur’an, because some young Canadians have succumbed to ISIL’s vile lure, it is irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous to encourage public suspicion, fear and misunderstanding of Muslims. We must not succumb to panic and fear.

Instead, Canadians should concentrate on the rot in our own society and reject a government that refuses to excise it. Yes, there are enemies out there. But the greatest threat comes from what we refuse to acknowledge. Fomenting fear and mistrust to justify increased surveillance of its own citizens is hardly the work of a responsible, thoughtful, regime that respects democracy and nurtures its citizens.

For this regime, democracy and sensibility to the needs of the disadvantaged and troubled are ancillary considerations, distractions best left for another time and for another regime. Nothing must interfere with the agenda of boosting the economy – of the wealthy at least – and getting re-elected.

One day, almost certainly not in my lifetime, Canadians will have had enough of the kind of governance to which we have been subjected since Canada became a nation. We cannot tolerate the same game of cutting taxes, ignoring our infrastructure, of scapegoating unions and public servants and abandoning veterans and their families. We are a better people than Harper would have us be. It’s time Canadians really think about riding itself of this rotten crew. Going back to the Liberals is not the answer. For our whole history we have opted only for the two, Conservatives and Liberals. The game of simply batting the ball to and fro between two cheaters is boring. Canada needs something new and fresh. It needs a change. Set aside your fears, prejudices and doubts. It’s not a question of what can we lose, but rather, what we may gain.

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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 not safety. Benjamin Franklin

STEPHEN HARPER: TERRORISM, THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

 

Where do murderers go, man! Who’s to doom when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? – Herman Melville

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 The Events

On October 20th, a lone male drove his vehicle into two Canadian Forces members in a St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot. One, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, later died. The driver was pursued, shot, and he too died later. That was all any knew initially and yet even before police had commented more fully on the episode, the Conservatives had stage-crafted a plan for maximum impact by having a backbencher, reading from a sheet of paper in the House, ask Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist threat. It was theatrics and it was cheap, clearly meant to disconcert and surprise the opposition and inspire fear not only by raising the specter of terrorism by also by reminding the public of what the Harper gang have been saying since Canada had joined the war against ISIL: Canada was under threat by terrorists. Harper responded to the staged question by saying he found the episode “extremely troubling”. The next day he went further saying the attack had been “against our values as a civilized democracy”. Steven Blaney, public safety minister said the event showed the driver “clearly linked to terrorist ideology”. Perhaps so, but was this really an act of a terrorist or a deeply troubled man?

Then, two days later, on October 22, a gunman armed with a rifle, attacked Parliament Hill. Reservist Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton, Ontario, standing honour guard at the National War Memorial with another soldier, was murdered. The police response was swift, efficient. Bystanders stepped forward, an unidentified woman attempting to breath life into the soldier while others performed CPR. A few contemptible others, souvenir hunters and callous creeps, used their cameras to take pictures of the soldier’s dying moments while the doers, the men and women of action, strove heroically to save Nathan Cirillo. The killer himself was shot dead within the parliament building with parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers playing a major role. American media disclosed the name of the killer before Canadian media. MP Jason Kenney demonstrated incredible insensitivity by being the first to publicly announce the death of Nathan Cirillo. In a time like this, some are always there to grab the headlines. No one knew what was happening, the police response was outstanding, and the media was there in full force the Globe and Mail capturing a shaky video of police racing through the lobby of the parliament building guns drawn. Shouts are heard and then an echoing volley of shots, too numerous to count recording the final sounds the gunman would ever hear. For the day, Ottawa was under siege. Parliament, public offices, Canadian Forces bases, schools, were put in lockdown mode for the day. The world was watching. And the media? The media was in frenzy acting as it always does in such terrible events, having a field day spreading alarm, speculation, fuelling rumours and offering little meaningful information.

I agree with Harper, these events are extremely troubling. But I am also troubled about what the fallout will be. For Harper, the Conservatives and many others, the immediate judgement was that these were terrorist acts. As a viewer watching the events unfold, particularly on October 22nd, I wasn’t so sure. As the day unfolded, I found myself increasingly doubtful that this was an act of terrorism and that, as the media first reported, there was more than one assailant involved. Rather, I began to believe this to be an act of criminality by an extremely disturbed, probably suicidal, individual.

THE STAGED RESPONSE

It was the first event of October 20th that gave me a clear sense of what Canadians could expect from the Harper gang. And it’s not good. On that day, while clearly prepped about what had happened in Quebec before the House began its session, a Conservative backbencher rose and asked Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist attack. As far as anyone knew at that time, a vehicle had mowed down two soldiers and the driver shot and captured. Yet Harper and the Conservatives chose Parliament to exploit the event, perhaps because two soldiers were the victims. Immediately, the alarm bells rang with this first raising of the specter of terrorism, which conjures images of extremists plotting and acting against Canadian targets. It should not have happened that way. It should have been left to the authorities to inform the public, not Harper, certainly not the way he did, and certainly not when not apprised of all the facts. It was only later, with the passage of time and with more information gathered, it was revealed the driver was known to police, that he had become “radicalized” drawing the attention of security who had taken away his passport and interviewed him just days before that terrible event. But the speculation raised by the backbencher and fuelled by Harper was irresponsible because, though uninformed, had the clear goal of fomenting public alarm and of reminding the public that Harper’s claims over the few weeks of terrorist threats had, in fact, been borne out. That wasn’t true, but the public was to infer that. Too, the question and answer was also meant to inform the public that Harper was on top of it (at that time “it” being unknown but certainly declared). Terrorists had struck.

THE MEDIA RESPONSE

What happened on Parliament Hill was even more troubling. This time, Harper was more circumspect. There was no speculation of terrorist attack by him but, really, did anyone need him to say anything. The public could see for themselves the terrible image of the unknown woman attempting to breath life into the mortally wounded Nathan Cirillo, the massive police presence and the Globe and Mail video of police running through the hallway of the parliament building followed by echoing sounds of shouted voices and shots too numerous to count recording the last sounds the killer ever heard. But it was the media this time that exacerbated the situation, inflaming the fears with endless replays of the video and wild speculation that more than one shooter was involved and that there had been a shooting in the Rideau Mall. Terrorists had struck at the heart of Canadian democracy! Canada was under siege! This, too, was alarmist and irresponsible. No one knew what was happening but, while the police and security forces were doing a commendable job under great duress and without knowing what was happening, the media was fuelling the alarm with wild stories. Most irritating was watching CBC’s Evan Solomon breathlessly replay time-and-again that disquieting Globe and Mail video. This was sensational stuff and the media was sensationalizing it even more none more so than Solomon who, on the 23rd, on Power and Politics, still breathless, announced that he had a photo of a bullet hole in the carpet and would tweet it for the public. This is not responsible journalism but kid stuff. Terrorism had again reared its ugly head along with irresponsible reporting.

For the remainder of the day, there was nothing heard from Harper. But there was, for public consumption a photo of a sombre Harper attentively listening to the RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson as he was briefed. It’s a picture I imagine Canadians will be seeing a lot. There’s an election on the way.

The two events were terrible and terrifying; soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo who had done no harm to their killers, fell victim to their blind violent rage and hatred. But, as of this writing, the brutal acts appear to be independent of each other. The fact that both had lost their passports, the second shooter likely for his criminal activities and the first, the killer of Patrice Vincent, for his radicalization, does not mean this was an organized plot by terrorists seeking martyrdom for a holy war. Until we know more, the wiser course would be to consider these as separate criminal acts by loners and losers seeking retribution against a society they blame for real and imagined losses, failures and failings. If it was the latter, and I don’t know if it was, but if it was, then these are not acts of ideologues, believers, self-imagined warriors, but of miserable little men who have become lost somehow and sought easy answers and comfort by turning to others feeling just as they did, hating the world, wanting to strike back, feeding them the same lies and excuses they feed themselves: it’s not their fault, it’s them, those out there, society. Malcontent, unhappy with their lives and themselves, lonely, isolated, seeking attention and, as some do, finding it in the only way they can because they are misfits and losers: blaming others and hurting others. If some turn to ISIL, it’s likely because something in ISIL struck a chord: all westerners are evil, responsible for all their ills and pain; it’s the same blame game, but openly declared and open for membership. If some then read from the Qur’an, act as these two have done, that doesn’t mean the Muslim faith is responsible any more than someone quoting from the Bible. These are delusional people fed what they want to hear, picking and choosing from scripture the things that feed their rage and then act out their own delusional nightmares. There are many like them in society. With people such as these, one act often leads to another, copycat losers and each craving attention, their five minutes of “fame”, the notoriety they believe is owed them by a society that has denied them everything. These are disgruntled, alienated, possibly mentally ill individuals. Feeding into the “terrorist” frenzy is foolhardy and dangerous. Giving the killers this much attention is only likely to cause others, equally disaffected, to attempt something similar if not more outrageous down the road. Be vigilant, yes, but let’s not succumb to irrationality. If these were, in fact, isolated incidents, terrorism by the alienated rather than the “true believer”, Canadians may have even greater cause for alarm. The danger may be from its own government.

Not long ago, Harper spoke of changing rules to give CSIS and the RCMP greater powers to spy, detain and arrest Canadians. In parliament, he stated his position to expedite the changes. This is reactive and reflexive legislation; it’s not good legislation. It is based on fear rather than on logic and facts. It does, however, feed nicely into the Conservative narrative and will no doubt assuage the fear of those easily fearful. As a consequence, one of the changes we will see is the right of informants to remain anonymous and free from prosecution. The accused will not be granted the right to face his accuser. Anyone with a grudge could lay a charge against anyone. This is not what one would expect from a democracy. Even today the Harper gang and the police are encouraging the public to take on the role of informers if they see anything suspicious. Do we really need leaders creating an atmosphere of paranoia? Do we really want a nation of informers?

Knowing how the public tends to overreact on the least of information, especially when fuelled by fear mongering and scattershot rumours, it’s easy to anticipate many anonymous calls.

OUR RESPONSE

In my first post as a blogger, March 28, 2013, I wrote the following: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy.” Nothing has caused me to change my opinion. In fact, my view has become even more entrenched.

Since the terrible events, the Harper gang has made many references to democracy, which, in the past, they appeared to find a hindrance based on some of their actions. It’s a word they evoke whenever it suits their purposes. With these murderous events, they will refer to democracy many times; the Conservatives and their supporters may even believe they have invented it by the time next election comes.

But this is a closed, secretive government. It ignores the opposition, closes debates and attempts to slip in legislation among vast omnibus bills.

Any government that is as closed, secretive, that changes the Elections Act to possibly disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, cannot be trusted to do what is best for the interests of Canada and Canadians.

This is a government that views all critics as the enemy. This is the government that believes Canadians should remain uninformed about the true cost of spending on fighter jets and security. This is the government that ignores evidence regarding crime rates. Instead, they build more jails, institute mandatory sentencing, and cut rehabilitative programs instead of preparing convicts for a life outside of prison. This is the government that believes those collecting welfare are all potential fraudsters and that Canadian workers are less worthy of a job than foreign workers. This is the government that works with Big Business to supress wages. Little wonder that the poor and helpless are disenchanted and unhappy. This is the government that will change copyright laws so that they can use, distort, cut and paste media clips of their opponents without permission and without regard of how that material is used and abused. This is the government that dislikes the media (except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong). With this move, he will have taken a huge step towards discrediting them by distorting their works. Instead of seeking solutions, the Harper gang carries on as if none of this matters. That Harper would increase spying on Canadians is not new. He prefers to be punitive than to seek solutions; perhaps he is simply responding to the wishes of his constituents. This is the government whose members have illegally accepted campaign funds from corporations, the same government whose members broke election rules, illegally attended fundraising events whose guests were the very people who stood to gain from the decisions their ministries made (think Shelly Glover, Leona Aglukkaq). This is the same government that has moved the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, to the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Justice Department, which is answerable to government whereby Elections Canada is answerable to parliament. This will lead to the real possibility of political interference should a member of the government gain attention for election irregularities. And this is the government when, failing to stack the Supreme Court with their man, smeared Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin. When our own government and its members smear citizens simply for opposing them, when our government and its members skirt the laws and break election rules, when out government and its members demonstrate a strong aversion for democracy, is it little wonder that those who feel left out, who are marginalized and ill, become disaffected and angry?

I am fearful that the deaths of those two fine men and the actions of their killers will be used to justify putting in place measures more suited to a dictatorship all in the name of security. A climate of fear and nationalism appears to have been sparked by these awful events. Neither is good for the nation. They lead to excesses and it’s often the innocent who suffer. Do we really want a return to the good ol’ bad days when folks, many Canadian born, good, loyal citizens were interned in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, simply for being members of unions or the communist party, for having Ukrainian names and, during the wars years, simply for being Japanese? It could happen again if the Harper gang is allowed to exploit these two tragedies fomenting fear and granting more powers to the police and intelligence agencies. Informants granted immunity, warrantless online searches forcing Internet providers to surrender personal information, detention and arrest for expressing beliefs we may find offensive. These are real possibilities if Harper continues as he wishes. We were a fairly open society but it is becoming more and more closed, secretive and frightened; we can thank Harper for that. We mustn’t overreact because two troubled individuals acted as they did. It may well turn out there is, indeed, a vast conspiracy. But, until we know more, I will continue to believe these were simply two sad losers who struck at innocent folks for no reason other than they were troubled misfits. The world is full of them. It does no good to brand them all as terrorists. It detracts from the real threat: a government all too willing to chip away at our democracy in the name of safety. If people are angry now, it could get worse.

Harper once said of the Conservatives, “…we don’t practice sociology.”

Perhaps it’s time we did.

***

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

 ***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

STEPHEN HARPER: THE COWARDLY LION

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. – Joseph Schumpeter

Idealists…foolish enough to throw caution to the winds…have advanced mankind and enriched the world. – Emma Goldman

Frank A. Pelaschuk

IS IT THAT TIME ALREADY?

You know Harper’s on the election trail when you see him tieless, checkered shirt unbuttoned at the neck, striding to and fro across a stage, his back to enthralled members of his caucus and playing to a camera and an unseen audience. His face glowing with the exultation of an ecstatic, he enumerates his government’s “achievements” loudly trumpeting that Canada is the envy of the world and Canadians are better off than ever under his leadership.

He’s talking to those whom you would think would know but, of course, he’s aware of the camera, it’s not to them he and his caucus are playing. One thing is certain, he has introduced an Americanism that appears here to stay: campaigning early and in earnest one full year before Canadian’s next go to the polls. That is if he keeps to his own fixed election agenda and doesn’t go sooner than the October 19, 2015 date. With this gang, one never knows; since he introduced the fixed dates, Harper’s never adhered to it. With the Mike Duffy trial now set for April 7, 2015 and the very real possibility of embarrassing revelations, voters might wonder if they can expect more of the same.

Maybe we do know after all.

Regardless of when, from now to the election, we are about to be flooded with even more of the triumphalist rodomontade, bombast, hypocrisy, lies, accusations, mudslinging, and bribery in the forms of taxpayer funded ads, hysterical hyperbolic speeches and shiny promises of tax cuts and a few other incidental baubles for the easily lead and the cheaply bought. Watching Harper work his MPs on the first day of the fall session (September 15, 2014), one cannot doubt his enthusiasm though he gives the impression of anxiety as he spins the Conservative mythology; he believes and wants us to as well: theirs is the best, wisest, and sanest government in the world and they are the best, wisest, and sanest money managers in the history of the mankind and he, Harper, is the best, wisest and sanest leader since time began. Clearly, and we must understand this, only he and his Conservatives can save us from the perils out there. Well, that is in their imaginings. All he really expects and wants of us, and many already have, is to park our minds, put them in neutral and swallow the swill holus-bolus. For some it’s a lot easier than for others.

Today, however, one senses something close to desperation, his declarations urgent, his warnings direr, Harper and his MPs making more appearances in the press though, it is true, Harper prefers to speak to the American press. Apparently he agrees with Senator Marjory LeBreton: the Canadian media is rife with lickspittle elites.

He’s worried, seems less convincing than as one trying to convince. Still, he looks more at ease then he does in that old picture of him wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest, hands on hips, his expression wary, shifty eyes shifted to his right, the smile a sickly grimace as if aware how dismal is his effort to appear one of the hoi polloi, a casual member of the masses. But that was a while back when he first sought to soften his image, to suggest that he was one of us, just regular folk, one who listens, cares. Did it work for you? To some, the transformation was convincing enough; he got his majority with less than 40% of the vote. So why does it seem, with all his claims to great achievement, the act of bonhomie does not come all that easily, that his exhortations appear a bit forced and his expression not all that inviting? Maybe it’s the cameras that intimidate. Whatever it is, there’s something false about it all, too stage crafted to appear natural and casual and convincing. He appears as comfortable as would the Duchess of Windsor mud wrestling before drunken males.

If Harper is running scared, and he should be given his propensity for secrecy, non-disclosure, bullying, ridiculing, smearing, and refusal to share information with Canadians and the opposition members who represent them, it is because he knows, come next election, he has a very good chance of losing to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. He certainly is not running scared because he has second thoughts about his policies or his goals, narrow to the extreme. He should, but he doesn’t nor do his supporters. Conservatives are not much given to second-guessing themselves; they are certainly not much given to reflection, to doubts. They are deaf to the voices of others, oh, no, not their friends, those lords and masters in industry or those generous donors to the Conservative coffers with off-shore accounts, but to the opposition members, the very people we elect to insure our interests are heard, considered and met. The sad fact is, the Harper gang, and that is what they are, thugs in suits, do not much care what we think: they have their majority. They believe their narrow base of core supporters will be enough and it well may be with the creation of thirty new gerrymandered ridings that will almost certainly garner them 22 more seats, provided the apocalypse doesn’t strike first or supporters switch on their brains. That will be a long wait.

SO WHO IS THE NEW(ISH) HOPE?

If Harper loses, and I hope he does and the whole gang are decimated to extinction, I am uncertain we will be better off even so; it will just be the Liberals swapping places and the NDP returning to their usual third place. It’s always been thus: Liberals, Conservatives, Conservatives, Liberals. It’s a game chicken voters are too timid to end by trying something daring. Instead of booting both teams off the field and awarding the cup to the third team, Canadian voters would rather stick with the tried and true, the arrogant, cruel, corrupt and corruptible they already know and understand than risk the uncertainty of what they may believe competent and well-intentioned but fear because untested.

Untested. They would be wrong, of course. If any of them took the time to objectively watch the performances of the three parties in the House during Question Period, if they took the time and made the effort to fully appreciate how dismal the state of affairs has become, there is little effort required to discover this, they would know that the NDP is far from untested and, while imperfect in some ways, certainly has less baggage than the other two parties and is better placed to not only offer Canadians what we want but what we need: open, honest, ethical leadership.

It is not Justin Trudeau’s fault that he is young and relatively inexperienced, but it is that he is too eager in his ambitions to bide his time and gain seasoning before going for the leadership of the nation. Nor is it his fault that his name evokes rosy of flower children and Trudeaumania but false memories that gloss over the reality of the War Measures Act enacted by his father. Nor is it his fault that he is handsome and charismatic and draws the attention of the young and thoughtless who prefer celebrity to ideas or a clear vision. And it is not his fault a few of the old, perhaps harkening back to the days when they may have been “progressive’, will declare their vote for a change, something new, without really meaning it in the crunch, opting instead for the same ol’ same ol’. But it is his fault when he plays on these rather than offer Canadians valid reasons why he and his party would make a better choice to lead this nation.

If one watched Question Period in the House, he would note that Trudeau is absent more often than not, too busy raising funds and garnering support for his party. Too, he would note that, when Trudeau does make an appearance, he all too often throws his support to the Conservatives on such contentious issues as the Keystone XL pipeline or the Temporary Foreign Workers Program which allows companies to replace Canadian workers for foreign workers for less; Trudeau would tweak the program which allows for the suppression of wages rather than scrap it altogether as the NDP suggest. Too, without any apparent knowledge of what the full impact will be, Trudeau and the Liberals have thrown their support behind the secretive, costly free trade deal the Conservatives and the Chinese government cooked up over two years before ratifying it on September 9th. That’s when Canadians learned about the deal. What’s worse, the sellout takes effect this October 1st. That is three weeks after Canadian’s learned it was a done deal. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), locks Canada to it for 31 years and, according to experts, gives much to China, very little to Canada. The deal could cost Canadian taxpayers billions should China dispute a regulation any level of government might put in place that might place restrictions on how it conducts its business here. With their investments in the energy field, if they conduct business as they do in China, efforts to clean up the environment, which is already moving at glacial speed, thanks to the Harper gang who don’t believe it’s real, would be moot. FIPA is a Conservative effort conducted behind closed doors, with neither debate nor input from the opposition parties. While the NDP has called to put a stop to the deal before it takes effect, the Liberals have opted to support it without knowing what the full effect will be on Canada, the Canadian economy, and Canadians. If it was such a great deal for Canadians, why the secrecy, why the silence, why no debate? When Harper and gang are silent on a trade deal rather than shouting it from the rooftops, as is their wont, we should be prepared for the worst.

Trudeau seems a nice young man but surely we deserve better than this.

SO, IT WAS AN ELECTION, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

In 2006, Harper promised to usher in a “new era of accountability” if he was elected. He was, the promise broken, and the Conservatives laughing. Oh, that. That was just another election promise; surely Canadians knew that. If not, we quickly learned.

From the very first, Conservatives have openly and defiantly dismissed the concept of transparency when, in December of 2008, he prorogued Parliament rather than face a non-confidence vote when the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois joined forces threatening to defeat the budget. Since then, he has shut down Parliament, i.e., cut and ran, on three other occasions. That is one method of governance. Another is not to meet with Canadian media or to answer questions in the House by those people we elect to ask them. Harper and his gang have turned this form of governance into farce at times resembling performance art worthy of Dadaism if not a monkey house. Harper and his gang have made a mockery, not only of their offices, but also of the parliamentary process and of those who vote for them.

I don’t know about those who support the Conservatives, but I believe in democracy, in the right of citizens to be informed and believe that governments must be held accountable; that includes answering questions put to them in the House. Harper and gang flatly disagree routinely resorting to non-sequiturs, fingerpointing, evasion, diversion, derision, outright lying, and just acting up. And this is the sanest government in the world?

However offensive their antics and stubborn in their refusal to be accountable, it quickly becomes apparent that they are not indifferent stewards of our nation; no, they are too far gone for that. Theirs is the mindset of the corporatocracy; they govern on the behest of corporate interests in the core belief that it is business and money that keeps the world moving and that anything can and should be bought and sold for gain. They have long ago become corrupted by power and by the desire to cling to it. While their ideology may lead them to reject the Darwinism of evolution, they are not averse to passing legislation to make it easier for industry with their distorted free enterprising Darwinism of survival of the fittest. If the Conservatives were absolutely free to do what they would, they would doff their hats and sing in the streets, “Anything Goes”. They have become fixated with creating surpluses, selling off Canadian resources and cutting corporate taxes at the expense of public service jobs, social programs, our infrastructures and the environment. Let the next generation worry about the devastation left in their wake.

They talk about tax cuts, boasting of it how much they have saved consumers while thinking nothing of spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars on ads informing us, much of it on Facebook! Really.

While Harper and John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, strut upon the world stage loudly and belligerently trumpeting their support of Israel and Ukraine, condemning Russia’s incursion into the Crimea, and hedge their bets on Iraq, they do so ignoring the screaming voices demanding answers and declaring them all bluster and hot air hoping the public will not notice. Yes, their voices are loud, but the sabres they rattle are very, very small plastic toothpicks indeed.

Talk and noise, while allowing our military resources to suffer greatly. Our men and women are ill equipped with old, out-dated gear. Half of Canada’s Naval ships are either being repaired or sold for scrap. The four used British submarines purchased 20 years ago have never properly performed and have been in constant repair. Canada’s air force C-18 planes are due for retirement in 2020. Unfortunately, the F-35s, upon which the government has set it’s sights while deceiving the public as to the real costs, will not be ready by that date. Remember Harper and MacKay campaigning, feuding with the then Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, regarding the true costs of those Cadillac of jets? Harper and MacKay boasted the figure was only $9 billion for 65 jets. Page disputed this saying the figures were closer to $45 billion. Harper and gang refused to show him the books, preferring instead to smear Page and his reputation and refusing to renew his contract. To this date, the true costs remain unknown though $45 billion appears to be the number many critics have settled on though some claim a much higher number: $125 billion. Nevertheless, the Conservatives won the vote. But, if that, if the misleading numbers regarding the F-35s doesn’t rile you, this might. Search and rescue has taken a beating; there was a time, I don’t know if it still applies, when someone needing help found himself talking to a call centre in Spain! The Search and Rescue team are saddled with obsolete planes that daily imperil our brave responders. Shockingly, it was recently revealed the Royal Canadian Air Force had to raid the aviation museum in Trenton for parts for its search and rescue planes. Scavenging for parts when the Harper gang spend millions advertising programs that don’t even exist! Lord help us. Lord help those poor folks who must rely on those planes.

Yeah, Harper and gang are the best and wisest money managers in the world; just ask them. They’ll tell you.

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

Harper’s is a government of loudmouths and blowhards. Harper talks tough, and he is, when it comes to civil servants, to the poor, elderly and young. It’s easy when you’re a coward and a bully and your opponent is defenseless. But he’s not so tough with his corporate friends who don’t pay their fair share, who hide funds offshore, as if they didn’t pay little enough as it is; indeed one gets the impression that the Harper gang plots with their business friends to suppress low income wages by replacing Canadian with foreign workers.

They are monsters of indifference not only when it comes to ethics, transparency, but also in how little respect they hold for voters, opposition members and for the House itself.

This week, Harper was in the United States. He was in New York but not attending the UN Summit on Climate Change (he could not care less). One hundred and twenty-five world leaders were in attendance. President Obama was there. Not Harper. After losing Canada a seat on the UN Security Council, after years of trashing the UN itself, after four years of shunning the opportunity to speak at the Assembly, he was there, finally, to give a speech. An election must be approaching. But he was not there to speak on climate change, terrorism or Canada’s role in Iraq. No, he was there to speak on something totally different, laudable and important: combatting preventable deaths of mothers and children. However, he undermines his own message somewhat with his government’s denial of funding to charities practicing family planning, including abortion for war rape victims and child brides forced into marriages in these war-ravaged, poverty-stricken areas of the world. He further diminishes his message by outlining his solution to preventable deaths of mothers and children by pushing the same message he does at home: Free enterprise. For Harper, everything is reducible to free trade and the free flow of capital. Prosperity and wealthy will naturally follow. He can’t give it a rest. Even doing the right thing, like saving lives, must be monetized.

Just prior to that, he attended an event sponsored by Goldman Sachs answering questions by a Wall St. Journalist. It was only then, on foreign soil, before a foreign press, that Canadians learned that Obama had sent Harper a letter requesting more help in combatting ISIL. We already have 69 “advisors” in Iraq whose presence there would be evaluated after 30 days. Harper stated he would consider the request after consulting with his cabinet. There is nothing in that appearance about seeking advice from the opposition or debate or holding a vote. What is very disturbing about this is that Canadians and their representatives did not learn of this first; they had to hear it from foreign journalists on foreign soil. Too, CTV reported on the late evening National News September 25th, the story didn’t quite unfold that way. According to the report, sources from the White House stated it was Harper who approached the President, writing to ask in what way Canada could help. This may appear small, and it is, but, if true, says something about Harper’s character, which would surprise no one following him. By having one of the most important leaders on the world stage turn to him for assistance, Harper inflates his own significance in hopes of convincing Canadians that he is, indeed, a world player. This is typical Harper. As is his making of significant announcements when he is out of the country because he is too cowardly to face his Canadian audience and because he has determined that the Canadian media is out to get him (all that is except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong).

While Harper was in New York, and before his conference in the with the press, Thomas Mulcair, at home, struggled for two days to get answers to legitimate questions: How long would those 69 advisors be in Iraq; when did the 30 day evaluation period begin and when would it end; would Canada be asked to do more; would there be feet on the ground in Iraq? Canadians have every right to know the answers to these questions. Well, not so according to Harper’s Conservatives.

When Mulcair posed these questions in the House, Paul Calandra, either Harper’s immoderately idiotic parliamentary secretary or Harper’s voluntary whipping boy and sacrificial lamb, responded on behalf of the government for the absent Harper. He stood up and read from a script a reply that had nothing to do with the question but would have done Lewis Carroll proud. After several more attempts to get a straight answer to direct questions, Calandra responded in the same ridiculous vein reading from the same sheet of paper. Mulcair, angry now, addressed the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, pointing out he had an obligation to enforce rules and compel government members to respond to questions put to them. When Mulcair once again tried to get an answer from the government side, Calandra again read from the script, prompting an exasperated Mulcair to address the Speaker with this: “Well, Mr. Speaker, that does not speak favourably about your neutrality in this House.” Scheer immediately retaliated by denying Mulcair the final question to which he was entitled, moving on to the third party leader, Justin Trudeau.

All this happened on September 23, before Harper spoke to the American press and before his speech in the UN. That evening, on CBC’s Power and Politics, Conservative James Bezan laughed off the episode with a dismissive and well-worn phrase, “It’s called question period, not answer period”! If that is not contempt for Parliament, nothing is. Pardon my naiveté, but I expect an answer when a Member of Parliament puts a question to the governing party. The next day, Scheer responded to Mulcair’s charge, saying there was nothing he could do, that, if members wanted to change the way things are done, they would have to do it themselves. He could not, he said, direct the question nor direct a response. Then he repeated the same facetious line Bezan had the day before, “That’s why it’s call question period, not answer period”! That Scheer said this with a smirk should have made the blood of all Canadian’s boil. This from the Speaker of the House who is supposed to be neutral. Immediately after Scheer spoke, both Conservative and Liberal members stood up and gave Scheer a standing ovation! To their credit, the NDP kept to their seats.

If it is as Scheer states, if it’s true his hands are tied, then perhaps it is time the Speaker be given more power to ensure that government response are relevant to the questions posed. As it stands, his function is little more than to rise and shout over the bedlam, “Order. Order!” If one of his duties is to impose decorum, he has failed miserably. Since Scheer has become Speaker, all pretence to decorum in the House has vanished. Is he really that weak, that powerless? I think not. I sense that the Conservatives feel emboldened to make Asses of themselves because Scheer has taken the easy route; he simply washed his hands of the matter and Question Period. His neutrality has been questioned in the past as when he sat for two weeks on requests by Elections Canada to suspend Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan for not filling out proper expense claims during the 2011 campaign. Both finally did so, Glover when learning she was to be promoted and Bezan with claims to having been “vindicated” after he submitted an accurate report and Elections Canada dropped the matter.

What we are witnessing in the House today is a perversion of democracy, a mockery wherein government members could as easily be baboons for all their antics and their non-responses. For this, I blame Stephen Harper and his gang. It’s not entertaining except, it seems to the Conservative members, who jump up and enthusiastically applaud and thump each other on the back whenever Harper or one of his members opens his or her mouth to offer a non-response or, when someone like Calandra, the sacrificial Fool in the House, likely acting on instruction from Harper’s handlers, retorts with nonsensical innuendo by reading from a script in hopes of smearing the opposition NDP with something so obscure that even most Conservative members don’t know what’s going on. These are apes enamoured by their own idiocy. I am not amused nor should you be. If Question Period in the House does not give members of the public answers to their concerns, it does give them ample opportunity to witness for themselves how completely underserving Harper and his gang are of holding public office. They certainly don’t deserve the pay and the padded expense accounts.

Scheer, too, must be held accountable for much of antics we see in the House. He has lost or surrendered control of the House. He could censure members who refuse to offer responses relevant to the questions put to them by naming them or having them removed. He can do the same when government members evade, obfuscate, lie or ignore the question altogether. As it stands now, he has washed his hands of the whole affair and refuses to accept responsibility. We all are familiar with that story. It’s a spectacle unworthy of those who have the nerve to call themselves Parliamentarians. Something needs to be done; somehow, someway, the Speaker’s role must be enhanced and his partisanship eliminated as much as possible. But members of parliament, too, must change. They are not answerable to their party or their leader but they are to the people.

If the behaviour in Parliament we have been subjected to doesn’t repel you, nothing will; you are indifferent to ethics, to democracy and deserve the contempt of all those who do believe governments must be accountable to those who elect them. When the Speaker of the House simply shrugs his shoulders and repeats a silly statement that is specious and dishonest, you can only despair. Is this what we expect from our leaders? Do we not deserve better?

One can almost forgive Calandra if his was the only act of buffoonery and he was dumb enough to offer himself for the role assigned by Harper; if he was acting under instructions, he should simply have said, “No”. Why would anyone set himself up to be the laughingstock of Canada?

Interestingly, the next day, perhaps realizing that the Calandra show might have gone too far, the Minister of Defence at least made an attempt to appear as if he was answering questions on Canadian troops in Iraq while in fact not doing so. The result is the same and just as bad, just as offensive and yet better than what we witnessed the day before. Today, September 26, even as I am writing this, Paul Calandra, teary-eyed and voice breaking, stood up and apologized to the House.

Too late.

Perhaps it was from the backlash from the public. Perhaps his own fellow Conservatives were embarrassed. Nevertheless, too late.

Shame on Stephen Harper and his government.

Democratically elected, the Harper Conservatives are absolutely the least democratic party in the past few decades. By their very behaviour in the House, they have degraded Parliament and threaten our democracy. They are unworthy of this country, of our support, and of our trust; they have consistently and persistently degraded their positions with the élan of monkeys and the truly stupid, cruel and thoughtless: Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre, Kellie Leitch, Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, Chris Alexander, Brad Butt, Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Leona Aglukkaq, Colin Carrie, Andrew Scheer, Peter MacKay, Rob Nicholson, Paul Calandra, Jason Kenney, John Baird, and, of course, Stephen Harper are the most notable wallowing in that foul swamp.

These are the people you folks want in office?

Even greater shame on you.

Yes, yes, and yes again…they belong in the trashcan of history.

***

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

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

STEPHEN HARPER AND THE VOTER IN THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

 Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the Majority share in it. – Leo Tolstoy

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience. – George Bernard Shaw

Avoid revolution or expect to get shot. Mother and I will grieve, but we will gladly buy dinner for the National Guardsman who shot you. – Dr. Paul Williamson, father of a Kent student

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE: THE SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

John Baird’s condemnation of the UN Human Rights council and the appointment of Canadian William Schabas to head a commission examining possible war crimes in Gaza should surprise no one. The Harper regime has, almost from the first, been vocal in its antipathy to the United Nations. Too, anyone who voices criticism of Israel, as has Schabas and others at times, inevitably risks condemnation by Harper and gang with suggestions of being pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Jewish.

Such a stance is offensive if not surprising and indicative of a stubbornly blind mindset that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of more than black and white. This digging in of one’s heels and refusing to tolerate or even consider dissenting opinions is neither admirable nor productive and suggests the profound weakness of insecurity. It’s the fear similar to that experienced by bullies who, knowing deep within themselves they have wronged, wait for the bullied to strike back. They behave as they do because they believe themselves righteous besieged by enemies when none may at first exist. Eventually, however, it becomes fact, the enemies real. The bullying escalates and so does the bully’s fear as the resentment of the bullied intensifies.

Harper’s gang is made up of that kind of bully, frightened of what they have wrought for themselves, brave as a vindictive group but too cowardly to seize the opportunity to co-operate, to listen, to discuss, to be transparent, to include and to accept and even adopt the ideas of others. Instead, they brandish their majority as a club. For Harper and his gang, the velvet glove, the ability to admit to being wrong or to apologize, is less appealing than sneering dismissal and exclusion; they mistakenly perceive generosity, openness and tolerance as weakness. If you ain’t for us, you’re ag’in us. But how can one be for them with such an attitude? It may work for a time but it poses its own risks. The enemies grow in number and so does the fear from the bullies’ camp. It is a poisonous mixture: power, abuse of power, fear and more abuses of power. Add to that the ingredients of intolerance, the willingness to pander, degrees of bigotry, ignorance, arrogance and a propensity towards deceitfulness, the mixture becomes downright toxic.

If Harper occasionally shares the same doubts as the rest of the world on any matter, and that is not a given, they are surely of a fleeting nature not to be nurtured but, rather, excised as quickly and brutally as possible. The message is set in stone; it cannot and will not be changed. When things do go awry, it’s not Harper and crew, it’s the world aligned against them, the world of lazy public servants, egocentric scientists, ignorant students, leftist scholars, radical environmentalists, the mangy poor and helpless, just ordinary citizens, that is out of step. So when critics question Harper’s unwavering support of Israel and condemn Israel’s deadly response to the Hamas bombings in the West Bank, we cannot be surprised when the response is, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” That’s true. But what of its swift, brutal and at times apparently indiscriminate bombing of civilians that have resulted in massive numbers of slain Palestinians when measured against Israeli lives lost? There are brutes on either side, the naysayers, the don’t-give-a-damn-what-you think types, the zealots and cowards; there are also the hopeful, those live-and-let-live folks, good decent people who only wish peace. Every life lost through senseless slaughter is to be mourned, regretted and condemned. Again, however, the response is predictable: “Hamas is shelling bombs from schools and hospitals, using civilians as shields.” But is that true? Perhaps. However, I prefer evidence over taking the word of politicians with their own agenda. But such claims do add legitimacy for a response that is overwhelming and extreme, the forces of one side massively outmanned and outgunned by one of the most efficient armies in the world. I don’t know who is right. I know that Israel has every right to exist as a nation as any other. So, does Palestine. Whose story does one accept? I cannot help but be reminded of one episode during the Gulf War in which a young woman claimed to have witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators in a Kuwait Hospital and leaving them on the floor to die. Naturally, the world was shocked and outraged. This added another layer of legitimacy for the invasion of Iraq and provided further justification for the ouster and death of a vile dictator. Unfortunately, two years later, the world learned the story was false. The witness had lied, not only about her name and the story but also about being in Kuwait at the time; in reality, the “witness” was the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador. It was all a vast propaganda scheme to add fuel to justify the invasion of Iraq and just another of a long list of atrocity propaganda dating back to the Crimea war when “heathens” and “Huns” ate babies. Israel may well be right about Hamas; we have witnessed how they murder their own. But surely there is nothing wrong with questioning what we are fed and demanding more information. Atrocity stories make it more palatable to accept the bombing of known UN-run shelters for displaced Gazans. The killing of innocent men, women and children on either side is insupportable. Harper should say that. Instead he stands fast: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Can’t we even ask the question?

It is not Harper’s support of Israel that troubles me; I support it, too, but not without reservation, without doubts. It is his refusal to accept that others have legitimate concerns about what they see as Israel’s disproportionate response to the Hamas bombings. Loyalty to a friend is one thing and it’s commendable; but acknowledgement that the friend can and may be wrong and, in the wake of such widespread condemnation, might do well to reconsider the extent of force in its response to Hamas, is probably a better test of friendship. To ridicule critics, to label them as anti-Israeli and of possibly questionable character, perhaps pro-Palestine and in need of monitoring is no way for a government claiming to be a democracy to behave. An enemy of my friend (or of those whose votes I’m pandering for) is my enemy. It is almost as if, in recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian victims, Baird and Harper and the rest of mob believe we are denying the humanity of the Jews. It may win votes, but isn’t the price too high?

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

Not all should be accepted on face value, especially when it appears to coincide with one’s own worldview. So, when the Harper gang, one of the most secretive, petty, angry and partisan regimes this nation has ever endured, offers its version of events, of facts, of what they believe, one must be particularly diligent. Are Harper and his crew attempting to inform, expressing a true belief, or are they intending to mislead with malicious intent? When a government goes out of its way to remove obstacles to governmental spying on Canadians under the pretext of going after child abusers and then condemns sceptics with charges of “siding with pedophiles”, can it rightly claim to be working in the best interests of Canadians? A government that prefers secrecy to openness, deceit over truth, and punishment over understanding is a government that fears its citizens. How can we trust it when it doesn’t trust us?

This is not new. For the Harper gang, all critics, regardless of the cause, are suspect, dangerous, anti-Harper, anti-Conservative. They are the enemy; as such, they are worthy targets of the smear.

In a recent fundraising effort, the Conservatives went after Justin Trudeau, a man for whom I have grave doubts as a leader. But they did so with a lie. They told a story but left out some details. The lie of omission. They attacked Trudeau for visiting the Al Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque in 2011. He had, indeed. They further claimed, Jason Kenney even using his government email, that the US security agencies considered the mosque a recruitment centre for extremists. That, too, is true. However, what Kenney (who in the past illegally used government letterheads to fundraise for his party) and the other Harper gang omitted to tell us is this: That fact only became public when published in the New York Times a month after Trudeau’s visit. There is no doubt what Kenney intended with this vile, less than accurate attack. Too, nowhere in the email does Kenney acknowledge that just last year, two years after Trudeau, he had visited the same mosque, which, by then, presumably, he, and every member of the Harper gang, knew had garnered American interest. What makes the attacks so vile is that, knowing the truth, the Conservatives persisted in suggesting something even more sinister about Trudeau than doubts about his leadership abilities, innuendo that he supports extremists, terrorists, was, in fact, unpatriotic. That is vile stuff. It is also dishonest stuff. But it is also typical of the Harper thugs. When questioned about his visit, Kenney, a senior cabinet minister with Conservative leadership aspirations, claims he did not know that the mosque was suspect! The same excuse Trudeau used. However, the truth is on Trudeau’s side; he could not have known because the news had not yet been made public. What is Kenney’s excuse? Well, the Conservatives simply shrug, gloss over these facts and blithely continue fundraising and smearing Trudeau while ignoring his legitimate, to the point question: If the mosque is a known haven for terrorists, why hasn’t the government done anything about it? No answer.

But there have been other attacks against Trudeau and they, too, are misleading, dishonest, and partisan in the Conservative tax funded jabs against the Liberal leader.

The ads are aimed at parents, evidently in hopes of scaring up votes, and clearly more concerned with crushing Justin Trudeau and maintaining the health and wellbeing of the Conservative agenda than the health and wellbeing of their putative targets: children. In their efforts to add legitimacy to their propaganda, the Conservatives sought support from the medical profession in hopes they would give their stamp of approval to the Conservative anti-drug ads. Fortunately, the Canadian Medical Association, The College of Family and Physicians of Canada and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons quickly saw through the Conservative ploy refusing to sign on. The ads suggest that Trudeau is endangering children with his stand on marijuana, which is one of legalization. Julian Fantino, minister of veterans affairs, has issued a flyer stating that Trudeau’s “first order of business is to make marijuana more accessible to minors,” and the Liberals plan on making “buying marijuana a normal, everyday activity for young Canadians” (CBC News, Aug. 16, 2014). This from a man who used to be a cop! Well, for this gang, no trick is too dirty, too vile, to not be used.

That Harper failed this time to recruit three highly respected and influential health bodies to act as his stooges is no reason for us to simply heave a sigh of relief and sit back. The Harper Conservatives are devious, clever, and dishonest, as we have seen. They will use any trick, the viler the better, to defeat their foes and flog their economic agenda, which includes squelching dissent, appeasing Big Business and suppressing worker wages.

In the past few weeks, we have learned that the fix Jason Kenney and the Harper gang promised to stop employers from exploiting foreign workers at wages 15% below that of Canadian workers was all smoke. For almost a year after the news was made public of wage suppression, Alberta companies were still allowed to exploit foreign workers at below rate. The Harper gang knew this. The Harper gang allowed it to happen. Another flap, and more promises by the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism. This government has aided and abetted corporations in their war against Canadian workers. They have kept silent about corporate wage suppression speaking out and acting only when the news once again made headlines.

Harper and gang have a lot for which to answer.

CONSERVATIVES, THE SECRET COURT AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD

Recently, the secretive House of Commons multi-party committee, the Board of Internal Economy, made up of four Conservatives, one Liberal and two NDP members, found the NDP guilty of misusing parliamentary resources with satellite offices and mass mail-outs. For many, myself included, the judgement is extremely questionable smacking more of payback by Kangaroo Court, the Liberals still smarting over their loss of Official Opposition status to the NDP and the Conservatives from Tom Mulcair’s effective questioning of Stephen Harper over his knowledge of the Duffy/Wright scandal. If the NDP committed wrongdoing, they must, of course, do the right thing.

The problem with the mail-outs, it appears, was a matter of a technicality: they were partisan in nature, that is, were not messages from individual MPs but mail designed to benefit the party according to Conservative John Duncan. Well, I don’t know. Almost every month I receive one or two mailings from the Conservative MP in my riding. True, there is lots of information about the accomplishments of the MP (not much) accompanied by many photos of him (too many). The messages clearly promote the party and it’s agenda often with claims proven to be untrue as with the Conservative Economic Action Plan, touting programs that didn’t even exist. The cost of advertising non-existent came to $2.5 million for taxpayers. The flyers also boast of Conservative support for the veterans. Well, we have witnessed what veterans think of this regime and its treatment of them.

There is, however, cause for concern on the matter of the satellite offices. The NDP claims it sought permission from the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, to set up the offices; they also claim Scheer gave his approval. The Speaker, however, denies that he did so. Who does one believe? Scheer is a Harper appointee to the position. That doesn’t make him biased. But that he sat on requests from Elections Canada to suspend Shelley Glover and James Bezan for refusing to submit a full account of their expense for the 2011 campaign likely does. At the time, Scheer made the disingenuous claim there was no indication that the requests addressed to him were meant for the House. Elections Canada reports to the House, therefore any correspondence directed to the Speaker concerning members of parliament must, perforce, be also for the members of Parliament. His response on that occasion leaves me to doubt his version regarding the satellite offices and it certainly leads me to question whether he meets the standard of non-partisanship required of that post.

It is not the first time I have asked that question. Conservatives are not shy about politicising offices and agencies that have been and should remain, non-partisan and independent. Even with the Supreme Court, this gang could not stop itself from attempting to malign it when it lost its bid to appoint Mark Nadon to the high court. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, clearly unhappy with that outcome and with other decisions from the Supreme Court, set out to sway public opinion against the court by openly attacking the decisions, the court, and its members, engaging in contemptible efforts to smear Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin with charges of political interference regarding the Nadon affair. Their attempts failed because their story was an outright lie. Judging from the reaction from the public, few fell for the Harper/MacKay smear job.

Ethical? The Harper gang are as morally bankrupt as any political group can be. A few years back the Conservatives paid a $52000 fine after a plea bargain that allowed four upper echelon members to escape appearing before the courts over the “in-out” scam during the 2006 election that allowed Conservatives to illegally transfer monies that cost Canadians $2.3 million according to figures offered by Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher of Postmedia (April 10, 2012). That is money that belongs to Canadians but somehow ended up in the Conservative coffers.

Nevertheless, Harper and gang continue to assert they ran a clean, honest and ethical campaign in each of the last few elections. This is the party that threw a young staffer, Michael Sona, to the wolves for the robocall scandals, which led to investigations of voter suppression by Conservatives. Though Sona was the only one charged and found guilty for that, it was clear that the presiding judge, Justice Gary Hearn, did not believe he acted alone. This is significant and is at variance with a decision reached earlier by Yves Coté, Commissioner of Canada Elections, whose job it is to investigate election fraud. Coté’s investigation had found no evidence of involvement of voter suppression by others in the party. How Yves Coté, responds to the decision by Justice Hearn will be a good indicator of his independence especially since his office has been moved from Elections Canada, which reports to parliament, to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, which reports to the government. This move was clearly meant to handicap the Commissioner and leads to suspicions of a real probability of political interference by the government, particularly this government. It is a legal truism that investigators and prosecutors must work independently of each other. That can never be truer than in this instance when a government attempts to rig elections, as has the Harper gang. If there is no further investigation of the robocalls scandal, Canadians should be very concerned; Harper will have accomplished what he set out to do. That’s not good for democracy and it’s certainly not good for Canada.

Clean and ethical? Well we have Harper’s one-time parliamentary secretary, Dean del Mastro, pleading not guilty, now before the court facing four counts of election fraud during his 2011 election campaign. It was del Mastro, along with Pierre Poilievre, who viciously savaged Elections Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, for the investigations into election irregularities, in the majority of which Conservatives figured prominently. Clean? Ethical? Conservative Peter Penashue resigned for accepting illegal corporate donations for his campaign. We have Shelly Glover caught on camera attending a fundraising event attended by the very people who stood to gain from decisions made from her office. The same happened with Leona Aglukkaq, minister of economic development for the North, who sneaked into a fundraising event by a side door rather than face the cameras waiting at the front door. Yeah, they are clean all right.

There are few sinners as interesting as hypocrites.

So, when the Conservatives are demanding that NDP repay money, pardon me for asking questions of my own. Will the Harper gang reimburse Canadians the $2.5 million for the false advertising in their Economic Action Plan? Will the Conservatives repay the $2.3 million owed for the “in-out” scam between May of 2007 and the fall of 2011? Will Tony Clement give a full accounting of the $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 and G20 conferences? Will the government explain why it was necessary to spend close to a billion dollars for security for the same conferences and will it apologize for the mass arrests of peaceful protesters leading to only a handful of charges and few, if any, convictions? When Jason Kenney illegally used the government letterhead to fundraise on behalf of the Conservative Party, did he repay what was owed to the taxpayer? If the NDP owes money, and they may well do, make them pay. But, in the interests of justice and fairness, perceived and real, the Conservatives must also repay what they have pillaged from Canadians and it’s a lot, lot more than supposedly owed by the NDP. As Harper is fond of saying, If you throw mud, some is bound to stick to you.

THEY SIMPER, SHY AWAY AND PLEAD IGNORANCE

If governments lie, operate in secrecy, spy on citizens, defame one’s reputation, and abandon the basics of democracy, how worried should we be? Should we be concerned with the politicization of once independent government watchdog agencies, of attempts to disenfranchise voters, of efforts to turn the highest court into political organs enforcing government goals? Does it matter that our government masks legislation in omnibus bills and limits debate, refuses to consult with opposition members and feels no need to respond to questions in the House except to obfuscate, prevaricate or utter scripted nonsense having nothing to do with issues at hand? Must we accept a government that imposes its agenda because of its majority, that deregulates for the interests of Big Business against the interests of the public, and that blithely refuses to accept responsibility when things go terribly wrong?

For Harper and the gang, with the exception of getting power and clinging to it, nothing is more sacred than the market and their economic agenda.

Earlier last week, the Transportation Safety Board released its report on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which cost 47 lives. It’s a harsh indictment not just of the rail company involved, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A), but also of the Harper gang with it’s laissez-faire approach to Big Business which, as we all know, are honest brokers more than capable and more than willing to regulate themselves. They are all honourable companies run by honourable people, you see. So Big Business and their stooges (Harper and gang, if you don’t know it by now) would have us believe.

But on what is that belief based when, in the wake of the Maple Leaf tainted meat scandal that left 23 dead, the Harper crew cut the role of food inspectors to that of mere rubber stampers of in-house testing results by meat producers. Even then, not long after that tragedy, it was American border guards who caught the tainted meat shipped to the US by XL Foods. Where was the government oversight? As a result of that failure, this led to the largest tainted meat recall in Canadian history. Recently, the Mount Polley Mining Corp. breach of the tailings pond dam occurred in British Columbia. Said the minister of energy and mines, Bill Bennett, “If the company has made some mistakes… they will have to bear the responsibility.” Nowhere in that statement is the acceptance that the government has failed to provide proper oversight. From all levels of government, the public is told that it can, must, and will trust Big Business. The thing is, it’s not the mine owners who bear the real costs when these catastrophes occur, and they inevitably do. It is always the innocent who pay, those folks who place their trust in the very governments who have sold them out to Big Business. This philosophy of hands-off, trust business, approach is based on a false premise that free enterprisers like Harper and gang are fond of spouting, a sophomoric cliché that we on the bottom rung are to embrace as fact. It goes something like this: It is in a business’s own self-interest to protect their workers, to be honest, to be good citizen, to be good wards of our environment. It’s an old, tired refrain and it’s absolutely untrue. With very few exceptions, the bottom line is always the final arbiter of what corporations believe to be true and good: profits and enriching the wallets of shareholders even at the risk of cutting corners is always for the greater good. Take your chances, cross your fingers and, if someone dies, pray like hell it’s your competitor who is to blame. As long as governments like the Harper gang are in power, as long as they are in the pockets of Big Business, workers will continue to be exploited and companies allowed to cut corners. The trust of citizens will be betrayed time and again and it is the public who will be left to clean up the mess and who will pay for the mess. Corporations and executives will continue to rake in the dough and their political stooges to pad their pensions and become company board members when they retire from politics far richer than when they first entered the dirty game.

Trust Big Business and the government whose lodestone is free enterprise? There are too many graveyards filled by trusting citizens and innocent workers who placed their trust in governments that sold them out for an economic agenda.

The Lac Mégantic catastrophe came about because MM&A performed the minimum required in following the regulations, even cutting corners. They did the minimum and time and time again were cited for infractions. But, as the report makes clear, Transport Canada knew of the violations and yet did next to nothing in the way of corrective action. The Harper gang did not follow up or ensure that MM&A complied with all of the rules.

Following the report, the government was peculiarly silent. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, emerged briefly from her warren to issue a statement that, typically from members of this gang, attempted to distance herself and her government from all responsibility. The rules are there, the railway company broke them. And that, apparently, is good enough, all that this regime intends to do. This sidestepping of responsibility is craven and abhorrent but, again, unsurprising. Why accept responsibility when staffers can be thrown under buses or, as in the rail disaster, companies can be fined and two or three employees scapegoated. The MM&A workers followed the rules; they did the minimum required of them and so did MM&A Railway and this Harper gang.

Where was the oversight? “Who is the guardian of public safety,” asked Wendy Tadros chair of the Transportation Board of Safety. Good question. Evidently no one.

WELCOME TO THE AGE OF INFANTILISM

So when I read that the government has quietly contributed $4 million of taxpayer monies towards a memorial commemorating the victims of Communism, I am not surprised. Nor am I surprised they attempted to do so with little fanfare. And yet, for free enterprising ideologues, it is odd that they haven’t pulled out the trumpets and sent them ablaring. The memorial is entitled Tribute to Liberty. The irony is rich. This is the government that has been linked to voter suppression, to robocalls, that has players facing election fraud charges. This is the party that has rigged the game with changes to the Elections Act that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and whose redrawing of electoral boundaries will likely garner them another twenty-two seats.

I want to ask, Where is the memorial for the victims of Capitalism? Where is the memorial for the 146 garment workers burnt to death in 1911 in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York because they were locked in and couldn’t escape? Where is the memorial for the 275 trapped in a Pakistan fire and the 1100 killed when a Bangladesh factory collapsed while making garments for European and North American companies? Where is the memorial for the thousands of men and women imprisoned and murdered by gun totting company thugs simply because they were unionists. Every day in every corner of the globe, workers die because management cut corners in the name of profit. It’s easier to replace workers than machinery. Miners, forest workers, first responders, military men and women, nurses, doctors, and countless others put their lives on the line daily to ensure that the economy runs smoothly. The appetite of Big Business is insatiable; there is never enough, the greedy pigs must be fed, the money shovelled into their open mouths as they step on the necks of those who have made them wealthy and successful. It is to such as these our government panders. So, no, there will be no national monument for workers.

Perhaps it’s a sign of naiveté, which should be surprising in someone who has reached the age I have, but I can still be shocked by the behaviour of others, this government in particular. I find it particularly offensive that those in positions of trust can lie, cheat, deny, blame others, and steal from the public purse time and time again without suffering shame and guilt. Why is that? Who is to be blamed? Well, I blame immoral, opportunistic individuals who enter politics for less than noble reasons, those folks who can spin the yarn and fake the warmth and win the brass ring to the road of enrichment, not of the self but of the bank account.

But I blame the voter even more. They continue to vote the same slime in again and again. I am puzzled as to why people stand in line for hours so that they can take Selfies of themselves with Rob Ford, that lying, amoral clown who deserves ridicule and contempt rather than the glow of admiration you see in the faces of those simpletons who apparently care nothing about morality, decency, honesty, law, order, and judgement. When is enough enough for these people? Have these politicians no shame? Have those voters lost all discernment? Are they blind, stupid, indifferent or all of these? I suspect it is the latter. When asked about Ford, those people speak proudly of him as the man who has saved them money (they never explain how), who is just like them (god help us), just ordinary folks (they forget he comes from a fairly wealthy family). They appear to find it amusing that he smokes crack, that he has lied, lied, lied and lied some more. They appear to be deaf to his misogynistic potty mouth, indifferent to his buffoonery, blind to his cartoonish version of the modern man. That he is an object for scorn, that he is dishonest and consorts with criminals does not deter these folks: he’s a celebrity, a folk hero.

These folks, the supporters of the likes of Harper and Ford, are truly frightening. It’s all a lark. Why worry, be happy. Who cares about the stench of corruption and moral decay, it’s all about the main chance and aren’t we all playing the game. So offer us shiny political bribes; we can easily and cheaply be bought and distracted with a few dollars in tax cuts and by cheap tinsel celebrities. Why worry, be happy, indulge the excesses, the vacuity, the vulgarity and the inanity of those narcissistic zombies.

In some respect, Harper offends me more because he is the bigger threat. He is smarter than Ford and meaner. He is petty and vengeful and he uses his majority as a club to ram legislation through. He is anti-democratic and not above rigging the game. His fixations at times appear to be from a world of unreality, as if wishing to to mark his reign of error by convincing himself that his is the Age of Triumphalism.

Not quite. It is true, we have entered a new era but it is far from glorious. It is a sad, dismal age, the Age of Infantilism.

 ***

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

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

THE 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.

 

THE HARPER GANG: VILE ACTS BY VILE BODIES

Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? – Maurice Freehill

It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for any public office. – H.L. Mencken

Frank A. Pelaschuk

PIERRE POILIEVRE: THE MINISTER FROM 1984

The government’s recent backtracking on the vicious, mislabelled Fair Elections Act offers little comfort for opponents of Bill C-23. After months of stonewalling and fighting tooth-and-nail to keep it as it was, “perfect” in Pierre Poilievre’s twisted Orwellian world, the calculatingly partisan Minister of Democratic Reform announced on Friday, April 25, the government would be willing to consider amendments. On the surface, that sounded good. The Ottawa Citizen in its April 28th editorial (A Better Fair Elections Act) was quick to praise the Harper crew saying, “the government wisely responded to criticism…” and “The ability to change to one’s mind is a sign of maturity and the government should get credit for it,” Why? What have I missed that the editors of the Citizen did not? To my mind, the Citizen was far too quick and far generous in its praise as well as far too forgiving of Poilievre and the rest of the gang who, in bringing forth this Bill in the first place, revealed themselves yet again as uncooperative, arrogant, intractable, untruthful, inane, loutish, incompetent, buffoonish, asinine, slanderous, and anti-democratic. Harper and his gang do not possess enough respect and decency for Parliament, Parliamentarians and the public to even offer pretence of a show of courtesy by consulting with the opposition regarding proposed changes to the Elections Act. That is extremely worrisome when one considers how expansive and significant the proposed changes are to the fundamental right of Canadians to vote; if allowed to stand as is, Bill C-23 would not only affect all voters, many of them negatively, it would also rig the game and entrench, simply by making it easier to do so, widespread cheating, not by voters, as Harper would have us believe, but by political parties, especially those with money.

But Poilievre, that partisan weasel, could not even bring himself to do from the start what was right and decent and honest. For almost three months, Poilievre, backed by the Harper gang, refused to consult with or listen to, the voices of opposition to his party’s updating of the Elections Act. For almost three months Poilievre, on behalf of his government, ignored the warnings and pleas of citizens, scholars, lawyers, and past and present Chief Electoral Officers that the Bill was bad and badly needed fixing if not scrapping altogether. This is the same government that for almost three months extensively and selectively quoted (and misquoted) from a report by Harry Neufeld, former B.C. Chief Electoral Officer, to bolster support for its allegations of voter fraud. According to Neufeld, the Tories were less than truthful in their interpretation of his report, cherry picking items out of context to frame their arguments. As Neufeld pointed out, there was no issue of voter fraud but, rather, concerns of Elections workers poorly trained to perform their duties properly. Poilievre and others in the Tory ranks, most notably Brad Butt ignored all this ploughing ahead with their game plan while they continued to misrepresent the report by Harry Neufeld. In fact, the only fraud perpetrated has not been by voters but by Harper’s gang. Not only did they misrepresent Harry Neufeld’s report, there was Conservative Brad Butt who stood in the House testifying before the cameras how he had witnessed with his own two beady eyes opposition campaign workers scooping up Voter Information cards discarded by apartment dwellers which were then turned over to others who would pass themselves off as the voters named on the cards. Butt, confirming the aptness of his name, even did a little bit of bad acting, demonstrating how the cards were discarded and picked up. The thing is, Brad Butt finally ‘fessed up: it never happened; was all a big, fat lie.

So why did he do that? Clearly it was to strengthen Poilievre’s suggestions of widespread voter fraud, which, so far, he has failed to support with numbers or evidence. Again, with this band of scoundrels, this is not surprising; in fact, it is predictable. Lying and misrepresentation appears to be the norm with these vile Conservative bodies, as routine as their habit of smearing those who oppose them. Look at how they treated Neufeld and his report. But, if unsurprising, if predictable, what should concern Canadians is that Poilievre, with the assist of loutish blowhard Dean del Mastro, himself now facing four charges for breaching the Elections Act, had, from the days when the robocalls began to be investigated, embarked in what appears to be a vindictive, vicious, personal vendetta against Elections Canada and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. Of CEO Mayrand and his criticisms of Bill C-23, particularly regarding the move of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the Department of Public Prosecutor, Poilievre had this to say in a recent appearance before a House of Commons committee defending his “Fair” Elections Act: “It is no surprise the CEO would like to remain in charge of the commissioner. He is fighting to retrain his power, making some incredible claims, and inventing some novel legal principles to do it” (Annie Bergeron-Oliver, iPolitics, April 8, 2014). He also went on to assert that Mayrand wanted a bigger budget and less accountability. In early March of this year, Poilievre had challenged Mayrand’s impartiality, accusing him of “wearing a team jersey”. These are incredible accusations for a sitting Member of Parliament, especially the Minister of Democratic Reform, to level against a member of a government agency charged with the role of government watchdog on behalf of the public. This is how one vile Minister of the Crown represents Canadians; he smears the reputations of others with impunity, without shame and without evidence. On what basis did Poilievre make these charges? None but pure bile and utter gall. What made it even more offensive was that Poilievre could not even disguise his contempt for Mayrand, Elections Canada and the public. He made it abundantly clear in the House that it did not matter what its advice, Elections Canada was answerable to Poilievre, not Poilievre to them. That is true; he is Mayrand’s boss, but this is no way to treat a public servant who has done no more than his job in looking after the best interests of Canadians. It is also true that Elections Canada and Poilievre both work for Canadians; when one body is charged with looking after my interest while another his political interests, I know whom I trust. The attack against Mayrand was deeply offensive, mean-spirited, and personal and appeared meant to attack his credibility and integrity. That is low, even for this particularly partisan and nasty member of Harper’s team. Unfortunately, such abuses are not unusual or unexpected from any member of Harper’s thuggish gang.

But if stonewalling, smearing others, and adopting that cloak of omniscient perfectibility for months were not bad enough, the conservatives in finally agreeing to concessions, could not even work up a pretence to generosity or fairness: the opposition would have only three days, from April 28 to April 30, to study and debate the amendments (numbers of which vary from 250 to 300) before the final vote May 1st. Three days. The government-loaded committee will determine the final look of the Bill, which, at its best, will have allowed opposition members of the committee only a cursory examination. Even as I write this, May 2, 2014, there has yet to be a result; apparently the deadline has shifted. Even if extended by a few days, the time-line to do a fair and complete assessment is still far too brief for that many proposed amendments. But this is Poilievre and the Harper gang at their sleazy worst. Democracy takes another beating.

As for credit for finally agreeing to some amendments regardless of how many or how substantial, if substantial? They will get none from me. Leave that to the Conservative Postmedia group. Rather, they deserve no credit but rather annihilation at the polls. They have made a mockery by rigging the game.

Doubtless, the Harper gang will agree to some suggestions by the opposition, perhaps make minor tweaks in others and, in still others, appear to be giving ground while still preserving what they desire. It will not be their integrity though, in truth, there was little of that to preserve. And whatever changes they do agree to, if any, from the opposition, they will no doubt loudly proclaim themselves true champions for democracy, the Party that listens. Of course, it will be a lie but the Conservatives do know their audience. Most don’t care, most are asleep, most will swallow any lie if repeated often enough.

HOLY MOLEY, AREN’T WE GOOD?

We know some of the changes the Conservatives are willing to make. The Voter Information Card is still gone. Vouching of a sort will be allowed, though those vouching and those being vouched for will be required to sign an oath with the person doing the vouching having also to offer proof of address. As the NDP critic Craig Scott suggests, this will still disenfranchise the homeless who have no address and are unlikely to find another to vouch for him, who does. It could also affect First Nations people, seniors, and students.

But the muzzling of the CEO remains in place, even though Poilievre claims he or she can say whatever they wish in interviews, releases or comments. However, he refuses to accommodate the opposition by putting it in ink. It stands as Poilievre initially outlined it: the CEO and Elections Canada cannot put out ads encouraging Canadians to vote. What is it that Harper and the gang fear? Who do they wish to exclude? Well, we know don’t we, those folks least likely to vote for them.

One good move is the elimination of the section that exempted from campaign expenses certain fundraising calls to donors who gave at least $20 in past years. Too, it extends to three years from one how long robocall companies must keep certain records. These are good moves. They have removed the right of incumbents to pick polling station supervisors. That is another good change, which will reduce the risk of biased outcomes should a dispute during voting or vote counts occur. However, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which was the investigative body of Elections Canada, will still be moved from Elections Canada, which reports to Parliament, to the Department of Public Prosecutors (DPP), which reports to the government. One can anticipate, particularly with this government, plenty of opportunity for political interference and abuse by the governing party. That’s not good. As well, the Harper gang still refuses to allow the Commissioner to compel witnesses to testify thereby greatly reducing the risk of those breaching the Elections Act being caught or punished. With little to no risk of punishment, candidates and political parties will feel emboldened to cheat. This, plus moving the Commissioner of Canada Elections to the DPP, appears likely to benefit some and not others. Members of governing regimes suspected of cheating might not be investigated as readily or as rigorously as those from opposition parties. With this Harper gang, that is almost a guaranteed certainty.

Too, it is unconscionable that parties will not have to provide documentation for electoral expenses. The Conservative Party, the richest political party in Canada, will clearly be the beneficiary of this missed opportunity for the Harper gang to do the right thing. As well, ant this too is unconscionable, Poilievre has in place another move to restrict the independence of Elections Canada: Elections Canada must now seek the approval of the Treasury Board before hiring staff or advisors. Just think of that. That’s the same Treasury Board whose president is Tony Clement most notable for his anti-unionism stance and for the 50 million dollar slush fund that went into his riding during the G-8 and G-20 Conferences in 2010.

Regardless of how Harper and gang spin it, and they have, this is a government that has not wavered in it’s idée fixe of perverting democracy for its own end of obtaining power, clinging to power and wielding power like a bludgeon as they have repeatedly with their majority. The final result of the Fair Elections Act may satisfy some; for most, it will just be window dressing to distract from the subversion of the electoral process. We must not forget there will be 30 new electoral ridings in place for the next election and they will have achieved the Conservative desired goal of skewing the election results. That is the intent and usually the outcome of gerrymandering. It is expected that, based on the outcome of the last election, the Conservatives will gain at least 22 more seats.

Amazingly, and I have commented on all this before, the Canadian public seems barely interested. Harper is still seen as the best leader on issues regarding the economy and jobs. The scandals, his poor judgements, his deceitfulness regarding the costs of the F-35 jets, his bungled handling of the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy affair, the numerous prorogations of Parliament, the scandals of padding expense claims by MPs, his penchant for limiting debate on his many omnibus bills, his refusal to listen, his refusal to admit to mistakes, his smearing of opponents, the ease and willingness with which he throws aides and friends under buses, appear not to affect his standing at all. The public, by and large, either too stupid, too self-interested, or simply too apathetic, is not interested in holding him or his party accountable. Ethics, integrity, truth, honesty, a sense of shame, can be made the least of concerns for the public for the price of a few dollars saved in shiny promises. Harper and his gang know this; they have relied on this. As long as Harper offers voters cheap, shiny promises and plays on cheap, irrational fears and picks on easy targets, he knows they can be cheaply bought. One cannot but fear how much Harper and his thugs will be allowed to get away with before the public wakes up and finally says it’s had enough. The Fair Elections Act, as it stood as Poilievre first envisioned it, threatened to entrench the very behaviour that led Elections Canada to investigate the robocalls scandals, the false expense claims made by members of the Conservative Party, the attempts to subvert the electoral process. Perhaps the amendments finally settled on will be enough and good enough to spare Canadians that, but they cannot be enough to let Harper off the hook: Poilievre could, and should, have simply consulted with others before starting down this dirty road.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: FOREIGN WORKERS AND THE EXPLOITERS

I would like to briefly touch upon the scandals surrounding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). I believe it wrong as it is; it is unfair to Canadian workers and should be scrapped. This is Jason Kenney’s baby and he must carry the can for this. Businesses have abused a program that was meant to fill skilled job vacancies but somewhere along the way has shifted to offering jobs for fast food chains and other low income positions that guarantee foreign workers 40 hours work week while putting more and more Canadians, who are not given such guarantees, on the unemployment lines. Some unions claim that even today, the government has made secret deals with 230 companies to exempt them from paying foreign workers what they pay Canadians. This in spite of the public outrage last year upon learning foreign workers were allowed to be paid at 15% below what Canadians were. If true, this government’s efforts to help increase the profit margins of their business cronies by the displacement of Canadian workers, must be met with the severest of punishments: total destruction at the polls. Some of those who hire foreign workers claim that they work harder are less demanding, and more reliable. That is code for more pliant, more accommodating and more fearful; if there are abuses, these workers are least likely to complain. Perhaps if workers were paid more, were assured of full-time employment without split shifts, and assured they would still have their jobs after 14 and 28 years of loyal service, there might be less reason for Canadian workers to move on. Unfortunately, for businesses, loyalty is apparently a one-way street. When a government, especially one as pro-business as this regime, makes it easy for companies to abuse Canadian and foreign workers without any real penalty, it is hardly surprising they do so. It is presently estimated that there are over 600 thousand temporary foreign workers. They are not all highly skilled workers I am willing to bet. This is sheer exploitation and must be stopped. I do not believe Canadians are lazy, useless, and too proud to take low income jobs; I do believe they are too proud to allow themselves to be treated as menials or forced into a life time of servitude as part-time workers, undeserving of even a full-time job and a wage that allows them to pay rent and feed their families and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Harper and his gang have abandoned Canadian workers sacrificing them on the altar of profit. Instead of investing in Canadians by setting up training and apprentice programs, this government encourages businesses to hire from outside. This leads to exploitation and depressed wages in the low-level, low-income fields.

There is clearly something wrong with the TFWP. Companies get away with abusing workers and the program and Jason Kenney and the Harper gang continue to vow that those who do so will pay a price. What price? Nothing appears to happen. Employers still abuse workers while Harper and this sleazy gang sing praises to themselves extolling their virtues as money managers and (part-time) job creators.

Part-time jobs are not careers. Depressed wages are not roads to satisfaction or to a better life. But this is the future of many honest, hardworking Canadians. And for this, the Harper gang is mostly to blame.

It’s not the foreign workers who are at fault. No, those at fault are the dishonest, any-thing-for-a-fast-buck exploiters and a government that bends the rules that allows for that exploitation. If the offenders involved were not governments or well-known restaurant chains but individuals named Bullneck Machinegun Alfonso or Lenny the Weasel they might be investigated for racketeering.

Canadians don’t want to work? That’s a lie. Big business knows that and so does this Harper regime. As for those caught abusing the system: boycott.

Scrap this program. In order to do that, we might first have to scrap Harper and his gang of vile anti-democratic bodies.

***

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

A GRIEVING MILITARY WIDOW’S OPEN LETTER TO STEPHEN HARPER

All too often, we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new government. – Stephen Harper

Frank A. Pelaschuk

On March 12, I received an email from Joan Carbage Larocque asking for help. While I do not know her, I knew of her. I had made a brief mention of her and her husband in my October 9, 2013 posting, Stephen Harper: Wolf Among Sheep.

She very, very briefly outlined some of her difficulties. I have no experience with the military but I did make some suggestions. Unfortunately, they were not all that helpful; she had already covered that ground.

Joan Larocque has been a grieving widow of a military man since 2005. Since that time, she has been looking for answers in hopes of finding closure and the solace of peace. She needs closure. Thus far, it has been denied her.

It is clear that her grief will never end but it is also equally clear that she feels that she deserves better, deserves some answers and a public apology for what she, her family and her husband’s memory have endured. I agree.

Because I want to help her in any small way possible, I suggested that she write an open letter, which I would post on my blog. Though the letter is addressed to me, and the few readers I do have, its most obvious target is Stephen Harper, the Department of National Defence, and Robert Nicholson, the Minister of Defence. It is they who can give her the solace she needs. They simply have to do the right, the decent thing. I hope they read her letter.

Our military men and women and their families have been badly treated by Stephen Harper and his crew. Perhaps their knowing a little about Cpl. Jacques Larocque and his loving wife might finally persuade them to help her and her family find that solace of peace she so desperately seeks and deserves. A little nudging from the public might help but, with this crew, one never knows. They don’t appear to listen to our veterans.

There are many other families out there who are suffering, who need our help and support, who deserve better from Harper and his crew than they have been receiving. Harper has spent millions in promoting Canadian military achievements yet has clawed back on services for the military. He plans to spend even more millions in celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary as a nation. It’s an absolute disgrace and nothing more than about promoting the Conservative brand through propaganda and mythmaking. The money could be put to better use, with modernizing military equipment, with better services for our military personnel and for our veterans and their families. Too many have survived wars only to lose the one within themselves. This government has failed them; too many military families are forced into bankruptcy. This government appears determined to deny there is a “social contract” with those who serve and have served us very well; it’s time Canadians returned the favour, let us honour the “moral contract” to treat our men and women better than we have. We can all help. Write to your MP. Better still, write to Stephen Harper. Or simply forward this post to him, to your MPs, and to your friends.

A Note: This is Joan Larocque’s letter. I helped somewhat with suggestions regarding spelling, punctuation and with clarification of matters that appeared unclear to me. That said, Mrs. Larocque had final say in all matters relating to her heartfelt words and it appears in whole without editorial interference.

A WIDOWS LETTER

by

JOAN CARBAGE LAROCQUE

You don’t know me, but I am a soldier’s wife. I would like to tell you and your readers a little about my husband and what he meant to me.

Cpl Jacques Larocque Born March 24th 1965 – died August 27th, 2005.

Jacques joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1982 in Montreal, Quebec at the age of just 17.  I met him in 1986 and we married the following year; together we raised four wonderful Children.  It was very apparent to me from the moment I met him that Canada and his career in the Canadian Armed Forces were a high priority in his life and that he was very passionate about serving.

He was a avid sportsman and hunter, participating in many sports teams for the CF (Canadian Forces) community.  We were posted often having lived in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, Trenton, Ontario, Gander, Newfoundland, Yellowknife, NT, and again Trenton Ontario all of which we enjoyed.

Jacques did a number of TD’s (Temporary Duty) on exercises and four deployments (volunteered) to the Middle East in Canada’s effort on Terrorism. When away, we missed him terrible but fully supported him. Jacques was the glue that kept my family together. My sons respected him as a father; our youngest boy was sure he had the “best dad” in the world and didn’t hesitate to tell everyone. He was very Nurturing to Our daughters and as well as being extremely protective. Daddy’s girls!!!

Personality wise, he was a quiet, soft spoken man that was passionate, dedicated and honourable; he was the perfect example of a decent human being. He volunteered at the schools the kids went to and assisted where he could. He helped strangers and neighbours/friends alike, with whatever and however he could. As a partner, husband and father he was made for all three roles and filled them with every bit of his soul juggling the roles he had in life with ease.  Always calm, always cool, a true peacekeeper. He was well respected amongst his peers as well and a true sportsman but with a competitive nature.

Jacques really had not been ill much of his life, we led a fairly healthy lifestyle.

Just turning 40 and on his forth tour of duty in the middle east in two and a half years, Jacques had returned home complaining about not feeling well, he had seen the MO (Medical Officer) three times and was diagnosed with acid reflux, each time but was not feeling any better. Though he was grey in colour when he came home, he told me there was nothing to worry about; the Military Doctors were treating the acid reflux with medication

When he died in front of my family, and me, I was in shock, he had acid reflux; you don’t die from acid reflux.  As a family we questioned the CF, we wanted answers. As a CF member you are only able to receive CF medical care, you do not get provincial health care. Therefore the CF health care services would have been the ones to answer our questions as to what happened to Jacques: How could a healthy man (according to the Department of National Defence), who had been fit enough for four tours of duty in a foreign country collapse and die just three weeks after returning home from what appeared to be the only medical issues he had: acid reflux?

The autopsy report stated Jacques  had two previous heart attacks and obviously devastating heart disease, blockages, chronic congestive heart failure, and angina I started thinking back In early 2000 he had been refused mortgage insurance, (just after he was first diagnosed by DND with Acid reflux) however DND assured us that the civilian medical facility that declined Jacques had no idea what they were talking about. Jacques, according to DND, was a fit and healthy man encouraging him to just ignore the civilian source: “there was nothing wrong with” Jacques. In Jacques’s medical file it was stated during the BOI (Board of Inquiry) that the outside civilian medical source refused to insure him because he was at a high risk for mortality because of his blood tests. Therefore in the last two months of his life, he was not only helping fight the war on Terror he was also fighting a war he could not win; to survive an undiagnosed heart attack at the same time; he didn’t have the tools.

When he passed, I was inconsolable, I was confused and heartbroken…I was lost and devastated…I was questioning everything.

The answers lay with his medical file and the DND. I begged the DND to let me see his medical file, to answer my questions. They chose to do a Board of Inquiry instead. At first they asked for patience and would speak with me once the BOI was complete, six months they said, then I would receive a copy of the file and a debrief. More then two years later, I was still waiting, I sent many emails; time and again I was told to wait.

I needed to know and to understand what happened, Jacques was my husband, my partner, my soul mate, he was in many ways my reason for living; I cried each and every day.

The pain I felt was overwhelming and paralyzing. I didn’t know what happened to him, all I knew is that he went over to the middle east healthy, he saw the DND Medical doctor three times because he was not feeling well; he came back a very ill man, and he collapsed and he died.

I tried and tried to explain to the DND that I really needed to understand what happened to him. He was my rock for over 20 years, he held me together.

After years of waiting, DND sent me a partial copy of the BOI and left out things like the executive summary and that is when the communication stopped. The one thing the BOI report made clear was that this death was NOT service related. They never spoke to me about what I had or had not received.  They did not respond to my emails or letters.

Do you know how painful it is to have questions, need desperately to have the answers? I wanted to understand so that in my heart and soul I could try to start mending and gain peace in my life. Instead, I was met by cold silence. I didn’t even get acknowledgements of my own efforts. I felt totally abandoned by the Military!

Disregarded like trash.

In 2008, I started to write to Minister MacKay, maybe if the department refused to respond to me the elected minister would. I was told the file was closed and he was not about to open it. COLD, CALLOUS AND UNCOMPASSIONATE. I was in pain, a pain I feel to this very day! Other days, I felt angry; Jacques was a servant of Canada, he deserved better. He was promised proper health care; he did not get that. I reached out to others for help in my plight: I had not been given closure; I needed closure.

I reached out to the DND Ombudsman’s office in 2010.  They started an investigation. They had questions. I spoke to them many times but again, no answers were forthcoming. One month led to the next, I would ask for an update. Still no answers.  It was apparent to me that DND preferred I “move on”

Jacques was my life for over twenty years. We planned to grow old together. How can I as his life partner have his life end and not know why. I knew how; he had heart disease for many years; acid reflux presents similar symptoms as heart disease, but acid reflux will not kill you; undiagnosed heart disease will.  But it takes just a blood test or a stress test to rule out the demon of heart disease, a test Jacques never got. That is right, no blood was ever taken; he was never tested for what killed him therefore in reality. HOW SAD IS THAT? Jacques had a treatable disease, but …

On the day the witness side of the BOI was complete in November, 2005, a rep from VAC called me to offer me a pension they felt I may be entitled to, I had no idea even what VAC was at that time. Within three weeks of application it was approved. I am in receipt of a “disability pension” from VAC.  In 2012, I was presented by DND at CFB Trenton aka 8 Wing with the Sacrifice medial and the Memorial Cross. DND was still stating that Jacques death was not service related when I was presented with these medals.

Through the access to information and privacy act (Dec 19, 2007) I was able to get a document (January 23, 2006) that stated under medical opinion “if this client had received different management there may have been a more favourable outcome. An assessment was provided at 100% in Jacques’s favour. The signature on this document was ED Callaghan Adjudicator.

In early 2013, I was so exhausted and frustrated with the CF and the MND office, that I contacted CTV news, I am not a fan of being in the public with my story, I tried to keep it quiet, but I felt I had no choice and told my story.

DND and VAC (Veterans Affairs of Canada), sister departments, looked at the same file, arriving at different conclusions. I wanted a consensus and I wanted answers to my questions. YOU CANT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!!!

The day CTV spoke to the MND office, I was to receive the call I had been waiting 7.5 years for. Peter MacKay, the MND at the time, had made a new determination Jacques death was service related. Finally. Finally. Now I would get answers to my questions and Jacques could rest in peace.

I emailed the Minister, thanking him and presenting him with my unanswered questions. Once again, the waiting started. I waited and waited. Silence from his office, I emailed again. I waited. Nothing.  Six months later, a cabinet shuffle, can you believe that? So I did what one would do. I emailed the new Minister of National defence. I received a response August 21, 2013 “In the case of your husband, the Board of Inquiry concluded that his death was not attributable to service. This determination has not changed, even after higher-level review.”

My husband’s death was no longer service related, you got to be joking. I thought I had already got the insult to injury, but no, no, this was incredible. How could these two elected officials treat a grieving widow and a family this way? Mr. Nicholson just came from the justice department, surely he could see the injustice in this case! I wrote him again. Silence. I sent the document of (August 21st, 2013) on to CTV News, and low and behold as they were airing the story Mr. Nicholson’s office calls me and stated that I misinterpreted his letter and that Jacques death is service related. I had misinterpreted?? Deep, deep breath. Off goes another email with the same questions related to Jacques’s death to see if I will finally get the answers after eight long, long years. That was October 2013, I didn’t even get an acknowledgement that my letters and emails have been received. Then the CF calls me for the long overdue debrief. On December 05, 2013 the debriefing took place here, in Guelph.

The delegated civilian and military members that met with me spoke ONLY of the first BOI which stated the death was not service related and would not take questions….and would not respond to the change of determination by MND (Minister of National Defence) Nicholson or his predecessor, Mr MacKay….surely the minister of Justice and the MND would understand a person’s need for closure, to have the questions with the loss of a loved one so dear to them that it exceeds words. If Mr Nicholson does not want to answer my questions in writing I have asked (Dec 05, 2013) for a meeting with him, one-on-one, him and I. Again that letter has gone unanswered, not acknowledged. Silence.

The DND Ombudsmans office tells me that it’s with the Minister, and they can do no more then that. The file remains open.

Of the 40 short years Jacques lived, 23 years of those precious years were in service to Canada. Don’t you think the MND can offer me a few short moments of one hour of one day so I can understand and come to terms with what happened almost nine years ago?

Lest we forget!

Joan, beloved widow of Jacques.

***

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

THE HARPER THUGS, THE McCARTHYITE AND THE LIAR

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

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

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

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

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE McCARTHYITE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HARPER GANG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not worried yet? If not, why not?

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

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

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

THE LIAR

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

So why is this important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they have the nerve to point fingers elsewhere.

***

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

HOW STEPHEN HARPER AND ROB FORD CAME TO WRITE MY BLOG

France fell because there was corruption without indignation. – Romain Rolland

Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life. The hair-raising revelations of skulduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations. – Charles Francis Adams

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHY THIS BLOG

When I started this blog last March, I had no idea where it was going or if it was going. After ten months, I have some idea of its intent, but I have no clear notion of who is reading, if anyone. I write because I believe these things matter, perhaps not what I am saying, but what I write about. They matter to me, and they should you, not because I say so, or some personality you admire says so. For good or ill, politics and the men and women you and I put into office, shape our lives and affect what we do and how we do it; those we elect can work for us and if we are fortunate in our choices, can accomplish great things for the nation at large. The obverse is also true; they can just as easily turn against us if we are too timid in our choices, if we blindly accept all that they offer, or are simply disinterested, taking on the role of mere bystander who doesn’t even vote. Let the others do our lifting while we sleep. But, if and when we waken, it may, by then, of course, be too late.

As citizens, we have a duty to be engaged; it is not enough to vote for the candidate with the brightest smile, the most perfect hair or who makes the shiniest, if ultimately emptiest, of promises and often at the expense of others; we have had too much of that and it hasn’t worked well for us. It is up to us to make sure we are informed, that we know for what our representatives and their parties stand. Too, we must decide what it is we expect of governments and our leaders; we must chose wisely, hope that our elected bodies possess a vision, belief, and love for this nation that is broader and more humane than those of us who elect them. There are already too many elected, who are just like us: venal, sly, glib, easily bought, dishonest, hypocritical, deceitful, power hungry, vain, petty, vindictive, and simply just downright stupid. We need better people than ourselves, dreamers and doers, individuals who know it’s not enough to make promises that will never be kept, who serve no special interests save that of the nation and all its citizenry. The mere possession of the label of MP or the title of one’s ministry does not entitle any politician to my respect; what does is dignified behaviour, integrity, ethics, courage, wisdom, decency, a sense of shame, honour, passion, compassion, the ability to know right from wrong and to opt for right over wrong, openness and transparency, truthfulness and honesty, and a global view in which even the least worthy among us deserves and receives more and better than the back of the hand. With Harper and his crew, I have seen little, if any, of what I demand of my government. Voices of dissent that question and demand better of our leaders are not a threat to a civil, tolerant society but signs of a just, thriving community. Indeed, those voices should be welcomed and encouraged; that is how we grow into a civilized world.

It is not all about tax cuts, balanced budgets and jobs, almost always at the expense of public service jobs, of our healthcare, infrastructure, and support systems (the ice storm affecting the east coast and Toronto are just a hint of what’s in store when our hospitals, government resources, highways, overpasses and water all fail at once); a government that ignores the needs of the lowest, meanest, and poorest of us is a government of which to be wary for it is impoverished: scapegoating is just a step away and we already have that with Harper and his gang who appear to suspect all those on welfare and collecting EI of being potential fraudsters and all critics as enemies. Nor is a vibrant, healthy democracy all about what seems to preoccupy far too many of us these days: What’s in it for me? That view is odiously narrow, reflective of a self-absorbed vacuum, narcissism without shame or limits; it diminishes one’s life and it diminishes one’s self. Such an individual could as easily live in a darkened closet for all the concerns he has for the world out there.

We need better than what we presently have. That is not to say that there are no very capable representatives to be found in all political parties: they are not the toadies, the Party-or-Nothing hacks but, rather, are their own persons, individuals who respect their leaders, their parties, their voters, and themselves enough to stand alone if they feel they must on issues of ethics and principles but always for the greater good rather than the parochial. For the Harper regime in particular, it is almost impossible for an MP to oppose his leader without suffering severely for doing so. It is no more a sign of weakness to listen to the minority than it is a sign of strength to ignore the voices of the majority. Wisdom is always called for; it may occasionally lead to justice as long as partisanship is left at the door.

Still, all the above doesn’t explain why I began this exercise. Nor the fact that when I first took notice of Harper when he became leader of the Canadian Alliance Party, I sensed in him a man who was petty, vindictive, evasive and anti-democratic. I wish it were not so, but I believe history has borne this out. But even that wasn’t enough to convince me to take up the hazards of posting a blog.

No, what convinced me to join the world of white noise, so to speak, was not the incredible mismanagement of Harper’s governance, but the evidence that, in spite of corporate favouritism, of acting as shills for oil companies, of corruption, all the scapegoating, all the devious omnibus bills in which legislation is sneaked into law without public consultation and consent (he does have the majority and does not hesitate to use it as a hammer), he still manages to garner a high approval rating from his core base of supporters. It is an astounding feat, perhaps not as astounding and incomprehensible as that by Rob Ford, but astounding nevertheless for its durability.

Here are individuals who have made a mockery of democracy. Harper who ignored the wishes of the majority of Canadians with the destruction of the Long Gun Registry, who was cited for contempt of parliament and blissfully solidified that contempt at almost every turn as his Conservatives paid fines for their role in the robocalls scandals and with their attempts to subvert the electoral process by misdirecting voters to non-existence polls. And there is Ford, that clueless, happy-go-lucky, crack smoking, serial liar and daily apologizer, a proud associate of criminals, an ignoramus and buffoon, and laughing stock to the world who, somehow, manages to hold the support of an astounding forty per cent of Toronto voters. How is that possible? Are people insane, stupid, asleep, indifferent, dense, thick, uncaring, moronic? Do ethics and integrity and sense of shame account for nothing?

The answer appears to be a resounding: Yes.

I have repeatedly said we need better than we have. Not just better politicians, but better voters.

Where is the shame? We have seen clips of ecstatic people posing beside Ford as if he was a rock star and they had won the lottery. We have heard them vow to vote for him come next election, claiming, “He’s just like us” and “He tells it as it is.” The first may well be true, he is like them and that’s not good, but the last is darkly laughable: he lies, is proven a liar, apologizes, and repeats the cycle of lying, being proven a liar and apologizing. Are those “fans” (can they really be “voters”) blind, deaf and dumb? Is this their hero, this vulgarian, this mountain of flesh, ignorance and hubris? Evidently. Little wonder some of us are revolted and filled with a little more than fear. These are the barbarians leading the charge and they threaten to bring us all done. None of this is cute or harmless or acceptable. Those who insist that Ford’s crack use, public drunkenness, his urinating in a public park, and his criminal friends are private matters having nothing to do with his public life must live in another world: Ford’s crude escapades exposes the man in all his inanity, shallowness and unfitness for office; his public and private personae are one and the same. One only had to watch the thuggish behaviour of Rob Ford and his brother in the municipal chamber as council voted to strip him of some of his powers to know that something is clearly wrong. This is not mere arrogance, indifference or stupidity on the part of Rob Ford; it is pure intimidation in the form of thuggery. If Ford is unrepentant and indifferent, it is because he knows the public is indifferent to all his crassness, hectoring, and insanity. It’s all about them: What’s in it for me? He is as impervious to shame as his voters. To adopt these loudmouth cruds as one of their own is no charming feat to crow about. And yet, they could be on to something; to put it crudely, Ford and his supporters are apparently constructed of only two moving parts, mouths and assholes and both interchangeable. There appears to be no brain.

I know that is offensive and very harsh. But I have had enough of politicians like the Ford brothers who almost make Harper and his gang look good. Almost. But all of them are shamelessly and heedlessly reckless with the reputation of their offices and with the trust they have squandered and abused. They are deaf and unseeing except to their own greed, ambitions and desires, too concerned with obtaining power and clinging to it, too preoccupied with satisfying the demands of their friends and their own hidden agendas; if they ever did, they no longer work for the interests of all members of society but choose, rather, to pander to those core supporters and special interests, those who can buy and be bought for very little. They are aware that those wavering on the fringes can always be lured with flashy gewgaws and promises of tax cuts. Each, in his own way, Harper and the Fords, has the same toxic, debilitating effect on our democracy. Eventually, those who once truly believed in the integrity of the electoral process simply tune out, exhausted and beyond caring surrendering to the fate they believe inevitable. That has to end. Perhaps that is why I continue to write; I haven’t reached yet that point.

ONE MAN’S POISON

While I do appreciate support, if silence can be construed as such, I have not embarked on this business to win the approval of readers who happen to agree with what I say. I write in hopes of reaching those folks who continue to support Harper and the Fords who offer governance of only the most loathsome kind, appealing only to the narrowest of interests almost guaranteed to appease and please their core base of supporters: tax cuts, guns, abortion, crime. It is these folks who help win them elections, the facts be damned.

Yet, while I believe I do not write to win approval, I feel I must address the concerns of one reader who clearly does not much care for what I have to say or how I say it. His name is Evan Treit.

Last October 9th, 2013, I posted an article, entitled, STEPHN HARPER: WOLF AMONG SHEEP. In response, Mr. Treit posted his own comments on October 12th (evantreit.blogspot.ca/), a momentous event of which I was completely unaware until I came across his observations on December 9th, which, while fair comment, puzzled me. He appeared surprised that my blog took a particular stance. He wrote: “An additional cue that points to the political stance of the blog is found in the titles above the paragraphs” and he cites the titles from the post (you can look them up in the archives). I don’t know why cues were needed though they are there in abundance throughout my blog. I hide nothing of my viewpoint regarding Harper and his gang. My postings are devoted to Canadian political commentary, not for the purported objectivity of journalism. There can be no mistaking how I regard Harper and his crew. In fact, I began my first posting, March 28, 2013, with these words: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to democracy.” No individual could reasonably mistake my sentiments. Since I wrote those words, nothing has changed to cause me to regret writing them. I make no claim for objectivity; that said, I have sought to be as accurate and truthful as possible; there is no reason to make up stuff; the reality is bad enough. As for saying something positive about Harper and his gang, well, I will leave that to Mr. Treit and others. This is not a fan club.

Evan Treit also appeared affronted by my usage of the descriptive “bullshit” and by my labelling of some Conservative MPs as “bobbleheads”. Yes, again, that may appear severe, but my intent is to convey in the clearest way possible my disapproval of a government that is secretive, hostile to criticism, that is, itself, crude in its methods of smearing opponents and critics. There is no finesse in how Harper and his thugs govern; they threaten and bully and dismiss all voices that speak out in opposition. “Bullshit” is a mild epithet to describe much of what they do. I can think of many more offensive words. As for calling certain Conservative MPs bobbleheads, what can I say? Anyone watching the various political panels on the news channels will see exactly what I see: government parliamentary secretaries responding to questions on script. Regardless of what question is posed, or the context, the government talking heads, appearing to be barely sentient recorders, will offer, almost word-for-word, the message of the day. The responses to legitimate questions are almost always evasive, off-topic, and ludicrous in the context; they are almost always partisan with cheap shots against the opposition having no connection to the questions posed. If the question were about cheese, they will find a way to point fingers at the opposition parties. The representatives are of a kind: barely animated, heads bobbing or shaking, and, as in the instance of Candice Bergen, eyes seldom blinking. When one political hack is replaced, one barely notices; the faces and genders are different but the behaviour and message is the same. What would you call them if not bobbleheads? Perhaps talking dolls. How about Zombies? I would be curious to learn if Mr. Treit was as offended when, in overseeing the elimination of 19,000 public service jobs, Tony Clement, president of the Treasury, referred to them as “deadwood”. This is the same Tony Clement whose department as mislaid $3.1 billion under his watch and this is the same man who had created a $50 million slush fund for his riding during the G8 conference. Now I find that offensive.

Mr. Treit does not like that I label Harper and his gang bullies, suggesting that I am somewhat of a bully myself. Actually, I can see his point in that regard. If being blunt, sometimes crude, if finger wagging and admitting my dislike for Harper’s conservatives makes me a bully, I must plead guilty. But I have not targeted those collecting EI as potential fraudsters. I haven’t waged war on veterans with disabilities, or clawed back their disability pensions. I haven’t labelled environmentalists “radical” foreign stooges, nor have I smeared Pat Stogran, former veterans ombudsman, and Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission simply because they did what they were supposed to do, which was their jobs. Nor did I attack the reputation of the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page. I haven’t lied about the true costs of the F-35 fighter jets or been cited for contempt of Parliament. I haven’t been responsible for rewarding Shelly Glover with a promotion after she, and another MP, refused to give a full accounting of their campaign expense claims until she learned of the promotion. Nor was I the PM who suggested Nigel Wright did the “honourable thing” in paying off Duffy’s illegal expense claims (Pierre Poilievre, one of those bobbleheads, went so far as to state Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing” in paying off the Senate debt).

Mr. Treit further states I offer an inaccurate representation of Harper and the Conservative government. One needs only read what I say and what the objective facts are, to judge for themselves; they are there for anyone to find. Treit found the information provided poor, the words offensive, and the views one-sided. He wrote, “Another reason that I found the information was unreliable was the use of a profane word ‘bullshit…’” That is absurdly laughable. I plead guilty to the offensive words and the one-sided viewpoint, perhaps to even being a bad writer; that does not make for deliberate falseness, unreliability, or inaccuracy as suggested. I would not be surprised if there are mistakes; for that I am truly sorry especially to the parties affected. I have sought to be accurate and hope I have succeeded.

Contrary to Treit’s assertion, I don’t make assumptions that Harper condones doing things that are wrong…his behaviour does that. Still, if off the mark, what Mr. Treit offers is fair comment: he disagrees with what I have written and he says why. Fair enough. He states, “When reading the blog you almost mistake it for a hate letter towards the Harper government.” Clearly we have a different approach to things. I prefer to think of it as an accounting. I despise hypocrisy, dishonesty, pettiness, and meanness: these have been the hallmark of Harper’s governance. Over the years, Harper’s conservatives have demonstrated that no trick is too dirty or too vile to not be employed. Harper doesn’t wear velvet gloves. Neither will I. Harsh criticism seems a fair trade-off to scapegoating and bullying.

While I appreciate Mr. Treit’s comments and thank him for them, I will continue to do as I do. Meanwhile, in the event he missed it the first time, the following may give him a hint as to why Harper and his gang will never make my list of people I respect.

THE OLD: STEPHEN HARPER’S DIRY LAUNDRY LIST REDUX (JUNE 18TH)

1. Harper appointee to the senate, Patrick Brazeau who was order to repay $48 thousand for making false housing claims.

2. Harper appointee to the senate, Pamela Wallin investigated for questionable travel claims. She has repaid over $38 thousand and issued an apology. The investigation is ongoing and expected to be completed and released during the summer break.

3. Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, investigated for making illegal housing claims. He promised to pay back money and evidently presented a cheque for $90 thousand. The world was led to believe the cheque came from Duffy’s funds or from a loan obtained from a bank. It didn’t.

4. The Deloitte report on Duffy is released but Conservative senators David Tkachuk, then chair of the internal economy committee, and Carolyn Stewart Olsen have scrubbed it of its harshest criticisms of Duffy.

5. With Duffy’s promise, Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, declared the Duffy file closed leaving the impression that senators investigated for defrauding taxpayers only have to repay the funds and suffer no other consequences.

6. Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright resigns when it was learned that it was he who repaid Mike Duffy’s debt for the false claims. Later it came out that Conservatives had a secret fund of close to a million. Harper refuses to answer questions about what he knew of Wright/Duffy matter. There is denial that secret Conservative fund was used to pay off Duffy’s debt. When asked, PMO denies having a record of cheque or of the deal made between Duffy and Wright.

7. Conservatives Shelly Glover and James Bezan investigated for campaign expense claims and for not filing a complete campaign report. The Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, recommends in two letters to the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, that both be suspended from the House until they file the reports. Andrew Scheer appears to have abused the non-partisan position to sit on the letters allowing Glover and Bezan time to appeal to the court.

8. Conservative Eve Adams is also under investigation for irregularities in expense claims for spa treatments and grooming supplies and failing to file complete the campaign report. She attempted to claim for cupcakes and restaurant tabs even after campaign closed.

9. Conservative Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board which has misplaced $3.1 billion of taxpayer money, announces plans to go after public servants in an effort to clean house and save money.

10. Conservative smear campaign against Pat Stogran, Veterans’ Ombudsman, for fighting against Harper’s claw back of disability pensions of veterans.

11. Conservatives smear and fire Linda Keen, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president, for ordering the Chalk River nuclear reactor shut down for safety reasons and then defying the government order to reopen it before it was safe to do so. With Keen out of the way, the government overturned the commission decision and reopened the facility.

12. Conservatives smeared and threatened with jail time ex-diplomat Richard Colvin if he filed documents of Afghani prisoner abuse before a special investigative committee.

13. Conservatives smeared, kicked out of caucus one of their own; called in RCMP to investigate Helena Guergis for abuses in office.

14. Conservative Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, diverts search and rescue helicopter as personal limousine while at a fishing lodge.

15. Peter MacKay authorizes the use of a military jet for General Walther Natynczyk to meet his family vacationing in the Caribbean. Once news breaks, the general agrees to repay what he should not have accepted in the first place.

16. Conservative Tony Clement, at time of G8 and G20 conferences, creates $50 million slush fund for Huntsville that includes boondoggle of $1 million fake lake and $250 thousand gazebo.

17. Conservatives spend close to one billion for security for the G8 and G20 conferences. Over a thousand arrested, less than two dozen charged, and only a handful found guilty.

18. Conservative Jason Kenney, who with pious glee leaked letter of Trudeau’s speaking fee (see above), uses government letterheads to fundraise for Conservatives.

19. Conservative Bev Oda or a staff member forges signed government document that approved funding for a charity Kairos by inserting the word “not” to deny the funding because the Conservatives disagreed of its views on Israel. When questioned on this, the Conservative response from Jason Kenney was this, “The CBC lies all the time. What media are you with?” (Globe and Mail, 2011, 2012).

20. Bev Oda pads expenses twice and is twice forced to repay. She charges for $16 orange juice, which results in much hooing and booing. Resigns because of public outcry.

21. Disgraced integrity czar, Harper appointee Christiane Quimet given $500,000 severance pay after signing agreement not to reveal details of package. She was investigated for failing to perform her mandate when, of 228 allegations of public service wrongdoing reprisals against whistleblowers, she only looked into seven and found zero problems. She was also accused of haranguing her staff.

22. Peter Penashue forced to resign for 2011 campaign irregularities. Harper calls him the best ever MP from Labrador. Voters didn’t think so in the subsequent by-election.

23. Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay lie about the true costs of F-35s during last election campaign and begin war against Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer who suggests $9 billion figure they offer is much, much lower than the estimated real costs of about $45 billion.

24. Vic Toews accuses critics of his online spying bill “of siding with pedophiles.”

25. Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, ridicules environmentalists and slams them as radicals and of being stooges of foreign environmental groups.

26. Joe Oliver, again, in a move typical of Conservatives attacks world-renowned scientist, James Hansen, for his critical stand opposing the Keystone XL pipeline questioning his reputation.

27. Harper announces he will spend $30 million dollars to go after tax evaders who owe $29 billion while he spends $100 million propagandizing for the Conservatives with taxpayer monies. More for propaganda than for chasing the tax cheats whom, if pursued, caught and made to pay, could pay off the national debt.

28. Conservative Party under investigation for robocalls and voter suppression.

29. Conservative Dean Del Mastro goes underground for 18 months while being investigated for campaign overspending and attempts to cover it up. He was the vicious Conservative attack dog and defender of the party during the robocall scandals who, while under the protection of the House had little problem in smearing his opponents with innuendo. He has re-emerged recently and, in the House, crocodile tears for himself while, it is alleged, tarring another person while under the protection of the House.

30. Harper cited for contempt of Parliament 2011.

31. Harper prorogues Parliament 2009 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

32. Harper prorogues Parliament 2006 to avoid answering questions on the budget.

33. – ?

Unfortunately, since then, there have been a few more added to the list.

THE MORE SINCE JUNE 18TH

33 – Neither the federal or provincial Conservatives, disavow their friend Toronto mayor, liar, crack user, associate of felons, world class buffoon and serious threat to municipal democracy, Rob Ford, for fear of offending the so-called Ford Nation who helped the Harper gang get their majority. Federal minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, close to tears, even comes to Ford’s defence, nearly coming to blows with fellow conservative, Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development), who clearly had enough of Ford and had the cheek to suggest he resign.

34 – Dean del Mastro (see #29) quits Tory caucus September 2013, facing four charges for Elections Act violations. His former official agent, Richard McCarthy, was also charged. Tears for himself in the House probably real.

35 – James Moore (Industry Minister), as quoted by John Blanchard, Canada.com, December 16, 2013, said the following, “We’ve never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier. Certainly, we want to make sure that kids go to schools full-bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” Callous, do you think? His comments are likely accurate reflections of Harper’s conservatives and supporters. It may well be true we are wealthier as a nation, but even truer for those at the top whom the conservatives clearly favour. The question then is this: Why do so many feel impoverished, abandoned, live in poverty, die on the streets? When the media picked up his comments, Moore claimed they were taken out of context. Yeah, right.

36 – Harper seeks to avoid answering questions about what he knew of the Wright/Duffy deal and the Senate scandal in general. He extended the summer break hoping the issue would die down. It didn’t help.

37 – The RCMP releases emails from PMO in November of 2013 revealing that more knew about the deal than Harper had acknowledged leaping from two (Duffy and Wright) to over a dozen. While Corporal Greg Horton states there is no evidence of Harper’s involvement, lingering doubts remain because of one email sent by Nigel Wright to Benjamin Perrin, one time Special Advisor and Legal Counsel to the PM, in which is stated regarding the Duffy/Wright deal, “We are good to go from the PM…” (item #36 (u) from documents released by Corporal Greg Horton).

38 – The day before parliament takes its Christmas break, Canada Post announces plans to stop all house-to-house mail delivery within the next five years. Harper gang cuts-and-runs for the umpteenth time without taking questions.

39 – Hill staffers are forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement binding for life. Failure to adhere to the agreement will lead to immediate termination and loss of severance pay. What happened to Harper’s loud promise to protect whistle-blowers and to preside over open, transparent governance?

40 – When liberal Sen. Céline Hervieux-Payette attempted to have Sen. Irving Gerstein removed as Chairman of the Senate’s banking committee, Gerstein ruled the motion was out of order. Nice. This is the man alleged to have interfered in the Mike Duffy audit and apparently was willing to pony up $32 thousand to cover Duffy’s debt but balked at $90 thousand; in other words, Nigel Wright gets pilloried for doing the wrong thing at $90 thousand but not bagman Gerstein who was allegedly willing to commit a breach of ethics when the price was only $32,000. This is the same Gerstein who refused to call Michael Runia, a senior partner in Deloitte and the Conservative Party auditor, to appear before the Senate investigation committee looking into the Duffy/Wright affair. This is the same Gerstein who, at the party convention, publicly boasted of being the Tory bagman.

41 – Conservative Rob Anders, in trouble more than once for overt displays of ignorance, of which he has abundance, was at it again. He’s not only the man who was filmed snoozing in the House, he’s the same individual who opposed Nelson Mandela’s honorary Canadian citizenship in 2001 calling him a terrorist and, at the death of the great leader and opponent of apartheid, could not even work up the decency to display a little generosity, still calling Mandela a terrorist. One wonders what he would have said of the abolitionists to slavery or the Civil Rights movement.

42 – In early November, the government announced the planned closure of nine veterans’ affairs offices across the country. In the last week of November, and the first week of December, Canadians learned of the tragic suicide of four soldiers. It should not have happened. While there is no direct evidence linking the deaths to the closures, one cannot help but wonder how the veterans reacted to this latest attack by Harper’s gang. First it was clawing back disability pensions. Then it was firing veterans before retirement to prevent them from collecting disability payments. Now this. In response to protests, the government suggested the vets suffering from PTSD could always call Service Canada.

43 – During the 2010 G8, G20 conferences held in Toronto, Canada not only knew, but allowed, America’s NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on world leaders. If Harper and his gang allow this, what do you think they’ll do to their “enemies”, i.e., anyone critical of this motley crew? Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson and the head of CSEC (the Communications Security Establishment Canada) do not deny the spying takes place but attempted to weasel out this mess (perhaps with tongue in cheek) by saying this government does spy on Canadians on Canadian soil because they are not legally allowed to do so. And MPs and Senators are not legally entitled to make false expense claims either. That Harper would surrender Canadian sovereignty to foreigners, even if friends, is indicative of his respect for Canada, Canadians and Democracy; that’s the behaviour of tin pot tyrants. Canadians should be worried.

44 – Ottawa Citizen reports that CSE (Communications Security Establishment Canada) “‘incidentally spies’ on Canadians, but wants to reassure the public it protects the privacy of that information (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 7, 2014).

45- Harper regime announces plans to make “economic diplomacy” a top priority. They have already allowing CSEC to spy on foreign companies on behalf of Canadian businesses. That means, of course, human rights will take a backseat. This is not the first time that Harper’s gang have shown a willingness to work with anyone or any country regardless of how vile, when it comes to economic interests. Christian Paradis, this monument to mediocrity, had not too long ago announced that Canada will no longer fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and forced child brides to obtain an abortion. As I stated in a previous post, “That is astounding given Canada was one of the signatories supporting UN initiatives to find ways to end war rape and forced child marriages” (October 9th, 2013).

46 – Last year, word was released that the Canada Revenue Agency was set to lay off 3000 auditors. The agency head at the time denied it. Now it has been confirmed that the government plans to get rid of 3100 auditors. Who benefits from these cuts when it is estimated that tax cheats are defrauding Canadians of anywhere from $9 to $20 billion a year? Well we know CRA workers certainly don’t. That means scofflaws, cheats, and thieves, will be allowed to continue to steal from Canadians. Many corporate friends of the Harper conservatives hold those offshore accounts. But, not to worry. Harper’s got our backs. The minister of national revenue, Kerry-Lynne Findlay has vowed to increase staff to go after government-funded charities. In other words, Harper and gang will go after charities that adopt a stand with which they don’t agree. This is not new or surprising. When Bev Oda was in office as International Co-Operation Minister, she or one of her staff members, allegedly forged a government document in which a listed charity, KAIROS, a faith-based organization previously designated to receive federal funds, was suddenly denied those funds with the insertion of “Not” in the recommendation by her own department that the organization be funded. Oda was reprimanded for misleading the house. KAIROS had the temerity to speak out against Harper’s stand against the Palestinians. These are not charities like the United Way or Heart and Stroke, and certainly not the right wing think tanks like the Fraser and CD Howe and Fraser Institutes, but those that offer perspectives on social, economic and environmental issues from a perspective critical of the Harper thug regime. This is another clear demonstration of the petty, vindictive nature of Harper and his gang. While their tax cheating friends steal billions from Canadians, the Harper thugs will go after the small fry, those unfortunate enough to make the “enemies” list.

47 – Even more appalling, as reported by the CBC in November 2013, the present chief of the Royal Canadian Mint, Jim Love and one time advisor to the federal Finance Department, a conservative appointee and close friend of Jim Flaherty (and large contributor to two campaigns) apparently helped run an offshore tax avoidance scheme in his capacity as a lawyer.

48 – Chuck Strahl, former Harper cabinet minister, Harper appointee as head of the Security Intelligence Review, which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, registers as a lobbyist for pipeline with B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. Even if legally permitted, the optics of working for a private energy company, while on the government payroll, should concern every Canadian.

49 – The Harper gang revealed that there would be a sizable surplus by the time the next election in 2015. On the surface, that is good news. Unfortunately, this is a familiar shell game: governments inflate the deficit figures, cut public service jobs and services, suddenly discover, just in time for an election, that they have not only balanced the budget but also accrued a huge surplus proving, to no one’s surprise, that the conservatives, once again are the best money managers since the creation of God.

If none of this doesn’t wake you up, doesn’t enrage you, then nothing will.

I write about these things not just to be read by people who agree with me, but to leave people thinking about governance, politicians and their role in making it work for the best of all. Don’t blame me, blame Stephen Harper. As the comic Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it.” It is not just the poor who are impoverished, but also the leadership of this nation; when there is no vision, no wisdom, no humanity, there is no government, just a big stick. This is my humble response to it.

Complacency is a deadly disease. It’s time to wake up, look around and take part. There is more to us than just our narrow world. It is not a badge of honour to proudly declare, “I have never voted.” Nor is it okay to use the excuse, “I’m only one vote. My vote doesn’t count.” One vote can make a majority. That doesn’t mean the majority is always wise or good or right; but it does mean you had a chance to make a statement.

People have died for that privilege.

***

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

THE SAVAGE MONSTERS: STEPHEN HARPER’S CONSERVATIVISM AND ROB FORD’S POPULISM

Frank A. Pelaschuk

We are forsaken like children lost in the woods. When you stand before me and look at me, what do you know of my sufferings and what do I know of yours? And if I fell at your feet and cried and told you, would you know any more about me than you know about hell when they say it is hot and sets one shivering? Therefore we men should stand before each other with as much awe, thoughtfulness, and love as before the gates of hell. – Franz Kafka (from a letter to Oscar Pollak)

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. – Edmund Burke

Where is their dignity unless there is honesty? – Cicero

The quotes above say a lot about people like Stephen Harper and the Harper gang including Jim Flaherty and his friends the Ford brothers in Toronto. They also say as much about those who continue to support them. They are a disagreeable group and do not mind that they are; indeed some seem to glory in it. The politicos, whether the present day tin-pot conservatives in Ottawa or of the foul populism of the Ford brothers, are largely bottom feeding panderers backed by special interest groups in Big Business and supported by narrow, parochially obsessed scavengers content to feed off their droppings freely offered in the way of cheap, flashy promises. They are shameless in their fixations and in their petty narrowness blind to the bigger picture, closed to the wisdom of others, blind to their own corruptive smug incompetence and completely indifferent to the needs of the whole of society and their own ugly negative impact: it’s all about them, “what’s in in for me?” Theirs is a tawdry, skewed view of humankind: those that deserve get, and they and their cronies deserve. Failures, underachievers, the poor and unfortunate are freaks, undeserving masters of their fate and the bleakness of their existence products of their sloth, incompetence, criminality. The poor and needy are worthless creatures, easily bought and discarded with cheap promises and mythic lies (tax cuts create jobs, Conservatives are the greatest money handlers in the history of the universe, Stephen Harper never cuts and runs, more jails will reduce crime) only to be gingerly approached and pandered to when absolutely necessary (photo-ops with “ordinary” folks) during election campaigns. There is little room for the empathetic toryism of Joe Clark and the departing Hugh Segal.

For the Harper gang, compassion is weakness, ethics and integrity hindrances; theirs is the distorted social Darwinism of “survival of the fittest”: top dog wins and they are the top dogs. They view welfare recipients as potential fraudsters and, when it comes to crime, take “the one-size fits all” view removing the discretionary sentencing powers of judges, imposing longer jail times and setting harsher sentences for the mentally ill and warehousing them in prisons: these are criminals we’re talking about. Facts will never get in the way of gut feelings, the “truthiness” of what they “feel” about crime, criminals, and justice. For Harper’s gang, and for many in the public, it doesn’t matter that statistics show crime has declined; the Harper gang will pander to those who just “know” that’s not true. So out with judiciary discretion, no more mollycoddling of the worthless, the liars, the cheats, the thieves. And, if one of their own gets caught lying, cheating, stealing, well, hell, anyone can make a mistake and that’s all it is, a mistake, nobody’s perfect. You want to get tough, get tough on those lying, cheating, thieving, leeching, homeless nobodies on UI. More jails, throw away the keys. And those bleeding hearts? Gimme a break, it’s Big Business we should be weeping for, Big Business that needs taxpayer help, Big Business cronies that deserves the breaks and the good life. After all, they are “wealth creators”.

For the Harper Conservatives, it’s about tax cuts, jobs, the economy and growth, all laudable but, when reduced to just these four, cruel, exclusive, harmful and most likely to result in public service cuts, exaggerated projections of budgetary shortfalls and more public service job loss. But, just before the next election, the great conservative myth kicks into gear and, as has happened countless times, the conservatives will have achieved that miracle, not just of a balanced budget, but a surplus. It works every time and too many fall for it. But such concentrations on tax cuts, jobs, the economy and growth also creates a certain level of meanness leading to such thoughts as voiced by Industry Minister James Moore: “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” And then there’s Peter MacKay who opined that poor criminals should simply sell their belongings to pay the victim fine surcharge mandated by Harper’s gang.

This is the conservative humanism of today: cold, calculating, cruel. Ontario Justice Colin Westman had a response for MacKay. “You have to understand, these people have nothing….someone has to remind the minister there are broken people here who don’t have anything to give….a high portion of them are broken souls” (Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 18, 2013, Andrew Seymour). These are the conservatives of today: boorish, thuggish knaves who make, then break, the rules, give themselves raises, set their own pensions, help their friends and treat as enemies all critics. They live in a bubble; they never see, because they never look for, the hungry homeless huddled in the cold or scavenging for food in garbage bins.

And if you’re poor, disabled, mentally and physically ill, if your roads are collapsing, your drinking water polluted, your health failing, well, too bad, there’s more important concerns, like getting re-elected with more shiny, broken promises. Your life’s tough? Gimme a break, brother, you think it’s easy being a politician these days, everyone hands out wanting, wanting, wanting and then bitching if I claim for a spa, coffee and toothbrush or treat a crony for a meal on the public dime while campaigning? You want housing for the poor, improved healthcare, better roads, every child fed? What am I? Made of money? Who’s going to pay for it, sister? I want to get re-elected and you worry about those whining folks, those lowlife have-nots who have only themselves to blame? Okay, okay, you drive a hard bargain. Tell you what; I’ll cut a deal but no, no more money for roads, for bridges, for healthcare, for homes, for seniors. I’ll cut the price of your telephone calls, maybe the price of sports equipment for your kids and lop off a hundred in taxes. That should be enough to shut you up. But you understand, now, that’s less for education and higher costs for your dear old mother’s medication. If you want to thank me, and I suggest you do, just remember this next time you vote: I’m the guy that cut your taxes. And, if I break a promise or two, don’t worry, there’s more. I never forget the little guy. See ya next election, now get lost.

Moore says the comments were out of context and the reporter who broke the news takes a hit. For Conservatives, it’s blaming and then shooting the messenger. Anything goes with this shameless, shiftless lot, Harper and his gang and their erstwhile counterparts in Toronto, the thuggish and brazen Ford brothers. They are products of the same roiling, slimy pot, the Fords emerging less polished and the Harper crew gleaming yet just as offensive, both parties equal offenders nevertheless in their debasement of democracy and the electorate. There is nothing too low, too vile, for them to not exploit or degrade; the viler, the better particularly when it comes to wooing those members of the so-called Ford nation those brainless nitwits who somehow confuse belligerence, vulgarity, dishonesty, brutishness, and questionable associations with leadership. They embrace Rob Ford as one of them. God help us all if that’s the case. Pandering to the worst and lowest while brother Doug hands out $20 bills as if further proof is needed of how cheaply love can be purchased.

But if Ford Nation is made of ordinary folks, as they claim, Rob Ford carved in their image or they his, what can one say of cabinet minister Jim Flaherty, who should know better, yet claims and defends Rob Ford as a friend once even coming close to tears over the shenanigans of this comedic, asinine figure who lives in a world all his own.

Now loyalty is a good thing, admirable in most instances. But in the case of Rob Ford, misplaced, nothing to boast about, and even less to support when, in spite of all the lies, all the questionable antics, all that is offensive about Rob Ford and his ever present shadow, Doug Ford, Flaherty’s only offering on this issue is to opine that Rob Ford should perhaps seek some help. What Rob Ford has done is no silly, harmless schoolboy prank. He bought illegal drugs and denied it. He hangs around folks of questionable character. He is a swaggering bully, he says things on the fly and then lies, lies, lies only to apologize time and time again. With the Harper gang and their own troubles with the Senate scandals, there is not even the crumb of an apology. Harper knows nothing, has done nothing, sees and hears nothing; Nigel Wright is the fall guy, just another of many in Harper’s entourage thrown under the bus.

If Flaherty’s loyalty to Ford impresses you, if his suggestion that Ford seek help seems sufficient, what of his outrageous response to Jason Kenney who, on Nov. 19, apparently having had enough of Ford, had suggested that Ford resign. Flaherty, according to a CBC report, took exception to that confronting Kenney in Parliament and suggesting that he “shut the f**** up” regarding Ford. In fact, according to the same report, the contretemps became so heated that some MPs were fearful blows would be struck. Which is strange behaviour from the Finance minister. It’s one thing to be loyal, but being stupid about it is another. Rob Ford has debased the political office he holds. Apparently that’s okay with his supporters, but why is Flaherty fine with that? Surely, even buffoonery has its limits. Are lying, bullying vulgarity, thuggery, and fake apologies the new normal?

Apparently.

When one looks at the Harper gang, you just knew politics was going to take a bad turn over time and it did, in spades. There was Penashue forced to resign for his 2011 campaign irregularities including accepting corporate donations. Even so, he was shameless enough to run again in the by election with Harper’s equally shameless endorsement as the “best Member of Parliament Labrador has ever had”. And then there was Bev Oda, according to an article in The Star (July 3, 2012, Joanna Smith and Allan Woods) was known for subjecting staffers in her department, The International Development Agency, to a reign of terror and for routinely breaking smoking regulations. Known for lavish spending of taxpayer money, including upgrading to a more expensive hotel to accommodate her smoking habit, she had been forced to repay previous spending anomalies until finally felled by questionable ministerial funding decisions which led to a forged government document and, later, by a $16 glass of orange juice. But even then there is some question as to why she resigned: was it the misuse of expense claims or the fact she felt she had served long enough as some have suggested. Pushed or not, I see little honour in their stepping down. That said, in some respect, these could be said to be the highlights during Harper’s governance. Two individuals actually stepping down even if pushed. But that was then. Today, we have the Ford and the Senate scandals and Harper peculiarly mute on one and pleading ignorance on the other.

In some ways, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s response to the Ford issue is emblematic of all that is wrong with the Harper Conservatives and the state of politics today. There is no shame in associating with discreditable people, with smoking crack, with uttering misogynistic comments, and with lying, lying, lying. All that’s necessary is to apologize; mutter the words, mumble them, roll your eyes; there’s no applause metre for sincerity. The Harper gang rolls on. Robocalls, subversion of the electoral process, illegal campaign claims, that’s all in the past. Never mind that Dean del Mastro faces charges for breaking election rules in the 2008 campaign, or that Shelly Glover refused to give Elections Canada a full accounting of her campaign expenses until learning she was to be promoted by Harper or that we have prima donna Eve Adams illegally denied claims for spa treatments during the 2011 campaign. Some might quibble and say that, in the grand scheme of politics, these are small issues. Perhaps. But I am not as tolerant as some towards those who fudge about the small things. How trustworthy can they be with the big things?

Perhaps, even in my old age, I’m still a bit naïve. I don’t believe politics has ever been completely clean, but has it ever been this dirty, so degraded by so many for so long? No one today, least of all Harper and Rob Ford, appears ready, willing or decent enough to want to accept responsibility for their acts; they finger point, they lie, they obfuscate, they run and hide. But, to defend such behaviour is indefensible and inexcusable. Democracy is taking a hit and Ford Nation and Flaherty’s response to Jason Kenney may help explain why.

While neither Kenney nor Flaherty has denied the episode took place, Flaherty’s comment to reporters appears a confirmation. “You know, I’m the minister for the Greater Toronto area. I don’t comment on the mayor of Calgary” (the Canadian Press, Dec. 15, 2013).

That is an astounding statement on several levels and exposes Flaherty in a light that is both puzzling and disturbing. Why commit oneself to Ford, as Flaherty has clearly done? For the rest of the country not buying into the populist garbage, Rob Ford is a laughingstock, a clown who, if incapable of experiencing shame, has certainly shone the spotlight on Toronto and not to its credit. Flaherty’s loyalty is disconcerting and suggests singularly bad judgement. Not only was his response childish, Jason Kenney, from Calgary, and just another in the long string of Conservative members for whom I have little regard, has every right to demand of Ford what many Torontonians clearly wish for: the resignation of Rob Ford, the crude entertainer who would be prime minister of Canada. As well, the comparisons between the two mayors are particularly invidious. Unless there is something of which the public is totally unaware, there are no comparisons and there can be no comparisons because there is no moral equivalency at play here; the argument evidently hinted at by Flaherty of a nonexistent moral superiority of Toronto’s mayor is untenable, offensive and risible because nonexistent. Just look at the two men, Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi on one side and Toronto’s Rob Ford on the other. Both are, without doubt, widely recognized across Canada. That’s about the extent of the similarity. That Flaherty would even go there, pit his friend Ford’s reputation against Nenshi’s is outlandish and as mystifying as Harper’s gang going after veteran’s, especially disabled veterans, and clearly evidence of poor judgement by both Harper and Flaherty. Surely there is no percentage in defending the inexcusable? True, world wide, Ford is more likely to be recognized than Nenshi, but as a target of ridicule and an object lesson of the extent of the abasement of Canadian politics. Could Flaherty really prefer to defend a scoundrel, however lovable he may appear: a repeat liar; a man who has admitted to breaking the law in smoking crack after months of denying he did so; the same man who later apologized after months of lying about the existence of a tape showing him doing exactly that; the same man who consorts with questionable characters; who has been taped numerous times while publicly intoxicated; who has been caught on camera using a public park as a lavatory; a man who has not shied away from misogynistic crudity; a man who is a bully and absolutely disagreeable in almost every respect; who apologizes time and again promising that’s the last of surprises only to add another the next day? And none of this, apparently, troubles Ford and his supporters; in fact, he appears to relish rubbing the public nose into his sewer. This is what Flaherty supports, unless, perhaps, there is more than friendship involved. Could it be simply a matter of politics, Flaherty and the conservatives afraid of alienating Ford Nation, who, true enough, appear more than happy to swallow from that that filthy swamp? If that is it, if it’s only about politics with Flaherty and the conservatives, even more shameful than misplaced loyalty; it confirms the worst of my suspicions of Harper’s gang: they are not just tolerantly willing to turn a blind eye to the follies of their own, they are also actively unscrupulous, willing go to any length to get and to hold on to power and nothing, nothing, is too vile for them: if it helps, go with it. But to succeed they need willing accomplices, those amoral self-interested “me” folks, those folks who time and again support them and only on the condition they get something, however small and shiny, in return. Go figure. Anything can be forgiven and anyone bought with a few cheap promises and a few dollars a day in tax cuts.

But let’s now turn away from Ford and Ford Nation to examine the equally offensive Naheed Nenshi. As far as I am aware, the Calgary mayor has not been accused of smoking crack, has not had a video of him smoking crack, and has not lied about smoking crack. Clearly that is evidence of dullness, reckless law abidingness. I am not aware of his associates so do not know if any have a criminal past and I know of no public intoxication on his part, or of any existing video of such, nor do I know of his use of a park, building or tree as a public urinal. Nenshi seems to have problem with fun-loving risk-taking. During his term in office he has revitalized Calgary, seen crime rate decline, and, during the Calgary flood earlier this year, he was front and centre in keeping the public informed, in organizing response efforts, and in boosting morale. This guy is just too uptight. In fact, so offensive is Nenshi he was re-elected by a surprising margin of 74% of the vote. If Flaherty were to comment on Calgary’s mayor, what would he say? “Nenshi’s a disgrace. No one is that good. His smiling persona is a con; his support rigged, a fluke, that 74% achieved only because only 39% of those who could, voted. And all that about him during the flood? Just leftist media propaganda. This mythmaking is making my mayor and friend Rob Ford look absolutely terrible!” Yeah, I guess that would hurt. Poor Nenshi. He doesn’t even have his own nation!

Loyalty to friends and family is commendable. But loyalty to the unworthy, the amoral and untrustworthy is not only misplaced, it is shameful. But what do the politicians of today know or care about shame? There are a few, we know that, but they are rare, too often silent, or, even more sadly, fleeing to kinder havens. When integrity, ethics, honesty, decency and acceptance of individual responsibility play little to no role in governance, is there need for shame? That conservatives, provincially and federally, have been relatively mute on Ford should alert undecided voters who still believe in democracy, the value of ethics and demand law-abiding behaviour from those they elect. Ford deserves no defending. If he had any shred of decency, he would simply resign and fade into the sewer. He is vulgar, loose with the truth and facts. If he’s admired and defended, it’s by morons who don’t even value themselves, let alone others or it is by those political opportunists, the users and posers who believe it is more important to curry to the lowest and worst than to adhere to a code that enhances and ennobles. Kenney, at least, had this right.

Not so Flaherty. Not the Harper gang or the provincial conservatives. Shhh! Don’t make waves. Who the hell needs a moral compass? It’s all about winning. Good guys finish last.

And you out there? When will you wake up, if ever? When will you take responsibility, how long before you have had enough?

Harper and his gang and the Ford brothers believe you are stupid, that you are merely self-interested and narrow and can be bought with slogans and by pandering to the worst in you. Next election, prove them wrong.

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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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